Earlier today I saw Batman Returns for the first time all the way through in about eight years, and I've gotta say, it makes a lot more sense to me now than it did when I was younger. Not coincidentially, I like it now a lot more than I used to.
It also helped that I had the captions on, so I was able to pick up on a lot of dialogue I'd never been able to hear before-- particularly some fantastic conversations between Danny DeVito's character, The Penguin, and Christopher Walken's evil Max Schreck.
I'd say that, by far, Batman Returns is the darkest of all the Batman flicks that have been released, though certainly Batman Begins (or whatever they're calling it now) has the potential to eclipse it.
Some things I never realized before about the movie that I know now:
--I could never reconcile exactly what Max Schreck's motivation for helping The Penguin was. I know now that it was blackmail, plain and simple-- here's a load of toxic waste from your supposedly clean textile plant, and the documents linking it to you... not to mention the body of your former partner. I really have no idea why I didn't realize this before. Certainly makes the movie a lot deeper to me, though.
--Christopher Walken's portrayal of Max Schreck is simply brilliant. The other two, “name” villians in the movie, you could sympathize with, you know? Catwoman got pushed off a building, and wasn't altogether stable even before that, thanks in no small part to Schreck himself. The Penguin was abandoned by his parents very soon after he was born-- hell, if you ask me, he's actually remarkably well-adjusted.
But Schreck is just evil, you know? He's after power, and power alone. The lone redeeming thing about him is that he's fiercely protective of his son Chip, and wants to leave behind a legacy for him. But that also serves as justification for all his evil deeds, so it's not a particularly good redeeming thing.
That's all right with me, though, because there are evil people in the world who are that way simply because they are. And no one portrays such a person in the movies better than Walken does.
--Michael Keaton's subtle approach to playing Batman is by far the best of all the movie Batmans in my opinion. Val Kilmer's Batman dug way too far into the psychological stuff, and George Clooney's Batman constantly felt the need to “bring the funny”. Keaton simply plays Batman with a brilliant sense of minimalism, but at the same time, you can tell that this guy's a very deep, complex character.
--I never realized just how much of an old horn dog Penguin is! They say guys think about sex an average of once every six seconds, but I think he's got even the best of us beat. Sex seems to be Penguin's primary motivation for doing quite a few things. It was the factor that sent him over the top and made him say, “OK, I'll be mayor”, and it was also his most important reason for temporarily teaming up with Catwoman.
Then again, I can't say I entirely blame him. Presumably, after all, he's a 35-year-old virgin. I remember how my late dog, who never had sex throughout his entire 18-year life, used to constantly hump people's legs. If I were a 35-year-old virgin, I'd probably be [more] nuts, too.
--So what's the deal with the penguins finding Oswald in the sewer, if they live at the zoo? I didn't realize the sewer and the penguin exhibit at the zoo were one in the same. Had I known that, maybe our fifth-grade class wouldn't have had to go on our fun-filled field trip to the water treatment plant. (I'd still like to know who the hell thought that was a good idea.)
--I still can't completely reconcile why Penguin turned against Schreck and wanted to kill him, though. It was Penguin's plan that enabled Batman to record his voice, and it was Batman who played the recording over the speakers at Penguin's campaign event. The audience threw eggs and tomatoes at Penguin, and Schreck's response was to simply shrug his shoulders and high-tail it out of there. As far as I can remember, Schreck didn't publicly renounce Penguin, though, so why did Penguin loose his venom on Schreck? 'Cuz he's nuts?
--And is it just me, or did Penguin have the most wussified death of all the Batman movie villians? Penguin falls thirty feet, into water (or sewage) for that matter, and comes up coughing blood, eventually falling forward and dying. Now granted, a 30-foot drop into water should kill a human being, but shit, Bond villians can survive far worse than that.
Contrast this with the other Batman villians' deaths. The Joker fell off a tall cathedral (and made a freakin' crater in the asphalt, no less), and Two-Face fell off a steel girder into a reservoir. I dunno, compared to those two, Penguin's death sounds more like a stunt Shane McMahon would attempt.
Overall, I'd rate this movie the highest out of all the Batman movies thus far, with Batman (1989) and Batman Forever coming in a close second and third, respectively. We won't even talk about the other one.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this movie?
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I always thought the main flaw with the Batman movie franchise was that the writers could never wrap their heads around the fact that Bruce Wayne is a seriously fucked up man. His parents were murdered in front of him and that screwed him up to the degree that he spent years and millions travelling the world to learn everything there is to know about combat.
The Spider-Man films captured a great deal of Spidey's motivation: He could have stopped the Burglar that killed Uncle Ben, but couldn't be bothered to. With Batman, he was too weak to do anything to save his parents, so he spent the rest of his life making sure he wasn't weak again.
Val Kilmer had the best portrayal of tormented Bruce Wayne, but Keaton was a more suitable Batman for the way that particular film was written.
Pecking Order: Batman, Returns, Forever, & Robin.
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Originally posted by Freeway420I always thought the main flaw with the Batman movie franchise was that the writers could never wrap their heads around the fact that Bruce Wayne is a seriously fucked up man. His parents were murdered in front of him and that screwed him up to the degree that he spent years and millions travelling the world to learn everything there is to know about combat
Exactly. Batman is not a nice guy. He's an emotionally disturbed vigilante who *sometimes* does things that the Police Commissioner and public agree with. He's obssessed and scary, if done correctly. Criminals should quiver when he approaches, not because he's a big bat, but because he just might seriously injuure them while taking them down. He softens somewhat when he has his protege, but really-the stories have to be character driven, not plot or action driven if WB wants to reap true success (and not just box office appeal--which it'll do anyway).
Batman as complex Anti-Hero is probably the best route.
Batman isn't really an anti-hero, per se. An anti-hero is not just a vigilante, but a guy who has little to no regard for the law as it pertains to his own ends. Batman respects the law. His primary motivation is to make sure no one else ever winds up like he did. He only wants to do the right thing and help people. Except it's not just a desire to help people, it's a total obsession with ending crime and injustice. I don't think Batman's a bad or scary guy, but he is fairly crazy.
On the topic of the movie, I always thought Batman Returns was always the most underrated of the Batman movies. I like it almost as much as the first one. As to why Penguin wanted to get Chip so much, it wasn't a specific vendetta against Shreck. Penguin was punishing all of Gotham by abducting all the first-born sons. Chip was just the most prominant number-one son in the city.
Batman Returns always hits a raw nerve with me. The movie is incredibly quirky and flat-out strange in some spots. The Artic World theme park seems a little far-fetched, as does Shreck's master plan. He wants to build a generator that would suck in all the power? Huh? Who is he, Galactus?
But the real raw nerve revolves around when I actually saw the movie. It was the first "date" I ever went on. It was with some gal whom I had been giddy over for roughly a year. I had to get up in the middle of the movie to puke, twice. Just like Stan in "South Park". Even worse, she fell asleep on me. Needless to say, she told me to get lost after the "date" and I was shattered for the six months or so. So every time I see "Batman Returns", I flashback to puke and adolescent dating.
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I always thought Keaton was flat out the best Bruce Wayne. Let's face it, almost anyone could play Batman once they get in the costume. I thought Keaton effectively captured the inner turmoil that comes with being Bruce Wayne. The scene that I always point to as evidence of this, and the scene that no actor play Bruce has been able to top yet, comes from Batman Returns. It's the first appearance of Bruce, when he's sitting alone in the dark in Wayne Manor, then standing up when the Batsignal turns on. I always thought that Keaton's reaction and expressions in that scene perfectly captured just what a messed up person Wayne actually is...
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