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Joel Schumacher Apologizes for BATMAN & ROBIN and Explains the Bat Nipples

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher’s second and less successful movie starring the Caped Crusader. It’s universally regarded as the worst Batman feature film due to many factors, the most iconic among them being the sculpted nipples on the titular characters’ costumes. (Granted, those were already there in Batman Forever, but they were made even more prominent for the film that followed, for which Schumacher still hasn’t escaped lambasting.) Though Schumacher’s Batman Forever had its goofier elements, Val Kilmer’s delightfully dour performance as Bruce Wayne and a script steeped in the darkness of Batman’s origin story redeemed it. But that was never the case with Batman & Robin, a fact that Schumacher is more than willing to acknowledge today.

“After Batman & Robin, I was scum. It was like I had murdered a baby,” Schumacher said in an interview with VICE, going on to assume full responsibility for its failings. “I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed, because I think I owe them that.”


Though he doesn’t use it as an excuse, Schumacher does have a pretty good idea of why Batman & Robin failed so spectacularly. This was 1997, well before the golden age of superhero movies we’re in the thick of. There was no real template for what a successful superhero movie à la Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, The Dark Knight, or The Avengers could look like. He says, “I don’t think I was in touch with the superhero world at the time.”

So, does that explain the superfluous addition of nipples to the batsuit?

“It’s going to be on my tombstone, I know it,” says Schumacher. They weren’t his idea—he credits lead sculptor Jose Fernandez for that—but he did sign off on them. In Schumacher’s words: “He did the nipples and when I looked at them, I thought, ‘That’s cool,’” going on to add, “Maybe I was naïve, but I’m still glad we did it.”


Given the lighthearted tone of the interview and Schumacher’s current career satisfaction, it’s clear that while he’s not necessarily proud of Batman & Robin, he didn’t let the backlash break him. He did something creators aren’t always so keen on doing: he acknowledged his mistakes and moved forward, knowing that this particular property just wasn’t for him. “I hope no fans moved on from Batman upon seeing [Batman Forever],” he says. The director is wise to the fact that if he took everything fans and critics said to heart, he might not be in the best place emotionally. And so he soldiers on, apologizing and leaving Batman behind him.

Ultimately, this was a huge kindness to those seeking a great cinematic Batman; in time, we got the Dark Knight trilogy, a triumph that can’t be undone by any future treatment of the franchise. Maybe it’s a stretch to say we have Schumacher to thank for Christopher Nolan’s brilliant work. But we ought to accept his (repeated) apology for his infamous 20-year-old take on the Bat family. It’s the least we can do.

Do you think there’s any way to defend Batman & Robin? Let us know down below in the comments. And check out VICE‘s full Schumacher interview, which is filled with more interesting tidbits about his experiences leading up to, shooting, and in the wake of Batman & Robin.

Images: Warner Bros



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