Batman Returns opened on June 19th 1992 – an unbelievable 25 years ago. The film is still the greatest Batman film ever made. I remember the first sequence I saw from the film – it was from the rooftop fight between Michael Keaton‘s Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. I saw it on the MTV Picture Show in early 1992 (ripped-off in the opening of The Matrix). It looked fantastic. The film’s reception ultimately led to Batman & Robin (1997) and the snowball effect would eventually take the franchise to Christopher Nolan’ss door for 2005’s Batman Begins.
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 silent classic 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 with Batman Forever, 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. Having said that, the domestic take os more than $346 million in adjusted numbers – more than the recent Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the recent Lego Batman Movie.