Joel Schumacher was part of one of the first all-black big-studio films (The Wiz), and gave his first hits with consummately white teenager movies such as The Lost Boys. He started out as a costume designer for Woody Allen, but is mostly credited with one of the biggest wardrobe malfunctions of all time, for a Batman film. The film director, who died of cancer at the age of 80 on Tuesday, loved to mix it up.
Schumacher’s career, which can be traced to screenwriting stints that go back to 1976, included critical successes (8mm) and duds (Batman and Robin), newcomers (Matthew McConaughey) and old talent (Robert De Niro), Vietnam (Tigerland) and musicals (Phantom of the Opera). But, as happens with filmmakers who play by few rules except their own, and who get tagged with titles such as stylish and fun, he never broke into the awards league — a few nominations that didn’t turn into statuettes.
Not that it ever bothered Schumacher, who was openly gay and, as evident in the tributes that poured in, hilarious and witty. His dalliance with Batman perhaps tells that story best. Schumacher was brought to the franchise after Tim Burton’s two films on the caped crusader. Burton’s world is far removed from Schumacher’s. And the latter didn’t disappoint — as has been said, Batman, in their respective hands, moved from being eerie to energetic.
But neither of Schumacher’s two Batmans passed the fan-atic test — despite Val Kilmer’s full lips and George Clooney’s chiselled chin, frankly the only two features that matter under the mask. All people noticed were the nipples on Schumacher’s Batman’s costume. To the end, Schumacher remained unapologetic about it, saying in an interview, “Such a sophisticated world we live in where two pieces of rubber the size of erasers on old pencils, those little nubs, can be an issue. It’s going to be on my tombstone, I know it.” Time for a rewrite.