Batman Forever’s tonal inconsistency and awful villain faltering is no where to be found here – Joel Schumacher’s second Batman feature is an exercise in cockamamie. George Clooney steps in as The Dark Knight, joined by a consistently awful Chris O’Donnell as Robin, facing off against Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). The colorful, toy friendly, neon-laden superhero adventure from 1995 has been dialed up to 11. Batman & Robin is absolutely ridiculous, but in my opinion is an improvement upon its predecessor.
Joel Schumacher is clearly once again a pawn of the studio (an avid an himself, he has been oft-quoted stating his desire to make a darker Batman film) throwing everything at the audience in the hope that something sticks, a bizarre comic book extravaganza of complete excess. Batman carries around a Bat Credit Card, and Schwarzenegger is right at home chewing the elaborate production design and spitting golden one-liners. O’Donnell’s wooden performance as Robin adds to the excitement this time around, fitting right in with the bastardized incarnation of Bane and endless neon lights. Uma Thurman (similar to Tommy Lee from Forever) seems in on the joke, delivering an outrageous but irresistible performance as Poison Ivy, toeing the fine line between overblown entertainment and torture (a line Jim Carrey failed to walk) perfectly.
Make no mistake – this is a horrible Batman film. Batman Returns, for all of its absurdity and deviation, retained much of the tone and Gothic darkness of the Caped Crusader. However, it’s hard to deny that Batman & Robin is a fun ride, chock full of an energy (thanks to the colored spotlights and Bat-nipples) that gives it a kinetic force its predecessor occasionally lacked. If one moment doesn’t smack a smile on your face or send you into a fit of laughter the next one will.