Tim Burton Calls Batman 1989 A 'Lighthearted Romp' Compared To Modern Batman Movies

There's nothing film executives love more than greenlighting Batman films. You're a young executive looking to make a big splash at your studio? Pitch a Batman reboot! You're an older executive on a cold streak trying to make a movie that young people will actually go out and see? Pitch a Batman movie! You've been on a wild bender for the last four nights and you're going into work hungover and without any movie ideas for the big meeting? Pitch a Batman movie! Making films about the caped crusader has been Hollywood's favorite "Break Glass in Case of Need Money" move since the 1980s.

Of course, making one of these movies every few years means we now have more different interpretations of the story of Bruce Wayne than we do biblical accounts of Jesus' life. And while every Batman story follows a lot of the same beats — rich kid, dead parents, cool gadgets — every director who has gotten their hands on the Dark Knight has put their own signature tonal spin on the story. They've ranged for the ultra-cheesy work of Joel Schumacher on "Batman & Robin" to the deathly serious noir of Matt Reeves' "The Batman."

This deluge of Batman flicks was, of course, started by Tim Burton, a director best known for his gothic fantasy work. When Burton's "Batman" released in 1989, it was an immediate hit, but it also got a reputation for being a darker interpretation of the character, who at the time was more famous for Adam West's comedic portrayal on television. Though his film seemed dark at the time, according to a Deadline piece, Burton now feels like his movies were a "lighthearted romp" compared to modern Batman cinema.

Why so serious?

With superhero movies so ubiquitous in our culture now, it's weird to think about a time where making one was going out on a limb for a director. Burton spoke to Deadline about how it felt to be at the forefront of that:

"It did feel very exciting to be at the beginning of all of it. It's amazing how much it hasn't really changed in a sense — the tortured superhero, weird costumes — but for me, at the time it was very exciting. It felt new."

In 1989, Tim Burton's light-hearted gothic style was a bit too much for audiences expecting a campy, colorful experience. Bad things happened to people in Burton's "Batman." People had affairs, and died! That's hardly in the spirit of Adam West's vision! Michael Keaton doesn't do "the Batusi” even once!

Of course, to us, this all seems ridiculous. We live in a post-Christopher Nolan Batman world, where Batman is now a serious and gritty story instead of something fun for the kids. Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy would never be caught dead having a musical theater-based finale to the film. Burton's Batsuit doesn't even have anatomically correct nipples!

Lighter in hindsight

According to the Deadline article, Burton agrees that, looking back, anyone who called "Batman" dark was sorely mistaken:

"The thing that is funny about it now is, people go 'What do you think of the new Batman?' and I start laughing and crying because I go back to a time capsule, where pretty much every day the studios were saying, 'It's too dark, it's too dark'. Now it looks like a lighthearted romp."

We have to give Burton all the credit (or blame) for showing that Batman movies can not only be successful, but actually kind of good. It opened the floodgates for the countless new Batman sequels and reboots, only one of which Burton himself actually worked on.

With Burton recently speaking out against how awful it was working for Disney, who now own Marvel, it seems extremely unlikely that we ever see Burton helm a superhero picture again. But no matter what happens, Burton already left his mark on that landscape. Now he can focus on his true filmmaking passion, which is making movies about two zombies falling in love, or some other cutesy spooky stuff like that.