Let's get nuts! Tim Burton's Batman celebrates 30 years at New York Comic Con with producer Michael Uslan
1p>As a great man with billions of dollars and lots of free time once said, "I'm Batman!"
The 1989 film about DC's Caped Crusader rang in its 30th birthday at New York Comic Con this evening wth a TED Talk-like presentation from longtime Batman producer, Michael Uslan. That being said, the panel didn't begin with the topic of the '89 flick. Rather, Uslan started off with a detailed history on his love of comic books; how they paved a way to a job at DC Comics (and eventually one in Hollywood); and his decades-long relationship with his mentor, the late great Stan Lee.
Ten years after he bought the rights to Batman from DC in the fall of 1979; ten years after he had the novel idea to make a dark superhero movie; ten years after he got rejected rom nearly every studio in existence, Uslan finally got his groundbreaking vision to the big screen with Warner Bros. Pictures and an up-and-coming filmmaker by the name of Tim Burton.
“It was Tim Burton who had what I call, 'The Big Idea,'" said Uslan, referring to the director's initial approach to Batman. "He said, 'If we’re gonna do this seriously … this movie cannot be about Batman … This movie must be about Bruce Wayne.' That’s 'The Big Idea.'”
Uslan believes that future superhero movies like Iron Man and Spider-Man have all embraced this philosophy by placing a greater emphasis on the hero's "normal" identity instead of on their superpowered one. As "a corollary" to "The Big Idea," Burton also wanted world-building to play a major part in the project.
"[Tim said,] 'If they don’t believe in Gotham City, they will never accept a guy dressed as a bat.' [He wanted] Gotham ... to be the third most important character," in the story after Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Despite an uproar over the casting Michael "Mr. Mom" Keaton in the titular role, the 1989 feature defied all expectations. Not only did Keaton end up becoming a cinematic icon, but his fellow cast member, Jack Nicholson, delivered a landmark interpretation of the Joker.
“We changed the world culture … We changed the world’s perception of comic books," said Uslan. "It was a game-changer."
Uslan—who has been involved with every major Bat-project (be it live-action or animated) since '89—is also a producer on Todd Phillips' Joker, which opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. It broke a Thursday night box office preview record with $13.3 million domestically. Uslan made no comment about the discussion being had over whether or not the movie will inspire violent tendencies in others.
"My message to my fellow fans is to just have some faith in the filmmaker and the actors," Uslan told SYFY WIRE in March. "Don't prejudge. Go see it then make your judgment. For me, there have been at least three great Jokers up to now, Jack Nicholson in Batman, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and Mark Hamill. I think there's room for more. Joaquin Phoenix is an absolutely amazing actor!"
"If they ever build a Mt. Rushmore for the Joker, it would be Nicholson, Ledger, Phoenix, and Hamill," he added at the panel.
Three decades later, and Bruce Wayne (and his iconic rogues' gallery) shows no signs of slowing down on the big screen. As we speak, Matt Reeves is ramping up production on The Batman, a film about the hero's early days as a Gotham City vigilante. Robert Pattinson is playing Wayne, Jeffrey Wright is playing Commissioner Gordon, and Jonah Hill is either playing Penguin or Riddler. The project swoops into theaters June 25, 2021.
"I couldn't be more excited than for Matt Reeves and what's coming next for Batman," Uslan admitted.
As for what the future holds after The Batman is released, Uslan has a few ideas, but prefaced his wish-fulfillment comments with the caveat that he would be "talking as a fan boy only," and nothing he said should be taken as hard fact.
"I've always loved the idea of seeing a movie like Batman Beyond," he said to a ton of applause from the audience. "Years ago, to me, that would have been a Clint Eastwood movie, but now, maybe it's a Michael Keaton movie."
And while he believes that there's "plenty of room" for characters like the Teen Titans and Batgirl, Uslan isn't the biggest fan of sidekicks—a sentiment once shared by Stan Lee. Preferring his superhero movies to be grounded and set up realistic rules, he just doesn't believe that the idea of a minor fighting crime is all that believable.
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