Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Tim Burton|
|Screenplay by||Daniel Waters|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Chris Lebenzon|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$266.8 million|
Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton and produced by Denise Di Novi and Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. The sequel to the 1989 film Batman, it is the second installment of Warner Bros. initial Batman film series, and stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne / Batman, alongside Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, and Michael Murphy. In Batman Returns, Batman must prevent the Penguin from killing all of Gotham City's firstborn sons, while dealing with Catwoman, who seeks vengeance against Max Shreck, a corrupt tycoon who seeks to bring Gotham City under his control.
Burton originally did not want to direct another Batman film. Warner Bros. developed a script with Sam Hamm which had the Penguin and Catwoman going after hidden treasure. Burton agreed to return after they granted him more creative control and replaced Hamm with Daniel Waters. Wesley Strick was later chosen to do an uncredited rewrite shortly before filming. This included normalizing dialogue, fleshing out the Penguin's motivations and master plan and removing scenes due to budget concerns. Strick continued working as the on-set writer through filming. Annette Bening was originally cast as Catwoman but became pregnant and was replaced with Pfeiffer.
Batman Returns was released on June 19, 1992. It grossed $266.8 million worldwide on a budget of $80 million and received positive reviews. Critics praised its action sequences, performances, Danny Elfman's score, effects, and villains, although its dark tone was criticized. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup, as well as two BAFTA awards. A sequel, Batman Forever, was released in 1995, with Val Kilmer replacing Keaton as Batman.
In the prologue, Gotham City socialites Tucker and Esther Cobblepot give birth to a deformed baby boy, Oswald. Disgusted by his appearance and wild demeanor, they confine the baby to a cage and ultimately throw him into the sewer, where he is discovered by a family of penguins underneath the abandoned zoo.
Thirty-three years later, millionaire and philanthropist Max Shreck proposes to build a power plant to supply Gotham with energy, though he is opposed by the mayor. During Shreck's speech, Gotham comes under attack by a disgraced former circus troupe, the Red Triangle Gang. Though Batman intervenes and manages to fight the criminals off, Shreck is abducted and taken to the sewer, where he meets the gang's secret leader, Oswald himself, now going by the name "Penguin". Oswald blackmails Shreck with evidence of his corporate crimes into helping him return to the surface, and he accepts. Meanwhile, Shreck's secretary, Selina Kyle, discovers that the power plant is actually meant to drain Gotham of its energy, which will bring the city under Shreck's control. Shreck pushes her out of a window to silence her, but she survives the fall and vows revenge, taking up the mantle of Catwoman.
Oswald makes his presence known by rescuing the mayor's baby from a staged kidnapping attempt, and requests to be allowed into the Hall of Records to find his parents. Batman's alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, voices his suspicions about Oswald's true motives, and investigates his background and connection to the Red Triangle Gang, discovering that the troupe had been shut down years ago due to children going missing during their performances and the disappearance of one specific member before interrogation, who Bruce suspects to be Oswald. During a meeting with Shreck to voice his own opposition to the power plant, Bruce meets Selina and the two become attracted to one another. In order to remove his enemies, Shreck pushes for Oswald to run for mayor and discredit the current mayor by having the Red Triangle Gang wreak havoc on the city. Batman intervenes and meets Catwoman as she attempts to sabotage one of Shreck's businesses; she escapes, but is injured and swears revenge on Batman by allying with Oswald, who also plans to kill Batman as part of his own schemes.
As Bruce and Selina begin a romantic relationship, Oswald abducts Gotham's Ice Princess and kills her, framing Batman for the act, as well as causing the Batmobile to rampage throughout Gotham before Batman narrowly manages to regain control and escape the authorities. When Catwoman rejects his advances, Oswald breaks off their partnership and attempts to kill her, but she survives after falling into a greenhouse. During the chase, Batman records Oswald's disparaging remarks about the people of Gotham and later plays them during his next speech, destroying his image and forcing him to return to the sewer, where he renounces his humanity and reveals his plan to abduct and kill all of Gotham's firstborn sons as revenge for what his parents did to him. At a charity ball hosted by Shreck, Bruce and Selina meet and discover each other's secret identities. The Penguin appears and reveals his plan, intending to take Shreck's son Chip with him, but Shreck gives himself up in his son's stead.
Batman foils the kidnappings and heads for the Penguin's lair. The Penguin attempts to have his army of penguins bomb the city and kill everyone in Gotham, though Batman and his butler, Alfred, jam the signal and order the penguins to return to the sewer. Batman arrives and confronts the Penguin. In the ensuing fight, the Penguin falls through a window into the sewer's toxic water. Shreck escapes but is confronted by Catwoman, who intends to kill him. Batman pleads for Selina to stop, unmasking himself in the process. Shreck draws a gun and shoots Bruce, and then shoots Selina multiple times, but she survives and electrocutes herself and Shreck with a stun gun, causing a massive explosion. Bruce, who was wearing body armor, finds Shreck's remains but Selina is nowhere to be found. The Penguin emerges from the water and tries to shoot Bruce from behind, but eventually dies from his injuries and from the toxic sewage, before his penguin family lays his body to rest in the water. In the aftermath, as Alfred drives him home, Bruce sees Selina's silhouette in an alley but only finds her cat as a farewell gift, who he decides to take home with him. The Bat-Signal appears in the sky as Catwoman, who survived, watches.
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 originally did not want to direct another film in the franchise. "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.Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman, the Penguin, and Catwoman, was uncredited at the time of the films release and his name was not added to any Batman related media until 2016. Hamm's script had the 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. Denise Di Novi and Burton became the film's producers. The first film's producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber became executive producers, joining Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. 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 subplot of the 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. His disfiguring appearance of Two-Face would have appeared in the climax when Catwoman kisses him with a taser to the face, which was replaced with Max Shreck. 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 The 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.
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 the Penguin's lack of a 'master plan'." Warner Bros. presented Strick with warming, or freezing Gotham City, a plot point they would later use in Batman & Robin. Strick gained inspiration from a Moses parallel that had the 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 teenage 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 to $10 million. Annette Bening was cast as Catwoman after Burton saw her performance in The Grifters, but she dropped out due to her pregnancy.Raquel Welch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madonna, Ellen Barkin, Cher, Bridget Fonda, Lorraine Bracco, Jennifer Beals and Susan Sarandon were then in competition for the role.Sean Young, who was originally chosen for Vicki Vale in the previous 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. The actress undertook kickboxing lessons for the role and trained with an expert to master the whip.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."
Burgess Meredith (who portrayed the Penguin in the 1960s TV series Batman) was cast in a cameo role as Tucker Cobblepot, Penguin's father, but fell ill. The role was taken by Paul Reubens, who had worked with Burton on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
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." This made it very cold for Michelle Pfeiffer, who was most of the time clad only in a thin latex catsuit. According to the American Humane Association's On-Set Oversight, The six Emperor penguins that act as pallbearers for the Penguin's body at the end of the film, were little people dressed as Emperor penguins.
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 with Columbia Pictures (as he was working on what would be his final credited work prior to his suicide, Awakenings). 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 latex Catsuits were created for the six-month shoot at $1,000 each. The initial concept for the design came from Tim Burton, who envisioned a stuffed cat with its stitches coming apart at the seams. The prototype was created around a body cast of Pfeiffer so that it would fit her exactly, and painted with white silicone rubber to imitate stitches. It was extremely tight and very laborious to put on - Michelle Pfeiffer had to be covered in talcum powder to squeeze into the costume, which was in turn brushed with liquid silicone on every take to give it shine. Pfeiffer might wear the suit for 12 to 14 hours at a time, except lunch breaks when it was removed, which was her only opportunity to use the bathroom during the workday.
The Batsuit was updated, which was made out of a thinner, slightly more flexible foam rubber material than the suit from Batman, and the logo was changed to better reflect how it looked in the comics. The new bat-suit also had a zipper for urination and the upper body build did not look like a muscular physique. 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 film score." Burton allowed Elfman to be more artistic with the sequel score, such as the "scraping" on violins for the cat themes. Under the pressure of finishing the score, however, the relationship between the two strained, which -- along with further "creative differences" on The Nightmare Before Christmas -- led Burton to use Howard Shore to score his next film Ed Wood. 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. Burton had requested Siouxsie and the Banshees for the title track, commenting : "I've always been a fan - Siouxsie is one of very few women who can create a realistic primal cat sound."
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 also set the opening weekend record in the United Kingdom. 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.
Though criticized by some for being too dark and violent, Batman Returns received mostly positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 80 reviews, with an average rating of 6.73/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "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." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
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."
Conversely, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two stars out of four, 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."Ty 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."
A "parental backlash" criticized Batman Returns with violence and sexual references that were inappropriate for children despite being rated PG-13. McDonald's shut down their Happy Meal promotion 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."
|Academy Awards||Best Visual Effects||Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak||Nominated|
|Best Makeup||Ve Neill, Ronnie Specter, Stan Winston||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs)||Best Makeup Artist||Ve Neill, Stan Winston||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak||Nominated|
|BMI Film & TV Awards||BMI Film Music Award||Danny Elfman||Won|
|Golden Raspberry Awards (Razzies)||Worst Supporting Actor||Danny DeVito||Nominated|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Awards||Best Kiss||Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer||Nominated|
|Best Villain||Danny DeVito||Nominated|
|Most Desirable Female||Michelle Pfeiffer||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Film||Nominated|
|Best Director||Tim Burton||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Danny DeVito||Nominated|
|Best Make-Up||Stan Winston, Ve Neill||Won|
|Best Costumes||Bob Ringwood, Mary E. Vogt, Vin Burnham||Nominated|
|Best DVD Collection||Nominated|
|20/20 Awards||Best Sound Design||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Bo Welch||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Bob Ringwood, Mary E. Vogt, Vin Burnham||Nominated|
|Golden Schmoes Awards||Best DVD/Blu-Ray of the Year||Nominated|
|International Film Music Critics Award||Best Archival Release of an Existing Score||Danny Elfman||Nominated|
|Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists||Best Foreign Director||Tim Burton||Nominated|
|Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Movie Actress||Michelle Pfeiffer||Nominated|
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
It was part of Empire's 500 Greatest Films in 2008 at number 401.
--Daniel Waters on his script for Catwoman
Batman Returns would be the last film in the Warner Bros. Batman film series that featured Burton and Michael Keaton as director and leading actor. 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 was credited as 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 spin-off.
Burton became attached as director, while producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters also returned. 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." In an August 1995 interview, Pfeiffer re-iterated her interest in the spin-off, but explained her priorities would be challenged as a mother and commitments to other projects. The film labored in development hell for years, with Pfeiffer replaced by Ashley Judd. The film ended up becoming the critically panned Catwoman (2004), starring Halle Berry.
The script gave the writer (Daniel Waters) license to create his own villain in the form of Christopher Walken's nefarious Max Shreck, named after Max Schreck, the star of F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU (1922).