The Worst Big Budget Superhero Movie Ever Made?
by Billy Ingram
Directed by Joel Schumacher, Batman and Robin is possibly the worst superhero movie of all time. And no wonder, look at all of the origin stories moviegoers had to sit through - Robin (Chris O'Donnell), Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), along with two villains: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman).
With four backstories holding back the action, plus a new actor playing Batman (George Clooney), the film is a car wreck - a slow motion car wreck. Not only that, the costumes were completely ridiculous, cartoonish in the worst possible way. Why does Robin’s body armor have nipples?!?
It was apparently director Schumacher’s intention to create a Batman film for a younger audience, to make it less dark, and that’s to be admired but he badly misfired with this one.
In various interviews, Joel Schumacher (8mm, The Client) looked back on this 1997 project and the director takes full responsibility for how it turned out. Batman and Robin basically killed the bat-franchise until The Dark Knight was reimagined by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins in 2005).
The screenwriter for Batman & Robin, Akiva Goldsman (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard), actually apologized for the relative box office flop and reassured fans he never meant for the movie to be so bad.
Joel Schumacher: “Akiva Goldsman was blamed a lot for the sort of lightness and humor and fun and games of Batman and Robin, but that's not fair. I take full responsibility. I mean, Akiva did write the script, but I shot it and worked with Akiva. So, you know, if you love a movie, there are hundreds of people that made it lovable for you. If you don't like it, blame the director. That's what our name's there for.
“There was also a great deal of trying to think of exactly the right political words. There was a desire, let's say, from the corporate point of view that we make it as kid friendly… because many parents always complained about it being too dark for their children. That kids got too scared. I had hoped very much Batman after the success of Batman forever, that the studio would allow me to do.”
What Schumacher really wanted to film? “Frank Miller's comic book Batman Year one, which is one of my favorite Frank Miller comics. I'm a great fan of his, and it would've been a much smaller, intimate, darker, younger Batman. But that is not really what my job was. And I'm not saying that I didn't come into this with my eyes wide open, I did.
“But there's a definite trend here to try to make the movie lighter, brighter, more kid family friendly. I know that always disappoints a lot of the darker Batman fans and anybody who knows a lot of my work knows it's pretty much on the dark side also. So this was a definitely a new experience for me too. The opening sequence of Batman Forever with the helicopter, if you saw it, and the bank robbery and the safe was very popular when we did the film. And this was almost made on the heels of Batman Forever.
“And some people feel that perhaps the studio should have waited and not done another Batman movie so quickly. But I had never done a sequel to my work before. I had been asked to do a sequel loop, Saint Elmo’s Fire and Lost Boys and Flatliners, even some of the others, but I remember those specifically. And I always thought that a sequel was a bad idea. And I really understand why now some sequels can be disappointing to the original, and that's because there is a push to make everything bigger and more and more, more. And everybody wants to make more money. And we had a lot of trouble on Batman Forever getting people to believe in us because they felt the franchise was dead. And I had to travel a lot to convince people, people to make a Batman movie or to carry a Batman movie or to do merchandising.”
The previous film in the franchise, Batman Forever, made so much money that everybody wanted to be part of Batman and Robin, including the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time. “What I think George George brought to it was a gentler, kinder, more compassionate, less tortured, less self obsessed Batman. And I know some people really didn't like that but I really don't see where the harm is.”
What the studio was really interested in were the product placements and the marketing opportunities. “Arnold entered in the freeze mobile, a fabulous opportunity for a new toy <laugh>. Some people thought we were trying to copy, in these scenes, the early, early Batman television show with Adam West. We weren't really, I mean, I don't think a Akiva (Goldsman) and I ever discussed that.”
The trailer demonstrates just what a mess this motion picture is…
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