Most people might think, “Oh, it’s a piece on Nightmare Before Christmas, I love that movie!" Well, I love that movie too, but this piece is actually on 1992’s big summer blockbuster Batman Returns.
In a world where Hallmark churns out seemingly unlimited holiday specials, and channels show It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story in infinitude, you sometimes need to mix things up a bit in your holiday movie viewing sessions. For me, Batman Returns hits all the right notes to bring a little holiday cheer into my heart.
Batman Returns is this glorious obscure mesh of over the top artistic set pieces, dark gothic tones, super hero antics, 60’s camp, inner turmoil, and it is all sprinkled with some holiday cheer. Or should that be fear? I mean, that Ice Princess certainly looked scared as she lit the ceremonial Christmas tree. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
Opening with the amazing shot of Paul Reubens as the Penguin’s father (which was great to see him reprise the role in the TV series Gotham), the entire opening credits acts as a dark reverse take on the Moses story. We see a baby born of the upper class cast off and floating down a river throughout the opening credits. This then takes the child into the sewers to be found and raised in poverty.
Nature versus nurture. How much of these characteristics define a person? Oswald Cobblepot is a truly tragic character. Not just some misshapen evil freak, there are scenes that when examined, you can feel for him. Taking a page out of the old Adam West Batman series, the Penguin makes a run for Mayor. The interaction and eventual acceptance amongst these people whom he had only been an outsider to for his entire life… you can feel the pain it causes him to have to revert back to his original horrible plans. For a moment there’s almost a glimmer of hope for him.
This in turn plays on the notion, does someone so utterly despicable, so grotesque in not just his looks, but his words and actions, does someone like that even deserve the chance at becoming something more? Can they? Did the course of his life make him this way when his parents discarded him, or would he have been just as much of a monster had he remained in a seat of wealth and privilege throughout his life?
Batman Returns also gives the gift that keeps on giving – Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. She absolutely steals every frame of celluloid she appears on from anyone and anything else unlucky enough to be onscreen with her at the same time.
Unfortunately, Batman Returns was one of the first to suffer from the “too many villains” syndrome, so we get less Batman than one would hope for because there’s Christopher Walken’s Max Shreck (named after the actor who played Nosferatu) that also takes up a good amount of screen time. Thankfully though, he is at least interwoven into Penguin’s and Catwoman’s stories enough that he’s generally third banana to all the second fiddles about.
So, put on your jammies and Bat-ears (or Cat ears or… penguin ears?) and get ready for a dark holiday treat. If you’re up for more holiday shenanigans after finishing Batman Returns, might I suggest popping in Gremlins or Die Hard next? You can thank me later over at totalgeeklive.com.