Have you ever watched a movie in adulthood that you haven’t seen since childhood and realized it’s not the movie you thought it was? I have and that movie for me was “Batman Returns”, starring Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Danny DeVito.
I’m going to approach this review a little bit differently because there were things in this movie that I didn’t originally remember. Here are the five things I didn’t remember about Batman Returns:
1. The Penguin, aka Oswalt Cobblepot, was horny as fuck! The movie was from 1992 and I think everyone was horny in ‘92, but that would put me at age nine so I never caught it.
2. Max Shreck is the real villain of the movie.
3. The actual plot of the movie.
4. Exactly how hot Michelle Pfeiffer was in this movie (Oh. My. God! I love crazy chicks more than the Lord should permit.)
5. Harvey Dent, played by Billy Dee Williams, ISN’T EVEN IN THE MOVIE!?!?!?!
So, about this plot - In all honesty, I, for the most part, forgot the actual plot of the movie but watching it again, I wonder if I even knew it.
The movie starts with a baby being born to a rich family in Gotham, the Cobblepots, and them being so disgusted by their disfigured baby that they kept him briefly in a covered cage, took the cage outside to the park, and threw him away in the river.
They just straight-up toss Baby Cobblepot in the river!!!!!! The fuck, Cobblepots!?!
Then the opening credits. Well, it’s kinda during the opening credits, but you get it.
It’s not about 30 years later and we meet Max Shreck, another big rich dude in Gotham who is proposing the building of a new power plant for Gotham. The need for this escapes the men in the meeting, which includes the mayor, so they turn him down. This is also where we meet Selina Kyle, Shreck’s secretary, who they dismiss and belittle.
The men go outside where there are people gathering awaiting a speech from the mayor and Shreck. The evening newspaper guy is telling of a headline where there have been sightings of a penguin man in the sewers. Max is introduced by the mayor and Max realizes that he forgot his speech and tells his son, Chip, to remind him to take it out on “what her name” (Selina Kyle).
A big gift box was carted out to the press conference location and a bunch of circus goons pop out and cause chaos. Batman is called and saves the day, including specifically the life of Selina Kyle.
Selina Kyle goes home to her lonely apartment and checks her answering machine (for those too young to understand, remember, in the 90s, we didn’t all carry cell phones. To get a hold of someone, you called their home and if they weren’t there, a separate machine was connected to the phone in order to record a message that could later be played back). She had called herself to remind herself of something that she felt she’d forget (she did forget and this was actually pretty common to do).
Selina goes back to get the files ready for a meeting that Max has the next day with millionaire Bruce Wayne where Max finds her, finds out that she’s discovered his real plot, and pushes her out of a multi-story window to the ground below. She somehow survives this, maybe via the spirit of the cats that surrounded her body on the ground, goes home, and becomes Catwoman, an “I’m Catwoman. Hear me roar” (actual line from the movie) anti-villain who ultimately wants to avenge her assault by killing Shreck and fighting Batman because, why not?
Now that all of that is out, I can wrap the rest of the movie pretty quickly. Here we go:
Max really wants his power plant but can’t because the mayor won’t approve it. So he wants to replace the mayor. With the Penguin causing a ruckus from the shadows, Max feels he can endear the people of Gotham to the Penguin by exploiting his story of abandonment and neglect to win the hearts and votes in a recall election for mayor. Cobblepot for Mayor!
Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne meet at Shreck’s meeting when she just shows up, much to Max’s obvious surprise and now they’re in love. Catwoman and Batman become rivals because, of course, they do, and secretly, Penguin plots to kill all the firstborn sons of Gotham, especially the spoiled and entitled… Chip Shreck. Sure.
Max doesn’t get his power plant, Penguin doesn’t become mayor nor does he kill the firstborns, but Catwoman does manage to kill Max Shreck, who was the true main villain in the movie, being the driving force, one way or another, behind every “evil plot” in the movie.
I still love this movie, as I love nearly all of the Batman films, but when I put the movie against the rating system, I have to give Batman Returns a 7, losing a point in the Characters, Story, and Ending categories.
The issue with the characters wasn’t a huge issue, but because it’s a superhero movie, it’s kind of a big deal to me. The villains didn’t seem to care when their plans failed. Shreck was the worst for this. Maybe because he “didn’t need to succeed”, but if you’re going to go through all that effort to unseat a newly elected mayor and manipulate the city to vote for another villain who had tried to kill you, at least give a damn when you’re thwarted.
I had a problem with some of the story elements. The Penguin-for-Mayor thing was just wild. Penguin was conned and allowed this dude to just interject himself into your LIFELONG REVENGE PLOT?! Really?! It’s like Max said, “Oh you have a lifelong revenge plot against Gotham City? That’s cool and all but, hey, I need you to run for mayor real quick…is that cool?” and Penguin was just like, “I mean, I guess so…” - that’s dumb. Then, Penguin makes a big to-do about killing Gotham’s firstborn sons, as he was a firstborn son who was left to die, and then before that plot actually happens, Batman just drops a note that essentially says, “Umm, no. But thanks for trying” and then Penguin thinks, “How about all the kids?” and Batman’s like, “No.” and Penguin is like, “Ah, well, phooey!”
As for the ending, Penguin falls through a glass ceiling and lands in the water of his lair. After Catwoman/Batman/Shreck thing, Penguin, sees Batman, grabs an umbrella to kill him from afar, grabs the wrong one, says, “I’ll kill you in a momentarily. I need some ice cold water first,” and then just dies. Pushed into the water by his penguins.
As for that Catwoman/Batman/Shreck thing, before the climax, Selina and Bruce discover they’re Catwoman and Batman respectively, and Batman, because he’s in costume now, tries to stop Catwoman, because she’s in costume now, from killing Max, appealing to what’s left of her humanity and their love for each other. Max doesn’t care, gets a gun and we start counting down from 7 (because Max and Batman “killed” her twice already, so she’s got seven lives left” and he shoots her with seemingly non-lethal shots, but with every shot, she gets up and just “loses a life” until she’s down to two, where she electrocutes herself and Max, killing Max and escaping, leaving one remaining.
While she likely wouldn’t have died from those shots, she’d be down for those shots. And if she wouldn’t even be phased, they shouldn’t countdown her “lives” like that. I didn’t like it.
Again, I still love this movie and Pfeiffer was so hot and played the crazy post-fall Selina Kyle wonderfully. Keaton is still my favorite Batman and
Didn’t you have a thing about Dent?
Oh yeah! See, I had always had a problem, which I alluded to in the “Batman (1989)” review and I’ll mention in the “Batman Forever” review, that Harvey Dent was in “Batman” and “Batman Returns” played by Billy Dee Williams and then you just switch it up on us by having Dent played by Tommy Lee Jones in “Forever” - but now, having watched “Returns” again and seeing that Dent was NOWHERE to be seen, I have to rescind a grievance that I’d held for DECADES now. Oh well.