Asking Joel Schumacher about his Batman films must be like asking Steve Bartman about the Chicago Cubs. But the director, who was blamed for nearly killing the franchise after 1997’s Batman & Robin, seemed to have a healthy perspective when an IFC.com reporter brought it up during press for his latest film, Trespass, with Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. “I’m responsible for everything. I said, ‘yes’ and I took it on,” he said. “It’s not my favorite movie I’ve ever made, but I’m proud of my cast and I’m proud of all the artists who worked on it. I take full responsibility for Batman & Robin.”
Schumacher is much prouder of his first Batman film, 1995’s Batman Forever. “For me, Val Kilmer was the best Batman,” he said. “I thought he looked great in the costume, and I thought he brought a depth to the role. I thought the relationship between Val and Nicole Kidman was very sexy.”
Wait! What? Rewind. “For me, Val Kilmer was the best Batman”?! I’m not stunned by the suggestion that Kilmer was great in the role — a lot of fans would’ve liked to see more of him as the Caped Crusader. But if you recall, Schumacher and Kilmer parted ways on ugly terms. How ugly? Well, there were reports of a physical on-set confrontation. And then there was this:
“Val is the most psychologically troubled human being I’ve ever worked with. The tools I used working with him — tools of communication, of patience and understanding — were the tools I use on my 5-year-old godson. Val is not just high-strung. I think he needs help.”
— Joel Schumacher, Premiere, April 1997
Schumacher was thrilled when Warner Bros. released Kilmer from his Batman contract to star in The Saint instead, so it’s somewhat a surprise to hear him complement Kilmer’s performance at all. Then again, is this the director’s way of shifting focus on the one Batman movie he made that didn’t reek? Batman Forever, with Nicole Kidman, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris O’Donnell, isn’t the embarrassing spectacle that the George Clooney-starring Batman & Robin became.
What do you make of Schumacher’s revised opinion of Kilmer’s work? And is Batman Forever an overlooked morsel of comic-book pulp? How does Kilmer’s performance rank against the other modern Batmen? Vote below.