Batman Returns (1992)
December 31, 2014 10:35 AM - Subscribe

When a corrupt businessman and the grotesque Penguin plot to take control of Gotham City over Christmas, only Batman can stop them, while the Catwoman has her own agenda. Directed by Tim Burton, starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Michael Gough.

80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Can You Stream It?

Burton directs with characteristic flair (and Bo Welch's set design), with Danny Elfman contributing a very Elfman-esque (and Christmasy) score.

posted by the man of twists and turns (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Batman Returns: The Greatest Anti-Christmas Movie of All
That is at least the point of view filmmakers took with Batman Returns, a Tim Burton art-piece masquerading as blockbuster entertainment. The bleakest and kinkiest superhero movie ever made, Batman Returns takes the first line of the original Sam Hamm screenplay to heart: “It’s finally happened; Hell’s frozen over.” Decorating his urban decay with shiny Yuletide wrapping, Burton and his collaborators crafted the most artful cape and cowl picture—a German Expressionist painting so cynical about the holidays, abhorrent commercialism, and the supposed goodwill of man that Ebenezer Scrooge might even cringe.
‘Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas: Batman Returns
Will it be controversial for me to say that Batman Returns is easily the most interesting movie ever made from the character created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane back in 1939? While Christopher Nolan adapted Gotham City in quasi-realistic style that evoked the anxieties and hypocrisies of the post-9/11 world (all of Nolan’s villains are ideological terrorists of one kind or another), Burton took the character in a more deliberately Gothic direction that allowed for more variation and interpretation. Batman Returns is gruesome but humane, dark but funny. There is simply no other movie like it.
Why are we more tolerant of violence as entertainment when it’s realistic?
Batman Returns never transcends or eschews this ancestry of cartoonish indulgence or black-as-tar cruelty: it actually flaunts it, wears it as proudly as Hannibal Lecter wears people’s faces. The Penguin is a ravenous, baby-killing (and, for that matter, face-eating) monster, but he’s still a short, fat man with flippers for hands; Batman puts bombs in clowns’ pants and grins as they explode, fleshy debris flying like confetti, but he’s still a grown-ass man in a rubber costume. This collation of the macabre and the silly was the affliction that hurt the film’s reception: it was castigated when it came out, not only by fans who misremembered the original character as a model citizen but also by angry parents, who feared that its extreme violence would corrupt young viewers.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:46 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

All I can say is DeVito was perfect.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:32 AM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Batman Returns: the darkest timeline for Pee Wee Herman
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Batman Returns is the reason Tim Burton didn't direct a third Batman movie.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:31 PM on December 31, 2014

Wow, how did I totally miss the backlash that came with this film?

Because I adored it. The music, the visuals, the circus, the latex, the stripes, the madcap collection of daddy issues and class issues that collided together with softly falling snow...

It fit in so well with how I saw Batman - I mean, this is the same year Batman: The Animated Series started up, and with all the art deco and German expressionism, and the villian's name is Max goddamn Shreck (just one "c" away from that other Mr. Schreck), and Catwoman's bondage-meets-Frankenstein hand-sewn monstrosity of a costume, and Oswald's parents (I never realised it was Simone as well as PeeWee!), and what is Batman if not the monster in the shadows?

God, I love this movie. And when I was a 15-year-old nerd girl who was just discovering Goth culture and accepting her queerness, this beautifully subversive movie (and let's not forget the matching Siouxsie & The Banshees song cowritten by Danny Elfman) was an absolute delight.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2014 [9 favorites]

Batman goes to the costume party as Bruce Wayne. Catwoman goes as Selina Kyle. A smooth rendition of "Super Freak" plays in the background.

This dancing scene is excellent.

The sound design is excellent - classic uses. A Wilhelm scream, the crowd gasp. Real throwback stuff.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2014

Count me as another one who doesn't understand why people don't like this movie. It was so perfect (and introduced me to Siouxsie).

You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it...
posted by sparklemotion at 2:26 PM on December 31, 2014

Batman Returns: the darkest timeline for Pee Wee Herman

Jan Hooks also has a small role in the film.
posted by cazoo at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

The three comic book characters all had major trauma that ruined their lives and made them extraordinary. Only the "normal" person—Max Shreck—chose to be evil.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:06 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also thought this movie was perfect as a middle trilogy film - very empire strikes back. I actually preferred it to the first Burton Batman.
posted by smoke at 12:28 AM on January 1, 2015

Seeing this film on the cusp of puberty did...things. I wasn't the same creature I was at the beginning of the film. I think my pituitary gland kicked in for the first time right about, I dunno, the first scene with Walken.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 6:38 AM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't remember this movie well, but I do remember hating it. It was such a disappointment to me after the first one. Looking back, I think this is when I just started becoming a bit wary of Burton, who appears to spend a lot of time worrying about the visuals in his films - which are admittedly gorgeous - but the script, not so much.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't expect much from this movie, until Pfeiffer started sewing her costume, and continued to be just fucking amazing till the end. Who cares about Batman and Penguin, this film is about Catwoman. "Woman goes crazy and becomes supervillain" is usually portrayed for laughs or pathos, but Pfeiffer was fucking terrifying. And I loved her.

This was before Buffy, before any real female heroes anywhere, and it was like a shot of oxygen to the brain for girls everywhere.
posted by emjaybee at 1:17 PM on January 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I haven't seen this in years and maybe never all the way through at once and I never quite realized what an ugly disjointed mess it is. Elfman's score is great but other than that, it's just a deeply creepy and unpleasant movie.
posted by octothorpe at 3:44 PM on January 2, 2017

It was impossible for me to watch this and not see it as the story of Frank Reynolds and Maurine Ponderosa

“Cobblepot for mayor! And I cannot stress this enough: I do not diddle kids!”
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:09 AM on January 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

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