Joel Schumacher has died at the age of 80 after a year-long battle with cancer, and he’s a man who director a great number of wonderful films.
My two favourites of his are 1990’s Flatliners, where five medical students attempt, in turn, to stop their hearts from beating so they can see what lies beyond in the afterlife, and then return back to life again. It does get a bit daft in how they end up addressing past issues in their life and trying to seek redemption for them, but as a piece of visual entertainment, it can’t be beaten, especially with the widescreen vistas and the use of colour. It’s also my first ever DVD, from 1997, when it was released in the US, so it was a Region 1 disc, and went well with my multi-region Creative Encore Dxr2 PC-DVD drive.
The other is Falling Down, as Michael Douglas brilliantly rails against the madness of normality in life, and although his heart is in the right place, it takes him a long time to realise just how over-the-top he’s gone at times, even though all he wants to do is go to his daughter’s birthday at the house where his ex-wife lives.
I also have a soft spot for his two Batman films, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. They’re not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but as well as being colourful (like Flatliners), they have the sense of fun that was missing from the stupidly dark Tim Burton incarnations, even though Batman Returns was good (the 1989 Batman was not, let’s face it).
His adaptation of John Grishman’s A Time To Kill was also superb, and as it deals with a grisly murder, I did find it odd that when I boarded a plane on holiday around that time, they chose to show that as the film which everyone could see. Naturally, so much of it was cut to ribbons, so I don’t know why they didn’t just stick with a simple comedy and save themselves the hassle. I’ve still to see The Client, though.
St Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys are watchable, although I’m not hugely into the latter like a lot of other people are.
As for those which didn’t work, Veronica Guerin is one which would’ve made a good TV movie, but on the big screen, it played out like a pedestrian drama. Elsewhere, in Phone Booth, it has a decent premise, but the biggest issue was down to the total lack of conviction in the voiceover from Kiefer Sutherland as “The Caller”. I understand he wasn’t the original choice and actually recorded it close to the film’s completion as a last-minute change – and it shows. His vocal performance left me cold, and it doesn’t help that when you heard him speak, it didn’t sound like he was on the phone, but with his voice booming out across the city with loudspeakers all around.
There’s still a number of Joel Schumacher’s films I need to catch up on, though, and if you haven’t yet seen Flatliners and/or Falling Down, please do.
R.I.P. Joel Schumacher (1939-2020)
(top pic is Joel Schumacher with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler, at the time of the release of The Phantom Of The Opera, which I have also still to see)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.