Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) put on their suits for another evening of crimefighting around Gotham City. Commisioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) informs them over the radio that a new villain is causing trouble at the museum: a certain Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is looking to relieve the building of its diamonds. Batman and Robin reach there just in time to meet their latest foe, who carries a large gun which freezes everything it is fired at. After a skirmish with Freeze's henchmen, the heroes think they have the upper hand until Freeze produces a rocket which he plans to explode over Gotham. Have the dynamic duo met their match?
Well, some would have you believe that the real villain who brought down Batman and Robin this time around was the director Joel Schumacher, but he wasn't working alone - screenwriter Akiva Goldsman was his accomplice. Mr Freeze doesn't work alone either, apparently because one villain just wasn't enough after the 1989 instalment in this series, and two was the magic number, the second being Poison Ivy (a very arch Uma Thurman). Well, there are three if you count her right hand man Bane (Jeep Swenson). And we don't only get two caped crusaders either, as Barbara (Alicia Silverstone), the niece of Alfred the butler (Michael Gough, returning for the last time) is along for the ride also.
Mr Freeze has his origin explained via some black and white CCTV footage that the Bat Computer happens to have - he is Victor Fries, trying to save the life of his comatose wife who is kept in suspended animation, and he himself is afflicted with a condition that has him permanently cooled to stay alive. Poison Ivy, however, gets a setpiece to provide her rebirth from a dowdy, plant-obsessed scientist to a green-fingered vamp via a dousing in toxins and chemicals, and now she not only makes men fall in love with her with an incessantly administered gas (couldn't they have found her something else to do?) but can kill with her deadly kiss.
Clooney was presumably hoping to continue his ascent to movie star from TV star here, but he ended up despising the whole enterprise, and little wonder when you see what he has to do. He does nothing but fill the costume and try to rein in the petulant O'Donnell's rebelliousness, a father figure rather than the equal Robin wants him to be. All this becomes very tedious very quickly, and when they get a whiff of Ivy's love potion they have something else to argue over. Meanwhile, in an non-event of a plotline, Alfred is succumbing to a mysterious illness and may die before the end of the film, but not really as this would mean a note of sincerity, something this film has trouble with conveying.
The villains are always the best part of Batman, but Schwarzenegger is called on to deliver painful puns galore ("You're not sending me to the coolah!") and even - big mistake, this - give us an idea of the emotional turmoil that Mr Freeze is feeling. Thurman doesn't fare much better, more at home as the scatty scientist than the third-rate, vegetation-based Mae West that she turns into. As the new Batgirl, Silverstone's services simply weren't needed as she doesn't even put on her suit until the very end. In the film's favour, it's flashy, garish and rattles along without pausing for breath, but without pausing for any investment in the heroes, either: Batman is the same millionaire playboy with or without his disguise. Annoying comic book fans and casual moviegoers alike, Batman & Robin only seems to please itself. Music by Elliot Goldenthal.
American director and occasional writer who rather unfairly won a reputation as one of the worst in Hollywood when he was really only as good as the material he was given. Starting as a costume designer (working with Woody Allen), he went onto a couple of TV movies - screenwriting Car Wash, Sparkle and The Wiz between them - and then a feature, spoof The Incredible Shrinking Woman. D.C. Cab followed, then a couple of eighties-defining teen hits, St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, and remake Cousins.
In the nineties, he was offered higher profile movies, including supernatural Flatliners, cult urban nightmare Falling Down, John Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill, blockbusting camp Batman Forever and the much-maligned Batman & Robin, and grotty 8MM. 1999's Flawless signalled a change to smaller scale works: army drama Tigerland, true life tale Veronica Guerin and thriller Phone Booth. Lavish musical The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber was a Lost Boys fan) was a return to the overblown blockbusters, but it flopped, as did his conspiracy thriller The Number 23.