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Tim Burton Defends His Batman Movies, And Yes, He Brings Up The Bat Nipples

Michael Keaton in Batman Returns
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Batman has been such a “dark” character for so many years now, audiences probably forget how campy the DC superhero has the potential to be… and how campy he was in both the 1966 television series starring Adam West, and the two Joel Schumacher Batman movies that leaned into the comedic elements of the world (and were ahead of the curve, according to one of our writers). Tim Burton started the pivot to “darker” Batman with his 1989 origin story and its 1992 sequel, Batman Returns. But these days, he finds it incredibly funny that his movies were called “dark” given how gloomy modern Batman movies are… and he has choice words for the Schumacher costume decisions (which were part of the reason why Michael Keaton didn’t return for Batman Forever). 

On the occasion of Batman Returns celebrating its 30th anniversary, Tim Burton looked back over his stewardship of Warner Bros.’ Batman series for two movies, which came with a lot of extra pressure but definitely expanded on Burton’s unique vision for Gotham and its protector. Though Burton was approached to return for a third Batman movie, both he and Keaton decided not to return. And when he looked back on the decisions that led to massive style changes in Batman Forever, Burton reflected to Empire Magazine:

[Back then] they went the other way. That’s the funny thing about it. But then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Okay. Hold on a second here. You complain about me, I’m too weird, I’m too dark, and then you put nipples on the costume? Go fuck yourself.’ Seriously. So yeah, I think that’s why I didn’t end up [doing a third film]…

Because he has been around so long, we have seen a number of different iterations of the character, stretching from the gritty and grounded world of Chris Nolan and the muscle-bound bombast of Zack Snyder’s universe to the Gotham world that we saw on television, which focused solely on the classic Batman villains and a young Bruce Wayne. But as the movies evolved, Batman did get darker and darker, until we ended up with Matt Reeves and his serial killer inspirations for The Riddler (Paul Dano) in this year’s The Batman.

You know what would be a lot of fun? Tim Burton returning to the superhero genre in the way that Sam Raimi, the shepherd of the Spider-Man saga, came back to Marvel to play in the sandbox of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Burton got his run in the comic-book realm cut short, and he’s clearly a fan of this type of storytelling, so hand him a Superman film. Give him Swamp Thing, or Plastic Man. Just get him back to work in the genre. He won’t give you nipples on the suits. But he will bring a different level of magic to the screen, and we are here for it. 

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.