Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Creedence and Ivy's Eco-Terrorist Revue

When it comes to environmentalism we're pretty short-sighted...we shout save the old growth trees and the endangered species as if that's really enough. Make sure at least a handful of a certain frog endures and these trees don't get cut, and then let the corporations do what they will to the rest. Man, it's way complex and nature can be a bitch, too, just as ruthless as people. Plants are nice and all but sometimes they can kill you.

Two hot babes in critically panned but so-bad-their-good films made a bold attempt to spin us around and face the triffid, as it were, in the 90s. And they represent dark funhouse mirrors bracketing the entire tree-hugger experience. In TROLL 2 (1997), Deborah Reed plays Creedence Leonore Gielgud - bottlecap glasses, hair-in-a-bun horticulturist by day, super sexy purveyor of drugged popcorn cobs by night. Her mission: facilitate a bunch of puny humans' eating of a special green toxin that turns them into plants so her troll children can eat them without getting tummy aches.

In BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) Uma Thurman plays a bottlecap glasses, hair in her face horticulturist who winds up buried in a bed of chemically enhanced plant neurotoxins after she spies her boss creating Bane (way better than Chris Nolan's version). When she rises up as if from a lonesome coffin it's as a super sexy purveyor of drugged plant powder which she blows into her foe's faces so they, like Bane, 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. We desire 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 becoming their pawns.

It's surely no coincidence also that critics--a notoriously reactionary lot-- would hate on both these films. Just imagine these two lovely eco-terrorists working together! An unstoppably sexy eco-terrorist force would arise! Imagine if Nolan had kept Poison Ivy for RISES! Played by Angelina Jolie, aided by a flock of third world child soldier flunkies?

BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) was poorly received in its initial theatrical run but, later, catching it in a Sunday afternoon stupor on cable, and having since seen TROLL 2 twice and most of BEST WORST MOVIE (the celebration of TROLL 2's cult audience, both are on Netflix streaming), it all makes sense. Director Joel Schumacher's film simply fooled fans expecting more of the dark crusader who scowled in his cowl through the Burton films and the BATMAN RETURNS kinkfest with Val Kilmer. But Schumacher turns out to be a true fan of the original camp TV show more than the Goth Burton, as well as the classic weird Hollywood pre-codes set in the then-modern art deco era as opposed to Burton's preferred 80s art gallery Victorian.

Schumacher's vision also includes clear references to 1934 Edgar G. Ulmer-directed horror classic THE BLACK CAT and the big centerpiece charity auction involves a clear homage to Dietrich's "Hot Voodoo" sequence in BLONDE VENUS (1932). In short, while BATMAN AND ROBIN is bad, it's 'our' kind of bad. And after the terminally dour civics lecture of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES it's like a breath of fresh poison pollen.

The plot involves Ivy teaming up with Mr. Freeze: he will freeze ze world and maybe leave her some spare earth to grow on but at least all the plant-objectifying human apes will stop their tromping all over her precious earth dance floor. Arnold Schwarzenegger, gleefully shouting such lines as "Ice to see you!" in his comical accent, stealing diamonds for his freeze ray and cultivating the whole suspended animation wife in a vase thing, is straight up Bela Lugosi and then Uma comes onto the scene to the tacky roller rink and Ventures guitar instrumental version of "Poison Ivy." Stripping out of her drag queen hot pink gorilla costume, Ivy is a fine candidate for the ultimate rejection of Darwinism, reversing evolution to a friendlier pre-Adam Eden. Thurman's clearly having fun, looks great and adds to the pre-code resonance by adding a Mae West impression, with double entendres like "my garden needs tending" and "some lucky boys are bound to hit the honey pot" to the holistic Dietrich chemical combo.

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; RISES would be lost without Anne Hathaway; the 60s show would have been nothing without the super sexy Julie Newmar, and in ROBIN the black light Day-glo graffiti awfulness is saved by Uma, who captures Newmar-esque 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 'greening Gotham' after ridding 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 seen some of the films Schumacher is referencing. Bane is ten times more fun in this issue as a hulking, mute inflatable Mexican wrestler instead of a musclebound Marxist professor, and her plan for world domination is ten times cooler, if you'll forgive the expression, than Herr Freeze's.

Alas, the 'good' end of the cast is a mixed bag: Clooney's a one-note Batman, nitpicking like an old queen over 'ward' Robin's impetuous risk-taking ala Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan nitpicking on Annakin in the future Star Wars films, and as Batgirl, Alicia Silverstone is exhibit A in why sometimes you need those special 'slimming' amphetamines in the picture biz. You think Joe Sternberg wouldn't have sent her home, in tears and broke her contract? Schumacher's abashed 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. Arnold's melancholy over his chilled wife Nora is palpable; tears freezing as they form in an echo of Bela's melancholy over his suspended animation wives in THE INVISIBLE GHOST, VOODOO MAN, CORPSE VANISHES and T`HE BLACK CAT (below).

But in order to savor all that high strangeness you have to embrace those Day-glo cityscape colors and huge shrugging Atlases that span hundreds of stories, skyscrapers placed atop skyscrapers with thin little roadways between them, like some kid is combining all his play sets into one huge bi-level battlefield that starts on his bed and ends in his little sister's room, and so the matchbox Batmobile would naturally go from the bed to the carpet along the cliffside of an armless plastic Shogun Warrior, like an art deco Mount Rushmore sculpted down to the shoes. And the little sister got day-glo paint for X-mas and vandalized all the toy sets (or beautified them if you ask her). In fact, Wayne manor is the only place in Gotham not covered in green 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. In fact she's a great cousin 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. Caught in a weird ironic limbo wherein they only eat humans but are strict vegans, they have to turn the humans into plants before they can be properly digested. So it's 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, considering we feed them to animals and then cook the animals, as well as the vegetable side dish. 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 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?

Keep your eye on the cob, human!
Like Uma's hyper-stylized Ivy, Deborah Reed va-vooms the roof off in three different incarnations: the librarian with bad teeth and Anne Bancroft shades; the wild-haired witch with even worse teeth and a from-the-diaphragm acting approach even Toshiro Mifune might bug his eyes over; and the hot-to-trot TV movie seductress (with great teeth, all the better to castrate you with, my dear) who appears on the last living lunkhead's trailer TV screen as he sulks alone, parked way out in the middle of nowhere for no clear reason. It's like any lonesome teenager's fantasy has come true: babes are literally coming right out of the TV screen to 'do it' with him. Now all he has to do, he thinks, is keep perfectly still... like getting a tattoo....

But it's not that simple. Creedence brings a phallic corn cob, which she shoves into the mouth of this doltish bro (his lack of response even to this is hilarious) in a way that prefigures the conversion to vegetable and calls the whole issue of phalluses and penetration into turnaround. Luckily the corn is not green, if you'll forgive the expression. And since the rest of the film is so aesthetically ugly when Creedence turns hot and busts that cobb-carrying thigh above you swoon like you're sixteen and frozen all over again.

In another great scene, one of the other bros is potted by Creedence and placed in amidst the other foliage in her 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.

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. Neither film ends with any kind of peace or happily ever after and for once this open ending approach gives us hope rather than jitters. Poison Ivy is locked in a cell with Mr. Freeze, which seems very inappropriate for any jail system, even a co-ed supervillain asylym, but they both are resourceful so we don't doubt they'll get out, or she'll wind up pregnant with frozen tundra children. And TROLL 2 ends, well, I shan't spoil it. Just see it and eat your green jello and drink your green beer and smoke your green herb, peel off your ape skin and stay awhile, dearie... right there on the couch. Be rooted, mi papa de la sofá - the eco-terrorist goddess of the Sage and Screen will water you, rest assured... and in peace.


  1. I have always been unconvinced of the mass hatred of batman and Robin, if only for the exquisite reveal of Uma Thurman slithering out of the gorilla suit with "Poison Ivy" tawngling behind her. Nicely done, yet again.

  2. Pretty brave of you to stand up for Batman & Robin, though most people will say you place it in good company in your article. I didn't like it but that never compels anyone to agree with me. The hate for B&R largely stems from the perceived homoeroticization of the heroes, but isn't that something you have to be looking for, and have to know what you're looking for, to see? I just thought the film was dumb, but dumb isn't everything. It's probably time some people learned to laugh at Batman again.

  3. Thank you Samuel... I agree on B&R having walked out on it for the first time, but just kind of checking it out accidentally on 'FX' or wherever, and presuming how bad it is in advance really helped. Bad film appreciation is a dish best served sideways, if that makes any sense. And you're so right about homoeroticism being a where you find it kind of thing.

    and thanks johnny! Uma's brilliance was unfairly ignored in the face of all the outrage and confusion and I think at the time there was a big backlash about overly synergized product tie-in enriched mega-blockbusters.


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