Monday, December 17, 2012

Batman Returns (Shitmas Day #17)

So, being a kid of the 70’s and 80’s, Tim Burton’s Batman is my generation’s Batman. Sure I had read Batman comics and watched the 1966 TV series on reruns, but it wasn’t until 1989 that Batman was brought to life for me. I even wore my yellow bat symbol t-shirt on my 1st day of high school in 1989. Nerd Alert! I was equally excited for Burton’s follow up film, Batman Returns, in 1992. I mean can you get a better dream team together then Tim Burton, Danny Elfman & Stan Winston? Exactly. Being a non-traditional Christmas movie, it is visually stunning and the score is so compelling. (I am listening to it as I write this) Each December, like most of us, I like to partake in watching lots of Christmas movies but also movies that take place over Christmas… Die Hard, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon & Ghostbusters II. Batman Returns falls into this category as well. My review is wordy & contains spoilers… if you haven’t seen this movie yet then what are you waiting for?

Fresh off beating the Joker, in this installment Batman faces 2 new adversaries, Catwoman and the Penguin. The movie is an entanglement of relationships that pan out over the length of the movie. I have always loved the opening scene, as sad as it is. Poor baby Penguin is being thrown over a bridge by his parents (did you know his dad was played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee) The scene always reminded me of a snow globe as the opening fades in along with Danny Elfman’s beautiful score.

We are now 33 years later in Gotham where Penguin lives underground and has become a criminal mastermind. He has developed an infatuation for birds and trick umbrellas. (My personal favorite is the machine gun umbrella) The imagery from underground was shot so well. From the enlarged shadows on the wall to the water ripple reflections on the wall. Above ground, Bruce Wayne is still an elite member of Gotham society, Batman (Michael Keaton) is still defending the city and we meet Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). Max is an industrialist who is looking to open a power plant in Gotham to leave as a legacy to his son Chip but also has ulterior motives. Max has an awkward, plain Jane assistant, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer). When Max makes a public speech in Gotham Plaza, the Red Triangle Gang appear and cause mayhem. The gang consists of maniacal circus performers & freaks, one even carries a dressed up monkey on his shoulder. This interruption causes Gotham PD to fire up the ol’ Bat Signal where we then see Bruce Wayne suit up and take the Batmobile for a spin. He takes out the clowns that are on bikes with a missile that shoots from his car. Oh how I would love to have that feature on my car! During the chaos, one of the clowns take Selina, but don’t fear, Batman took him out too. Though I am not a fan of the current Batman movies or his vehicles, the Batmobile in this movie is pretty badass. Besides being equipped with a ton of useless dials, controls and panels it has armour & shoots shit!

We then come to find out that the Penguin has kidnapped Max and taken him underground. Max calls him “Penguin man of the sewer” which doesn’t sit well with the Penguin. They are both perceived as monsters in the community but Max is respected. The Penguin figures he can use that to his advantage and convince Max to help him run for mayor. The Penguin is basically an orphan (wah) and wants to find out who his real parents are( or so he claims) and wants respect from Gotham residents. So basically he black mails Max into helping him since he has a sample of the toxic waste from Max’s textile plant. Max agrees to help him out. Meanwhile Selina & her cat, Ms. Kitty are in her awesomely pink apartment & she is sad because her boyfriend just bailed on their Christmas trip. She goes back to the office after listening to a message she left herself on her answering machines (remember those relics?) & guesses Max’s password and starts working on the Bruce Wayne files where she discovers his crooked plans. Ut Oh!! Max is not a happy employer and decides to push her out the window to her “death”. What he doesn’t know is the alley cats below save her, turning her into Catwoman and we get to see her amazing transformation from a drab secretary to hot momma. She makes her pleather cat suit equipped with claws and later steals a whip from the sporting goods store. She says to her cat, “I don’t know about you Ms. Kitty, but I feel so much yummier”. And at that moment in all her pleather goodness, I am sure just about every boy & man thought she looked mighty yummy too!

Bruce Wayne is keeping tabs on the Penguin and his search for his parents. We see Penguin search record hall & visit a grave site. Where he publically announces, “A Penguin is a bird that cannot fly, I am a man, I have a name… Oswald Cobblepot!” He wins over the residents by announcing that he forgives his parents. Danny Devito is so good in this role, because you forget it’s him under the fat suit, make up and flipper hands. Bruce decides to question Max since Gotham has a power surplus already & he and the mayor want to fight Max’s power plant deal. When he’s there, Selina comes sauntering in where she catches Bruce’s eye for the 2nd time. Selina has a new sex appeal & confidence to her. Later that night while Batman is fighting off 10 street thugs he runs into the Penguin but Catwoman appears as well & back flips her way over to them. That’s where her famous “Meow” line can be heard. This is where Batman & Catwoman have their 1st rooftop fight resulting in her clawing him. Their 2nd rooftop fight is where she licks his face and Batman says, “Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it” and she replies “But a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it” and licks his face. That line will comeback at the end of the film to tie it all together.

Anyway back in Gotham, Catwoman is trying to enlist Penguin to help her get back Batman, Penguin calls the Mayor out and announces he’s running for mayor, Bruce and Selina go on a date to his manor. Oh wait did I mention that Batman is being framed for murder thanks to Catwoman and the Penguin working together to remove Batman. (don’t worry, Batman clears his name) Ok, back to their date, it ends in typical super hero fashion; its cut short to go fight crime, although neither knows the others masked identity. I love how they show all his Bat suits and boots lined up in his closet. As Batman drives into town, the Batmobile is tricked out with armour but the Red Triangle Gang dissemble when he leaves it to go fight crime, making the car into a hydrogen bomb on wheels. Once back in the car Batman quickly realizes that the Penguin is controlling the car and like only Batman can do, he punches a hole in the floor of the car and grabs the bomb. Foiled!!!! Back in the beautifully blue lit Bat cave Alfred helps Batman jam the Penguins TV signal and while Penguin addresses the crowds, Batman plays a recording of Oswald trashing the people of Gotham. Now everyone boos Oswald after seeing him for what he is. He is one pissed off Penguin now & goes back to the sewer announcing that he is an animal not a human and wants to kidnap and kill all of Gotham's first born males.

Later that night Bruce attends Max’s masquerade ball at Max’s mansion that is decked out in full holiday garb but the dark wood all throughout his house is amazing. Bruce is hoping to see Selina. He does see her not knowing she is on a mission to kill Max. When dancing with Bruce, she quotes the mistletoe line from the rooftop and Bruce quickly figures out that she is Catwoman. Just at that moment Penguin crashes the party looking for Chip (that name makes me think he plays tennis) but Max persuades Penguin to take him instead and save his son. So Max is now underground in a locked cage guarded by a monkey with a set of keys and Penguin has gathered a flock of penguins with transmitters on their heads but Batman intercepts and jams the signal again making the Penguins go crazy. After Max coaxes the monkey over to the cage, he grabs the keys & frees himself. A massive fight occurs as the zoo now blows up from a launched missile, Max is thrown in the water but Catwoman saves him, being the snob that Max is, he tried to negotiate with her (not realizing she is trying to kill him as well), Batman zip lines in trying to take Max to jail but interrupts Catwoman’s mission. During Bat & Cats fight, Batman calls her Selina making Max realize who she is and Batman takes his mask off revealing to them both who he is (which I always hated how you could see black eye makeup on him under the mask and when he pulls it off there is no makeup) and in a trump like fashion, Max says “you’re fired” and shoots Catwoman multiple times. Seeing as she is badass and has 9 lives, she’s not dying, instead she kisses Max with a Taser and fries him to a crisp! The Penguin emerges and collapses as he is dying and a troop of penguins appear and take him into the water.

Ahhhh… the battles are over & Gotham is restored back to its safe & quiet community. As Alfred drives Bruce through the snowy city decorated with wreaths and lights, Bruce thinks he sees something in an alley & has Alfred stop the car. Turns out to be nothing but a black cat who comes out and starts to rub on Bruce & purr. Of course he takes the cat to his car, he’s Batman he saves the day and er, kitties. The movie ends as Alfred says, “Come what may, Merry Christmas Mr. Wayne.” And Bruce responds with, “Merry Christmas Alfred. Good will towards men and woman”. And then a shot of Catwomans head appears looking at the Bat signal in the sky. POW! What a visually stunning, action packed Christmas movie to watch! This really is a visually stunning movie to watch. What I love most is all the snow covered environments, seems so serene even though it’s surrounded by darkness. The quirky characters, score, costumes & sets have made such an impact on me. Thanks for reading now go watch some Batman Returns pronto!

- Mary Bastian


  1. I love Batman Returns just as much as the first Burton Batman. Great review Mary!!!

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  3. Well, that was quite a read :P
    Don't forget that Selina realized Bruce was Batman at the same time that he realized she was Catwoman; he finished the mistletoe quote she began.

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