Monday, February 4, 2013


Thanks to the author of this article, Andy Mangels. You can check out more of his work at 

Now, to the real subject of the column. The BATMAN that almost was and may yet be . . . Tim Burton's original idea for his BATMAN film. Burton was unhappy with Sam Hamm's script for BATMAN II, and brought in Dan Waters and Wesley Strick to start anew. But, as you'll see, the tone and style of BATMAN RETURNS may have some resemblances to the following . . . written seven years ago by the Burton meister himself! Written by TIM BURTON and JULIE HICKSON—October 21, 1985.

Although this is only 43 pages long, it seemed much longer. With three acts, all overly full of batdoings, this plot by BATMAN director Tim Burton with co-scribe Julie Hickson could well have been several movies . . . if it wasn't so stupid, contrived, and, well, comic-booky in the worst sense of the phrase.

Bat-historians will note that this Treatment/Outline was turned in in 1985, quite a bit after the Tom Mankiewicz script, but well before Sam Hamm's script. This outline is an odd mixture of scene descriptions, dialogue, camera angles, and plot synopsis. Reading it, one feels very much as if it were written by four different people, in four different styles.

Act One, entitled "Loss," begins with a full-screen shot of the Joker laughing, before fading to Gotham City: "a little New York, a little Max Fleisher, a lot of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS." With aerial tramways and blimps, it sounds more like WATCHMEN combined with METROPOLIS than anything else. As we switch to Gotham Municipal Courthouse, Thomas Wayne, counsel for the Subcommittee on Investigation into Racketeering, rails on against mob boss Rupert Thorne. We cut to the Waynes at home that evening, preparing for a costume party after an evening trip to the Gotham Opera's DER FLEDERMAUS ("The Bat-Man"). Thomas, of course, wears a "majestic bat costume," while Martha is a "delicately shimmering fairy queen" and young Bruce is a "small whirling harlequin."

Walking home from the party, while "our hearts are melting for the uniquely harmonious family, the unthinkable happens." A Mr. Softee ice cream truck glides around the corner, and to the "insipid tinkling style music," the Waynes are gunned down. As Bruce lets loose with an "eerie, guttural, animal-like screaming of a boy in unthinkable pain," he manages to see the murderer in the truck: a 17-year-old boy with green hair, white skin, and a red-lipped smile!

As the police show up, Alfred Pennyworth vows to Bruce that "as long as I live, you will never be alone." Days later at the funeral, Bruce makes a solemn vow to avenge his parents' death and declare war on crime.

Act Two is called "Preparation-Transformation," and in it, Bruce trains to become Batman. He continues collecting information about Rupert Thorne, who he is sure ordered his parents' death, and grows ever closer to Commissioner Gordon. Years later, a newspaper headline screams out "Joker Escapes Prison! Vows Revenge Against Mayor Rupert Thorne." That day, the Joker begins a "carefully masterminded reign of terror in Gotham City," which includes releasing animals from the zoo, preempting TV broadcasts, painting all the windows of Gotham's skyscrapers black, and making the subways run backwards! When the Joker pre-empts himself into the LOVE BOAT (with guest stars Tom Bosley, Cloris Leachman, and Andy Warhol), Bruce begins to take notice. Bruce goes to his room, dons his Batman suit for the first time, and slips out a window. "The Princess of Darkness is Born!"

In Gotham Square, the Joker is busy launching the city's Christmas tree into space, Batman shows up and they start to duel on the ice-skating rink—"punctuated by all the requisite silliness of pratfalls." The Joker gets away now, able to carry out more pranks against Gotham, including painting the entire city candy-striped colors, coercing union leaders to call strikes throughout the city, and setting of bombs. Bruce cannot track the maniac down until Joker sets off fireworks at a performance of the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. There, Bruce saves the life of singer Silver St. John, who is portraying Titania, the Fairy Queen.

While Bruce is spending the night with Silver, as the Joker plans to mock-elect himself Mayor and throw a parade at which several balloons will carry his special "Grimacing Gas." After the Joker uses the gas on performers at a comedy club, Commissioner Gordon establishes the Bat-Signal to contact Batman, who he's now asked to help out on the case. The Joker strikes next at a charity circus where Bruce and Silver are in attendance. There, in disguises are the Penguin as the ringmaster, the Riddler as a clown, and the Catwoman as a trapeze artist. When Catwoman pours acid on the trapeze of the Flying Graysons ("the main attractions"), John and Mary fall to their deaths, while young Dick miraculously survives.

Running to the sobbing Grayson's side, Bruce scoops him up and carries him to his car, promising him that "As long as I live, you will never be alone." Sound familiar?

Finally, in Act Three's "Retribution—Family," Bruce adopts Dick, the Joker dresses as the Mad Hatter and is "interviewed" by Barbara Walters (whom he's holding at gunpoint.) The Joker kills Rupert Thorne in a "mayoral" debate, then throws a parade on Christmas Eve, where "the Jokerian humor, election eve has been designed to coincide with . . ." When Bruce looks closer at the parade, he realizes that Joker's hoods are wearing gas masks underneath their Mardi Gras masks. Bruce also realizes that the huge parade balloons are filled with the "deadly Grimacing Gas." A confrontation soon ensues, where the Joker and Batman are both carried aloft by the helium balloons.

When they both crash through the skylight of the Gotham City Natural History Museum, it's up to the new hero, Robin, to save Batman's life. When Batman throttles the Joker and puts a gun to his head, Commissioner Gordon arrives and puts an end to the potentially ugly scene.

The movie ends as Bruce, Silver, Dick, and Alfred open presents on Christmas Day. Reaching for the last present under the tree, Bruce is shocked to see that it is wrapped in purple and green, with a clownish Jack-in-the-box face on it. As the screen fades to black, the laughing face of the Joker appears again.

1 comment:

  1. This is the Batman movie that should have been made instead of the grim Tim Burton one that came out in 1989. I like this version better because Robin is in it and saves Batman at the climax. This movie should have come out in 1985 as it was originally scheduled.