Thursday, January 10, 2013

It's the hockey team from hell

Batman & Robin (1997)
Here it is... the biggie.  The movie that retroactively changed my opinion of most of Arnold's work.  Certainly one of the biggest first-viewing letdown theatrical experiences I've ever had this side of Crystal Skull.  Perhaps like Skull, I'll warm to it upon rewatch.  I understand that's not remotely likely for something rated 3.6 on IMDB, but I'm optimistic this can't possibly be as bad as The Villain.

Think I'll have to call it a draw.  The Villain and Batman &Robin are each reprehensibly bad in their own way.  The comparison is notable given that I think Arnold turns in a better acting performance in The Villain.  I really can't be bothered to go into the myriad of reasons why this is as bad as it is.  Most of that ground has been covered far more eloquently than I could by a great many people over the years, so let's just stay focused on Arnold's part in the crime.

I've just watched 22 other movies of his over the past few months and have been surprised at just how well he acted in many of those; certainly much better than I had remembered.  If anything, his performance in Batman & Robin is actually much, much worse than I recalled.  Wouldn't have thought that possible, but it is what it is.  His delivery goes way beyond a simple attempt at camp and is just groan-inducingly grating, self-absorbed, phone-it-in bad.  I was looking for that moment where the Arnold spark comes through, but it never happens.  I was also trying to look for a method to the madness or see if he was just intentionally playing up the role in a certain way like the last half of Running Man, but nope.  It's just crap.  It's like a masterclass in how not to act in a motion picture.

The real question is why?  Perhaps I'll find out what was going on in his life around this time if I ever get around to reading his book after I've finished this quest, but my guess is that it just sorta happened.  I've always assumed that fame and fortune had finally gone completely to his head and he stopped caring.  I'm sure a huge steaming pile of the blame rests squarely on the narrow shoulders of Joel Schumacher, but one person can't possible ruin a movie this comprehensively.  It takes a real team effort and I have to think that everyone pulled together to realize this film exactly as Joel had imagined it:  A collective 'fuck you' to the superhero genre.  Even so, Arnold's had several real duds of movies, but he almost always (The Villain aside) brought his charisma, timing, or eagerness to please along.  Mostly this seems to cinch my argument that Arnold's performances are as good as his director's ability to wring one out of him.

Ahnold Quotient - 10
For better or for worse, this is another definitive Ahnold performance.  It's all here: one-liners, expressions, an impressive amount of "Aaauuuaaaggghhh!" going on, and lots of action and shit blowing up.  If you've seen this movie, you can't help but think of it when you think of Arnold.  Once seen, some things can't be un-seen.

Rewatchability - Fuck you
I think I would actually have to be paid to watch it again, and a fair amount at that.  I only made it 19 minutes in, around the time they make Bane (remarkable how eerily similar TDKR's portrayal of Bane is to Batman & Robin's), when I had to stop for the day.  I managed to get the rest of the way through it today, but I was honestly this close to saying "fuck it", giving up on this crusade, and just waiting for The Last Stand to come out. 

So.  Done and done.  My memory wasn't foggy, I now have a certain weariness of soul that only back to back screenings of The Villain and Batman & Robin can bring, and it's on to new ground.  Three Arnold movies in a row I've never seen!  The End of Days, The 6th Day, and Collateral Damage are up next.  I have to think there's around a .00001% chance any of those will be as bad as the last two, but anything is possible.

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