Learning to Appreciate Joel Schumacher's Batman
July 25, 2019 5:17 PM   Subscribe

In which Patrick (H) Willems attempts to re-evaluate Joel Schumacher's Batman films (slyt) Do the colorful and campy Schumacher takes on Batman deserve a fresh look after two decades of grimmer and darker superheros? Willems attempts to makes the case for them.
posted by octothorpe (51 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can't watch the video right now, but YES. The answer is yes.
posted by brundlefly at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


A love letter to Bat-nipples.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:43 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


two decades of grimmer and darker superheros

Did they name the director for Mary Poppins Begins yet?
posted by thelonius at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


Do the colorful and campy Schumacher takes on Batman deserve a fresh look after two decades of grimmer and darker superheros?

Betteridge’s law of headlines says…

Seriously, though, why not skip Schumacher’s mixed-at-best movies and return to the wellspring of bright, fun Batman—the television series of 1966-68?
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [24 favorites]


Uhhh, has everyone just forgotten Lego Batman? And also Batman: The Brave and the Bold?
posted by FJT at 5:59 PM on July 25, 2019 [16 favorites]


return to the wellspring of bright, fun Batman

Exactly. Adam West is not only the best Batman, but he's the Batman we need right now.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Do the colorful and campy Schumacher takes on Batman deserve a fresh look after two decades of grimmer and darker superheros?

Umm, there's been a lot of non grim-dark superhero movies, especially in the MCU. And every one of them actually respects its characters and storylines.
posted by signal at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


Interesting that he brought up the animated series at the end, I think one of the things that hurt Batgman and Robin was that basically the best episode of Batman The Animated Series was the one with Mr. Freeze, and the very best thing about TAS, Harley Quinn, had a love interest in Poison Ivy, but that wasn't explored at all in Batman and Robin. So a lot of people watching the movie had already had recent memories of very poignant appearance by these same villains, and now they are just cardboard cutouts. Even if the movie was trying to do a different thing and be campy, it was competing against a very unfair opponent - a children's cartoon that was punching way above its weight in depth.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:17 PM on July 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


> "Do the colorful and campy Schumacher takes on Batman deserve a fresh look"

No.
posted by kyrademon at 6:27 PM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


Why so serious kyrademon?
posted by peeedro at 6:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Batman Forever was basically fine. Really over the top and colorful, and Val Kilmer was totally serviceable as Batman. Carrey makes something new with his Riddler, giving him a bit of Joker flavor. Tommy Lee Jones... well, he tried. It felt like someone in the 90s attempting to make a 1966 Batman. Robin even says "Holey rusted metal, Batman!" It's cute.

Batman and Robin was like a cruel parody of Batman that didn't have the good grace to change the name. It was an entire movie that sneered at itself, constantly asking "Can you believe anyone would enjoy this trash?" It was a big garish cartoon that never once did it seem like it was being juvenile for the fun of it. Clooney is hands-down the worst Batman, and after what The Animated Series did for Mr. Freeze giving him to Arnold and turning him into a big buff goofball was like a kick in the teeth. Freeze and Ivy both are more erudite members of Batman's rogue gallery. They're both scientists with a specific agenda that isn't merely "do crime" but the movie makes zero attempt to portray them with any depth at all. Batman and Robin makes Batman Forever worse in retrospect.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:55 PM on July 25, 2019 [9 favorites]


Batman Forever was the first movie I saw that I recognised was not good. I was, like, 10 or 11, and The Riddler was my favourite Batman villain, and I had a weird emotional reaction to the movie that I eventually identified as 'not liking it, even though I thought I should'.

So I have a strong nostalgia for not liking Batman Forever, and I can't imagine how a Counter-Intuitive YouTube Take is going to make me shake that. An 11 year old could work out that the movie's missing a huge chunk of connective tissue and is more interested in sweeping gothic shots than is healthy.
posted by Merus at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Merus,

Same here. I LOVED the first two Batman movies, and assumed that Batman Forever would be the "Return of the Jedi" for the series -- completing a coherent trilogy. I went to see it with my older brother and his friends, and afterwards, everyone shrugged and said "meh, that one sucked." I was intensely disappointed, and it was my first notion of how shaky the Hollywood process was, and how it can just go wrong. Reality is fragile! We're all gonna die!

So yeah, no, these movies should not be reexamined or reevaluated. They're just plain trash that are fun to chuckle at, I guess.
posted by Chronorin at 7:06 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Movies With Mikey did a Eulogy for Batman and Robin late last year; I guess it's time to exhume these particular pieces of film history.
posted by nubs at 7:07 PM on July 25, 2019


(Though Mikey does call the movie guano, so he's not exactly praising it - he came to bury it)
posted by nubs at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2019


What a good video! I completely missed comics and comic movies growing up. The same friend that got me into 90s batman comics in the last couple years showed me Batman Forever and we loved it genuinely so much. It made me sad to find out that it's so infamously hated and happy/validated to find out Schumacher was a gay man making a gay man's movie. But the only other live action superhero movies I can get through and enjoy are suicide squad and tobey macguire spiderman, so I'm consistent in my bad taste, I guess. They're fun!
posted by gaybobbie at 7:35 PM on July 25, 2019


Exactly. Adam West is not only the best Batman, but he's the Batman we need right now.

and he didn’t need molded plastic to improve his physique. pure. west. and why doesn’t batman dance anymore? remember the batusi?
posted by entropicamericana at 7:45 PM on July 25, 2019 [11 favorites]


why doesn’t batman dance anymore? remember the batusi?

Also, where does he get those wonderful toys?
posted by LD Feral at 8:04 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


There are some good points in here about the Schumacher films (a) being better than overgrimdark Snyder takes (b) can be credibly approached as based in a colorful comic world and (c) are often unfairly reduced to "LoLz Nipples" which is less of a criticism and more of a reflex that stands in for a thoughtful opinion.

But actually pretty good? I'm iffy about that.

I'd also offer "Honest Trailers" take on Batman Forever, which is some of the usual HT fun, but also strikes me as apt: there's enough to like that you can enjoy it ("the worst movie I've seen 30 times"), which is really good enough for a movie, but there are some things about it that don't quite hang together right or add up to something you exactly respect.
posted by wildblueyonder at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'd love to see a Batman beyond reboot, I loved that series, Terry was great and the setting made sense to me. Of course wishing for movies to be made from things I loved as a kid apparently activates a monkey paw, see me getting excited about the dark is rising or the golden compass movie.
posted by Carillon at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


and I had a weird emotional reaction to the movie that I eventually identified as 'not liking it, even though I thought I should'.

We really need a word for this. Strangely, the third installment of almost any superhero franchise evokes this complex emotion.

except Thor:Ragnarok and I will fight you if you disagree
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


We're not going to fight you. We know you from work.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2019 [14 favorites]


Batman Forever is the first movie I can remember thinking that the soundtrack was wildly better than the movie it was supporting.
posted by mhoye at 9:04 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


(Also, if you want grim: there hasn’t been a live action Batman movie that held a candle to the reveal and climax of Return Of The Joker.)
posted by mhoye at 9:07 PM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Schumacher makes/made terrible-good films, but to my mind, his version of camp will always naturally be superior to that of the Vincent-Price-camp of Tim Burton, just by virtue of being in a community that lives and breathes campiness.

And Batman, ultimately, is about camp. It's a rich guy dressing in a bat-shaped costume. Ultimately getting a younger protege involved. It always has been that. Adam West got it. Burton got it (in his own way). Schumacher definitely got it. And it's that lack of fun that partially shows how Nolan and Snyder's takes are so tedious.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:09 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Geez, everyone always gets so worked up about Batman movies. Maybe it’s because everyone has a platonic ideal of Batman in their hearts and they’re always disappointed when a move misses the mark in this way or that way.

The secret to enjoying any Batman movie, in my opinion, is to figure out which Batman is in the movie and then judge the movie on that, not your platonic ideal.

For example: Batman & Robin is the over the top campy 60s Batman but made eXtreem for the 90s. Judging by that, imo it’s perfect.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:52 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


And Batman, ultimately, is about camp.

I'm surprised that no one has ever thought to lose all their money mounting a high opera of Batman. I would work wonderfully.

(Not a Lloyd Webber musical, an actual opera.)
posted by Grangousier at 11:57 PM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


That would only work if Edward Gorey was still alive to design the sets and costumes.
posted by drinkyclown at 12:10 AM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Lego batman is the best batman (well, joint first with batman of the future). Batman should be camp and a little silly! I mean, the man dresses up as a bat and then models all his vehicles and tools like bats and fights an army of clowns. I am ready for a musical, where the Joker is explicitly in love with batman.

No interest in Robin though, he sucks. Batman is the world's greatest detective, super fit, super rich, every gadget ever... Robin isnt. Robin only makes sense if he's sitting at home on the radio to do on-the-spot googles searches slightly faster than Batman can.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:21 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Actually, the way of ensuring it's a complete disaster would be to make it a Philip Glass opera. Batman enters stage right, Joker stage left. The stare at each other for five minutes over Am arpeggios then sing something very slow for another twenty-three.
posted by Grangousier at 12:27 AM on July 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


why not skip Schumacher’s mixed-at-best movies and return to the wellspring of bright, fun Batman —the television series of 1966-68?

Better yet, Batman: The Movie (1966).
"Do you mean to tell me that you sold a surplus nuclear submarine to a man name P. N. GUIN?"
(Admiral looks ashamed).
Seriously, if you EVER need to watch a movie with a 5 to 10 year old child and want to have fun with a clean movie they will also love, this is your only choice.
posted by msalt at 12:42 AM on July 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


(Also, if you want grim: there hasn’t been a live action Batman movie that held a candle to the reveal and climax of Return Of The Joker.)

OK, I'll bite: what is the reveal and climax of Return of the Joker?
posted by Paul Slade at 3:10 AM on July 26, 2019


No interest in Robin though, he sucks. Batman is the world's greatest detective, super fit, super rich, every gadget ever... Robin isnt. Robin only makes sense if he's sitting at home on the radio to do on-the-spot googles searches slightly faster than Batman can.

This is extremely funny to me because I know so many Batman comics fans who don’t actually like Batman that much but tolerate his presence for the sake of getting stories about Robin(s) and Batgirl(s).
posted by bettafish at 4:14 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Batman Forever was the first movie I saw that I recognised was not good. I was, like, 10 or 11, and

interesting. I was the same basic age when I suddenly realized that the "original" Adam West stuff was supposed to be ridiculous. I was seven when it debuted and loved it for the legitimate action adventure drama (with funny bits) that it was to my seven year old consciousness. Jump ahead a year or so and I was sophisticated enough to be giving up in disgust at the sheer stupidity of what they were trying to pass off as legitimate action-adventure-drama ... which allowed for my inevitable epiphany. I can still remember the house I was in (the room even) when I suddenly started laughing and I haven't really stopped since. Adam West's caped crusader remains the only one I can take remotely ... seriously?

Don't know what this might mean for the idea of learning to appreciate Joel Schumacher's Batman.

Schumacher makes/made terrible-good films, but

I did learn to love his St. Elmo's Fire (which always seemed to show up on lat night cable TV back in the day) once I started imagining it as a sort of high school musical take on what being a young adult with real problems must be really like. I mean, it probably gets closer to capturing the true (and ultimately bleak) zeitgeist of the high concept 1980s culture of HOT than any other single item that comes to mind. Seriously. We need a full-on song and dance remake. Now.
posted by philip-random at 5:31 AM on July 26, 2019


At the time these movies came out, I really loved the '66 Batman movie. The Schumacher movies are not as good at the '66 Batman movie. I do think they get more crap than they deserved just for being camp, but they're still not good camp.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:49 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


The other shocking reveal from Return of the Joker always had more of an impact on me than the real climax.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:38 AM on July 26, 2019


We really need a word for this. Strangely, the third installment of almost any superhero franchise evokes this complex emotion.

There is a related thing I've noticed where early reactions to superhero films (and really any kind of nerd culture - AAA video games, science-fiction shows) are almost entirely about expectations being met, and not about the quality of the work. I think it's a little different to what I was feeling as a kid, where my default experience was that movies were fun (if I could watch them all the way through) and they told a story, and it was disconcerting to watch a movie that did the same things as other movies but things just sort of happened at random and it wasn't fun.

I probably didn't really get camp at the time - I remember being convinced Power Rangers sounded amazing at school one day, enthusiastically turned it on and discovered that oh no it wasn't. I still don't really enjoy giant robot fights, and generally I need my kaiju to be doing something other than existing for me to get engaged. (I loved Colossal, for instance.)

Batman Forever is the first movie I can remember thinking that the soundtrack was wildly better than the movie it was supporting.

I had that soundtrack too and, frankly, hard agree. The Batman Forever soundtrack is very good.
posted by Merus at 7:00 AM on July 26, 2019


I absolutely detest the grimdark Batman flicks. I don't need 100% camp, but at least it should be... fun? It's a guy dressing up as a bat beating up bad people. Come on!
posted by SoberHighland at 7:02 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Man, a whole lot of "I didn't watch the video, but it can't possibly be right" up in this thread.

I'd say he makes a very compelling case for y'all getting off your high horses and being a little less demanding about what Batman is or isn't. In fact, he very specifically speaks to a few objections bandied about in this thread. I think you have a good chance of being pleasantly surprised if you invest the 20 minutes or so.
posted by Imperfect at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


We're still talking about Batman & Robin?

Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:21 AM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised that no one has ever thought to lose all their money mounting a high opera of Batman. I would work wonderfully.

I'd buy advance tickets for that!

Have you seen Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary? It's not exactly the same thing, but it's a Guy Maddin film of a ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and it feels to me like the perfect venue for that story.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Batman Forever was a great closet metaphor and proper Queer Text.

And Batman And Robin would be fondly remembered if they got literally anyone with comic timing for Freeze. Poor Uma Thurman jamming everything to 11 for naught.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 AM on July 26, 2019


As a kid who loved all things Batman and the Burton movies especially, I had a viscerally negative reaction to seeing Batman Forever in theaters. It just was not what I wanted from a Batman movie, at all. The more time that goes by though, the more my opinion of it has softened, to the point that I've watched it voluntarily for fun a couple times in recent years. To gaybobbie and The Whelk's point, it's probably not a coincidence that I was closeted and working through a fair amount of internalized homophobia when the movie first came out.

After an initial period of resistance, my husband's love of musicals ultimately rubbed off on me, and I think viewing the movie through that new lens helps a lot - Batman Forever feels like a musical without the songs, at least to me. The wacky, orchestrated-chaos of the fight scenes; the shameless mugging and scenery-chewing from Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey; the astonishing sense of unearned gravitas in Kilmer's scenes... it's gloriously campy, and I'll take all of it that I can get. The only thing that hasn't gotten better with age is Nicole Kidman's role (and not through any fault of her own; Dr. Meridian was just a terribly flat character informed by casual 90's movie misogyny).

Batman & Robin remains unredeemed for me though, and likely always will.
posted by kryptondog at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Batman & Robin is the only Batman movie I have ever seen. It was terribawesome.

Oh wait I think maybe I saw Batman Forever too, it was pretty forgettable.
posted by egypturnash at 9:19 AM on July 26, 2019


It's embarrassing to remember the utter loathing my local comics community had for Schumacher in the late 90s. There was a shared conviction that this one person had prevented the perfect Batman film from being made. We weren't quite sure what that was, but it'd definitely use bits of Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, or whatever those elements were of the stories we loved. It absolutely would not have been silly, and it certainly would Not Be Gay In Any Way*. Decades later, it feels like that exact movie got made by people who never moved on from that time, trying desperately to be taken seriously.

* IIRC, the stated opinion was that the hypothetical movie wouldn't be sexualized at all - Batman was serious business, of course - but that was a cover to sanitize an uglier outlook. The casual homophobia revealed in my attitude then isn't just embarrassing, it's downright shameful.
posted by BetaRayBiff at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I did watch the video, and while he's right in parts, I'm still not convinced; his main reason for liking the Schumacher Batman films seems to be that he's burnt out on all the superhero movies, and I could understand that someone who's looking for something different might go for all this Schumacherness. But his reminding us of Schumacher's range just reminds us that the director has done far better movies; if you're going to do a movie about a vigilante, I don't think that you could get much farther apart than these movies and Falling Down, not just a good and searing indictment of toxic masculinity but a hugely superior work in just about every way. He's right about the fandom's homophobia, but still, a gratuitous ass shot is still a gratuitous ass shot, unless you're making a joke about it, i.e. America's Ass™.

The thing about Schumacher's Batman movies, as opposed to just about every other movie version of the character, is that they're so weirdly overstuffed that they become far, far less than the sum of their parts, because there are so many parts--so much glitter and glitz and people in intricately-designed costumes and every other scene looks like a blacklight poster from a 70s headshop, it all ends up being numbing and tiresome. A successful aesthetic is about what you don't put in as much as it is about what you do, and the TV show, Burton, Nolan, and even, God help me, Snyder are all much more successful at putting that on screen and achieving some sort of visual and thematic unity than Schumacher. I would rather watch Schumacher's version than Snyder's, because the latter's vision is pretty ugly and repugnant. But in term of its really working, not really.

Side note: I wonder if there aren't any Schumacher Batmen at SDCC because the Batnipples (male presenting or not) don't fit their policies? I didn't see anything about suggestive costumes on SDCC's page (the cosplay rules seem to be mostly about costume weapons), but maybe they've got more specific rules somewhere else?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:38 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was about 12 when Batman Forever came out, and I was super-hyped for it, and all I remember is that afterward I was very disappointed because the fins on the Batmobile waved around while it moved and were clearly plastic. Plastic!
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2019


This is extremely funny to me because I know so many Batman comics fans who don’t actually like Batman that much but tolerate his presence for the sake of getting stories about Robin(s) and Batgirl(s).

Me! which is part of the reason I'm so bored of every other batman movie. No nightwing being a dreamworks protagonist eyebrow-waggling lady's man? No tim drake coming-of-age film for kids? None of the batgirls were interesting? No Oracle, if you want grimdark? (I'm SO disappointed about the upcoming birds of prey film for leaving out the disabled woman that formed! the team!) None of that warrants a film, but we get another sad story about Bruce's dead parents and nothing about the gigantic family he has in the comics? So boring!
posted by gaybobbie at 10:59 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


So boring!

I get the sense that DC is institutionally unwilling to admit that the least interesting thing in the entire Batman universe is Batman.
posted by mhoye at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


[he]wouldn't be sexualized at all 

Batman is desexualized because he's a child's fantasy. Ending all crime is not a plan a plan a rational adult would conceive. That's what makes versions of Batman that aim at psychological realism horrifying in an interesting way.

As he aged, Bruce Wayne grew stronger and smarter but never matured. He is trapped at age ten in crime alley with his grief and his vow. I'm not sure if he would have been gay or straight or asexual, and he doesn't know either, because he's too damaged for that self-knowledge to develop. He seems to believe that being in a loving relationship would be healthy for him, and he's right, but his attempts to act one out invariably fail because he fundamentally just can't.

This is one reason why Batgirls and Robins are so important: the only form of maturity open to him is fatherhood. My favorite version of his mission statement (Morrison's?) is that Batman aims to create a world where no one ever becomes Batman again. Dick Grayson is the first proof that he's winning the war on crime; that kid could have become Batman but instead became healthy and whole.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:37 AM on July 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


The worst thing about Batman and Robin was Freeze's oneliner about the dinosaurs being killed by the Ice Age. They were not killed by an ice age. They were killed by an asteroid hitting the Yucatán Peninsula. C'mon, Vic. You're a man of science. You should know better.
posted by brundlefly at 2:38 PM on July 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


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