Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, it is a sequel to 1989's Batman, with Michael Keaton reprising the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film introduces the characters of Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), a megalomaniac business tycoon who teams up with the deformed and deranged Penguin (Danny DeVito) to take over Gotham City, as well as the character of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), a wronged secretary named Selina Kyle with mixed motives regarding the Dark Knight.
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 19–21, 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.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
In Gotham City, a wealthy couple (Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger) throw their deformed infant son into the sewer; the boy survives, however, and is found by a flock of penguins. Thirty-three years later, the child, Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito), resurfaces as a criminal, the Penguin, who kidnaps millionaire industrialist Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). With evidence of his corporate crimes, Cobblepot blackmails Shreck into helping him leave the sewers to become part of Gotham's elite. The Penguin arranges for the Mayor's child to be kidnapped, whom he then "rescues" in order to set himself up as a heroic figure.
Late one night, upon returning to his office, Shreck surprises his secretary Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), in the course of her preparation for a meeting with Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) regarding Shreck's proposed power plant. While innocently pulling relevant documents, Selina accesses Shreck's protected files, uncovering compromising information, revealing that the plant will drain Gotham's power supply. Realizing Selina knows too much, Shreck pushes her out of a window, leaving her for dead on the ground many stories below. Selina survives the fall after being revived by alley cats. She returns to her apartment, then suffers a psychotic breakdown and reinvents herself as Catwoman, a catsuit-clad burglar dedicated to getting revenge on her boss.
Shreck then hatches a plan to recall Gotham City's current mayor (Michael Murphy) and elect the Penguin in his place, in order to cement his control over the city and complete his power plant project. The Penguin's gang of circus performers cause chaos around Gotham to create bad press for the Mayor. Meanwhile, Bruce's alter-ego Batman tries to defend Gotham from Catwoman and the Penguin's gang.
Selina falls in love with Bruce, a situation complicated by Catwoman's teaming with the Penguin in an effort to rid Gotham of Batman. They kidnap The Ice Princess (Cristi Conaway), a woman chosen to turn on the Gotham Christmas Tree lights, and frame Batman for the crime. Finding The Princess balancing precariously on the ledge of a high building, Batman tries to save her, but to no avail; the Penguin unleashes an umbrella full of bats which frighten The Princess into plunging to her death, and makes it look like Batman killed her. When a shocked Catwoman rejects his advances, the Penguin tries, unsuccessfully, to kill her. When Batman returns to the Batmobile, he finds that the Penguin has sabotaged it; as the Penguin takes the Batmobile on a remote-controlled rampage through Gotham, he gloats about fooling the entire city. Batman ultimately escapes the Penguin's trap, however.
When Bruce exposes the Penguin's plans to dupe Gotham, thereby ruining his election chances, the Penguin initiates a plan to murder all of Gotham's first-born sons by kidnapping and taking them into his lair to drown them in a pool of water that has been contaminated with Shreck's toxic waste. He personally attempts to take Max's son, Charles "Chip" Shreck (Andrew Bryniarski), but agrees to take Max instead. Batman foils the Penguin's large-scale infanticide scheme, whereupon the Penguin then decides to launch missiles around Gotham using mind-controlled penguins. However, Batman is able to jam the frequency used to control the penguins and has missiles launched at the Penguin's base. Batman confronts the Penguin, which culminates in the Penguin falling into the toxic waters in his lair.
Batman tries to persuade Catwoman to turn Shreck over to the police, even unmasking himself in the process, but Shreck draws a gun. Catwoman claims that she still has six of her nine lives left, and remains standing after Shreck shoots her four times. Catwoman uses a stungun to cause an explosion, electrocuting Shreck and apparently sacrificing herself (using up her "eighth life"). The Penguin then emerges from the toxic water and tries to kill Batman, but he succumbs to his wounds. His penguins then take his body into the sewer waters as a final resting place.
Later, Bruce is being driven around the city at night with butler Alfred (Michael Gough) and what looks like the injured Catwoman's shadow on a wall. Alfred stops the car, and Bruce finds her black cat, which he takes with him and leaves. The camera pans up in an implied time lapse as the Bat-Signal lights up the night sky, we see a over-the-shoulder shot of Catwoman, now in in a pristine, fully mended costume, defiantly gazing at it.
- Michael Keaton as ruce Wayne / Batman: While continuing his quest as Gotham City's lone protector, he meets Selina Kyle, and clashes with Catwoman. He must also foil the Penguin's scheme to become mayor of Gotham.
- Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin: Born deformed and abandoned by his aristocratic parents, he spends his life in the sewers of Gotham City. He forms an alliance with Max Shreck so he can enter Gotham high society and run for mayor, but his real intentions are to kill every first-born son in Gotham City.
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle / Catwoman: Formerly a quiet and shy secretary for Max Shreck, Selina transforms into Catwoman after Shreck tries to kill her. She becomes a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne and a deadly adversary for Batman.
- Christopher Walken as Max Shreck: A powerful, ruthless business mogul who serves as Selina Kyle's boss and the Penguin's ally. He seeks to build a power plant in order to bring Gotham to its knees.
- Michael Gough as Alfred: Bruce Wayne's faithful butler.
- Michael Murphy as the Mayor: The Mayor of Gotham City, who opposes Max Shreck's proposal to build the power plant. Shreck retaliates by working with the Penguin to have him recalled.
- Cristi Conaway as 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: The police commissioner of Gotham City.
Vincent Schiavelli and Anna Katarina portray two of the Penguin's lackeys. Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger, who both appeared in Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure, have cameo appearances as the Penguin's parents, Tucker and Esther Cobblepot.
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. 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 60s 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 (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.
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. 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 fight 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 late 50's/early 60s American storefronts. 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." 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.
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."
Batman Returns was generally well received by both reviewers and audiences. Based on 63 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 81% of reviewers enjoyed the film, and the consenus: "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."
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, 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". 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."
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.
Awards and nominations
|65th Academy Awards]]||Best Visual Effects||Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno, Dennis Skotak||nomination|
|Best Makeup||Ve Neill, Ronnie Specter, Stan Winston||nomination|
|(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||Won|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||nomination|
|MTV Movie Awards||Best Kiss||Michael Keaton, 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||Won|
|Best Costumes||Bob Ringwood, Mary E. Vogt, Vin Burnham||nomination|
American Film Institute recognition:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
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 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.
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- From Comic To Pfeiffer's Cat Batman-Online.com's in-depth analysis on Tim Burton's Catwoman's comic origins
- Possible Comic Influences On Batman Returns Batman-Online.com's in-depth analysis on possible comic book influences of Batman Returns' plotline
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