Tim Burton Didn’t Direct Another Batman Film Because Warner Bros. Thought ‘Batman Returns’ Was Weird
Let’s return to a fun time in the Batman franchise, when Tim Burton was at the helm of both ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns,’ sharing his vision of kooky superhero action. Why didn’t Tim Burton make a third Batman film and save us from Joel Schumacher’s black light and Bat-nipple-adorned hell? As Burton makes the press rounds for ‘Big Eyes’ (a film that looks nothing like a Burton film—for better or worse), he’s giving us some answers about why he didn’t direct a third Batman film for Warner Bros.
Way back when, Burton took on the Batman franchise and gave us Bat-films that were quirky and darkly funny, but they could never be too dark or grim because WB was banking on a family-friendly franchise and needed to be able to peddle merchandise to adults and children alike. Regardless of WB’s financial strategy, Burton still delivered great Batman movies that showcased his sensibilities. (As a bonus, we also got a wacky Prince album out of it.)
But in a new interview with Yahoo!, Burton finally explains why he didn’t make a third Batman film for WB, and the answer might surprise you:
I think I upset McDonald’s. [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 ‘Batman Returns,’ because half the people thought it was lighter than the first one, and half the people thought it was darker. 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.
‘Batman Returns’ is arguably a better film than Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman,’ and that’s thanks in part to the slightly darker tone and storyline—but ‘Batman Returns’ still isn’t a very dark movie. While there are a few moments (mostly with Catwoman and Penguin) that skew a bit more grim and mature, the overall film is still family-friendly. I was seven when the film came out, and I was instantly obsessed. I bought the toys and I played ‘Batman’ role-playing games with my friends. We all argued over who got to be Catwoman. So the accusation that ‘Batman Returns’ was “too weird” or too dark is kind of ludicrous, especially when you take Christopher Nolan’s later Dark Knight trilogy into account—a superhero franchise that kick-started the rise of gritty, darker superhero films and was a huge success for WB. If they only knew then what they know now, right?
Even though ‘Batman Forever’ was a total crap-show, it debuted as the third highest-grossing film of all time back in 1995. But fans were disappointed with Schumacher’s Bat-movies, and while ‘Batman and Robin’ had a huge opening weekend, its box office dropped by 63% in the second week. Looking back on the Batman franchise now, Burton’s films remain beloved, while Schumacher’s are mocked and despised. Smooth move, WB.