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Batman Producer Cites 1989 Movie as Influence on the MCU

Longtime Batman movie producer Michael E. Uslan credits Tim Burton’s 1989 classic as the inspiration for 2008’s Iron Man and the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

How did Batman influence the MCU?

Per, Uslan spoke to the Traversing the Stars podcast where he offered insight into Burton’s genius in approaching the DC Comics adaptation starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. While 1978’s Superman: The Movie kicked off the potential for comic book movies to succeed worldwide, it was Batman that proved audiences could connect with the alter-ego more than their superhero persona which the MCU carried over. “This is the game changer. This is the big idea that not only made Batman a success, but open the door to the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Uslan said.

The producer went on to explain how Burton’s original pitch became the winning formula for Batman’s success: “He said to me, ‘Michael, if we’re going to do the first ever dark and serious comic book superhero movie this movie cannot be about Batman.’ Okay. That was my the most apoplectic moment of my entire existence. And then he explained. He said, ‘This movie must be about Bruce Wayne. We have to show a Bruce Wayne, who’s so driven, so obsessed to the point of being psychotic that audiences around the world who have never read a comic book will go, ‘Oh yeah, I believe that that’s a guy who would get dressed up like a bat, and go out, and fight a guy who looks like the Joker.’ And his corollary to it was that Gotham City had to be the third most important character. Literally from the opening frames, we had to get audiences to believe in Gotham City in order to get them then to believe in a Batman and a Joker.”

Batman’s massive success showed studios that a dark superhero movie could make billions of dollars worldwide. Such thinking affected the critical and commercial outcome of its sequels where multiple villains and toy licenses became more important than the title character’s story. The franchise did not turn around for the better until Christopher Nolan tackled the Dark Knight in a real-world setting in 2005’s Batman Begins.

The original Batman’s direction under Burton is what led to Marvel’s success in Iron Man where the story of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), changing from arms manufacturer to a noble hero was a far stronger connection with audiences than the signature suit. Uslan believes such human traits have carried over into the Spider-Man and Captain America franchises: “And he was absolutely right. Look at the Marvel movies. Stan [Lee] admitted this to me and I’m sure Kevin Feige would agree: the ‘Iron Man’ movies, I love them, they should be called Tony Stark. The ‘Spider-Man’ movie should really be called Peter Parker. So it’s an idea that has worked and brought comic books into a contemporary global world.”

Recently, Burton’s Batman 1989-star Keaton reprised his role in The Flash as part of the movie’s multiverse premise. The Flash DVD and Blu-ray release date is set for August 29 and available on digital on July 18.