For this month’s first review for Genre Grandeur – Alternative Christmas movies here’s a review of Batman Returns (1992) by James of Blogging By Cinemalight.
Thanks again to Chris ‘Tank’ Tanski of Fright Rags for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Lisa Leehey of Critical Critics and we will be reviewing our favorite Unreliable Narrator Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Jan by sending them to unreliableLisa@movierob.net
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Lisa!
Let’s see what James thought of this movie:
Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992)
What’s Christmas like in Gotham City? “Just another day.” Except blanketed with snow. And with snow come penguins. And after the penguins come The Bat.
With the successes of Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands behind him, Tim Burton probably felt he could do no wrong. If studio executives didn’t quite understand what he had in mind, at least the movie-going public seemed to respond to it. And, indeed, he had much more creative control over Batman Returns than the previous one—the executive producers were off mis-managing Sony Pictures, and he had his choice of screenwriters, and he got to pick his villains—going with a trio of animal avatars: the bat, the cat and the penguin. Casting? No problem. Danny DeVito was just the right size and demeanor for Oswald Cobblepot, “The Penguin,” an orphan outcast manipulated by a toy magnate (Christopher Walken) into running for mayor of Gotham City and Michelle Pfeiffer camped it up (replacing a pregnant Annette Bening) as Walken’s harried secretary Selina Kyle, who would discover she may have nine lives, and thus become The Catwoman (“Hear me roar”).
That Cobblepot is, like Bruce Wayne, an orphan doesn’t get much emphasis so much as Selina and Bruce being a match made in schizophrenic heaven; the two even end up at a costume party being the only ones without costumes (because “just like work?”). Cobblepot is discarded by his parents, like Moses, at the beginning of the film and is raised by penguins in the sewers of Gotham City. As a punishment for his fate, he plans his own Slaughter of the Innocents. It is, after all, almost Christmas.
For the season, Gotham has its tree-ceremony and an honorary Ice Princess, but the city is not brightened by twinkly lights and still submerged in a dirty drab fascistic pall. That its festivities are presided over by Schreck’s Department Store—standing in for our Macy’s—run by Christopher Walken’s Max Screck, the puppet-master behind a planned power-plant—while his factories are already spewing toxic waste into Gotham’s sewer system. His veneer as a benign spreader of joy belies how he pollutes the city under its surface.
The movie made a lot of money, but, due to Burton’s penchant for the ghastly, upset a lot of children (or at least their parents) and a lot of studio execs who took angry phone-calls from the merchandisers who attached their products to a pretty grisly little exercise. But what’d they expect? Burton took The Penguin character and re-imagined him away from Burgess Meredith’s pfaw-Roosevelt, and turned him into a…freakish penguin-man, with flippers for hands, jagged yellow teeth, and what appeared to be black bile spewing from his mouth. The Catwoman was a split-personality (not unlike Batman, the script points out) who was more feminist statement than character. Aesthetically, it seemed like the movie was just a string of one-liners and ironies as opposed to being a solid screenplay. And its final line of “Peace on Earth and Good Will towards men…and women” rings a little hollow. The film did good box-office (though not as good as the first) and amidst all the outcry Burton was relieved of his Bat-duties (he exec-produced the next one in name only) and moved on, reputation a bit sullied.
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