"Batman & Robin" is a 1997 film from the Batman film series starring George Clooney as Batman, Chris O'Donnell returning as Robin and introducing Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), a niece of Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred (Michael Gough). Gough and Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon) are the only two actors to feature in all four of the original Batman films. The villains in this movie are Poison Ivy, played by Uma Thurman; Mr. Freeze, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (who received top billing for this film); and Bane, played by Jeep Swenson. This is the final film of the 1989-1997 Batman movie franchise, as the franchise's story was re-imagined with 2005's Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan.
"Batman & Robin" was made on a budget of $125 million and had a worldwide gross of $238 million. The film also opened at #1 at the box office. Despite its box office successes, the film was met with near universal criticism from fans of the comic books, critics and the general public. It was mocked for its poor script, and the film was dubbed Batman on Ice by critics for an opening scene where Batman and Robin glide on skates while battling Mr. Freeze's henchmen. The film has since become infamous for the Batsuit, specifically the prominent nipples in the molded plastic.
The cast and crew have all expressed their regret and disdain for the film (George Clooney going as far as to offer to personally refund anyone who saw the movie), and the film regularly tops lists of the worst superhero movies ever made.
In July 2008, Clooney was declared the worst Batman.
The film opens with Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) preparing for action. Batman and Robin arrive at a museum and encounter Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his henchmen. They steal a diamond, but Batman stops him. To escape from Batman's watch, Freeze covers Robin in ice, and Batman has only eleven minutes to defrost him or he will freeze to death. Batman lets Freeze escape to save his sidekick.
The scene shifts to South America, where botanist Pamela Isley (Uma Thurman) is working under Dr. Jason Woodrue (John Glover). Woodrue refuses to tell her who he is working for, exactly what they are trying to achieve, or how it relates to Venom, the formula she has developed to give plants the ability to defend themselves. Snooping, she witnesses Woodrue use her formula to turn a diminutive convict into a hulking monstrosity dubbed "Bane" (Jeep Swenson). Woodrue discovers her and convinces her to join his side. When she refuses, he kills her by toppling a shelving unit of poisons on her. Later, Isley rises from the ground of the lab, but has returned as a beautiful seductress. Woodrue does not hesitate at all to notice how sexy she is, as he cannot take his eyes off of her. She seduces him, and then kills him by kissing him, before revealing her lips are filled with poison. She burns down the lab, but first finds out that Wayne Enterprises sponsored Woodrue, so she decides to bring Bane with her to Gotham.
Back in Gotham, Alfred Pennyworth's (Michael Gough) niece, Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone), makes a surprise visit and is invited by Bruce Wayne to stay until she goes back to school. That night, when she's talking to Alfred, it is explained that her parents died in a car accident and that Alfred was very close to her mother, Margaret, nicknamed "Peg."
Wayne Enterprises is unveiling a new telescope at a press conference interrupted by Isley. She proposes a project that could help the environment to Bruce Wayne, but he declines her offer, as it would kill millions of people. That night, a charity event is held by Wayne Enterprises with special guests, Batman and Robin. After her first plan does not work, she decides to use her abilities to seduce Batman and Robin. At the event, someone dressed up as an ape starts dancing seductively, and strips until revealing itself to be Poison Ivy. She spreads her pheromone dust that makes all of the men at the event, including Batman and Robin, startled by her voluptuous figure. She puts herself up for the date auction being held. Batman and Robin immediately start bidding competitively while she offers them sexual favors, leading to Batman being the victor. However, he cannot enjoy it for long as Freeze crashes the party and steals the diamond from the event. Freeze is caught by Batman, who forbids Robin to come with him as he had his mind on Poison Ivy.
Freeze, who has been imprisoned in a chamber within Arkham Asylum, is rescued by Ivy as she kills two police guards by giving them her deadly kiss and they escape from the prison. Hearing the news, Batman and Robin rush to Freeze's hideout, only to find that he's no longer there. They enter a room where Freeze's wife is being held and learn about her disease. During a confrontation with Bane, Ivy uses the distraction to attempt to seduce both Batman and Robin. Though Ivy comes close to seducing Robin and kissing him, Batman reveals Ivy's deadly ability. Robin then becomes frustrated with Batman and starts a fight with him. During their argument, Ivy and Bane manage to escape. Before escaping from the factory, Ivy, after being asked by Freeze to rescue his wife, disconnects the cryogenic chamber because she wants Freeze to take vengeance. At Ivy's hideout, she is confronted by Freeze concerning the whereabouts of his wife. Ivy informs him that Batman killed her by shutting off her life-supporting chamber, thus resulting in Ivy and Freeze combining forces and planning to destroy Gotham along with the rest of the world.
At an event unveiling the new telescope, Commissioner Gordon is approached by Poison Ivy, who seduces him into giving her the keys to Police Headquarters. She is about to make him victim to her poison kiss, but tells him he is too old for her and leaves. He begs for her to come back. In the sky, a Robin signal appears, made by Ivy when she and Bane stole the Bat-Signal from the police headquarters. Witnessing this, Wayne informs Dick about Ivy's true intentions and asks him to trust him. Robin locates the signal and asks Ivy about Freeze's plans. Ivy reveals Freeze's plans and finally manages to kiss Robin. Robin reveals that he is wearing rubber lips, making him immune to the toxic effects of her kiss which enrages Ivy. She angrily traps Robin, followed by Batman, who appears shortly thereafter. As Ivy tries to run-off, she is confronted by a young, costumed girl who appears and begins a fight with Ivy. The fight eventually ends with Ivy getting kicked into a giant flower and trapped by its petals. Shortly after, Batman and Robin both escape from their traps. The girl, dressed in a female version of the Batsuit, informs them that she is Batgirl and reveals that she is Barbara and knows the location of the Batcave. The three of them decide to go after Freeze together. By the time they get to the lab where Freeze and Bane are, Gotham is completely frozen. Batgirl and Robin have a confrontation with Bane, which ends with Robin pulling the tube off Bane's mask and releasing the venom, turning him back to the scrawny man that he was.
Batman and Freeze begin to fight each other, with Freeze still thinking that Batman was the one who killed his wife. Batman wins the fight while Batgirl and Robin unfreeze Gotham. Batman shows Freeze a recording of Ivy during her fight with Batgirl; it shows Ivy telling Batgirl that she was the one who pulled the plug. Freeze is angered by the betrayal and is informed by Batman that his wife is not dead; she is restored in cryogenic slumber and has been moved to Arkham waiting for him to finish his research. Batman proceeds to ask Freeze for the cure Freeze has created for the first stage of MacGregor's Syndrome, the disease that Freeze's wife is suffering from, for a friend (Alfred) who is dying. Freeze essentially atones for his misunderstanding by giving him medicine he had developed. At the manor, Batman attaches the tubes to Alfred's life support, and he, Dick, and Barbara watch on. Ivy is shown imprisoned in Arkham and Freeze walks in, informing her that he is her new cellmate and intends to make her life a living hell for almost killing his wife. The next morning, Alfred wakes up, alive and well. Everyone agrees to let Barbara stay at the mansion, and the three of them decide to work together fighting crime.
The film ends with the image of a Bat-Signal, with Batman, Robin and Batgirl running as if appearing from the signal itself towards the camera. As their flowing capes come together, the screen fades to black and goes to the closing credits.
In February 1996, Kilmer decided not to return for a sequel, feeling that Batman was being marginalized in favor of the villains, much as Michael Keaton had when he vacated the role. Kilmer went on to do The Saint with a salary of $6 million – triple the amount of his contract for Batman Forever. When asked why he did not return for a fourth installment, Kilmer said he liked the characterization of Simon Templar better than Bruce Wayne. Kilmer commented, "Simon is a literary character who uses his wit, and not violence. Batman is a real screwed-up guy who has hustled an entire city, and now he's running around in a cape. What's it all about? Days later, George Clooney signed on to take over the part. Clooney was signed for three films, with a contract totaling $28 million. Clooney backed out of the long-in-development Green Hornet motion picture in order to star in Batman & Robin.
Batgirl was finally introduced in the franchise and Alicia Silverstone was cast for the role. For this movie, she was named Barbara Wilson and was the niece of Alfred Pennyworth rather than the daughter of Commissioner Gordon as in the comics. Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, Nicollette Sheridan and Sharon Stone were all considered for the role of Poison Ivy. Moore turned down the role and it is speculated that both Roberts and Sheridan did as well. In March 1996, Uma Thurman was cast in the part. Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley were all considered for the role of Mr. Freeze, though ultimately Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast.
The film was derisively dubbed Batman on Ice by critics for a scene in which Batman and Robin have retractable ice skates in their boots while battling Mr. Freeze's henchmen on an icy floor in the opening sequence. George Clooney was severely embarrassed of himself by the film, saying "I think we might have killed the franchise." In the featurette entitled "Batman Unbound" (contained in the special edition DVD of Batman & Robin), Chris O'Donnell compared his experiences on making Batman Forever to his experiences on making Batman & Robin by saying "When I made Batman Forever, I felt like I was making a movie. When I made Batman & Robin, I felt like I was making a toy commercial." Yet another reason why the film was ridiculed by critics and fans alike was the pun-ridden dialogue, which mainly came from the two main villains of the film, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. Some of the most criticized portions of the dialogue were Mr. Freeze's ice puns, such as 'I'm afraid, that my condition has made me cold to your pleas of mercy!', 'You won't send me to the cooler!', 'What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!' (a line derided not only for being unfunny but also for being wholly factually inaccurate), 'It's time to kick some ice!' and 'Alright everyone! Chill!' Lines such as these were seen as something of a nadir in the Batman universe. In fact, many critics and fans pointed to the campy dialogue, the excess of gadgets for every specific situation (Batman having a seemingly endless supply of tools to combat ice-related dilemmas), and other such excess to point out that Batman and Robin seemed to be inspired less by the comic books and more by the 1960s television show with Adam West and Burt Ward.
Uma Thurman's performance in the film received mainly negative reviews, and critics made comparisons between her and actress Mae West. The New York Times wrote, "like Mae West, she mixes true femininity with the winking womanliness of a drag queen." A similar comparison was made by the Houston Chronicle: "Thurman, to arrive at a ’40s femme fatale, sometimes seems to be doing Mae West by way of Jessica Rabbit." However, audiences and many other critics credited Thurman's obvious sex appeal as Poison Ivy. Director Joel Schumacher has admitted to not being proud of his work. On October 18, 2005, Warner Bros. released a DVD of the movie with a director's commentary. On it, Schumacher said he was compelled to put in gadgets that could be adapted into a toy line, and that he went too far trying to make the movie more kid-friendly than the previous films. He defended screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, saying, "If you don't like the film, blame the director." Executive producer Michael Uslan said, "In my estimation—you're not making movies, you're making two-hour infomercials for toys. And that's sad. Because, if a filmmaker is allowed to just go out and make a great film, I believe you will sell toys anyway".
The movie ranked "#1 Worst Superhero Movie" on an MSN Movies article describing "The Best Superhero Movies". The film critic aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes in 2007 listed the film 88th of 94 comic book movies. In his book Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, Michael J. Nelson, referring to the film's poor reputation, clarified that it was not the worst film ever, but the worst thing ever, on a scale encompassing everything in existence instead of simply films. Later, Nelson would team up with fellow MST3K alumni Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy to record an audio commentary track for the film under the RiffTrax label, citing that the film was "The single most requested movie on the forum." Unlike previous works, this track took the novel approach of being written entirely by RiffTrax fans. Clooney even joked about the movie on an appearance on The Tonight Show, when Jay Leno asked if he knew Arnold Schwarzenegger back when Schwarzenegger was first running for Governor of California. Clooney joked by saying "Yes I know him, we destroyed the Batman franchise together!"