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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Batman And Robin (4K) (Blu-ray)
Batman And Robin (4K) (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // June 4, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $41.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 14, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Joel Schumacher's second attempt at a Batman film, following Batman Forever made two years prior, was 1997's widely reviled Batman & Robin. Once again, Batman/Bruce Wayne was re-cast, this time with George Clooney in the lead role, while Chris O'Donnell returned as Dick Grayson/Robin, Michael Gough was back as Alfred and Pat Hingle once again reprised his role as Gotham's Commissioner James Gordon.

The story in this fourth entry in the series introduces us to Dr. Victor Fries (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who turns to the dark side after his wife, Nora (Vendela Kirsebom Thomessen), is unfortunate enough to contract a rare disease called MacGregor's Syndrome. When his blood gets injected with a cryogenic liquid, he becomes… Mr. Freeze, the newest supervillain to terrorize Gotham City. His schtick? He's cold looking, cold feeling and hellbent on making everything in Gotham just as cold as he is! While all of this is going on, we also have to contend with the arrival of the beautiful but deadly Dr. Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), and her bodyguard Bane (Jeep Swenson). They plan to team up with Mr. Freeze and allow for the takeover of Gotham by some genetically engineered plants.

If this weren't enough for Batman to contend with, Poison Ivy manages to drive a wedge into his relationship with Robin, after which Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone), Alfred's niece, arrives on the scene and becomes Batgirl, intent on helping out in his absence. Meanwhile, poor Alfred comes down with the same disease that killed Nora Fries and the only person on the planet who has the curse is Mr. Freeze…

This one, honestly, is a little much. It ramps up the camp factor to eleven and pushes aside character development in favor of spectacle. This might work if the spectacle paid off, but it doesn't. Oh sure, there's a lot of action in this movie but it doesn't carry any weight and quite a bit of it features some horribly dated CGI. There's literally a scene here where our heroes chase Freeze through the sky. He's got some sort of flight suit on while they basically surf around on slabs of metal. It's ridiculous, and not in a good way and the film feels completely tone deaf. It's campy without being charming or funny, and the characters are so one-dimensional here that it's pretty hard to care about any of them. Freeze gets a bit of a backstory, fine, but it's not really all that good or well thought out and the whole thing just feels like Schumacher got very, very lost along the way.

Performances? Clooney, to be fair, is okay here. The material in this film is pretty light and an actor of his caliber is perfectly able to carry any of the drama thrown at him. He's not a bad Bruce Wayne and he's not a bad Batman. Problems with his character(s) stem from the script, not his work. O'Donnell and Silverstone, however, prove to be a collective blackhole of charisma, with both delivering performances charitably described as wooden. Uma Thurman looks quite good here, she does the slinky, sultry thing very well but the camp factory is so ramped up around her character that you can't take any of what she does seriously, which renders her efforts here moot. As to Arnie? He's certainly miscast here but he does at least give it the ol' college try. His dialogue is goofy and his delivery matches that goofiness. In fact, if there's one word that accurately describes this mess, it's goofy. Michael Gough is his typically reliable self, however. So, points for that. Michael Gough is always good though, so that shouldn't surprise anyone. He's a great choice to have played Alfred in all four of the films from this run.

The whole thing just feels like an overly long advertisement for toys and fast food tie-ins. It's a watered down, sanitized and way too ‘kiddie' take on The Dark Knight and his world. It's bottom of the barrel, big budgeted Hollywood trash at its most inept and misguided.

The Video:

Batman & Robin, like its predecessors, comes to 4k UHD with an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 on a 100GB disc with HDR 10 enhancement and like those aforementioned predecessors, this transfer is gorgeous. This fourth entry in the series is considerably more colorful than the three that came before and so you get a lot more ‘pop' in that department than you did on those films (which also looked pretty damn near perfect). Reds and greens in particular are used throughout the movie and are quite lavish, the cool blue tones of Mr. Freeze's world are also reproduced beautifully. Detail is outstanding in pretty much every frame of this picture, while skin tones look lifelike and natural. The image is flawless in that it shows no print damage whatsoever while retaining a natural amount of film grain. Black levels and contrast are perfect. There are no problems with any noise reduction, compression artifacts or edge enhancement. It really is a beautiful picture.

The Audio:

English language tracks are provided in Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. This is, as you'd probably have guessed, a pretty action-intensive movie and the surround activity that the Atmos track provides is exceptionally good. Dialogue is always perfectly clear while your subwoofer will get a nice workout anytime the action scenes kick in. Everything is properly levelled so as not to bury the performers at all. The score sounds perfect, the pop music selections sound great too. Action scenes sound remarkably vibrant and there's a load of rear channel activity present at any given point in the film. The track is, in a word, flawless.

Dubbed options are provided in French (Canadian), French (European), German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish, Russian Thai and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and in Chinese, Spanish, and Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish and Thai.

The Extras:

Extras on the UHD disc itself are limited to the archival commentary track from director Joel Schumacher. This is, for all the film's many flaws, an interesting track. Part history lesson and part confessional (the director finishes up his track before the movie is over), Schumacher talks about the casting of the picture, how and why the decision was made to bring the different characters into the storyline, the very deliberate changes that were made to the look of this film versus the earlier films and quite a bit more.

The included Blu-ray disc, which uses the new transfer, carries over that same commentary but also carries over the rest of the extras from the previous Blu-ray release. This includes Shadows Of The Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark Knight Part 6: Batman Unbound which is a twenty-seven-minute segment that is made up of cast and crew interviews discussing what it was like on set, the different characters that populate the film, what the movie got right and, probably more importantly, what went wrong. This is a genuinely interesting piece even if you didn't like the movie.

Warner Brothers once again throws in some character profile pieces with Batman & Robin: The Heroes (which tells you things you already know about Batman, Robin and Batgirl) and Batman & Robin: The Villains (which does the same thing for Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and Bane). More important and more interesting than that is Beyond Batman, which runs fifty-one-minutes and is broken up into five parts: Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design Of Batman & Robin, Maximum Overdrive: The Vehicles Of Batman & Robin, Dressed To Thrill: The Costumes Of Batman & Robin, Frozen Freaks And Femme Fatales: The Makeup Of Batman & Robin and Freeze Frame: The Visual Effects Of Batman & Robin. As you'd guess from those titles, this is a pretty in-depth look at the production process and the more technical side of putting this movie together and it's worth checking out if you have an interest in that side of film production.

Rounding out the extras on the disc is a single forty-seven-second deleted scene called Alfred's Last Love, some music videos for the tracks The End Is The Beginning by Smashing Pumpkins, Foolish Games by Jewel, Look Into My Eyes by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony as well as the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

This release also comes with an insert card for a Digital HD download version of the film and is packaged with a slipcover.

Overall:

Batman & Robin is a genuinely bad movie, easily the worst of the four Batman movies from this run and the very definition of bloated, big studio nonsense. Having said that, Warner Brothers has done an excellent job bringing this turkey to 4k UHD. There aren't any new extras here but all of the existing material is carried over and the presentation is fantastic. It's hard to recommended this, because the film stinks, but it's great package overall so let's meet half way and say ‘rent it.'

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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