Director Joel Schumacher has died, following a long bout with cancer. He passed away in New York City on Monday morning. He was 80-years-old.
Schumacher made a splash in the 1980s, crafting sleek, stylish films, starring some of Hollywood’s hottest young actors. Following two comedies, ‘The Incredible Shrinking Woman’ starring Lily Tomlin, and ‘DC Cab’ with Mr. T, he went on to helm the classics ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’ (with Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy), ‘The Lost Boys’ (Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, and the Coreys– Haim and Feldman), and ‘Flatliners’ (Sutherland, William Baldwin, Kevin Bacon, and Julia Roberts).
He went on to direct film adaptations of the bestselling John Grisham legal thrillers ‘The Client’ and ‘A Time to Kill’, the latter of which launched the career of Matthew McConaughey. Schumacher similarly helped launch the career of Colin Farrell with the 2000 war drama ‘Tigerland’.
Among his other notable works were the film adaptation of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ which scored three Oscar nominations, and the social commentary ‘Falling Down’ with Michael Douglas. Schumacher’s final film was the 2011 thriller ‘Trespass’ starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman, and his final directing jobs were two episodes of the Netflix series ‘House of Cards’.
But perhaps Schumacher will always be best remembered– like it or not– for his two ‘Batman’ sequels, ‘Batman Forever’, which opened on June 16, 1995, and ‘Batman & Robin’, which opened on June 20, 1997. Sadly, his death comes close to the anniversaries of those two releases. Following friction with Tim Burton, who directed 1989’s ‘Batman’ and 1992’s ‘Batman Returns’, Warner Brothers tapped Schumacher to take over the franchise with a desire to take things in a lighter, more family-friendly direction.
‘Batman Forever’ did that, bringing a neon glow to the darkness of Gotham City. With Burton gone, star Michael Keaton also jumped ship, which led to Schumacher casting Val Kilmer in the lead. Also starring were Nicole Kidman as love interest Chase Meridian, Chris O’ Donnell as Dick Grayson/Robin, Jim Carrey as The Riddler, and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face.
The lighter touch seemed to work, as ‘Batman Forever’ had the biggest opening weekend of all time up to that point ($52.8 million) and earned a total of $336.6 million at the global box office– less than ‘Batman’, but more than ‘Batman Returns’. And audiences at the time loved it, giving it an A- CinemaScore.
But things got too campy and silly with Schumacher’s second sequel, ‘Batman & Robin’. After clashing with Kilmer on ‘Batman Forever’, Schumacher once more recast the lead role, with George Clooney donning the rubber cowl. O’Donnell returned, with Alicia Silverstone stepping in as Batgirl, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.
Though it opened strongly, this time audiences weren’t on its side and terrible word of mouth quickly shot ‘Batman & Robin’ down. It plunged by over 60% in its second weekend and made the least of the four original ‘Batman’ flicks. WB put the franchise on hold until 2005, when Christopher Nolan delivered the grounded and gritty ‘Batman Begins’, which Schumacher praised.
But while the two ‘Batman’ sequels may not have many fans these days, Schumacher’s other works remain fan favorites. ‘Flatliners’ was remade in 2017, but that was a flop, with many questioning why it was made when the original still held up.
Schumacher intended to make a sequel to ‘The Lost Boys’, entitled ‘The Lost Girls’, but it never came to fruition. But The CW has spent YEARS trying to adapt the concept into an ongoing TV series. But, like ‘The Lost Girls’, so far it has not materialized.
What are your favorite Schumacher works?
RIP Joel Schumacher 1939-2020