Batman & Robin (1997) (part 4 of 13)
Back at the mad scientist lab in the jungle, we find Dr. Woodrue on the phone with the “mystery bidder”, who he addresses as “Your Supreme Ruthlessness”. (Must be Martha Stewart.) Apparently, the mystery bidder won the auction, so Woodrue promises to send out a “flawless super-soldier” by “overnight mail”. Yuk, yuk. By the way, this mystery bidder will never be seen, identified, or become important to the plot in any way. And he won’t be the only one.
Suddenly, some blue laser lights come shooting out of a hole in the ground, which is something else that happens quite often in laboratories. Eventually, a transmogrified Pamela Isley rises up out of the ground. Now that her glasses are gone and her shirt is conveniently torn to show off her belly, Uma is now in Hot Chick mode.
Woodrue sees her and cries out, “Pamela?” and then goes totally gonzo for her. Uma turns on a weird, creepy voice which is supposed to be seductive, but will instantly make any man’s skin crawl. She says, “Hello… Jason!” using exactly the same inflection as when Jerry Seinfeld used to say “Hello… Newman!” I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I find to be particularly erotic.
To the sound of a supposedly alluring sax, she explains how the “animal-plant toxins” have “replaced my blood with aloe, my skin with chlorophyll, and filled my lips…” With collagen? With Botox? She pulls Woodrue in for a kiss, and he of course is more than happy to oblige. Then she finishes her sentence: “…with venom!” Oh, great. Now you tell me. (Also, she leaves her eyes wide open during this kiss. Eww!)
Woodrue’s lips turn black and he starts choking. Isley then feels the need to further explain that “I’m poison.” Not poisonous, mind you. Poison. Woodrue keels over dead, and Isley pronounces that “It’s a jungle in here!” Why? Because she’s into plants and she really loves plant puns, of course. Why do you ask?
Then she starts smashing random beakers and pronouncing herself to be “Nature’s arm! Her spirit, her will. Hell, I am Mother Nature!” She then describes to no one in particular her plan to use plants to take over the world, because, according to her, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!” Yeah, that’s what people keep trying to tell Michael Jackson, but he never listens.
She splashes around some pink liquid and tosses a kerosene lamp to the ground, resulting in a huge fire. She’s about to throw a beaker on the fire, when suddenly she stops and notices a big Wayne Enterprises logo on the beaker. She’s really quite enthralled with it. If Isley was working in this same laboratory all along, why wouldn’t she have noticed this before?
Bane emerges from… well, somewhere, doing the raising fists and roaring bit. For no particular reason, Isley decides Bane will now become her man-servant, and Bane seems happy to go along with this. None of this is actually said, by the way. Isley just starts abruptly barking orders to him. She shows him the Wayne Enterprises beaker and tells him they’ve “got a plane to catch!” and the two leave the flaming laboratory. So, I guess she’s really curious about whoever manufactured that beaker.
We then cut to an abandoned ice cream factory with a really freaky snowman face on the front, which unsurprisingly turns out be Mr. Freeze’s hideout. (And you’re telling me the police still can’t find him?) Inside, an icicle-covered TV set is screening the Rankin-Bass stop-motion cartoon The Year Without a Santa Claus. Basically, this is just an excuse to show the Snow Miser dancing around and singing, because his song is really appropriate to Freeze’s character. You see, he’s Mr. Freeze, so he likes cold things.
We see Freeze quite enthusiastically getting into the song, and he dances around while wearing white fuzzy polar bear slippers and a robe with a polar bear design. Because he likes cold things. A lot. Did you get that yet?
He stands and waves his arms back and forth, trying to lead all of his Eskimo henchmen in a singalong with the Snow Miser. While he does this, they all shiver and lick at TV dinners that are still frozen solid [?]. They limply mouth the words as, off on the side, Ms. B. Haven (played by Vivica A. Fox in a white feather boa and little else) dances and sings along. (By the way, I’m just going by the closing credits on the name of her character, because it’s never said. Obviously, Vivica had a bigger part in the script, but by the time the film hit theaters it was cut down to just this one scene.)
Freeze gets frustrated with his henchman chorus, so he storms off. Ms. B. Haven (which I think is also the name of a recording artist on P. Diddy’s label) follows right behind him, telling him that she’s “feeling hot” and that he’s “the most perfect man I’ve ever known!” Apparently, this means she was raised on Paradise Island and Freeze is the first man she’s ever known.
Ms. B. Haven asks if they can “heat things up”, but Freeze says his “passion thaws for my bride alone!” Ms. B. calls this “the cold shoulder”. (Folks, I don’t know how much longer I can keep taking note of all these stupid “cold” puns.) Rejected, she walks off, making me wonder why Freeze even keeps her around in the first place.
He calls over one of his henchmen, who’s cleverly named “Frosty”. Frosty actually says, “Yeah, Boss?” as he walks up. Freeze goes to his desk or something to grab a handful of small diamonds to load into his cryo-suit. He says the battle with Batman “exhausted my power!” Wow, him too?
However, he points out that he was still successful in getting the big unnamed diamond, which he lifts up and admires. Frosty helpfully tells him, “Absolutely, Boss!” Why did Freeze call this guy over, again? Oh yeah, he needed someone to deliver exposition to.
Freeze explains that he has to get one more big diamond so that his “freezing engine will be complete!” He goes into a walk-in freezer, and Frosty helpfully follows so that Freeze can continue his exposition. He says, “I will freeze the city! Then I will hold Gotham ransom!” Yes, in that order. He says the city must meet his demands or it will be “winter forever!” You mean, sorta like Manitoba?
He continues spouting off raw exposition, saying that he’ll make these demands of the “city fathers”, whoever they are, so that they give him “the billions I need to complete my research!” Then he makes it clear that he’s doing all this to “find a cure” for his ill wife. So, apparently, this whole villainous scheme came about because Freeze couldn’t get a research grant.
Now that all of the exposition is done, he tells Frosty to beat it and Frosty says, “Sure, Boss!” You know, the use of a henchman as an expository device has suddenly made me nostalgic for the brilliant tape recorder method of a few scenes back.
Freeze pulls aside a TV dinner, revealing a glowing blue button. He says to no one in particular that “We need quality time!” as he punches the button, revealing a secret chamber where his catatonic wife (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) is floating in a tank of bubbling water.
He stands at the tank and promises his mannequin wife that they will be together “soon”. Then he leaves. Yes, that really was “quality time”. No, seriously. It was. Any second in this movie where nobody’s making stupid puns is “quality time” in my eyes.
The next day outside Wayne Manor, we see a chubby blonde chick in a school uniform ring the front doorbell. Bruce calls for Alfred, but he’s conveniently not around, so Dick goes to answer it instead. Alfred suddenly emerges and apologizes for dozing off, but Bruce brushes it off and says that this is “the first time it’s happened in thirty years!” I know this is supposed to make Alfred look really dedicated, but what Bruce doesn’t mention is that up until thirty years ago Alfred was a total slacker who snoozed around the clock.
The chubby blonde chick at the door grows impatient, so she decides to climb up on a stone bench and peer over the door frame. This contrived action was clearly put in so that Dick could get a direct, supposedly titillating view of her chubby gams when he opens the front door. As the camera does a slow pan up her body, we find out that the part of Chubby Blonde Chick is being played by a chubby Alicia Silverstone.
Dick eagerly says, “Please be looking for me!” (which is a bit of dialogue that would have made much more sense during her Aerosmith video days), but she’s actually looking for Alfred. She spots him and calls out “Uncle Alfred!” and goes running inside. She turns out to be his niece Barbara, and Alfred is ecstatic that she’s come to visit, even though she came all the way from England without providing any prior notice whatsoever.
We next find the four of them all walking in the garden so we can get some more exposition. It turns out that Barbara is the daughter of Alfred’s sister Margaret, and that both of her parents were killed in a car crash. Alfred says he’s been supporting her ever since, much to the surprise of Bruce and Dick. He’s been paying for her tuition to “Oxbridge Academy” (cough), where she’s been studying computer science (cough). Yeah, she and Christmas Jones must be classmates.
Barbara notices Dick’s motorcycle (a normal one, not Redbird) and he offers to teach her how to ride. She giggles and claims to be “terrified of these things”, which will be “humorously ironic” later on when we find out the truth about her. Of course, nowhere in all this exposition did they find time to explain why Barbara doesn’t have an English accent, despite the fact that Alfred has one and Barbara was even going to school in England. Whoops, there I go again, actually thinking about stuff.
Bruce then invites Barbara to come stay with them and she accepts. Yep, it’s just that easy. Alfred obliquely brings up the whole Batman thing, saying “Ut-whay about the Atcave-bay”, or words to that effect, but Bruce simply says “she’s family” and that’s that.
Later that night, we find Alfred at a computer, using your standard Hollywood mockup of a web browser to watch video of somebody riding an elephant. (He must be using the Bat DSL line to download this.) Barbara comes in, dressed for bed in a robe that’s suspiciously wrapped very tightly around her. She asks what he’s doing and Alfred says he’s trying to find his brother Wilfred, who’s butler to some high muckety-muck in India. Since he’s part of a “floating court”, he’s hard to track down. Barbara, momentarily lapsing back into the character of Cher from Clueless says, “I don’t suppose they have fax machines on elephants!”
Alfred gives her a pity laugh and says that “When one grows ancient [?], one yearns for family.” Then they both spontaneously decide to look over at an old black and white photo on Alfred’s desk signed, “Love, Peg”. It’s a picture of his sister Margaret. Barbara says she has a copy, too, but wonders about the “Peg” signature. Alfred explains that Peg was his nickname for her. Okay, how do you get “Peg” out of “Margaret”? Must be a British thing. Anyway, they bid each other goodnight and get all kissy-kissy, huggy-huggy and Barbara walks out.
As soon as she’s out in the corridor, Barbara undoes her tightly-wrapped robe and reveals that she’s wearing street clothes underneath. Wow! I am surprised! Or, I would be surprised, if I’d had a lobotomy recently.
We then see her slip on a leather jacket, which instantly establishes her tough girl street creds. Tough Girl goes into her bedroom and trots out another cliché that’s at least as old as dirt when she lowers a rope of tied-together bed sheets [!] out of her window. Geez. Why don’t we just start using curtain wipes while we’re at it?
Anyway, Tough Girl and her motorcycle helmet climb down the rope. She then does the old “don’t start up the vehicle until you’re out of earshot” trick as she silently rolls a motorcycle out of the Wayne Manor garage.