The comic book boom as we know it can be traced back to Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000, which reinvigorated a genre that had come close to dying out altogether due to the disastrous reception afforded to Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, although Blade also deserves credit for igniting the resurgence.
Things escalated significantly when Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the summer of 2008, and superhero cinema remains the most popular and bankable genre in Hollywood to this day, with a slew of sequels and fresh properties rolling out to multiplexes all over the world on an annual basis. However, Tim Burton’s contributions should never be overlooked, after his first Batman film treated its source material with respect and reverence, setting a fantastical story in a somewhat grounded reality.
Over 30 years later and it still regularly enters the conversation when people discuss the greatest comic book adaptations ever made, and in a new interview Michael Keaton revealed his belief that everything we see today, whether it be the MCU, DCEU or anything in between, can be traced right back to his two-time Batman director.
“What Tim did changed everything. Everything you see now started with him. If you really think about what happened between 1989 and now, on a cultural, corporate, economic level, it’s unbelievable.”
As well as the artistic merits of Burton’s Batman, it also changed the game from a contractual and merchandising point of view. Jack Nicholson landed a slice of the profits in return for lowering his typical salary to play the Joker, while tie-in sales yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. That’s standard practice in the modern era, but it was equal parts unheard of and revolutionary at the time, further cementing the status of Keaton’s Dark Knight debut as one of the most pivotal and influential studio blockbusters to ever hit the big screen.