Obituary: Joel Schumacher

Somewhat lost amongst the latest comings-and-goings of that pesky COVID thing that seems to be engulfing the planet was the news of the death of one of Hollywood’s biggest characters; Director and former costume designer, Joel Schumacher.

While Ian Holm’s sad passing made top headlines, Schumacher’s passing went pretty much unmentioned, in fact, his death didn’t even make the top half of BBC News’ ‘Arts & Entertainment’ section, something which I felt was somewhat unfair.

Like many critics before me, and almost certainly, many after me, I have railed against some of Schumacher’s works, namely his work on the Batman series that so tainted the hero for almost a decade, but nonetheless I see an undercurrent of fun that the films were aiming for, no matter how far they may have missed their intended mark, you can’t deny that watching Batman & Robin has a similar charm to watching The Room, best enjoyed with a large group of people loudly guffawing at how terrible it is, yet still, so how, still having fun.

That’s what I feel will be Schumacher’s greatest legacy, a sense of fun, or at the very least a sense of outrageously camp pomp and circumstance.

‘Outrageously camp’ seems to summarise Schumacher in a nutshell actually, as an openly gay man in Hollywood pretty much throughout his whole career, he can be seen as breaking more than his fair share of barriers along the way, and his sexuality can be seen reflected in some of his work, subtly or otherwise.

It would be a great shame to remember him just for a few campy, and hilariously awful, attempts at Batman films, as he had a varied and ultimately successful career as a director whose best works can boast the likes of The Lost Boys, Falling Down and Phone Booth. He even embraced darker material later in his career with an adaptation The Phantom of the Opera and the often-overlooked thriller The Number 23. When working with the right material, Schumacher brought his ‘A’ game, it’s just a shame that his greatest creative failure will be his greatest lasting memory.

Well, I for one will hold a great place in my heart for Joel Schumacher, for the barriers he broke as a gay man in Hollywood, and his directorial abilities whenever the stars aligned, it would take a heart colder than Mr Freeze himself to deny his career the proper respect. We’ll never forget all those awful puns, and I hope we never forget you.

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