- Batman Returns
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Burton Produced by Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Screenplay by Daniel Waters Story by Sam Hamm
Based on Characters by
Starring Michael Keaton
Music by Danny Elfman Cinematography Stefan Czapsky Editing by Chris Lebenzon
Studio Warner Bros.
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) June 19, 1992 Running time 126 minutes Language English Budget US$80 million Box office $266,822,354
Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, it is the sequel to Burton's Batman (1989), and features Michael Keaton reprising the title role, with Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Burton originally did not want to direct a sequel because of his mixed emotions toward the previous film. Daniel Waters delivered a script that satisfied Burton; Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite, deleting the character of Robin and rewriting the climax. Filming started at Burbank, California in June 1991. Batman Returns was released to financial and critical success, though it caused some controversy for being darker than its predecessor.
A deformed baby boy is thrown into Gotham City's river by his horrified parents. Thirty-three years later, the child, Oswald Cobblepot, resurfaces as the hideous Penguin (Danny DeVito), who blackmails millionaire Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) with evidence of his corporate crimes into helping him discover the identity of his parents. The Penguin 'rescues' the Mayor's child when he is kidnapped by a criminal which The Penguin set up, which makes him a heroic figure. When the Penguin's plight becomes news, Shreck hatches a plan to recall Gotham City's current mayor and elect Cobblepot in his place, in order to cement his control over the city and complete the power plant project he has been working on. Batman (Michael Keaton) is unconvinced by the Penguin, believing that he and his gang are responsible for several child murders. Meanwhile, Shreck throws his secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the top of his company's building when she discovers the true nature of his plans: to build a super power station and drain Gotham of its electricity.
Selina survives the fall but it causes a psychotic break and her personality changes. Now influenced by her love of cats and free from any societal or moral restraints, Selina returns home and designs a new costume, becoming Catwoman and focusing on revenge against Shreck for his several unpunished crimes. Selina, meanwhile, falls in love with Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne, a situation complicated by Catwoman's teaming with the Penguin in an effort to rid Gotham of Batman. When Batman exposes the Penguin's villainous ways, thereby ruining his political chances, the Penguin mounts an attack to kill all of Gotham's first-born infants, telling the members of a high society party. He kidnaps Shreck when Shreck asks to be taken instead of his son Chip. Batman foils his scheme and has missiles launched at the Penguin's base. Shreck looses himself from the cage over the sewers but is confronted by both Batman and Catwoman. Batman attempts to persuade Catwoman to spare Shreck and hand him over to the police, even unmasking himself in the process, but Shreck draws a gun and begins firing on them. In a last effort to stop Shreck, Catwoman causes an explosion and apparently sacrifices her own life to kill Shreck. The Penguin, having been mortally wounded during his fight with Batman, dies from his injuries, and is taken by his penguins into the sewer waters.
Some time later, Bruce is driving around the city at night with butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough), thinking he sees Selina's shadow on a wall. Alfred stops the car and Bruce searches for Selina in vain. He does find Selina's cat, however, which he takes with him and leaves. The camera then pans up to the top of the city, amidst the sky scrapers. As the Bat-Signal lights up the night sky, Catwoman emerges from a rooftop, gazing at it.
- Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman: Continuing his quest as Gotham City's sole protector, in his wake, he meets Selina Kyle, and clashes with new anti-heroine Catwoman. His situation becomes complicated due to the arrival of a mysterious "Penguin-like Man" spotted throughout Gotham.
- Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin: Abandoned at birth due to his hideous appearance by his aristocratic parents, he spends his life living in the sewers of Gotham City. His real intentions are to dispose of every first born aristocratic son in Gotham City out of vengeance against his parents for abandoning him as a child.
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle / Catwoman: Formerly a quiet and shy secretary for Max Shreck, Selina transforms into Catwoman after an attempt on her life. She becomes a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne and a deadly adversary for Batman.
- Christopher Walken as Max Shreck: A powerful, sociopathic and ruthless business mogul who serves as the boss of Selina Kyle and unusual ally to the Penguin. He seeks to build a super power plant in order to bring Gotham to its knees.
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth: Bruce Wayne's faithful butler.
- Michael Murphy as The Mayor: Gotham's unpopular Mayor whose position is challenged by the Penguin at the urging of Max Shreck.
- Cristi Conaway as The Ice Princess: A holiday themed beauty queen who is kidnapped and eventually killed by the Penguin.
- Andrew Bryniarski as Charles "Chip" Shreck: Max Shreck's son and right-hand man.
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon: Police Commissioner of Gotham City.
Vincent Schiavelli and Anna Katarina portray the Penguin's assistants. Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger, who both appeared in Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure, have cameo appearances as the Penguin's parents. Elizabeth Sanders, the wife of Batman co-creator Bob Kane, cameos as a Gotham citizen.
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 from 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.
Burton 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 scared him.
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 (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 due to too many characters. Waters feels Robin is "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 teenager who's also a 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 dropped out due to pregnancy. Raquel Welch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lena Olin, 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. 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 Danny DeVito."
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.
Design and effects
Bo Welch, Burton's collaborator on Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, replaced Anton Furst as production designer. 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 weird ooze."
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." 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.
Batman Returns was released in America on June 19, 1992, earning $45.69 million in 2,644 theaters 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 $162.83 million in North America, and $104 million in foreign countries, coming to 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. 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."
Janet 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 as "sharp."
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 the quips."
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."
Todd 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 "very tasty."
Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "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. Batman Returns is odd and sad, but not exhilarating."
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."
Awards and nominations
Awarding Body Award Nominee Result Academy Awards Best Visual Effects Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak nomination Best Makeup Ve Neill, Ronnie Specter, Stan Winston nomination British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) Best Makeup Artist Ve Neill, Stan Winston nomination Best Special Effects Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak nomination BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award Danny Elfman winner Golden Raspberry Awards (Razzies) Worst Supporting Actor Danny DeVito nomination Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation nomination MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer nomination Best Villain Danny DeVito nomination Most Desirable Female Michelle Pfeiffer nomination Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Film nomination Best Director Tim Burton nomination Best Supporting Actor Danny DeVito nomination Best Make-Up Stan Winston, Ve Neill winner Best Costumes Bob Ringwood, Mary E. Vogt, Vin Burnham nomination
Batman Returns would be the last film in the Batman film series that featured Tim Burton and Michael Keaton as director and leading actor, respectively. With Batman Forever, Warner Bros. decided to go in a "lighter" direction to be more mainstream in the process of a family film. Burton had no interest in returning to direct a sequel, but he did serve as a producer. 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 6, 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.
Despite its mixed reception on initial release, Batman Returns has attracted a cult following among fans due to its production design and gloomy tone. For example, animation director Satoshi Kon has cited it as one of his 100 favorite movies.
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- Batman Returns
- Batman Returns at the Internet Movie Database
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- Batman Returns at Rotten Tomatoes
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Animated televisionThe Adventures of Batman • The Batman/Superman Hour • The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour • The New Adventures of Batman • Batman: The Animated Series (episodes) • The New Batman Adventures (episodes) • Batman Beyond (episodes) • The Batman (episodes) • Batman: The Brave and the Bold (episodes) • Beware the Batman Animated filmsBatman: Mask of the Phantasm • Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman • Chase Me • The Batman vs. Dracula • Batman: Gotham Knight • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies • Batman: Under the Red Hood • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse • Batman: Year One Novels Related topics Live-action films based on DC Comics Serials Single films Film franchises Batman 1966 1989 2005 Superman 1951 1978 2013 Swamp Thing Tim Burton 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s ProducerEdward Scissorhands (1990) · Batman Returns (1992) · The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) · Cabin Boy (1994) · Ed Wood (1994) · Batman Forever (1995) · James and the Giant Peach (1996) · Mars Attacks! (1996) · Corpse Bride (2005) · 9 (2009) · Dark Shadows (2012) · Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) · Frankenweenie (2012) · Big Eyes (TBA) Short films LiteratureBurton on Burton, edited by Mark Salisbury (1995, revised editions 2000, 2006) · The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories (1997) · The Art of Tim Burton, written by Leah Gallo (2009)
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