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?
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).
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!|
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.