Warner Bros. has donated a number of artifacts from its movies dating from 1942 through 2005 to the Smithsonian Institution, in connection with the studio’s sponsorship of the Smithsonian’s Classic Film Festival series. Deadline Hollywood reports that among the items donated were props from Tim Burton’s 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and costume pieces from various DC Comics adaptations.
Those items may actually produce a few groans from fanboys. Among the pieces donated are George Clooney’s Batman cape and cowl from the universally reviled 1997 “Batman & Robin,” which temporarily torpedoed one of the studio’s most successful franchises. Note the studio has not donated the rubber tights, including the sculpted nipples that generated a lot of comment at the time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the early phases of career decline in 1997, and no doubt believed that signing on to play a villain in a franchise that had so far been made of money would give him the opportunity to take credit for a hit. It backfired. A few flops later, Schwarzenegger settled for playing governor while hoping moviegoers, grateful that he’d left the multiplexes, would sit still for the Constitution being amended so he could run for president.
Christopher Reeve’s cape from “Superman III” has also been donated. Richard Donner’s 1978 “Superman” is an acknowledged classic that taught a generation of directors almost everything they needed to know to handle big budget comic book adaptations. “Superman II” was partially shot by Donner, finished by Richard Lester, and isn’t as good, but not without entertainment value. Lester was good at comedy, good at action, and shot fast, so studios loved him. Richard Pryor had become a major movie star by the time “Superman III” was shot, this time entirely by Lester, and someone had the idea that turning a Superman movie into a Richard Pryor vehicle was a good idea. It wasn’t. Sort of like a corned beef and grape jelly sandwich, it was a combination of ingredients that just didn’t mesh.
The studio also donated Halle Berry’s costume from the 2004 “Catwoman.” Every actress who has played the Catwoman has her following. From Julie Newmar to Eartha Kitt to Lee Meriwether to Michelle Pfeiffer to Anne Hathaway, you will find fans who cling to each one as a favorite. Sadly, Halle Berry is the only no one likes. There are reasons for this. The movie sucks, and making a Catwoman spin-off film without Batman was probably not an inspired idea.
Still, there’s kitsch value pieces like this, and fans should enjoy the exhibit.