Is it a coincidence that the worst Batman movie shares similarities with the worst James Bond movie? Probably, because EON Productions, the production company behind the Bond movies, would have to be off their rocker to let Die Another Day be influenced by 1997’s Batman & Robin. Director Joel Schumacher referred to his last Batman film repeatedly as a “comic book” and there is an attempt to translate the heightened color, light, and performances of what is on the page to the screen. But ultimately it failed.
Five years later, Die Another Day tried something similar. There’s a comic book look in certain scenes from Halle Berry’s NSA agent Jinx performing a perfect 200-foot backward dive off a cliff to every single scene in Iceland. The film gets more and more ridiculous with each new scene, but it is still relatively conservative compared with the bonkers Batman & Robin. Maybe director Lee Tamahori set himself a challenge to improve on Batman & Robin, because, as you’ll see, there are too many similarities for it to be just a coincidence.
Still, Die Another Day is the better film artistically, though still not great. Financially, Brosnan’s final Bond film raked in $431.9 million worldwide which made it the top-grossing Bond film at the time (without being adjusted for inflation). Batman & Robin didn’t perform so well and earned considerably less than previous Batman films, and almost killed superhero movies in Hollywood. It also earned more Razzies than Die Another Day, which only received one for Worst Supporting Actress. (The recipient, Madonna, has won a total of seven Razzies making her officially the worst actress on Earth).
Apart from Razzie awards, both films share similarities in goofy, artificial-looking set design and similar icy backdrops. They share similar action sequences. The villains also use a similar space-based weapon, and both villains wear a similar-looking biomechanical suit. And in certain scenes, the two films even share a similar approach to lighting and color.
Let’s take a look.
Both Open With a Surfing Sequence
Hard to believe that either Batman or James Bond would be surfing in a film. Surfing just does not fit well with either character. This isn’t Point Break. But here we are discussing just that. Batman & Robin begins in the most ludicrous fashion. After a ridiculous scuffle inside an ice-covered museum, Mr. Freeze takes off in a rocket through the museum’s ceiling. Batman jumps inside before the hatch closes, while Robin grabs onto the side as it takes off. Moments later they find themselves high above Gotham City. Freeze escapes with a pair of metal butterfly wings strapped to his back. And Batman and Robin use metal doors to sky-surf after him and across the rooftops of Gotham.
In Die Another Day, Bond and two South Korean agents surf into North Korea under the cover of darkness. It isn’t that dark, but the North Korean soldiers patrolling the beach cannot see them. The famous Jaws Surf Break a.k.a. Pe’ahi beach in Hawaii doubles as the shoreline of North Korea. At least this was filmed for real and does not use horrible CG effects like Batman & Robin. The horrible CG surfing would be saved for the last act of Die Another Day when Bond surfs yet again; this time using a makeshift parasail to ride a tsunami. This scene is the low point for the Bond franchise, bar none.
Two Characters Are Thawed Out in a Hot Pool
In Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder (Chris O’Donnell) is in pursuit of Mr. Freeze after surfing on the rooftops of Gotham. Robin is frozen solid by Freeze’s ice gun, and Batman heats a frozen pool with a handheld laser so Robin can thaw out. Similarly, in Die Another Day, Bond’s ally Jinx struggles to keep her head above rising ice-cold water. Bond rescues her, and thaws her out in an outside thermal pool. Both pools are also covered in cheap-looking dry ice for effect.
Both films feature villains with altered complexions from some sort of accident or procedure. In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze falls backward into a vat of ice-cold “cryo solution” which mutates his body–in other words his DNA. His face has a silver appearance, and his eyes are also silver and lifeless. In Die Another Day, henchman Mr. Zao is in a special clinic, a so-called “beauty parlor”, which alters the DNA of an individual and literally changes the way they look–including their ethnicity. Zao is partway through his transformation from North Korean to Caucasian appearance when Bond interrupts the procedure. Frozen midway in his transformation, Zao’s visage is that of a pale, almost silver color. Zao’s eyes, like Freeze’s, are also silver and dead looking. Thye also both have no hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows.
Both Mr. Freeze and Bond villain Gustav Graves wear mechanical exoskeleton suits. Freeze needs his special cryo suit to keep his body at zero degrees, otherwise, he will die. Graves uses his own suit to control his satellite weapon. Certain aspects of the suits look very similar, especially around the shoulders and torso. And they both sometimes use a visor. When Freeze is in his suit, he is typically wielding his gun. Graves also has a weapon, but it is built into the left arm of his exo-suit–a glove that delivers 100,000 volts into his victim.
Diamonds and Satellite Weapons
Die Another Day is often compared to Diamonds are Forever because of the importance of the diamonds in both films. But Brosnan’s last Bond film also shares a focus on diamonds with Batman & Robin. In Die Another Day and Batman & Robin, the main villains are both obsessed with diamonds. And they act as McGuffins that propel each hero’s investigation into the villain.
Mr. Freeze not only needs them to power his suit and ice gun, but he is after giant diamonds for his “freeze machine” which he will use to turn Bruce Wayne’s network of satellites and telescope into a weapon. Wayne’s satellites reflect light and power his telescope to look at any point on the planet. Freeze’s diamonds will magnify the power of the telescope’s reflecting crystals and turn it into a giant ice gun to freeze Gotham City. Wacky stuff.
Bond villain, Gustav Graves, on the other hand, has discovered a way to create diamonds that are chemically identical to African conflict diamonds. His fake discovery of a “diamond” mine in Iceland makes him very rich, almost overnight, which triggers Bond’s interest in him. Graves pretends to be philanthropic. He donated half of his phony diamonds to charity and has built a giant satellite that will apparently reflect sunlight on cold regions to aid in agricultural growth. But his giant satellite is in fact a weapon and will direct the Sun’s power into a destructive energy beam on its target. Both satellites use similar methods, but one uses ice and the other uses fire.
Frozen Lairs And Icy Finales
Freeze’s lair looks like the inside of a fridge, with plenty of dry ice to give that impression. In Die Another Day, Gustav Graves has a ridiculous ice palace located in Iceland that bears some resemblance to the Sydney Opera House. It’s also full of dry ice and is the setting for a protracted icy showdown including a car chase in and around it. Finally, Icarus is switched on and it melts the ice palace with Bond and Jinx inside.
There’s a car chase on the icy streets of Gotham too, and Batman–with the help of Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone)–reflects sunlight off his satellites to melt the ice covering Gotham City and its frozen occupants.
Plastic And CGI Ice Sets
Creating faux ice can be a tricky thing to get right–and realistic. And this was really a problem for the production design team on Batman & Robin. In many shots, you can see supposed shards of ice flopping about like the plastic it really is. Die Another Day is an improvement, but the vast interior of the ice palace did still look quite fake in certain shots. In addition, the massive CG ice palace and glaciers had a distinctive animated look to them. Creating vast icy environments in a computer was a stretch for the technology in 2002.
Jungle Settings in Icy Environments
It is unusual and impossible for jungles to exist in icy locations. Yet, this happens in both Batman & Robin and Die Another Day. Poison Ivy is the other villain of Batman & Robin. She loves plants of every description and can control them. She has a lair too, which, surprise surprise, is covered in dangerous man-eating plants. Meanwhile, just down the road, Freeze is lurking in his refrigerated lair.
In Die Another Day, Graves has a colossal greenhouse attached to his ice palace in Iceland. It’s a complete microclimate within that giant dome. This is a real location in England called the Eden Project. There are no man-eating plants, but no other films pair jungles with icy environments like these two movies.
Mr. Freeze and Miss Frost
Batman & Robin has Mr. Freeze and Die Another Day has Miss Frost. Similar names, but one has a literal meaning and the other is figurative. The name Freeze refers to his need for a cold environment to survive and his penchant to freeze everything around him. The name Frost refers to Miranda Frost’s cool disposition toward Bond, and her eventual reveal as a villain. When Bond meets her at Graves’ ice palace, he quips: “A palace of ice. You must feel right at home.”
Both Led to Hard Reboots
The production companies behind both films also recognized these over-the-top films had taken both series as far into comic ridiculousness as they could go, triggering the need for a hard reboot.
Batman & Robin is a campy and gaudy mess from beginning to end. The film destroyed director Joel Schumacher’s reputation, and he spent the rest of his career apologizing for the film. Director Lee Tamahori was left relatively unscathed after Die Another Day because the film made money. Unfortunately, he did not course correct and three years later he directed XXX: The Next Level, which took bad CGI and bad set design to the next level. Afterward, he was never asked to direct a big-budget action film again.
Ultimately, the goofy excesses of Batman & Robin and Die Another Day led to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale, which brought both Batman and Bond back down to earth in two of the best films in both film series.
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