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Batman and Robin
Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 120 mins . PG . PAL


Batman and Robin, the fourth and last film in the Batman franchise, spelled the end of the caped crusader’s cinema run in back 1997. Thanks in large part to Jack Nicholson’s show-stealing performance in Batman, the Batman films have increasingly been about the villains rather than the caped crusader himself. Batman and Robin brings this trend to its logical conclusion with Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing super-villain Mr Freeze, getting top billing and his big head at the top of the poster. It’s no wonder the role of Batman has been passed around like a hot potato.

With Chris O'Donnell firmly entrenched as his sidekick Robin, Batman is greying at the sides (and little wonder). If that wasn't enough to worry about, there's an animated icicle on the loose in the form of the cool, cruel Mr Freeze (Schwarzenegger). Boy does Gotham have a bad run with mad scientists! But wait, you wanted more mad scientists, well you got them! Just when you thought one was barely enough, up pops the luscious Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) who, with her sidekick Bane, has a hankering to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. Thankfully, Batman and his whining sidekick get a helping hand from Alfred's perky niece Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) who, after two minutes to settle in at Wayne mansion, re-invents herself as Batgirl.

With Joel Schumacher in the director’s seat, Batman and Robin continues the move back towards a modern version of Adam West’s camp 1960s television show that started with Batman Forever. In fact, Batman and Robin is so close to the series in scripting and plot cues it has lost all but distant remnants of the dark tone created by Tim Burton way back in 1989. It’s all too trite for words. In the opening scene, Batman and Robin wade through a mob of ice skating henchmen for god sakes, and although there are no BANG!, WHAM! and KAPOW! graphics, sound is used to provide the same effect.

Where a reasonable script and stand-out performances from Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones made Batman Forever a rather entertaining escape, there’s no such luck here. The script is woeful, filled with one liners that fall flat and serious moments that make you gag. George Clooney does his best with the title character, but his character has been effectively written out. As in the previous film, Chris O'Donnell’s Robin is just a whining little brat and newcomer Alicia Silverstone, who was great in Clueless, flounders with her supremely shallow Batgirl. Sadly, it’s not much better for the villains. Uma Thurman does her best with Poison Ivy, and does manage to extract a giggle or two from her sultry capering. As Mr. Freeze however, Schwarzenegger’s comic delivery is flat, helped in no small part by the leaden, corny one liners he is constantly fed.

Unable to extract performances from his actors, Schumacher relies more and more heavily on whizz-bang special effects. But this sort of stuff can only sustain a film for so long. As is befitting of an Arnie blockbuster, action abounds, but new gadgets, enhanced costumes and extra explosions just can't save this instalment from being the most vapid and least satisfying member of the Batman franchise.


Batman and Robin is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a single-sided single-layer disc. The image is 16x9 enhanced, and a nice image it is too. Despite cramming the entire film onto only a single layer, Warner have done a great job with the transfer this time around. The image is sharp and clear with a fantastic level of detail on display. In general the image is dazzling bright with all manner of primary colours leaping from every scene. With Mr Freeze turning everything and everyone in Gotham into icicles every two minutes, rich blues predominate. Thankfully the colours are vivid and well balanced. Skin tones are faithfully reproduced, as is the fleuro face paint of the city’s street gangs.

The source material used for the transfer is very clean, with only one or two small flecks appearing throughout. No MPEG compression artefacts were spotted. The black level is up just a touch, but you’ll hardly notice - the amount of darkness and shadow in Batman and Robin has been significantly reduced over its predecessors. The sharpness of the image means that there’s a little bit of aliasing/moire now and then, but it isn’t distracting. These small quibbles aside the transfer is impressive, especially given it was produced way back in 1998.

In the sound department, Batman Forever really kicks - featuring an aggressive 5.1 that’s in keeping with its Schwarzenegger action-blockbuster status. The surrounds are utilised to great effect throughout the film, providing fantastic directional effects and an almost continuous level of ambient sound. The subwoofer is literally never quiet, adding body to the score and roaring to life during the action scenes – and that’s most of the time. Lip synch is not an issue, and dialogue is always clear and distinct (with the exception of poor old Arnold and that accent of his).

In terms of extras, a lot more effort has gone into the disc than for the other three films combined. With the single layer filled almost to the brim with movie, Warner have done their best to assemble a reasonable collection of text-based production info that will be of some interest to fans. First up, there's the cast and crew biographies that have been a staple of the Batman DVDs. Added to this, there is information on the birth of the original comic strip by Bob Kane, quotes concerning this 'new story' by Joel Schumacher, and snippets from production designer Barbara Ling describing the new design for Gotham City, the revamped Batmobile and the other vehicles seen in the film. In each category, the amount of information on offer is not startling, but does provide some idea of the work that went into the film. All in all this is a better effort than the other Batman releases, but still falls far short of expectations.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...by far the most vapid and least satisfying member of the Batman cinema franchise."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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