Thursday, January 15, 2009

Batman and Robin

In the year 1997 the film "Batman & Robin", as directed by Joel Schumacher, would become part of infamy. It was a definite Summer blockbuster -- but failed to find praise from mainstream critics and fanboys alike. Batman & Robin would go down in history as the film that ended the Batman franchise of the 1990's. But more about that later...

I remember lazing about my apartment and overhearing Mary Hart (Entertainment Tonight) announcing the featured villains for this 4th installment. Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy...and Bane(?). I was ecstatic...I could not believe that Poison Ivy would be featured in a live action film. The word spread all over Hollywood like wildfire -- who would portray this villainess described as the most beautiful woman in the world? Every actress in Hollywood dared to step forward. Big names like Julia Roberts, and Demi Moore were being tossed about. Honestly...this turned my stomach. The idea of somebody like Roberts, or Moore as Poison Ivy did not sit well with me. But I still didn't have a person in mind. Until...

It just hit me -- Uma Thurman! Perfect! But what were the odds of this happening? It seemed Impossible. Uma certainly made a name for herself in the film "Pulp Fiction" (1994) but her resume consisted of smaller, intimate films -- certainly no blockbusters. So, you can imagine the utter shock of hearing that Uma Thurman was asked to fill the role of Poison Ivy. What!? I am still convinced there were cosmic forces at work that allowed me to will this all into being (or so I keep telling myself). My reasons for wanting Uma are simple -- she has a unique beauty, otherworldy even. But more importantly, she was the kind of actress who was cast for her skills and not just her bankable name.

Speaking of bankable names...

George Clooney was chosen as Batman, and a horribly miscast Arnold Schwarzenegger would become Mr. Freeze. Chris O'Donnel would return as Robin, and the role of Batgirl was given to Alicia Silverstone (ugh!).

The production of this film was followed closely and the internet played a crucial role in keeping fans informed of each step towards completion. The negative vibe directed at this film began early on -- once the script was leaked to the web many questions were raised and eyes began to roll. The trailer for the film premiered on Entertainment Tonight and fan reaction was heavily mixed. We saw a swaggering Batman, a clunking ill spoken Mr. Freeze, the same old Robin, a vacant Batgirl, a slinking Poison Ivy...and a person resembling Bane.

I scored some free tickets and was able to attend a sneek peek screening of "Batman & Robin". There I was in line -- with my Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy t-shirt (from the now defunct WB Studio Stores) surrounded by hundreds of eager movie goers. I was excited...critics be damned. I was treated to 125 minutes of color and sound...and Ivy too. I did enjoy the film, but not as much as I thought I would. I tried not to be overly critical but there were so many awkward moments in the film...and I still feel the same way. I love Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy...but the rest of the film is a mess.

I think fans of the superhero genre should also keep in mind that comic book based films in the 90s were not treated with the reverence that they are today. Clearly this film could in no way compete with the likes of say X-Men: United, Iron-Man, or The Dark Knight. But the new millennium is not without a few clunkers i.e. Catwoman, Elektra, and Ghost Rider to name a few.

Also, it's clear that Uma Thurman is capable of portraying an adventurous woman. The Kill Bill films were fantastic. But a weak script and cartoonish visuals soured this opportunity.

One of the good things to come from Batman and Robin is Poison Ivy was introduced to the world in the form of Uma Thurman. It sparked a wild curiosity -- once Batman and Robin hit, the traffic to my Poison Ivy website was never ending. People wanted to know more about this sexy villainess. Also, the costuming was great -- fabulous plant-themed costumes and to-die-for wigs.

Though I must say...any person who has followed Uma Thurman's career since Batman and Robin has probably noticed she NEVER talks about her role as Poison Ivy. (I'm sure she's aware that the film was widely panned and is protecting her own brand.) It's likely that Batman and Robin goes on the list of topics you simply cannot discuss during an interview.

Shortly after Batman and Robin she starred in another Warner Bros. film titled "The Avengers" (1998) based off of the old British show of the same name. It sank at the box office. This had to be a rather frustrating time for an actress attempting to branch out into different film genres.

All things considered, it's unfortunate that Uma doesn't perceive her portrayal of Poison Ivy as something to be remembered with fondness (or amusement). In many ways she really was the highlight of an otherwise "difficult" film.

"That's right, the same plants and flowers that saw you crawl from the primordial soup will reclaim the planet. And there will be no-one to protect you."


AfroMonkey said...

Hey there.
A long-time fan of your work. I have a question I'd like to ask of you.
Looking over this article again reminds of your Flora Lounge article on the movie and in turn I remember back in the day you also had a page dedicated to Poison Ivy's costumes in the film and your thoughts on them- a review of them if you will.
Basically, I'm wondering if you'll ever post it here, or maybe update it for the new millenium as it were! It's just I remember you had some pretty insightful thoughts on her and I'd like see a review of the character in the movie if possible.
I know I'm not in any position to make any sort of demands, but it's just I really did like Uma's portrayal and I really am curious to hear your (elaborated) thoughts on her.

Deadly Garden said...

Hey there. Sorry for the LONG delayed response I'm still trying to get this place in order. I definitely plan on doing costume profiles for Poison Ivy as she appeared in the film. One for each! Actually I just pulled out a bunch of old books and magazines and such with images I'm going to scan. There's also the occasional image I've found online along with additional information.

There will also be a post focusing specifically on Uma Thurman's contribution to Batman and Robin as an actress and participant. Opinions a plenty there.

Stay tuned!

AfroMonkey said...

No worries. Thank you very much for the reply! I'm looking forward to it.

P.S. The site looks wonderful. The effort really shows!

Ramón Jurado Borrero said...

Is this guy dead or what? What happened to this blog?

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