In the mid ’80s, execs at Warner Bros. approached filmmaker Tim Burton about directing a big-budget Batman movie. Coming to him right after the surprise success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, it seemed clear they were looking for a story light in tone and atmosphere. Burton rejected the script as being too campy and urged the studio to go darker and more serious. Never much of a comic-book fan, Burton read a few contemporary titles and came away very much influenced by groundbreaking graphic novels like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Watchmen.
Burton’s vision prevailed and—with the contributions of a stellar crew, most notably, production designer Anton Furst and composer Danny Elfman—basically redefined the visual vocabulary for superhero movies to come. (Still open for debate was his casting Michael Keaton in the title role, a decision that was widely criticized by fans and reportedly caused Warner stock to tumble for a few days.) Christopher Nolan has described Burton’s Batman as a “brilliant film, visionary and extraordinarily idiosyncratic.”
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