I think purism is ignorant. I also hate sacred cows. I refuse to watch any film, or go into any artwork, with notions of how such and such is "supposed to be". If I could write and direct my own Batman film, Batman would be a geriatric transvestite who cuts down villains with a lawn mower. There would be a lot of bloody lawnmower deaths in the film. The batsuit would be a combination of a fur dress with "real", huge bat wings and a feminized baseball uniform. Batman would have fangs, eat insects and always sit or sleep upside down. Gotham City would be a small town in Oklahoma and Alfred would be a midget who is older than God and who has a horseshoe fetish. He'd go around naked and barefoot, except he'd have horseshoes on his feet. The Batmobile would be a bicycle. Batman would flap his big, stinky bat wings while he peddles. I'd have a villain who looks like the Penguin but who drives a pick-up truck with a shotgun in the rear window and chews tobacco. He'd spit it out into a bottle, and he'd have a huge collection of bottles in a warehouse full of refrigerators. I'd have a villain like Poison Ivy who dates the Mayor's teenaged daughter. Batman would dance with Poison Ivy and her girlfriend at a hoedown. They'd eat barbecued chicken while they dance, then lick the sauce off of each other's clothes. This wouldn't be intended as a spoof, and it's not that I dislike the Batman character--he's one of my favorite fictional characters.
So you can see how director Joel Schumacher's changes to the Batman characters, production design and tone of the film wouldn't put me off of Batman & Robin. I like artists to do things differently, to express themselves. That doesn't mean that I want to make them slaves to the "cult of originality"--maybe they feel strongly about keeping some or most things "traditional", and that's fine. My main requirement is that they do something that they think is artistically valuable. And for me to like what they do, I have to find it interesting, enjoy it, or get something in the way of aesthetic or philosophical worth from it. I definitely find Batman & Robin interesting, I enjoy most of it, and it is very aesthetically pleasing to me. I do think there are a couple flaws. But they're minor enough to only bring my rating down to an 8.
Batman (George Clooney) & Robin (Chris O'Donnell) have to battle two villains, Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Mr. Freeze is a scientist who went wacko when his wife acquired a terminal disease and he fell into a vat of cryogenic liquid. His primary ambition is to save his wife's life and make everyone else suffer along with him while he waits by freezing them--literally turning them into big peoplecicles. Poison Ivy is a psycho environmentalist who wants to turn the world back over to plants, but only after she's given plants animal characteristics, so if you try to do any weeding, they'll bite your bummies off. At the same time, Alfred (Michael Gough) is sick, and his hot niece, Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone) comes to visit. The film features various scenarios of Batman & Robin trying to capture Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, and alternates this with relationship explorations between Batman, Robin, Alfred and Barbara.
For my money, Batman & Robin has the best beginning of any of the Batman films to date. I love the frozen Warner Brothers logo. I love the segue into garish colors that look like Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. I love the sequence of body-part close-ups with the camp and homoerotic factor cranked up to 11. And I love the kick-ass extended action sequence that's as intense as the climax to most films and that features Batman and Robin playing ice hockey and then boogie-boarding on rocket ship parts at 30,000 feet. That just rocks.
And things remain at a high level for some time. At least the first half of this film is a solid 10 to me. I'm a fan of George Clooney, and the bizarre casting of him as Batman is a stroke of genius in my book. The only better Batman would have been Tiny Tim, but he died during the production of Batman & Robin, so it's good they didn't cast him. I'm also a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would have been a good Batman, too, but he's also excellent as Mr. Freeze.
I like Gotham City better here than in any of the other films, at least architecturally. Schumacher makes the city huge and gives us constant eye candy. The other Gotham Cities may have had attractive atmospheres, but this one I'm pining to visit. I'd love to explore it. I want to race down that highway. I want to visit that observatory. The production designer, Barbara Ling, shouldn't have just received an Oscar for her work--you should be sending her your firstborn.
I love the humor in the film. As I've noted many times, I'm a huge fan of the Adam West "Batman" (1966). Schumacher makes a firm commitment to that level of camp in this film. Some scenes here are simply hilarious, like Mr. Freeze yelling at his cronies to sing along with Snow Miser song from The Year Without Santa Claus (1974). Schumacher also does interesting things with the extremely twisted family metaphors of Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Barbara. And I love the colors.
In fact, the only real problem I have with this film is that Schumacher slightly loses the plot focus about halfway through. It begins to seem more like a collection of set pieces than a taut story. But the set pieces work (except for some clunkiness in the logic of the climax), and the film is excellent otherwise.
Review by Brandt Sponseller from the Internet Movie Database.