Directed by the late Joel Schumacher, Batman & Robin was a sequel to Batman Forever. The DC movie bombed at the box office after only earning $238 million worldwide while also receiving largely negative reviews.
Some fans criticized the movie's campy tone, incoherent plot, and its obvious attempt at merchandising.
Batman & Robin Producer Gets Honest About Movie’s Failure
In an interview with Traversing the Stars, Batman & Robin producer Michael Uslan talked about how the studio's attempt at merchandising led to the movie's failure.
Uslan was asked first if he is aware that Joel Schumacher's cut of Batman Forever exists. The producer responded by saying that he hasn't seen it yet while also offering his praise to the late filmmaker:
TTS: “I’m not sure what you’re allowed to say about it, but obviously what’s been going around social media a lot over the last few weeks is the Schumacher cut of Batman Forever. Does it exist? Have you seen it? And [do] you think it will ever reach theaters, or cinema, or video that people will be able to have access to it?”
Uslan: “Well, I have not seen it. I know there’s footage and I know there’s cuts. But let me go back with this: Joel Schumacher, this man was one of the nicest, most decent human beings you would ever want to meet and he gets the unfair payload of crap when it comes to the two movies that he did."
Uslan explained the toy companies' requests to the studio during the movie's development, noting that they were pressuring them to include things in the movie that weren't needed:
"Joel, at that time, was given a directive by the studio. At that time, the studio was very enamored with toys and Happy Meals. And coming out of the Tim Burton movies, they wanted to cater to that side of things and they wanted movies that were lighter, brighter, more kiddy, and family-friendly. And the toy companies and everyone, their request was like, ‘Well, how about three heroes in every movie and three villains in every movie? And each one with two vehicles and two costume changes?’
Uslan admitted that the studio's "directive" to cater to "toys and Happy Meals" during the movie's development led to Batman & Robin's downfall, with him even describing it as a "two-hour infomercials for toys:"
"My feeling was, the tail starts wagging the dog and what you’re making is not movies. You’re making two-hour infomercials for toys and better to just bring in filmmakers with a vision you love, who you believe can execute the vision, who you believe know, understand, and have a passion for the character. Let them go make great movies and toys will sell anyway. So that’s always been my philosophy, but he was doing what he was told to do or asked to do. And so it’s good to have that bit of perspective on it."
The Batman producer ended by pointing out that the low points of his career with the Dark Knight are Batman & Robin and Catwoman. However, he did say that these failures led to Christopher Nolan's arrival to helm the famous Dark Knight trilogy starting with Batman Begins:
"Look, the low point for my career with Batman, for me, was Batman and Robin and that Catwoman movie. As, Ben used to say to me as my head would be hanging down once again, he would say, ‘Michael, if they get bitten on the butt by these things, the next time around they’re gonna have to do it your way. It’s going to have to go back to the dark and serious Batman.’ And if you think in retrospect that Catwoman/Batman and Robin ultimately got us Christopher Nolan. The genius known as Christopher Nolan. It was worth the anguish.”
Why Batman & Robin’s Failure Needed To Happen
It's quite surprising that the studio was easily influenced and pressured by the toy companies to have a say in the movie's development. However, aspects like marketing and profits could be the culprit.
Not only did Batman & Robin somehow damage the DC branding, but it also led to the departure of lead star George Clooney as the famed Dark Knight, with him distancing himself from the role and the movie.
Despite the catastrophic end to Clooney's stint as Batman, the actor did make a comeback during this year's The Flash as an alternate Bruce Wayne.
While Batman & Robin's failure had an unfortunate blow to the Batman brand, its failure, as Michael Uslan pointed out, led to a perfect opportunity to bounce back thanks to Christopher Nolan's incredible efforts in his own DC trilogy.
All in all, Batman & Robin's setback allowed the studio to ultimately trust the filmmakers' vision for the hero, leading to several successful movies led by the Dark Knight.
Batman & Robin is available to stream on Max.