On June 20, 1997, Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin — his second effort at bringing the Caped Crusader to the big screen after the successful Batman Forever — became one of the most legendary critical flops in Hollywood history. Reviewers hated it. Audiences hated it. Two decades later, Schumacher is still apologizing for it.
With an all-star cast — including George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone — and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (The Client, A Time to Kill, A Beautiful Mind), Batman & Robin could've been one of the best superhero movies ever. Instead, Schumacher managed to waste all of that talent and made one of the most hilariously awful films to ever hit theaters.
However, despite its awfulness, Batman & Robin is one of the most important comic book films in history. Here's why:
'Batman & Robin' Established Rock Bottom For Superhero Movies — And That's Useful
The script for Batman & Robin had no effort put into it. The action was the opposite of thrilling. The special effects are laughable even for the era. (I mean, there is a scene where giant icicles wiggle like rubber bands.) The acting was so over-the-top that Saturday morning cartoon voiceover actors would be ashamed of the performances.
Everything was made in the most incompetent way possible. Sure, comic book movies are supposed to play with laws of science and physics, but Batman & Robin has characters flying around on wires like they are on Broadway; Robin is completely frozen and Batman thaws him out as if they were in a Looney Tunes short.
From the Bat nipples to the damned ice puns, this atrocity of a movie did absolutely nothing right. So why is it important? By establishing rock bottom and giving us the worst comic book movie that has ever been — the worst that can ever be — Batman & Robin taught filmmakers and producers exactly what NOT to do.
Subsequent Comic Book Movies Focused On How Heroes Would Fit Into The Real World
Batman & Robin isn't unrealistic just because of Mr. Freeze's ice powers and Poison Ivy's love potions. It's unrealistic because nobody in the movie acts like anybody in reality. There is no imagining "what if?" because we're too busy wondering, "WTF?"
That's why subsequent superhero films took themselves far more seriously, such as Bryan Singer's X-Men, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and Stephen Norrington's Blade, which all rebooted the genre. Sam Rami's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 gave us relatable characters and heartfelt moments; they felt grounded in all the ways that Batman & Robin did not.
Even post-Batman & Robin duds like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four (2015) tried to be taken seriously. Despite these films' many faults, the people behind them were trying to tell serious stories with complex characters who act like actual human beings — thanks to Batman & Robin, they knew that audiences wouldn't accept being outright insulted.
An Accidental Inspiration
By introducing the absolute worst that comic book films can offer, Joel Schumacher unintentionally inspired the future of the genre. There wouldn't have been The Dark Knight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe or even the recent Wonder Woman without Batman & Robin. So, Joel Schumacher, thank you for failing, because it helped give us so many successes.
I hope you enjoyed this tribute to the worst comic book film ever made — and I hope you have an ICE day. (I'll go sit in the corner now. So long!)
Do you agree Batman & Robin helped the genre in a roundabout way, or was it just irredeemable garbage? Let me know in the comments below!