Batman movies in the 80s and 90s: the hero we deserved?

Feature Rob Leane 26 Feb 2014 - 07:19

How do capes, cowls and cultural context intertwine in some of history’s more troublesome Batman movies?

Once upon a time on this site, we looked at Batman’s ability to offer social commentary to different cultural contexts; you can find that piece here. Through analysing the 1943 Batman serial, the 1960s Adam West TV show and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, we saw how the caped crusader had repeatedly held a mirror to his surrounding contextual issues.

In the 40s, the Bat was a government agent enlisted to bring down a newly-made Japanese villain. In the 60s, inspired by Warhol and Lichtenstein, he became a Pop Art icon, actually superseding the popularity of the comics and securing the character’s future. In The Dark Knight Christian Bale’s incarnation went to questionable lengths to bring down an unstoppable terrorist, reflecting the political scandals of the modern age.

In these cases, Gary Oldman had been right. Batman was ‘the hero we deserve’, a fictional character who had an uncanny ability to reflect the context of our times. While other properties might be remade with better effects and a new script, Batman is re-casted repeatedly with a whole new message and purpose.

But is this always the case? As some readers rightly pointed out, how bad was society in the 90s if we ‘deserved’ to sit through Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin? What did dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight have to do with Tim Burton’s world-view? Had this writer just cherry-picked the only suitable Batmen for this theory, or could Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney join the culturally-aware cowl-wearers club? Let’s investigate…

1989 – 1992: The Cold War, Consumerism and Cowls

Right at the end of 1980s, Tim Burton unleashed a brand new version of the Dark Knight to an unsuspecting public. Before this, Batman had floundered around as a campy Adam West until he became culturally irrelevant and easily ridiculed. Now Batman had returned full of angst, hints of tragic backstory and not even the faintest whiff of a shark repellent Bat-spray. What did this reinterpretation say for life in the 1980s?

In terms of political clashes, this era was defined by the Cold War. Two nations poised with twitchy fingers above buttons of unfathomable destruction. Nations were indeed at war, but it wasn’t one that the most people could see. This was a time where important discussions were behind closed doors, paranoia amongst the public was high and a feeling that certain destruction could be only a minute away ran as an undercurrent to everyday life.

Aspects of this context undeniably bled into Tim Burton’s take on Batman. Long before Sam Raimi introduced J Jonah Jameson to the cinematic world and made such characters commonplace, Burton had created an on-screen universe where the press doubted, questioned and constantly speculated about Batman. The Dark Knight was a dirty secret the police didn’t want to admit to.

Keaton’s Bat was a shadow in the night tackling the underworld and spreading a reputation of well-earned fear despite rarely being seen. Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) was introduced as the journalist who constantly hounded the authorities for answers desperate for a quote to confirm his theories. He was consistently met with a wall of ‘no comment’ and several sarcastic onlookers doubting his ideas, despite the fact he was right.

Culturally, the 1980s has become known as a time of decadence and plenty in America. Films like American Psycho and The Wolf Of Wall Street have since displayed this era as a time of crooked commercialism where coke-fuelled stock-brokers ruled supreme and murderous high-flyers obsessed over their beauty regime, returning videotapes and Huey Lewis. Indeed, pop culture was on the rise and Walkmans, VCRs and tapes were flying off shelves.

Enter Jack Nicholson’s Joker, a villain who didn’t hide in the shadows. Instead he strutted around in public and terrorised the world through cosmetic products. This Joker danced through galleries with Prince blaring from his boom-box. He described his tortures as art and had an array of silly outfits for all occasions. His final evil plan took place during a huge parade and his threats were televised advertisement parodies.

This production was undoubtedly filled with cultural influence. Batman was the shady back-room character akin to the Cold War politicians while the Joker was the painted-on happy face of consumerism taking over public events, TV schedules and even shop shelves. By pitting the two of them against each-other as the shady mystery met the public problem, Burton visualised a microcosm for life in the 1980s, producing a hero that this era ‘deserved’. Burton continued his social commentary in Batman Returns by encouraging Daniel Walter’s satirical script which the writer described as showing ‘an evil mogul (Christopher Walken) backing a bid for the Mayor's office by the Penguin’ and aimed to prove that ‘not all villains wear costumes’.

1995-1997: The Political Subtext of Bat-nipples

While Tim Burton was a director who fully understood the social adaptability of The World’s Greatest Detective, the same cannot be said for Joel Schumacher. Sadly, this is where the ‘hero we deserve’ theory begins to struggle.

Nipples on Bat-suits, the return of catchphrases and a Batcave full of puns are quite difficult to fit into any kind of sociolpolitcal agenda. This was the time of the Clinton administration though, so perhaps the battles between wacky villains and poorly-dressed hammily-written good-guys could somehow be seen as a reflection of a crooked political landscape.

Joking aside, it is films like this which don’t do Batman justice. This is a character with infinite potential to produce socially-relevant stories that actually mean something, but in the hands of a director pushed to sell toys and make films that appeal to children (Warner Bros had been stung by the complaints from parents about Tim Burton's Batman Returns), this is easy to lose.

That isn’t to say that social comment isn’t completely missing from this era. The continuing rise of cable TV and home viewing in the 1990s took centre stage in the Riddler’s character arc in Batman Forever. Jim Carrey’s villain, using his new set-top box as a form of mind-control, became arguably the strongest aspect of the Schumacher years in turning popular culture against Batman in a similar way to Nicholson’s Joker.

If you really want to buy into the suggestion that these films have something social to say, why not uphold the belief that Mr Freeze had a distinct global warming subtext or that the lack of an expiry date on Bat-credit card was a warning of the credit crunch to come.

The Missing Movies: Sloppy Reboot Vs Socially Aware Series

If you’ve been paying close attention, you will notice that there are a handful of live-action Batman movies that still haven’t got much attention in these two articles. These are Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, which share Nolan’s take on the League of Shadows plot, and the 1949 Batman and Robin serial which served as a re-casted follow-up to the war propaganda of 1943.

While their exclusion thus far was hardly due to months of intricate planning, these productions actually provide a fitting comparison point to round things off with. The 1949 serial suffered thanks to a lack of having anything to say. Having lost the war context of its predecessor, the new serial suddenly seemed less like a film noir-esque culturally-relevant Batman interpretation and more like a knock-off attempt to grab some money while the character was still popular. Sound familiar?

Yes, this serial effectively pre-empted the Bat-decline of the 1990s, proving that money-grabbing studio execs and directors who are just looking to sell a popular product are a sure-fire way to lessen the cultural relevance of the caped crusader, and kill a franchise at the same time.

With a look at the arc that links Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises though, we can see how Batman movies should be done. These movies had a cultural message, pointing at the growing gap between the rich and the unemployed/criminal underclass. In the threequel in particular, Nolan presents Bane and his followers as an Occupy-style group of social activists.

These criminals don’t rob banks or kidnap people like generic super-baddies, they target the stock exchange and seek to make all people equal. This arc highlights the problem of the rich-poor divide, and sees Bruce Wayne provide a better alternative to a brutal gang-controlled Gotham by encouraging taking children off the streets through opening a children’s home and ensuring more non-corrupt justice by handing the Bat-baton to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

This serves as proof that, in the hands of auteurs, good writers and committed production teams, Batman is capable of so much more than when he is simply used as a corporate cash cow. It is under the direction of Burton and Nolan that Batman has achieved the most critical acclaim and fan adoration. With cultural relevance as a cornerstone to their productions, they have shown how Batman can engage audience imaginations by holding a mirror to contemporary context. In reflecting Pop Art to save the franchise in the sixties and adopting war-era sensibilities in the forties, we can see further evidence of this theory at work.

While Batman can be the generic superhero fighting off the latest bonkers brain box, he has the ability to be a true cultural icon, reflecting social issues of varying eras through adaptability. This is mainly thanks to his mythos, which stands as a blank canvas with many possible interpretations. While Burton chose to only give teases of information, Nolan could weave in an intricate League of Shadows adventure before the cowl had even been considered. Compare that to Spider-Man who has had two major film adaptations recently which both had to include very similar emotional beats and plot points. Comparatively, Batman can be reinterpreted countless times to find new relevance and social meaning.

It seems likely that Batman will once again reflect popular social opinion when he returns to deal some swift justice to Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill’s Superman, last seen levelling Metropolis and snapping necks in Man Of Steel. While Bats may not be the main player in this movie, which is still a Man Of Steel sequel apparently, expect to see Batman continuing to mirror our concerns as he confronts Superman over the destruction, murder and lack of care in Snyder’s reboot that stunned viewers and movie critics alike.

This is a key function of fictional characters, to reflect and confront real-life issues. In the hands of the right director, Batman can do this better than most thanks to his adaptable mythos and his ability to fit several different styles. It’s only due to sloppy studio-rushed productions and unnecessary cash cow decisions that lead him off track. Let’s hope Snyder takes note of this and doesn’t just serve up some destruction porn in May 2016.

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Disqus - noscript

"Antonio...you were a vicious bastard....and I'm glad your dead!
Heee Heee...I'm glad your dead!"

"Last seen levelling Metroplois and snapping necks"?! Oh dear -- talk about taking something out of context.

As many people have pointed out before, MoS's Superman is completely inexperienced fighting somebody of equal strength to him -- so of course keeping it neat and tidy will be difficult. This is stuff he'll learn as time goes on. And as for 'murdering' Zod, he had no choice: Zod explicitly states that he will never stop, and there's no power left on Earth to contain him. And, as Zack Snyder has pointed out, Superman has killed in the comics, and shouldn't to put his own moral objection to ending a twisted, rampant killer above the damage he could prevent.

Still, interesting article! "I'm of a mind to make some moogy!"

It really annoys me when people say the Man of Steel ending was controversial. As you mentioned, the snapping of Zod's neck was a last resort effort.

The 90s were the start of the Hipster Era: a melange of borrowed styles in fashion, music, art, at times serious and self-mocking, dark and neon-gaudy, self-conscious and insouciant. Watch Schumacher's films, and everyone within them, including Batman, are Hipsters, mixing styles from the 40s onward, not just in costume but in attitude, technology, dialogue, etc.

I also suspect they did this to set something up in the next movie. Superman is very new at his job, and maybe hasn't got a 'No killing' rule yet. It could be this event that defines this version of Superman

I still have a lot of problems with MoS, but this wasn't one of them

The best Batman movie of the 1990s is Mask of the Phantasm- it's still such a shame that that movie was overshadowed by the garish Schumacher movies.

Batman is actually a comic book hero. I'm sure most of the readers know this. Pity the author of this article doesn't. Fact is that the movies have reflected the trends from the comics. Tim Burton didn't invent the darker image of Batman, he was in the hottest and best selling comic book at the time. Interestingly, Schumacher departed from the comic book-stylings of the Batman. And how did that work out? Hm? The genious of the Nolan brothers was to tap into the mythology of the most popular Batman comics from 1985 and up until the present. And of course, they - espescially Christopher - is talented enough to bring all this to the screen.

Kevin Smith's fantastic Fatman on Batman podcast currently has an ongoing two-parter in which he discusses Batman Forever and reasons a lot of the thinking behind it in relation to the time period and as a Burton follow-up.

While I have a soft spot for Forever, Mask of the Phantasm is still one of the best Batman films yet. I was ten years old when I first watched it (it was the first VHS I ever bought with my own money, fact-fans) and it just gets better with age. Still ashamed to say I've never watched Batman: Sub-Zero in its entirety yet!

Definitely. What better way for Luthor to launch an 'anti-Superman' campaign than by pointing out all the destruction he 'caused'?

For me, MoS is perfect. I love everything about it (it even has my favourite score, right up there with Blade Runner's).

Its a long way from perfect in my opinion, but some bits are brilliant. I am looking forward to the sequel, despite the negative buzz coming from it.

Schumachers Batman makes sense if you take the view that a lot of 90s art and culture was influence by MDMA and the rave scene. There's even a UV street gang in Forever. By the time they got to Batman and Robin, they were obviously off there heads on happy pills, and making design and script descions that clearly reflect this. Just a theory.

Out of context or not that's what happened. I'm sorry I hate the argument of "Superman had no choice". MOS was not a documentary. Snyder and his writers set out to make a film that ended with Superman killing Zod with a neck snap. They could have ended that film, literally, ANY other way they so desired. Sure Superman is inexperienced. But flying Zod into a gas station wasn't due to inexperience- it was just inconsiderate and dangerous. Smallville is surrounded by empty fields.
So instead of discussing why a fictional character HAD to do it we should be discussing why the film makers decided the fictional character HAD to do it. That's a more interesting decision.
I think MOS is a good film-a lot of stuff is done really, really well. But for me it's not a great Superman film.

You know, sometimes you can over analyse stuff. These are just comic book movies, no more, no less. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin I'm pretty sure were made simply to make money and sell toys/merchandise. I don't think it's surprising that films have cultural references from the era they are made. Most films do.
What I would say is that Batman Forever and Batman and Robin do not stand the test of time as well as Tim Burton's films. In my opinion because they're just worse films on every level. If you focus on spectacle and chasing the dollar over story and all other aspects of a film, time is not kind.

Will have to give that a look, thanks!

Batman: Sub-Zero is almost the antidote for Batman & Robin, it takes some of the same characters and turns Freeze into a scary but still sympathetic villain (I would say he was chilling, but that pun would be out of place)

I almost walked out of the cinema when I saw Batman And Robin. I was utterly appalled by it. I wanted a refund. It was an insult to anyone who'd ever heard of Batman, whether they were a fan or not. I only sat through that awful 'movie' because my girlfriend insisted.!

Burton's movies were a lot better and I'd have liked to have seen a part 3 from him. He did fall into the 'too many villains' trap with part 2 though.

Nolan's movies were masterpieces (yes even part 3) and I doubt there will ever be again such a good, solid Batman adaptation on screen.

What's your take on SUPERMAN II, where he pretty much drops a powerless Zod into an abyss, then? Because that one has an experienced Superman who doesn't seem to mind killing his foes as opposed to MAN OF STEEL's Kal-El, who at least regretfully screams afterwards.

My take on Superman II is that the drop into the "abyss" is not fatal. It is obscured by dry ice so could be a five foot drop with a landing pad for all we know. I don't know how anyone can watch that scene and assume Superman (and Lois who knocks a Kryptonian in too) are murdering those people. The music, expresions and general tone do not suggest death. Surely Lex would be a bit more worried too?

And if it is a bottomless pit Supes can fly down and save them later. We already know he can fly fast enough to turn back time ;)

So were BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS. As someone pointed above, Batman was the best-selling comic-book by the time they were made, which is why the former became a gargantuesque merchandising-selling machine once the movie crossed over successfully to became a pop culture phenomenon.

It is true that some of the WB execs back then were a little afraid at its prospects, but mostly its key players were pretty sure the movie would hit big. The smartest of the bunch was certainly Jack Nicholson by netting a whopping $60M salary on scaling down his actor fees in exchange for a percentage on merch sales.

...Just as MAN OF STEEL Supes can also fly back in time and resurrect Michael Shannon's Zod then?

What "music, expressions and general tone" suggest in SUPERMAN II is actually a carelessness about death. Because after all it was a comic-book movie and, as many, during that era, the main goal was to entertain first and touch certain issues later. Or were the late 70s-early 80s James Bond, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, even Disney live-action movies really grimdark affairs where everyone and everything adopted a morose tone every time someone got taken by the Grim Reaper?

Do all those films have the same age certificate? I'm not sure. Look, I don't think we'll ever agree because it's just opinion at the end of the day. You watched Superman II and saw it end with a guy jumping to his death, Superman murdering someone and Lois doing the same. I don't think those three are dead (is there not a cut of the film when they're arrested).
Does Superman screaming in MOS make me feel any better about what they had him do. No, but it doesn't matter. That film made loads of money and is getting a sequel. I'll go see the sequel and probably enjoy it like I did MOS. But it won't be the Superman on screen I wish for as a comic book geek.
Everyone has different tastes. Maguire's Peter Parker isn't for me, but I still think Spider-man 2 is brilliant.

Agreed, but I think the focus of the films changed with Batman Forever. Younger audience, and all that neon replacing the gothic Gotham of the other two.
But hey, Jack's was one of the best business decisions of the century.

Schumacher did NOT depart from the comic-book stylings of the Batman. Quite the opposite, in fact. He did depart from the dark take of Frank Miller that had successfully revitalized the character in the late 80s, but before that Batman had been *for decades* a fun, pulpy character more in tone with the 60s TV show than anyone seems willing to admit these days, especially after Christopher Nolan's (perfectly good, perfectly valid) take.

The problem with the 90s cinematic Batman was actually Tim Burton himself. His first movie being such a gigantic hit eventually went on to bite WB in the ass since he got carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with the sequel and (never actually being a fan of the character AT ALL) he decidedly indulged his usual fantasies with BATMAN RETURNS with a darker take that had Warner Bros and half of the original movie's audience recoil in terror. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see how Batman is the weakest link in his own movie while Burton focuses all of his interest on the villains of the piece, who take center stage again despite being less "fun" and audience-friendly than Jack Nicholson's Joker.

That is why WB rebooted the franchise by relegating Burton to exec producer duties and replacing him with at the time hot, respected director Joel Schumacher. At the same time a longtime disgruntled Michael Keaton equally left the cape and cowl for (also hot, respected actor, but eventually super-troublesome) Val Kilmer to don, instantly making the franchise more female-friendly. The other three quadrants were yet to be hit, so WB soon reached out to Jim Carrey, a star whose meteoric rise to fame had been unparalleled in 1994, to play a very Jokeresque villain... and eventually beloved, recent Oscar-winner character actor Tommy Lee Jones, stunning, tabloid-friendly Nicole Kidman and that young stud who'd held his own against Al Pacino in SCENT OF A WOMAN to complete the cast. The prime directive was to make a more fun, lighter movie that brought back BATMAN's audiences (and box-office) and by pretty much turning it into a Jim Carrey superhero movie, they managed to turn it into one of the Top #3 grossers of the year. So mission accomplished, I guess.

Now personally it might be neck and neck against BATMAN RETURNS as my favorite Batman of that era, if only because it largely succeeds in everything it aims to be: it's grand summer spectacle, with a stellar cast each doing their thing, and the story and darkness does not overwhelm the rest. The (rebooted) origin story works perfectly fine and the Robin stuff isn't as grating as it could have been. Besides, it brings the perfect amount of fun by harkening back to the Batman of the previous decades and doesn't take itself too seriously as a good comic-book movie should. Of course, BATMAN & ROBIN threw that into the ground two years later by tipping the balance into overindulgent camp and crass commercialism (and a weaker cast and story), but for my money BATMAN FOREVER should not be simply overlooked because "OMG bright colors and bat-nipples RAWR".

Some very good points here. People always assume Batman has always been dark and the 60's series is some kind of fluke. But you're right about him being, for the most part a fun, pulpy character. The Brave and the Bold cartoon sums up his numerous tones and styles best perhaps. I mean how dark and serious can a man who hangs around with a wee boy dressed as a Robin be?

"Mr Freeze had a distinct global warming subtext or that the lack of an
expiry date on Bat-credit card was a warning of the credit crunch to
come"

I do not stand corrected, I think, but I should have been clearer. Schumacher departed from the (at the time) current version of Batman in the comic, which was still very dark and gritty. The return to the style of the sixties camp TV-show did not sit well with us fans of the comic. But hell, we could stand was fun and Batman Forever was pretty successful. And I should have been clearer, it was Schumacher's second film that really flopped, and then he had already alienated the core fans of Batman, in addition to make a quite a horrible movie. Nipples or not. It may seem strange now, but in the nineties, comics were big.
And do not mix "fun" with "pulpy", and Bats were not "fun" for decades. In the first decades, Batman was a dark pulp-hero, and there were murders a-plenty in the pages. Then the comic code cracked down on the Caped Crusader, and in came the giant typewriters and pranksters as villains. It lasted for little more than ten years, and the deliberately campy TV-show was very much a parody of what Batman had become. So a darker Batman returned with Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams before 1970, even.

Yes, all those being family movies, they all had the same age certificate (PG, for the record - it wasn't until INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM's unrepentant brutality that a PG-13 was settled), including the James Bond movies and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, with the multitudes of henchmen mowed down and Nazi 'splodin faces, in the latter case.

But it's not only about opinions (respectful, of course), but also simpler times when our entertainment just didn't have as many layers as today. In 2014's cinema everything seems to have a motive, an arc or a backstory behind, which is why weightless affairs such as the FAST & FURIOUS films now seem like a breath of fresh air. Also the reason why the Marvel movies trump the DC ones as far as general audiences' tastes are concerned: they seem lighter and more fun than the subtext-heavy gloom and doom of the Nolan approach. Again, I'm not condemning that particular take (I think both can co-exist), but it's incredibly ironic that Marvel has followed Richard Donner's SUPERMAN as the template for their movies in its unrelentless aim to -again- entertain first and ask questions later. Donner's SUPERMAN completely breaks (a decades-old) canon by having a decidedly goofy Lex Luthor and no one complains. Donner's SUPERMAN expertly juggles incredibly powerful scenes like Pa Kent's heart-attack with Supes turning back time, and no one complains. But more importantly, it features Superman KILLING his enemies and no one bats an eyelid (because make no mistake, he clearly does - there's no eventual rescue scene and if you wanna stick to one cut, you do so, but you cannot mix the two to justify your arguments just as I amusingly did with SUPERMAN and MAN OF STEEL), because it's all in such a good spirit!

With that, my point is that tone is everything, and if you settle by some rules at the beginning (in MOS case it's an inexperienced Superman-to-be right until the very frame), you just cannot go off on a tangent and demand the Superman you always wanted because that is simply not his story. Or maybe even the director's own vision, with which you can certainly agree or not, but always considering the context/ timeframe he delivers it. After all everyone is entitled to one, and none will surely match 100% our own vision because subjectiveness, but sometimes we gotta step back to see the forest for the trees.

I remember when they revealed the designs of the Batmobile and they had all the matchbox tie in cars (I had one) and I also remember my disappointment when, after all the toys had been released, they rated it as the first ever 12 certificate and my mum and dad wouldn't let me go (I was 9).

Point is, it was aggressively marketed to kids through toy tie-ins then the kids with the toys denied the chance to see it.

Again a lot of good points. But I still don't think Lois and Supes are killing people at the end of Superman II (unless Donner confirms it himself I won't believe). I didn't mean to combine the two cuts - just mention another one exists. But I think the vagueness of the "deaths" (if they do expire, it is off screen) is important. How explicit violence is in films has a huge effect. My view when I was young was always "well we only saw that baddie get shot, he could have got to a hospital in time". It's nonsense looking back (although 90's rappers got shot all the time and seemed to be invincible).
And I know saying "it's not my Superman" sounds ridiculous. Of course it shouldn't be unless I buy the rights. I've defended changes from comic book to film in the past (ie recent Fantastic Four casting). But the original point from the comment was Superman HAD to kill Zod. Which is false. It was a film making choice as much as getting rid of the red pants was a choice.

Hmmm, I'm not sure I remember comics being "big" during the nineties (for the record, I'm a child of the 70s-80s). If anything, they suffered a major crisis that almost took down major properties and even big companies, while not spawning -pun very much intended- character ripoffs as "fresh takes" because of the obligatory ciclical course of things.

With that, I refer to my previous post above about stuff being "fun" or not. Comics during the 40s were still fun affairs even despite such kills a-plenty because that stuff was approached differently than during our time and age. You are right that the Comic Code cracked down hard when Society decided to take such things more seriously, but as many characters, Batman is very much of its time* and during the majority of his run (even during the early 70s Recession) it has been a less-dark character than what we could imagine today.

*In the case of O'Neil & Adams, you could see their Batman was influenced by, for one, the Hammer Horror movies of the time, but still was more playful and lighter than what we got during the 80s run, full of angst and darkness.

OK, but back to your original point, I think the movie very much leaves Supes no other option after Faora's comment about killing millions for every human he gets to save. That is, after everything is pretty much said and done for Zod's plans and he's the only Kryptonian standing (but for Kal-El, of course), it's a kill-or-be-killed affair since no human-built prison will effectively hold him.

Also, his death brings greater meaning to Kal-El having to choose between his original race and humans, and the fact that he is now the last vestige of Krypton in the universe. To say nothing of the moral weight of one death on the shoulders of such a good ole cornfed boy as Clark Kent, something that will obviously shape his No Kill policy for good after experiencing the worst possible consequences.

OK, but that had nothing to do with WB. I can assure you they would've loved to have all the kids paying to see it if they could have had any influence on the rating boards' decisions.

In a slightly off-topic post, I wonder if anyone would believe me that I had a friend who was giving flying lessons in Arizona to a man that was working on the effects for Batman Returns and before that, Star Trek: The Undiscovered country circa 1990. This effects employee let my instructor friend take home the scripts for both movies with the understanding that he not copy them. Of course he did and he sent me my copy while I was living in Colorado.

I always liked the directions that ST: TUC went and Valeris was not the traitor in my script. Also (and more fitting for this article), Robin was introduced in a very, very cool manner in Batman Returns as well as a few other slight twists.

How wonderful it was to read these scripts 18 months before the movies premiered. I've often thought about putting them online...

There was a very good article by Brandon Sanderson saying that his weakness is not kryptonite but being superman, i.e. without his moral code and refusal to kill he becomes to all intents a God. Now it may be a very clever ploy leading to the battle depicted in the Dark Knight returns comic as by this time supes has become a corrupted government stooge. However I would be amazed if DC allowed such a bold use of him on screen.

I thought they reduced the rating from 15 to 12 for that reason. Kids under 15 were definitely walking around in Batman t-shirts that summer I know I was one.

Agreed and I also don't even see the point of social commentary. I don't watch a comic book film and go "hmm, that really makes ya think about the world's current peril".

I seem to remember the 12 rating was pretty much created for that movie, or it was a least the first film to carry it.

Not sure if I need to clarify, but BATMAN FOREVER is "fun" *and* (self-consciously) "campy", and I don't think there's anything bad with that. Last I checked one didn't exclude the other, and the movie successfully merges both 90s and 60s sensibilities, just as Burton's films -and somehow BATMAN & ROBIN as well!- effectively play with German Expressionism and 30-40s noirs.

With that, I get what you say about the comics industry in the 90s (or more specifically certain titles), but it's common knowledge that it got stuck in a rut creatively and financially even before, as you mention, video games and the Internet hit it hard. There were a few properties that managed to hold their head above water, especially with crossovers and merch-sales, but in general terms many other got cancelled as numbers dwindled considerably. Of course, decades-lasting properties were always to be the ones with bigger chances, but creatively speaking you and I know they occasionally painted themselves in a corner that not even a couple of decades later they have been able to get themselves out (ie. the DC Universe with the Earth-51 bullshit signifying a major reboot after so many years of characters & storylines grasping for air).

Donner's SUPERMAN completely breaks (a decades-old) canon by having a decidedly goofy Lex Luthor and no one complains.

I complained.

That sounds brilliant. Was the 'Batman Returns' draft you read an early version of the film that was eventually made (i.e. Daniel Waters screenplay) or was it Sam Hamm's script for 'Batman 2' (a more direct sequel to the 1989 movie, albeit one that also featured Catwoman and the Penguin)?

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