When Robert Pattinson was asked during the press run for "The Batman" about his favorite Dark Knight movie moments, he singled out Tim Burton's "Batman Returns" and called the 1992 sequel to 1989's "Batman," "a masterpiece" as well as "terrifying" and "one of the most disturbing things [he'd] ever seen." And I gotta say, I agree. "Batman Returns" is a masterpiece, and it seems it's only now getting the widespread recognition it deserves.

But when the movie first debuted, it was an entirely different story. Not only did it cause a backlash among kids and parents who evidently felt it wasn't kid-friendly enough, many critics felt Batman was sidelined in favor of the movie's other larger-than-life characters: Danny DeVito's Penguin, Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman, and Christopher Walken's Max Shreck. Todd McCarthy wrote in Variety at the time, that Batman seemed "of limited interest" to Burton and screenwriter Daniel Waters. Even Waters himself acknowledged that the movie has "never been popular with true Batman fans" and revealed that his friend, screenwriter Josh Olson, called it a "movie for people who hate Batman."

The whole "Batman isn't in it enough" criticism of "Returns" was a familiar one. Burton's first go around with the Dark Knight in 1989 was met with a handful of reviews that singled out Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker as overshadowing Michael Keaton's Batman. Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer said the movie's first two-thirds "should be called The Joker's Big Misadventure." All this talk of Batman being sidelined seemed to have made its way back to Burton, who apparently had a response ready.

Missing The Point

Tim Burton has always zeroed in on outsiders, examining in detail the isolation that comes with feeling disconnected from mainstream society. Unsurprisingly, it was this aspect of Batman that appealed to him the most, which somewhat explains why the character remains such a laconic, brooding, and ultimately downplayed part of both "Batman" and "Batman Returns."

In a making-of featurette, the director said:

"I remember hearing things like 'In the first movie, the Joker stole the show. And in the second movie, he's hardly in it. It's all Catwoman and Penguin.' I always felt that those people for me were missing the point of the character of Batman, what he is. That's why I didn't like Robin involved. This guy wants to remain as hidden as possible and in the shadows as possible and unrevealing about himself as possible. So all of those things, he's not going to eat up screen time with these big speeches and dancing around the Batcave. I always felt he was in it the right amount and the right sort of, level of him."

If most people didn't get Batman the way Burton did, Michael Keaton wasn't one of them. The actor told Waters to cut a significant amount of his lines as Batman because he recognized the power of the suit as an image. When coupled with Burton's view that the character wants to "remain as hidden" as possible, it made for a perfectly withdrawn and mysterious take on Batman that I think works extremely well within the world Burton and his crew constructed. I, as a huge Batman fan, am on Burton's side with this one, and thus am living proof that "Batman" and "Batman Returns" are not "movies for people who hate Batman," they're movies for people who get Batman.

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