‘Batman Returns’ Review: This is a Christmas Movie?

Posted in The Screening Room by - December 19, 2014

I am honestly a little surprised that it is now six days until Christmas and I’m now starting to feel a little weird about this Christmas Marathon for Kulture Shocked. Honestly, Edward Scissorhands should have been the tipping point, but for some reason it was a disgustingly creepy Danny DeVito and a “hot-as-fuck” Michelle Pfeiffer that did this list in for me. What is even weirder is that I intentionally added meta Christmas films (without asking!) to piss off the editor and their juxtaposition to completely off the wall, unconventional Christmas flicks is finally starting to mess with my psyche.

Anyone I’ve talked to and mentioned Batman Returns being on the list just gives me awkward stares. “Why the hell are you watching that during Christmas?” is the usual question. So, I’ll answer. The entire movie is set during the holiday season. It is this fact alone, that this film makes it onto any “unconventional Christmas movie list”. If you were to remove that aspect of the story, this would be just a “normal” Tim Burton Batman film with a weird plot.

I have three favorite aspects to this film and it’s actually a little hard for me to put them in order, but I’ll do my best to keep it organized by priority. Firstly, I love the score by Danny Elfman. If you’re unfamiliar with his music, I think it’s fair to say you are what is wrong with America. A film’s soundtrack is the most important piece to me when reviewing it. Sound design and music create such an emotional enhancement to the performance by the actors that it supersedes cinematography and set design in my opinion, and Danny Elfman does just that in Batman Returns.

Secondly, and yes I know I said this in the Edward Scissorhands review, I actually really love Tim Burton’s work as a director. His vision and devotion to detail is second to none. Granted, he does not get any writer’s credits for Batman or Batman Returns, but the film still takes on his style. The dark colors, the use of practical effects and miniature models, the detail in his sets? It is safe to say that Burton has developed a “Tim Burton Style” of filmmaking, and I am a fan of it.

Lastly, (yes, I’m going to let the Frat Star out a little here…) Michelle Pfieffer is on her “A” game here. I’ll gladly and readily admit that I’m not super familiar with her work as an actress, only Scarface and The Witches of Eastwick come to mind, but damn, at 34 and in tight black leather, I don’t think The Penguin could have said it any better, “Just the pussy I’ve been lookin’ for!”

Now, bad puns by creepy Danny Devito aside, there are some very odd things in this movie. Most notably, the radio controlled penguins that are going to blow up Gotham City and only kill 100,000 people. Where the hell did this come from? For an hour and a half there is absolutely zero insight into this secondary scheme of the The Penguin. For a large portion of the film we are subjected to this absurd plot where The Penguin actually had a chance at becoming mayor! But considering that 16 years later, America elected its first non-white, non-Christian President, I guess story writers Daniel Waters & Sam Hamm were onto something here. 

Secondly, how the hell did the circus goons effectively bypass Batman’s security shield to monkey with the Batmobile?  This falls into my third most hated story device category: unanswerable plot hole that allows the story to continue (first one being time travel, second one being “odd coincidence that pushes the plot forward). Do you really expect us to believe that the Circus Gang goons have a device that at the press of one button disables to protective shield of the Batmobile, that they actually know how to install a wireless remote control device to give The Penguin control of it, and that they were able to put it back together and make it look like nothing ever happened? I call bullshit.

Despite any of the flaws I have or haven’t mentioned, I really enjoy this film and I can watch it any time of year. I will argue that Danny DeVito’s performance out did Michael Keaton’s and if you really want to get into that can of worms you can check out my article on Why Christian Bale is the better Batman. However, Batman Returns IS the quintessential unconventional Christmas film and is absolutely worth the watch if you haven’t seen it. Hell, Michelle Pfeiffer alone gives this movie infinite re-watchability status.

Final Say: Watch It

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