Tim Burton's Batman Returns may have been a box office hit when it was released in 1992, but despite being generally enjoyed by fans and critics alike the film was criticized by being too dark and too violent. Now, a new video deconstructs the Batman sequel and reveals Tim Burton's drastically different original vision.
As the video from LowRes Wünderbred explains, Burton wasn't particularly interested in directing another film in the Batman franchise. However, Warner Bros. gave Burton a large amount of creative control to return which lead to him exploring a very different story. In the original "Batman 2" script by Sam Hamm, the plot followed the Penguin -- named Mr. Bonafice in this version -- hiring Catwoman to track down a set of antique ravens. With one of the antique ravens being located under Wayne Manor, the video explains that the story drew from the work of Frank Miller with elements from The Dark Knight Returns dropped into the script. Specifically, "Batman 2" would have featured a "vigilante Batman cult" and Batman riding a horse.
According to the video, Vicki Vale would have returned in this version of the sequel, and the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot for mayor plot was abandoned completely. "Batman 2" ultimately would have had a much lighter tone than what Batman Returns ultimately had, with the tone of "Batman 2" being described as falling somewhere between the early episodes of the animated series and Adam West's Batman television series from the 1960s.
However, this lighter version -- which would have ended with Bruce proposing to Vicki -- didn't impress Warner Bros. They felt that the film lacked depth when it came to the villains as compared to Jack Nicholson’s dynamic Joker in Batman, so Burton was pushed to pursue a different approach. Hamm's script was done away with, Heather's screenwriter Daniel Walters was brought on board and while there was still some borrowing from the Batman television show -- that's where the idea of Penguin running for mayor came from. It's also explained that, in addition to cutting Vicki Vale from the film entirely, both Marlon Wayans' Robin and Billy Dee Williams' Harvey Dent were both cut as well, with Dent eventually being recast with Tommy Lee Jones when Joel Schumacher came on board for 1995's Batman Forever.
While Batman Returns went on to have the highest opening weekend of 1992 and, for it time, the highest opening weekend of any film up to that point, the film did have some cultural backlash. Parents were concerned about the violence and sexual references in the film despite its PG-13 rating and McDonalds's pulled their Happy Meal promotion for the film. Batman Returns would ultimately become a bit of a cult classic -- with some even arguing that the film is a perfect Christmas movie -- but knowing more about Burton's original vision, fans will no doubt find themselves wondering what might have been.