Batman and Robin

Batman & Robin is an objectively terrible movie, possibly still the worst superhero movie ever made. But it’s been 20 years now…can’t we all just relax?

It’s two decades later and director Joel Schumacher is still apologizing for the garish, neon-soaked nightmare that is Batman & Robin. And while I’m willing to forgive him on some things — the ice puns are unironically great — those bat nipples still baffle me and presumably everyone else. And Schumacher realizes this, explaining the thought process that led to him creating those infamous rubber nipples. And on that front, he’s not sorry.

As we near the 20th (!) anniversary of Batman & Robin, Vice spoke to Schumacher about his famously bad superhero movie. Right off the bat, Schumacher wanted to get things straight and apologize to all who were hurt by this terrible movie:

“Look, I apologize. I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed because I think I owe them that.”

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, why? Why did this movie turn out the way it did — skewering iconic Batman villains like Poison Ivy and Bane, turning Arnold Schwarzenegger into a laughable pun machine, cringeworthy dialogue, the freaking Bat credit card?

It turns out Schumacher never wanted to do a follow-up to his first Batman film, Batman Forever, starring Val Kilmer. But hubris and Warner Bros. pressure got him on board for the next Batman film, with the goal of catering even more to families and kids, all in the name of merchandise sales:

You know, I just knew not to do a sequel. If you get lucky, walk away. But everybody at Warner Brothers just expected me to do one. Maybe it was some hubris on my part. I had a batting average of 1,000, so I went from falling down a bit after Lost Boys, to a kind of a genius with The Client, a big blockbuster with Batman Forever, then had great reviews with A Time to Kill, so my batting average was good. I never planned on being, that dreadful quote, “a blockbuster king” because my other films were much smaller and had just found success with the audience and not often with the critics, which is really why we wrote them. And then after Batman & Robin, I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby.

As for how the nipples that decorated the costumes of Batman and Robin (though thankfully not Alicia Silverstone‘s Batgirl) came to be? There was some misguided love in there — Schumacher wanted the costumes to imitate the nude Greek statues, supposedly in reference to the massive mythology of Batman and DC Comics superheroes:

[The costume] 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.

Schumacher had no clue that such a small decision would haunt him for 20 years. In the Vice interview, he doesn’t seem too tortured by Batman & Robin…but he should be sorry for not being sorry about those nipples:

I really never thought that would happen. I really didn’t. Maybe I was just naive, but I’m still glad we did it.

Schumacher joins a long list of stars apologizing for Batman & Robin, including the miscast Batman of the film, George Clooney, and Chris O’Donnell, who played Robin.

Now that Schumacher has paid his dues, I’m guessing that puts an end to the apology tour for Batman & Robin. And we can all go back to drunkenly enjoying the movie on late-night cable.

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