Variety reports filmmaker Joel Schumacher passed away Monday morning at age 80 after a year-long battle with cancer.
The divisive figure in fan circles began his film career in costume design, but soon found himself scripting Car Wash and The Wiz before directing stylish pictures like The Lost Boys and Flatliners in the 1980s and 90s. He would also become something of a name thanks to Falling Down and his duo of John Grisham adaptations — The Client and A Time to Kill.
But he enters the world of comic book fandom with two infamous Batman movies of the mid 1990s: Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Eschewing the more monochrome gothic style of Tim Burton, Schumacher’s Batman movies are gaudy spectacles more in line with the colorful comics of the 1950s and the pop art, high camp of the Batman ’66 television series. For his part, Schumacher would later say he was inspired to take on the films after seeing a few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series with his nephew.
That inspiration mainly translated to his choice of villains in Batman & Robin: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). The characters may not have resembled their cartoon counterparts in terms of personality or psychological depth, but as Schumacher would explain as part of his commentary track/mea culpa on a DVD special edition release of the film, he was hired to make a “toyetic” movie intended to highlight all the Batman products on offer in 1997. And though he would literally apologize to fans for not making the film they wanted, he was actually successful in making the project as conceived. Which isn’t to say the film is some misunderstood gem, but Schumacher’s candor on that commentary track offers those who villainized him after the film’s release a peak into his through process.
After his brush with superhero audiences, he went on to write and direct Flawless with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro and make films like The Phantom of the Opera, Phone Booth, and Trespass. And though his films tend to have a certain campiness, many of them offered ideas, phrases, and images that stick in the film lexicon to this day. Which, no matter his infamy in comic book circles, is something worth lauding.