Arnold Schwarzenegger Has No Regrets About His Batman & Robin Role

Mention the movie "Batman & Robin" to a nerd (or Extremely Online person) of a certain age, and you're bound to get a reaction that ranks just below "nuclear revulsion." The 1997 Joel Schumacher-helmed Bat-sequel was a dud upon its initial theatrical release, and the subsequent rise of geek culture bloggers and independent film criticism websites expanded the disappointment with the film into a roiling, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred. Things got so bad that one notorious online critic, in lieu of a review, posted a video of themselves defecating into a toilet instead (link deliberately not included here).

Of course, like so much cultural and artistic criticism, time heals some wounds. Seen in 2022, "Batman & Robin" is still garish and overblown, but it has its charms. One of those charms is the blissfully parodic performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze, the film's chief villain. Even if you hate the movie surrounding it, there's no denying that Schwarzenegger's performance is incredibly watchable, the actor relishing every cheesy pun he's asked to deliver. That sentiment is shared by Schwarzenegger himself, who still regards his work as Mr. Freeze as being worthy of mention in his long and impressive filmography.

In this universe, everything freezes ... including Schwarzenegger's appraisal of his work

Despite "Batman & Robin" gaining a little more appreciation in the 25 years since its release, most participants of the film have been contrite when it comes to their involvement in it. George Clooney, who played Batman/Bruce Wayne, told Variety last year that he won't show the film to his wife, Amal, saying, "There are certain films I just go, 'I want my wife to have some respect for me.'" For his part, Schumacher defended most of the movie on the special features for the DVD, but still made a heartfelt apology for the final film — and kept on apologizing for it for years afterward.

Yet Schwarzenegger has even less qualms about owning his role in "Batman & Robin." Speaking to Empire magazine in 2012, the actor said, "I don't regret it at all. I felt that the character was interesting and two movies before that one Joel Schumacher was at his height. So the decision-making process was not off."

While it's not clear if Schwarzenegger was referring to Schumacher's previous Bat-film, "Batman Forever" (1995) or 1996's "A Time to Kill" as representative of the director's height, it's very true that Schumacher was a hitmaker in the mid-'90s. Still, as Schwarzenegger points out, there was a corporate factor to his casting as Mr. Freeze, a caveat that acts as a slight mea culpa: "I was doing 'Eraser' over there and Warner Bros. begged me to do the movie," he explained.

'Let's kick some ice!' — Mr. Freeze and Schwarzenegger's incredible pun delivery

While Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career was far from over after "Batman & Robin," the film does act as a de facto apex of the Schwarzenegger persona. That persona — someone larger than life, whose weapons and actions are exaggeratedly outsized, who is witty in the cheesiest way possible — was arguably solidified thanks to 1985's "Commando," in which writer Steven E. de Souza gave Schwarzenegger quip after quip whose outrageousness only grew when combined with his distinctive Austrian accent.

After that film, virtually every character Schwarzenegger played had to have a similarly over-the-top sense of humor. Clearly, such a requirement could've only led to the actor eventually going too far with the quips, and Victor Fries marks that occasion. Freeze's dialogue is quite nearly all puns, and Schwarzenegger — ever the consummate pro — refuses to throw any of them away. The actor delivers every line with so much relish, it's a wonder that every ticket to the film didn't come with a free hot dog.

Thanks to including every single possible pun for cold/ice/chill/etc. in the character's dialogue, combined with his insanely flashy, garish costume and snowy body makeup, Freeze alone becomes a poster child for "Batman & Robin's" issues with excess. While the Freeze character had a great deal of pathos in other Bat-media (most famously the 1992-1995 animated series), "Batman & Robin's" Freeze is often too busy making puns to wallow in any tragic backstory. Still, Schwarzenegger manages to bring a little feeling to the character, enough that he doesn't become a complete cartoon (the less said about the film's portrayal of Bane, however, the better).

To Schwarzenegger, getting the life he's lived is one big 'cool party'

While Schwarzenegger is no stranger to getting criticized both in and out of show business, he nonetheless has a remarkably healthy attitude toward his life and career. As he explained:

"In most cases I don't regret the movies that failed or were not as good. It's always easy to be smug in hindsight, right? To look back and say, 'Oh man, I should have tweaked that script a little bit or had a different ending.' But when you're me, you can never complain. Because with the ride I have taken in my life, from the time I came off the farm in Austria to here today and all the things that I've accomplished, I really cannot complain about anything. It's life that you make wrong decisions as much as you make good decisions and that you do great things and that you also f— up."

Although the quality of some of the films he's made is very much up for debate, one thing Schwarzenegger never has to apologize for is phoning a performance in. He always gives 100% to his acting work, and takes any sort of material he's given seriously, whether he's playing a killer robot from the future or an ice-crazed scientist. For that reason, he will always be — ahem — cool.