Movie Sequels We Never Got: Tim Burton’s Batman 3

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?

BATMAN PETITION

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!’”

BATMAN MCDONALDS TOYSBATMAN MCDONALDS

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.

CATWOMAN

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.”

BATMAN

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…

 

The Michael Keaton Revival

Now – I love me some Michael Keaton, he’s one of my favourite actors and has been for years. Sadly he has often been overlooked and underused particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s, but recently Keaton has been having a bit of a resurgence in his career – and I for one love it. So right here, I want to take a quick look at Keaton’s career so far and celebrate the return of one of cinema’s overlooked greats.

His real name is Michael Douglas, but he had to change it when he became an actor because of that other Michael Douglas fella. Exactly where Keaton took his stage name from – I’m not 100% sure as I’ve read two different sources. One stating he used the name after reading an article about Diane Keaton and another saying he took the name from Buster Keaton.

Keaton’s acting career began in the mid 70s on TV in shows like  Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. In 1982 he secured his first co-starring credit appearing alongside Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler in the comedy flick Night Shift. This role kick-started his early film career and Keaton became known as a comic actor when he starred in Mr. MomJohnny Dangerously and Gung Ho.

Johnny Dangerously

By the way, I recommend Johnny Dangerously if you want a stupidly funny parody flick in the same vein as Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Its a brilliant spoof of gangster films and often overlooked. ‘You fargin’ icehole!’

It was in 1988 when Keaton got his major breakthrough role. Tim Burton cast him in the horror/comedy picture Beetlejuice. Probably one of my favourite Tim Burton films and one of my favourite Keaton films too, even though he appears in less than 20% of the movie, Keaton stole the entire flick and cemented Betelgeuse (correct spelling of his name) as one of the most memorable film characters of the 80s. The much rumoured sequel is still – supposedly in the works.

Beetlejiuce

It was the following year in 1989 when Keaton would team up with Burton once more in one of the most controversial pieces of casting ever…

Batman Logo

Oh my goodness, the backlash both Burton and Keaton got for Batman is legendary. There were over 50,000 letters of complaint sent to the studio when it was announced that Keaton would be playing Batman in the (then) new movie… and this was the late 80s, pre-internet days too. Years later, Keaton spoke out about the outrage his casing caused.

“It baffled me that anyone was thinking about that. I heard about the outrage, and I couldn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. It made me feel bad that it was even in question.”

All this backlash steamed from the simple fact that Keaton was known for his comedic roles and the fans just refused to believe that this comedy actor could play a serious Batman. Of course both Burton and especially Keaton would prove their doubters wrong. In my humble opinion, I still feel that Keaton was the best live action Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Keaton Batman

The success of Batman catapulted Keaton into the limelight and he became a superstar. The film also began the more ‘adult’ superhero movie and a trend that still continues today where every other flick released now is a superhero one. This was followed by the sequel Batman Returns in 1992 where Burton and Keaton teamed up once more. This sequel was much darker and violent than the first. There was even a third Batman film in the pre-production stages, but when Burton left the project – so did Keaton and the franchise took a massive nosedive as it continued without either of the two people who made it the success it became.

Keaton was riding high in the late 80s and early 90s as he starred in more films including; Pacific HeightsMy Life, The Paper and Multiplicity – a return to his more comedic roots written and directed by the great Harold Ramis where Keaton’s character clones himself.

Multiplicity

After re-watching the film recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find it still holds up well and you get four times the Keaton too.

In the late 90s, he played the same character twice in two different movies based on novels from the same writer. He appeared as Agent Ray Nicolette in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown from 1997 and then again in Out of Sight from 1998. Both films based on the work of author Elmore Leonard. But by the time the 2000s rolled around, Keaton career was drying up. He still acted but never managed to reach the same success as the late 80s/early 90s and those heady Batman years. The 2000s were a very mixed bag for the actor and appearing in movies like Herbie: Fully Loaded hardly helped either. But here’s the thing about a bad Keaton film, the movie may be bad – but it still had Michael Keaton in it and he was always a joy to watch.

The big major starring roles were just not coming his way and I couldn’t understand why – he was still a damn good actor, he just wasn’t getting the job offers he deserved. In 2014 he was cast as the antagonist in the terrible remake of Robocop… and you know how I said before how a bad Keaton film is still worth watching just for him? Well this Robocop remake is a perfect example of exactly that. Despite the lacklustre career Keaton was experiencing by 2014, it was this very same year he starred in the movie that changed everything.

Birdman Poster

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a brilliant film that sees Keaton cast as a struggling actor who was once famous for playing a superhero decades ago… does any of this sound familiar? I really do not want to say too much about this one as going into it blind is the best way to experience this flick. But any and every Michael Keaton fan should watch Birdman. Keaton is on top form as actor Riggan Thomson who tries to put on a Broadway play in an attempt to reinvigorate his failing career all while being haunted by his iconic, titular superhero alter-ego Birdman… or is he?

Keaton even won a Golden Globe Award as well as earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Birdman. At last, he was back where he belonged and was getting the recognition he deserved as an actor. On the 28th of July, 2016 – Keaton was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and about damn time too.

Also in 2016, he starred as Ray Kroc in the movie The Founder which tells the true story of the man who created the McDonald’s fast food empire… all be it not very harmoniously.

The Founder

In fact the very reason I decided to write this article was because I just watched The Founder and thoroughly enjoyed it, highly recommended. Its just so great to see Michael Keaton not just getting acting jobs, but getting great ones and doing them justice too.

Most recently Keaton has returned to his superhero movie roles, only this time on the other side of the the coin when he played super-villain The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. No, I’ve not yet seen it as I’ve been a bit busy getting ready to welcome our first baby due in just a couple of days as of writing this. But I have heard great things about the flick and in particular Keaton himself. Plus you’ll also be seeing him soon-ish in Disney’s live action version of Dumbo, set to be directed by his old sparring partner Tim Burton in 2019… maybe Beetlejuice 2 after that?

Well it seems like Michael Keaton is back and I for one love it. I miss him when he’s not acting or acting in bad films and I always enjoy it whenever he is on screen (yes even in bad movies). His career, right now is going from strength to strength – I hope it continues for many years to come. If you know any film fans that are not aware of this man’s work – then, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to tell all your friends about him… He’s Keaton.’

Micheal Keaton 2

I’m just shocked and thankful that I’ve gotten away with everything – experimenting here, trying at this, failing at that, being good in some things, not so good in others. It’s kind of amazing that people are still sticking by me. When they come up to me in the street, I just want to write them all cheques. – Michael Keaton

I’m Batman: Games Retrospective – Part One

The Defender of Gotham, The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, World’s Greatest Detective, one half of the Dynamic Duo… Batman. One of the most popular superheroes and perhaps DC Comics best asset? Anyway, Batman has had quite a decent run in terms of cinema with some pretty darn great films over the years. But what about his digital version, what about games?

Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. I’m looking back on some of the Batman games I grew up playing and take a look at Batman in gaming over the years. I’m not going to cover every Batman starring game, cos well there are bloody loads of them and this retrospective would end up running longer than my Pac-Man one. So I’m just sticking to the titles that I’ve played over the years and the games I remember most.

I feel that Batman has been treated with a lot more respect in terms of video games than most other superheroes and he has had quite a few good and even great games. So let’s start with the first-ever Batman game I played and the first one released.

Batman

BATMAN ZX SPECTRUM

Published by Ocean Software and developed by Jon Ritman & Bernie Drummond, released in 1986 for pretty much every 8-bit microcomputer at the time. Batman featured a 3D isometric viewpoint and had you playing as The Dark Knight trying to save Robin and collecting seven parts of the missing Batcraft. Pretty much a platform-puzzler with plenty of devious rooms to test your skills. Batman was very well received when it was released, getting high scores and praise from the gaming press. It even went on to reach number two in the UK sales charts.

BATMAN ZX SPECTRUM SCREEN

Batman was really good fun back then and one I played quite a bit of… but still never completed it.
The game has been remade by several fans over the years. Watman was released for PC in 2000 and there was also a fantastic remake produced by Retrospec’s Batman that is well worth checking out.

Batman: The Caped Crusader

BATMANTHE CAPED CRUSADER

Developed by Special FX Software Ltd and Published by Ocean Software. This game was released on a plethora of 8 and 16-bit computers back in 1988. Using a comic book style where leaving one screen would open a new ‘panel’, keeping the last panel in the background as to give an impression that you were flicking through a comic.

Batman: The Caped Crusader offered two different scenarios to play through, one featuring The Joker and another one featuring The Penguin. You could play through the scenarios in any order but they were pretty much the same thing anyway, just with different henchmen and backgrounds. Obviously, you play as Batman, who has to take down henchmen, solve puzzles and finally defeat The Joker/Penguin. This was another Batman game that was originally well received upon release. With many reviewers praising the colourful and detailed graphics, but also noting the game was very maze-like as it was easy to get lost, resulting in a lot of backtracking.

BATMANTHE CAPED CRUSADER SCREEN

To be honest, I never really liked this one too much. I just found it a bit dull and clunky with all the walking around, getting lost and a lot of the screens being empty with nothing to do. The combat was also very limited and tiresome and the inventory screen was painfully slow and cumbersome too.

Batman

BATMAN AMIGA

Also known as Batman: The Movie. This one hit the market in 1989 to coincide with the Tim Burton movie, developed and published by Ocean Software. This was another game that popped up on several of the 8 and 16-bit computers. You control Batman through five stages based on scenes from the movie including: the Axis Chemical Plant, Streets of Gotham and Gotham Cathedral. Mixing up several gameplay styles, using side-scrolling action-platforming for two of the levels, two vehicle-based levels where you use the Batmobile and Batplane and a puzzle stage where you have to find various components for Joker’s Smilex toxin.

BATMAN AMIGA SCREEN

Batman was very well received with it reaching number one in the charts and even being awarded ‘Game Of The Year’ in Crash magazine. This title was a cracker with a fair challenge and varied gameplay… but it was way too short and you could complete it in twenty-odd minutes once you know what you were doing. Still, I would often play and replay through the game over and over again. Plus, I still remember the ‘jammmmmmmmmmm’ cheat code after all these years.

Batman: The Video Game

BATMAN NES

This one was also based on Tim Burton’s movie, but this is not just a port of the previous game. This was a whole new game built from the ground up just for the NES. Originally released in 1989 in Japan, then 1990 for America and Europe. Developed and published by Sunsoft. While this was based on Tim Burton’s movie, it also added a few ideas not in the film including villains besides Joker. Deadshot, Heat Wave, Nightslayer, Killer Moth and Firebug all make an appearance here to help pad out the action.

With you playing as Batman and using his many gadgets like the Batarang, and a Batspeargun. Batman could also wall jump, which was a very handy feature and used to get around some extremely tricky platforming sections. As the game was from Sunsoft, you got great story lead cutscenes and amazing music as most Sunsoft games had. The game’s reception was very good and is still referred to as one of the best NES games ever made.

BATMAN NES SCREEN

I remember playing this on my friend’s NES back in the early 90s. Being a huge fan of the movie, the game was a welcome addition. Welcome, but man was this tough. Never unfair though and you’d find yourself making steady progress as long as you utilised Batman’s gadgets and skills. An absolutely amazing action-platformer and still rightly regarded as one of the all-time great classic games.

Batman

BATMAN ARCADE

This one was an arcade only game released in 1990. Developed by Numega and published by Atari Games. Batman was a simple scrolling beat ’em up-platformer and featured scenes directly based on the 1989 movie, as well as stages where you use the Batmobile and Batwing. Also uses voices and digitised images taken directly from the movie to tell the story as well as featuring Danny Elfman’s amazing Batman score. With you playing as Batman patrolling the streets of Gotham trying to stop The Joker. The game was shallow and repetitive… but it was also good mindless fun. It’s an arcade game and designed to eat up your loose change.

BATMAN ARCADE SCREEN

For a scrolling beat ’em up, this was not a bad one at all. The graphics were dark and moody, capturing Burton’s film pretty damn well. Not a great game, but it was still good enough to warrant a play or several.

Batman: Return of the Joker

BATMAN RETURN OF THE JOKER NES

The sequel to the NES Batman game that was based on the 1989 film. But this sequel NES game, released in 1991, was made before the official Batman Returns movie sequel (confused yet?). Yes, we have a sequel to a game based on a movie that (at the time) didn’t have a sequel. Once more developed and published by Sunsoft, so you know you’re in for an awesome soundtrack if nothing else.

There were various ports of this game released on other formats that all slightly differed from version to version, but I only played this NES version. The plot is that Joker has escaped from Arkham Asylum and you, playing as Batman, have to survive through several side-scrolling levels set in and around Gotham City and stop Joker. Batman is only equipped with a Batgun/wrist-thing that fires various, selectable projectiles which are collected through the levels.

BATMAN RETURN OF THE JOKER NES SCREEN

I didn’t find this one as enjoyable as the previous NES Batman game, it just did not have the same feel. This one felt more like a scrolling shoot ’em up and an average one at that. It’s was not a bad game at all, just not as good as the previous one.

Batman Returns

BATMAN RETURNS SNES

Again, there were various versions of this title. But I’m going for the SNES version for this retrospective as it was really damn good. Released in 1993, developed and published by Konami for the SNES. Batman Returns was a scrolling beat ’em up with some really great little touches to add a lot of depth to this fairly shallow genre. Massively redundant and mindless but an awesome and satisfying experience nonetheless. Based on the film of the same name from Tim Burton, the game followed the movie really well too with you playing as Batman having to save Gotham City from Catwoman and the Penguin.

BATMAN RETURNS SNES SCREEN

Simple in its style, but full of great little features and details. Like being able to grab two henchmen at once and smash their heads together, or the ability to throw enemies into the background smashing windows and denting lampposts, etc. Stages were intercut with amazing cutscenes and written dialogue taken right from the film as well as using Danny Elfman’s infamous Batman score to great effect. Another thing that I always remember is how you could save Selina Kyle in the game just like in the film… ”you missed”. Well worth playing through if you can and one of the better 16-bit beat ’em ups.

The Adventures Of Batman & Robin

ADEVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN SNES

The Adventures of Batman & Robin was an action-platformer (and a bit of puzzling too) released in 1994 for the SNES. Developed and published by Konami and based on the critically acclaimed and utterly awesome Batman: The Animated Series TV show. You play as Batman, with Robin only appearing in cutscenes. Each level was based on one of the main villains, with a rogues gallery like: The Joker, Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, The Scarecrow, The Riddler, Clayface and even Man-Bat. Each level had its own flavour and style based on each of the villains which in turn was based on an episode of the TV show itself. The Riddler stage featuring a lot of puzzles and riddles for example.

ADEVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN SNES SCREEN

The Adventures of Batman & Robin really was a fantastic game. Dark, moody and well animated, it looked just like the TV show it was based on. As each level had its own villain based aesthetic and style, they brought a great mix of gameplay styles that offered plenty of variation from simple beat ’em up and platforming action to head-scratching puzzles and more.

Batman Forever

BATMAN FOREVER SNES

From one of the best Batman games on the SNES to one of the worst. This was released in 1995 for the SNES, Sega Mega Drive and a few others. Developed by Probe Entertainment and published by Acclaim. Let’s be honest, it does not matter which version I talk about here as they were all really, really, really bad.

Based on the third film of the same name. This one has you playing as either Batman or Robin, or even Co-Op 2 player… if you can find anyone that would want to play this game. A side-scrolling beat ’em up with some of the worst and most awkward controls ever seen in a game. Sluggish combat inspired by Mortal Kombat that just does not work, awkward gadget selection and usage.  Topped off with some truly terrible level design with little to no idea of where to go or what to do.

BATMAN FOREVER SNES.jpSCREENg

I really have nothing to say here. It’s a terrible game and should be avoided at all costs, not even worth playing just for curiosity sake. This game is so bad that I’d rather watch the film that it is based on.

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

BATMAN FOREVER ARCADE

Yet another game based on the movie of the same name, but a very different game from the previous Batman Forever… thankfully. Developed by Iguana Entertainment, published by Acclaim and released in 1996. This was an arcade game that was later ported to the Sega Saturn, Windows and PlayStation.

While this was another one of those redundant scrolling beat ’em ups. But unlike the last Batman Forever game, this one was actually pretty decent. It was another mindless button-mashing game and allowed you to play co-op as Batman and Robin trying to stop The Riddler and Two-Face.

BATMAN FOREVER ARCADE SCREEN

Decent action romp with a pretty good combo system allowing you to do a 150+ hit combo on one enemy if you knew how. Plenty of OTT powerups, weapons and gadgets to use along the way too. Yes, it’s an inane button-masher, but it still has some playability value in there and it’s far, far, far better than that previous Batman Forever game. Worth checking out.

I’ll end here, but there is more Batman action to come in Part two. Same Bat-website, same Bat-time… sorry.