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BATMAN AND ROBIN: "DE-ASSIFIED"
Saturday, August 13, 2005
On June 20, 1997, I walked out of the theater on a BATMAN film. That “film” was Joel Schumacher’s BATMAN AND ROBIN. Now, I had thought about doing that before back in 1992 as I watched Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS. Even though I tremendously disliked what I saw in that film, I sat through the entire thing. The reason I bolted on the fourth installment of the previous BATMAN series and not the second was simple: B&R makes fun of Batman, while RETURNS does not. Barely.
Over the eight years since B&R hit theaters and almost single-handedly ruined the Bat-franchise, I’ve never seen the film in its entirety. I have it on VHS and my kids watch it from time to time. As a result, I’ve viewed bits and pieces of it on occasion. I’ve never wanted to see it as I - like many other Bat-fans - consider it disrespectful to the character, an insult, and a slap in the face.
Then a few weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman informing me that he had re-edited BATMAN AND ROBIN and wanted me to check it out. He told me that he believed that he had created a watchable version of the film by “de-assifying” the thing. I agreed to give a look and review, gave him BOF‘s mailing address, and looked forward to seeing if he was telling the truth.
Frankly, I didn’t believe it to be possible.
A few days ago, I tore open a package addressed to “BATMAN ON FILM.” Inside, I found a DVD case with the very familiar B&R cover, with “DE-ASSIFIED” in red stamped across the front.
I immediately put it in my Batman DVD player in my office and viewed it along with my four year old son.
This was the very first time that I have watched this film from beginning to end in one sitting. And I’m happy to report it was time well spent.
Now, is it a good film? Hell no. But the editor did a great job of upgrading this film to “OK” status. It is indeed watchable and not gosh-awful any longer. The number of times you will cringe and roll your eyes has been cut substantially.
The plot is exactly the same from the original Joel Schumacher cut, as there was nothing anyone could have done to change it. We still get the ice-skating, the Freeze Rocket, Batman and Robin at the charity event, etc. However, the cutting of most of the one-liners and the campy, ridiculous dialogue, allows one to take it more seriously. This time, there is no Bat credit card and other asinine items in that vein.
The film opens with the morphing Warner Bros. logo into the frozen Bat, and then jumps straight into the action. We find Mr. Freeze at the Gotham Museum where he immediately encounters Batman and Robin. That scene plays out much like it is in the Schumacher cut, but sans most of the camp. Fortunately, we are not subjected to seeing Clooney do his “Hi Freeze, I’m Batman” bit, and slide down the dinosaur tale. In fact, the dialogue is cut to a minimum as there is little talking during the opening action.
Viewers will not encounter the infamous “suiting up” scene as with the original, hence, we are spared “I want a car. Chicks did the car,” and “This is why Superman works alone.” As the stamp across the front cover says, it has certainly been de-assified - not one butt-shot of The Caped Crusader or the “Boy” Wonder to be found.
This is how the remainder of the movie plays out. Just imagine the film with most - but not all - of the BS removed, and that is what you get. Since Mr. Schumacher included so much utter crap and goofiness, there is simply no way to eliminate all of it. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Freeze and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy are over the top when onscreen - particularly the latter. Consequently, much of their nonsense remains as you have to keep much of their performance. If you cut it all, there would be nothing left - although I’m sure that some of you would be very happy with that!
The film sports no additions, such as the Danny Elfman musical score from the first two films. Also, a neon Gotham City, Bat-suit nipples, Alicia Silverstone’s Batgirl, and other such deplorable items remain. But after this re-edit, they don’t come off as annoying and probably will not induce vomiting.
With all of these edits, you may be asking yourself how much of the film actually remains. BATMAN AND ROBIN: DE-ASSIFIED has a running time of a little over an hour. Yes, that is short for a film, but it does work. The storyline and narrative remain and the cuts are virtually seamless.
B&R is still not a good film by any stretch. Mr. Schumacher’s original is just too bad throughout to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. But as the editor said, it certainly is a better film.
BATMAN AND ROBIN deserves a C- as a BATMAN film after the de-assification process. As the grade suggests, it is below average - but that is much better than the “F infinity” given by this author to the original.
I am awarding the “de-assification” process itself an A. I tip my hat to the talents involved as they certainly did a remarkable job. Not once have I got up and left while viewing their version of this film - which in this case would have me leaving my own house.
Now, I wonder if BATMAN RETURNS can be “de-bizarrified?”