"In Defense of Joel Schumacher"
or How 'Batman and Robin' became Crap
by Matt Morrison
The real problem with Batman and Robin is that the version released into theaters is drastically cut. Similar to the problems with the original version of Dune, so much was cut from the film that the release version made little to no sense. Schumacher claims that the original movie was four-and-a-half hours long and that the completed version of the film was lost by the studio in order to shift full blame for the projects failure on Schumacher. Although no physical evidence of this cutting of Batman and Robin can be found, many people have reported seeing this version in the theaters on opening weekend. It was weird. says 19 year old Batman fan Jonathan Walker. We sat there and watched the movie for what seemed like forever. Towards the end, we all started feeling really sleepy, so it must have been pretty late by then. They didnt have a clock in the theater but it felt like we were there for at least three hours. Maybe four.
One of the reasons for these cuts was that Batman and Robin, in Schmachers original vision, was intended to be a musical. This is one of the main reasons that the movie most of us have seen has turned out so horrible. Much like the James L. Brooks film Ill Do Anything, the studio test groups who saw the original cuts of the musical version of the movie, hated the songs. The studio, in a single memo dealt two deadly blows to the Batman 4 project. First, Schumacher was asked to remove the songs from the film. Secondly, the films due date was bumped up by one week. In order to get the film done on time, Schumacher was forced to film whole scenes to cover the information explained through the songs. One example of how this ruined the film can be seen in Uma Thurmans performance, and we use the term loosely. Its not Umas fault, but she has little to do throughout the movie but act as Miss Exposition and explain away the plot. A clear example of this is in her first scene where she is dictating her character history onto a tape recorder. Yet as much as the character as Poison Ivy suffered, what happened to Bane is the true tragedy of the decision to remove the music from the show.
As Im sure we all remember, Bane is the villian who in the infamous Knightfall storyline was able, through intelligent planning and brute force able to break the Bat.
Schumacker admits that his story sounds far fetched, but offers more evidence that Batman 4 was intended to be a musical. Take a look at the backgrounds and costuming. Youll notice that the guady and tacky look of the backgrounds is very much like that in any Broadway musical. For such musicals depend upon spectacle, flash, dash, pizazz and what have you. All the bright colors, the neon, the nipples all of this was to create the illusion of a stage show on the screen. Schumacker also points to the rather corny jokes of Mr. Freeze as evidence of his intentions. Back in the days of the studio musical, cheesy jokes were a halmark of a fine family musical. I remember a line from The Music Man I dont recall catching your name . I dont recall dropping it. Now is that any worse than Youll never put me in the cooler? Hmmmm?
Schumacher was shocked when he discovered that the studio had cut the film, without his knowledge and asked to have his name taken off the picture. Alas, the WB publicity machine had him revealed as the director before he could insist that Batman and Robin be declared an Alan Smithee production. Which is unfortunate because now that the dust is settled it is Joel Schumacher who is now known as the man who broke the Bat. Still, Schumacher is hopeful. Those executives must have decided I had a point about the musical I hear they are working on a Batman Musical right now.
NOTE: This is a work of Satire. None of the above is true, except for the thing about there really being a Batman Musical in production. May God help us all.
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Matt Morrison.
All artwork is © 1999 by their respective artists.