Broke-Bat Mountain: Understanding a Misunderstood Masterpiece (March. 06) by Steven Tsapelas
"Batman & Robin."
Now, to be honest, I never really appreciated "Batman & Robin" until just last year. You see, back in Summer '97, I was briefly hospitalized with "disappointment" following the one-two crappy comic book punch of "B & R" and "Spawn." I'd been eagerly anticipating both, but was especially crushed within the first few minutes of the fourth installment of the Batman franchise.
I remember the night vividly.
There I sat, in a theater packed to the gills with eager fans anxiously waiting for this preview screening of "Batman & Robin" to start. The title cards came up...
"Arnold Schwarzenegger," loud applause.
"George Clooney," loud applause.
Hell, even "Chris O'Donnell" got loud applause! The crowd was pumped!
I was in such shock, that I made myself see it a second time IN THEATERS just to confirm what exactly it was that I had seen the first time.
I holed myself up that summer and rarely took in visitors. My curtains were drawn, no light was let in, and I wasn't able to hold down solids. I couldn't even think the name "Schumacher" without silently weeping, then throwing up.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating, so let me bring it back to reality.
"Batman & Robin" nearly killed me.
But you know what they say about "time," right? It heals all wounds. And it's on my side. And it flies. Okay, they say a lot of things about time. But the heal all wounds part is the what I'm talking about in this particular instant.
This past summer I was treated, and I mean TREATED, to the best damn Batman movie adaptation ever, "Batman Begins." Well-acted, well-written, well-directed, and intelligently told. A solid, serious Batman movie. And when I left the theater, I thought to myself, "That movie made all of the other serious Batman movies completely obsolete."
And out of the ashes of the now useless '89-'97 Batman Franchise only "Batman & Robin" emerged. It was then that I realized that the only one that had something different really going for it was "Batman & Robin," even though it was universally panned in the Earth year of 1997.
I bought the DVD and looked at it with a brand new set of eyes. Everything about this movie is miscalculated and misguided. There is not one single second that the fans of Batmans 1-3 could enjoy. Joel Schumacher made this film for one man and one man only: Himself. It is an incredibly personal film. And it is completely, totally, utterly brilliant.
Before you look me up in the phonebook and egg my apartment, hear me out.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the plot of "Brokeback Mountain," let me give you a brief refresher. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist), are two ranchers that go on a sheepherding mission in Utah. They fall in love and parade around shirtless until "Heartbeeps"'s Randy Quaid catches them in the act, and they are forced to go their separate ways.
They return home, find female significant others, and try to lead a normal life, but occasionally arrange for fake fishing trips where they can carry on their secret homosexual relationship again.
In other words, they have secret identities (straight husbands), but occasionally need to adopt other personas (gay cowboys).
Jack desperately wants Ennis to accept him completely as his partner, but Ennis constantly undermines him, and keeps him in place.
This is followed by one of my favorite dialogue exchange in movie history.
First off, this is just FILLED with double entendres, the most obvious of which is the word "team." Batman is basically saying, "if you want to stay gay, you'll be gay the way I tell you to be gay." Compare this to a similar piece of dialogue from "Brokeback Mountain"...
Jack Twist: You count the damn few times we have been together in nearly twenty years and you measure the short fucking leash you keep me on.
Throughout the Schumacher tale, Batman undermines Robin tries to keep him in his place, and won't accept him as his partner or equal.
And, not to give away the ending of "Brokeback" for those who haven't seen it, but I suppose you can figure out that Ennis eventually accepts Jack as his "partner."
Everything is tied up in one big, sloppy bow.
So, here's the part where you say, "I get it, I get it. Batman & Robin shares a lot of similarities with "Brokeback Mountain." But that doesn't change the goddamned fucking fact that 9 years ago I wasted 8 bucks of my hard earned money on this piece of crap! So, convince me it's good, Tsapelas."
First off, calm the heck down. I didn't make you see "Batman & Robin," so don't get all pissy.
Second off, look at it this way. Joel Schumacher was given 125 million dollars (!) of studio money to make a crowd-pleasing Batman movie.
Instead, he made an overindulgent, campy, homoerotic, gaudy, tacky, two hours and five minute PERSONAL film about the love between two iconic characters, and their ability to overcome all. This is truly as "indie" as "Brokeback," only he convinced a mainstream audience to see it under the pretense that it was another Batman movie. A brilliant move, if I do say so.
If you're still hating, keep in mind that in order for "Batman Begins" to have been born, it needed to phoenix out of the ashes of the slowly dying 1989-1997 "Batman" franchise. Otherwise, we would've been assaulted with more big name actors playing colorful villains, for years and years, and not been given a serious take on the character. In one quick summer, "Batman & Robin" destroyed a lucrative franchise to make way for something so much better. So, you needed to waste nine dollars on it. Big whoop.
When the Best Picture award is presented this year by some big actor (I'm pulling for Lance Henriksen or Robert Hegyes) and "Brokeback Mountain" is announced, and everyone is praising it for being the first Hollywood movie to tackle gay romance, I want you to look your TV straight in the eye and say, "'Batman & Robin' did it first."