When it comes to environmentalism we're pretty short-sighted...we shout save the old growth! Save the endangered species! Make sure at least a handful of a certain frog endures and these few trees don't get cut, and then let the corporations do what they will to the rest. Man, it's way too complex to simply do a Noah on the outdated biological responses to gone environments. Watch it all from a plane, swooping over a city at night and you see the world on fire with electric light overcrowding, a cancer. Unchecked population growth and all its needs, its power and food addiction is turning us into Earth's fatal tumor.
But nature can be a bitch, too. It ain't very nice. Five minutes with a nature show will teach you that. Plants and they're pollenating bugs are nice and all but sometimes even they can kill you. And maybe they should. Who has a better right?
Two hot babes in critically panned but so-bad-their-good 90s camp films made a bold attempt to spin us around and face the triffid, as it were. Dark funhouse mirrors to each other, they eloquently bracket the entire tree-hugger experience via nerdy horticulturists who become dangerous but sexy eco-villains by night, their powers stemming from witchy herbalist savvy.
In TROLL 2 (1990), Deborah Reed plays Creedence Leonore Gielgud, bottle cap glasses-wearing, hair-in-a-bun horticulturist by day, sexy purveyor of drugged popcorn cobs by night. And when it's time to feed the kiddies, a wild-eyed witch with a dangerous mission: facilitate the transformation of a bunch of puny human visitors into plants which her trolls can then eat without getting tummy aches.
In BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) Uma Thurman plays a bottle cap glasses-wearing horticulturist who winds up killed and buried in a bed of chemically-enhanced plant neurotoxins after she spies her boss creating Bane from her carefully assembled potions (with his inflated muscles, he's way more fun than Tom Hardy). When she rises up, as if from a lonesome coffin, it's no longer as a bottle cap glasses-wearing horticulturist with a shady agenda, but a super sexy purveyor of drugged plant powder which she blows into her foe's faces so they will do her bidding.
Her mission: 'greenify' Gotham by eliminating its pesky human residents.
In both films these sirens represent the malignant, understandably misanthropic flip side of plants. They are both gorgeous (Reed is pretty even in her ugly make-up). Smitten males cannot resist them. They are beautiful and have a sense of humor. We're not necessarily encouraged to root for the idiots they slaughter, turn to troll food, or seduce into servitude. Certainly the directors make no attempt to make the good guys relatable vs. the bad. We can easily see where the hearts of the directors lie but the critics--a notoriously reactionary lot-- hated on both these films, missing the camp delight in their gonzo precepts, and the way a filmmaker might secretly root for the bad guys in their films. See them on a double bill and imagine these two lovely eco-terrorists working together! An unstoppably sexy eco-terrorist force! Imagine if Nolan had kept Poison Ivy for DARK NIGHT RISES! Played by Angelina Jolie, aided by a flock of third world child soldier flunkies? Our lives today would be completely different.
Like so many of the films and TV shows, Batman lives and dies by his villains: Jim Carrey saved the previous entry as the Riddler; DARK KNIGHT RISES would be lost without Anne Hathaway; the 60s show would have been nothing without the super sexy Julie Newmar. In BATMAN ROBIN, the black light graffiti awfulness is saved by Uma, who captures some of Newmar's litheness in addition to West's sashay and Dietrich's de-evolution. Rolling her eyes and carrying on about the plants of Mother Nature having their day, and her plans to rid Freeze and herself of the feathered and furry caped crusaders, Thurman is at least in on the joke as well as exhibiting some sign--lacking in all the other cast members--that she's actually seen some of the films Schumacher is referencing. Bane is ten times more fun in this issue as a hulking, mute inflatable Mexican wrestler under her control instead of a musclebound Marxist professor, and her plan for world domination is ten times cooler, if you'll forgive the expression, than Mr. Freeze's. It's actually something we could root for, for a change.
Alas, the 'good' end of the cast is a mixed bag: Clooney's a one-note Batman, fussing like an old queen over Robin's impetuous risk-taking (DC's buzzkill obsequiousness in evidence) and as Batgirl, Alicia Silverstone is exhibit A in why sometimes you need those special 'slimming' amphetamines in the picture biz (you think Josef von Sternberg wouldn't have kicked Dietrich off his set if showed up looking that dumpy? Instead Schumacher's abashed PC tact falls just short of designing a bat mou-mou). But at least Arnold does recall Otto Preminger, who brought Teutonic menace aplenty to his Freeze on the 1960s TV show, and his melancholy over his chilled wife Nora is palpable; tears freeze as they form on his cheeks in an echo of Bela's melancholy over his suspended animation wives in THE INVISIBLE GHOST, VOODOO MAN, CORPSE VANISHES and THE BLACK CAT (below).
In fact, Wayne manor is the only place in Gotham not lit by green glowing fire pots, and occupied by lounging thugs too colorful (electric lime and magenta) to be threatening. So what is there left, sans menace? There is only Miss Ivy -- Uma's best work, and that bookend to....
Creedence Leonore Gielgud in TROLL 2
Creedence and her troll underlings have a strict diet and the preparations for this constitute the bulk of their eco-terrorism. Rather than just wipe out humanity they long to turn them into superfood. Why that's so complicated a process is merely one of the facets to this inexplicably beloved 'best worst movie'. Caught in a weird ironic limbo wherein they only eat humans but are strict vegans, these trolls have to turn the humans into plants before they can be properly digested, a long process involving getting the humans to eat some bright green food coloring, which causes them to quickly sprout branches and roots. And so the plant word has its revenge here, too,cand we deserve it a few times over. Creedence then is a bit like Magneto in the first X-MEN when he turns Senator Kelly into a mutant so he can see what it's like to be the hunted. Creedence turns humans into plants for, partly, the same reason, so they can see what it's like to be treated as an object--harvested, burned, smoked, made into newspapers and/or fried or boiled (like some kind of 'super carrot.') While meat may be murder, veganism is anti-human. Aren't most apes, after all, plant eaters? Think of the sprouts!
|Keep your eye on the cob, human!|
Not so fast. Creedence brings a phallic corn cob in her garter, which she shoves into the mouth of this doltish bro (his lack of response even to this is hilarious) prefiguring his conversion to vegetable and calling the whole issue of phalluses and penetration into turnaround (especially if you read any Faulkner). Luckily the corn is not green, if you'll forgive the expression. And--especially since the rest of the film is so aesthetically ugly. when Creedence turns hot and displays that stunning thigh (above) you swoon like you're sixteen and frozen in desire mixed with fear, to the point you feel that any word or action on your part will blow it for you --so you keep still, like trying to catch a rabbit, or Jeeter Lester going after a bag of turnips.
In another great scene, one of the other bros is potted by Creedence and placed amidst the other foliage in her bookstore lobby. In other words she seems to have made a lot more headway in her eco-terrorism campaign than Poison Ivy, who clearly made a mistake hooking up with the frigid Mr. F. Creedence thinks and acts locally, showing love for her monstrous children and ensnaring one dumbass human at a time, while Freeze is determined to wipe out all life, for no clear reason, a project so abstract it's doomed to failure.
Like poor Ivy in BATMAN AND ROBIN, Creedence too may lose out to the human species for the nonce, but there's no doubt whose side we're on as viewers. Though Reed's acting varies from subtle to hysterics, wild and tame in alternating words, it hardly factors in our mounting admiration: She's a genius, in her way, lacking perhaps Thurman's training, but less burlesque show hammy and more genuinely insane. She doesn't know how to fake it, so she just becomes it.
Neither film ends with any kind of peace or happily ever after for our eco-terrorist heroines, as one might expects, but at the same tim each has a final opened-up ending approach gives us hope rather than despair. Poison Ivy is locked in a cell with Mr. Freeze, which seems very inappropriate for any jail system, even a co-ed supervillain asylum like Arkham. Does Schumacher even know how jailes work? But they both are resourceful so we don't doubt they'll get out asap.
And TROLL 2 ends, well, I shan't spoil it, but there's nothing to worry about either way. Just see it and eat your green jello and drink your green beer and smoke your green herb; peel off your pink ape skin and stay awhile, dearie. Be rooted. Mi sofá es tu tierra.