Thursday, April 1, 1999

In Defense Of Joel Schumacher

Batman and Robin, the fourth movie in the Warner Brother's Batman series has gained a rather notorious reputation as one of the biggest bombs ever made and has soiled the reputation of its’ director Joel Schumacher, who is accused of being responsible for the series decline. This is for the most part an unfair accusation since it was actually the studio executives who trashed the grand image Schumacher had for the Batman franchise.

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 project’s 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 didn’t 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 Schmacher’s 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 I’ll 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 film’s 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 Thurman’s performance, and we use the term loosely. It’s not Uma’s 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 I’m sure we all remember, Bane is the villain who in the infamous Knightfall storyline was able, through intelligent planning and brute force able to “break the Bat”. In the version of Batman and Robin we’ve seen, Bane is reduced to a grunting sweating flunky of Poison Ivy, with no intelligence or lines. It was Schumacher’s intent, so he says, to symbolize Bane’s vast intellect through his beautiful song and dance routines.

“One cannot appreciate the true beauty that is Batman and Robin until one has heard Bane sing a remix of the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show song “Sword of Damocles”, about a monster bemoaning his fate. Or what about “Today is for Bane”? And who would not be able to hold back their tears as Bane sang his death song, “Bane’s Requeim” upon his defeat by Robin and Batgirl?” says Scuhmacher. “Jeep Swenson, the actor who played Bane, proved to be a fine dancer. I think this was because of his experience as a pro wrestler, which obvious gave him great skill in working with a choreographer. It was not publicized widely, but Michael Flatley personally picked Jeep to replace him in “Riverdance” before the movie came out.”

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. You’ll notice that the gaudy 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 hallmark of a fine family musical. I remember a line from The Music Man… “I don’t recall catching your name”…. “I don’t recall dropping it”. Now is that any worse than “You’ll 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.

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