Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero fantasy film. It was produced and directed by Tim Burton. It was based upon the Batmancharacter appearing in magazines published by DC Comics. 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 business tycoon who teams up with the Penguin (Danny DeVito) to take over Gotham City, as well as the character of Catwoman.
Burton originally did not want to direct another Batman film because of his mixed emotions toward the previous film in 1989.Daniel Waters delivered a script that satisfied Burton; Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite, removing the characters of Harvey Dent and Robin and rewriting the climax. Before Pfeiffer’s casting, Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman were each offered the role of Catwoman, but both of them turned it down. Filming of Batman Returns started in Burbank, California in June 1991.
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.
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.”
In Gotham City, a wealthy couple, Tucker and Esther Cobblepot (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 public hero. Despite the Penguin’s popularity, however, socialite Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) remains skeptical of the Penguin’s image, and while investigating the Penguin’s past, he comes across evidence that appears to suggest that the Penguin was once a freak show performer with the disgraced Red Triangle Circus Gang, who have recently been wreaking havoc on Gotham and whose previous performances resulted in the disappearance of several children. As Batman, Bruce does his best to defend Gotham from the gang.
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, aCatwoman 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.