I’m doing a few of these movie sequels we never got articles through the year. See my previous look at the Italian Job sequel that never happened. But now, I take a look at the Tim Burton helmed Batman 3 that we never got to see.
The 1989 Batman flick is one of my personal favourites. Tim Burton’s vison of Gotham City is visually stunning, even now, three decades since the film was released. His dark tone and style put in place the stepping stones for many superhero films to follow. Then there was the casting of Michael Keaton as The Caped Crusader himself. Man, that casting really caused some problems with die hard Batman fans. It has been said that the studio producing the film received over fifty-thousand complaints in relation to Keaton playing Batman. This was the eighties remember, no social media, no Twitter to vent your anger at the studio itself. These folk had to write these letters of complaint and post them to the studio themselves. Just take a quick look at this article snippet from Rolling Stone magazine before the film was released::
“Michael Keaton is no Batman. Or so a vast sector of the bat community has vehemently asserted. Upon learning last year that Michael Keaton would, indeed, be Batman – the definitive cinematic Batman, no less – batheads were disconsolate. In Keaton’s hands, they felt, Batman would become a smirky wisenheimer. Mr. Mom in a cowl, they thought. ‘Treating Batman as a comedy is like The Brady Bunch going porno’, wrote a fretful fan, one of the tens of thousands who swamped comics fanzines with disapproving nerd mail. The common refrain among disbelievers: Keaton has no chin, not enough hair; he’s too scrawny, too doughy, too short, too glib, too distracting.”
There was even a petition made to try and have Keaton removed from the role, don’t believe me?
The biggest fear among fans was that they felt the film was going to be a campy comedy. Tim Burton was mostly known for directing 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure at the time. Then, Michael Keaton was famed for his comedy roles in flicks like Johnny Dangerously, The Squeeze and more specifically, Mr. Mom. Nothing sounded right about the first ‘proper’ big screen outing for The Dark Knight. The dark and brooding tone of the comics was sure to be thrown out for a more comedic take on the superhero, something more like the TV show from the sixties. Of course, that’s not what we got. We got a moody, harder edged Batman film, far removed from the camp, kitschy, comedy slant of the TV show. When released, Batman was a massive hit and those fears from Batfans were quickly quashed. Of course, with a huge hit on their hands, the studio wanted a sequel. So in 1992, we got Batman Returns.
Batman Returns was even darker than the first film. So much so, that a licencing deal with McDonald’s to include Batman toys in their famed and kid friendly Happy Meals was scrapped. As Tim Burton himself recalled when talking to Yahoo:
“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!’”
Long story short and due to a lot of arguments behind the scenes, Tim Burton left the Batman franchise behind as director and Joel Schumacher stepped in to helm the third film, Batman Forever. Also gone was Michael Keaton. Under Schumacher, the Batman films (d)evolved into the campy, kitschy, comedy slant the old TV show had and that darker edge that Burton gave The Caped Crusader was long gone.
Anyway, before both Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left and before Joel Schumacher ruined the franchise, there was another and a very different Batman 3 in early development. That film was to be called Batman Continues. There are quite a few details around that give us a bit of insight as to just what this other third Batman flick was going to be like. Under Burton’s direction, it was sure to continue that darker vein the pervious two films had. Michelle Pfeiffer’s now iconic take on Catwoman was said to return and be a permanent love interest and partner for Bruce Wayne/Batman. A quick aside. While developing Batman Continues, Tim Burton expressed an interest in making a Catwoman spin-off flick. This was going to pick up exactly where Batman Returns ended and was going to bridge the gap between the second and third Batman films. Then when Burton dropped out of the whole project, that Catwoman spin-off became the much panned Halle Berry film.
On the villain side of things, Robin Williams was being eyed up to play Edward Nygma/Riddler. Interestingly enough, Burton actually originally wanted Williams to play Joker in the first flick. It has been said that Robin Williams was unsure about playing Joker in the film and as the start of production crept closer, Tim Burton needed someone to play the role, so Jack Nicholson was approached an asked instead. Billy Dee Williams was also going to return as Gotham’s district attorney, Harvey Dent and of course, become Two-Face. But that was not all for the villains, Brad Dourif was rumoured to have been asked to play Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow too. To me, that sounded a little too ‘full’.
Batman’s sidekick Robin was going to make an appearance. He was even originally going to be in the first flick, storyboards exist that show how Robin was going to be in the film (click here). Then, Robin was also almost in Batman Returns too. Anyway, obviously Robin never made it into either film. But Tim Burton really wanted to introduce the character in his third Batman film and he was going to be played by Marlon Wayans. Reportedly, Wayans still gets paid to this day for NOT being in the film. Marlon Wayans recalls the role when he spoke to io9.gizmodo.com:
“I was actually supposed to play Robin, in Batman Returns, about 15 years ago. But there was too many characters. I was cast, I was paid and everything. I still get residual checks. Tim Burton didn’t wind up doing three, Joel Schumacher did it and he had a different vision for who Robin was. So he hired Chris O’ Donnell.”
Not bad that, being paid to NOT do a job. Tim Burton’s Batman Continues is a bit of a stupid title but that is exactly what is was going to do, continue the story of Batman and be a direct sequel to Batman Returns. But exactly what that story was going to be is unknown. Elements of Burton’s Batman Continues were tweaked and reworked into Batman Forever (Riddler, Two-Face, Robin, etc)… that’s probably why Tim Burton was credited as a producer on that film.
For me, I still think there’s time for Tim Burton and Michael Keaton to team up and do another Batman picture. There are comics with an aged Batman, so why not a film too? Sure, it wont be the Batman Continues they originally wanted to make, but it could still be a ‘proper’ continuation of their first two Batman flicks. I mean, Keaton is going to play The Dark Knight at least one more time in the new The Flash film. Burton, Keaton and Pfeiffer reunite for another Batman project? It could happen…