tek's rating:

Batman Returns (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This is the sequel to Batman. It came out in 1992. I really can't remember whether or not I saw it in a theater, but I tend to doubt it. I certainly saw it on VHS, sometime in the early to mid 90s. But by the time I watched it on DVD in 2018, to write my review, there wasn't much about it that I specifically remembered. But, while I was sure I always liked it, I found that I this time I liked it more than I remembered.

It begins with a wealthy couple, the Cobblepots, having a baby. He's apparently deformed, and soon turns out to be violent, so they dump him (in some sort of baby basket) into a river, which flows into the sewer, and eventually ends up at Gotham Zoo, where it is found by some penguins. The story then flashes forward 33 years. (Both the opening scene and the present story are set around Christmastime.) There have been sightings of a mysterious "penguin-man" in the sewers, though this is mostly considered a sort of urban legend, or a tabloid-type story, I guess. (It kind of reminds me of how in the first movie, there were rumors of Batman sightings, before many people really believed he existed.) Meanwhile, there is a businessman named Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who wants to build a power plant in Gotham. However, this plan is opposed by the mayor, because Gotham already has a surplus of energy. Shreck's plan is also later opposed by Bruce Wayne. Also, Shreck has a secretary named Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer; I think Selina is meant to seem sort of frumpy, prior to becoming Catwoman, but that's not really possible for Pfeiffer). She eventually discovers the nefarious true purpose of Shreck's plan, so he throws her out a very high window, and she falls to her apparent death. However, a bunch of cats soon surround her and... honestly, I was never quite sure what they were doing, like, were they trying to help her, or to eat her, or what? Also, I have never understood how, but it seems like the cats must be responsible not only for her coming back to life, but also for her whole personality drastically changing (with only occasional flashes of her old self to confuse her a bit), and for her seeming to acquire... um... catlike reflexes, I guess. So she becomes suddenly badass. Of course none of this ever made sense, but it's fun, I guess, so I'll just roll with it. (Also, that scene is one of the very few things I've always remembered about this movie.) Anyway, she makes herself a latex cat costume, with sharp claws, and a whip, and starts calling herself Catwoman.

I suppose I'm getting things a bit out of order, though. There's also a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is suddenly attacked by the Red Triangle Circus gang. This is just one of the many things I had forgotten about the movie, the fact that there is a circus gang. Which is always fun. Anyway, they kidnap Shreck, and the penguin-man, or just "Penguin" (Danny DeVito), blackmails him into helping introduce him to Gotham society. Though to be honest, it never seemed to me like Shreck actually did that much for him. Mainly, Penguin introduces himself to society, by having one of the circus gangsters kidnap the mayor's baby and flee into the sewer, only for Penguin to immediately "rescue" the baby and return him to his parents, thus becoming a hero. And he plays on the citizens' sympathies for having been cast out by his parents, just for being born different. And he wants to learn who his parents are. I guess Shreck helped him out a bit with getting into the hall of records, though I don't really feel like Penguin would have had trouble doing that on his own, considering the goodwill of everyone in Gotham. However, Bruce suspects Penguin already knew who his parents were, and wanting to find them was just a ruse to do research for his real plan. I don't want to reveal exactly what that plan is, but I will say it gets sidetracked when Shreck convinces Penguin to run for mayor, after a recall election, or whatever. Because Shreck basically wanted a puppet who would go along with his power plant scheme. (Incidentally, I had forgotten that Penguin ran for mayor in this movie, but now it reminds me of Penguin becoming mayor in season 3 of Gotham. And later that season, there was also a scene involving Selina that reminded me very much of the scene in this movie where she's killed and then revived by cats.)

Um... another thing I've always remembered about the movie is a scene where Catwoman does a series of backflips to get to Batman and Penguin, then stands there just panting heavily while she catches her breath, then says "Meow." I've always thought that was probably the coolest (and sexiest) use of the word "meow" ever. Anyway... she later teams up with Penguin against Batman. Meanwhile, Selina starts dating Bruce, neither of them knowing the other's secret identity. And... lots of other stuff happens, which I don't want to spoil.

Well then, what else can I say? There's just so much I didn't remember. I didn't remember that Shreck had an adult son. I didn't remember that Penguin was so lascivious. (Or how much sexual innuendo the movie contains, in general.) I didn't remember most of the plot. Basically I just remembered who the three main villains were, and who played them. And the two Selina/Catwoman scenes that I've mentioned. And I remember a lot of people thinking there were too many villains in the movie, a problem that would continue with the next two movies, as well. Another thing I remember is that there was a planned spin-off film about Catwoman, but that never happened, which has always greatly disappointed me. (There was eventually a different sort of Catwoman movie made in 2004, starring Halle Berry. It was critically panned, but I still want to see it, eventually. But I certainly wouldn't consider it a spin-off of this franchise.) Anyway, I just really found this movie very funny, and fun. In some ways, it can be awfully campy, but that's part of the fun of it. And its campiness is offset by its darkness, while its darkness, in turn, is offset by its campiness. And there are lots of things I enjoyed... like a conversation between Bruce and Selina about Vicki Vale (from the first movie). And the Penguin getting remote control of the Batmobile, thanks to the circus goons, was very fun. And... eh, I'm probably already forgetting lots of things. But I do also want to mention that there's a song during the end credits, "Face to Face," by Siouxsie and the Banshees. I didn't remember that at all... even when watching the end credits, it seemed completely new to me. And because it's Siouxsie, it's obviously cool. And another thing I didn't discover until reading Wikipedia while writing this review, is that Penguin's father was played by Paul Reubens, who later played a different father of a different version of Penguin in the second season of Gotham. I didn't even recognize him while watching the movie (though I did think whoever it was looked vaguely familiar, so I thought I might have known him from somewhere, even if I couldn't place the actor). Knowing he was in this movie, however briefly, just makes his appearance on that show even cooler.

And I guess that's really all I can think to say.


comic book movies

Batman * Batman Returns * Batman Forever * Batman & Robin