Somehow, this month marks the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, the much-maligned and slated fourth installment in the first Batman series of films that was directed by Joel Schumacher. Where does the time go? Fans, of course, still hold the film as the worst in the franchise’s history, and is considered one of the worst superhero films ever.
So, in commemoration of the anniversary, director Schumacher has been speaking about the film and its impact, both good and bad, on the history of the character and indeed how it has helped shaped the superhero genre as it exits today. Speaking to Vice, Schumacher issues another apology to fans for the film, which he says wasn’t intended to be disappointment:
“Look, I apologize. I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed because I think I owe them that.”
He went on to discuss the film in the context of history and how audiences have changed since he was behind the camera for this film and the previous installment, 1995’s Batman Forever, which despite some negative reviews was the biggest film of that summer and had the largest opening weekend at the time. But now, Schumacher says that audiences have changed and that the darker tone of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy was embraced when it wasn’t back in the 1990’s, saying:
“What’s interesting to me is if you see Tim [Burton’s] and my version, you can see how innocent viewers were back then. It’s really interesting to me, 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.”
Of course, no chat about Schumacher’s Bat-films is complete without a word on the infamous nipples that were added to the Batsuit. Has always maintained previously that he never envisaged the nipples becoming international headlines, but his goal was to have the suits “atomically correct” and based on statues of Greek gods. He concluded:
“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 decision] 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.”
Batman & Robin starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, George Clooney as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Chris O’ Donnell as Robin/Dick Grayson, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. The film is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.