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Batman Returns
Batman Returns - Poster 2
General Information
Directed by: Tim Burton
Produced by: Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Written by: Characters:
Bob Kane
Bill Finger (uncredited)
Story:
Sam Hamm
Daniel Waters
Screenplay:
Daniel Waters
Wesley Strick (uncredited)
Music by: Danny Elfman
Duration: 126 minutes
Budget: $80,000,000
Gross Revenue: $282,822,354
Previous Film: Batman
Next Film: Batman Forever


Batman Returns is a 1992 motion picture based on the Batman character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. It is the second Batman film, and the last in the series to be directed by Tim Burton and to star Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The departure of Burton and Keaton paved the way for the Joel Schumacher films. It was also the first film to feature Dolby Digital technology when it debuted in the summer of 1992.

Plot

BatmanReturnsTitle

The film's title.

Cobblepot Heir

"I was their number one son but they treated me like number two!"
―The Penguin[src]

The story begins 33 years ago at Christmas time in a mansion in Gotham. The wealthy Cobblepots have just given birth to a child - but it is shown that there is something horribly wrong with the child. They soon decide to abandon the child by dropping it into the sewers. As the baby's basket rushes through the sewers, the credits roll, and eventually the child comes to rest at the feet of a group of Emperor Penguins from the zoo.

Thirty-three years later, it is Christmas time again in Gotham, as the ambitious but ruthless business tycoon Max Shreck gives a speech at a treelighting ceremony. However, the speech is soon disrupted by a criminal group of clowns known as the "Red Triangle Circus Gang". Although Batman is summoned and is able to restore order, Shreck is kidnapped amidst the chaos and is brought to their leader, a short, deformed man known as "The Penguin". The Penguin informs Shreck of the reason he has taken him: he wishes to return to the society of Gotham, and he wants Shreck to help him achieve this. Shreck is skeptical, but the Penguin blackmails him with incriminating evidence of his more dubious business practices.

Creature Threesome

"You know mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it."
―Batman[src]
"But a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it."
―Catwoman[src]

Shreck arranges for the Penguin to "rescue" the mayor's infant child from his own gang members. The plan works, and Penguin becomes a hero to all except Bruce Wayne, who remains skeptical. The Penguin asks to be allowed to find his parents, and is given private access to the Gotham's Hall of Records, where he is seen jotting down an apparently unrelated list of names. He discovers his parents were a wealthy aristocratic couple. Adopting his birth name of Oswald Cobblepot, he publicly forgives his now-dead parents, winning more hearts and minds. Shreck decides to use Oswald's fame to his own advantage, persuading him to run for mayor to remove the final obstacle to building a new power plant. Cobblepot reluctantly agrees, noting he still has his own plans to carry out.

During this time, Shreck attempted to murder his timid secretary Selina Kyle when she discovered his "power plant" was in fact a giant capacitor, created to suck power from the city and give the Shreck family a complete monopoly over Gotham's power. She survived her subsequent defenestration at Shreck's hands after her body was circled by a large number of cats, and came back with a more assertive but unstable personality, ostensibly with a cat's nine lives (minus her first "death"). Kyle makes a homemade black vinyl catsuit and becomes a costumed vigilante under the name "Catwoman". During Penguin's efforts to cause chaos through his gang to create dissatisfaction with the current Mayor, Catwoman blows up Shreck's department store. She subsequently fights Batman, who had been neutralizing the Red Triangle Circus earlier, and is apparently killed again in the process when she falls off a roof.

A Plan is Forming

"Sickos never scare me. At least they're committed."
―Selina Kyle[src]

While Selina Kyle is pursued in a romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne, as Catwoman she allies herself with the Penguin to get back at Batman for his killing her, although the two are still unaware of the other's alter-ego's. When the subsequent plan is put into action, Batman is framed for kidnapping and murder and finds himself trapped in the Batmobile under Penguin's control. He barely survives, but Cobblepot has become more popular than ever. Although their plan was a success, Catwoman and Penguin's alliance falls apart when she rebuffs a sexual advance from him, and Penguin opts to kill Catwoman himself. However, his campaign to recall the current mayor is quickly destroyed when Bruce Wayne plays selected comments he stated while controlling the Batmobile. He was recorded insulting the people of Gotham, and this audio is played over the sound system at a rally. Penguin flees into the sewers, renounces his humanity, and reveals his secret plan: kidnap and kill the firstborn sons of Gotham's most prominent by drowing them into the toxic water of his own base, as revenge against what was done to him.

Face to Face

"You didn't invite me, so I crashed!"
―Penguin[src]

Before this scheme is launched, Bruce Wayne meets Selina Kyle at a dance hosted by Shreck, where she reveals to him her intentions to kill Shreck. The two subsequently discover the other's secret identity, but before they can leave to discuss this development, Penguin storms the hall and tries to take Max's son Chip. Max persuades Penguin to take him instead, and Bruce and Selina depart. Bruce, as Batman, attacks Penguin's Red Triangle Circus goons, and puts a stop to the kidnappings. However, Penguin has a backup plan: an army of rocket-armed penguins dispatched to bomb Gotham. But Batman manages to jam their control signals and turn the birds around so that they attack the base instead. Batman confronts the Penguin and in the end, the hero drops him into the toxic water of his base.

Batman glides through a broken window and discovers Catwoman has come to kill Shreck, which he unsuccessfully attempts to talk her out of. During this, Shreck draws a gun he took in the confusion and attempts to kill them both. Batman is shot once while Catwoman is hit four times, apparently leaving her with two "lives". She decides to sacrifice her next-to-last life by putting a taser in her mouth and "kissing" Shreck, while also grabbing hold of a large electric generator and pushing Shreck into it, causing a huge explosion. When the smoke clears, Batman searches the rubble for Selina, but all he finds is Shreck's smoldering corpse and Catwoman´s whip. Penguin, barely alive, emerges from the toxic water and grabs for his gun umbrella to kill Batman, but picks up his "cute" one by mistake. He finally falls dead on the floor and is slid gently into the water by the penguins as a final tribute.

Driving through Gotham, Bruce sees Catwoman’s shadow. Investigating, he only finds Selina's pet cat, which he decides to take home. As the bat-signal lights up in the sky, the figure of Catwoman appears looking at the signal from a rooftop.

Rating

Batman Returns received a lot of controversy for being too dark and received a PG-13 rating for brooding, dark violence by the MPAA. Like the first film the BBFC gave the film an original 12 rating but later re-rated it to a 15 rating.

Cast

The film's casting process was convoluted and, according to Burton, poorly managed. Annette Bening, Burton's original choice for Catwoman/Selina Kyle, bowed out due to her pregnancy. Sean Young, who had already missed out on the part of Vicki Vale in Batman, was so upset about not getting the part of Catwoman that she went to the studio in a homemade Catwoman costume to prove that she was a better choice. Madonna was also considered for the role. Billy Dee Williams was contractually entitled to play Harvey Dent, who would later become the villain Two-Face, and an early draft of Batman Returns included the role. Williams' contract was bought out, his characters' lines were given to Max Shreck, and all Two-Face elements were removed.

Appearances

Individuals

Organizations

Vehicles

Technology

Weapons

Locations

Events

Miscellanea

Gallery

Posters

Trailers

Production

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."

Promotion

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.

Reception

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.

Box Office Performance

Awards and Nominations

  • Batman Returns was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best makeup, and Best Visual Effects.

DVD

BatmanReturnsDVD

Batman Returns DVD cover

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.

Behind The Scenes

Sam Hamm's original script had Vicki Vale and also had The Penguin and Catwoman looking for buried treasure.

Daniel Waters' original script had the Bat-Signal 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.

Deleted Scenes

Quotes

External links

Burton/Schumacher Film Series
Films:   Batman  • Batman Returns  • Batman Forever  • Batman & Robin

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