When asked to direct Batman & Robin, Schumacher was considered as one of the hottest directors at the time. His resume had included The Lost Boys, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Client, and A Time To Kill. In between The Client and A Time To Kill, Batman Forever was made, and it looks like may have given a pass. But it was all over for Schumacher when Batman & Robin was made. Not only was it the last Batman movie made from that franchise, but it would also be the last “blockbuster” film Schumacher would direct. His directing career never ended, but his films would never achieve the same caliber of his films from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
“You know, I just knew not to do a sequel. If you get lucky, walk away. But everybody at Warner Brothers just expected me to do one. Maybe it was some hubris on my part. I had a batting average of 1,000, so I went from falling down a bit after Lost Boys, to a kind of a genius with The Client, a big blockbuster with Batman Forever, then had great reviews with A Time to Kill, so my batting average was good. I never planned on being, that dreadful quote, “a blockbuster king” because my other films were much smaller and had just found success with the audience and not often with the critics, which is really why we wrote them. And then after Batman & Robin, I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby.”
There is no doubt that movies can be very bad. And there’s no denying that fans and critics can be harsh with their words, but, in this case, Schumacher may be his worst critic because those last words were a bit excessive. Still, when a movie fails – when a franchise collapses – the finger always gets pointed in one direction. In this case it was Joel’s.
“What’s interesting to me is if you see Tim and my version, you can see how innocent viewers were back then. It’s really interesting to me is, because if you see Tim’s and my [films], you’d understand how innocent the audience was back then when it demanded to have more of a family-friendly Batman. Then when you see Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, the last one especially where he’s dealing with real class and economic problems, you see how the audience has changed in the fact that they can accept and want darker and darker subject matter.”
In 1997, the top grossing movie was Titanic followed by Men In Black. In 1998, it was Saving Private Ryan followed by Armageddon. The turn of the century saw the birth superhero movies as we know them today thanks to the debut of X-Men in 2000. Things would never be the same after that as far as top grossing movies were concerned. Audiences wanted bigger and better. Maybe Batman & Robin just didn’t cut it for the never ending change in taste that moviegoers. However, don’t mistake this for an excuse in Schumacher’s execution of the film.
Now the question is will you accept Joel Schumacher’s apology or not? It’s been 20 years and a lot has changed. Yes, it’s time to accept his apology and move on. Looking back on things, if there was anything to be grateful regarding his reign over the Batman franchise – it’s this.