If you’re a fan of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, the likelihood is that amongst all of the action set pieces, one of your favourite scenes is the Museum sequence which takes place at the beginning of the movie. This scene – which is set at the Gotham Museum of Art – is the first major action scene in Batman & Robin, and is in my opinion one of the movie’s best moments.
In this post, I am taking a look at the Gotham Museum scene, to highlight a few key details that you may not know. For example, did you know the Gotham Museum of Art took five months to build?
Once constructed, the museum measured a whopping 60ft high, by 200ft long, and was 150ft wide. According to George Clooney in Bigger, Bolder, Brighter: The Production Design of Batman & Robin, the set cost around $2 million to create.
Speaking about the museum back in 1997, Clooney said: “I walked in and said, ‘Jesus, Joel, I’m intimidated’, and Joel’s like ‘so am I’. It’s the biggest thing I have ever seen.”
The museum set was built in Burbank, California, within Stage 16 of the Warner Bros. Lot, and included an eclectic mix of artefacts (especially considering it was a museum of art). The collection of historical pieces came from an exhibition called The Lost World of Tufa.
Not familiar with The Lost World of Tufa? Not surprising, really – the exhibition was created solely for Batman & Robin and is what Production Designer, Barbara Ling referred to as a “fusion of cultures”.
Speaking about the Museum’s unique exhibit in the book, Batman & Robin: The Making of the Movie, Production Designer, Barbara Ling, said: “We invented something called ‘The Lost World of Tufa’, which squishes together many world cultures from different eras of history – like 20-foot-tall statues of a sphinx body with a Tibetan head, or a Mayan head on top of Mesopotamian body.”
All of the unique pieces were incorporated into the museum to add a sense of excitement, and wonder. They also created a sense of scale, with some of the pieces appearing larger-than-life.
One of the key pieces in the museum, and a significant feature of ’The Lost World of Tufa’ exhibit, was a 20ft high brachiosaurus. The dinosaur was constructed using a metal rod frame, which was then covered in foam and shaped.
A track was laid along the dinosaur’s spine, which contained a cleverly concealed wakeboard. This board was used for a stunt sequence in which Batman slid down the spine of the dinosaur.
In the movie, Batman crashes through a skylight, lands on the head of the brachiosaurus and slides down its spine. In reality, a stuntman dressed in a Batsuit used the wakeboard, as well as some safety wires (erased in post production), to slide down the structure in dramatic fashion.
The stunt was impressive and a visual treat, but it wasn’t the last time the dinosaur would be used in the film. The dinosaur remained part of the museum exhibit until Mr. Freeze uttered the immortal line: “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”
At this point in the scene, Mr. Freeze aimed his mighty freeze gun at the dino, and fired. The weapon’s subzero ice blast caused the brachiosaurus to break apart.
How was this achieved? By using cleverly concealed explosives.
A hidden feature of the brachiosaurus was 52 exploding bolts, that were built into the structure. When required, the production crew activated the explosive bolts, which in turn brought the dinosaur crashing down to the ground.
And speaking of the ground, did you know the museum’s floor was not covered in ice? It might have looked this way on screen, but this was simply a piece of movie magic.
The original plan for the museum was to cover the floor with ice, to provide the right surface for Mr. Freeze’s ice hockey goons to glide across on their ice skates. Unfortunately, real life ice just doesn’t look that spectacular on screen, so it was switched out for a faux-flooring that only gave the appearance of ice.
The fake floor was created using a mix of Mylar and polyurethane. This produced a hard surface, that when combined with good lighting and a little bit of liquid nitrogen for smoke, gave the impression of ice.
Because there was no real ice on the set, Mr. Freeze’s goons swapped their ice skates for roller blades. Could you spot the change? Probably not (unless you looked hard enough), because the production team made sure the skating sequence was pretty fast-paced.
As for the goons themselves, did you know, that underneath all the pads and gruesome garb was a mix of roller hockey players, extreme skaters, and stuntmen? The ice skating sequence required different talents, so different people were drafted in to nail the scene.
The Gotham Museum sequence is without doubt one of my favourite scenes in Batman & Robin. I believe it provides a good balance of action and spectacle, and it sets out the lighter tone of the film.
A great deal of work went into this scene, even though it only takes up around 15 minutes of the picture, but I believe it was well worth it. Batman & Robin is filled with dramatic, action-packed sequences, and I believe this one is a thrill ride from start to finish.
Thanks for stopping by I’ll Get Drive-Thru to read this post about the museum sequence in Batman & Robin. For more Batman-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below, and don’t forget to take a trip around the blog for even more posts.