Batman Returns opened on June 19th 1992 – an unbelievable 20 years ago. After the success of Batman in 1989, Tim Burton was given carte blanche for this sequel, and he delivered the most bizarre Hollywood blockbuster ever made– an $80 million German Expressionist summer action movie. Michael Keaton once again returned as Batman, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer portrayed The Penguin and Catwoman with Christopher Walken was cast as megalomaniac Max Shreck (who takes his name from the German star of Nosferatu).
Burton ditched the outdoor sets at Pinewood Studios, setting up camp on soundstages in Burbank, a move which helps to give Batman Returns a claustrophobic quality, a sense of oppression. The steely palette and angular sets along with the wintery setting give the film a unique look and style. Sure, Burton’s ’89 film may be set in a netherworld between the ‘30s and ‘80s, but the Gotham City of Batman Returns appears to be set in a parallel universe.
Parents complained about the dark sexuality contained within the film, while McDonald’s yanked promotions because of the violence. A horrified Warner Bros. hired Joel Schumacher to make a lighter Batman film, while Burton (and Michael Keaton) moved away from Gotham City.
The film still managed to gross an impressive $162 million at the US box office and another $103 million around the globe. It was a decent number, but down from Batman’s $411 million worldwide gross.
It must be noted that The Dark Knight Rises sees Batman face-off against Catwoman again in a snow strewn Gotham City.