For all Batman‘s cinematic near misses, arguably the most fascinating was the missing third film by Tim Burton that would have followed Batman returns. Ultimately, behind-the-scenes riot and a misguided desire to forge Gotham’s Dark Knight into family-friendly (and merchandising-friendly) waters resulted in Burton’s vision being thrown out in favor of Joel Schumacher.
Batman was first adapted for the big screen in 1943, in a 15-chapter black and white series with Lewis Wilson as the famous superhero and Douglas Croft as Robin. The Dark Knight has gone through many versions since then, but its cinematic history can be broken down into three: the Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher series, The dark knight Trilogy and the DC Extended Universe. Burton’s Batman (1989) had proven a critical and financial hit, inspiring those that were both successful and unforgettable Batman: The Animated Series. Success also made way for Batman returns 1992 and the sequel with Burton and Keaton received positive reviews and did very well at the box office despite problems with trading partners. It was the moment to do a third Batman Movie that trouble began.
Titled Batman forever, and released in 1995, the third film was directed by Joel Schumacher and an all-new cast, starring Val Kilmer as Batman, Chris O’Donnell as Robin, and Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. It followed Batman & Robin two years later, now with George Clooney as Batman, and it was a very bad ending to the series as the film is considered one of the worst superhero films of all time. All of these cast, direction, and story changes weren’t part of the plan, and Burton had ideas for a third Batman Film that, if it had happened, would have taken the series in an entirely different direction.
Burton’s Batman 3 would have been a real sequel to the return
Tim Burtons Batman 3 allegedly would have been titled Batman goes onwhich is pretty much what the movie was supposed to be doing. Batman goes on would have had Keaton again as Caped Crusader and would have counted with Michelle Pfeiffer and Billy Dee Williams repeating their roles as Catwoman and Harvey Dent respectively. By having all these characters and their actors back Batman goes on would have merged all three films (Williams had decided against it Batman returns and Christopher Walken’s Max Shreck was added instead) and would have served as a proper sequel Batman returns. Basically, it would have had the cohesion that Batman forever was missing, but the title would still have been bad.
Robin Williams was wanted for the Riddler
Pretty like Batman forever, Batman 3 included The Riddler, but Burton had a very specific idea for the character. His plan was to have the late great Robin Williams play Edward Nygma / Riddler, but the comedian had a strange history with the Batman universe … and Burton. Williams was originally approached to be the Joker in. to play Batmanbut Jack Nicholson eventually got the role. Burton then reached out to him again, hoping he would play The Riddler in Batman 3but when Burton left and Schumacher arrived, those plans changed and Jim Carrey became The Riddler – and so Robin Williams never got into one Batman Movie.
The return of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was expected
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was revealed to be safe and sound at the end of the year Batman returnswhich allows her to come back in a sequel. She was one of the actors who would have come back for a third Batman Film with Burton about directorial duties, but it is unknown what role she would have played in the story. Presumably the seductive dynamic between her and Keaton’s bat would have expanded even further. However, when Warner Bros. started development Batman forever without Burton, a Catwoman spin-off was announced in which Pfeiffer repeated her role and Burton joined as a director. The film would have opened after their collapse Batman returns, after an amnesia Selina Kyle in the version of Las Vegas from the Batman movie universe. In the end, Burton was eliminated and the project was left in development hell for years until it became the critically plowed – and completely unrecognizable – Cat woman with Halle Berry as the title character.
Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent would probably have become two faces
Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in Batman and was completely absent from Batman returns, but he was still able to return in a future sequel, especially since Williams was signed to more than one appearance. An early draft of Batman returns had everything set up for Harvey Dent to become two-face in Batman 3, with Catwoman shocking him in the end, triggering his villainous transformation. These scenes were rewritten to fit Walken’s Max Shreck, but Williams’ return was still possible in the third film. Unfortunately, Schumacher had other ideas and instead cast Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, who hesitated the role, but did so at the insistence of his son. Ultimately, Jones’ version of Two-Face was little more than a cosplay Joker clone, and while the performance was great fun, Batman fans wouldn’t have expected Dent.
Marlon Wayans was hired to play Robin
Perhaps the most surprising element of Batman 3 was that there was Marlon Wayans as Dick Grayson / Robin, and Wayans’ story with that Batman The series is actually pretty interesting. Wayans should play Robin in Batman returns, but Burton decided to keep it for a future film as there were already too many characters in the story. Wayans even participated in a wardrobe customization and was signed for a sequel and could have made his debut in Batman 3 If Schumacher hadn’t had other ideas and cast Chris O’Donnell instead. However, Wayans received a fine as his contract gave him the option of reprise, and as of 2018 he was still receiving royalty payments.
Why Tim Burton’s Batman 3 didn’t happen
Burton’s departure was not a clear case of creative difference, but was provoked by an external force, or several to be precise. Notoriously, it was McDonald’s that apparently suffered the harshest end of criticism in the years that followed Batman continues Cancellation, and it’s fair to say you were a great agitator. In advance too Batman returns‘Release, Warner Bros’ had doubled the success of the 1989 original by bringing in an unprecedented number of merchandising and commercial partners. As the LATimes 1992 reported, the most important partners were McDonald’s, Diet Coke and Choice Hotels with an astonishing 120 planned product connections, including “talking toothbrushes, roller skates and of course t-shirts … boxer shorts, sunglasses and pillows … beach towels, bean bags, weightlifting gloves and, yes, mugs.“Nothing on this scale had really been considered before. That put a great deal of responsibility on the film, transporting merchandise for the partners who had paid royalties and partners like McDonald’s who were betting on it.” Returns Since this is a family film, it all backfired very quickly. As Burton himself put it: “I think I pissed off McDonald’s. [They asked] “What kind of black stuff is that coming out of the penguin’s mouth? We can’t sell Happy Meals with that! ‘“
You weren’t the only ones offended or upset by Burton’s creative vision. Toy companies had to be appeased by claiming that marketing was relieved from the publication of Batman: The Animated Series, and actual movie tying toys stand out for their absence from this series of releases. Kenner simply released a bunch of Batman characters that have absolutely no relation to Returns, despite the fact that advertisements claim they are actually a draw. Problematic for Warner Bros., who had to answer to their partners – including McDonald’s, which Christian organizations scourged for their association with the movie – the key licensees had poured an almighty $ 60 million into television commercials, roughly three times what WB did to them Marketing the film itself issued.
McDonald’s had ignored Kenner’s approach to avoiding certain links Batman returns and transformed their restaurants in Gotham City, ran a commercial campaign that cheerfully sang, “It’s Batman time at McDonald’s,” proving to anyone who later watched the film how little they knew about Burton’s vision. Batman returns Screenwriter Daniel Waters – who played a large role in Burton’s Commentary on Freaks – narrated the documentary in 2005 Shadow of the Bat – Part 4: The Dark Side of the Knight that watching the early demonstrations made it clear that expectations and what was also being delivered at the audience level were very different. “It is great. After Batman Returns, the lights come on and it’s like kids crying, people pretending to be punched in the stomach and like they’ve been mugged. Part of me enjoyed this reaction and part of me is like ‘Oops’ to this day. “
Warner Bros learned their lesson the hard way and while the box office spoke positively, trading partners clearly did not and Joel Schumacher appeared to be a safer option for re-titling Batman forever. After all these years, it is highly unlikely that Burton would return to the superhero genre, particularly Batman’s universe, i.e. his Batman 3 will only live in the imagination of the fans. It’s impossible to say, of course, whether or not the film would have saved the series (though Batman & Robin probably wouldn’t have happened, at least not like that), but it would surely have merged all of the films together and made the series feel like it was.
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