Returns is a 1992 American superhero film produced and directed by
Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. It is the second
installment of Warner Bros.' initial Batman film series, with Michael
Keaton reprising the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film
introduces the characters of Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), a
business tycoon who teams up with the Penguin (Danny DeVito) to take
over Gotham City, as well as the character of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Burton originally did not
want to direct another Batman film because of his mixed emotions
toward the previous film in 1989. Daniel Waters delivered a script
that satisfied Burton; Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite,
removing the characters of Harvey Dent and Robin and rewriting the
climax. Before Pfeiffer's casting, Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman were
each offered the role of Catwoman, but both of them turned it down.
Filming of Batman Returns started in Burbank, California in June 1991.
Batman Returns was released
on June 19, 1992 to financial and critical success, though it caused
some controversy for being darker than its predecessor. The film's
budget was an estimated $80 million, while it made $45,687,710 in the
United States during its opening weekend (June 1921, 1992),
grossing $282,800,000 worldwide. The film was nominated for the
Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup, as well as
winning the Saturn Award for Best Makeup. It was also nominated for a
Saturn Award in the categories of Best Fantasy Film, Best Director
for Burton, Best Supporting Actor for DeVito and Best Costume.
After the success of
Batman, Warner Bros. was hoping for a sequel to start filming in May
1990 at Pinewood Studios. They spent $250,000 storing the sets from
the first film. Tim Burton had mixed emotions about directing another
film in the franchise after his experiences with the previous film.
"I will return if the sequel offers something new and
exciting", he said in 1989. "Otherwise it's a
most-dumbfounded idea." Burton decided to direct Edward
Scissorhands for 20th Century Fox. Meanwhile, Sam Hamm from the
previous film delivered the first two drafts of the script, while Bob
Kane was brought back as a creative consultant. Hamm's script had
Penguin and Catwoman going after hidden treasure.
was impressed with Daniel Waters' work on Heathers; Burton
originally brought Waters aboard on a sequel to Beetlejuice. Warner
Bros. then granted Burton a large amount of creative control,
demoting producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber to executive producers.
Dissatisfied with the Hamm script, Burton commissioned a rewrite from
Waters. Waters "came up with a social satire that had an evil
mogul backing a bid for the Mayor's office by the Penguin",
Waters reported. "I wanted to show that the true villains of our
world don't necessarily wear costumes." The plot device of
Penguin running for Mayor came from the 1960s TV series episodes
"Hizzoner the Penguin" and "Dizzoner the Penguin".
Waters wrote a total of five drafts.
On the characterization of
Catwoman, Waters explained "Sam Hamm went back to the way comic
books in general treat women, like fetishy sexual fantasy. I wanted
to start off just at the lowest point in society, a very beaten down
secretary." Harvey Dent appeared in early drafts of the script,
but was deleted. Waters quoted, "Sam Hamm definitely planned
that. I flirted with it, having Harvey start to come back and have
one scene of him where he flips a coin and it's the good side of the
coin, deciding not to do anything, so you had to wait for the next
movie." In early scripts Max Shreck was the "golden
boy" of the Cobblepot family, whereas Penguin was the deformed
outsider. It turned out that Shreck would be the Penguin's long-lost
brother. Max Shreck was also a reference to actor Max Schreck, known
for his role as Count Orlok in Nosferatu. According to casting
director Marion Dougherty, Burton was reportedly uncomfortable with
casting Christopher Walken as Shreck, on the basis that the actor
Burton hired Wesley Strick
to do an uncredited rewrite. Strick recalled, "When I was hired
to write Batman Returns (Batman II at the time), the big problem of
the script was Penguin's lack of a 'master plan'." Warner Bros.
presented Strick with warming or freezing Gotham City (a plot point
later to be used in Batman & Robin). Strick gained inspiration
from a Moses parallel that had Penguin killing the firstborn sons of
Gotham. A similar notion was used when the Penguin's parents threw
him into a river as a baby. Robin appeared in the script, but was
deleted because Waters felt the film had too many characters. Waters
called Robin "the most worthless character in the world,
especially with [Batman as] the loner of loners." Robin
started out as a juvenile gang leader, who becomes an ally to
Batman. Robin was later changed to a black teenaged garage mechanic.
Waters explained, "He's wearing this old-fashioned garage
mechanic uniform and it has an 'R' on it. He drives the Batmobile,
which I notice they used in the third film!" Marlon Wayans was
cast, and signed for a sequel. The actor had attended a wardrobe
fitting, but it was decided to save the character for a third installment.
Michael Keaton returned
after a significant increase in his salary at $10 million. Annette
Bening was cast as Catwoman after Burton saw her performance in The
Grifters, but she dropped out due to pregnancy. Raquel Welch,
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Ellen Barkin, Cher, Bridget Fonda and
Susan Sarandon were then in competition for the role. Sean Young, who
was originally cast as Vicki Vale in the first film, believed the
role should have gone to her. Young visited production offices
dressed in a homemade Catwoman costume, demanding an audition. Burton
was unfamiliar with Michelle Pfeiffer's work, but was convinced to
cast her after one meeting. Pfeiffer received a $3 million salary ($2
million more than Bening) and a percentage of the box office.
Pfeiffer took kickboxing lessons for the role and Kathy Long served
as Pfeiffer's body double. On Danny DeVito's casting, Waters
explained, "I kind of knew that DeVito was going to play The
Penguin. We didn't really officially cast it, but for a short nasty
little guy, it's a short list. I ended up writing the character for
In early 1991, two of
Hollywood's largest sound stages (Stage 16 at Warner Bros. and Stage
12 at Universal Studios) were being prepared for the filming of
Batman Returns. Filming started in June 1991. Stage 16 held Gotham
Plaza, based on Rockefeller Center. Universal's Stage 12 housed
Penguin's underground lair. A half-a-million gallon tank filled with
water was used. Burton wanted to make sure that the penguins felt
comfortable. Eight other locations on the Warner Bros. lot were used,
over 50% of their property was occupied by Gotham City sets.
Animal rights groups
started protesting the film after finding out that penguins would
have rockets strapped on their backs. Richard Hill, the curator of
the penguins, explained that Warner Bros. was very helpful in making
sure the penguins were comfortable. "On the flight over the
plane was refrigerated down to 45 degrees", recalls Hill.
"In Hollywood, they were given a refrigerated trailer, their own
swimming pool, half-a-ton of ice each day, and they had fresh fish
delivered daily straight from the docks. Even though it was 100
degrees outside, the entire set was refrigerated down to 35 degrees."
Warner Bros. devoted a
large amount of secrecy for Batman Returns. The art department was
required to keep their office blinds pulled down. Cast and crew had
to have photo ID badges with the movie's fake working title Dictel to
go anywhere near the sets. Kevin Costner was refused a chance to
visit the set. An entertainment magazine leaked the first photos of
Danny DeVito as the Penguin; in response Warner Bros. employed a
private investigator to track down the accomplice. $65 million was
spent during the production of Batman Returns, while $15 million was
used for marketing, coming to a total cost of $80 million. The final
shot of Catwoman looking at the Bat-Signal was completed during
post-production and was not part of the shooting script. After Batman
Returns was completed Warner Bros. felt it was best for Catwoman to
survive, saving more characterizations in a future installment.
Pfeiffer was unavailable and a body double was chosen.
Bo Welch, Burton's
collaborator on Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, replaced Anton
Furst as production designer, since Furst was unable to return for
the sequel due to contractual obligations. Welch blended "Fascist
architecture with World's fair architecture" for Gotham City.
He also studied Russian architecture and German Expressionism. An
iron maiden was used for Bruce Wayne's entry into the Batcave. Stan
Winston, who worked with Burton on Edward Scissorhands, designed
Danny DeVito's prosthetic makeup, which took two hours to apply.
DeVito had to put a combination of mouthwash and red/green food
coloring in his mouth "to create a grotesque texture of some
CLUB FEATURETTE DEPARTMENT
Trailer for Batman Returns
with Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer.
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More than 60 Catsuits were
designed in the six-month shoot at $1,000 each. The Batsuit was
updated, which was made out of a thinner, slightly more flexible foam
rubber material than the suit from Batman. DeVito was uncomfortable
with his costume, but this made it easy for him to get into
character. J. P. Morgan's wardrobe was used for inspiration on Max
Shreck's costume design.
The bats were entirely
composed of computer-generated imagery since it was decided directing
real bats on set would be problematic. The Penguin's "bird
army" was a combination of CGI, robotic creatures, men in suits
and even real penguins. Robotic penguin puppets were commissioned by
Stan Winston. In total 30 African Penguins and 12 King Penguins were
used. A miniature effect was used for the exteriors of the Cobblepot
Mansion in the opening scene and for Wayne Manor. The same method was
used for the Bat Ski-boat and the exterior shots of the Gotham Zoo.
Danny Elfman had great
enthusiasm for returning because "I didn't have to prove myself
from the first film. I remember Jon Peters was very skeptical at
first to hire me." Elfman's work schedule was 12 hours a day, 7
days a week. "When completing this movie I realized it was
something of a film score and an opera. It was 95 minutes long, twice
the amount of the average of film score." Burton allowed Elfman
to be more artistic with the sequel score, such as the
"scraping" on violins for the cat themes. The musician
co-orchestrated "Face to Face", which was written and
performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The song can be heard in one
scene during the film and during the end credits.
Returns was released in America on June 19, 1992, earning $45.69
million on its opening weekend. This was the highest opening weekend
in 1992 and the highest opening weekend of any film up to that point.
The film went on to gross a worldwide total of $266.83 million.
Batman Returns was the third highest grossing film in America of
1992, and sixth highest in worldwide totals. The film was declared a
financial success, but Warner Bros. felt the film should have been
more successful. A "parental backlash" criticized Batman
Returns with violence and sexual references that were unsuitable for
children and McDonald's shut down their Happy Meal tie-in for the
film. Burton responded, "I like Batman Returns better than the
first one. There was this big backlash that it was too dark, but I
found this movie much less dark."
Batman Returns was
generally well received by both reviewers and audiences,
"Director Tim Burton's dark, brooding atmosphere, Michael
Keaton's work as the tormented hero, and the flawless casting of
Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Christopher Walken as, well,
Christopher Walken, make the sequel better than the first."
Maslin in The New York Times thought that "Mr. Burton creates a
wicked world of misfits, all of them rendered with the mixture of
horror, sympathy and playfulness that has become this director's
hallmark." She described Michael Keaton as showing
"appropriate earnestness", Danny DeVito as "conveying
verve", Christopher Walken as "wonderfully debonair",
Michelle Pfeiffer as "captivating... fierce, seductive", Bo
Welch's production design as "dazzling", Stefan Czapsky's
cinematography as "crisp", and Daniel Waters's screenplay
Peter Travers in Rolling
Stone wrote: "Burton uses the summer's most explosively
entertaining movie to lead us back into the liberating darkness of
dreams." He praised the performances: "Pfeiffer gives this
feminist avenger a tough core of intelligence and wit; she's a
classic dazzler. Michael Keaton's manic-depressive hero remains a
remarkably rich creation. And Danny DeVito's mutant Penguin, a
balloon-bellied Richard III with a kingdom of sewer freaks, is as
hilariously warped as Jack Nicholson's Joker and even quicker with
Desson Howe in The
Washington Post wrote: "Director Burton not only re-creates his
one-of-a-kind atmosphere, he one-ups it, even two-ups it. He's best
at evoking the psycho-murky worlds in which his characters reside.
The Penguin holds court in a penguin-crowded, Phantom of the
Opera-like sewer home. Keaton hides in a castlelike mansion, which
perfectly mirrors its owner's inner remoteness. Comic strip purists
will probably never be happy with a Batman movie. But Returns comes
closer than ever to Bob Kane's dark, original strip, which began in
1939." He described Walken as "engaging", DeVito as
"exquisite" and Pfeiffer as "deliciously purry."
McCarthy in Variety wrote that "the real accomplishment of the
film lies in the amazing physical realization of an imaginative
universe. Where Burton's ideas end and those of his collaborators
begin is impossible to know, but the result is a seamless, utterly
consistent universe full of nasty notions about societal
deterioration, greed and other base impulses." He praised the
contributions of Stan Winston, Danny Elfman, Bo Welch and
cinematographer Stefan Czapsky, and in terms of performances, opined
that "the deck is stacked entirely in favor of the
villains", calling DeVito "fascinating" and Pfeiffer
Conversely, Roger Ebert of
the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two stars, writing: "I give
the movie a negative review, and yet I don't think it's a bad movie;
it's more misguided, made with great creativity, but denying us what
we more or less deserve from a Batman story. No matter how hard you
try, superheroes and film noir don't go together; the very essence of
noir is that there are no more heroes." He compared the Penguin
negatively with the Joker of the first film, writing that "the
Penguin is a curiously meager and depressing creature; I pitied him,
but did not fear him or find him funny. The genius of Danny DeVito is
all but swallowed up in the paraphernalia of the role."
Jonathan Rosenbaum called
DeVito "a pale substitute for Jack Nicholson from the first
film" and felt that "there's no suspense in Batman Returns
whatsoever". Batman comic book writer/artist Matt Wagner was
quoted as saying: "I hated how Batman Returns made Batman little
more than just another costumed creep, little better than the
villains he's pursuing. Additionally, Burton is so blatantly not an
action director. That aspect of both his films just sucked."
Burr in Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B-; he wrote that
"Burton still hasn't figured out how to tell a coherent story:
He's more interested in fashioning pretty beads than in putting them
on a string. Yet for all the wintry weirdness, there's more going on
under the surface of this movie than in the original. No wonder some
people felt burned by Batman Returns: Tim Burton just may have
created the first blockbuster art film."
Batman Returns was also
criticized for propagating anti-Semitic overtones, more particularly
the Penguin's character as a stereotypical Jew who is out for revenge
and murdering every first-born.
Batman Returns was the last
film in the Batman film series that featured Tim Burton and Michael
Keaton as director and leading actor, respectively. With the
following film, Batman Forever, Warner Bros. decided to go in a
"lighter" direction to be more mainstream in the process of
a family film. Burton was asked to restrict himself to the role of
producer and approved of Joel Schumacher as director. With Warner
Bros. moving on development for Batman Forever in June 1993, a
Catwoman spin-off was announced. Michelle Pfeiffer was to reprise her
role, with the character not to appear in Forever because of "her
own little movie".
Burton became attached as
director, while producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters also
returned to the Catwoman spin-off with Burton. In January 1994,
Burton was unsure of his plans to direct Catwoman or an adaptation of
The Fall of the House of Usher. On June 6th, 1995, Waters turned in
his Catwoman script to Warner Bros., the same day Batman Forever was
released. Burton was still being courted to direct. Waters joked,
"turning it in the day Batman Forever opened may not have been
my best logistical move, in that it's the celebration of the fun-for-the-whole-family
Batman. Catwoman is definitely not a fun-for-the-whole-family
script." The film labored in development hell for years, with
Pfeiffer getting replaced by Ashley Judd. The film ended up becoming
the critically panned Catwoman (2004) starring Halle Berry. Comic
fans noted the film had nothing to do with the popular Batman
character, though Berry's Catwoman costume did attract a lot of attention.
Despite its mixed reception
on initial release, Batman Returns has attracted a cult following
among fans due to its production design and gloomy tone.
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