Batman Returns is a 1992 superhero film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is a sequel to 1989's Batman. Michael Keaton reprises the lead role. Batman Returns tells the story of a corrupt businessman (Christopher Walken) and the grotesque Penguin (Danny DeVito) plotting to take control of Gotham City. At the same time Batman must deal with the emergence of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Burton originally did not want to direct a sequel because of his mixed emotions of the previous film. Daniel Waters delivered a script that satisfied Burton. Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite, deleting characterizations of Harvey Dent, Robin and rewriting the climax. Filming started at Burbank, California in June 1991. Batman Returns was released with financial and critical success, but caused parental backlash controversy.
When the Penguin's plight becomes news, he's propelled into running for Mayor. Batman is unconvinced by the Penguin, believing that he and his gang are responsible for several child murders. Meanwhile, Shreck throws his secretary, Selina Kyle, from the top of his company's building when she discovers his plan to build a super power-plant and drain Gotham of its electricity.
Resuscitated by a group of cats, Selina returns home and designs a new costume, becoming Catwoman. Kyle, meanwhile, is being romanced by Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne, a situation complicated by Catwoman's teaming up 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. Batman foils his scheme and Catwoman, after killing Shreck, is presumed dead. The Penguin, having been wounded during his fight with Batman, does not survive his injuries, and dies.
Some time later, Bruce is driving around the city at night with butler Alfred Pennyworth, 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 appears.
Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger, who appeared in Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure have cameo appearances as the Penguin's parents. Vincent Schiavelli and Anna Katarina cameo as the Penguin's assistants while Michael Murphy portrays the Mayor of Gotham City. Pat Hingle reprises the role of Commissioner Gordon with a small appearance. Elizabeth Sanders, the wife of Batman co-creator Bob Kane, has a cameo as a Gotham citizen.
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 outside. 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 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 out of too many characters. Waters and Burton feel 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. Wayans 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 Benning was cast as Catwoman after Burton saw her performance in The Grifters. Benning 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 Pfeiffer's work, but was convinced to cast her after one meeting. Pfeiffer received a $3 million salary ($2 million more than Benning) 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."
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.
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." Elfman co-orchestrated and wrote the lyrics for Face to Face, performed by Siouxsie & the Banshees. The song can be heard in one scene during the film.
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. The filmmakers had to deal with the penguins' mating schedule. 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 The Bat Ski-boat.
Based on 44 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 77% of reviewers enjoyed the film, with the consensus of "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, make this sequel better than the first. Four of the seven critics in Rotten Tomatoes "Top Critics" poll approved, receiving a 57% approval rating. Batman Returns was criticized in some counts for developing more screen time for the villains. It was actually Keaton's idea to give himself less screen time.
Peter Travers gave a largely positive review, "Burton uses the summer's most explosively entertaining movie to lead us back into the liberating darkness of dreams. Desson Thomson was mostly pleased with the tragic storylines concerning Catwoman, the Penguin and Max Shreck. However, he felt Keaton deserved more screentime, but still gave a positive review. Todd McCarthy of Variety believed Stan Winston, Danny Elfman, Bo Welch and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky mostly contributed the best elements of the film. McCarthy felt Burton was too obsessed with the visuals and not the storyline, but McCarthy still enjoyed Batman Returns.
Roger Ebert stated, "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. Jonathan Rosenbaum called DeVito "a pale substitute for Jack Nicholson from the first film" and felt "there's no suspense in Batman Returns whatsoever". Batman comic book writer/artist Matt Wagner quoted, "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.
Paul Dini enjoyed the characterization of Bruce Wayne. Common criticisms from comic book fans had Batman killing people. Co-writer Daniel Waters responded "We live in dark times. You can't just drop bad guys off in a spider web in front of city hall." Mike Mignola liked the Batman Returns' version of Penguin, while Bruce Timm felt Michelle Pfeiffer was perfectly cast as Catwoman. Alex Ross called Max Shreck "the most exciting character in the script".
Batman Returns would be the last film in the Batman film series that featured Tim Burton and Michael Keaton as director and leading actor. With Batman Forever, it was decided to go in a "lighter" direction. 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 Water 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.