My best friend Pat died on September 11th so every year at this time I celebrate his life by taking the day off and watching a marathon of superhero movies (his favorite genre). I also eat pizza as my father-in-law’s pizza (Best. Pizza. Ever.) was the last real food Pat could eat and he always looked forward to it. I wash it down with his favorite beverage (WARNING: Product Placement ahead), a cool IBC Root Beer – if you haven’t had IBC, you haven’t tried real root beer. I’ve already had one IBC and watched Batman Begins. Up next is The Dark Knight followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Watchmen. Since I’m on Batman at the moment, Netflix has several Batman films available for instant play.
1. Batman & Robin (1997) – “Along with crime-fighting partner Robin (Chris O’Donnell) and new recruit Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), Batman (George Clooney) battles the dual threat of frosty genius Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and homicidal horticulturalist Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Freeze plans to put Gotham City on ice, while Ivy tries to drive a wedge between the dynamic duo. With winking jokes and powerhouse action, Batman & Robin makes a great franchise finale”
Where The Dark Knight represents the zenith of Batman movies, Batman & Robin marks its nadir. Arnold and Uma overact worse than the villains on the old Batman TV series (and that series had Vincent Price, Frank Gorshin and Cesar Romero), they gave Batman a nipple suit, noted thespian Alicia Silverstone gets a B&D outfit, and so on. It seems clear that what Joel Schumacher wanted was a big budget Adam West Batman. It’s a shocking waste of money but it is pretty with lots of explosions and shiny things.
2. Batman – Mask of the Phantasm (1993) – “This animated adventure of the well-known crime-fighter is better than any of the big-screen live-action adaptations. Philanthropist Bruce Wayne is torn when a former flame returns to Gotham City. At the same time, the Phantasm, a “hero” who’s killing Gotham’s gangsters, confronts Wayne’s alter ego, Batman. Taut writing and incredible animation make this superhero flick one to rent”
I took my girls to see this at the theater when it came out and was surprised at the quality. This represents the best of the Kevin Conroy animated series – the story is quite good, Kevin Conroy is great as the voice of Batman and Mark Hamill is a fabulous Joker. If you watch one of the instant Batmans, this is definitely the one.
3. Batman & Mr. Freeze – Subzero (1998) – “This breathtaking animated adventure explodes into action when surprisingly sympathetic super-criminal Mr. Freeze concocts a plot to save his cryogenically preserved and terminally ill wife — by kidnapping Batgirl, who’s the only match for his wife’s blood type. Racing against the clock, Batman and Robin must face off against the frigid fiend and rescue Batgirl in the iciest showdown of the century”
This is an enjoyable animated tale though not as good as Mask of the Phantasm. The script is good, Kevin Conroy does his usual great job, and the portrayal of Mr. Freeze is thankfully light-years from Arnold’s in Batman & Robin.
4. Batman Beyond – Return of the Joker (2000) – “New Batman Terry McGinnis fights a gang called the Jokerz and confronts Bruce Wayne’s archnemesis, the Joker, long thought dead after a battle with the original Batman. To defeat the clown prince of crime, the new caped crusader must reopen a chapter in the original Batman’s career — the story of the night he fought the Joker for the final time”
Much as I like Batman, I never really got into Batman Beyond. This one wasn’t bad so much as meh although it does have the excellent Kevin Conroy and the equally excellent Mark Hamill as the Joker. Not my cup of tea but I’m sure if you like Batman Beyond, you’ll like this.
5. Batman vs. Dracula (2005) – “It’s good bat vs. bad bat in this thrilling feature starring that mysterious superhero Batman. Dracula is stalking the citizens of Gotham City, and it’s up to Batman to stop him from turning everyone in town into a bloodthirsty creature of the night. As if that’s not enough for the Caped Crusader, those evil villains Joker and Penguin are also on the loose. Extras include a featurette about the legend of Dracula and more”
This cheapie appears to have been dumped to market to cash in on Batman Begins. Kevin Michael Richardson is no Mark Hamill, Rino Romano is no Kevin Conroy, really just don’t bother unless you are a die-hard Batman fan. The best thing I can say about it is that isn’t awful on an operatic scale the way Batman & Robin is.