1997's Batman & Robin was the fourth and final film in the original Batman franchise. Like its predecessor, Batman Forever, it was headed up by Joel Schumacher and retains that film's campier style, dual villains, and over the top aesthetic... and then some.Following up the storyline from the previous movie, Batman and Robin are now a duo and do battle with the new cold-themed villain, Mr. Freeze (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). The combative nature of their partnership is further tested by the emergence of a second villain, Poison Ivy (played by Uma Thurman), who has a grudge to bear against all mankind and drives a seductive wedge between the heroes. When Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze form an unusual partnership and plan to freeze Gotham and take over the world, the Dynamic Duo appears outmatched. Good thing Alfred's niece is in town and he made her a form-fitting batsuit.Due to a weaker box office and lukewarm audience response at the time, this film marked the premature end of the original Batman film series that had started in 1989 and killed a fifth film that had already moved into pre-production. Eight years later, a Continuity Reboot starting with Batman Begins formed a new series that would become the The Dark Knight Saga. The film is not to be confused with the Batman and Robin Serial, the Grant Morrison comic series of the same title, or the Frank Miller series All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder
This film provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: Julie Madison, Bruce's steady girlfriend in the film, was originally scripted to have a more prominent role where Poison Ivy actually killed her and motivated Bruce for revenge. This was cut by the time of filming, but the movie clearly still has elements of this in the screenplay and Julie abruptly vanishes from the film in the third act without even so much as a reference as to where she is.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Batgirl is a blonde here rather than a redhead. This Barbara is also Alfred's niece, instead of Jim Gordon's daughter, so she's not exactly the same character.
Adaptation Name Change: Barbara Gordon becomes Barbara Wilson, on account of being Alfred's niece instead of Jim Gordon's daughter.
The Anti-Nihilist: There's actually a surprisingly deep quote in this movie which captures the existential nature of Batman's character
Alfred: "Death and chance stole your parents. But rather than become a victim, you have done everything in your power to control the fates. For what is Batman if not an effort to master the chaos that sweeps our world, an attempt to control death itself."
Artistic License - Biology: The cops in Mr. Freeze's lair SCREAM "My lungs!! My LUNGS are FREEZING!!" courtesy of some freezing gas by the icy villain. How, pray tell, does Joel Schumacher explain their ability to form sounds, much less scream, when their lungs are freezing?
The guy's diaphragm and vocal cords might still be functional, even with the layer of frost on the inside of his lungs.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Bat and Freeze suits were notoriously difficult to move in, specifically the neck (Batman wouldn't be able to turn his head until the Dark Knight Saga). Though you can see hints of this in the previous films, with two characters in stiff suits, it becomes much more prominent.
Big Bad: Poison Ivy. While Mr. Freeze is the bigger threat, Poison Ivy manipulates him for her own ends.
Billing Displacement: Arnold Schwarzenegger is the top billed actor, not the one playing Batman. This is the second time it happened in the quadrilogy, with Jack Nicholson getting top billing in the 1989 film.
Big Bra to Fill: Batgirl, definitely. Poison Ivy to a lesser extent, as Uma Thurman actually has a decently sized bust line, but her tall and skinny figure is way off the curvaceous comic-book version.
Big "NO!": Robin delivers one when Batman disables his Redbird controls out of concern for the "Boy" Wonder's safety.
Bizarrchitecture: The Gotham Observatory is situated at the top of a giant fortress wall, with a statue holding up its hand... to hold the observatory.
Bond Villain Stupidity: Mr. Freeze, despite being armed and fully powered, actually goes so far as to say "I'll kill you next time!" when Batman is stopped, panicked, and off-balance, and right after he has just shot Robin anyway. The question of "Why not just shoot him now?!" is never addressed.
Brain Uploading: In one very confusing bit in a movie full of them, it turns out that Alfred has his brain already uploaded to the Bat-Computer. While this may seem prudent considering his imminent death, we are given no hints about this beforehand and it's only to justify Barbara having a pre-made Batgirl suit ready for her.
The Brute: Bane. Say what you will about how the character was written and performed, the appearance and feats are bang on.
Burning with Anger: Mr. Freeze appears to burn cold. His eyes and breath glow in the dark in the film's climax; this coincides with Nora's apparent death at the hands of Batman, which kicks off Freeze's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Came Back Wrong: Poison Ivy. When Dr. Woodrue explains that he used her research to further his own experiments for world domination, Pamela is completely outraged and disgusted at how he's perverted her work, prompting him to kill her by pushing a table of chemicals and assorted types of venom onto her. The toxins she was covered in then melted into the ground and completely swallowed her up. After some time later she emerged back up dripping with deadly allure.
The Cameo: Coolio as Banker, who takes bets in illegal motorcycle races. Vivica A. Fox as Ms. B. Haven, whom Freeze spurns in favor of Nora.
Camp: Following in the footsteps of the previous film, Batman Forever, and turned Up to Eleven. It backfired spectacularly, and completely dis credited the idea of a silly, light-hearted superhero flick.
Captain Obvious: After Robin and Batman have fought for a second time they talk about Poison Ivy and Batman, the world's greatest detective gives us:
Robin: "I can't believe we were fighting over a bad guy.
Batman: "Bad: yes. Guy: no."
Cardboard Prison: Arkham Asylum, as usual. For starters, at least according to the last scene, the cells are unisex.
Card-Carrying Villain: Mr. Freeze, who even shouts "Kill the heroes!" It is also worth mentioning that his only non-ice-related pun in the whole film, if memory serves, is the one identifying himself and Poison Ivy as "Adam and Evil".
Freeze's case is particularly troublesome, as he gets the sympathetic background that could make him an Anti-Villain.
Clothing Damage: The chemical cocktail that Pamela Isley falls into not only turns her into Poison Ivy, it tears up her formerly frumpy clothes to make her sexier, naturally leaving enough clothing to keep her PG-13.
An odd case of Mr. Freeze being a composite of the Batman: The Animated Series interpretation that brought the character out of obscurity and the 60s TV series that originally named him. Someone decided it would be a good idea to mix the tragic backstory of the former with the cackling, pun spouting mad scientist of the latter.
Bane here is closer to a character from the comics named Ivan, later known as Ivor. Like the Bane, Ivan doesn't speak much except for short and simple sentences. The scene where Ivy disguises herself with a wig and Bane/Ivan drives her from the airport comes from 1981's Batman #339. Just like Bane, Ivan is turned into a powerful half man, half plant (as evidence in 1982's Batman #344)) that's enhanced with a formula that is based on Ivy's (which she developed to create carnivore plants).
Barbara Wilson/Batgirl is a composite of Barbara Gordon and Alfred's niece, Daphne (who first shows up in 1969's Batman #216).
A quick eye will spot the uniforms of The Riddler and Two-Face in the closet at Arkham Asylum, a nod to their Batman Forever incarnations. Meanwhile, there's a callback to the previous film's "Chicks dig the car" line.
A more subtle callback to Forever can be found in the infamous Bat Credit Card scene. Take a close look at the card - its "good through" date is Forever.
Alfred makes a quip when the new Batmobile is revealed, something to the effect of "Please try to bring this one back in one piece, sir!", alluding to the tremendous amount of Bat-tech that the Caped Crusader destroyed over the course of three movies.
The Riddler blew up the Batcave, and the Batmobile along with it, in Forever.
Joel Schumacher: "I had no idea that putting nipples on the Batsuit and Robin suit were going to spark international headlines. The bodies of the suits come from ancient Greek statues, which display perfect bodies. They are anatomically erotic."
People, Batgirl's suit does have nipples. They're just not displayed nearly as prominently due to concerns over an "R" rating. (No objections to Batman and Robin's jiggling buns and junk, but breasts are something the world is just not ready for.)
The metallic armor Mr. Freeze sports also counts - There were only two of them, handmade by a Tinsmith with individual working pieces and weighing in at about one-hundred pounds each! There were likely pragmatic reasons for casting Arnold Schwarzenegger... somebodyhad to wear this thing.
Crazy-Prepared: How prepared is Batman? He has pop-out ice-skates in his boots and a Bat-zamboni to drive around in.
Freeze had some spare cooling compound to "winterize pipes" just in case he needed to break out of a fortified cell.
Crowd Hockey: When Mr. Freeze is trying to steal a giant diamond and the heroes and henchman play actual hockey (complete with sticks and skates) to get it back.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Mr. Freeze decides to build a giant freeze ray out of several dozen very large and valuable diamonds in order to hold the city hostage for money rather than, well, fencing the diamonds over the black market.
Or perhaps sell the schematics of his fully operational freeze ray for a cool couple of million.
Or perhaps he could take the ransom, and then dismantle it and sell the parts? Or even the whole thing to someone else with world domination plans.
Designated Girl Fight: It's brought up in The Agony Booth's recap that Batgirl's presence may be (besides merchandising) so somebody could actually fight Poison Ivy, all because of this trope. The male good guys were incapacitated in Ivy's lair.
In the comics and the cartoon, Batman does not hesitate to knock Ivy (or any other villainess) flat, but this would have been far more controversial in family-friendly live action.
After Ivy fools him into thinking that Batman pulled the plug on his cryogenically frozen wife. ("If I must suffer, humanity will suffer with me!")
After Batman defeats him in hand-to-hand combat, smashing his protective glass helmet (without which he will die) and leaving him lying on his back and cringing under a beam of sunlight. He decides to kill Batman along with himself, pressing a button on his glove that triggers the bombs that Bane had earlier placed around the observatory and screaming "FREEZE IN HELL, BATMAN!"
Dull Surprise: Alicia Silverstone's reaction to everything. George Clooney also doesn't show a lot of variety in emotion, mostly because he seems to realize what kind of movie he's in and acts accordingly.
Bruce also convinces Dick to wear protection (ahem) before his fateful meeting with Ivy. If she pulls back from their kiss to taunt him, she's actually evil. Robin seems to have been holding out hope that she's not, but once she tried to poison him, he tables any thought of romance.
Everybody Lives: Nobody actually dies in this film except for Dr. Woodrue, who receives a toxic tongue kiss. Everyone else is either frozen (they can safety thawed out, as long as it's done within the hour), slipped a mickey by Poison Ivy (Robin), thrown into a piranha plant (only to be harmlessly spat out), or falls several stories to the bottom of a telescope and survives (Freeze). Even Bane and Mrs. Fries emerge unscathed, albeit in suspended animation.
Evil Makeover: Poison Ivy. Apparently knocking a nerdy scientist into an undisclosed combination of chemicals will cause her to turn into a hot chick.
Fanservice: Batgirl suiting up with prominent shots of her crotch, boobs, and ass. Contrary to popular belief, her suit actually does carry some form of the Bat-Nipples found on Batman and Robin's suits, though due to concerns regarding the film's rating, they're not nearly as prominent. The suit-ups of the men include their manly chests and their manly sculpted butts, so there's enough suit-up service to go around.
Girl of the Picture: Unlike the other three films, in which Bruce's Girl of the Movie was a main character for that film, Julie Madison is a minor character who exists entirely to create minor tension as Bruce deals with Poison Ivy's pheromones infecting him outside of battle. Bruce's extreme reluctance to marry her led to many jokes by comic fans that she was a beard. Her Aborted Arc leads to her being a far more minor character than someone being Bruce Wayne's steady love interest would seem to entail.
Harmless Freezing: Played straight, though a confusing example early in the film has Robin frozen solid and Mr. Freeze telling Batman he has eleven minutes to save him... yet despite this, Robin is perfectly fine when defrosted.
Indecisive Parody: Perhaps one of the films biggest fault it couldn't seem to decide if it was a parody much like the 60's show complete with Bat-credit card or a somewhat serious take on the character. Mr. Freeze is a big offender. He makes his minions sing "I'm Mr. White Christmas," "I'm Mr. Snow," and has polar bear slippers and makes bad ice puns, but then mourns his terminally ill wife.
Supposedly Shumacher gave the direction before every take "remember, this is a cartoon" which could have worked but they were blending it with the darker gothic elements and continuity of the Burton movies.
Ignoring that the Tim Burton movies themselves were cartoony.
In Name Only: The new character Batgirl introduced is considered by many fans to be this due to the liberties taken with her origin, changing her from Commissioner Gordon's daughter to Alfred's niece, and dropping any original characterization and backstory.
Lighter and Softer: Easily the lightest and softest film in this whole film series. Even the TAS movies are more violent.
On a more subtle note, this movie marks the end of Batman's long grieving period over his parents. This was touched on in a cut subplot from Batman Forever involving young Bruce dragging his parents to the cinema, inadvertently getting them killed by Jack Napier; in Thomas' diary, however, it mentions that he and Martha "have their hearts set on Zorro" and will take Bruce to see his preferred movie next week, thus absolving him. This catharsis, while unseen by the viewing public, remains in canon as the tone of B&R suggests that Bruce is building a new family with Alfred, Dick and Barbara. In an on-set interview with Disney Adventures magazine, Schumacher elaborated:
"We're moving away from the self-absorbed, self-obsessed, 'my-parents-are-dead' Batman. George is 36, and I think by his age you would have come to terms with that."
Lock and Load Montage: Performed several times to show our heroes suiting up and including a shot from behind of the Dynamic Duo pulling up their pants.
Lover, Not a Fighter: Subverted (and lampshaded) somewhat by Poison Ivy. She's a lover in order to BE a fighter, with her seductive charms and her poisonous lips being the only weapons she has on her person to effectively harm (and in turn, kill) her enemies, Batman & Robin.
MacGuffin Melee: Batman and Robin play literal hockey with a diamond Freeze is trying to steal.
Mad Scientist: Mr. Freeze and Dr. Woodrue. Depending on how one wants to stretch the definition, maybe also Pamela Isley.
Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Woodrue's crazy lens attachments. Costume-wise, he dresses similarly to the briefly-seen Dr. Burton in Batman Forever.
Man-Eating Plant: Poison Ivy seems to have one... though the movie can't make up its mind. She enters the scene sitting in it leisurely, yet when she is later kicked into the plant, she screams as it eats her, though she later appears disheveled.
Manipulative Bastard: Poison Ivy, considering the fact that she manipulated Mr. Freeze into believing that Batman killed his wife.
Merchandise-Driven: Literally everything in this movie was designed to be a toy. This one also dropped at the height of the original franchise's fame, so it was practically inescapable that summer.
Poison Ivy: I'm a lover, not a fighter! That's why every Poison Ivy action figure comes with [Bane]!
Show Accuracy/Toy Accuracy: The Batgirl and Bane figures do not look anything like the versions seen in the movie. The Batgirl figure doesn't anything like any version of the character, but instead resembles an outright Distaff Counterpart version of the movie's version of Batman. At least the Bane figure resembled the comics version of the character.
Mood Whiplash: The movies see-saws between stupid super-hero antics and bad acting, and the plotline about the importance of family, featuring Micheal Gough's touching performance as a dying Alfred. The mood whiplash is extreme.
Also worth mentioning is a scene with Mister Freeze, of all people. During a calm moment in his cell, he carves a small ice sculpture of his wife and puts together a makeshift "music box" using a large alarm clock.
Murder the Hypotenuse: Poison Ivy, sent to retrieve Freeze's comatose wife, pulls the plug on her instead.
Mythology Gag: A reference to Superman early in the film when Batman complains "This is why Superman works alone." This was possibly an attempt to mirror a joke that referenced Metropolis in Batman Forever.
Jason Woodrue was the name of another plant-themed supervillain — the Floronic Man, effectively an evil version of Swamp Thing. His presence is probably in reference Batman: Shadow of the Bat annual #3, which was published a couple of years before and established Poison Ivy's Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin, revealing Woodrue played a role in it.
Julie Madison is the name of Bruce's first love interest in the Batman comics, a socialite engaged to Bruce that eventually became an actress and ended her engagement because she wanted Bruce to do more with his life than be a playboy.
No Fourth Wall: Batman, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze all break the fourth wall at least once during the film. In fact, Batman's first line is a quip into the camera.
No OSHA Compliance: The lab Mr. Freeze worked in (before becoming Freeze) seriously needs a safety inspection. He gets knocked into a vat of liquid nitrogen, which horribly mutates him, but didn't really pose enough of a risk to warrant a decent railing. And don't even get started on the electronic equipment that randomly crapped out and sent him flying into the vat.
It gets worse— there was a railing on the opposite side of the catwalk. But not on the side that has the vat of liquid nitrogen!
Frankly, you could argue that nearly every building in Gotham City fits this trope, since they all appear to be much wider - even absurdly so - at the top than at the bottom and clearly can't maintain integrity in the face of even minor explosions or collisions.
People Jars: Mr. Freeze's wife suffers from a fatal disease called MacGregor's Syndrome. He keeps her in suspended animation in a liquid-filled tube while he works on a cure.
Perpetual Smiler: Whether he's explaining that life-long butler and friend Alfred is dying, or trying to thaw out the entire city with less than 10 minutes before they all die, it seems George Clooney was never without a grin on his face.
Punch Catch: While Robin is fighting Bane he throws a punch at Bane's head. Bane catches his hand and throws him down a flight of stairs.
Pungeon Master: Mr. Freeze gets most of these. Poison Ivy does this too, though half of hers are also thinly veiled innuendos.
It seems to be an irresistible impulse for Freeze: Even in the end, he can't resist a physician pun while forking over the medicine for Alfred.
Batgirl: Using feminine wiles to get what you want? Trading on your looks? Read a book, sister. That passive-aggressive number went out long ago. Chicks like you give women a bad name.
Earlier, Pamela gave one to Woodrue before she became Poison Ivy. After he reveals he used her research to further his experiments with Bane, Pamela is outraged. At this point she was still a good Well-Intentioned Extremist who only wanted to give plants a better edge, but Woodrue corrupting her work for his dreams of world domination disgusts her and she promised to have his credentials revoked and to have him expelled from any area of academia. He proceeded to kill her.
The opening theme is the same as the previous one, just slowed down.
The theme for both the "freezing of Gotham" scene and the reveal of frozen Nora Fries (at the ice cream factory, after Vivica Fox's cameo) was lifted from Demolition Man.
Sexophone: Poison Ivy's recurring leitmotif is built around this, usually when she appears in the room and goes into seduction mode. It starts off bold, sultry and alluring before trailing off into eerie, dark territory and rising to a crescendo at the end.
The music reflects the actions on screen; the hapless victim becomes seduced by Ivy's charms (sax) and they share a kiss (foreboding drone), whereupon the poison slowly works it's way through the body and kills him (crescendo).
A more subtle (if that's the word) Kubrick homage in the same scene has a gang dressed in foppish attire. One of them has an eye patch and powdered wig like the Chevalier in Barry Lyndon.
The scene of Ivy debuting at the charity ball, first by hiding among the performers in an ape costume and slowly taking it off seemed to have been a homage to Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus where she performs a musical number entitled "Hot Voodoo", which starts off with her in an ape costume.
Alfred channels Max Headroom when addressing Barbara in the Batcave.
Mr. Freeze sadly looking at a tiny music-box sculpture of Nora in his Arkham cell is an homage to TAS's "Heart of Ice".
Supervillain Lair: Mr. Freeze has his lair in a giant ice cream factory in the middle of the city in plain sight. Poison Ivy just takes over an abandoned Turkish Bath, but converts it into a violent garden to make it more suitable for her. And when Mr. Freeze moves in, he naturally decks out his own room in his thematic trappings.
Tainted Veins: Bane when given the Venom injections. Poison Ivy's kisses create the same effect on the people she poisons, though as Venom was one of the things she was poisoned with, it's a similar effect.
Take Over the World: Ultimate goal of Poison Ivy, and later the goal of Mr. Freeze with a little prodding. Let's break down the eventual plan: 1) Freeze Gotham city using a giant telescope as a laser. 2) Freeze the rest of the world... somehow. 3) Unleash a strain of carnivorous plants to 4) Unfreeze the world so Ivy and Freeze can repopulate the globe together as Adam and Evil.
Both of them have something in common: they're Omnicidal Maniacs. Neither have a high opinion of humanity. (Well, Victor Fries does have one person he loves.)
Terrible Trio: Mr. Freeze (brains), Poison Ivy (beauty), and Bane (muscle).
Test Kiss: Robin lets Ivy kiss him to find out if they're really in love or if Batman's telling the truth about the pheromones and her Kiss of Death. Good thing he was wearing fake rubber lips when she did.
Though it begs the question of why Poison Ivy didn't (a)just spit at him, poisoning him anyway, (b) slap one on him again after he took them off, or (c) just use a little tongue.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Poison Ivy technically wants to save the environment. On the other hand, it's pretty obvious that she really just sees plants as more valuable than people and just wants a planet with all the humans dead except herself. This is consistent with every other interpretation of the character as well.
Whammy Bid: When Batman and Robin start a bidding war over Poison Ivy at the bachelorette auction, Bruce comes on top by whipping out $7,000,000 with his Bat Credit Card.
The "mystery bidder" and the former tenants of Poison Ivy's hideout.
Also, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend. She only has two short scenes, both of them are about Bruce's adherence to his bachelor lifestyle, and then she is never mentioned again and has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. The real reason she doesn't show up later in the movie is because Poison Ivy shanks her in a deleted scene.
When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Mr. Freeze freezes Gotham City solid 11 minutes before midnight. All of the citizens will die unless they're thawed out within 11 minutes, i.e. by midnight.