1989’s Batman was director Tim Burton’s unique take on the character of the same name. Upon its debut, the film was well-received, attracting favorable reviews from critics while delivering at the box-office.
But looking back on his film, although there were aspects of it he enjoyed, Burton found other parts of Batman boring.
Tim Burton wanted to get a ‘little more real’ with Batman
Burton was more than excited to work on his Batman, hoping to provide a superhero narrative that went beyond the comics. In an interview with the Rolling Stone, the Beetlejuice director discussed what he wanted to accomplish with the film.
“We’re trying to say this guy is obviously nuts, but in the most appealing way possible. I go back to what I thought comic books gave people. People love the idea that once they dress up, they can become somebody else. And here you have a human being in what I would consider the most absurd costume ever created,” Burton said.
His excitement wasn’t just reserved for Batman, however. Burton also couldn’t wait to get his hands on the superhero’s arch-nemesis The Joker.
“The villain is the Joker, the coolest of all. And also the flip side of Batman. Here you got a guy [Batman] who is rich, and something bad happened to him, and instead of getting therapy, he fights crime,” he added. “But it’s still kinda schizophrenic –it’s something he questions in his own mind. And the Joker, something happened to him, too, but he’ll do or say anything, which is another fantasy that all of us have –it’s total freedom. So you’ve got two freaks. It’s so great.”
Tim Burton once called parts of his ‘Batman’ a little boring
When Burton agreed to do Batman Returns, he set out to make a completely different film than his original Batman. This was because, although Burton took great pride in the movie, he had certain criticisms about his own project. And these were criticism he was hoping to rectify with Returns.
“There’s parts I liked, but it was a little boring at times,” Burton once said in a 1992 edition of Empire. “Oftentimes with sequels, they’re like the same movie except everything gets jacked up a little. I didn’t feel I could do that; I wanted to treat this like it was another Batman movie altogether.”
Burton also felt that location played a significant part in developing both Batman and Returns. The filmmaker previously shot the film in London, which he later believed worked against the movie. This motivated Burton to move his Gotham city to southern California.
“I wanted to use American actors in supporting parts,” he continued. “And I felt Batman suffered from a British subtext. I loved being over there, but it’s such a different culture that things got filtered. They could have brought somebody else in for the sequel, and had the same sets, and shot in London, but I couldn’t do that because I’d have lost interest. I wanted to treat it like it was another movie altogether—there’s no point in doing the exact same thing again.”
Why Tim Burton didn’t direct another Batman sequel
Batman Returns didn’t exactly receive the kind of reception Burton was hoping for. In a 2014 interview with Yahoo, the Edward Scissorhands director reflected on the reaction Returns elicited, and how that led to him walking away from the franchise.
“I think I upset McDonalds. [They asked] ‘What’s that black stuff coming out of the Penguin’s mouth. We can’t sell Happy Meals with that!’ It was a weird reaction to Batman Returns, because half the people thought it was lighter than the first one and half the people thought it was darker,” Burton said. “I think the studio just thought it was too weird — they wanted to go with something more child- or family- friendly. In other words, they didn’t want me to do another one.”