Those "fun and games" would be devised by Schumacher and screenwriter
Akiva Goldsman, who had already collaborated with the director on three
highly successful ventures: The Client, Batman Forever and A Time to Kill.
Recalls Goldsman, "Joel and I were on an airplane coming back from a location scout for A Time to Kill when he leaned over and said, 'I think they're going to ask us for another one.' And I was very flattered to be part of 'us' at that moment. Then Joel said, 'Well? What do you think of...?,' and he started throwing out some ideas, and I started throwing back some ideas, and by the end of the plane trip we had the skeleton of our story, which we then worked for months to refine."
Goldsman worked side by side with Schumacher in 1995 during filming of A Time to Kill on its Mississippi locations, and then returned home to write the Batman & Robin script.
"Essentially, Batman is about how we as individuals reckon with loss," says Goldsman. "I assume that was Bob Kane's conscious or unconscious intention when he developed the character's origins. And so, I think for the Batman stories to be rooted in any kind of emotional authenticity, they have to start there. Now, it obviously becomes rather difficult to tell the same sad story over and over, especially with Batman movies, because it becomes tired and old news. So in Batman & Robin we play less with how wounded Batman is over this past tragedy and more with the risk to what he loves now.
"The primary trauma is Bruce's potential loss of Alfred, this surrogate parent whom he loves as much as any other being on the planet. At the same time, Batman's "family" increases with the addition of Batgirl, and the Dark Knight faces some serious sibling rivalry in the form of an increasingly confident and challenging Robin. These issues make it clear that Batman is creating a new family to replace the biological one he's lost. While that may bring him comfort, it also brings the risk of additional loss -- and from there comes drama."
Every Batman movie needs a great arch-villain--or two or three--and for Batman & Robin, Schumacher and Goldsman chose the ever-fascinating and deadly combo of Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, with the equally evil Bane and Dr. Jason Woodrue lending malevolent support. Mr. Freeze is the only one of these villains to have been previously represented by live actors--three in fact--when Otto Preminger, George Sanders and Eli Wallach each took turns essaying the icy villain on the TV series during the 1960s.
For Batman & Robin, Schumacher and Goldsman have also resurrected for a new generation the dazzling addition to the crime- fighting team known as Batgirl. Changing her identity once again is nothing new to Batman fans, for Batgirl has already morphed more than once since making her first appearance in Batman comics #139 in April, 1961.
The first Batgirl was actually Betty Kane, daughter and sidekick of Batwoman, who was also introduced in that year. In 1966, Batgirl re-appeared, this time on television, as the alter-ego of Barbara Gordon--daughter of Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon. A year later, Batgirl made her comic-book re-appearance. This jump-started Batgirl's popularity, and she's been a familiar presence ever since, in the comics and the animated series as well. Once again, however, she's been revised for the new film.
"We re-conceptualized Batgirl for a few reasons," Goldsman notes. "When you have as many central characters as we have, you need to create relationships so that the characters can be brought together. So we tied Barbara to Alfred as his niece rather than retain her as Commissioner Gordon's daughter, because Alfred is a more central character in our story."
Joel Schumacher adds that "I didn't realize that there were so many young girls who were Batman fans, and as I looked around and noticed that there weren't any teenage super-heroines in our culture. But fortunately, Batgirl did exist, so we re-created her in a '90s image."
Also making a live appearance in Batman & Robin is Bruce Wayne's early comic-book fiancee, Julie Madison; and true to form, in the film the charming but elusive billionaire is always just out of her reach.
Asserts Schumacher, "I think every director's job is to create a certain place to take the audience, whether it's the gritty reality of Falling Down or the Deep South in the summertime as in A Time to Kill, and give them a sense of what that life is like. For my two Batman films, I have to say that I'm really influenced by the DC Comics, which have had so many extraordinary artists since Bob Kane started it all in 1939.
"If the comic books hadn't given those artists such a wonderful freedom to create, I don't know if we would have that freedom, either. So whenever I start to prepare a Batman movie, I always go right to the source. I just get piles and piles of Batman comic books and really get inspired."
If Joel Schumacher is Batman & Robin's undisputed commander-in-chief,
then Peter Macgregor-Scott can certainly qualify as its general. Thus,
when Warner Bros. decided to proceed with a fourth Batman film, all agreed
that Macgregor-Scott was an indispensable part of the primary creative team.
Recalling the genesis of Batman & Robin , Macgregor-Scott can't help but laugh at the memory of when he was invited back into the Batcave. "The first reaction is 'Oh, God.' The second reaction is 'Thank you, God.' And the third reaction is 'God Almighty!'
"The challenge and the fun of it," the producer continues, "is to make it fresh. Technically, we're more advanced now than we were two years ago. There are more available tools for the process, including CGI [computer-generated images] and other visual-effects technologies."
Actual pre-production kicked off in October, 1995--almost a year before the camera first rolled--and then in January, 1996, things really started to get serious," recollects Macgregor-Scott. Construction started on Barbara Ling's set designs in March, with the massive Gotham Museum of Natural History on Warner Bros.' Stage 16 the first to hear the sound of hammers and nails. "We actually started building before we had a budget," the producer admits, "otherwise nothing would have happened. That museum, for example, was a five-month build."
"I did not expect to get such a great cast," states Joel Schumacher
unequivocally. "You know, that's very rare in the fourth of anything.
Sometimes in a film series, things begin to wind down at this point, and
I think having such an exciting group of actors stimulated everybody who's
working on the movie."
The first task at hand was to fill the Batsuit once again, with Val Kilmer, Batman Forever's star, opting to journey on to other projects. Schumacher's instinct for zeroing in on appropriate talent led him to George Clooney, a highly experienced actor who has in recent years rocketed into stardom as Dr. Douglas Ross on television's ER, followed by leading roles in the features From Dusk Till Dawn, One Fine Day and the upcoming The Peacemaker.
Recalls Schumacher, "I saw George in From Dusk Till Dawn and recognized immediately that he not only had looks and talent, but real movie-star charisma as well. Then, while flying from one coast to another, I actually began to draw Batman's cowl onto George's face in a newspaper advertisement for From Dusk Till Dawn. He looked perfect, and I immediately suggested the idea to (Warner Bros. chairmen) Bob Daly and Terry Semel.
"I think Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer were both wonderful as Batman," Schumacher continues, "but I think George is the best of all. What always bothered me a little bit about Val was the comparatively small age difference between him and Chris O'Donnell. But I think that was perfect for Batman Forever because in it, we were still dealing with his being haunted by his parents' death, and not having resolved his problems from boyhood.
"George Clooney, though, is very much a man, a wonderful actor and, of course, he's extremely handsome. He not only looks very much like Bruce Wayne in the comic books--which Bob Kane has often commented upon--but I also think that George has brought a real humanity and humor to the piece, an accessibility that I don't think anybody else has been able to offer, and that's his unique contribution.
"George is also dynamic with Chris O'Donnell, who has also matured since the last film. I think Chris has really grown into his looks, and, although he's been a fine actor since he was a teenager, has exhibited a tremendous amount of growth as a performer because now he's even more seasoned. Since Batman Forever, Chris has carried movies on his own.
"So what you feel right away when you see George and Chris together on-screen as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson--or off-screen--is that you totally believe that they would be friends, have mutual respect and share a lot of humor. George and Chris are both very down-to-earth, very real people."
Schumacher also took great pleasure in casting his arch-villains for Batman & Robin. "I was always crazy about Mr. Freeze from the television series," notes Schumacher, "and Arnold Schwarzenegger was my only choice from the beginning. He's a great action star, of course, but he also has a great sense of humor, which is crucial to the Batman movies. They are called 'comic' books, not 'tragic' books, and I think we always need to remember that this is a big pop-culture opera, not Medea.
For Poison Ivy, Uma Thurman was also Schumacher's one and only choice, "although there certainly was a period when many, many talented and beautiful actresses felt they were the perfect Poison Ivy and wanted to play this role. But I've always wanted to work with Uma Thurman and have always been inspired by her beauty and acting. The first time I, like many others, saw her in a film was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as Venus, and when that shell opened, revealing her in an imitation of Botticelli's painting, I said, 'Who is that gorgeous girl?' I think to find someone that beautiful, who's also such a wonderful actress who's fully capable of playing both drama and comedy, is very rare. And I can't imagine anyone in this role besides Uma."
And how about the newest addition to the forces of good, Batgirl, aka Barbara Wilson?
"Alicia Silverstone and I have been friends for about five years now. She's an extraordinary young woman, very intelligent and,of course, beautiful and talented. Alicia is very popular, especially with young audiences, and I thought it would be nice to give them a young heroine who was as intelligent, strong-willed and just as dedicated to justice as the men. I hoped it would add something special to the mix."
The cast was equally excited to contribute its own unique interpretations and contributions to the legend and lore of Gotham City's famous denizens. George Clooney's desire was to portray a Batman and a Bruce Wayne more at ease with their roles in the world and less inclined to garment-rending and breast-beating--in other words, to play a Caped Crusader not unlike the traditional DC Comics character.
"We have now seen three Batman films in which he talks about how his parents were murdered when he was a little boy, and the truth is that people now want this man to stop talking about it already," says Clooney. "It's time for Batman to enjoy being Batman, and deal with the problems at hand rather than the problems of his past. But that doesn't mean that he's not frustrated by the criminals who roam around Gotham, or that he doesn't still have some issues of his own to deal with."
Arnold Schwarzenegger was excited about the possibility of playing a villain. "I studied the comic books that featured Mr. Freeze and also looked at the way he was played on the television series," notes the actor. "Then I had to figure out how to separate my Mr. Freeze from theirs, and how to make it memorable within the context of all the other terrific Batman villains. Because these movies are going to go on forever, and after people see Batman X, they'll look back and talk about their favorite villains."
Following his discussions with Schumacher about the character concept of Mr. Freeze, Arnold Schwarzenegger recalls that "I got really excited about it. In Batman & Robin, you have the action and also the comedy. I feel very strongly that Mr. Freeze is a villain with strongly sympathetic overtones, which makes him even more interesting to play. After all, he's basically motivated by tremendous love for his wife Nora, whom he was unable to cure. Anyone who has suffered such loss--or has even imagined it--can perhaps understand why Dr. Fries would go crazy. In a way, Mr. Freeze is a kind of metaphor for anyone who has deliberately frozen his heart in an effort to never suffer again.
"So whereas Batman is a hero who's sort of dark around the edges," Schwarzenegger continues, "Mr. Freeze is a villain in whom some light still burns, and so there's the possibility of redemption. This is a long way from the pure evil that I played in the first Terminator movie, and I'd like to think that it's part of my growth as an actor."
Chris O'Donnell was anxious to slip back into the role of Robin, which he enjoyed tremendously in Batman Forever and pleased to see the story and characters progress from Batman Forever. "One of the interesting things about this movie," he explains, "is that there's been development in the character of Dick Grayson, and also in his relationship to Bruce Wayne. Dick has been living in Bruce's shadow. Batman has a very high profile, and Robin is starting to think, 'Hey, I'm doing my share of the crimefighting; why aren't I getting a little more of the attention and credit?' Then along comes Poison Ivy, the most beautiful villainess imaginable, and things between them get more directly competitive."
And speaking of Poison Ivy, Uma Thurman describes her devilishly beautiful creation as "basically a talker, a manipulator and a hustler. Not a two-bit hustler, but a hustler nonetheless."
For Thurman, part of the fun of portraying Poison Ivy was in the character's homicidal romanticism. As gorgeous and alluring as Ivy is, she just can't seem to get her men. "Ivy's just infatuated with Mr. Freeze," notes Thurman. "She's in love with power, and he's the perfect ally to achieve her genocidal fantasies. Mr. Freeze, of course, doesn't fall for her at all. He's hopelessly in love with his frozen wife, to the scorn of Poison Ivy. She wants his adoration and respect, but settles for manipulating him to achieve a new world, and a green one."
Quite a contrast to Poison Ivy is Barbara Wilson, aka Batgirl. Alicia Silverstone recalls that she became a Batman fan via reruns of the ABC series, as have so many others of her generation, and was thrilled to be asked to play a heroine. "I think it's really nice that with Batgirl, there's a high-profile action star who's female," says Silverstone. "It's wonderful that now little girls, too, can have someone to look up to.
"Barbara's skills are an asset to these boys," she continues. "Being female adds an additional point of view to the team." And like so many others on the Batman & Robin cast and crew, she shared a particularly warm relationship with Michael Gough, returning to portray Alfred Pennyworth for the fourth time. Echoing their on- screen relationship, Silverstone forged a close "uncle/niece" bond with Gough. The great British actor was delighted to find that Alfred's participation in the story had been considerably increased.
"I think what's interesting about this particular film is that you see what an immensely caring person Bruce Wayne really is," notes Gough. "Alfred loves Bruce, not because he's his boss, but because he's a wonderful person to work with, rather than for. He raised Bruce from the time he was a lad to become the kind of person he wants him to be."
Another four-time returnee, the equally legendary veteran actor Pat Hingle, was also pleased to once again don Commissioner Gordon's blue uniform. "You know, Gordon is really kind of a bit part in the films, but I certainly don't approach him that way," says Hingle. "l know what a straight-shooter he is, how many times crooked politicians have tried to get to him, and failed. But I feel sorry for Gordon, because without Batman and Robin to help him, he'd be in trouble. Somehow, the Gotham Police are always screwing up in one way or another!"
Of course, the characters need a landscape on which to create their drama,
and once again Joel Schumacher called upon the massive talents of Barbara
Ling to re-invent Gotham City even more elaborately than she had in Batman
Forever. Nearly a year before the start of the film's principal photography,
Ling already began to assemble a crew for the mighty task ahead of them:
illustrators, model makers, set designers, sculptors, storyboard artists--a
whole panoply of personnel who assisted in bringing her fabulous concepts
"For Batman & Robin, I wanted to add even more architectural extremes than we did for Batman Forever," states Ling. "It's still holding true to the spirit of Russian Constructivists, but we wanted to weave in more of an art nouveau feeling. This Gotham City is larger than the one we see in Batman Forever. The interiors have taken on more of the scope of the exteriors in proportion and size. Probably the biggest difference is that we will have a much greater sense of what the environs of Gotham really look like. You'll see a wider scope of having an inner city, and the excitement of chases across the rooftops of Gotham.
Ling, supervising art director Richard Holland, construction supervisors Greg Callas and Rich Hoffenberg, and their massive crews outdid themselves in the creation of a new Gotham City that arose on five soundstages at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, the gigantic interior of the Long Beach Seaport Dome (which used to house Howard Hughes' gargantuan Spruce Goose airplane), and on various locales in and around Los Angeles.
Among their creations was the Gotham Museum of Natural History, which took five months to build, its mighty dimensions roughly 60 feet high, 200 feet long and 150 feet wide; the new and improved Batcave, with its huge Batmobile turntable and blue/black rock walls; the Rooftop Botanical Garden, a cast-iron and glass building perched on top of a Gotham skyscraper decked out in a wild jungle theme for a charity ball that's an action setpiece of the film; the Gotham Observatory, 75 feet high and inspired by the Palomar Observatory in San Diego, with a 40-foot-long, 20,000-pound telescope as its centerpiece; and the Project Gilgamesh Laboratory, which Batman creator Bob Kane aptly described as "Frankenstein meets Las Vegas," a massive, medieval, crumbling old prison converted by Dr. Jason Woodrue into his den of scientific evil.
And there was yet more: the Blossom Street Turkish Baths, Poison Ivy's lair, described by Ling as "art nouveau meets Ali Baba"; Mr. Freeze's lair, the abandoned Snowy Cones Factory, in the shape of a cone with a swirl of ice cream on top, all stainless steel with Mylar walls and floors (a motif of "Freeze World"); and of course, Wayne Manor, "which we warmed up and altered, implying that between movies Alfred was busy doing renovations," says Ling.
Outside of the Warner soundstages and Seaport Dome, Ling designed a 300-foot-long bridge, serving as the site for the climax of the film's dazzling motorcycle race, built in the old Todd Shipyards in San Pedro. The bike race begins in what appears to be ancient Rome-like ruins in a rundown neighborhood of Gotham, shot in downtown Los Angeles, "which we turned into a graffiti pit with both painted and projected graffiti, creating a really surreal air," according to Ling.
Warner Bros.' venerable Hennessy Street, built in the late 1930s and utilized for both Batman Returns and Batman Forever, was brought into action once again as Gotham's "Soho" district, an intentional pastiche of architectural and design elements. So expansive were the film's needs that Ling's work spilled over onto the Universal Studios backlot, where its famed big city exterior streets were utilized for the climactic sequence in which the new Bat-vehicles rush to save Gotham City from icy extinction.
Creating the costumes for Batman & Robin took the talents of two
top motion-picture designers: Ingrid Ferrin, who previously worked on Batman
Forever and on Joel Schumacher's films The Client and A Time to Kill, as
well as his telefilm 2000 Malibu Road; and Robert Turturice, a new member
of the team with an impressive collection of previous credits that include
Clean and Sober and Turbulence. Great contributions were also made by production
designer Barbara Ling and, of course, Schumacher, himself a former costume
It's become a tradition in each Batman film to transform the basic Batsuit, and Batman & Robin extends this custom. The new version is even sleeker and more streamlined than the last, even altering the color from basic black to a subtle but effective blue-black that's more perceptible in its overall aesthetic effect than is immediately noticeable to the naked eye.
Once again, the team of designers, sculptors and molders adapted the lessons learned on the previous films to improve upon their work. "The new suits weigh only one third of what they did in Batman Forever, which was about 35 pounds," notes Bronson. "There's a lot more flexibility and lightness."
And as in Batman Forever, a second, advanced Batsuit--with powerful, armored highlights on the torso, gauntlets, boots and cowl-was designed by Barbara Ling for the climactic sequences of Batman & Robin, vaguely resembling the high-tech advanced suit of the previous film but with even more defined retro-futuristic streamlined details.
None of the costumes for Batman & Robin was more creative or technologically advanced than Mr. Freeze's diamond-powered, temperature-controlled (at 50 below zero) human juggernaut of an armored suit and helmet, illuminated from within by cool blue lights that cast an eerie glow.
"There were several hands in the invention of this creation," says Barbara Ling, "including a wonderful illustrator named Mariano Diaz." Ironically, this contraption was first fabricated by one schooled in the most ancient art of armoring, the appropriately named Terry English.
"Four of what we call 'hero suits' for Arnold Schwarzenegger were actually hand-pounded completely out of aluminum by Terry and his crew," explains Dan Bronson, "who had come to America from Great Britain for this purpose. The suit, with its 20-odd separate pieces, weighs about 45 pounds. But we then had 15 more composite suits fabricated, which were lighter and easier to wear for action sequences."
Mr. Freeze's suit was powered from his backpack, and 2,500 LEDs per suit, built in subassemblies, were strung together for the special lighting effect.
What looks much more cozy for Schwarzenegger was Mr. Freeze's lounging outfit, an extraordinary velvet robe festooned with little polar bears, with matching fuzzy polar bear slippers complete with fangs. However, the polar bear robe complemented the Freeze Suit not just in design, but weight as well. With all the layers of fabric, it wound up weighing more than 40 pounds...almost as much as the stupendous pile of artistically rendered armor worn by Schwarzenegger in the film.
Robin's 'hero' suit also received a makeover, with the mighty Nightwing emblem now spreading its wings from the center of Robin's chest, across his shoulders and down his arms. As for Dick Grayson, Ingrid Ferrin continued her work from Batman Forever to further track his progress from circus gypsy to a more urbane and confident young man. "To begin with," says Ferrin, "we've gotten rid of Dick's earring. And I don't think his motorcycle is his only form of transportation any more, so in addition to his black leather jacket, he's got a few other coats as well."
As sinuous and slinky as a lush jungle vine, Poison Ivy is attired in a series of increasingly outrageous outfits which evolve throughout the film from her character's "rebirth" in the South American jungle. It was the job of Robert Turturice to ride herd on the implementation of Poison Ivy's costumes, and he recalls "Something that had not been done before was that the latex would be painted, so we had several tests to deal with to gauge elasticity and durability."
Quite a contrast was Dr. Pamela Isley, whose frumpy science-dweeb togs were designed by Ingrid Ferrin. "Pamela is a great character, because she starts off bedraggled, sweaty and funky in the jungle, then morphs into this dazzling creature," says Ferrin.
Also making a remarkable transition--or several of them--is Alicia Silverstone's Barbara Wilson, a seemingly shy schoolgirl who later takes on the identity of Batgirl. Her attire is consistent with the overall designs of Batman and Robin's basic and armored suits, replete with her own emblem, distinctive mask and high- heeled black boots, as befits a glamorous young heroine. "She's a sweet blonde thing in a school uniform when we first see her," notes Ferrin, "but then we see another side revealed when we discover that she's actually a street-smart motorcycle racer. So at first, Alicia as Barbara appears as this angelic girl, but then we see her in leather jeans and motorcycles boots."
The astounding range of characters large and small--including Bane, Ms. B. Haven, Julie Madison, Nora Fries, Gossip Gerty and the assorted thugs, mugs, gangs and dancers--also challenged the costume department's imagination, which came up with an endless series of original designs and innovative ways to accomplish them, including a magenta gorilla suit worn by Uma Thurman made from 450 dyed Santa wigs dipped with black roots and tips!
The makeup and hair design team assembled for Batman & Robin was
one of the largest and most talented working in Hollywood at the time of
its filming, with three Academy Award winners in key positions: key makeup
designer Ve Neill, key hairstylist Yolanda Toussieng and Jeff Dawn, Arnold
Schwarzenegger's makeup designer.
Jeff Dawn arrived at the final makeup concept for Mr. Freeze through research, experimentation and determination. "Joel Schumacher had this great collage of colors and materials that impressionistically demonstrated his vision of Mr. Freeze," Dawn recalls. So I made Arnold silver, and then airbrushed white and blue dots onto that base, going for texture, which really worked out well."
The painstaking procedure, which Dawn performed daily on Schwarzenegger, required three hours of application, as he applied a special foam-latex bald cap and acrylic silver metallic paint both brushed and sprayed over the actor's face and arms; finally, rigid opalescent corneal lenses were inserted into Schwarzenegger's eyes, which lent Mr. Freeze an even eerier aspect.
As for Poison Ivy, her kaleidoscope of different looks was developed by Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng. "Ivy's initial appearance is very much like an earth mother," notes Neill, "sexy and beautiful with long, luxurious hair and not a lot of makeup to enhance Uma's already gorgeous features. Then, slowly, Ivy becomes more outrageous in both her behavior and physical appearance.
"At the Botanical Garden Ball, Ivy is very green, bright and floral-like," continues Neill, "but her look becomes increasingly darker and more forbidding--with colors like purples, dark pinks, vibrant oranges, blacks and charcoals." Neill's makeup for Poison Ivy was brilliantly complemented by Yolanda Toussieng's extraordinary wig designs. "The first time we see Poison Ivy, her hair is a subdued red," says Toussieng. "Then, by stages, we added more pink to the wig, then bright oranges and yellows and finally, we got very colorful and wild."
Along with Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, Jeep Swenson's fearsome Bane received a complete makeover. Makeup artists Brian Penikas and Rick Stratton developed an airbrush makeup requiring two-and-a-half to three hours of daily application, applied to Swenson's formidable body in a specially-built ventilated tent. "We wanted Bane's makeup to be real comic book," says Ve Neill, who supervised the process, "with the colors bright and vibrant so they would show up well against the darker sets."
Other special makeups were developed for John Glover as mad scientist Dr. Jason Woodrue; Vivica A. Fox as Ms. B. Haven, with shades of silvers and blues and lots of rhinestones; the Icemen, who required 60 wigs with 15 different looks; the motorcycle gangs, including the Red Heads, the Dandies and the Kabuki Punks; the subterranean Golums, with their fluorescent eyes and facial paint; and the 300 Botanical Garden party guests and wildly attired dancers.
As she did with Batman Forever, Barbara Ling re-invented the wheels and
the arsenals with all-new designs for the vehicles and gadgets for Batman
& Robin. For the dazzling new vehicles, Ling collaborated, as in the
past, with a team of illustrators, and the conceptual work once again became
reality through a company called TFX.
Ling couldn't wait to get back to the drawing board in an attempt to once more heighten the Batmobile's beauty and impact. "I was particularly glad to be able to have one more crack at the Batmobile," confirms Ling. "I think it should always feel like half a block is coming at you when you see the Batmobile approach, and the size of the vehicle has to take on unnatural proportions for that to really happen.
"Ultimately, I felt like the Batmobile in the last film looked just too small on camera. This time I wanted its shape to be a giant version of some of the early roadster sports cars, like the Jaguar D types or the Delahane 165. I also wanted the Batmobile, this time, to be a convertible, which had always excited me about the early comic-book Batmobile."
"It takes a lot of trial and error to develop and build a fully working car that's nearly 29 feet long," adds TFX's Allen Pike. "The Batmobile has very long fenders, blue illuminated hubcaps with the Bat Emblem cut right into the 22-inch prototype tires, and pulsating through the side grated ribs are blue LEDs (digital electronic displays) and alternating yellow and red lights. There's a revolving turbine that projects light and is specially synchronized to camera, which creates a remarkable animated effect on film. And the Batmobile has a custom-built chassis, ground-up fabrication, using race car components, including the Chevy 380 engine, which can accelerate the vehicle to about 140 miles per hour."
Since Batman now drives alone in his one-man Batmobile, an appropriate vehicle had to be developed for Robin. And since the young hero's skill with motorcycles had already been established in Batman Forever, it made perfect sense to equip Robin with the world's hottest, coolest bike... the Redbird.
"The Redbird went through a dozen different designs," admits Ling. "Like the Batmobile, I wanted the Redbird to be very, very long. We placed interactive LEDs in the engine compartments, and there's an illuminated Robin emblem in front of the driver's seat."
As with the Batmobile, the Redbird was a ground-up build, utilizing fiberglass and carbon fiber (the same materials that airplanes are made of), because according to Allen Pike, "there was no existing motorcycle that we could base the Redbird on."
The Freezemobile presented another monumental challenge to Ling and TFX's Pike and Charley Zurian. "I loved the idea that for Mr. Freeze's vehicle, you have to have something bigger than he is," notes Ling. "And when he's in costume, Mr. Freeze is humongous. The bigger challenge was that the design of the exterior had to reflect Freeze World, with a riveted-armor paneled front and a sliding canopy top. It also required huge wheels, so that it feels like a tractor or steam engine is coming right at you."
"The Freezemobile is 26 feet long and nine feet high," notes Zurian, "as big as a motor home. We attached plywood and foam to the frame, and from that, used our three-axis mill and cut out the surface of the vehicle. Then we fiberglassed the whole thing, and atop of that, applied foil to give it the natural metal look."
Three all-new, gleaming chrome-black ice vehicles for Batman, Robin and Batgirl also make their debut in Batman & Robin: the 20-foot-long Bathammer, powered like a snowmobile but capable of achieving terrific speed; the Batskiff, a combination of hovercraft and fan-driven Everglades vehicle; and the Batbike, a low-slung, almost roadster bike with ice spiked tires.
As for the Batgadgets, arsenals, gizmos and other imaginative props, what comes out of Batman and Robin's Batcave vaults were all consistently designed and advanced from the previous film. "The theme was to get more into a full-metal look for Batman's gadgetry," notes Barbara Ling, "and to bring his gadgets into more of a clean line as they develop in each film. We also wanted to put more pizzazz into how they articulate.
"The design of Robin's weapons and gadgets also reflect his new suit, with its deep cardinal red color," adds Ling. "The new shape of his logo gave us new shapes to use in developing his gadgetry."
For Batman & Robin, mounted in the Dark Knight's vault and ready to be used are such gadgets as his Arm-Mounted Bat Tether Launcher, BatLazer, BatNet Launcher, BatPiton Launcher, BatTazer Launcher, BatBomb, BatHeater, Arm-Mounted Batarang Launcher, BatIce Saw, BatIce Climbing Tool and four different Batarangs.
Among Robin's array of armaments are his emblem-shaped Magnet, Lazer, Grapple, Throwing Bird and Wrist-Mounted Tether. Batgirl is also suitably outfitted with her own specially designed array of equipment with which to battle Gotham's nefarious criminal element.
As for the villains, Mr. Freeze has his fearsome Freeze Gun, Freezing Engine (which he attaches to the giant telescope in the Gotham Observatory to create the biggest Freeze Gun of all) and icicle-shaped Freeze Bombs; his Icemen have their lethal hockey sticks, which are each studded with 50 blue LEDs; and, on a more compact note, Poison Ivy's pheromone-based Love Dust, which she conveniently keeps in a compact designed by property master Brad Einhorn.
In 1994, Joel Schumacher asked famed visual-effects supervisor John Dykstra
to take on the challenges of helping to reinvent the world of the Dark Knight
for Batman Forever. But for Batman & Robin, Dykstra took several leaps
forward, spinning into
the future of visual effects by not only incorporating the full range of available technologies--including computer-generated imagery, miniatures, motion capture, stereopsis, green screen--but utilizing them as they've never been used before, for some 450 visual effects shots (nearly 150 more than the previous Batman film).
"Perhaps the biggest difference between Batman Forever and Batman & Robin is that we've extensively increased our use of computers," notes Dykstra. "On the last film, they were used primarily as imaging devices, creating portions of Gotham City and enhancements for various scenes. But in addition to those, this time we've integrated the use of conventional workstations, such as Apple computers, to also do our storyboarding, to help design some of the miniatures and to track the development of the script.
"In fact, we actually had a computer artist working in Barbara Ling's department designing the buildings which make up Gotham," continues Dykstra. "We had mathematical models of the buildings in the computers, and we took those models and fleshed them out so we had a representation of the buildings' size, scale and position. Then we built the three-dimensional models from those plans.
"In the last film, we defined Gotham as a very tall environment, and we've taken another step in this film. The buildings in Gotham are two to three times as tall as the tallest skyscrapers in New York. And in order to do that, we would have had to create miniatures that were 90 feet tall. But that would have been impractical. What we decided to do instead is to build miniature buildings that are about 30 feet tall, and extend them by using computer-generated imagery."
Production designer Ling adds, "The great thing is that all of the designs for Gotham were generated out of the art department, and then visual effects took them over to manipulate them. So the miniatures were actually built well before any of the main sets. This time, the miniature Gotham includes trains running on tracks between buildings high above the city, vehicles moving along elevated bridges and highways, rear-projected animated signs, all of the things we wanted to do last time but couldn't, either because of time or technology."
It wasn't just the skyscrapers, bridges and highways of Gotham that the miniatures department needed to create, but the vehicles as well, with smaller but fully operative and detailed versions of the Batmobile, Freezemobile, Icemen tanks and boxy Gotham passenger cars, all with four-wheel drive, four-wheel braking and independent suspension.
Dykstra and his team called upon the skills of several visual-effects houses to handle, under their supervision, important individual elements to be completed: Warner Digital Studios for the Gotham City computer-generated extensions, characters frozen by Mr. Freeze and the rays emanating from the Freeze Gun; France's Buf Compagnie for Poison Ivy's love dust and magically growing plants, as well as the giant telescope Freeze Ray; and Pacific Data Images for computer-generated characters.
Ultimately, it all came down to keeping three steps ahead of the current technology. "The speed with which the systems are developing is incredible," says Dykstra, "It seems that every week something new crops up, and it's turned all of the masters into students again, which is great. When you set out to do a movie like Batman & Robin, you have to bite off more than you can chew, because if you limit yourself to what you're capable of doing at the time the film is mounted, by the time the film is completed, you'll be obsolete."
A carefully modulated symphony of color and light, the cinematography
of Batman & Robin was the domain of Stephen Goldblatt, whose work on
Batman Forever earned him an Academy Award nomination. "Both of the
Batman films were fun in retrospect," says Goldblatt, "but they
also scared me to death. It's the equivalent, I suppose, of being a marathon
runner in the middle of the race."
Just one example of Goldblatt's trailblazing techniques was his idea for visually enhancing the climactic showdown between Batman and Mr. Freeze in the expanses of the Gotham Observatory. "I had an idea of placing this final battle against projections of whirling planets and starscapes," says the cinematographer, "a duel of the titans against a cosmic backdrop. We found specialized projectors in Paris and had 40 of them shipped to Los Angeles for this purpose.
"However, the projectors were intended for theatrical use in grand-scale outdoor opera," Goldblatt continues, "and they had to be adapted for film use. It took me from June until November to work out all of the problems, and I'd wake up at three o'clock in the morning worrying about whether or not it would all work."
But it did, to unique effect.
Just as Joel Schumacher redefined Batman in image, his choice of composer,
Elliot Goldenthal, helped to re-create the character in music. After Goldenthal's
masterful contributions to Batman Forever, he returned to expand the Dark
Knight's musical sound for Batman & Robin.
"The thing that was established about this new Batman world, which was created for the last film," Goldenthal says, "is that the music is large and orchestral. I had to evaluate which themes from Batman Forever could carry over, because it's always nice to have a continuum if you can. It's obvious that Robin is a more major figure in this film, so I had to come up with a bigger and more heroic Robin theme. There also had to be new themes for Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy."
Bob Kane was delighted with the turn his creation has taken under the
direction of Joel Schumacher. "Joel has great vision," Kane noted,
"and he's an ardent comic book fan from way back. He and I also share
similar backgrounds: we were both poor kids from New York neighborhoods.
There's a wonderful phrase that Joel wrote in the preface of the revised
edition of my book Batman and Me: "The reveries of children sometimes
become the vocation of adults."
Kane is happy that his nearly 60-year-old creation continues to thrive and entertain and delight audiences around the world. For what else is Bob Kane if not the world's proudest poppa?
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