Batman & Robin. The review many of you have been waiting for. As always, I won't spoil the plot, and I won't give away any secrets, but I will tell you how it felt to watch this fil... thing.
No big drama involved with getting the tickets this time, I secured them from the coolest cat (yes, I am kissing ass) in town. He scored them from someone who is in the know. The mix of things if you will. The typical secret envelope with my name on it, and a pass for Batman & Robin.
Flash forward to 5am this morning. I get an email from a Brit making me aware of the GQ article on me. I howl with laughter of the thought of me, Harry Knowles, mentioned in GENTLEMEN'S QUARTERLY. Somewhere, someone is screaming. I fall asleep excited about the oncoming coolness, or lack thereof, to come in a mere 14 hours. I sleep for 5 of those hours. I wake up, check the net, and go for drinks. The drink of choice was Dr Pepper. I show my father the GQ article, and we howl together in laughter. Me? A Gentlemen? "They don't know me too well dood they?" We pick up my sister and eat pizza. Alot of pizza. When I get home, my email box alerts me that I am now on MTV's site. Turns out they are comparing me favorably to Walter Winchell and Edward R Murrow. Two gods of mine, I'm just a kid in a back bedroom somewhere trying to let the world in on film, not battling the mafia or Nazis by unveiling their horror for what it is. Of course I am unveiling Batman & Robin. Beyond that the comparison to those giants is near blasphemy. I do appreciate the praise though, it did bring a dose of the big head for about 10 minutes or so.
Then it was time to go to the theater. The journey to the theater was uneventful. We were the first to arrive, and we staked our claim at the front of the line. I'm excited, beyond all the bad press I've given the film, there is still the eternal optimist harboring the hope that the 100 or so terrible reviews I have received were false. That Variety's charge of a BLAND Batman film was ill placed. Afterall, no film could be as bad as SPEED 2 and be shown to me within a week, right? RIGHT?
The line turned into a mob. All semblance of order was brushed aside by the chaos of the film before us. A seemingly endless crowd pushed and shoved. Yet when they let us in, the theater was only 2/3s full for a FREE SNEAK of BATMAN & ROBIN. Hell, last week SPEED 2 was packed, and that was a larger auditorium. T-shirts, posters, frisbees, keychains and CDs were hurled violently at the excited crowd. People leaping, screaming, clawing and grabbing. It is a vicious scene. I'm laughing. I'm having a blast. This is what I wanted. People excited, people that didn't know, didn't know what they were about to see.
The trailers began.
WILD AMERICA - a truly scary film, that seems to be telling the youth of America and the world to tell your parents to screw off, and take your younger siblings out into the wilderness, military testing zones, all for the sake of filming snakes, horses and a bear. Please make it go away.
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE - a trailer that seems to have lost all momentum from that short trailer that was just images cut to the song. As my friend, Glen, groaned in agony next to me, I said, "You did hear they were going to do a DUDLEY DO-RIGHT feature?" If he had had food in his stomach, the girl in front of him would have looked like a Carmen Miranda but with slimy digested food oozing from her hair. He looks ill.
SIMPLE WISH - My God, they are getting worse. I formulate a theory that Warners is trying to brainwash the audience with terrible trailers, in order to make BATMAN & ROBIN look good. Glen howls in laughter. We're in a good mood. By the way, man this one looks reeeaaaalllll bad.
CONSPIRACY THEORY - Ahh, I hadn't seen this trailer yet! I'm all smiling, but as the trailer begins I realize that I understand why it moved from AIR FORCE ONE's playdate. The trailer starts off looking bad, and pulls it together to make for a halfway interesting film. I'll see it, but personally I think SNEAKERS will be the better film.
CONTACT - I love this trailer. The stillness of the audience. The complete focus upon the screen, the actors, the sounds. I'm there. I want to be watching that movie right this second. Everyone and everything about the project looks right based on the script. The movie will be great.
THEN THE GENERAL CINEMA'S SELF CANABALIZING SNACKS watch a SNACK BAND play, this the mystical lens floats into the sky emblazoned with a magical General Cinema symbol. Pretentious spot, long and tedious. I wanna see the BAT!!!
THE THX TRAILER - the "Mario" one, you know the jetpack guy. I love this one. Also, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that digital THX sound. Fantastic. Well, I'm certainly going to hear this movie.
Now for the film, the feature presentation. As the opening titles begin, it is as if every description of every screening I have heard of, were true. Extreme excitement. Shouting, Cheering, Celebrating. Then JOEL SHUMACHER's name falls upon the screen, and the sounds of BOOS fill the theater. Not one came from me or my friends. This came from the theater. As if some sort of cosmic Harry-spore had been injected into them. BOOS for the director, I'm not familiar with this phenomenon. Has this happened before?
Folks, I'm going to tell you to do something hideious, something against my better judgement, but I simply have to tell you to see BATMAN & ROBIN. Why? After all my screams of agony, of pain, or mistrust of Joel Schumacher? Because no matter how bad you have heard this film is, nothing can prepare you for the sheer glorius travesty of the 200-megaton bomb of a film this is. This film is so bad, so awful, so vanity ridden with horrible over the top performances, that nothing I can say, can prepare you for it. You don't have to see it this weekend, in fact it's probably best if you didn't, but I suggest you see it during the week at some early matinee, or better yet a midnight show. Yes, this is a midnight movie. The sort of flick that cries out for vengence. Joel Schumacher should not under any possible circumstances direct another one. This film will fill you with disbelief and rage if you are a long standing BATMAN fan, if you aren't, you'll be bored. On the page before people mentioned Clockwork Orange and Max Headroom references, well there is even a BARBARELLA reference in here too. Do they cause a smile? More like a smirk. However, the most shocking cameo I saw was something I couldn't believe. Did you ever see FLESH GORDON? No, not FLESH GORDON AND THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS, but the original film, which I kinda like? Well, the spaceship that looks like a curved dildo that sparks away from the planet? I swear to god, that that is FREEZE's ship. My friend, and battle companion Glen, recognized it instantly and we turned and in unison said, "That's Flesh Gordon's Spaceship!!!" We smiled, shook our heads and continued to watch.
Who are the survivors of this, the worst Batman film? George Clooney manages to weather the storm with minor cuts and bruises. Michael Gough seems to look like he actually is acting, despite the film around him. Everyone else is absolutely the worst they have ever been. Arnold has never been in a film this bad and inconsistant in tone. HERCULES GOES BANANAS is at least somewhat balanced in tone. His performance if you could call it that, was TERRIBLE. He was the best of the TERRIBLE performances though. UMA was so bad, so awful, my friend and I literally grabbed vainly in front off us, as if in some desperate hope to rip her violently off the screen. Get her out of the film, she is HORRENDOUS. Is it all her fault oooooooooh nooooooooooooooooo. Eliot Goldenthal (with Schumacher's insistence I'm sure) came up with the BRILLIANT idea to put sleazy saxophone music as her theme. You know, did you see THE SPECIALIST? You know the shower scene, where Stallone and Stone begin making love and out of nowhere comes hurtling at our ears the terrible waning of out of tune saxophones screaming out. Well, they used saxophones much better in that, than in this. Her theme hurt not only an already terrible performance, but contaminates the rest of film too.
Ok, enough enough harping on the film, you want here what the audience did? Without some sort of speech from me, or a sign beneath the film saying RUN HOME RUN NOW!! They did that exactly. In almost perfect 5 minute intervals beginning at the 15 minute mark of the film they began their exodus. First unrelated individuals, then couples, then families. My friend Glen pleaded, cried into my shoulder, "DAMMIT LET ME THE FUCK OUT HERE, I CAN'T HANDLE ANY MORE OF THIS!!" Oh no, it wasn't gonna be that easy for him. He doesn't even think it's a bomb in the watchable sense, but then he hadn't seen SPEED 2 the week before.
To me, this is Star Trek 5. But let me explain that. This is a much worse film for the following reasons. Shatner had the budget cut by 40% during the course of filmmaking, Schumacher had the entire sources of one of the best studios behind him. He had a good script. He had the right cast. He destroyed this film. He directed the normally fun and enjoyable actors to act as if they were pumped up on amphetimines and chased it with exotic hallucinagens. These people are lost. Only Clooney, Gough, and possibly O'Donnell (though he stunk up the room pretty bad) seem somewhat immune. Alicia, well, she's Alicia.
Kids were not excited by this film, often times SCREAMING could be heard. You know the sound a kid makes when a parent is forcing them to STAY IN THEIR SEAT. Hey what type of movie makes you wanna get out of your seat? When I was kid, watching those SUPERMAN films you couldn't pry me from my seat. In fact nothing could remove me from the theater. Even the worst of that series, doesn't begin to compare. Mr Fingernails would kick Arnold's ass any day of the week. As for female villians URSA and Catwoman would whoop IVY's rear (description of rear deleted for fear of offending those with less than adequate toned butts)!!!
This film has that, oh how do I do this? Ok, here I go. "Oh WOW that's kinda.. AWW MAN THAT SUCKS!!!" You see what I'm getting at? You almost get the thought out that something you glimpsed on screen was cool, then instantly without reason that coolness is jerked away and replaced with a hidieous wormy Uma voice. Her voice. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. This voice could scare men out of the trenches in a war. The defense department should study it. The voice would make a straight guy go gay, I heard that after the screening from an anonymous source.
Speaking of after the film, the casualty victims, the audience, stood in front of the theater with stunned looks of disbelief. You know that look on people's faces in ATOMIC CAFE? The survivors of Hiroshima? I saw that stare again. The pain. The agony. The wish to make it all go away. The masochist in me loved it. I had attended a train wreck and sat third row center. Far more effective than the one in THE FUGITIVE this is what I saw. This is honest. I love Batman, I was even wearing a BATMAN & ROBIN tie to the screening. I didn't try to convince anyone this film was going to be awful. Instead I was like WANG in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. You know, "I've got a real positive feeling about this." I did, it's true. I had resolved myself to watching the 60's Adam West Batman series brought to life with the full cooperation of Hollywood. What I saw, can not be explained. Why do people make ugly things? Is it stupidity, is it ignorance I don't know. Maybe this film is beautiful in a Ed Wood way. Maybe Schumacher is like that kindergarten child with fingerpaints doing portraits of mommy and daddy. When you see those fingerpaints you say, ooooh Joel, that's nice, but inside you look at the indiscenable mixtures of colors forming vague shapes and wonder what the hell your kid was thinking. You put it on the fridge, and then one day it's in the closet being eaten by roaches and rats. This is that film. The one that gathers dust and fades away. Let it fade.