EDITORIALS

Rant: Did Batman and Robin Really Screw Things Up THAT Much?

by
April 24, 2008

Batman & Robin

As I was writing my article on the G.I. Joe tidbits yesterday morning, I noticed a line in the original io9 post that read, "the costumes may look a bit Batman & Robin-esque (power-armor-breasts!)..." That final mention of Batman & Robin finally put me over the edge, because that's not the only time I've heard it mentioned when critiquing superhero costumes. The other time was when we released the first batch of Watchmen costume photos - there were numerous mentions of Batman & Robin and the disastrous nipple-laden Batsuit that George Clooney wore. I'm not questioning whether the movie itself was a screw up (that's a given), I'm questioning whether Batman & Robin really screwed up everyone's interpretation of costumes so much that we now always have to reference it when talking about superhero costumes?!

What's aggravating me with this whole Batman & Robin thing is that it has become the standard for critiquing all things superhero costume related. As in, if it's not Spider-Man perfect, it's "like the Batman & Robin" costumes. Wait, what? How did we get to this point? Did Batman & Robin really screws things up so much that no matter how unrelated the costumes may be, if they've got nipples or if they're not perfectly up to what we were imagining, then they're "Batman & Robin bad"? It really annoys me that this is what we've come to as a conglomeration of film geeks for criticism. Can't you judge the costumes for a movie on their own?!

A similar thing like this has arisen surrounding The Matrix. We now compare all action movies and sci-fi thrillers to Matrix in terms of its CGI and special effects. Thankfully it's the opposite measurement - this time Matrix is at the top and all other films are trying to get there; with Batman & Robin, it's at the bottom, and all other films are trying to stay away from there. I guess it's time I try and pitch a solution to this problem if referencing Batman & Robin isn't the right way to go about critiquing costumes. The trouble is, I don't know a better solution. How about we just forget about that blasphemy of a movie anyway and just think about new movies on their own?

If we get more photos of G.I. Joe or Watchmen costumes in the future, I'd love to see some opinions that are judging them on their design and functionality in relation to that movie and that universe alone, not how they stand up in comparison to Batman & Robin. Is that too much to ask for? I hope that we can rid ourselves of those putrid costumes from Batman & Robin once and for all and focus on new movies. To be honest, not only are both the G.I. Joe or Watchmen costumes far superior to those in Batman & Robin, but both of those movies actually look fantastic, unlike Batman & Robin. Stop complaining about Joel Schumacher's comic book movie disaster from 11 years ago!

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  • http://www.thestopbutton.com/ Andrew Wickliffe
    Why isn't Batman Forever in this? The costumes in Forever, especially the big rubber radar suit, are terrible too.
  • http://www.theaterhopper.com Tom Brazelton
    I think to reference Batman & Robin or The Matrix in film comparison is unavoidable. In a perfect world, one wold hope to judge the merits of a film on it's on. But in a sound bite, commets-laden online culture, a level of shorthand is required. You can mention Batman & Robin and everyone is IMMEDIATELY on the same page. It's basically a more specific way of saying "This is the worst of the worst" and there are really no shades of grey in that observation.
  • Fox
    Here's my list: - Catwoman (2004) - it's not even a suit, but they couldn't beat Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, right ? - Daredevil (2004) - Ben Affleck look more like a reddish Zorro than Daredevil, blame that mask. - Street Fighter (1994) - Super Mario Bros (1993) - Condorman (1981) - Batman tv series (1966) - bad suits, yes - but truthful to that time's comic books.
  • d
    I tend to agree with Tom's post. Costumes were one of the things to focus on for Batman & Robin... and you know why? Because it looks like detail. It looks like something they spent time on; unlike, say, the writing. What's worse is they put in the time to achieve a detail that made something look worse, not better. Really the costumes exemplify the ick of the disaster that was the entire film: They took the time to make it horrible. If it makes you feel any better, I mention Spawn's "hell" scene when I talk about really crappy CGI more than the costumes from B&R. As to Andrew's post, why don't we also talk about Batman Returns... a great movie with a batsuit that made Christian Bale look like he had three chins. Oh wait, everything else (Katie aside, sorry) about that movie was well done, maybe that's why?
  • http://www.theaterhopper.com Tom Brazelton
    I agree with D on Batman Returns. I didn't like that costume design, either, but at least they gave context to the design. Bruce Wayne was retrofitting body armor originally designed for military applications for his purposes. Okay, I'll buy into it. That said, however, I don't find it visually appealing. It's far too blocky. And, frankly, I think the costume design for The Dark Knight looks worse.
  • Andrew
    D and Tom, you guys talking about Batman _Begins_ or Batman Returns? The movie with Christian Bale was "Begins"...
  • http://www.theaterhopper.com Tom Brazelton
    Whoops - I meant Batman Begins in my second post. I was talking about Batman & Robin in my first post.
  • http://www.bleepinggeek.com Peter
    I think it's more than fair to judge superhero costumes by Spiderman - Batman Nipple Suits. They're are the ying and yang of the costume design philosophy. One on hand you have Spiderman, which for all intents and purposes is a faithful reproduction of the comic book version, but made out of real materials without looking ridiculous. On the other hand, you have Batman and Robin's rubber fetish suits complete with stacked codpieces and maticulously sculpted nipples. And yes, I wish there was a middle ground, but middle ground designs don't get a lot of press. If it looks awesome, you hear about it. If it looks terrible, you hear about it. I suppose we could start saying that costumes look "1980 Captain America movie" bad, but that's nowhere near as commonly known pop culture.
  • THERBLIG
    Yeah To campare a costume to something you know was a flop doesnt say to much about design creativity. That means that these horrible movies influenced these new ones, and in knowing that they still went along with it. As far as im concerned with the matrix, the first one is the only true one. The others are just more hollywood crap. Why dont they start comparing the costumes to the ones made for X-MEN, Superman, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hellboy. These are all great movies with tons of influences to reference on, Numerous suits in all of these picks. Why hollywood, why must you be so lame. Maybe its because the people doing the design dont really k now what up to date things should look like. The whole Nipple on the suit, Come on The whole point of wearing a suit is to have armour not to look like your having a wet teeshirt contest. Lame and very GAY!!!!!!!
  • heckle0
    See i think the whole thing with B&R was that the costumes were flashy and bling. And these super heroes are about saving people and doing good. NOT looking good. I mean i could imagine the next iteration of that line of batman "films" having george clooney driving a batmobile with flashy chrome rims. That is why those costumes were rediculous. And that is why Batman Begins and for that matter....the first Batman....looked good. It was his costume but it was only there to serve a function. Strike fear into his enemies and be functional.
  • d
    Oops, my bad on Batman Returns reference vs Batman Begins in my post. Apologies.
  • DCompose
    Batman and Robin was true to classic Batman. Classic Batman was fantastic and ridiculous. So they made it modernized. I just used the word modernized. Deal with it. And Gotham city was huge and bright. And that was fun. Everything seemed so tall. The movie gave me vertigo. I don't know what vertigo actually means but I have a pretty good idea. Everyone stop hating on Batman and Robin. It was fun and Batman wasn't always the Punisher. George Clooney is charming. You can't deny that. Everything I say is right.
  • dan
    Well everything from 10 years ago looks silly to the people of the next generation. In the 90's we were making fun of stuff from the 80's, and so on, and so forth. It's just that when someone compairs something from now (GI.Joe) to something from then (batman, and robin). It becomes apparent what we are dissing on. The new GI.Joe suits look bad, and they look bad like batman, and robin looked bad. They don't look bad like the Adam West batman looked bad. So to compair GI.Joe to the Adam West batman would be too vague. To compair them to Batman and robin would be more accurate. same with the matrit. When I see a shot in a movie like freddy vs. jason, or illegal alien vs. sexual predator that reminds me of the matrix. I don't know how else to describe it, but a matrix shot
  • http://9thsf-igc.com SHANE D
    God I hated that film................ Thanks for the flash backs
  • Feo Amante
    No, Dan. Trust me, we were making fun of those Batman and Robin costumes from the get go. Nobody thought they looked good - except the idiots who made the movie. Horribly disappointing costumes. On my way home from that movie, I killed a man with a prop knife. THAT'S how terribly disappointing those costumes were. It was that movie that put the U.S. in the jam we're in today. When the Batman and Robin movie went overseas, the outcry was so negative that Osama bin Laden demanded the heads of the folks who designed it. Clinton wouldn't hand them over, Israel defended Bill's decision, and that's why terrorism runs amok world-wide. Those costumes were the straw that broke the camel's back. And you know how Osama feels about camels. You know how some old ladies are with cats? Well that's how Osama is with camels. The dude is mad for camels and just all around bad news. Good fashion sense though. You won't get any burkas with rubber nipples past ol' Osama!
  • Lauren
    I think that the reason that everyone keeps referring to it is because, like it or not, it's a benchmark - a bad benchmark, but a benchmark nonetheless. The Matrix was a high point and therefore, sets a standard. Batman and Robin was horrible and thusly sets the bar of the lowest of low. They're points of comparison.
  • Scorpio
    One word dude, Batnipples
  • TCox
    Alex - That's what I love I about your posts- You have an ability to spark debate while at the same time insisting the topic should basically be dropped. For all the "bad" that was Batman & Robin, there were still some things that were visually redeemable, as were the situations with Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3. I liked what Schumacher did with Robin's costume. It was a really cool mix of the Robin & Nightwing costumes. Sure the change of costumes from Batman Forever wasn't needed, or even explained, but it was different. I give him props for taking a chance, even though he failed. Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane....although really flawed versions of their comic counterparts, still looked good. For all it's flaws, it's is a watchable movie, if you mute the TV. I recommend it if you're doing other things around the house, and just want something playing in the background. I have to agree with Post #12 (DCompose) - The movie was true to the campy classic Batman, even though it was completely out of place in the existing movie franchise. It felt more like the Adam West Batman, with an upgrade. I can't vouch for their other comments. I know this is a heated issue, but I have to say that the nipples never really bothered me that much. The biggest issue I had overall was making Barbara Gordon into Barbara Wilson, and making her Alfred's niece. If anyone's career was affected by this movie it was Alicia Silverstone.
  • interl0per
    At heart there was just no excuse for Batnipples, just none. Maybe it isnt the costumes as much as movie makers just not wanting to hit that area overall of totally over the top technicolor vomit that B&R is, Speed Racer movie withstanding :D
  • dan
    True Feo Amante, they were silly from day one. But it's like in the 70's the 50's were cool again (Happy Day's, Grease, the Cramps ect.) In the 90's the 70's were cool again (Speedracer tee's, 70's show ect.) I really don't see Batman and Robin triggering any good nostalga 10 years from now.
  • jon
    C.S. Lewis, on criticism, remarked, "Keep a strict eye on eulogistic and dyslogistic adjectives — they should diagnose (not merely blame) and distinguish (not merely praise.)"
  • jason_md2020
    Wrong. It was true to the crap TV show. NOT the comics. As for people constantly bringing up Batman & Robin as the costume example of what to avoid, it's because of two things: 1. It really strayed from any of the comic versions, and 2. It did not fit the character concept at all. It may have been a modern attempt at updating the 60's show, but realize that this was released at a time when most comic fanboys (I include my self in this) pretty much held Batman:Year One and The Dark Knight Returns as the bible for the Batman mythos. (Both done by Frank Miller...When ya adapting DKR Frank!?!?!) The fans were expecting a dark brooding spirit of justice, and got the grand marshal at Mardi Gras. Oh yeah one more thing...Personally I'm offended at the inherent sexism of putting nipples on the batsuit. Why should Batman have them and Batgirl not? ;)
  • Squiggly_P
    I think it has more to do with the fact that the Batman & Robin costumes were SO FAR OFF what the actual characters wear in the comics and are not reflective of the characters themselves. The Watchmen suits are pretty accurate to the books, as far as I can see. I like them... Hell, Night Owl's costume is fucking bad-ass. This actually happens a lot in comics themselves. There have been tons of times when some artist thinks he's hot shit and decides to re-design a costume for a popular character. Nine times out of ten the fans reject it, because the design is just not reflective of the character. Occasionally you'll get someone who knows what they're doing to do a redesign and it works pretty well. it's not always just fans reacting to change. Batman - a character who relies on stealth and being a dark, scary figure just shouldn't be wearing an outfit that makes him look like a little techno rave-party bitch. But the costumes were the least horrible part of that movie, anyway.
  • lookingood
    Am I the only one here that think the costumes in Batman and Robin actually look good , I mean cool, well I mean sexy in someway. I'm no costume expert but at least they have different colors rather than dark overall.
  • theTruth
    now i have mixed feelings about the Batman & Robin costumes truth be told.... the nipples didn't bother me, they took me by surprise but the nipples didn't bother me. but overall the way i feel is this... if it aint broke, don't fix it. Bats duds weren't that bad off from Keaton's version but the platinum Batman & Robin costumes, i think, were an eyesore to the ppl who watched it. b/c its like the minute they wanna go after Mr. Freeze, Clooney & the gang decide to put aluminum foil on everything. but need we forget, it wasn't just the costumes that were an abomination... the dumbest and most rediculous addition to Batman & Robin were those futuristic, 2098 vehicles they drove in the movie. I'm mean this is Gotham city we're talkin bout here, i don't think that engines had neon lights in them, but i forgot, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire...so he probably could afford things like that
  • TCox
    (#25) I agree...the vehicles at the end were ridiculous, and seemed like they came out of nowhere. No explanation, or anything. We were just supposed to assume that the Bat posse came up with the new vehicles after Mr. Freeze iced over Gotham. It was stupid, and ultimately the point in the movie where I completely gave up. Those silver costumes never made any sense. At least in Batman Forever when Kilmer's Batman changed costumes it was explained, and made sense. Even if you didn't care for that costume, it was still better than the silver nipple suits.
  • CORNBOY
    The answer is yes....NUFF SAID, so shut your whore mouff Mr. Rant !!!
  • http://authenticbatmancostume.com/ john walter
    I dont think comparison between batman & matrix is good idea because in some films the effects used might make a film hit rather than the protagonist but in case of batman the hero isBatman costume, the masks and accessories and his body language

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