Batman & Robin (1997) (part 3 of 13)
We cut to a ruined castle out in the jungle somewhere. This is a mad scientist’s lab, and pretty obviously “inspired” by Frankenstein movies. (Those who doubt this inspiration are immediately silenced as lightning actually strikes the castle.)
Inside we find Pamela Isley, mad scientist, being played by Uma Thurman in Plain Chick mode. Meaning, her hair is dyed brown and in desperate need of conditioner, and she’s wearing a dirty smock and glasses with thick black frames. She helpfully describes her experiments into an Exposition Device, I mean, into a tape recorder.
Isley explains how she’s experimenting with “animal-plant cross breedings”. She’s giving plants doses of a formula called “Venom” so that “these plants can fight back like animals” against “the thoughtless ravages of man!” This lets us know that, since this is the 90’s, the soon-to-be Poison Ivy has been updated to a fanatical tree-hugger.
Isley hears some screams coming from behind an ominous steel door. She makes an expository note about how someone named Dr. Woodrue has taken some samples of her Venom for use in his “mysterious Gilgamesh wing!”
We then cut to Dr. Jason Woodrue inside the wing and find he’s a skinny scientist with coke-bottle lenses and the obligatory two shocks of white hair in his wild mane. He turns to a multicultural bunch of bigwigs up on a catwalk and addresses them as the “Un-united Nations”. He describes the auction that they’ll be participating in, then he picks up a phone receiver to say hello to a “mystery bidder” who will also be joining in.
Woodrue walks over to a big examining table where, for maximum “cool” effect, some green laser lights are pointlessly being projected through a cloud of dry ice fog. Some goons bring out a skinny guy whom Woodrue identifies as a serial killer who’s serving a life sentence. The goons strap him down on the examining table as Woodrue explains that he’s drilled holes in the guy’s head, thus creating “viaducts into the most primitive part of his brain!” So that’s how this script was written!
For some reason, the goons stick a mask on the serial killer that makes him look exactly like the 50’s Mexican wrestler Santo. Woodrue then pulls out a Sparkletts bottle containing a bright green chemical that looks like radiator fluid. Or the stuff they pumped into the clones at Clonus. However, going by the big skull and crossbones label on the side that says “VENOM”, I’m going to guess this contains Venom. Woodrue calls this “my super-solider serum!” Uh, yeah. I guess just desecrating DC heroes wasn’t enough for the filmmakers, so they had to reach across publisher lines to sully up Captain America, too.
Woodrue pours the Venom into a random glass funnel. We then pan up to get a clear shot of the big shots on the catwalk, and here’s what we find: 1) a guy wearing an American army general’s uniform, 2) an obviously Russian woman wearing a big Cossack hat, 3) a Yassir Arafat-type with a kaffiyeh on his head, 4) a dead ringer for Fidel Castro, 5) a black guy in a dashiki, and finally, 6) a Japanese guy in a business suit. Nope, not one single stereotype in the whole bunch. (Unfortunately, there’s no sign of Red Sash Guy from Dean Koontz’s Mr. Murder.)
Woodrue explains that he combined Venom with his own special mix of “steroids and toxins” as he hooks up some tubes to the skinny serial killer guy. “Time to scream!” he says, indicating that he must have missed the last half hour.
Venom starts to get pumped into the serial killer’s head, and we watch as he’s suddenly super-sized, with really icky veins popping out of his muscles. (I hear this is also what happened to Mark McGwire.) Woodrue declares this to be the “ultimate killing machine, which I call… Bane!” Apparently, he’s called this because he’s supposed to be “the bane of humanity”. Oh, now I get it. Meanwhile, Pamela Isley secretly watches all of this from behind some racks of test tubes.
Woodrue tells the Evil Rainbow Coalition that they could each have thousands of super-soldiers just like Bane, and begins to auction off the formula starting at ten million, oh, let’s say, dollars. Then, for some reason, Woodrue punches a glowing green button on Bane’s chest and cries out, “Turbo!” What is he, the arcade version of NBA Jam? “Show off for Daddy!” Woodrue says. Yeah, this sure sounds like a good idea that won’t be at all lethal to some random goons.
Bane begins roaring as more radiator fluid is pumped into his head, and Woodrue takes cover. Bane breaks free of his restraints, so some idiot goon who must be getting paid a hell of a lot of money comes up and actually tries to refasten them. Of course, Bane tosses him into a shelf containing the standard mad scientist collection of Beakers Of Multicolored Liquids. Bane raises his fists and roars, appropriately enough, “BAAAAANNNEE!!”
Meanwhile, Woodrue spots Pamela Isley cowering in the corner. He quickly hustles her out of the Gilgamesh lab, explaining that their previous sponsor was uninterested in the military applications of their research and cut off funding. Isley is outraged because this whole Bane thing runs counter to her lifelong philosophy of protecting plants. Don’t ask me how it runs counter to that philosophy. It just does.
She denounces him for hatching a “maniacal scheme for world domination!” Tell me, could there be a scheme for world domination that wouldn’t be maniacal? Has anyone ever said, “Wow, Doc, this sure is a sensible, cost-effective plan for world domination you have here! Let’s implement it!”
She calls him a “psycho” and promises to blow the whistle on him and wreck his career. Which is roughly the last thing General Ames said in the aforementioned Mr. Murder before his head became really intimate with the dashboard of his car. Pretty much the same thing happens here, as Woodrue shrieks and pushes her into another shelf of Beakers Of Multicolored Liquids, which just happens to hold a few bottles of Venom, too.
Woodrue surveys the damage he’s done, and when we cut back to Isley she suddenly has snakes all over her face [??]. The chemicals then start melting away the ground underneath her, which would only follow, right? We watch as she and all the plants and snakes and crap start sinking into a hole while Woodrue looks on gleefully. As the hole develops, green laser light comes shooting out of the ground [?] and naturally, this illuminates some dry ice fog, too.
Woodrue eagerly calls out to his “fellow maniacs” that “Bidding begins!” and runs off. We then segue from a cloud of green dry ice fog to a mist of vapor, and find a pair of feet soaking in hot water. These feet belong to Robin, and apparently this is all one has to do to recover from being frozen solid in a block of ice.
Robin’s now in his secret identity of Dick Grayson, and he’s down in the Batcave with Alfred and Batman, who’s now in his secret identity of Bruce Wayne. On a Star Trek-like viewscreen in the middle of the cave, Bruce pulls up a security tape from Gotham University Labs that he says was recorded two years ago.
It shows black and white images of Mr. Freeze back in the day when he was just a normal scientist. Here, Arnie looks a lot like a ‘roided up version of Jonas Salk as he conducts experiments. Bruce says this was taped back when he was “Victor Fries”, and wow, what a coincidence that name is, huh?
Bruce explains that Dr. Fries used to be a molecular biologist, but when his wife Nora came down with “MacGregor’s Syndrome”, he undertook procedures to cryogenically freeze her until he could find a cure. Which is just what you would expect a “molecular biologist” to do, right? Still, someone named Nora Fries had to be cryogenically frozen. Victor’s assistants must have had a field day with that one.
Apparently, Fries was a little out of his area, because his laboratory setup turns out to be a bit unconventional. It seems his technique for cryogenically freezing someone involves a 10 cubic foot vat of mysterious milky liquid with absolutely no cover on it. Also, it appears crucial to the procedure to position this vat directly below a catwalk that doesn’t have a railing.
Bruce narrates the video, telling Robin that “here’s where everything goes north.” Hah! Predictably, there’s some kind of explosion in the lab, and Fries gets hit with some huge sparks coming off his equipment (which happens all the time in laboratories, I’m sure). He falls right into the vat. Oh my, how did that happen? A nice touch is how this supposed “security camera” actually pans down to follow Fries as he plunges into the icy chemicals.
Dick watches this and cries out, “That’s gotta hurt!” like he’s watching an episode of America’s Funniest Home Cryogenic Procedures. Bruce explains that the liquid was “fifty below” (Below what?), but that Fries “somehow survived” (Look, leave the sarcasm to me, Bruce). Unfortunately, the “cryo-solution mutated his body”, and damn, ain’t that always the way? On the tape, we see an icy Fries emerge from a big cloud of dry ice fog, contorting his face into expressions of deep pain.
Bruce says that Freeze’s wife was presumed dead, then brings up a computer graphic of Freeze in his suit. He explains that Freeze can’t survive without extreme cold, and that his “cryo-suit” uses “diamond-enhanced lasers” to keep him at “zero degrees”. Zero degrees? Is this Fahrenheit? Celsius? Kelvin? The movie never says. But if we’re talking about Celsius, then for the record, my refrigerator can keep stuff at “zero degrees” and it doesn’t use diamond-enhanced lasers to do it.
Bruce calls for Alfred, who’s off having an attack of Movie Illness and leaning against the Bat Suit. He eventually composes himself and comes over, and Bruce asks him to retrieve the “Wayne Diamonds”. Dude, any diamonds that belong to you would technically be the “Wayne Diamonds”, wouldn’t they? Dick guesses that they’ll be setting a trap for Mr. Freeze, but Bruce wants Dick to first spend “ten hours in the simulator”. Perhaps this is a device that simulates being in a movie that actually requires you to act.
Bruce tells Dick he almost got himself killed tonight, but Dick gets defensive and says that Bruce is being “too protective”, adding, “How are we supposed to work together if you won’t trust me?” Then he storms off, and we cut to Alfred, taking time out from looking ghastly and propping himself up on walls to offer this sage query: “How, indeed?”
In the next scene, Bruce and Alfred are walking though Wayne Manor, and Bruce starts bitching and moaning that he can’t trust Dick not to hurt himself. Alfred replies that Bruce’s problem is that, in fact, he doesn’t trust anyone. (Perhaps they should have called this movie Batman & Dr. Phil.) Bruce disagrees, pointing out that he trusts Alfred, but Alfred drops a major hint when he says that “I shan’t be here forever!” Bruce, of course, completely misses this hint and bids Alfred goodnight.
Bruce walks out into the corridor and stares blankly into space. We cut to his pointlessly tilted POV of the corridor, and eventually he sees himself as a small child running through the halls of Wayne Manor. Little Bruce trips and skins his knees, so a young Alfred wearing a Starbucks apron comes out and dusts him off, and then they both fade out. Yeah, that was one fantastic memory. Bruce gets all misty-eyed and walks off.