This is a busy week for directors apologizing for crappy movies. First there was Sam Taylor-Johnson, who told The Sunday Times Magazine that she regretted helming “Fifty Shades of Grey,” citing horror stories of working with the unjustly intransigent E.L. James. Now there’s Joel Schumacher, issuing a mea culpa for a far, far, far, far, far bigger cinematic atrocity: 1997’s “Batman and Robin.”
Talking to Vice, Schumacher — whose credits also include “The Lost Boys,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” the newly remade “Flatliners” and also a lot of movies that are also bad — offered a full apology.
“Look,” he began, “I apologize. I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed, because I think I owe them that.” He explained that he never wanted to make a second “Batman,” after 1995’s “Batman Forever,” which, we should note, is also a terrible, terrible movie that also destroyed all of previous franchise-helmer Tim Burton’s hard work. But Warner Brothers strong-armed him into it, and that’s why Batman’s suit suddenly had erect nipples.
“After ‘Batman & Robin, I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby,” he added.
First off, let’s calm down. “Batman & Robin,” which starred an unusually listless George Clooney as the Caped Crusader, isn’t the worst movie ever made (though it is worse than the also unpopular "Batman v Superman"). It’s just an endless, joyless annoyance that killed the franchise dead until Christopher Nolan’s exhumed it eight years later. True, it features Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst-ever performance. But everyone survived it, more or less, even if it was the last time Alicia Silverstone, who played a mushy-mouthed Batgirl, acted in a summer blockbuster.
Four years later, the film’s sole credited screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, even won an Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind.” Amazingly, the Academy didn’t permanently fault him for writing some of the worst puns in history; if you want to drive yourself mad, try reading the entirety of the IMDb’s overly-exhaustive quotes page, which reads like the entire script scrambled out of order yet still tedious and depressing.
The gruesome critical response to “Batman & Robin,” which still grossed about $100 million at the U.S. box office, was a rude awakening for Schumacher, who with that turkey had directed three of the worst films of all time in a row, the others being “Batman Forever” and the deplorable John Grisham adaptation “A Time to Kill.” After that, Schumacher returned to smaller budgets, including the miserable snuff film thriller “8MM” and the shrill “Flawless,” in which a homophobic Robert De Niro took voice lessons from a drag queen played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. But 2001’s war indie “Tigerland,” the movie that turned Colin Farrell into the Next Big Thing, isn’t bad!
Even if it took 20 years, at least Schumacher is ready to be honest. “A lot of it was my choice,” he added. “No one is responsible for my mistakes but me.” Though honestly, he should be blaming that script, too.