Walk into any comic shop across America and it isn’t hard to find someone who has something to say about Joel Schumacher’s horrid attempt at the Dark Knight and his oddly designed bat-nipples. Ok, they were regular nipples, but what the hell were they doing on the outside of his and Robin’s costumes? That’s the question that many a fan screamed at the screen when they saw the atrocity that was 1997’s, Batman & Robin. Finally, after much speculation and debate, fans have an answer from the creator himself. Schumacher finally addressed the nipples!
He did have his reasons, though nobody but him and his costume designer seems to agree with him. Here’s what he had to say in a recent interview to Vice about the nipples appearing on the Batsuit:
“Well, it was made by Jose Fernandez, who was our brilliant lead sculpture. If you look at Batman and Batman Returns, it was the genius, Bob Ringwood, that created those suits, so by the time we got to Batman Forever, the rubber and techniques had gotten so sophisticated. If you look at when Michael Keaton appears in the first suit, you’ll notice how large it is. It was brilliant, but the best they could do at the time. By the time Batman Forever came around, rubber molding had become so much more advanced. So I said, let’s make it anatomical and gave photos of those Greek status and those incredible anatomical drawings you see in medical books. He did the nipples, and when I looked at them, I thought, ‘That’s cool.'”
Cool that technology had progressed such that nipples could be fashioned into a rubber suit? Maybe. Did it look cool? No. No it did not. The nipples were more than just a strange costume choice; they were a rallying cry for what was wrong with the franchise. The previous film wasn’t especially great, but Batman & Robin was empirically bad. The dialogue was campy, the sets and costumes were out of place in contrast to Tim Burton’s films, it had way too many villains, and it just took the Dark Knight down a path nobody wanted to follow. The nipples were simply the icing on the cake!
When you get right down to it, the nipples probably saved the franchise from moving forward. Batman films took a long hiatus and we didn’t get to see the Caped Crusader until 2005’s Batman Begins by Christopher Nolan, which was a fantastic film (84% on Rotten Tomatoes vs. Batman & Robin’s surprisingly high 11%). It launched a trilogy and helped to push Marvel into making some of the best superhero films to date due to the success of DC’s Dark Knight trilogy.
If it’s hard to forgive Mr. Schuemacher for his role in cheesing up the Batsuit, it seems some thanks can be sent his way for derailing a franchise that would have pushed superhero films well beyond the current decade. To be fair, he did finally apologize for the terrible movie after 20 years had passed.