June 19, 2017
How about a Christmas movie in the summer? I love the snow, especially when it gets hot. Today’s retrospective is on 1992’s “Batman Returns“.
This movie was one of the first movies to really participate heavily in cross-promotional advertising with such sponsors as McDonalds. It was also one of the most violent Batman movies ever, which made their advertising partners a bit nervous.
“Batman Returns” was directed by the darkly creative Tim Burton, and it has an excellent ensemble cast, including Michael Keaton as an improbably terrific Bruce Wayne, Danny DeVito as the unhinged Oswald Cobblepot, Michelle Pfeiffer as an unexpectedly plain, but well-acted and intelligent crazy-cat-lady Selena Kyle, Christopher Walken as the aggressively villainous industrialist, Max Shrek, named after the actor Max Schrek who played the original “Nosferatu”. There are also excellent supporting roles including Michael Gough as the always-stable Alfred Pennyworth, Vincent Schiavelli as an intelligent right-hand man to Cobblepot, and Pat Hingle as the co-dependent Commissioner Gordon.
This movie earned some notoriety by having Batman rather casually blowing up an enemy clown with another clown’s bomb after Batman knocks the clown down a hole. You don’t see the clown physically destroyed by the bomb, but it’s a given, since the explosion occurs only a moment after the clown is strapped with the bomb and knocked down the hole. Personally, I found the bit where Batman rather casually catches a gangmember on fire with the turbine in the Batmobile more disturbing than the bomb. The clowns are part of the same gang. The gangmember who is caught on fire was a flame-breather, and all the gangmembers appear to be fugitives from a circus. It doesn’t look like he will die from his injuries, but still, being set on fire is not a comfortable thing, and is in fact a rather disturbing and painful injury.
Anyway, I think that level of violence is inevitable for a vigilante, and I can easily see the Dark Knight becoming numb to the pain and suffering of his opponents, so I think this violence actually is a very good point of characterization of Batman at this stage in his vigilante career. Police Commissioner Gordon is just a little too comfortable with Batman and his level of violence, and shows a bit of dependency on Batman. That makes me wonder how effective the police force can be, if he is so eager to lean on the power of Batman. The Gotham Police may be great at handing out speeding tickets, but the SWAT gear is gathering dust, no doubt.
I still watch this movie from time to time, more frequently than it’s 1989 predecessor, so I happily give it two machine-gun umbrellas way up.