Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film, directed and produced 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 corrupt 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. Warner Bros. developed a script with writer 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 did an uncredited rewrite, removing the characters of Harvey Dent and Robin and rewriting the climax. Annette Bening was originally cast as Catwoman but became pregnant and was replaced with Pfeiffer. Filming for Batman Returns started in June 1991 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.
Batman Returns was released on June 19, 1992. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup, as well as two BAFTA awards. Batman Returns's budget was $80 million and it grossed $266.8 million worldwide, making the film a financial success. The film received generally positive reviews from critics praising the action sequences, the acting, effects and the film's villains, though the overwhelmingly dark and depressing tone was less well received.
On a snowy Christmas night in Gotham City, a wealthy billionaire Tucker Cobblepot lives with his wife Esther Cobblepot who gave birth to their deformed infant child Oswald. After caging their hideous infant, the couple witness their son attacking their pet cat. Fearing and knowing that he would become a menace to society, Tucker and Esther throw their infant into Gotham River. His crib floats in the sewer and into an abandoned zoo and is found by a flock of penguins who raise him as one of their own.
33 years later, three years after the death of the Joker, during the lighting of Gotham City's Christmas tree, a villainous gang of carnival performers stage a riot. While billionaire Bruce Wayne, as Batman, subdues the criminals, corrupt businessman Max Shreck falls through a trapdoor that leads directly to the underground lair of Cobblepot himself, who is now the nefarious kingpin known as The Penguin. A former sideshow freak, Cobblepot explains his desire to become a respected citizen of Gotham and blackmails Shreck into helping him.
Meanwhile, Shreck's secretary, Selina Kyle, inadvertently discovers her boss's plan to illegally monopolize Gotham's supply of electricity. In order to protect his secrets, Shreck pushes her out of his office window. Falling through several canopies, Kyle miraculously survives but lies unconscious in an alley. A group of cats swarm around her and she suddenly regains consciousness. Traumatized, Kyle develops dissociative identity disorder and, after having a mental breakdown and trashing her apartment, she fashions a black vinyl costume and whip, becoming the formidable Catwoman.
Shreck arranges for one of Cobblepot's men to kidnap the Mayor's infant son, allowing Cobblepot to "rescue" him. As a reward, Cobblepot is given access to the Gotham City Archives, where he learns his real name, and that he is the last surviving member of his family. Meanwhile, the Mayor, persuaded by Wayne, refuses to give Shreck a construction permit for his power plant. Cobblepot orders his gang to attack downtown Gotham, ruining the Mayor's reputation and giving Shreck the opportunity to propose Cobblepot as a replacement. Batman confronts Cobblepot, but Catwoman appears while firebombing Shreck's department store, and Cobblepot escapes. After a fight in which Batman knocks her off a building, Catwoman survives by landing in a truck full of kitty litter.
While Kyle enters a romantic relationship with Wayne, as Catwoman, she agrees to help Cobblepot with a plan to ruin Batman's reputation by framing him for the abduction of Gotham's "Ice Princess" beauty queen. While traversing the rooftops to find the Ice Princess, Penguin's goons disassemble the Batmobile and plant a device into the car that will allow Penguin to control it. Distracted by Catwoman, Batman is unable to stop Cobblepot from attacking the Princess using a swarm of captive bats. She falls to her death before Batman has the chance to save her, causing the gathered townspeople to believe that Batman pushed her. When Catwoman rejects Cobblepot's amorous advances, he responds by attacking her with his motorized helicopter umbrella. As the umbrella takes her up into the sky, Catwoman narrowly cheats death again as she falls into a rooftop greenhouse. Fleeing from the police, Batman realizes that Cobblepot is remotely controlling the Batmobile, taking it on a rampage through Gotham. Batman disables the control device, but not before recording the Penguin's mocking insults about how gullible the people of Gotham are.
At a press conference for Cobblepot organized by Shreck, Batman secretly broadcasts the recording, destroying Cobblepot's public image. Enraged, Cobblepot escapes the police by diving into the same river that he parents had thrown him into, fleeing to the sewers and orders his gang to kidnap all of the first born sons of Gotham's citizens. At a masquerade ball hosted by Shreck, Wayne and Kyle deduce each other's secret identities. Cobblepot suddenly invades the party, revealing his intention to drown the kidnapped children, including Shreck's son Chip, in sewage water, prompting Shreck to offer himself instead. Batman defeats the kidnappers, prompting Cobblepot to unleash an army of penguin soldiers to destroy Gotham with missiles. Piloting the Batboat through the sewers, Batman redirects the penguins to instead fire on Cobblepot's hideout. Cobblepot attacks Batman in a rage, but ends up falling through the ceiling of his lair and into the toxic water.
Catwoman ambushes Shreck in a vengeful attempt to kill him, but Batman stops her and unmasks himself, as does Catwoman when she rejects Wayne's attempts to reason with her. Shreck then shoots Wayne before shooting Kyle multiple times until he runs out of bullets, leaving her severely injured, but not mortally wounded. Putting a taser to his lips, Kyle kisses Shreck while grabbing hold of an exposed power cable, causing a fiery explosion that kills Shreck. Wayne, who survived, uncovers Shreck's corpse while digging through the rubble in an attempt to find Kyle. Cobblepot, mortally wounded from his fall, then arises and tries one last time to kill Wayne with his umbrella, but succumbs to his injuries and dies after collapsing onto the floor. Subsequently, his penguin family carry out a makeshift funeral that culminates with them pushing his corpse into the water.
Afterwards, as Alfred drives Wayne home, Wayne spots a shadow outside resembling Catwoman. He follows it and instead finds a stray black cat deciding to take it home. As he leaves, the Bat-Signal lights up in the night sky as Catwoman watches from afar.
- Michael Keaton as Batman / Bruce Wayne
- Danny DeVito as The Penguin / Oswald Cobblepot
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman / Selina Kyle
- Christopher Walken as Max Shreck
- Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth
- Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon
- Michael Murphy as Mayor of Gotham City
- Vincent Schiavelli as The Organ Grinder
- Andrew Bryniarski as Chip Shreck
- Cristi Conaway as The Ice Princess
- Rick Zumwalt as The Tattooed Strongman
- Anna Katarina as The Poodle Lady
- Paul Reubens as Tucker Cobblepot (Penguin's Father)
- Diane Salinger as Esther Cobblepot (Penguin's Mother)
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".
The Batman Returns score was composed and performed by Danny Elfman. The soundtrack also includes "Face to Face", written by Siouxsie & the Banshees and Danny Elfman, used to promote the movie prior to its release. Two versions of the music video were made (the other added shots from the movie), and a club version, remixed by 808 State, was released. Elfman added chorus to main theme making it similar but not as dark as the original.
Although reviews were mixed, the film was a box office success and was the third highest grossing 1992 movie in North America. Many lauded the film's dark atmosphere and intense characters; the film has a freshness rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is considered "fresh". However, some others found the film to be overly dark and sadistic and criticized it as inappropriate for children; McDonald's marketing tie-ins, including special cups and Happy Meal toys, were protested by parents' groups because they thought that Danny DeVito's Penguin portrayal would give children nightmares. However, the filmmakers intended that the film was not suitable for children, which is a probable reason why Batman Returns, like most Batman films, was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America.
In addition to criticisms of the film's tone and demeanor, some found Burton's interpretation of the central characters problematic, arguing that the Penguin's physical deformity and homicidal tendencies, Catwoman's degenerative mental state, and Batman's brooding melancholy, as well as his tendency to kill criminals, simply added to the somber and unsettling nature of the film.
The initially negative reaction to Batman Returns, however, prompted Warner Brothers to re-think their approach to the franchise, and the series was handed to director Joel Schumacher, who adopted a much more lighthearted and camp approach to the characters. However, the generally very negative critical and fan reaction to the Joel Schumacher films in the franchise, particularly 1997's Batman & Robin, sparked a critical re-evaluation of Tim Burton's dark, gloomy and expressionistic first sequel in the franchise.
Behind The Scenes
- Sam Hamm's original script had Vicki Vale and also had The Penguin and Catwoman looking for buried treasure. Also, Batman would investigate Jack Napier's past life. However, the ideas were scrapped when Tim Burton returned to direct the movie.
- Daniel Waters' original script had the Batsignal blinking on and off at the end of the film as a sign that Selina's electrocution of Max had disrupted the power supply of the city. Tim Burton decided later in the production to end the film with Catwoman looking out at the signal over a snowy sky, hinting at her survival and possible appearance in a future film. Pfeiffer was not available, so an articulated, upper torso dummy was fabricated for the shot, but ultimately a body double was used. Test footage of the dummy is included with the 2005 DVD release bonus features.
- Robin was originally considered to be introduced in this movie, and had been written in the original script, but was later removed. However, despite Robin's exclusion from the movie, an action figure of Robin was still made.
- Max Shreck is a new character of the Batman franchise created in this movie. Originally, Harvey Dent would be played Shreck's role, and in the moment in that Catwoman electrocuted him, Dent would be survived, but his face was deformed by being electrocuted, and so would become Two-Face for the next film.
- According with the producers of Batman: The Animated Series, Shreck was planned to appear in the show, but Tim Burton didn't like the idea, and Roland Daggett was created in replacement.
- Many fans suggested that the The Riddler would be appeared in the film with Penguin and Catwoman. However, this rumor ended up false. Despite this, Riddler appeared in the next movie.
- This movie was an inspiration for LEGO Batman: The Videogame.
- A few months later after the movie's release, Batman: The Animated Series was released.
- Burgess Meredith, who played The Penguin in Batman: The Series, was considered for the role of Tucker Cobblepot. However, due to his illness, Meredith was forced to reject the offer, and Paul Reubens was hired for the role. Meredith died for his illness in 1998.
- Curiously, Paul Reubens returned to play The Penguin's father years later in the TV series Gotham.
- Originally, after this movie, Tim Burton would be directed the third installment of the saga. However, Burton was changed by Joel Schumacher, and didn't direct Batman Forever.
Batman Returns was released on VHS and Laserdisc in October 1992.
The film was first released to DVD five years later in 1997, shortly after the format debuted; it was a bare-bones, single disc release featuring the ability to watch the film either in widescreen or in fullscreen but not featuring any bonus materials.
To coincide with the release of Batman Begins on DVD in 2005, Warner Brothers decided to give all four of the original Batman films new DVD treatments and special edition versions of all four films were created. The special edition DVDs feature newly restored audio and video, a re-mastered Dolby Digital audio track, a new DTS audio track and a second disc filled with bonus materials. Each title is available both individually and as part of a pack featuring the special editions of all four films in the franchise. The Region 2 DVD is missing the director's audio commentary although it is listed on the box as a special feature, and is also censored. Although it restores the nunchaku sequence which was cut from the original Region 2 release, the scene in which Catwoman places aerosol cans in the microwave remains cut. The DVD also suffers from a very noticeable audio glitch. Although, in the Swedish and Bulgarian Region 2 DVD, the directors commentary is included, as is the scene with the aerosol cans. The audio glitch is also missing.
- Batman Returns at the TCM Movie Database
- Batman Returns at AllMovie
- Batman Returns at Box Office Mojo
- Batman Returns at Rotten Tomatoes