Superheroes have become the most popular and financially successful genre in the movie industry. You could say the release of X-Men in 2000 birthed this craze. Or perhaps Spider-Man two years later which became the first movie to gross more than $100 million in its opening weekend.
But in reality, there were two notable superhero franchises before the turn of the century and they have a couple of things in common. First, Superman and Batman are DC properties, and two, four movies were produced with the fourth movie cratering both series. In the case of Batman, Batman & Robin kind of killed the genre for a few years (Apologizes to Blade). And the screenwriter agrees.
Akiva Goldsman, who wrote both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, spoke with Collider about the franchise and admits that despite good intentions, they made a bad movie.
“As for Batman & Robin, that one just confused me. I mean, we didn’t mean for it to be bad. I swear, nobody was like, ‘This will be bad,’” Goldsman told Collider. “I mean, here’s the irony: There was a reel that was put together halfway through [filming] where it actually looked dark in an interesting way. It just is what it is and I’m sorry. I think we’re all sorry.”
It’s been twenty three years so I think fans have gotten over it. If not for the over-the-top Adam West-style set pieces, the bat nipples and Mr. Freeze’s constant ice puns, we may never have gotten Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. And there will always be love and passion for Batman. DC fans recently went online to campaign for a certain Breaking Bad character to play Mr. Freeze. Not to mention Alicia Silverstone wants to cameo in the upcoming Batgirl movie.
The failures of Batman & Robin forced Warner Bros. to course correct the franchise. Instead of hiring another director-for-hire (Apologizes to Joel Schumacher), they took a chance on a young filmmaker in Nolan and he managed to ground the material into something akin to Blade Runner and Heat.
After Marvel burst onto the scene with the fun and energetic Iron Man, Warner Bros. embraced a darker tone and pallet which resulted in an up-and-down run of movies.
But they’re still nowhere near as bad as Batman & Robin. Goldsman went on to win an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, but he will always be connected to a dark period (Not intentionally) in superhero lore. And if not for it, George Clooney wouldn’t have more than 20 years of self-deprecating material to use.