Batman Forever was my first Batman film. In the summer of 1995, six-year-old me sat down in a cool theater with my Mom and brother to watch Val Kilmer, Chris O'Donnell, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jim Carrey bring to life outsized characters that had previously only existed in the '90s animated series for me. And along with them was Nicole Kidman playing Dr. Chase Meridian, perhaps the horniest character ever invented in the history of film.
More thirst than the Sahara.
And by the time Batman and Robin ran toward the camera in cinematic shorthand for "YOU BEST BELIEVE THIS SHIT IS GETTING A SEQUEL," I was in love.
A few years later, Batman & Robin would become the official snow day movie of the Dockery household. The snow would be placing a gentle blanket on the outside world, and my siblings and I would crowd around the TV, scoping out the little scrolling line at the bottom of the news channel that told us whether school in our county would be delayed or canceled. And when it was canceled? Throw on the ice puns and the Bat credit card, y'all. By the time the movie had ended, the snow had transformed from "If you make snowballs now, you'll probably still have some dirt in them" to "Sledding with only minor chances of serious bodily harm" levels, and it was time to go play.
These were the films that introduced me to the work of director Joel Schumacher, who passed away today at the age of 80. Once claiming to have had sex with around 20,000 people (but wouldn't "kiss and tell" because he's got goddamn class,) his filmography is full of gems, ranging from The Lost Boys (sweaty, funny and rad,) Flatliners (Keifer Sutherland! Julia Roberts! Oliver fucking Platt! A great 90s time capsule,) The Client and A Time To Kill (Not bad at all!) and Phone Booth (Dope, with a script by the late, wonderful Larry Cohen.). But he was mostly known by general audiences for his Batman films, and it's his Batman films that received the most derision.
Joining films like The Phantom Menace, Batman Forever/& Robin became go-to examples of their genre gone wrong, usually in the form of clumsy internet users screaming "BAT NIPPLES!" and then never making a second joke in their lives. But those films are about 50 times more interesting and rewatchable than the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films that were basically created as a response to them. Their toyetic energy, campiness, costume design, joyous cinematography, and broad performances that were simultaneously self-aware and perfect for comic book-inspired melodrama -- Joel Schumacher's Batman films are awesome.
But before I revisited his superhero films as an adult and learned that I really enjoyed them, and before I ever took a look at Schumacher's career as a whole and found him to be a unique and memorable director, I was a kid in the theater with my family, watching Batman fight crime in live-action form. Batman. THE Batman. I was hooked.
So thanks, Joel. I appreciate it.
Daniel is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!
Top Image: Warner Bros.