Chill Out: The Icy Reception and Unexpected Thaw of “Batman & Robin (1997)”

Is it worth sliding down the Batpole for a second look? Get ready to revisit a world where neon lights, rubber nipples, and ice puns reign supreme. We’re taking a cultured retrospective on Batman & Robin to see if this much-maligned film has thawed into something worth watching.

In 1997, director Joel Schumacher unleashed Batman and Robin, a movie often panned as one of the worst superhero films of all time and touted as a “franchise killer” for Batman in the ’90s before the character was wholly reimagined for cinema and resurrected on the big screen by Christopher Nolan with Batman Begins in 2005.

To say the film has a poor reputation would be a modest understatement. From its Golden Raspberry nominations to its universally derided script, Batman and Robin is often cited as the film that nearly destroyed the superhero genre.

But could a film be so bad that it’s actually…good? Not according to our friends over at Through the Monocle, who suffered through the entire movie. Check out the full live commentary if you care to listen (and laugh) along with them.

Still, even George Clooney, who swore off ever reprising his role as the caped crusader again, came around to return as Bruce Wayne in The Flash. Twenty-six years later, is there any silver lining of redemption for Batman & Robin? I think there is.

Bad, but not boring

Batman & Robin is undoubtedly and objectively a bad movie. But it is not an unwatchable bad movie, and that’s an important distinction. Everything from the eye-popping ludicrous set designs to the oddball choices in dialogue to colorful costuming makes it uniquely captivating to watch.

Who could forget Batman whipping out his Bat Credit Card to outbid Robin at an auction, complete with an expiration date of “Forever”? Or how Bane was reduced to a grunting, monosyllabic sidekick to Poison Ivy – a far cry from the intellectual villain he’s known to be in the comics. My personal favorite is when Batman and Robin “surf” down from the sky on doors ripped from a rocket ship, somehow managing to steer their way through the air with a finesse that defies all laws of physics.

The audacity of its bad decisions gives it a peculiar energy. Got a party where you want people laughing but not necessarily glued to the screen? Batman and Robin is your film. Its glaring flaws become part of its charm when the goal is amusement, not critical appreciation. Plus, the numerous ice-related puns from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze offer an easy drinking game that writes itself.

Ironically, while the movie was initially designed as a vehicle to push toy sales, it will come full circle in 2023, with McFarlane Toys about to release an entire action figure line based on the film. And I’m willing to bet it will sell out. Whether fueled by nostalgia or affection for the film’s quirks, these toys affirm the movie’s lasting, albeit unconventional, impact.

DC Multiverse ‘Batman & Robin’ Action Figures Revealed at SDCC 2023

So, is Batman & Robin a masterpiece? Absolutely not, but it’s far from a snoozer. It has carved out its niche as a cult classic that’s so bad it’s… well, still bad, but entertainingly so. The zany energy and sheer spectacle make it hard to ignore and impossible to forget. And now, with new toys on the horizon, this much-maligned movie is getting a second act. Whether we admit it or not, Batman & Robin has solidified its place in pop culture—frozen, you might say, in our collective memory.

What are your thoughts on Batman & Robin? Is it unwatchable or so bad that it’s good? Let us know in the comments below!