Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Contrary to Popular Opinion: My Love of “Batman & Robin”

I’ve wanted to do this post for a long time. The idea was that we would do a series of movie reviews where each of us at the site would pick a movie that had a very strong general consensus. Whether that consensus be good or bad didn’t matter, what mattered was that our opinion of the film had to differ from the popular opinion.

Now for me, “Batman & Robin” was always the film I had in mind; it was the film that inspired the whole post. I don’t know how many of these Contrary To Popular Opinion posts will end up happening, but with the midnight release of “The Dark Knight Rises” just a day away, I figured now would be as good of time as any to explain why I have always loved a movie so widely hated by virtually everyone else.

So hit the jump to hear my tale.

It is said, that to best understand a story, one should start at the beginning. For as long as I can remember I have loved Batman; he is easily my favorite superhero. He was my favorite superhero before I even knew what a superhero was. There are plenty of examples from my childhood that show how much I loved Batman. Batman was the first and most frequent character I ever pretended to be. When I was a lad of five and my mom had the audacity to try and force me to finish my mashed potatoes (my least favorite food at the time) during dinner one night, it was the joy I got watching Tim Burton’s ‘89 film “Batman” that gave me enough distraction to power through the vile substance and hold the gag reflexes at bay. Or telling my pre-school teacher that I would have Batman come and beat her up when I was put in timeout for biting a girl for taking my spot on the merry-go-round. The point is, I’ve always loved Batman, whether it was movies, TV shows, costumes, toys, or just making up storylines for the character in my head.
 
Up until “Batman & Robin” came out, there were four live action Batman films that had been released; “Batman”, the 1966 film adaption of the TV show starring the same actors, the two Tim Burton films “Batman” and “Batman Returns”, and “Batman Forever” which was also directed by “Batman & Robin” helmer, Joel Shumacher. Four films with four very different feels, but I loved every one of them. So in 1997, when I was 8-years old and heard that another Batman movie was coming out, I couldn’t have been happier. At least I though I couldn’t be happier until I saw the first commercial for it (no 8-year old uses the term trailer).

What was even even more special about this Batman was that it had ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER in it!!! My favorite superhero and my favorite actor at the time, together in the same movie, what could be better? I’ll admit, my 8-year old self was a little new to the concept of having the guy I’m used to seeing play the hero in the movie all of the sudden play the villain, but still the fact that he was in the movie had me plenty excited.

So when June rolled around and I finally went to see it at the theater, my thoughts on the film were simple: I LOVED IT! Stuff like technical proficiency, and whether the plot made complete sense, or if the lines were cheesy, it didn’t matter to me. It filled all the requirements my 8-year old self had at the time; it was in fact a Batman movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in it (and even kind of went good at the end), the two girls in it were smoking hot, and there were cool costumes. Plus, another Batman movie, meant a whole new line of Batman toys that I would get.

Now even though I loved the movie as a whole, I knew it was my least favorite so far. I didn’t like this version of the Batmobile, but it was always fighting a losing battle with that one because I thought (and still do) think that the Batmobile in “Batman Forever" is the greatest vehicle ever.



Really I didn’t like any of the vehicles in “Batman & Robin”. Mr. Freeze’s van-thingy was too goofy looking for my taste. You’re probably thinking, that’s the thing he picked out as being too goofy? Plus, I always wondered what the hell those things in the picture to the right were…

And even as an 8-year old, I had a slightly confused look on my face when I saw this infamous scene in the movie.




Still, despite a couple of questionable moments, I went through my childhood and into my early teens enjoying the movie just as I had every other Batman movie. I never heard people say anything bad about it, although I was hanging out around kids my own age, and this was still before everyone’s opinion was on the internet. I had never once had a thought about reading a film review. When I got into my mid to late teens and I would hear people say they thought the movie sucked, I was like wait a second, no, I must’ve misunderstood, you said it what sucked?

So I started looking into what more people thought of the movie, and I found out that people did in fact think the movie sucked. Not just a couple of people, literally everyone thought this movie sucked. Hell, even all of the actors who were in the film seemed to be ashamed of it. Despite my discovery that I seemed to be alone in my love for the film, I moved on and went on loving it. Although when I started hanging around my fellow writers, long before this site was ever thought up, and they discovered my love for the film, it quickly became the go-to way for them to try and take shots at my taste in film, and still continues to this day. So let me take this opportunity to take a quick shot back and point out that at least I never thought “X-Men: The Last Stand” was one of the greatest things ever, even if only for a couple of days. I was eight when I first saw “Batman & Robin”, they were all in their 20’s when X3 came out.

So lets fast forward to a couple of months ago when I was first going to write my review of the movie. As I was sitting down to start typing it out, I realized I was probably 15 the last time I actually sat down and watched it all the way through. That changed my whole perception of how this might go, since there is a huge difference between 15-year old movie fan, and the 23-year old movie fan. My filmography that I have seen since then is vastly richer. I’ve learned to appreciate a lot more aspects of film, while at the same time being far more critical of films as well. So that got me thinking, while I still wanted to explain why I loved the film so much when I was younger, what if I went to watch it and hated it this time around? I didn’t think there was a very good chance of that, since I have yet to go back to a movie I loved in my childhood and truly dislike it when I watched it as an adult. I’ve watched movies that I hated when I was younger but appreciate now, but I’ve never disliked a movie.

So last night, I finally sat down and watched the film again for the first time in roughly seven or eight years. In terms of script and plot, the movie really is a pile of garbage. I mean there’s a list of plot holes a mile long; every third sentence is a one-liner or a bad pun. Just take out everything Mr. Freeze says and the movie probably becomes a lot better. I would love to see the bill for what they spent on neon paint and party lights for the sets. For people who say Nolan’s Batman films are too dark, I promise you this film evens it out just fine.

So what’s my new opinion of the film? I still love it! Look, this thing obviously didn’t deserve any Oscars, but I still don’t think it’s as terrible as people treat it, even looking at it as an adult. Yes, it’s over-the-top cheese and camp, but I still think its a fun movie. Plus, I think we can all admit that it made Nolan’s films seem even better than they already are, and it deserves some appreciation for that. Also, I should note that while I like Michael Caine as an actor, Michael Gough (right) is Alfred, and I truly think he has some great moments in the film with George Clooney.

The point of this post was not to change anybody's opinion of the movie; I can fully get why people don’t like the movie. The main point here is to be comfortable with your own opinion of movies, regardless of what other people might think. Some movies are meant to be broken apart and analyzed piece by piece, while others are made for you to just sit back, turn your mind off and enjoy the ride. It’s up to you to pick what kind of movie you like, whether it's one or the other, or a healthy mix of both. If you get enjoyment out of a movie, then that’s all that matters. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and maybe me bringing up memories of a movie so many of you hate will just get you that much more excited for “The Dark Knight Rises”.