Batman Returns has always been the black sheep of the franchise for me personally. Not because I hated it or anything, but because I’ve probably seen it less than the other three. And that’s saying ALOT when you think about it. But the film itself has always had a history of being maligned by the viewing public as well. The way I understand it is you love it or hate it.
Having watched this film again recently, I personally fall somewhere in the middle. This film is a Tim Burton film featuring Batman which is the opposite of the last film. But unlike Guillermo Del Toro and Hellboy II, Burton being off his leash doesn’t really work in Batman’s favor. While Keaton seems to be enjoying himself as the Caped Crusader again, the character is portrayed as somewhat of a lunatic. He straight up murders two of the Penguin’s cronies here. One burned alive and the other in what could be assisted suicide with dynamite.
That said, I am well aware that his body count was much higher in the last film. Most of that felt as though it was in self-defense. It’s HOW he offs these guys here that makes you think he decided to follow through on the threat to “get nuts”. And most of this could be attributed to Burton himself. Some people think the idea of Bruce Wayne and Batman is that of a mentally disturbed individual. To some degree, I can kind of agree with that sentiment, especially when you examine his reasoning to not kill any of his rogues gallery. Sure, we don’t want our hero killing, but Batman feels more in line with someone like the Punisher or Wolverine, both of whom have a body count.
And perhaps that was the reasoning here. Why ISN’T he killing people?? He’s a goddamn giant bat! And let’s not stop there! Let’s turn the Penguin into a horrible freakshow that can somehow communicate and rally and army of penguins, loaded with rocket launchers and machine guns. Let’s forego the clever cat burglar trope with Catwoman and instead have Selina Kyle murdered then subsequently consumed by a clowder of magical pussies that somehow brings her back to life as a cat…woman… Seriously, why do cats eat corpses? Did our time together mean nothing, Mr. Fluffers??
And while we’re on the subject of bizarre happenings, what about infanticide by the Cobblepots? Sure, it would be considered “attempted” in a court of law, but still. It’s a really messed up scene in a film series that’s demographic is usually kids. Not surprising that McDonald’s quickly squashed plans for a Happy Meal campaign. It was neat though to see Paul Ruebens as Tucker Cobblepot since all I ever knew him as was Pee-Wee Herman. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned he was the spaceship Max in Flight of the Navigator, even though he sounded like him! Bastard used a stage name for that one. Fun fact, the woman that played his wife, Diane Salinger, was the waitress from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. It’s like a full-on reunion flick!
Danny DeVito was a great choice for the Penguin. Kind of a no-brainer like Nicholson. Just an odd portrayal of the character in my opinion, as is Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman. I don’t blame them for the material. Just makes you wonder how committed they both were to the strange shit they had to do. The cat bath scene is incredibly hot and disturbing all at once. You know if you ever met a woman like her, the sex would be phenomenal. But you also know that you’re forever trapped with a crazy bitch who will pull a knife on you at the drop of a hat. Hats, cats, and bats. This is a fun review.
I guess if we must, we need to talk about Christopher Walken as Max Schreck. While he plays a completely original character in this film, they ruined the opportunity for him to play a true Batman villain. Forget Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Think about this, “Riddle me this. Riddle me that. Who’s afraid of a big fucking bat?” Missed opportunities, I’m telling you. Fun fact: Walken was actually asked to reprise the role on Batman: The Animated Series because they loved his performance so much. No denying he’s top notch.
Another fun fact: David Bowie was almost cast in the role and was Tim Burton’s top choice but he opted to star in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks movie. It seems Burton was scared of Walken for some reason. Maybe he found him intimidating. But he relented and the rest is history.
All in all, Batman Returns is a film that I return (hehe) to from time to time, just to be reminded that the film is not all that memorable to me. We should have been talking about Batman: The Movie from 1966. Now there’s something you can never forget…