Director Tim Burton Describes His Dark Knight Movies As ‘Batman on Ice’

Published 3 years ago by , Updated July 19th, 2013 at 12:27 pm,

The summer of 2012 is, without a doubt, the biggest season for superhero movies in Hollywood history. The Avengers broke box office records to the tune of a $600 million haul (so far) and The Amazing Spider-Man managed to bring in solid numbers (despite an especially familiar “untold” story) – not to mention The Dark Knight Rises, one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year among movie geeks and casual filmgoers alike, is set to release in one week.

However, before superhero movies were the go-to experience for summer blockbuster fun, director Tim Burton delivered a pair of cutting edge (for the time) comic book movie adaptations, Batman and Batman Returns – both starring the director’s pre-Johnny Depp go-to-guy, Michael Keaton. While the filmmaker, no doubt, helped pave the way for modern superhero-to-film adaptations, how does the fan-favorite filmmaker think his movies hold up against today’s comic book offerings?

Following Disney’s 2012 Comic-Con panel in Hall H, the Frankenweenie director opened up, jokingly reflecting on his own superhero movie experience:

“I recall back to when we were doing [Batman] and how worried they all were that it was too too dark. Now it’s like a lighthearted romp – Batman on Ice. It’s interesting because it was such a struggle to get that at the time.”

Burton’s comments about his “dark” superhero film should ring especially true for any movie lovers that caught his original Batfilms in theaters – which were, in the pre-Christopher Nolan days of the 1990s, actually pretty gritty (especially when compared to director Joel Schumacher’s often derided follow-ups Batman Forever as well as Batman & Robin). While some viewers might get hung up on Burton’s more over-the-top fantasy-like elements (most notably some of the Catwoman and Penguin elements of Batman Returns), the director actually delivered a lot of mature and challenging character drama.

Tim Burton Penguin Catwoman Director Tim Burton Describes His Dark Knight Movies As Batman on Ice

That said, considering the growing number of moviegoers who think that Tim Burton’s more recent work is becoming increasingly stale, paired with news that Christopher Nolan says he’s through with the Batman movies, maybe now is the perfect time for the director to make a return to the superhero movie space. Some comic book fans (or anyone who rolled their eyes at Dark Shadows) will likely disagree but as more and more superhero films follow the same style and story arcs, it could be interesting to see an auteur like Burton take a more obscure superhero (or antihero) character and explore another “dark” attempt in the genre.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Frankenweenie as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie opens in U.S. theaters (2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D) on October 5th, 2012.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises opens in U.S. theaters (2D and IMAX) on July 20th, 2012.

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  1. I’m glad Burton did BATMAN when he still had some talent left

    • Comment of the year^^^

      I hated Burton, everything (other then batman), it’s just the color, idk what he did to it, but it seems that half way through the movie, it will end like a snuff film.

      Basiclly, his movies (other then his two batmans) are like snuff films without the good parts 😀

  2. I love Nolan’s movies – they are the definitive Batman movies just like the Chris Reeve Superman movies – BUT I do love Batman Returns in particular, especially the Catwoman/Selina Kyle, she was darkly funny. It would have been a truly epic Batman if they had left out the Penguin. Stupid Corndog

    • My friend, no offense but you have ZERO idea what a definitive Batman and Superman movies should be.

      Nolan’s films are very very good. But they are a unique interpretation of Batman, not a definitive adaptation.

      And the Chris Reeves Superman films… I LOVED Reeves as Superman, his confident manner really made a rather silly suit (for live-action) look good. But the films themselves just plain sucked, and were far from fulfilling the potential of what a Superman movie could be, in terms of plot, villains, action, heroism, and pretty much everything else besides the casting of Chris Reeves.

    • Like Sawyer, I have to STRONGLY disagree with Nolan’s series being “definitive.” It may be the greatest Batman series yet, but there are so many key things missing that its more of a unique vision rather than something true to the comics. There’s no sidekicks/partners. Its way too dark and realistic to have most of the villains (Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, Killer Croc). There’s not enough focus on Batman being a detective. The bat suit has some changes from the comics and doesn’t really look like the classic gray and black suit.

      As for Superman, I haven’t seen all of them to comment, but I would like to remind you that Lex Luthor was bald for about two seconds.

      • I agree with Jacob997. Nolan’s Batmans are absolutely great films and I love all of them. However, his Batman doesn’t come off as that much of a detective. I think that the next reincarnation will have to focus much more on Batman being a genius detective. Especially if he is incorporated into a Justice League universe. It seems his intellect is really what he brings to the Justice League table.

        • I completely agree with you and Jakob997.

          • Thing is, Nolan has concentarted on the Bruce Wayne character more than Batman and made the Batman movies more like character studies than superhero movies.

            In fact, they’re gritty movies that just so happen to involve comic book characters so it wouldn’t be fair to say “I didn’t like that they never focused on Batman as a detective” when Nolan wasn’t trying to focus on that persona so much as what the man behind the mask would be like.

            • But shouldn’t the focus be on the man behind the mask, as well the the mask itself? Most superhero movies that involve alternate personas manage to do that just fine…
              Plus, there were definitely times in both BB and TDK (especially the end of TDK) where there was quite a bit of focus on BATMAN and his legacy/responsibilities, so with all due respect, I don’t think the idea of Nolan not focusing on Batman can be used as an excuse.

        • I disagree, the amount of detective sequence in batman begins is plentiful. watch it back, he interrogates, find cures, give warnings to rachel, climbs building(and give some kid a toy) Let’s just say he just have to be involved with one case, and in one movie, you just need one case. It’s not like gotham’s city (game) detective style, but yeah, Nolan’s interpretation of detective action is good enough for me.

  3. Probably won’t ever happen but you never know. Would be interesting to see his take on Batman post-Nolan.

    • No. The Burton of today should not be allowed to touch a Batman film.

      • If Burton did make another Batman movie, Johnny Depp would be Bruce Wayne / Batman

  4. i’d be interested in an updated take on batman from burton. not necessarily saying he SHOULD do that. but if he were to go that route, i’d be interested in seeing it.

  5. Burton’s being a little hard on himself. His movies were in no shape light-hearted. A little campy but definitely dark in its own gothic Tim Burton style.

  6. I remember seeing Batman Returns in the cinema when I was 8 years old. Myself and a friend wanted to watch it, the guy working there wouldn’t let us and insisted my friend’s dad take us to see Robin Hood instead, pester power won in the end.

    Saying that, Burton’s Batman movies don’t really hold up for me any more.

  7. Wait, Batman On Ice?

    Didn’t that happen in Batman & Robin?

    • HA! ^^^ this guy. * thumbs up*

  8. Yeah Tim, that penguin army with rockets on their backs was real dark. You really pushed the envelope there. If it weren’t for Keaton and Nicholson and the nostalgia factor of the first one, those movies would be worthless now, and that’s coming from someone who watched the first one religiously as a kid. When I watch them now I see nothing but Burton’s first foray into commercial Gothic hackery, especially Returns. At least Schumacher’s Batmans you could laugh at. Burton couldn’t have cared less about the material. I just miss Edward Scissorhands Burton…

  9. Burton’s films have become increasingly stale over the years, as much as i would love for the batman movies to continue, i really wouldn’t want to go from Nolan’s amazing films, to something Burton could try and muster up as a halfway decent sequel. I did roll my eyes at DArk Shadows, before knowing what it was based on. After finding out that fans of the original Dark Shadows were more displeased than i was with the film, ive stopped having much faith in Burton, which is unfortunate. I will always go see anything he makes, but i have been less impressed with him lately. I think the Batman franchise should be left alone until someone else with the same talent and vision as Nolan picks it up, if that even happens.

    • Nolan films are boring and his batman voice is laughable

      • yes Nolan’s voiceover work is infamously bad

      • Look^^^ the common internet troll in its natural habitat, not much is known about trolls other then don’t have jobs and they don’t bathe. Usually covered in acne and suffering from “virginity”

        Be careful never to feed/talk to a troll while it is out from under it’s bridge, or it will become even more hungry and cause more trouble then before.

        • How come when anyone makes a negative comment about Nolan, they are instantly branded a troll? This is a comment section on two differnent styles of film making, people have opinions about both. No one has called any of the posters who hate Burton ‘troll’ ive noticed.

          • “Nolan films are boring and his batman voice is laughable”…

            This is being a troll when it is said out of spite of someones actions, what I said, is only showing how he is being a troll, and Tim Burtons films resemble a snuff movie but left out all the “snuff”.

            Have a good day.

        • Where are the big ‘cyber goats’ when you need them…

      • Well, we know who the Michael Bay fan in the room is then don’t we?

        • Most Christopher Nolan fans are Michael Bay fans.

  10. Michael Keaton makes a better Batman then Nolan and heath ledger in the dark knight made that movie other wise it would of sucked

    • what the f**k are you talking about?

    • Uh, dude, Ledger didn’t play Batman. Or was that some type of a, uh, joke? 😀

    • Joker certainly is the best thing about the movie but it doesn’t suck, whether he’s in it or not.

      It’s a great study on how a highly moral guy can turn the complete opposite due to one tragic event that makes him snap.

  11. Burton’s Batman movies were good back in the day, but they haven’t aged well. They kind of fundamentally misunderstand the character anyway. As for the idea of him tackling another superhero, after the near-miss debacle that was Superman Lives, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.

    • I agree with the Superman lives part but come on Burtons batman films kept me awake Nolans first batman movie was boring and Heath saved the second

      • So you hate movies that aren’t serious, realistic and feature real issues and would prefer things that are campy and not very good years down the line?


        Are you a Joel Schumacher fan too? You may enjoy his Batman movies a lot.

        • Give Bob a break. You’re not his superior. Batman with a Tumbler, Batpod, and BatWing scooting around Gotham is far, far from realistic. C’mon, fan boys.

          There are many ways in which the new Batman films are no more realistic than the old ones.

  12. Interesting thought, Burton taking on the super hero genre today. With his reputation tarnished heavily, especially even among Burton fans what a come-back that would make if he would give the effort everything he has. If he would take on the project as the saying goes; “serious as a heart attack” I’d watch it…

  13. “Batman on Ice” :-) more likely a play on stage

  14. OMG, NO! That would be horrific to see him do that again. After Dark Shadows?
    Robert Rodriguez should get a whack first.

  15. Even in his prime, Burton wasn’t exactly infallible when it came to superhero films. Remember when he wanted to turn Superman’s costume all-black and one of the people on his team referred to Supes as ”too faggy”

  16. I don’t think there is anything particularly lighthearted about Batman Returns. That is arguably the darkest and most depressing Batman movie ever made.

    • Agreed! That movie is still so emotionally dark. In fact, Nolan’s take isn’t really all that different. His presentation is just gritty, whereas, Burton’s was gothic.

      Anytime I watch it, my heart still breaks for all 3 characters (Batman, Catwoman, and Oswald/Penguin).

      All 3 are lost, unwanted souls. They’re all extraordinary people, that society forces to almost deny their gifts, since they don’t match the physical mold of what people with their abilities ‘should look like’ or ‘should be like’.

      And, the only way for them to be their true selves is to mask or hide their facades:

      Selina: lonely, mousy, frizzy, shy, ‘unbeautiful’ by traditional standards; locked away in her lonely apartment with her cats.

      Society’s reasoning? How could she ever have anything to offer?

      Reality: obviously, she had a lot to offer, because when she let her ‘true’ self show, she was unstoppable. But, she literally had to ‘die’ to her former self and come back looking like someone else.

      Oswald: orphaned, isolated, deformed, eccentric, flippered, death pallor-pale; locked away in his watery lair with his penguins

      Society’s reasoning: he’s a physical freak/monstrosity. What good could he offer?

      Reality: he was an absolute genius, who if treated well, could’ve used his gifts for good. Instead, he had to pretend to be a pathetic, hapless creature to even get people to interact with him, b/c if had shown his true abilities upfront, with his physical attributes, he would’ve been dismissed and ignored as crackpot, or institutionalized as a head case.

      Bruce: Orphaned; his wealth (and the expectations that come with it), keeps him locked away from real friendship (save for Alfred). Wayne Manor literally keeps him locked away from the general populace. When he comes home, it’s just him and his old butler.

      Society’s reasoning: he’s a billionaire playboy living off Daddy’s money, and should be dismissed as such.

      Reality: he wants to do good things for Gotham, but knows that he can’t as his true self/Bruce Wayne. He’ll be dismissed and derided by society, and arrested by the authorities.

      All three are abandoned, dismissed, and imprisoned by the same society and it standards that abandoned and dismissed them. Pretty heavy stuff. Nothing light about it.

      • Should read:

        All three are abandoned, dismissed, and imprisoned by the same society and its standards that abandoned and dismissed them. Pretty heavy stuff. Nothing light about it.

  17. All I can say is I hope they do a good job with the reboot whenever it comes, rumor has it it’s gonna tie into a justice league movie coming up. I bet it’s gonna be hard as hell to make though Nolan’s movies were not just about a crime fighter, to me at least they were about life and a crime fighter which i had never really seen in superhero movies at least not in such a jurastic measure. I’lli bet there’s gonna be a ton of serious pressure on the new batman crew whenever they show up, but no matter what Nolan’s films will always be remembered as classics right. Loved the original Batman (not as much as Begins or Dark Knight) and liked Batman Returns a fair amount (I felt Michelle was incredibly cast Penguin wasn’t the best to me though), after those two the 3rd and 4th really got crappy to me.

  18. Im tired of reading Ben Kendricks “nolanite fanboy” biased articles on batman…
    hey Ben, go read the early issues of Detective comics and get schooled on the character of batman & the world that Bill finger and Bob Kane created, u might learn something.
    Anyone else that thinks Nolan’s interpetation is more accurate is delusional… and WB has been censoring the character since after Tim Burton made Batman Returns too dark…WB has been Butthurt ever since and have given us a censored batman (only for the money, not to be more faithful to the character as people claim).

    • JBM –

      This came out of nowhere for me man. I’m not a Nolan fanboy at all. I’m probably one of the people on the site who is least excited for The Dark Knight Rises.

      Your argument is especially bizarre given my comment “[Burton] actually delivered a lot of mature and challenging character drama.”

      I grew up reading Bob Kane Batman and watching the Burton movies. If you don’t like Nolan’s Batman, that’s fine but just because I think there’s room for a variety of Batman adaptations, and am cautiously optimistic about Rises, doesn’t make me a “Nolanite” biased fanboy.

    • JBM…

      CLEARLY, you have NOT been reading or watching in the animated films the interpretations of Batman, post-Burton films. DC has DEFINITELY not been censoring Batman, his supporting characters, or his world. You’re welcome, of course, to DISLIKE how Batman has been presented lately, but to say he’s been censored in any way is both silly AND factually wrong. Lately, in fact, Batman stories have been just as grim and dark (other than him wielding a gun, obviously) as the earliest Batman tales.

      School’s out…unless you desire summer classes?

      • …sigh.

        That should be: “…reading, or watching in the animated films, the interpretations…”

        Typing: source of some of the greatest evils in this world…

  19. Would love to see a Burton take on Deadman.

  20. Burton never recovered from the critical panning of Planet of the Apes, he has stuck to the whole gothic fantasey theme for the last ten years and pretty much churned out the same movie! He must feelJohnny Depp is a safe choice for good box office which is probably right, without him in his movies nobody would be interested!

    Of all the directors around at the moment, nobody has stuck to the same movie formula like he has, I do love his Batman movies, especially the look of the Batmobile (best action figure and car ever!) plus Jack Nicolson as the Joker was genius! But I think that was the peak of his career, everything else has been mediocre goth tosh!

  21. Still prefer the first Burton Batman to the nolanverse

    • Because of the rubber muscle suit? Garthy

      • Edit: Because of Keaton’s rubber muscle suitt? Garthy

        • Better joker

        • Better music

          • Fair enough…but I disagree with BOTH of those. While I enjoyed the Burton film music, I loved the Nolan film music more. The Nolan Joker felt more “Jokeresque”, more dangerous, to me than the Burton Joker, though I DID enjoy both.

            • Dunno I appreciate your feelings but as far as being more dangerous
              Jack joker was going to nerve gas the entire city and carved and burned his girlfriends face to mold it more to his new artistic sensibilities.
              Haggard ass prince video garbage aside (though as ghey as that whole thing was you can’t say it wasn’t twisted on some odd level)

              • heats joker blow up the hospital…

                • An evacuated hospital, which was conveniently wired with explosives beforehand by someone at sometime that’s never explained.

              • Im a batman fan, and watching batman 89 makes me sighing for an hour.

                • …Batman’s karate kid was hilarious. LOL!!

              • Garth…

                I can appreciate that perspective. Jack’s Joker did indeed have some very off-kilter personality traits and behaviors and could be quite frightening. I just found Heath’s Joker to be more disturbing, overall.

                Both Jokers were well-played (excellently, actually) for their respective Batman worlds.

      • I so very much wanted to say that…LOL!

  22. I think Burton is due to blow us away again, I would love to see him mix his classic dark hero style with modern story arc to bring to life another comic book hero.

    If Marvel would give him a chance and some guidelines to follow he could easily deliver another hit like his Batman. If Marvel can get the rights to Daredevil(which seems to be a hot rumor now), I think that would be the perfect movie for Burton. Burton’s style: dark, gritty, unique character development along with Marvels formula could make for an awesome experience and a great reboot for Daredevil. If WB gave him another chance he could certainly do the same for one of their heroes.

    • no no no no no no no no no are you fu***g crazy? Burton and daredevil? Burton has no style it is all the same s***t overly dark or overly light, the darkens that daredevil needs is batman begins darkens, Burton would probably turned it into Mat Murdock before Christmas….

      • If Marvel got Daredevil back, I would personally love for them to get Frank Miller to do it.

        • After the dog’s dinner he made of The Spirit I can’t see anyone letting him get behind a camera for a very long time. Bear in mind his Daredevil was 25+ years ago and his, uh, “visual aesthetics” are quite different now. Just compare his Dark Knight Returns to the horror that was Strikes Again.

          • why does every one hates the spirit? i think it was cool, it was fun movie with good acting… let the hate begin…

            • The problem is it was Will Eisner filtered through some bizarre prism of self-parody. The strip had wit and intelligence, a revolutionary visual and narrative style that blended film and comic book, a huge variety of settings and characters, and worked on more than one level. Miller turned it into an ugly, surreal, ridiculous comedy-noir sequel to Sin City – complete with trademark “hard-boiled detective” voiceover (“My city. I cannot deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover. And I am her spirit.” blah blah etc). Listening to Miller and producer Deborah Del Prete’s commentary on the DVD is an exercise in self-delusion. If you enjoyed it for what it was then fair enough, but take a look at any of the comics and tell me Eisner’s not rotating in his crypt right now!

              Healing powers. Converse All Stars. ‘Nuff said.

              • if i read the comics i would probably hate it more, sooo set the controls for the heart of the sun…

                • Give it a whirl, stefan – benchmark stuff for its time!

  23. I watched the Burton movies on BluRay last weekend and, while they are dated, they’re still enjoyable. He created a unique Gotham City with some beautiful and demented architecture and, arguably, the coolest Bat-gadgets. I’ve said before that I hope the post-Nolan relaunch will fuse Nolan’s storytelling with Burton’s designs. As much as I like Nolan, he seems afraid to have fun with the world of Batman.

    As for the performances, we all know how well Jack Nicholson chewed scenery. Michael Keaton was great in his roles and Michelle Pfeiffer was not only a dangerous Catwoman but a dark Selina Kyle. Burton’s greatest liberty was in his presentation of Penguin but Christopher Walken was top-notch as Max Shreck. Also, Jack Palance made a great crime boss.

    • Burton Gotham is fantasy of the Gothic weirdo, Nolan Gotham is a real city,Nicholson just played himself, Ketons Bruce Wayne was pathetic,and when did catwoman had superpowers?

      • The original Batman stories were not in a dark and gritty world, it was a traditional “four color” comic book world with characters slightly less campy than those of Dick Tracy. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s when O’Neil and Adams turned him into a dark and brooding character that he became anything truly like Nolan’s. This was done to essentially revitalize the character and reinterest readers (read: keep making money).

        Characters change, quite often for the sake of making money. What appealed to readers and viewers of 1960 (or 1980) differs greatly from that of 2010. As much as people can argue which is the better or more “true” version of any character, the important thing is that writers are still putting out ANY version, lest the character be forgotten and never seen again.

        • The original Batman was a pulp murderer.

  24. No real point in bringing back Burton. Rather take Batman to new places rather than revisiting old ones. Oh, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a Christopher Nolan fan.

    • THANK you.

  25. While I do like Nolan’s films, to me at least, they do not have the same rewatchablity as Burton’s. I don’t think of them as dated to say the least as they are still visually appealing and entertaining films. Batman Returns is still my favorite Batman film as well as one of the few sequels that surpasses the origianl. Nolan’s films play much like a crime drama and sort of loose the whole fantastical element. I have to be in the right frame of mind to pop in either of his Bat films, but Burton’s I could watch at a drop of a hat. And while I will see the new film, I feel that Bane was way too safe of a choice for Nolan as he easily fits into the universe he created. But Batman is Batman, and in my opinion, he’s one of the most interesting superheros with a colorful gallery of villians. I would prefer to see a completely different vision of the character since Nolan’s time on the franchise has drawn to a close. Hopefully, the next exploration into Gotham will continue long enough to give other villians their shot at the big screen as well as doing justice to Riddler, Posion Ivy, and Mr Freeze. (Personally, I think Kevin Spacey as Riddler and Patrick Stewart as Freeze would be interesting to see.)

    • It’s funny you say that, because I can pretty much watch and enjoy TDK whenever and whereever and BB just about whenever (with rare exceptions). “Batman” and “Batman Returns”, while enjoyable, I can only watch when I am in the right mood and right frame of mind.

      I, like you, DO love Batman; more than anything, I simply want a well-made, well-acted film showcasing my favorite comic book hero and putting him in theaters where I can sit and watch his adventures in geeky bliss.


      • TDK iz good for catching up on sleep.

        • Yes, yes, we know…you say that every chance you get (I believe this is at least the third time, almost verbatim). And…your point?

          • BTW, if TDK keeps putting you to sleep, either stay away from it (thus, from our discussions) OR stay asleep.

  26. Burton’s movies are dark like Hot Topic is dark.
    Nolan’s movies are dark like German Expressionist films are dark.
    Personally, I’ll take the 60s show.

    • still waiting for that 1930 batman movie….

  27. Nolan’s Batman movies depressed me. They are well crafted movies, and I’m glad he avoided the “Robin” trap, but I always left the theater in a cloud of deep sadness. I get the fact that Batman is a grim character, and I don’t expect a happy, hopeful movie going experience. I am going to see TDKR. Then go home and hang myself…… just kidding.

    Here’s a thought: How about Burton directing the Doctor Strange movie? First you would have to surgically remove Johnny Depp. He’s too overexposed now…. too much Pirate baggage. I vote for Benedict Cumberbatch for Stephen Strange.