There have been so many Batman movies over the last 30+ years that have envisioned the character in so many different ways that it seems everybody has their favorites, and almost nothing is “off limits” with the character. Who the best Batman actor is, and what is acceptable for the character, is very much a topic of debate. But that wasn’t always the case, as the screenwriter for Batman Returns says he was “attacked” by fans over changes to the established canon that were made in Tim Burton’s sequel.
Tim Burton’s Batman was a massive hit that spawned an immediate sequel, and even though it included a pretty significant change to the classic Batman story, the idea that the Joker has killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, fans largely embraced it. This was not the case a couple of years later. At a recent screening of Batman Returns (via IndieWire) screenwriter Daniel Waters says fans did not appreciate the way the sequel broke with tradition regarding the backstory for the villains, though nobody seems to mind it now. Waters explained…
The whole thing about ‘Batman Returns’ is we got attacked by Batman fans because they thought, ‘This is only the second Batman movie, what the fuck are you doing? You’re already going off-road. Now there’s like 50 Batman movies, it’s like, ‘Hey. That was pretty interesting.'
Fans of any popular character want to see that character brought to life as they imagine them, and that frequently means doing it in a very “by-the-book” way. As time goes on, fans can begin to want to see different interpretations of the character. And every new take wants to try and differentiate itself in some way leading to now a lot of Batman movies, each a little different.
To be fair, fans weren't the only ones upset with the film. McDonalds had a big problem with Batman Returns that led to Tim Burton leaving the franchise and Joel Schumacher coming on to shift the Batman franchise in a lighter direction, which ultimately led to George Clooney "ruining" Batman.
Today the things that make Batman Returns stand out are part of what makes it so popular. Many consider it the best of that generation of Batman movies if not the best Batman movie, period. Waters admits that the decision to make such changes to classic Batman lore came about because he and Tim Burton simply didn’t bother to learn the original stories. He explained…
It was a weird assignment in that I didn’t need to please anyone but Tim Burton. Before the internet, you didn’t have to go before a tribunal and say what you were doing — it was just two guys in a room riffing. We didn’t know shit about Batman villains. We didn’t really understand the whole comic book thing. I just found out DC Comics stands for Detective Comics.
It just goes to show, while fans are often critical of people working on comic book movies not being intimately aware of the source material, sometimes it can lead to creative decisions they wouldn’t have otherwise.