It has been twenty three years since Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin was released, and the tide has begun to turn against its bad reputation. Even though many fans have very vocally come around on the movie, that hasn't stopped the creative forces involved from bad mouthing the film and offering their apologies to the Batman fanbase. The latest of these is screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the screenplay for both the 1997 film and its 1995 predecessor Batman Forever. Goldsman apologized for the film in a new interivew but noted that at no point in production and development did they set out to make a bad movie on purpose.
“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.”
Upon release, Batman & Robin was critically reviled and remains the lowest grossing live-action Batman movie at the worldwide box office. The film received the most nominations at the "Golden Raspberry Awards" that year (nominating "the worst" in films) with Alicia Silverstone "winning" the Worst Supporting Actress award.
While there are no doubt instances from Batman & Robin that can be given the side-eye, there are moments in the film that show the understanding that director Joel Schumacher had for aping the comic book style in live-action. The color palette of the movie offers a pop-vignette that 2000s era superhero films and beyond would never dare to emulate, not to mention the film's overt stylistic homages to Adam West's classic TV series. It may not be the most popular Batman film but it carved itself a unique place in the canon.
In fact, Batman fans should be happy that Batman & Robin even happened at all, because it put Warner Bros. and the character on the path toward where it is now. After the critical and commercial failure of the film in the late 90s there was little hope for the character at the studio level for many years. Failed attempts were made at adapting Batman: Year One by director Darren Aronofsky and a live-action attempt at Batman Beyond among others, but they all failed to make it past the script stage.
In the end, a young filmmaker named Christopher Nolan was hired by the studio to reboot the character, a concept hitherto unknown at those times in superhero cinema. Nolan's film became Batman Begins, which was the first chapter in his Dark Knight trilogy that completely changed superhero movies. Without Batman Begins we don't get The Dark Knight. Without The Dark Knight we don't get Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Without The Dark Knight we don't get The Amazing Spider-Man, which means without The Dark Knight we don't get to Tom Holland's Spider-Man being shared by Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. But most importantly, we don't get to The Dark Knight without Batman & Robin.