"Batman Returns" is not a good movie

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We're roughly one week away from the highly anticipated "The Dark Knight Rises", the epic conclusion to the Christopher Nolan Batman series. The anticipation has been followed by a ton of Batman-related discussion (at least for me), varying from favorite villains - to favorite Joker - to best Batman movie.

When people discuss the latter subject, I often hear people give praise to "Batman Returns". If you've read my post about Indiana Jones, then you're familiar with me theory pertaining to nostalgic movies - The fact that people love a certain movie because they remember enjoying it during their childhood, and because of this they fail to accurately judge the said movie as an adult. I can't help but feel that this principle applies to "Batman Returns".

Hey, it could be much worse. Your nose could be gushing blood!

I loved "Batman Returns" when I was a kid. Does that mean that "Batman Returns" is a quality film? Hell no. I loved Spaghetti-Os when I was a kid, that doesn't mean Spaghetti-Os is good food. It wasn't until I was 19 that I discovered how stale "Batman Returns" really is. One night, while on summer vacation from college, I was in the mood to watch Batman. I popped in "Batman Begins", which conveniently transitions into the 1989 Batman movie (this was before "The Dark Knight" came out). So I decided to marathon all three Batman movies in one sitting. By the time I got to "Batman Returns", I found myself getting really bored a half hour into the movie. I was just so disinterested in the plot, the characters, and unimpressed by the action that I never realized how mediocre the film is.

There's only one problem: Most casual Batman and movie fans have not seen "Batman Returns" since they were kids. So they remember it as a rather stellar film, a solid followup to the first Burton "Batman". So for those of you who have not seen it since your childhood, but don't feel like wasting two hours trying to prove me wrong, I did a running diary of "Batman Returns", noting the key flaws in the film. This is my indisputable proof that "Batman Returns" is simply not as good as you might remember.

00:00 - We begin the movie in a mansion, where we hear a baby screaming and crying. Some time passes, and the baby, who is now caged for some reason, eats the pet cat that walks by. Funny how the parents knew that their baby was some sort of monster BEFORE it ate a fucking cat.

00:02 - The parents walk into a cold, snowy park on a winter evening, and toss their baby into a river. How unoriginal! I liked this more when it happened to Moses in "Exodus".

00:05 - After we hear another masterful score by Danny Elfman during the credits, we see the baby dock in front of a group of penguins in Gotham City's sewer. Because that's where penguins are indigenous to: Metropolitan sewers!

00:09 - We're introduced to Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken) and Selina Kyle (also known as Catoman, played by Michele Pfeiffer), two of the villains in this movie. I think this is one of the flaws of this movie - With Shreck, Catwoman, and Penguin, the movie has three total villains . Not even "The Avengers" had this many villains. There should be a limit on how many antagonists there can be in a story.

Anyway, I find this scene very amusing because of the blatantly obvious sexism in this business. Shreck tells a room full of men during a business meeting "I'm afraid we haven't properly housebroken Ms. Kyle....In the plus column though, she makes a hell of a cup of coffee" as the room laughs. This was still the early 90's, right before women really started filing sexual harassment lawsuits.

00:12 - After Shreck gives an improvised, ass-kissing speech to the people of Gotham during the tree lighting ceremony, a giant Christmas present is wheeled in, and explodes with confetti as a bunch of clowns[1] and dudes with giant skull masks come out to fuck shit up. The police then call to throw the Bat Signal, because apparently the city of Gotham is too incompetent to organize any security or police perimeter for their tree lighting ceremony. It then cuts to the Wayne Manor, where Bruce Wayne (also known as Batman, played by Michael Keaton) notices the signal and gets up. I'll hand it to Burton here, he really knows how to kick things off. I'm pretty pumped right now, and I know that a lot of asses are about to be kicked.

This scene ALWAYS gets me excited.

[1]For those who are unfamiliar with Tim Burton's work, Burton is to clowns what Hitchcock was to birds, and what Michael Bay is to explosions.

00:16 - The ass kicking comes to a halt as Batman inexplicably rescues Selina Kyle (who for all he knows is a random ass woman) from a mugger, checks her out, and awkwardly stares at her for a minute instead of fighting bad guys. Sure, we have to establish the first meeting between Catwoman and Batman here, but there is no possible way that Batman could have known that she would play a huge role in upcoming events.

00:18 - Shreck finds himself in a sewer, surrounded by clowns and penguins[2]. We are now introduced to The Penguin (played by Danny DeVito). Following five minutes of painful dialogue, Shreck and Penguin agree to join forces after Penguin blackmails Shreck.

[2]It was not until I proofread this that I realized how absurd this sentence is. If you ever find yourself in a sewer surrounded by penguins and clowns, you're probably either dreaming, or on the best drugs imaginable. What's even funnier is that Shreck is a wealthy, accomplished businessman, and he handles everything as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Imagine if you were someone Bill Gates and found yourself in a sewer surrounded by penguins and clowns, would your first instinct be to have a rational conversation with someone?

00:24 - We cut to Kyle coming home to her apartment, further establishing her frustration with men as she states "Honey I'm home! Oh that's right, I'm not married", and hears a rejection message on her answering machine.

00:33 - We see that Shreck's attempt at killing Kyle by pushing her out of skyscraper window fails after Kyle returns home to her apartment, goes completely insane, and becomes Catwoman. I would like to point out here that we're 33 minutes into the movie, and Batman has been on screen for less than TWO FUCKING MINUTES. Is it just me, or is there way too much emphasis and focus on the villains? Not that there shouldn't be any emphasis on the antagonists, but Burton barely covers Batman's origins in either of the movies that he directed. Call me crazy, but I think that's a problem.

00:40 - Batman is driving through the streets Gotham in the Bat Mobile at night, not fighting any crime. So much for the whole mysterious persona and trying to fly under the radar. I find it amusing that he speaks to Alfred in his disguised, raspy tone. You know, as if Alfred doesn't know who the fuck Batman is.

Anyway, after Penguin and Shreck stage a baby rescue so that Penguin can gain the trust of Gotham, Penguin tries to attain Gotham's sympathy by setting out to find his identity. He discovers his supposed parent's grave and claims that he is Oswald Cobblepot. We then cut to a meaningless Catwoman scene, where she beats the shit out of a mugger and intimidates a woman, while announcing her new found persona, Catwoman. You know? I really did like Michele Pfeiffer's performance until this point.

00:51 - After 11 minutes of mundane plot points, we find out that Shreck has setup a mayoral campaign for Penguin, which sets the stage for one of the most uncomfortable moments in cinema history.

00:54 - FINALLY some action since the two-minute action sequence at the twelve-minute mark. Batman fights Penguin's Red Triangle Gang as they loot, vandalize, and destroy the streets of Gotham. This is Penguin's attempt to show how weak and spineless the mayor of Gotham is, so that he and Shreck can stage a recall election in effort to make Penguin the mayor. This is all apart of Shreck's plot to get his toxic power plant approved. Intriguing plot, huh?

The scene concludes with Batman, Penguin, and Catwoman all confronting each other for the first time. After Penguin flees the scene, Catwoman and Batman duke it out on a roof, resulting in Batman tossing Catwoman into a truck full of kitty litter.

01:02 - Penguin criticizes the mayor for not protecting Gotham during a political speech. The people of Gotham seem pretty enthused with the idea of Cobblepot being mayor. I'm surprised that any resident of Gotham would ever want Penguin as a mayor, considering that he

A) Has zero political experience
B) Violently bit an innocent man's nose and
C) Looks like a fucking mutant

Ignore those previous three points though, Burton uses logic less and less as the movie goes on. We then find ourselves in a bizarre scene where Catwoman uncharacteristically aligns herself with Penguin to take down Batman. In no order, these are the reasons why I hate/am confused by this moment -

1) Catwoman has been established as a man-hating feminist, but all of a sudden decides to join forces with a blatantly obvious chauvinist like Penguin.
2) Catwoman wants to suddenly get revenge on Batman, when she still has yet to take down the guy she has the most beef with, Max Shreck. You know, the same guy that eroded her self-esteem and pushed her out of a fucking window. If she's seeking Penguin's assistance, why not go for both? Or at least go after Shreck first.
3) For someone who loathes a male-dominated society, Catwoman seems to take no concern with the fact that Penguin is attempting to takeover Gotham.

01:07 - Bruce Wayne has an awkward date with Selina Kyle. All this fucking movie seems to be is a series of strange meetings and occurrences between the four main characters, where each of their dialogues explain what is going on. Is there any mystery to this movie? You might as well have an announcer and color-commentator analyze the story while it's unfolding.

The date comes to a screeching halt when Wayne notices that Batman has been framed. This results in an awful fight between Batman and Catwoman. Here's where I would like to point out why Christopher Nolan's Batman movies are hands down better than Burton's: Batman just does not feel like a big deal in the Burton films. Nothing against Keaton, but when I watch these Batman movies (especially Returns), Batman just seems like a man in a rubber suit that gets into fist fights. No creativity, no spectacular stunts. In Nolan's films, a lot of the suit's features play a purpose (bulletproof vest, metal wrists for combating sharp objects, graphite helmet). Furthermore, in "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", Nolan establishes that Batman is a supreme martial artist, and shows that he has rather impressive and crafty combat skills.

I feel that Catwoman shouldn't even stand a chance against Batman, and she manages to fend him off and kidnap a woman rather convincingly. I guess you could argue that Batman knows that it's Selina Kyle, and doesn't want to hurt her. But shouldn't Batman stand for justice and, I don't know, SAVE THE FUCKING GIRL AS OPPOSED TO WORRYING ABOUT A CRAZY BITCH LIKE SELINA KYLE. Nevertheless, I am interested in seeing how Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway compare. It should not be too difficult to top this.

01:18 - Penguin throws an umbrella full of bats at the kidnapped girl, which makes her squirm and fall off the roof that Catwoman set her up on (more on this in a minute). Batman just stands there, and does not make a move until she begins to fall. Then Penguin triggers a bunch of bats to fly from out of the big Christmas tree, sending all of the innocent people of Gotham into a panic. The police then rush up to the roof and shoot Batman, without asking any questions or investigating the situation. After all, why should the Gotham Police give Batman any benefit of the doubt? They only called on him for help in the beginning of the movie, not to mention the fact that he has helped protect Gotham numerous times in the past. Contradiction? Nah.

01:21 - While watching the residents Gotham panic, Catwoman looks a little disappointed and guilty after inadvertently helping Penguin kill an innocent woman. Here's a thought - If you didn't want the girl to die, then how about you don't place her on the ledge of a fucking skyscraper? Penguin ends up killing Catwoman for the billionth time. If this movie has taught me anything, it's that women make horrible antagonists.

01:30 - Penguin's popularity within Gotham goes up in flames after Batman exposes him at a rally by playing incriminating sound bites during Penguin's speech. I must admit, given all of the flaws in this movie, I honestly love DeVito's performance as the Penguin. I love every time he flips out, every time he gets excited, every time he gets angry, every time he's chauvinistic, every time he's disgusting, every time he delivers a comical one-liner. Even when he's sad, I feel a little sympathy for him. Can't knock DeVito's performance. It almost reminds me when Russell Westbrook scored 43 points in the NBA Finals in game four against the Miami Heat, and the Thunder still lost. Sometimes, even if you have a brilliant performance, you still lose. But don't worry, DeVito. You still have "Space Jam" and "It's Always Sunny" to look forward to!

"I believe the word you're looking for is 'AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!'"

01:35 - Bruce Wayne decides that he wants to attend Shreck's party at the last minute, because he thinks that Selina Kyle will be there. Alright, I love Michael Keaton. He was a great actor, but he really pales in comparison to Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. It's not even a fair contest. Given, Burton and the writers didn't give Keaton much to work with. I just feel that Keaton's Bruce Wayne is stale, uninspiring, and passionless in this movie. It didn't use to bother me, but after seeing Bale's performances, I cannot get past it. It's almost like dumping your girlfriend for a girl who you're more compatible with. Your new relationship is much better, but you feel bad because your ex did nothing wrong.

Anyway, Penguin crashes the party and announces that he, and his men, are rounding up all of the first-born children in Gotham so that he can kill them. Hey! That's two pages out of the book of "Exodus". Didn't expect this many Biblical undertones. Penguin seizes Shreck and takes him to his base in the sewer.

01:42 - 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.

01:50 - After a brief scuffle with Penguin, Batman once again stands there and does nothing while Penguin triggers his armed penguins. It's not until after the missiles launch that Batman decides to kick Penguin back into the sewer.

01:52 - Now we have a confrontation between Catwoman and Shreck. Perfect. This is exactly how I want any Batman movie to end - With a showdown between a minor Batman villain and a made-just-for-this-movie Batman villain. Batman tries to break things up, and informs Shreck that he's going to jail. Way to blow the whistle on Shreck during his party, asshole. Catwoman ends up killing Shreck, and her fate is unknown to the audience until you see her observe the Bat Signal just before the credits roll. Penguin then emerges from the water, only to fall down dead before his loyal penguins drag him back in. The end.

As you can see, "Batman Returns" simply does not hold up. If this running diary isn't enough evidence, then watch it yourself. I challenge you to do not get bored 45 minutes through. A lot of the movie doesn't make sense, the plot is stale, the characters are uninspiring, and I'm not too sure whether or not the movie takes itself seriously. While there are not any blaring plot holes, there are a handful of contradictions and inconsistencies within the story.

For a Batman movie, the movie seriously lacks action and, more importantly, Batman. As I stated throughout the diary, most of the focus is on the three villains, with minimal focus on the Caped Crusader. This would be more acceptable if Burton's first movie covered more of Batman's origins, sort of like how "The Dark Knight" focuses more on the Joker and Two Face because "Batman Begins" covered all of the essential Batman history. But that simply is not the case with "Batman Returns". The movie should be more about Batman than trying to cram in different villains and explain their respective roles.

I understand that villains needs back stories and explanation, but Burton should have chosen less villains to work with in the first place. After all, 1989 Batman movie only had one villain (the Joker), and that movie was pretty stellar. I highly doubt that "Batman Returns" could have been any worse had Burton chosen just one or two villains. Not to mention, Penguin is one of the least interesting villains in Batman. I by no means claim to be an expert on Batman, I have only read a handful of the comics, and most of my knowledge comes from my friend who has read everything on Batman[3], and reading random Wikipedia articles on fan sites (although I was able to read Detective Comic's "Secret Origins", which had a brief back story on Penguin). Nevertheless, I think that Two Face, Scarecrow, Riddler, Mad Hatter, Bane, and Mr. Freeze are far more interesting and in most cases better adversaries than Penguin.

[3]My buddy and I talked a lot about Batman last weekend. He brought up how Penguin is rarely a major player in any of the graphic novels. Whenever Penguin is mentioned, it's usually Batman using him as a lead. "Oh, there was a jailbreak at Arkham? Let's see if the Penguin knows anything about this!"

I feel that this movie was literally thrown together. It was like the studio wanted as many characters involved so that they could sell more merchandise, and bill as many big name actors as possible. After that was done, they tried to figure out a reasonable plot. I wouldn't say that the movie is awful, it definitely hits the spot for kids. The only problem is, with a PG-13 rating and all of the violence and graphic images, the movie is clearly not intended for children. Even diehard Batman fanatics would hate this movie, considering that Batman is the least emphasized character coupled with the fact that Burton urinates on any consistency with the comics. The reason why "Batman Returns" is so disappointing is because Burton actually did a good job with the first "Batman" film, and with nearly three times the budgets and a plethora of other possible villains he could have used, the movie could have been a hell of a lot better. And to be honest, I don't even think that "Batman Returns" will be considered the fifth best Batman movie of all-time after "The Dark Knight Rises" comes out, knowing that the animated "Mask of Phantasm" is held in such high regard.

Kids movie? Yeah, sounds about right.

I love Batman. The Caped Crusader will always be my favorite super hero, and I really wish that I could appreciate every interpretation of him. But "Batman Returns" simply does not hold up, and is a rather mediocre film. It's acceptable if you enjoyed it as a kid, but please don't embarrass yourself by saying that it's a "good movie".

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