Sunday, February 4, 2024

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - 5 Diecast Vehicle Set from Kenner

Diecast vehicles are never my favourite things to collect but I had to pick this Batman & Robin set because it was going cheap on eBay.

It contains 4 of the vehicles seen in the film - the Batmobile, Bathammer, Redbird cycle and Mr Freeze's Freezemobile. All at various scales.

Sadly Batgirl's ice cycle doesn't get a look in. Instead we're given an exclusive Mr Freeze's Thugmobile - which I'm fairly certain is a repaint from another line.

Anyway, these are fun but not essential. The accuracy is pretty loose and the paintwork isn't great. But if you want to put in the time with your own painting skills they might be worth it.


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - George Clooney Batman figure from McFarlane

Thanks to an extremely generous fan I have the George Clooney Batman figure from the McFarlane Ultimate Batman Collection to review.

If you are a fan of the movie Batman & Robin this is the figure you've been waiting for. The sculpt is really spot on. Maybe not as much as the Val Kilmer one but it's recognizably Clooney's face. All the details are there - yep, even the nipples.

Articulation is excellent. The only one I didn't need is the neck. They should have kept it like the movie suit and not have him able to turn his head. 

The figure is also available as a solo release (as part of a 4 figure wave (with bonus build a Figure Mr Freeze). That one comes with a plastic cape. This one has the cloth cape which is nicer.

Anyway, what are you doing reading this review. Get out there and buy one. If this sells well, maybe we'll get a Batmobile!


Friday, January 5, 2024

Book Review: Neon Knight Forever: The Legacy of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Duology by Tomasz Zaglewski

Review by Neil Rickatson

I have to preface this review and state that I am acknowledged twice within the text of this book. I will do my best to stay as impartial as possible. 

In today’s world everyone is very quick to compartmentalise every aspect of their life. Turn everything into a binary 0 or 1. Nothing is immune. I can’t throw a virtual rock on the internet without hitting “That’s the worst movie I ever saw” or “That’s the best movie I ever saw.” There is little room for any sort of nuance. And inevitably we end up with a handful of great movies that everyone universally agrees are great, and the rest go in a pile to the side to be left untouched.

Logic dictates that only this first pile of great movies should be written about when actually I find much more satisfaction in looking at the other pile. For years, the Schumacher Batman movies have been dragged through the mud. On release Batman Forever was seen as a slick but empty exercise in commercial filmmaking. Batman & Robin by contrast was seen as an excessive, noisy, exhausting hollow product. Comic book fans, in particular, turned to the internet and railed against both films for multiple reasons: their deviation from the comics, their humorous take on the material and their style choices. 

And here’s the thing that bothered me. They didn’t let up. At all. No one was allowed to get a word in edgeways. So the narrative has been the Schumacher movies sucked, they have zero value and they should be talked about as briefly as possible. 

Thankfully time is a healer. After almost 30 years, Professor Tomasz ┼╗aglewski (from the Institute of Cultural Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland) has taken the task of looking at both films and trying to find what their legacy is. To be clear this is not a book about the making of the films (though a little bit of that is covered here and there) but a book that examines how people thought about Schumacher’s Batman duology then and how they think about them now. 

Here is a quick overview of the topics covered:- 

Part 1 talks about the place of the Schumacher films in Batman fandom. How they are seen as being “wrong” because they did not have a dark and serious tone. How they were also out of step with where the character was in the comics at the time. It also talks about how difficult it is to pin down any kind of definitive Batman portrayal (very true) and looks at some of the various versions of Batman over the years. Some were familiar to me such as Dark Knight and Camp Knight. Others were new terms I hadn’t seen before Cute Knight, Toy Knight, Dad Knight! 

Part 2 looks in more detail at the elements around the movie. Joel Schumacher (often seen as a generic journeyman director) is viewed with a fresh lens. Seen as a director who kept coming back to “trespasser” characters and stories. There is also a look at the shift from Burton's version of Batman to Schumacher's version. Were they their own thing or was Schumacher attempting to tie both universes together? 

Part 3 looks at some of the talking points around the films. The figures (which some people thought were disappointing because you couldn't get a figure that looked like they did in the film). The video games which are not beloved due to their frustratingly clunky controls. And finally… the bat nipples that featured in both films and what an overblown fuss they caused. 

The final part looks at how the duology has shifted in terms of public perception over the years. How the films were not well reviewed at the time and B&R, in particular, had a disappointing (but not disastrous) box office. To today where the films enjoy a small and loyal fandom (this is where I come in - which was surreal to read). And finally ends by talking about the online push for an extended cut of Batman Forever. 

All in all, this is a great, very knowledgeable book with a fantastic grasp of the subject. Tomasz is – I believe from the introduction – sympathetic to Schumacher’s aims and picks through both Batman movies, finding all sorts of interesting and varied subject matter. He draws on all areas of prior Batman expertise – such as Will Brooker, William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson. 

I must confess the whole book even made me look at both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin with renewed respect. I particularly enjoyed the second part of the book which dealt with Joel. I recently have been going through all of Schumacher’s filmography and was delighted to be shown this idea in Neon Knight Forever that there is this unified “trespasser” theme that runs through many of his films (one of his last movies was even called Trespass – how did I miss that). There’s this thinking that Tim Burton was “the artist”, and Joel was a “studio shill” but the book makes great pains to remind us that Joel did have thematic elements that interested him and with these two Batman films he did have a vision – to make a “living comic book”. It might not have been beloved by everyone but there was thought put behind it all. He was not the toy and cartoon and merchandise-obsessed man that a lot of people think he was. 

The book also reminded me of various little moments that I’d filed away and forgotten or outright missed. Such as how, even though the continuity is sketchy at best, Batman & Robin is designed to be a progression from the Burton films. Joel wanted to evolve the character of Bruce Wayne to be in a different place from the beginning of the franchise. I also chuckled at some of the old reviews and comments about both films. Gene Siskel’s review of B&R as a “a sniggering, exhausting, overproduced extravaganza that has virtually all of the humanity pounded out of it in the name of an endless parade of stunt sequences”. In some ways he’s not wrong, there’s times I watch and feel the same way (other times I just go with it and enjoy the "extravaganza" and "endless parade of stunt sequences"). 

The book also compares - or rather brings up comparisons of - Batman & Robin to recent films such as Thor: Love and Thunder and Birds of Prey. The former (which I haven’t seen yet) is an interesting comparison because the Marvel Cinematic Universe for many years has been a success juggernaut yet even I was aware that online fans had roundly eviscerated the fourth Thor movie in similar ways to B&R. Criticising it’s campy, playful, comedic tone. Neon Knight Forever begins by citing MCU boss Kevin Feige talking (in 2009) about B&R being a watermark that “demanded a new way of doing things. It created the opportunity to do X-Men and Spider-Man, adaptations that respected the source material and adaptations that were not campy.” Interesting to see that 14 years later Feige is producing a new campy, comedic superhero movie that goes against these earlier words. Perhaps camp is a necessary outlet that must be brought out every few years – a sort of cyclical event – if nothing else for a bit of variety. Perhaps there is a limit to the public’s appetite for dark, serious superhero movies. Maybe we can't keep telling the same story, with the same tone over and over again.

There really isn’t much I can criticise the book about. I would have loved for it to be a little bit longer. I also would have loved to have seen the book cover a little more on the online reaction to Batman & Robin circa 1997 - I feel it was a watershed moment when the internet started to become infinitely more important in terms of film criticism than newspapers/journals/TV. It democratised film criticism for better and for worse. Ain’t It Cool News’ review of Batman & Robin which drew comparisons of the audience feeling like “survivors of Hiroshima” was - I feel - a lightning rod for comic book fans and set the tone for the next few decades of online film reviews. 

But maybe that’s for part 2. I certainly feel there’s more to be discussed about both these films. And hopefully now Tomasz has broken the seal, others will come forward to give Schumacher’s duology their own analysis. 

I thank Tomasz for writing such an eloquent book, it has given me much to think about and I urge anyone with a passing interest in Batman Forever and/or Batman & Robin to buy a copy.




Sunday, December 10, 2023

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - Bane figure from Kenner

If you are more interested in a traditional Bane figure this is the one for you.

Sadly Kenner didn't make him look much like his actual appearance in the film with those sickly green arms and massive skull button on his chest. I guess this was another case of making figures before the costumes were made.

The design seems to be based very much on the comic version (designed by Graham Nolan). I enjoy the little accessories he comes with - the massive metal glove and the weird axe on a rope. Even if you don't like this movie, this is still a good Bane figure to get if you like the character. He fits in quite nicely with the Legends of Batman figures (which didn't get a Bane figure in the line).


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - Brain vs Brawn figures from Kenner

Very fun two pack of figures here. 

You get a completely chrome Batman which looks fantastic in the light but the real treasure is the bonkers Bane figure. Kenner really went all out on this - coming up with a really fun concept whereby Bane has been seemingly surgically altered to be half made of see through ice and half covered in mutated plant vines. 

As I say in the video, I can't help but be reminded of Jason X even though that film came out 5 years later. This Bane is a definite highlight of the line.


Monday, October 16, 2023

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - Snowtracker Batman figure from Kenner

This week we've got Snowtracker Batman - another cold themed Batman figure. That was basically the theme of all the Batman and Robin toy line. Hot or cold (...or plants).

Anyway it's got a hard white cape that folds into place and fires a missile out the back. And that's about it. I don't know, this one wasn't working for me. It feels a little bit basic.

The one bit of interest is the paintwork on the legs ­čśö

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Batman & Robin Merchandise Review - Batman Head Mug from Applause

I've covered quite a few Batman Forever mugs on 1995batman.com but only just recently bought my first Batman & Robin mug and what a beauty it is. 

Applause have captured George Clooney's likeness really well. It's a huge improvement on the previous attempts. I can't wait to track down the others now.

By the way, now that The Flash movie is out and most people have seen it - despite what you may think of the film as a whole - wasn't it nice to see Clooney back as Bruce Wayne at the end?