Sunday, November 14, 2010

Batman & Robin - Joel Schumacher

 “Batman and Robin: militant arm of the warm-blooded oppressors, animal protectors of the status quo.”
-Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman)

Four movies about Batman were filmed during the 90s. The first two ones (Batman and Batman Returns) were directed by Tim Burton. As of today, the films are still considered good. The second pair of movies (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) was directed by Joel Schumacher and has been considered a complete failure since its release. Particularly, Batman & Robin disappointed so many people (including Warner Bros) that it took ten years to bring the hero of Gotham City back to the screens.

Batman & Robin was more of a Disney movie than an adaptation of the Batman saga. The popular connotations given to words like “cool” or “chill” are overused, just like in The Ice Age. In a way, Batman & Robin was more of a tribute to the series of the 60s than an adaptation of the comics. The bad guys wear uniforms, just like in the TV series, and the fights look like dance choreographies.

But even if Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies ever, it still tells us a lot about how Americans perceived their country in the late 90s. Probably because it is hard to be frank, societies represent themselves through their heroes: the Greeks did it with Ulysses, and Americans do it with Superman, Batman, et al.

Through the architecture of Gotham City (a representation of New York), Batman & Robin tells us a lot about how Americans conceived social interactions back in the day. The message transmitted through the architecture of Gotham is interesting, especially when we compare it with the portrayals of Burton or, more recently, Christopher Nolan. In Batman & Robin, Gotham City is a bombastically ridiculous place: the idea of a dark city, as conceived by the original creators of Batman, is basically absent; optimism is rampant and only a couple of bad guys (who will obviously be stopped by the good guys) disrupt order. Contrastingly, the Burton and Nolan adaptations present a desolated city, where evil can actually win. Nolan also presents a city where infrastructure is falling apart and the social contrasts of a city where, on the one hand, you have the richest members of a society and, in the other hand, you have the poorest ones.

Batman & Robin deserves one last comment. The movie also shows how society’s views about ecology have changed. At one point, Poison Ivy presents Bruce Wayne a project to stop using diesel to warm houses and freeze food. Wayne retorts saying that this is nonsense, because many people would freeze and starve. He closes by adding that “the most important is the people.” Thirteen years later, the idea to stop using fossil fuels to warm houses and freeze food is back, but now people have started to take it seriously. I am not sure that this is a good thing. In order to solve the environmental issues we face, it is necessary to find a compromise between nature and the needs of humankind, instead of adopting the simplistic vision of a villain of a bad movie.

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