Tag Archives: Chris O’Donnell

Batman & Robin (1997, Joel Schumacher)

I’m not going to defend Batman & Robin. It’s not so much a matter of the film being indefensible, it’s just a matter of it being a pointless exercise. And, by defend, I don’t mean identifying who gives the least embarrassing performance (Michael Gough) or who is just jaw-droppingly bad (Chris O’Donnell). Watching Batman & Robin, you can see the trailer moments, you can see the toy commercial moments, you can see the Happy Meal commercial moments. These moments aren’t hidden–Batman & Robin invites the audience to reveal in its brand possibilities.

It’s so blissfully unaware of itself, I almost don’t want to disturb that delusion. At the time of the film’s release, a friend of mine said, “if Schumacher wanted to do the TV show, they should’ve just done the TV show.” He was correct. Throw in the Neal Hefti “Batman Theme” and Batman & Robin would’ve been… well, it would’ve still been awful, because director Schumacher is making a movie for kids and trying to throw in adult stuff to make it appear grown-up.

Sure, the film’s objectively bad. Arnold Schwarzenegger is awful. Akiva Goldsman’s script is awful. Stephen Goldblatt’s photography is flat and boring (though everything except establishing shots being done on sets might have something to do with that boredom). The film’s so bad, you can’t even tell if it’s poorly edited or if it’s everything else about it. Elliot Goldenthal’s music’s awful though.

I should do a word count on “awful” for this post. But, see, I didn’t defend it. The film is a perfectly natural extension of where the franchise was going. It’s not about franchise fatigue or anything lofty; suspension of disbelief isn’t just plot holes and bad casting, it’s also about the work’s basic agreement. With Batman & Robin, Schumacher and company just told the viewers what they thought of them.

There’s nothing interesting to watch in Batman & Robin. I was sort of hoping Alicia Silverstone secretly gave a good performance or something wacky, but not really. She’s better than O’Donnell but so’s the guy who played Bane and he didn’t even have any dialogue. And it is interesting to compare George Clooney in this film to his later work. But none of those expectations or inquiries have anything to do with the film.

When you gaze long at Batman & Robin (and you do, because it’s endlessly long), Batman & Robin also gazes into you.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Schumacher; screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on characters created by Bob Kane; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Mark Stevens and Dennis Virkler; music by Elliot Goldenthal; production designer, Barbara Ling; produced by Peter Macgregor-Scott; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Freeze), George Clooney (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Chris O’Donnell (Robin / Dick Grayson), Uma Thurman (Poison Ivy / Dr. Pamela Isley), Alicia Silverstone (Barbara), Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth), Pat Hingle (Commissioner James Gordon), John Glover (Dr. Jason Woodrue), Elle Macpherson (Julie Madison), Vivica A. Fox (Ms. B. Haven), Vendela Kirsebom Thomessen (Nora Fries), Jeep Swenson (Bane) and Elizabeth Sanders (Gossip Gerty).


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Batman Forever (1995, Joel Schumacher)

Joel Schumacher once commented he was first credited with saving the Batman franchise (with Batman Forever), then destroying it (with Batman & Robin). I think I’d watched his second venture (or tried to watch it) more recently than I had seen Forever… anyway, it isn’t like Schumacher made one good one and one bad one. He made two bad ones and the second one just happened to be worse, but Batman Forever is atrocious in its own right. When Drew Barrymore gives a film’s best performance, it’s trouble.

The problems with the film are a list of its cast (with the except of Barrymore, Val Kilmer–who isn’t good but isn’t bad either, it’s not like he could do anything with the role–and maybe Alfred Gough), its crew (whoever did the composites should be blacklisted and Elliot Goldenthal’s score is an offense to the ears) and particularly Schumacher and the writers.

I’ve long been under the impression the Batchlers worked on “Batman: The Animated Series,” explaining some of the more cartoon-like elements of the plot (particularly the Statue of Liberty stand-in), but I can’t find that credit on IMDb so they’re probably just Warner Bros. in-house writers… Forever’s other credited writer, Akiva Goldsman, is, of course, the guy who has somehow gotten respectable in modernity, though it’s probably because he helped dumb down theatergoers so much in the 1990s… I’m not sure who is responsible for each of the terrible scenes–Batman Forever’s most interesting in its inability to have a single honest frame of celluloid, and it might be my new candidate for the turning point of Hollywood, when everything started its descent into garbage (I need to admit, right now, I used to like Batman Forever, but I was a teenager and apparently a dumb one).

Another possible reason for a genial defense of the film is Jim Carrey. People used to love him, though it’s hard to remember those days. He’s absolutely terrible, as is Tommy Lee Jones (Nicole Kidman and Chris O’Donnell are as well, but no one should expect anything from either of them). But Jones… it’s painful to watch him. I thought he took the role for his kids (but, again, can’t find any online citation of it).

Schumacher’s direction of the film is both incompetent and incredibly interesting. Besides the terrible composites (I sort of remember them always looking poorly lighted), Schumacher appears to have been shooting unfinished sets. Or it was stylistic–a bad style–never shooting any establishing shots, never setting up anything in the film (with the possible except of Wayne Manor) as believable. But, it’s still interesting how he can keep up such a visually unintelligible film.

Schumacher got a lot of crap for making the next one as a toy commercial, but this one is just the same… it even looks like an old toy commercial, the kind with the toys shot as though they were life-size, which pretty much sums up Batman Forever… It’s so bad, I’m surprised I–as the teenager who thought it was good–was literate.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Schumacher; written by Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler and Akiva Goldsman, from a story by Batchler and Scott Batchler, based on the characters created by Bob Kane; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Dennis Virkler; music by Elliot Goldenthal; production designer, Barbara Ling; produced by Tim Burton and Peter MacGregor-Scott; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Val Kilmer (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face / Harvey Dent), Jim Carrey (The Riddler / Dr. Edward Nygma), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Chris O’Donnell (Robin / Dick Grayson), Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth), Pat Hingle (Police Commissioner Gordon), Drew Barrymore (Sugar), Debi Mazar (Spice), Elizabeth Sanders (Gossip Gerty), Rene Auberjonois (Dr. Burton) and Joe Grifasi (Bank Guard).


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The Three Musketeers (1993, Stephen Herek)

There’s a cruelty of home video. I can watch The Three Musketeers, which I liked as a fifteen year-old, and loathe myself for that previous affection.

What can I say about this film? A lot, actually. One, I had no idea Disney let so many people get killed quite so graphically. Two, Charlie Sheen is good. Who ever thought they’d type a sentence like that? Oliver Platt is appealing and Michael Wincott is a good villain.

The rest is crap. Terrible writing (by the half-wit who wrote Star Trek V) and direction, Kiefer Sutherland tries but at most times he’s trying to be Han Solo or something, Tim Curry is playing one hiss-able villain too many and Chris O’Donnell is a crime against art. Of course, O’Donnell is always a crime against art, so I was expecting that. But he’s bad in this one, even for him.

Since I watched Man in the Iron Mask yesterday, it’s impossible not to make a few comparisons. I’ll spare you those. But something occurred to me about heroism as portrayed in film. Why was it effective in Iron Mask but not in Three Musketeers? Because there’s a beauty to fatalistic heroism. Jumping around in a rip of Empire Strikes Back (though, in hindsight of the prequel trilogy, maybe Three Musketeers had a better conclusion to the son avenging his father scene) is not fatalistic heroism. These guys aren’t straining to do the impossible. This reasoning goes way, way back, to when I first (actually, the only time) saw Con Air and Nicolas Cage announces he’s going “to save the day.” Well, he could have done it the whole time, and the audience knew he could do it and succeed, so why give a shit? That’s what Three Musketeers is like….

Oh, and Rebecca De Mornay sucks too. A lot. But not as much as Chris O’Donnell.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Herek; written by David Loughery, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas; director of photography, Dean Semler; edited by John F. Link; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Wolf Kroeger; produced by Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Charlie Sheen (Aramis), Kiefer Sutherland (Athos), Chris O’Donnell (D’Artagnan), Oliver Platt (Porthos), Tim Curry (Cardinal Richelieu), Rebecca De Mornay (Lady Sabine DeWinter), Gabrielle Anwar (Queen Anne), Michael Wincott (Rochefort), Paul McGann (Girard), Julie Delpy (Constance) and Hugh O’Conor (King Louis).