It would have been nice to get a full Burton trilogy.
The Tim Burton Batman movies are gothic marvels. They're stunning to look at and helped change the way we see Batman today. They ushered in a darker tone for the caped crusader, and also managed to certify a gothic aesthetic that also was featured prominently in the animated series. But we only got to see Burton's vision in two of these movies. The reasons why are a little complicated.
Burton planned to make a third Batman movie, entitled Batman Continues. It would have been a direct sequel to Batman Returns, continuing the story with Catwoman and introducing a Riddler who was set to be played by Robin Williams, and not Jim Carrey. It even would have taken Billy Dee Williams's Harvey Dent and turned him into Two-Face. In a fun twist, Marlon Waynes was set to play Robin in Burton's vision. This would have brought an interesting element through Waynes, allowing him to work in a more serious role.
These were big, grandiose plans. So what happened?
Check out this video from Supervoid Cinema for some insight.
What Were Tim Burton's Plans for His Third Batman Film?
Lots of things went wrong. The first was the tone of these Batman movies.
While adult audiences loved them, and they have lived on as genre classics, they were not the family-friendly movies that corporate sponsors wanted. One of their main partners was McDonald's. And they wanted Happy Meal toys. But Burton's movie gave them terrifying characters that didn't quite fit the bill.
As Burton himself said: "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 clear that marketers had no idea what to do with Burton's movies. To be fair, many people of that generation had grown up with Adam West's Batman series and thought they were getting much lighter fare. They had no idea how to pivot when Returns came out and doubled down on the first movie's darkness.
And it wasn't just food companies. Toymakers were not sure how to sell Burton's characters to kids. They relied much more on toys from the animated series too. Nothing really felt commercial about his dark colors and gothic cityscapes.
They watched the movie at test screenings, all of which had been going incredibly poorly.
Batman Returns screenwriter, Daniel Waters, told the documentary Shadow of the Bat – Part 4: Dark Side of the Knight about the screenings, saying: “It’s great. The lights are coming up after Batman Returns, and it’s like kids crying, people acting like they’ve been punched in the stomach, and like they’ve been mugged. Part of me relished that reaction, and part of me to this day is like, ‘Oops.’”
As the studio pushed back against Burton's vision, they both decided to go their own ways. Joel Schumacher was brought in to camp up Batman for the marketers, and the title was changed to Batman Forever. Another unintended problem is that Marlon Waynes had a clause in his contract saying if he was fired, he still had to be paid. Including residuals.
So after all these years, he still makes money off the Batman titles he was never even in. That's a pretty good deal for him!
Of course, the audience got a raw deal. Burton would eventually leave Batman, going onto a Superman movie that never was as well. Now, it's hard to imagine him delving back into the comic book genre at all. It's a shame we never got the third film in his trilogy. It seemed like it would be another fun entry and something for us to talk about for a long time.
What's your take on all of this drama? Let us know in the comments.