For nearly 50 years, Joel Schumacher had quite the diverse lineup of directorial credits, including his, shall we say, unique contributions to the superhero film genre with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Sadly, it’s been announced that the filmmaker has passed away at the age of 80.
According to Variety, Joel Schumacher died this morning after a year-long battle with cancer. Schumacher joined the Hollywood business as a costume designer in the mid-1970s following some time spent in the fashion industry, but it was as a writer and director where he really left a memorable impact on the worlds of film.
Joel Schumacher’s first screenplay was 1976’s Sparkle (which was directed by Sam O’Steen), and he made his directorial debut with 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman. However, it was 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, which he both wrote and directed, that really put Schumacher on the map. The movie chronicling a group of post-graduates getting used to the responsibilities of adult life was met with mixed critical reception, but it was a commercial success and was one of the defining entries of the Brat Pack era.
Following St. Elmo’s Fire, Joel Schumacher churned out The Lost Boys in 1987, Flatliners in 1990 and The Client in 1994, all of which were commercial successes. The Lost Boys and The Client did reasonably well for themselves on the critical front, and while Flatliners was a more mixed affair, it remained well known enough to earn the standalone sequel/remake treatment in 2017, with that movie also simply being called Flatliners.
Then came Joel Schumacher’s time on the Batman film series, inheriting the directorial reins on the third Batman movie after Tim Burton departed. In sharp contrast with the darker, gothic tone of Batman and Batman Returns, Batman Forever was a significantly more campy affair, and aside from Michael Gough and Pat Hingle reprising Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon, respectively, the cast was an entirely new lineup that included Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones.
While not nearly as critically successful as its predecessors, Batman Forever was a box office hit, making over $336 million worldwide. As such, Schumacher was brought back for Batman & Robin, which also did commercially well, but was a critical bomb. This resulted in Schumacher’s third Batman movie, a.k.a. Batman Unchained, being scrapped, and the Caped Crusader’s franchise being put on ice for over half a decade, with Christopher Nolan rebooting the whole affair with 2005’s Batman Begins.
In between Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher directed A Time to Kill, which received a solid amount of positive reception and netted Samuel L. Jackson a Golden Globe nomination. In the years after Batman & Robin’s release, Schumacher’s film credits included Flawless, Phone Booth, The Phantom of the Opera, The Number 23 and Trespass, with the latter being his final movie. He also directed two episodes of the Netflix series House of Cards in 2013.
We here at CinemaBlend offer our condolences to Joel Schumacher’s family and friends. If you were a fan of the filmmaker, feel free to share what you liked from his body of work in the comments below.
Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.
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