So, we hear a lot about the Tim Burton Superman movie from the '90s. Every now and then a new picture appears of a long-haired Nic Cage in a dreadful rubber suit and the internet goes into meltdown. But, what about that other 90s superhero flick Tim Burton promised us? Wasn’t there supposed to be a Catwoman spin-off from Batman Returns?
I’ve got a lot of respect for Batman Returns. It was dark, gritty, and way ahead of its time. It was the first superhero movie to feature multiple antagonists, a staple of the genre these days, the villains had a (slightly) more ambiguous morality (I felt a little sorry for Penguin and Max Shrek did try to save his son) and was close to the source material whilst still going its own way.
Back then, superhero movies were still influenced by cartoons and the '60s Batman series and Returns failed to make the box office returns it deserved. Warner Brothers chose to go down a lighter path for the third part of the story and Tim Burton was dropped in favour of Joel Schumacher. Burton gets a producers credit, but it doesn’t take a genius to see he had little, if anything, to do with Batman Forever.
Now, the documentary The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? may have finally told the story of the never-made Superman movie, but whatever happened to Catwoman?
Well, the project made it into the early stages and there was plenty in place before the plug was pulled. Michelle Pfeiffer was left out of Batman Forever, despite seeming to survive the events of Returns, with the intention that she would go on to headline her own movie. Daniel Waters, the screenwriter behind Returns, was hired to write the screenplay, and Tim Burton was still keen to direct.
In 1994 he had signed a development deal with Warner Brothers and was weighing up whether to direct Catwoman or Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall Of The House Of Usher. In the end of course, he did neither.
By 1995, Waters had turned in his draft script for Catwoman and the project still seemed to be moving ahead.
Speaking to Film Review magazine in the summer of that year, he described the plot as "after the traumas of the Batman Returns she has amnesia, and she doesn't really remember why she has all these bullet holes in her body, so she goes to relax in Oasisburg. What Gotham City is to New York, Oasisburg is to Las Vegas-Los Angeles-Palm Springs. [It's a] resort area in the middle of the desert. It's run by superheroes, and the movie has great fun at making fun at the whole male superhero mythos. Then they end up being not very good at all deep down, and she's got to go back to that whole Catwoman thing".
1995 was the year that Batman Forever opened in theatres and went on to be one of the biggest hits of the year. Suddenly, dark and gritty was out and neon was in… for another two years anyway.
Eventually, the project ran out of steam, and both Pfeiffer and Burton would move on to other films. Warner Bros was more interested in pursuing the lighter world of Batman that director Joel Schumacher had uncovered. Not that Warner Bros lost interest in Catwoman, even if Burton did. Recasting soon became an option, and Ashley Judd for a while was mooted as the new big screen Catwoman. Ultimately, Halle Berry would land the role in the $100m 2004 movie. It would go on to be named Worst Picture Of The Year at the Golden Raspberry awards, and Catwoman has become notorious as one of the worst comic book movie adaptations of all time.