Executive producers, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan.
Co-producer, William M. Elvin.
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Mr. Freeze/Dr. Victor Fries ..... Arnold Schwarzenegger
Batman/Bruce Wayne ..... George Clooney
Robin/Dick Grayson ..... Chris O'Donnell
Poison Ivy/ Dr. Pamela Isley ..... Uma Thurman
Batgirl/ Barbara Wilson ..... Alicia Silverstone
Alfred Pennyworth ..... Michael Gough
Commissioner Gordon ..... Pat Hingle
Dr. Jason Woods ..... John Glover
Julie Madison ..... Elle Macpherson
Ms. B. Haven ..... Vivica A. Fox
Nora Fries ..... Vendela K.
Thommessen Gossip Gerty ..... Elizabeth Sanders
Bane ..... Jeep Swenson
The series has remained aloft due to highly effective all-star casting of the baddies as well as refreshment and expansion of other talent in front of and behind the camera. George Clooney as Batman and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl are the new arrivals this time out, with Chris O'Donnell back for his sophomore appearance as Robin and director Joel Schumacher up to the plate for a second time as well.
Initial set piece, in which Freeze unleashes his ice-skating goons on the winged twosome, is somewhat silly since the minions spend more time playing hockey with a giant diamond coveted by Freeze than trying to accomplish their mission, which is to kill the good guys. But the follow-up is pretty spectacular, with Freeze blasting off in a private spaceship with Batman captive inside and Robin clinging outside, followed by some radical air surfing back to Gotham City.
Back at Bruce Wayne's mansion, there are also problems, as the billionaire's beloved butler, Alfred (Michael Gough), doesn't appear well. But the old man is buoyed by the arrival from England of his niece Barbara (Silverstone), whose demure good-girlishness belies a secret taste for the souped-up motorcycles stashed in the Batcave.
Those bikes spur the silliest sequence in the picture, in which Barbara hangs out with a bunch of lowlifes at night prior to an utterly gratuitous motorcycle drag race that looks like something out of "The Lost Boys." The Bruce Wayne side of the story has always posed a problem in the current series, and this installment is no exception, as the at-home chitchat consists of this group of orphans discussing the need for trust and family, and Bruce/Batman having to throw cold water on Dick/Robin, who's hot for both Barbara and Poison Ivy.
Midsection is woefully low on conflict and incident, with Mr. Freeze temporarily in custody, Barbara lolling about and Poison Ivy failing to fatally seduce either Batface or Birdbrain, as she calls her adversaries. Things pick up when Ivy frees Freeze and, informing him that the flying rodents have pulled the plug on his wife (when she in fact has jealously done so), inspires him to join her in a partnership of Adam and Evil to freeze Gotham City and decimate the world's human population.Late in the game, Barbara transforms into Batgirl, to less than electrifying effect, to help her protectors fight the ultimate battle, which sees Freeze turning Bruce Wayne's powerful telescope into a giant ice gun with which he can spray the entire city. As the victims must be thawed within minutes or be frozen forever, Batman, Robin and Batgirl shift into high gear, resulting in a protracted sequence as thunderously numbing as the climax of any other $100 million action film in recent memory.
Ongoing technological advances have made the effects, if not the production design, even more grandiose than in the previous Batman outings, although not necessarily to more edifying or thrilling effect. Batman's abilities were never about special effects (he can't even fly, really), and shouldn't have to compete with things that morph in the night.
Physically, Clooney is unquestionably the most ideal Batman to date, but none of the series' screenwriters has ever gotten a handle on how to make the character as interesting as those around him, and Clooney is unable to compensate onscreen for the lack of dimension on paper. It is difficult to think of another superhero series in which it would matter so little who plays the part, and it is indicative of the ongoing flaw in the Batman franchise that the changes in leading men have so little impact on the films' popularity or effectiveness.
O'Donnell mainly conveys a boyish eagerness that must continually be channeled and tempered by his guardian, while Silverstone, in her first bigscreen appearance since breaking through in "Clueless," makes a particularly disappointing impression, as she brings no special flair or energy to her potentially choice role.
That leaves it to the villains. Schwarzenegger, painted a silvery blue and heavily encased, is forced to deliver every cool/cold/chill/
frigid/frozen pun in the book, but the Freeze character is so unusual and imposing that he easily holds the interest. But best of all is Thurman, imaginatively coifed in red tresses and green body stocking, a man trap who taunts her intended victims like a leafy Mae West and is assisted in moments of physical need by a hulking, obedient manservant, Bane (Jeep Swenson). Her performance has comic wit conspicuously lacking elsewhere in the picture.