After the success of 1989’s Batman, Tim Burton could basically take the franchise in any direction he pleased. Thus 1992’s Batman Returns, the Tim Burton-iest Batman movie that ever Burton-ed. (Translation: it’s weird.) When it first came out, audiences ate it up. And with good reason — Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken all deliver fun performances and Burton’s distinctive visual style hadn’t yet lapsed into self-parody. But there was also a lot of violent and disturbing stuff that caused parent groups to label the film too extreme for kids.
Watching Batman Returns today, what was once considered edgy seems positively quaint when compared to the visceral Christopher Nolan Bat-films to come. Also, much of the plot makes zero sense, begging A LOT of questions, like…
1. Why is it set during Christmas? It was a summer movie.
2. No, seriously, why is this movie set at Christmas? Penguin’s big plan is to murder a bunch of kids. At one point, he bites a dude’s nose and says he wants to teach a woman his “French flipper trick.” Every other word out of his mouth is a filthy pun. This movie is about as un-Christmas-y as you can get.
3. Wait, so Penguin’s dad is played by Paul Reubens? And his mom is Diane Salinger, who was Simone in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure? Does that mean that Pee-wee dumped Dottie, married Simone, changed his last name to “Cobblepot,” and spent his latter years as a wealthy Gothamite with a monocle and a freakish infant? Can we ignore Big Top Pee-wee and just pretend that this is Burton’s official sequel to his big screen directorial debut?
4. So Oswald was raised by penguins before joining up with the Red Triangle Circus Gang? Okay, fine. But then why does he drool black liquid? I don’t remember Morgan Freeman mentioning anything about that in March of the Penguins.
5. So Selina Kyle was resurrected by cats, huh?
6. Really?? Resurrected by cats? And that’s what inspired her to become Catwoman? So if, say, roaches had swarmed around her, she would’ve return to get revenge on her evil boss Max Shreck as “Roach Gal”?
7. Speaking of Max Shreck, what exactly is Christopher Walken doing in this movie? Oh, sure, he’s plenty awesome in the role. But his diabolical power plant scheme is set up as the movie’s big plot point and then it’s immediately dropped in favor of Penguin running for mayor. And what’s the deal with his hair? Was Christopher Lee busy?
8. Why didn’t Bruce Wayne fire Alfred after he let Vicki Vale into the Batcave in the previous movie? In Batman Returns, he gives Alfred grief for exposing his secret identity to a story-hungry reporter, but that’s about the extent of the repercussions from what was a huge blunder. You have one job, Alfred — keep Bruce’s one-night stands out of the Bat Cave.