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