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Toyetics, Nipples and Codpieces: Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman & Robin’ Turns 20

Moviegoers and DC superhero fans are currently celebrating the release of Wonder Woman, a shining example of how to successfully translate one of DC’s most iconic characters to the big screen. But let’s pause the celebration and take a look back at one of the all-time worst attempts that will forever live in infamy.

This year, Batman & Robin celebrates 20 years of exceptional awfulness. I remember seeing this movie in theaters and, as a devoted Batman fan, I can tell you I was beyond embarrassed to be a Bat fan walking out of that theater.

Actual scene from the film

Not only is Batman & Robin the worst BATMAN movie ever made, the worst SUPERHERO movie ever made, (which is saying something because Catwoman and Spider-Man 3 exist), but is arguably the WORST MOVIE of all time.

So how bad is B&R, for those of you who haven’t suffered through it?

Well, this two hour toy commercial is so awful, the director, Joel Schumacher spent a good chunk of his DVD commentary apologizing for the movie. This is where I first learned the word “toyetic” was a marketing term in regards to these types of tentpole movies.

Batman doesn’t even get top billing in his own movie. No, that honor goes to Schwarzenegger, who is Mr. Freeze in name and appearance only. Let’s be real, it’s just Arnold in a Freeze suit, complete with all his Arnoldisms.

Freeze spends all his screen time spouting off one-liners including such gems as “Khool Pah-tee”, “You’re not putting me in ze coolah!” and “let’s kick some eye-ce!”

Last I checked Mr. Freeze didn’t have an Austrian accent, but ok.

So while the ice puns may have left me cold, B&R is such a mess, it put the Batman franchise into hibernation for nearly a decade.

While Batman did survive this catastrophe, there were some casualties. Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, and, with the the exception of Kill Bill, Uma Thurman. None of their once promising careers ever fully recovered and they were all sentenced to movie jail.

There was talk of a Nightwing spinoff before this movie came out, but the sour reception to this movie put the kibosh on that. Both Nightwing and Batgirl are finally getting a second chance at the silver screen more than two decades later.

Remember Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero? That was the direct-to-video animated tie-in to B&R and was deemed so much better by the studio, that it was delayed by a whole year so as not to upstage the live action movie.

The Golden Raspberry Awards recognized the movie’s awfulness by nominating it for 11 Razzies, more than any other movie that year (Speed 2: Cruise Control came in second with 8). It was nominated for Worst PictureWorst Remake or SequelWorst Screen Couple (for Clooney and O’Donnell), Worst DirectorWorst ScreenplayWorst Original SongWorst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property, and Worst Supporting Actor nods for O’Donnell, Schwarzenegger, Thurman, and Silverstone (Winner!).

If nothing else I’ve said has convinced you that B&R is the worst, let me remind you that this movie gave us nipples on the bat suit, gratuitous batt butt and crotch shots when suiting up, and features Batman bidding on Poison Ivy using his BAT credit card. I only wish I were making that up.

So there you have it.

Superhero movies have come a long way since Batman & Robin, and like any good hero, survived this crushing blow, to live and fight another day. I feel like this movie could have been the downfall of superhero movies, but perhaps it ultimately helped to save the genre, as it necessitated cleansing the palette and bringing Batman back to his roots in the cinemas years later in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. It also serves as a warning to teach future filmmakers how NOT to make a superhero movie.

Would I erase it from existence? Probably not, just because it’s a bizarre footnote in Batman’s cinematic history that makes for fun musings over just how badly they screwed it up. Let’s just all agree not to do that again, ok?


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