When BATMAN & ROBIN was flung onto 2,934 screens in the summer of ’97, the legend of Joel Schumacher, dependable Hollywood journeyman, blew up like a glitter bomb. The director’s next Batman movie was was cancelled because the studio wanted to go in a different direction – the direction of as-far-away-from-Joel-Schumacher-as-possible. Apparently recognizing his diminished status in the blockbuster arena, Schumacher reinvented himself as an oddball, directing the fucked up 8MM (1999) with Nic Cage, FLAWLESS (1999) with Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman (which he also wrote), and TIGERLAND (2000), an acclaimed $10 million Vietnam film that’s Colin Farrell’s American debut. The first one was mostly reviled, but the other two caused some critics to offer cautious respect.
So why not dip his toe in again with an action-comedy star vehicle interracial buddy movie type thing? One that would team him with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has also made some shameful movies, but seemed to always get away with it? (read the rest of this shit…)
BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!
“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014
It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.
I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.
Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.
Joel Schumacher’s FALLING DOWN (1993) is a movie I’ve always hated for what I thought it was saying. Watching it again a couple decades later I think I was partly wrong. Maybe even mostly wrong. But I still can’t get all the way on board. I’ll try to explain why.
Michael Douglas plays a defense industry office drone in L.A. who one morning gets stuck in traffic, loses his shit, decides to abandon his car and walk home. And along the way he decides to go nuclear on anyone he thinks is wronging him. This includes gang members who try to collect a toll for him sitting on their rock and a Neo-Nazi (Frederic Forrest, VALLEY GIRL) who shows him his weapons cache, but also a convenience store clerk, the staff and patrons of a fast food restaurant and random construction workers. As he travels he builds up an arsenal by taking people’s weapons, like a video game that didn’t exist yet at that time.
(He’s credited as “D-FENS” after his vanity license plate, but they find out his name is William Foster, so that’s what I’ll refer to him as.) (read the rest of this shit…)
“Those who cannot remember [BATMAN FOREVER] are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905
You guys wanna see a hit summer blockbuster that was well received at the time, but has since been disavowed like a discredited ideology? The summer of 1995 gives you BATMAN FOREVER.
Just six years earlier Tim Burton had smashed open the zeitgeist with BATMAN, which had been used as somewhat of a reference point for would-be blockbusters since, clearly influencing at least the scoring and marketing of DICK TRACY, DARKMAN, THE ROCKETEER and THE SHADOW, for example. But Burton’s second one, BATMAN RETURNS (1992) was weirder, more personal, and therefore less enthusiastically received by the public. That made the studio weary about plans for a Burton-directed part 3, and they parted ways. Burton is credited as an executive producer on FOREVER, but apparently his only role was to give the new director his blessing and meet with screenwriters Lee & Janet Scott Batchler once to discuss the importance of duality in Batman characters.
Joel Schumacher was a weird but not controversial choice for a replacement. People remembered THE LOST BOYS, FALLING DOWN and maybe FLATLINERS as good movies. And he did THE CLIENT – you know, those John Grisham court room thrillers were a big deal in the ’90s, for some reason. I wonder what happened to that whole genre. Anyway, a 1993 Entertainment Weekly article said “Hiring Schumacher to direct the summer-of-’95 release is seen by insiders as an attempt by Warner Bros. to get the Batman movies back on track” because “Warner doesn’t want a repeat of the macabre 1992 sequel, BATMAN RETURNS, which frightened small children and angered many parents.” It goes on to quote an anonymous “source close to the project” as saying they didn’t want Burton to direct because “he’s too dark and odd for them.”
Yeah, because Schumacher made a real normal movie. No oddness to see here. Just a couple of bros in shiny plastic muscles driving a car up the side of a building. Don’t worry about it, fellas. (read the rest of this shit…)
This is gonna be pretty short. It’s easy to think of Nic Cage movies in binary terms, like he does good movies and he does terrible ones. And you just hope whichever one it is he’s uncaged enough to make it interesting or funny. But just like there is grey area and overlap between evil Castor Troy and heroic Sean Archer there are various shades of good and bad Cage. For example I thought he was great in KICK ASS but the rest of the movie wasn’t necessarily on the same level. I thought NEXT was a funny-bad classic despite his restrained performance. I thought him being normal in DRIVE ANGRY seriously held the movie back. Even THE WICKER MAN, one of his all time top 5 mega-acting performances, has some pretty boring stretches between classroom rants and bee attacks. (I love it though.) (read the rest of this shit…)