Not too long ago, I watched “Batman” (1989) in full for the first time and I LOVED IT!
It took me a while to get around to the sequel, but I regularly tell people Batman Returns is my favourite Batman movie. Liking it all over again was just a formality, right? How can I not enjoy a movie I saw before I was old enough to understand it?
In my mind, I truly believed I knew what the movie was about, but I’ll be honest I still don’t know what it’s about.
I sat down to watch it (for the first time in over fifteen years) and it is a hot mess. It’s not even a Batman movie, he just so happens to be there. The most bizarre thing is that it’s completely child inappropriate, but that didn’t register to me as a child. I was just like, YAY BATMAN! EW PENGUIN! YAY CATWOMAN! YAY ALFRED! WAH SOUNDTRACK!
I didn’t remember most of it. There are iconic scenes I did remember (Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer + window, duh), but that’s to be expected. The entire second hour was a mystery to me. And not a good one. I’ll be honest, it’s a terrible movie. Absolutely terrible. I was staring at my screen wide-eyed wondering how this movie is still considered one of the better Batman movies. The dude is barely in the movie.
Although, I get the sense that was the point. It was a character study of the villains… and it just so happened to have Batman in the background. The problem is that… none of the characters are appealing. Even Bruce Wayne is reduced to simpering mess, ripping off his Batman mask (symbolism? The final act is telling us that actually this was never a Batman movie, this was just the mask this messed up character chose to wear) to tell Selina Kyle that they’re both messed up (see!).
I remember thinking that scene was romantic. He was unmasking himself for her! Now? LOL. Their entire relationship was weird.
Penguin… I absolutely remember Penguin being brought up by penguins from back in the day, but…as an adult… well, it just doesn’t fly. I don’t remember him running for Mayor and being exposed when Bruce Wayne plays a recording of him monologuing about his bad notions. I do not remember his giant duck car (which can ride up stairs!). Or him teaming up with Catwoman to take down Batman.
I vaguely remember Batman being framed. At the time of writing and having seen this movie three days ago, I don’t remember what he was framed for. Something to do with the Batmobile mowing down people? I think they hacked into it and while Batman was inside, they controlled the car.
Everybody knows Batman is supposed to have contingency plans – but maybe not this Batman?
Anyway, this is basically an alternate universe take on Batman. At this point, if you want a true Batman story, you have to do the rest of the movies post-Burton or the animated series. Even Batman Begins (which I love and watched after this, and while it has its flaws, it never tries to be more than what it is).
Keaton is still my favourite Batman, though. Out of all the ones I saw growing up, he’s the one I remember. The one who made me like the character. His suit is cool. His gadgets are cool. His Bruce Wayne is a hot mess, but there’s enough cool to balance things out.
In a weird way, I still consider this to be my favourite Batman movie too. It’s a movie about nothing, but it got me into Batman. I can’t abandon it now! I’m not sure why the general consensus is that this is a good movie, though. Nostalgia? If it was so good, why didn’t Tim Burton do another movie? I’m just saying.
Although, we went from Burton to Joel Schumacher. I don’t think there was any upgrade there, but the Schumacher movies were fun to laugh at the very least. Burton’s were kooky and adventurous, if not an indication that he was uninterested in the source material. Nolan took a darker approach but retained the spirit of Batman. Snyder…I am on record as saying that Keaton is better than Batfleck. I think Zach Snyder’s universe strips away why people like heroes so much in the first place.
We have “The Batman” coming soon featuring Robert Pattinson. It will be dark, gloomy and the fans will love it until they don’t. Just my two cents.
Anyway, this was a lesson in how perception can change when you grow older. And how some things just aren’t timeless. Smallville, to name a superhero adaptation, has that kind of timeless feel to it because we’re seeing the characters over a long period of time – making them seem real and with clear-cut motivations.
Batman Returns fails on that basic level.
There is no story here. We get a back story for Penguin, but it doesn’t help us understand why he wants to kill Batman.
In the end, we’re left with a broken Batman that we never really explore. The better title for this movie would have been Batman Exists (Barely).
Someone came to the same conclusion before I did – most of us haven’t seen the movie for so long we don’t know how bad it is. It’s kind of funny in a way.
This entry from the notes they made says it all:
After Penguin receives a note from Batman stating that his plot was foiled, the movie jumps the shark as Penguin gives a motivating speech to an auditorium full of penguins. Because penguins fucking understand English. Penguin has all of his penguin-troops armed with missiles, and instructs them to go above ground to kill all the children of Gotham. Meanwhile Batman is traveling in his Bat Boat underground in search of Penguin. Trust me, I really am trying to appreciate this movie.
Penguin literally has henchmen penguins in this movie.
Rating: 5/10. I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching, but I made it until the end. I also like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman a lot, so… it gets extra points for that.
Has anyone seen Batman Returns recently? What did you think of it?
I also want to watch Casper for the first time since the early 2000s but now I’m scared, LOL.