Joel Schumacher Is Really, Really Sorry About Batman & Robin
Yeah, so are we.
Batman & Robin, the almost completely unwatchable movie starring George Clooney as a nippled Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger chewing the frozen scenery, is twenty years old this month. Director Joel Schumacher would like for you to know that he feels bad about it.
I was a teenager in love with Chris O’Donnell’s Robin, and I had rather adored the cheesy predecessor (also directed by Schumacher), Batman Forever, which was over the top but in a knowing, campy-fun fashion. Batman Forever had a better Batman in a growly Val Kilmer and outrageous villains in Jim Carrey’s Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face.
By contrast, George Clooney was terribly miscast as Batman and looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, and Ah-nuld as Mr. “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!” Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy—well, the less I can say about these ridiculous pun-mad baddies and the bash-your-head-against-the-wall script, the better.
This was a different era of superhero movies, before our current golden boom time, but Batman Forever took itself so unseriously that it was hard not to have a good time watching it. I remember being incredibly excited for Batman & Robin and then staring at the screen in confusion and disappointment at the result. It was probably my first big-screen letdown.
I was hardly alone. Batman & Robin drew universal jeers, and director Joel Schumacher is now acknowledging that things went very, very wrong. Per Nerdist, Shuchmacher said: “After Batman & Robin, I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby … I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed, because I think I owe them that.” Also, “I don’t think I was in touch with the superhero world at the time.”
While I think that “murdering a baby” is a bit harsh in terms of fan reactions to the film, Batman & Robin really is a pretty horrific mess. But it was also a major blockbuster with an all-star cast and an enormous budget, and it’s hard to feel a ton of sympathy for Schumacher. If he wasn’t in touch with the superhero world, maybe he wasn’t the right person to direct the movie? Just a thought. On the other hand, parts of Batman & Robin are now legendary in a so-bad-it’s-good way, and there’s something to be said for an era when superhero movies didn’t feel like they had to be deathly serious.
Schumacher’s apology came by way of an interview with Noel Ransome in VICE. I feel kinship with Ransome’s experience:
The rubberized butt shot was the first scene to catch me off guard; I remember being a teen when I saw Batman’s rubber molded ass on film in ’97 and two things happened to me that day. One, I learned the value of money because I had spent six dollars on a Batman & Robin ticket, and two, I realised I needed to talk to the person responsible for this mess—director Joel Schumacher.
Ransome and I were both teenage fans who still feel haunted by our first Batman & Robin viewing. And even the actors didn’t have a good time:
The apology seemed like a good way to start because Batman & Robin was terrible, not by my DC fanboy standards, but by historical standards. It was so bad in fact that the main star and co-star went on the record stating as much, “It was a difficult film to be good in,” said George Clooney in an interview with Total Film. And later, Chris O’Donnell said, “On Batman Forever, I felt like I was making a movie. The second time, I felt like I was making a kid’s toy.”
Alicia Silverstone’s Cher from Clueless would have put it best: Ugh, as if!
It’s worth reading the whole interview with Schumacher, who has made some great films and seems self-aware of his past mistakes and like a pretty cool dude. He feels awful that the hard work of the crew was lost in the movie’s poor reception: “Look, I’m a very big boy. I take full responsibility. I walked into it with my eyes open and what I really feel bad about is the crew.” And he knows how we feel about Batman and Robin’s infamous nipple-suits: “I just know that I’ll always go down over the nipples … Such a sophisticated world we live in where two pieces of rubber the size of erasers on old pencils, those little nubs, can be an issue. It’s going to be on my tombstone, I know it.”
The apology helps soothe an old teenage hurt, Joel. It’s a start. It would move me to tears … If I still had tears to shed.
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