I recently rewatched the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, and really wanted to write something about Batman Returns. It remains not only my favourite Batman movie to date, but also one of my favourite Christmas movies. That said, I didn’t want to review it in depth, but I couldn’t pass it over without considering some of the excellent things about it. As such, I’ve settled on a run down of my top five favourite things about Batman Returns. Enjoy!
Christmas in Gotham
There’s always something quite festive about Burton’s aesthetic, perhaps it’s the candy cane style stripes that he has a fondness for. Batman Returns injects that aesthetic into the most festive of periods. It is a darker version of Christmas than we often find on the big screen, but with the snow, the penguins, Christmas shopping and yes even the candy cane stripes, it is definitely festive. There is even something Christmasy about Shreck’s cat logo. If this isn’t one of your favourite Christmas movies there’s something wrong with you.
This has to be one of my top movies for quotability (along with Ghostbusters). There is so much gold here! My Hubster and I realised we were meant to be together the day we discovered we could communicate almost entirely through nerd movie quotes. I remember once he even text me the word “meow” and I knew exactly what he meant.
Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it…
Danny Devito is great, sure, but his scenes are so often stolen by his army of penguins. Not only do the real penguins do a great job of being adorably penguiny (whilst being treated like gods on set!), but the animatronic and costumed people versions are insanely good and totally believable.
But the best thing about the penguins is the way they seem to have their own little society, along with The Penguin as their ruler. You can see it in a lot of their scenes but it is most apparent as they form the Penguins funeral procession. We often forget that there is a relatable side to Penguin. He may be a bad person, but deep down there’s also a tragedy and desperation to his story of abandonment and bitter revenge. Oddly it is the penguins and their sense of loss that gives The Penguin some humanity.
This is by far my favourite version of Catwoman. There is so much going on with her. For the early 90s and in a film not aimed at (as perceived at the time) a traditional female market, she is actually a pretty complex female character.
For a movie of the 90s with only one prominent female role, and based on a DC comic no less(!), Batman Returns portrays Catwoman/Selina Kyle as smart if meek, but then damaged, vengeful woman, and strong throughout. She goes from Suzy Homemaker wanna be to a crazed criminal – she has snapped because of the actions of a man. When I was younger and saw this, I was thrilled by her, I loved that she was taking control and fighting back against the man and the system he represented. She was a fantastic role model, and the image of her standing in front of her sign that once read “hello there” blew my pre-teen mind.
Then there’s the costuming. How many films have we ladies grown up with where the woman gets a makeover, or Molly Ringwald style makes her own “awesome” new outfit (for the record I hate the end result dress at the end of Pretty In Pink). I love that this is turned on it’s head and instead we have this woman create something that is about what she feels on the inside and how she wants herself to be viewed (similarly to my post on Emma Frost). Sure it’s sexy, and cannot help but be eye candy, but the over all sense is that she is dressing for herself, not for others and I love that.
But what is really interesting is her connection with Batman/Bruce Wayne. The little intertwining dance their dual characters go through – culminating in that scene under the mistletoe where they both realise the truth. They have never understood another person more in either of their lives, because deep down (especially with all those bats in his belfry – ha!), they are both insane on some level!
And yet there is no fairytale ending, they don’t live happily ever after because really, they aren’t the same at all, and he’ll never understand that. An amazing insight into their relationship and Catwoman in this film in general can be found over at Confused Gender – Batman Returns and Fairytale Feminism). It’s this lack of fairytale ending that drives home the point of Catwoman as her own character with her own agency. She’s not just a trope, and she isn’t going to be saved by the hero where 99% of all other heroines are (I think you’ll find all your problems can be solved with my penis!). Instead of ending up with guy as you might expect, she throws him over for what she has set her heart on – even if that is murderous revenge.
I love her insanity, her vengeance, her strength. I love that she and Bruce don’t end up happily ever after. And I love that she still has one life left (and she’s saving that for next Christmas).
This character is, perhaps unintentionally, amusing. Every time I watch the film he makes me chuckle, because the actor does such a fabulous job of being Christopher Walken-ish. I love the fact that he is called Chip – I presume this to be a reference to his being a chip off the old block. I love that he is essentially Bruce Wayne – another heir of corporate fortune.
But what really intrigues me is what happens next. Where is Chip now? If the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne created Batman of Bruce Wayne, what will the death of Max Shreck do to Chip?