Review Round-up: Did Batman Live Wow the Critics?
Adapted from the DC Comics, Batman Live faithfully tells the comic books' stories of sidekick Robin’s search for justice. The quest leads him to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the mysterious vigilante known as the Batman – much to the dismay of his protective guardian, millionaire Bruce Wayne – who secretly happens to be Dark Knight himself.
The multi-million pound show features set design by Es Devlin, music composed by James Brett, sound design by Simon Baker, lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, video direction by Sam Pattinson, costume design by Jack Galloway.
Produced by Warner Bros Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Nick Grace of Water Lane Productions, it continues at the O2 until 4 September.
"Picking up the Batman saga from the arrival of Dick Grayson (aka Robin) ... the show uses the circus backdrop to incorporate acrobatics, magic and dance. There’s also a catalogue of vehicles from a hot air balloon to a full-size batmobile, not to mention countless explosions and a huge moving video screen in the shape of the iconic batwing logo. The problem is that it’s impressive in terms of scale, but not innovation .... And while the set pieces are impressive, they constantly interrupt the action and overshadow any attempt to create character or drama. In the end, hidden behind masks and make-up and speaking through an effect-laden PA system, the cast can do nothing but proclaim their lines and strike hackneyed poses. For all this, the special effects often go down a storm with younger viewers. And while it’s easy (and important) to offer dramatic criticism, perhaps Batman Live shouldn’t really be treated as theatre ..."
“The jokes are as comfortably corny as ever but this live action show based on DC Comics' most enduring superhero refreshes parts the films and comics fail to reach. Conceived as a giant arena touring show it works by minimising plot complications and maximising stadium effects. Part circus, part full-immersion computer game ... The first act rolls along merrily ... The flying scenes are spectacular though some of the fighting is rather naff. The big-screen graphics brilliantly adhere to the comicstrip heritage while delivering a three-dimensional extension to the set. On-stage shootouts are also given extra pop by on-screen antics complementing the live action ... But the kinetic thrills rarely falter in a show that is slick and occasionally witty, exciting and festooned with spectacle. The acting is good enough to get by - with Giannini relishing The Penguin's carnival spiel and Lake's split-personality … Clifford's Catwoman is notably more convincing in the fight scenes than anyone else. As Batman, Heughan (alternating with Nick Court) is stalwart but stiff… the arrival of the Batmobile, like a torpedo on Catherine wheels, is a show in itself.”
"This arena spectacle is strangely unexciting. It explores the roots of the relationship between Batman and Robin, yet it's a bloodless affair - bombastic, noisy and deftly co-ordinated, but never scary or even pulse-quickening. But the villainy doesn't seem genuinely sinister, and instead of human interest there's a succession of elaborate set pieces. We are treated to some neat illusions courtesy of magician Paul Kieve, and visually the show, directed by Anthony Van Laast, is often impressive, with the costumes and massive LED video wall its strongest features ... The Batmobile also disappoints: it bears a passing resemblance to a McLaren F1 … it moves with all the élan of a vacuum cleaner. The script is untouched by subtlety or irony, the lines mostly uttered in a portentous style. … Attempts to imbue scenes with emotion descend into clunky talkiness ... It's a typically literal-minded attempt to impose a degree of mystery on what is a prosaic, clichéd pageant."
Reviewed in Manchester...
"… As such, it strikes a smart balance between the Technicolor campery of the Sixties TV series and Frank Miller’s darker comic book revival of the Eighties … The fight scenes are genuinely breath-catching (not least when the dynamic duo are assailed by a 30-strong battery of kung fu henchmen with fluorescent orange sticks), while a terrific sense of Grand Guignol arrives in the form of the Joker’s various contraptions. There are flying jet-packs, hideous hot-air balloons and one particularly memorable scene in which a giant Joker head advances on the stage and – not wishing to spoil things here – reveals an ingenious set of working components. Best of the lot, however, might just be the Batmobile. Invented by Formula One designer Gordon Murray, it’s a neat, sleek, flame-spitting wonder of carbon-fibre engineering."
"To all intents, Batman Live is a 'show' in the old-fashioned sense, featuring more than 40 acrobats, goodies and baddies. Of course the real stars are the staging (lavish), the costumes (wonderfully rococo) and acrobats, as numerous as ants in a bin. It's Cirque du Soleil with irony ... The Joker owns the show. Benefiting from the witty prose of writer Allan Heinberg (Sex and the City), he describes Batman as a 'pointy, po-faced do-gooder.' Catwoman, equally snide, does wonderful things on wires despite being cocooned in rubber, while Two-Face has an amusing tête-à-tête between têtes. ... Then there's the very posh Batmobile … It drives itself and induces QVC-style oohs from the crowd at its every entrance. Most enthralling though are scenes from the 100ft LED screen behind the stage which flits between scenes of Gotham and extra narrative from the graphic novels, before linking up with the staging in a clever, Escher sort of way."