Recently, our friends at the SequelQuest Podcast did an episode where they postulated on what a third Tim Burton Batman film would have been or still could be. Burton had directed 1989’s massive hit Batman with Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. While that movie has it’s issues, I will say, it at least resembles a Batman movie more so than Burton’s follow up in 1992…Batman Returns. The sequel is less of a Batman film and more of a Tim Burton film that a guy named Batman shows up in.
Despite success, the studio wanted less Burton it seemed and it’s possible Burton wanted less Batman. But let’s assume that wasn’t the case. And 1995’s follow up third entry was directed by Tim Burton. It’s safe to say that would have looked at least somewhat different from what we got in terms of script, characters, casting and style. The SQPod guys hit this with their own ideas and you should check it out. But not wanting to be left out, Pax and I thought we’d give our own ideas for you to check out. This post looks at my theory and you can read Pax’s on his blog.
With Tim Burton signed on to direct Batman 3 in this alternate reality, the first thing that I confirm is that Michael Keaton stays on as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Michael Gough and Pat Hingle return in their respective roles as well.
WB is going to want a major villain with some screen presence. Like the Batman Forever we got, the primary villain of this film is going to be The Riddler. Batman Returns was sandwiched between two Tim Burton films that starred Johnny Depp. And the Burton/Depp duo continues on for many years. So casting for The Riddler seems to me like a no-brainer…Burton wants Depp. And in this reality where the studio and director are working together, the studio acquiesces and allows Burton to cast the soon-to-be major star. (Rumors of Robin Williams had persisted at the time, but that was doubtful to happen. Check out the SQPod for more on why.)
The Batman Forever we got includes Two Face as a second villain, but Harvey Dent had been recast. The inclusion of Harvey Dent in the first Batman film theoretically sets up the idea Two Face could show up down the road. However, he didn’t appear in the second film to further remind audiences he exists. And the whole Gotham City government is sort of a mess in Returns. I feel like if Burton wanted to do something with Two Face, he would have done more with Harvey Dent all along. Bill Dee Williams just doesn’t get a whole lot to do in the first movie. In spite of keeping Burton for the third movie, I still don’t think we get Billy Dee as Two Face.
That said, a second villain in this movie seems likely, especially considering Returns had three if you count Max Shrek. And I do since I think Shrek had more screen time than Batman. Shrek was not a costumed villain though and another gangster-type character like Carl Grissom seems perfect for the film. In fact, make it Tony Zucco and this could tie in very well with the other major question for this film…
What about Robin? Robin had been rumored for the two previous films. A scene in the script for the first film included his origin story. Batman Returns included Robin in the script and the role was even cast with Marlon Wayans. A Robin action figure in the Batman Returns toyline possibly shows that his costume would have looked like the Tim Drake Robin outfit. In fact, the Neal Adams-designed costume was one of many pitched as part of a retooling for the character in the comics. Ultimately, Tim Burton chose that outfit, but not to include him in the movie. In the Batman Forever we got, Robin shows up, but not played by Marlon Wayans. Having passed on Robin twice now, it seems that Burton may not be a fan. Although, he did like the old 60s show, so one would have to think he had some level of endearment for Robin. I say, he’s in and they extend the offer to Marlon Wayans again, though three years later, it seems like an odd choice. But then so did Michael Keaton in 1989.
As for another burning question…would Catwoman return? It was rumored after Returns and eventually confirmed that there were talks about Burton doing a Catwoman spin-off film. And while that version never happened, perhaps an excitement about staying in the universe could have pushed that project along to eventual fruition. And if so, Burton may have decided to include Catwoman in this again. I don’t include her in my pitch below, but she could be worked in for a cameo.
Which means we need to have a new love interest yet again. We’ve had a photo journalist and then secretary turned cat burglar, so now let’s go with someone different. A social worker or someone who’s trying to save an orphanage. That pulls on Bruce Wayne’s heartstrings as an orphan and if we tie her organization to Robin and even the Riddler somehow, then we’ve got a natural way to include her in the story. Early drafts of Batman Forever allegedly included Chase Meridian who was played by the lovely Nicole Kidman. However, she was cast after Rene Russo was dropped for the part. I’m keeping Russo but replacing the name Chase with Julie Madison from the comics.
So the characters are set. Now it’s just a story that we need. So here we go!
It’s been sometime since the events of Batman Returns. With a massive shift in the crime boss hierarchy plus the Penguin incident, Gotham’s underworld has been decimated and what little remains has been laying low for sometime which has reduced crime substantially. Many attribute the change in criminal climate to Batman. Bruce Wayne has even thought about whether or not it’s time for him to give up being Batman or not and shift his focus to solely philanthropic efforts. He has gotten very involved in the life of social worker Julie Madison. The two have become romantically involved.
The movie starts with a flashback of young Bruce Wayne after the death of his parents. He is taken to an orphanage run by Leslie Thompkins. We see scenes of other quirky kids in the orphanage. Bruce sits at a table with a younger boy who is working on the Gotham Gazette crossword puzzle. An older boy comes up and threatens them, trying to get them to leave the table. Bruce, still in his state of shock stands up to the bully and gets between him and the younger boy. Before an altercation can start, Leslie returns to settle it down and get Bruce because Alfred has come to pick him up. As Bruce leaves, the younger boy asks Leslie who that was. “That was Bruce Wayne and he has a very hard life ahead of him.”
In a quick transition, we jump ahead 30 years or so to present day and we are still at the orphanage. Now press is gathered around a stage and podium and adult Bruce Wayne is standing on stage with Commissioner Gordon, the mayor, and a few others including Julie Madison. Bruce makes an awkward speech about how its his honor to dedicate the reopening of this center to the late Leslie Thompkins and he’s glad it is in the capable hands of Julie to run. After the ceremony, Gordon is asked by the media about the lower crime rate over the past years and if that is why Batman hasn’t been around as much. Bruce and Julie walk away and sneak to the side for a kiss. Julie makes a mention that she’s glad Batman hasn’t been around as much because that means she gets more time with Bruce Wayne which signals she is in the know already.
At that point, Grayson, a young man walks up and gives Julie a status on the other kids. Here we find out that this older kid is a volunteer and big help to Julie. And lurking in the crowd is Edward Nygma who has his eyes set on Bruce Wayne the entire time.
We cut to the home base of Tony Zucco, low level crime boss who feels like he’s in charge of the rats being cleared out of the city. And he’s desperate to get Gotham back to its criminal roots. So he sets his sights on robbing a bank that happens to be near the orphanage. The bank alarm goes off and triggers the Bat-signal. Due to the chaos in the streets, Grayson also jumps into the action and winds up fighting alongside Batman to protect the orphanage.
The kid is ID’d by one of Zucco’s men and they follow up by breaking into his home and killing Grayson’s dad.
The new wave of petty crime causes a media frenzy wondering if Batman has lured Gotham into a false sense of security. News commentator, Edward Nygma chimes in lashing out against Batman but due to his skills at solving puzzles, he has figured out Zucco is behind the wave of crime.
With the information, Batman is able attack Zucco at the source and finds Grayson there on the scene already seeking revenge for the death of his father. Batman and Grayson take down most of Zucco’s crew, but in an effort to stock Grayson from killing Zucco, Zucco gets away.
Furthering his desire for revenge, Zucco attacks Nygma while he’s on the air. An explosion of the TV equipment electrifies Nygma but does not kill him. Nygma survives with even greater intellect, but is now acting crazy. And now that his information has caused Zucco’s operation to be taken down, he thinks he’s partners with Batman. But when Batman explains that they are not partners, Nygma turns on him and begins concocting a crime of his own.
To prove his superior intellect, he even sends clues to Batman to give him a head start. Along the way, Nygma puts together that Batman is Bruce Wayne—the same kid who he met at the orphanage years ago. So he sets the final stage of his crime there. Grayson joins in, now in a homemade costume and this infuriates Nygma further because he didn’t think Batman was up for a partner.
In a big climactic battle involving Julie Madison and children in peril, Batman and his new sidekick take Nygma down and save the orphanage.
Julie had hoped Bruce would scale back or even completely abandon his Batman activities, but it seems his passion for the work is renewed and now “Robin” is at his side. Batman and Robin formalize a partnership with Bruce bringing Grayson into the Batcave and letting him live at Wayne Manor. The movie ends with the signal shining and the duo heading off to answer it.