Batman Returns (1992)
The Bat, the Cat, the Penguin
Nananananananana Nananananananana Batman! Before I continue with my pre-spiel here, might I reflect to you how crazy it is that we live in a time when auto-correct on PC's will actually properly relocate the spaces necessary for the old Adam West Batman theme? Seriously, I guess I know I at least had the right number of nana's in there, ha! Anyways, in a long running tradition of watching non-Christmas Christmas movies, I bring to you another flick that fits the bill, featuring everyones favorite superhero - Batman! Before he got super serious and swallowed a truck full of gravel, before it was decided that nipples needed to be placed on all the male suits, but after the televised version that contained onomatopoeia, there was the Michael Keaton run of Batmans. In this sequel to his first foray as the dark knight, can he triumphantly return to the top of your interests, or will it be the movie you deserve but not want?
A man nervously waits staring at the falling snow as the sounds of his wife giving birth in the background are heard. A sudden scream catches his attention, and as he approaches the room the midwife and doctor both hurry out, looking quite distraught. Another scream can be heard after the new father enters the room as the parents see what it is they brought into this world. Some time passes, and the parents stand ashamedly in near the same window, with a crate in the center. A cat treads a bit to close to the box, and malformed hands reach out, snatching a new plaything. Obviously distraught over the perceived evil they have brought into the world, the two go for a walk in the park, baby in tow - and when noone is looking, throw it and it's carriage over a bridge into the water that leads to the sewers beneath Gotham, where after drifting for an entire opening credits screen it is found by a bunch of penguins.
Fast forward 30-some years later, and Gotham is going through it's holiday preparations while the mayor meets with Shreck - whose proposing a new power plant, because Gotham can never have too much power, even if they already have an excess. The mayor is against the idea, even though Shreck seems to pressure that he has ways of making it happen, while the secretary nervously passes out coffee. She starts to voice her opinion on something, but the meeting ends up being adjourned to go down to tree lighting ceremony and make a speech. Although things start well, they suddenly go awry when a gang of circus-themed folks launch an attack, assaulting people and breaking things - to which the summons goes out for the Batman. He shows up and makes quick work of things whilst Shreck is escaping off from the clowns after him, including saving the secretary Selina Kyle. Shreck's plans of running away are met with unexpected results, when he is kidnapped by the sewer dweller Penguin, and through use of blackmail and some threats is "persuaded" by the Penguin to get help in reclaiming what should be his above ground.
Selina realizes she forgot to bring files back from the office, and when the boss returns accidentally mentions that she opened even the locked files to do her job. It's unfortunate for her, as Shreck's new power plant plan is really nothing more than a sham to steal power from Gotham and to keep it from getting out he demotes Selina from their upper floor position to the street level - out a window. Some strange magic with cats happens, and it appears that she isn't actually dead. Upon arriving home, she has a bit of a psychotic break and creates herself a costume and some claws, becoming Catwoman. The reveal of the Penguin has Batman digging for details in a case that he is convinced (through detective work) is more than meets the eye, even if he can't quite figure out the Penguins plans. Things are further complicated for Batman when Catwoman gets involved, a hard one to get a moral bead on - and also to focus around with her apparent seductive magnetism surrounding her clouding their minds. Will bat's be able to save the city from whatever nefarious plans Penguin and Shreck are concocting without finding himself as a victim to the cat?
Costumes, costumes everywhere! From the old-timey glitz of gotham's finest in suited and gowned day-ware to their extravagant and gaudy ball costumes, costumes here aren't just for the vigilante and his prey. Of course, the villainous circus gang looks much their part - clown makeup, stiltwalkers, sword swallowers, and even a dressed up little monkey - but the Penguin has his fair share to make him look like something you would expect someone to hide in a sewer - the overblown sideways proportions combined with the short height, the sharp teeth, and the beak-like nose are only accentuated through the application of makeup. Catwoman goes from the mild-mannered secretary attire of a woman of Gotham to the skin-tight, corset bound, stitched together homemade catsuit that suffers various degrees of battle damage throughout the movie and would be pretty easy to argue one of (if not the) most alluring catwoman suits to exist in movie form. Batman comes back in his less-than over-dramatic representation, with a few armored-up muscles in there and the blazing yellow bat emblem on his chest, and with a good portion of helpful makeup around the eyes to give that sunken sensations that can lead to it looking as though his eyes are nothing more than black holes to delve into your soul. Needless to say, there is a lot of details in the costumes and their variety here, and it's handled in a matter that isn't so realistic it's boring or so outrageous that it's laughable.
Acting jobs here are pretty good, although admittedly there are moments across the board that feel a little less than spectacular. The Selina spazz-out scene feels a bit hammy, and some of the Penguin moments can feel as though those around the Penguin aren't reacting as you would expect a person actually would. At times, it can be a bit hard to distinguish is this was how things were meant to be or not, as for all it's Tim Burton gloom pallete, other moments clearly shine through that things with the Batman movie franchise are going to start getting out of hand - from gadgets to one liners, and even some of the characters themselves. The acting never really gets to terrible, but if one starts to try and pick apart the plot, you could have a complete hayday with it - there are certainly moments within this that scream "what?" that I never remember really noticing as a kid - including Batman blowing a guy up with a bomb, how someone would get ahold of the entire blueprint for the Batmobile, amongst a few other things like the wackiness of radio-brainwashed penguins.
Effects wise it's an extravaganza as you would expect of most intended blockbusters. Sure, even kid me could be excited about all those explosions, fireballs, rockets, gunshots, and fistfights. Sets are still probably some of my favorite of the Batman movies in looks, hitting that nice blend of gothic-y old and what I'd expect from Gotham based on what little know-how of it I have. The penguins in particular are probably one the most adorable little bits, and you couldn't ask for a more cut and non-threatening army to strap rockets and targeting hats to. All said and done, it actually holds up pretty well - probably more so than the dialogue does. Dialogue that I have to say I didn't remember being so raunchy, but can chalk that up to being a younger person who was too busy oohing and ahing over Batman being so cool. The score is great, but at the same time it's nothing as memorable as the ever-catchy Adam West theme nor something that really steals the show - it does a great job at what music in movies job is though, adding a bit of character to scenes.
Worth a watch? Certainly. I've always enjoyed the Michael Keaton Batmans, in part because of the atmosphere the sets and characters work in. It feels like things should be cheery, but somehow they still come off as incredibly creepy. It does a pretty good job of balancing that serious and not serious aspect for the most part, and can give out some memorable characters or costumes that you can attach to. It's by no means the worst of the Batman entries, for sure, and that alone should tell you that watching it once shouldn't be regrettable - although those who are super fans of the newer Dark Knight run might find it's overall feel a little less to their liking, as it isn't nearly as much of that "real world dark and gritty" flavor that's been injected into so many superhero flicks of today. Some people may not like the innuendos that float around in a few spots, and some could argue (rather solidly) that it doesn't feel so much like Batman is actually the Batman we all remember the most, but I'd say watch it based on character alone if nothing else. I enjoyed it, I feel like most would enjoy watching it once, and some may even enjoy watching it a plethora of times.