"Batman & Robin" director Joel Schumacher once said in an interview that, during production of his movie, many studio heads and marketing gurus would float through to give their "input." It seems that Warner Bros. was interested in making the Bat vehicles and costumes more "toyetic," a word that Schumacher wasn't familiar with. Toyetic is an industry word that describes the practice of redesigning movies and TV shows to add more potential toy merchandise into the retail market. If "Batman & Robin" was to be more toyetic, then the characters needed to drive more vehicles, wear different costumes, and make use of more weapons. Said elements could then be made into action figures and playsets. The push for more toyetic elements goes a long way to explain why "Batman & Robin" looks the way it does. That is to say: busy, ugly, cartoonish, and over-designed.
In the film's finale, Batman (George Clooney), Robin (Chris O'Donnell), and Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone) have to trek into a Gotham City frozen over by the evil Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger, who never shot with the film's stars) on new vehicles and wearing snazzy, silvery new costumes. Presumably, these new costumes were meant to keep our heroes warm during the frozen final fight, although there is no dialogue to that effect. In actuality, the film's many costume designers were being forced to make a new toy design.
It turns out the silver costumes designs also had to be slapped together in a hurry. In a behind-the-scenes video produced for the DVD release of "Batman & Robin," wardrobe department worker Linda Booher-Ciarimboli revealed that scraps of old costumes were quickly culled together to make enhancements that, by studio standards, happened at the last minute.
The bat costumes in Schumacher's two Batman movies were widely snickered at in the 1990s. Many overreacted to the fake nipples on their exteriors and their pronounced codpieces, details that Schumacher defends. In his review of "Batman Forever," Roger Ebert noticed the fetishization of the Batman costume, and posited that Batman likely wouldn't be Batman if he didn't get to wear the costume.
When it came time to make the "freeze" suits for "Batman & Robin," though, it seems like the steam had run out. There wasn't enough time to really make a new suit from the ground up, and the wardrobe department had to get clever. Luckily, they had some of the old "Batman Forever" suits laying around, and were able to refit and reshape them on the fly. In the case of O'Donnell, he could even wear his old costume again, just recolored. Booher-Ciarimboli recalled:
"When they morph into another suit, we only had about three weeks to produce those suits at the end of the movie. So, we went back and took some of the ones from the movie before and cast the silver pieces onto those suits and glued them on."
If the freeze suits look a little bulkier than their "Forever" counterparts, know that it was because the costume designers were merely pasting new pieces of rubber onto the exteriors. Bulky, flashy, silver, and toyetic, it seems that Batman's days of lurking in the shadows were long over.
Worse Than Nipples
The budget for "Batman & Robin" was a whopping $125 million, although may have cost as much as $160 million. A lot of this went to special effects and to talent; Schwarzenegger got a huge $25 million paycheck. Despite this, one can see the filmmakers straining to make costumes and sets look more elaborate ... and not always succeeding. One can often see seams and paint textures where they shouldn't be obvious, and pictures like the one above reveal the silver paint edges on the finale's bat costumes.
O'Donnell recalled the last-minute costume change, and briefly attempted to find a logical reason why his character should have changed in that moment. Unable to reasonably locate one, however, left the actor having to accept the shooting conditions. It was, he felt, no longer a movie. The job had changed. As O'Donnell said:
"I felt like I was making a toy commercial. I mean, literally. It was all of a sudden we were in these new suits. I'm like, okay, so I'm just trying to think of the story, how this works ... Let's just not ask questions. We've got new silver suits, okay? It's just the way it is."
After Tim Burton had made "Batman Returns" in 1992, Warner Bros. felt the series had already become too dark and weird, and pushed for "Batman Forever" to be brighter and more colorful. Burton, when he saw the nipple-covered costumes and the outrageous weirdness of Schumacher's vision became miffed. He said in a 2022 Empire interview that his moves were no weirder than the ones that followed. Was he at peace? No. His direct quote was "Go f*** yourself."
"Batman & Robin," meanwhile, retains its reputation as one of the worst superhero films ever made.
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