Headscratchers / Batman Returns

  • If the sewer water is supposedly toxic, then how can The Penguin's, well, penguins swim in it without suffering any effects whatsoever?
  • Why was the Red Triangle Gang kidnapping children in the events before the movie?
    • They're being led by the Penguin, who is a childlike monster who is essentially working through his anger at his parents by punishing dozens of other children, and treating them to the same thing. It's Penguin's plot all along, after all - his plan in Gotham is merely to use Shreck to gain access to places like the Gotham Hall of Records, take notes on that year's newborn children, and dump them in the sewer when the time came; He restarts this plan when his mayoral run gets derailed.
    • I doubt it was a dry run for the Penguin's ultimate plan. Given how the circus members seem to have reacted (I assume the fat clown was simply the only one brave enough to speak up), they were unaware up 'till then of exactly what the Penguin intended to do with those lists of children. My theory is that the screenwriter(s) were conflating some stereotypes about carnies/circus folk/traveling gypsies/other insular nomadic subcultures wherein it was said (however grotesquely inaccurately) that they would steal children. The usual stated purpose was that they adopted them and raised them to add to their own numbers. While the circus members are never explicitly stated to be in any way like that particular stereotype of traveling performers as child-snatchers, it does seem like this was intended as part of their backstory.
    • It may not have been the entire Red Triangle Gang, just the Penguin himself. But since children began disappearing anywhere the circus went (because he was a part of it), the entire troupe was suspected of kidnap.
  • Wouldn't the giant magnifying glasses mounted to the roof of Wayne Manor that catch the light of the Bat-Signal tip people off about Bruce Wayne being Batman?
  • Is pushing Selina Kyle into the street the best idea? Other people could see her falling out the window. Is he that cocky about his ability to not get caught?
    • It's (Tim Burton's) Gotham. He likely wouldn't have gotten caught, and even if he had he'd be able to charm and/or bribe his way out of the whole mess. Notice how the only things running up to help Selina were cats, no humans.
    • It must have very late at night or early in the morning given that Shreck would have had to have that talk with the Penguin and return to his office, and the latter likewise for Selina (who notes that she had to go "all the way back"), so it could easily be way past midnight, when very few people would be up and about in the financial district.
    • Plus, we see lots of garbage cans around her after her fall. So, she probably was pushed from a rear window into a filthy and deserted courtyard, nobody saw her falling, and people would only have found the body on the next morning, while taking the trash out.
    • The novelisation has his son Kip walk in on it almost instantly afterwards. Max starts stammering about how she fell and he tried to help her, and then Kip simply smiles and says, "She probably jumped." Max is then described as feeling incredibly proud of his son. Then they go home together and expect somebody to find Selina tomorrow.
  • Why does Selina talk differently as Catwoman? Based on Selina's character before the beat, I have trouble believing she'd be able to learn a new accent that quickly. Christian Bale talked differently as Batman because of strategic reasons.
    • She isn't really speaking with a new accent as much as she is giving her normal voice a sly, seductive tone. Completely justified; would you really want to hear Catwoman speaking with Selina's normal, manic voice?
    • Also, please consider what's known as Waitress Syndrome: a woman adopts a higher pitch in order to come off as nonthreatening and placating (y'know, like a waitress; note that as a "lowly assistant/secretary" Selena's not exactly going to earn points for adopting a stronger tone). Though of a lot of women get stuck speaking this way, it's quite common for arousal, anger or some other emotion or scenario to result in a switch to a lower pitch that comes from the diaphragm instead of higher up. It stands to reason that post-Freak-Out Selena isn't exactly in the mood for maintaining an ingratiating tone.
    • Is the obvious answer of "She's not trying blow her secret identity" not obvious enough?
  • The guided Batarang, the one Batman uses early in the film. Personally, I never had a problem with such an impossible gadget, it's a comic book movie after all... but why doesn't Batman use it ever again?
    • Because that dog took it.
    • I thought that thing was poorly executed. They should have made it bulkier and faster. As is, it looked like a thin piece of plastic that gently taps criminals on the forehead and into submission.
      • Actually, considering that it's Burton's Batman, it probably murdered the hell out of them.
      • It didn't murder them because those henchmen were seen in later scenes. One got arrested.
    • And why does the Penguin just throw it at the Ice Princess? I know that matches his "primitive wild-man" persona, but that's not who he really is.
      • That actually serves two purposes: first, it hits her in the head, knocking her out, making it easier for the Circus Gang to kidnap her. Secondly, the head wound gets her blood on the Batarang, making it easier to implicate Batman in the crime.
  • When a public zoo becomes condemned, is it customary for the staff to leave the penguins behind to thrive on their own?
    • Considering what a Crapsack World this is, I'm honestly not surprised; maybe the staff were ordered to euthanize the animals but couldn't bring themselves to do it.
      • I wrote a fanfic once that explained what happened after the Gotham police rounded up the child-kidnappers at the Red Triangle Circus (which occurred several years before the events of the movie). The Penguin and what few of his henchpeople were able to escape fled to Canada, where they lived for a time in the Northwest Territories and honed their cold-weather survival skills (which explains why they were able to comfortably inhabit the Arctic World exhibit). After a few years, they came back across the border and bounced around from one American city to another until Penguin had decided that the kidnapping furor had blown over and it was safe to return to Gotham City. According to my Fanon, then, it's possible that they stole some penguins from another zoo somewhere and brought them to Gotham with them.
  • Why does the snow float on water when Baby Oswald gets thrown into the sewer?
    • Ice floats just fine.
      • Ice may float just fine, but what we see in this scene are individual snowflakes, which would melt into the water.
      • Maybe there was a chemical in the water that pevented it from freezing at the usual temperature? So it was cold enough to maintain snow but couldn't freeze normally. We are told that there's toxic waste being produced an the Peguin ends up with a pool of it.
      • We're also told the toxicity levels are Shreck's fault, and if Oswald's a baby, Shreck can't be old enough to have a job, let alone run a company.
      • Not necessarily. Though rare, it is possible for people to own/run a (big) company at a young age. A recent example would be Facebook which was started by a guy in college.
      • Did you not notice that Chip Schreck wasn't exactly 20 even? Or Shreck's white hair? It's more than possible Shreck lead the company then to,he was certainly old enough
    • I chalked it up to Special Effect Failure and it was fake snow they used in the scene. Nobody realized it would float till too late to fix.
  • The "Gotham City: 33 Years Later" caption always left me scratching my head. The Penguin is only thirty-three years old? He's deformed, yeah, but not enough to make it undiscernable that he's obviously at least into his mid-forties.
    • He's lived underground most of his life, despite occasional trips to the surface and been exposed to chemicals and deprived of proper nutrition. Him looking much older than he is is no surprise.
  • I realize the answer is "there'd be no movie," but why didn't Penguin's parents just put him up for adoption?
    • They likely (and sadly correctly) assumed no one would want him because of his gross deformities.
      • They were rich, probably well-known people. If Oswald was somehow traced back to them, they would probably be incredibly embarrassed. And when you're a shallow rich asshole character in a movie, embarrassment isn't something you can get over too well.
      • Why only in a movie ? Shallow rich assholes don't take kindly being embarrassed in real life too...
      • He had more going for him than just his 'gross deformities'; before they got rid of him, he had bitten the doctor's nose off at his birth and killed the family cat as a toddler. He wasn't just deformed. He was violent.
  • So how did Selina come back from the dead, exactly? Are stray cats magic?
    • That was the point of her character. She was dead and then resurrected. I think that's pretty much canon
    • For the Evulz, really.
  • Why exactly was Shreck's plan with using Gotham's electricity? Why was he sucking power from Gotham and storing it?
    • One of Tim Burton's biographers theorizes that Shreck intended to "corner the market" on electricity (in Gotham, anyway) and sell it to the people at artificially high rates (since the stockpiling would enable him to claim that some of the power was unaccounted for).
    • Isn't this similar to what Enron would later do in real life?
    • This is precisely what Enron did. However, the actual "power draining" portion of the plan is not, as far as I'm aware, illegal, but their accounting practices. So, as long as he buried the terms of what the plant would actually do in Technobabble double talk, he'd have no reason to worry about it, making his attempted murder of Selena a bit unusual.
    • Except that the plans were implied to already be drenched in Technobabble, but Selena was smart enough to work out the true purpose of the "power plant" anyway, and could therefore explain it to anyone who was interested.
  • One plot point that makes no sense at all when Fridge Logic is applied to it is that people would actually believe that Batman would push the Ice Princess off a building. It certainly looked bad....but wasn't it completely out of character for Batman? Yes, he kills - but he only kills people who reasonably deserve it, and no one can claim that that girl deserved to die by any stretch of the imagination. And even if, by some perverse logic, Batman did think she deserved to die, why would a guy who's a known recluse and has been known to employ smoke bombs to mask his exit from a crowded area commit such a heinous crime in a place where he knew everyone would be able to see him? Considering all of this, it wouldn't be hard to arrive at the conclusion that Batman was probably framed.
    • The popular refrain about Batman is that "he's almost as crazy as those he fight". People decided he'd finally slipped.
      • All it took was one idiot opening his mouth and then mob mentality kicked in.
      • How exactly did they see Batman at the top of that building?
    • Because after the Ice Princess was kidnapped, Batman's batarang was found at the scene and a news reporter was pressing Commissioner Gordon on the possibility of Batman being the culprit. Given this, and the fact that Bruce notices a headline reading "BATMAN BLOWS IT" earlier in the movie, it's pretty clear the public was already beginning to lose trust in Batman (what little trust they even had). Seeing the Ice Princess herself fall from a building with Batman visible on the roof just so happened to fuel their already-seeded suspicions.
    • By this point in the series, he wasn't quite regarded as the hero that we the viewer regard him. He hadn't quite reached the level of celebrity that he did in Batman & Robin. So he stopped the Joker but is it implied that anyone other than Commissioner Gordon and a few top city officials knows for certain he's one of the Good Guys?
  • For someone who's allegedly lived almost all of his life in a sewer, The Penguin seems suspiciously well-educated. He knows what the Reichstag fire was, to cite a prominent example.
    • He didn't live in a sewer, even primarily. He worked for the Red Triangle Circus for many years, and he could have gotten his fellow performers to bring him newspapers and library books.
  • So, did The Penguin actually think the first-born sons of Gotham would just jump into a pool of raw sewage to their deaths because he was holding a cute umbrella?!
    • Well, it's either that or try to make a break for it - and considering some of the firearms the Red Triangle Gang had in their arsenal, that would not have been a good idea.
    • I always thought that he was just going to hypnotize the kids with the umbrella.
    • I don't think the Penguin was being completely literal when he said that, he was just taunting Max and being a sadistic A-Hole in anticipation as his plan neared fruition.
  • This is more of a Batman Forever headscratcher, but since it doesn't have its own page- why is everyone completely okay with Batman again by the beginning of Forever? The only person who could have spoken for him being innocent to his kidnap and murder charge was the Ice Princess, unfortunately said murder victim.
    • Odds are that what was left of the Red Triangle Gang, was rounded up and testified against the penguin as well as most of the other crimes they helped him commit. Penguin died so they weren't afraid of his wrath anymore.
    • Plus, when Penguin sent some of the gang members out to kidnap the first-born kids and Batman stopped them, it's implied that he took them to the police, so odds are Batman was able to clear his name.
    • There's also Selina. It's possible that she could have approached the police and insisted that Batman was innocent, purely out of remorse. Of course, one would wonder how she could clear Batman without revealing that she was Catwoman and was in on the Ice Princess's kidnapping in the first place, but then again she could have just explained the logic in the "Batman's-a-recluse" rationalization above - and that, coupled with the Red Triangle Gang's confessions, would be more than enough to exonerate Batman.
      • Peter David's novelization of Forever features a flashback scene where Batman meets Harvey Dent for the first time. Dent suggests Batman turn himself in for the events of Returns, and Batman comments "If you're referring to that business with The Penguin, his gang can tell you everything you need to know." before telling Dent where to find them. So, at least in the book, it was addressed.
    • Another thing is that Commissioner Gordon was unconvinced from the start that it was really Batman.
      • The last thing we see in the movie is the Bat-Signal, so Gordon clearly still trust Batman.
  • How did the Penguin get his hands on the plans for the Batmobile? There was no internet at the time, and even if there was, Batman would presumably be way too smart to put the plans on it.
    • For that matter, how weak is the Batmobile's floor that Batman can punch his way through it?
    • Penguin probably got the blueprints while searching through the public records.
      • Agreed. Batman is allies with the city and it's not necessarily a revelation of his identity to register the Batmobile with the city. I'm sure the 1966 Adam West Batman would have done so.
  • How did Batman find out about the rocket-armed penguins? The Penguin sends them out, then Alfred tells Batman, "the penguins are converging on Gotham Square," which as far as I can tell is the first either of them even know about them!
    • I thought they have a newswire
  • Why on earth does the police open fire on sight at Penguin after his bombed speech? Yes, he lost his temper and shot at the crowd, plenty of reason for an arrest, but since when have police officers tried to shoot a limping man in the back?
  • After the fight between them after the Ice Princess incident, why does Batman just leave Catwoman where she is instead of trying to get her arrested?
    • It's hard to focus on things like that when you're in danger of yourself getting arrested.
  • Penguin scolds Gotham's elite for leaving their children unprotected. Excuse me? These are people who could well afford a babysitter if not a full time nanny. The very wealthiest of them may even have a security team. It's very unlikely they'd leave their children completely unprotected.
    • By this point he's going well off the rails. He likely classes parents who go out and party all the time as emotionally neglectful, whether there's a sitter or not.
      • Which isn't that incorrect. Parents who can afford a full-time sitter or nanny could very well spend all their time out on the town, spending almost no time with their children, especially in Tim Burton's Gotham City.
    • What point (if any) that the Penguin makes is that they're not there when their children need them. He's just taunting them. He's revealed that their sons are all going to be taken, and now he's rubbing it in to increase their pain and misery.
    • What makes you think nannies and babysitters would deter the Red Triangle Gang? The Gang members probably just killed any caretakers who tried to stop them from abducting the children.
  • Why did Selina react so histrionically to Max's attempt to murder her? I understand that going through a window and hitting the ground several stories below would be, to say the least, an experience that would leave one badly shaken; and I'm certainly not trying to excuse what Max did. But, really...it's not like Max raped Selina or anything. It wasn't personal. You'd think Selina would just be happy to be alive and confident that she could bring Max to justice. She could have easily shown to the police her cuts from going through the glass, not to mention the bruises on her body she almost certainly sustained when she hit the ground. And she knew about Max's motive for the murder attempt, so she could have told just about anyone and gotten him investigated.
    • There's a few reasons for this, one of them being that attempted murder is actually pretty horrifying. While it's easy to be desensitized to such things in movies, the average person generally flips out at the realization that there's someone nearby who has motivation to kill them and isn't afraid to do it, and that coupled with the extreme stress and trauma of being pushed out a window and almost dying is enough to cause histrionics in certain kinds of people. In addition to that, Selina was already established as being a little...off. She stumbles and stutters through her life in a bit of a daze, reacts to everything as if she's suppressing her bitter and unhappy emotions, electrically shocks an unconscious mook for giggles, and has an apartment smeared with pink and sugary stuffed animals. She was already on the breaking point, and this incident is just what drove her over the edge. "Happy to be alive", "Confident", and "Cooperates with the police" are not phrases in her vocabulary.
    • For one, she wants justice and the police won't do anything. I see her more as a vigilante than a straight-out bad guy. She also hated Batman for killing her, so she's likely hate Shreck for the same reasons.
    • I always just kind of assumed she came back more than a little catshit crazy.
    • Wait...he tried to kill her and bullied and belittled her during her entire time under his employment and you can't understand why she tried to kill him? Add to the fact that she CLEARLY had a mental breakdown from her near death experience and years of psychological abuse and likeness that she's been pushed around all her life by men like Shreck,
    • To say "it's not like Max raped Selina" is a little callous. While rape and attempted murder are two very different crimes that can have varying psychological effects on different victims, it's not a stretch to imagine that the trauma they cause can also be processed similarly. Just as if Max had raped Selina, in the scene he overpowered her both emotionally and physically. He made her feel small and dehumanized her (in a kind of ultimate sense- her life was so insignificant that he had no qualms ending it.) Worst of all, just as if she had been raped, she has to live with the memory of such a horrifying event forever.
    • What makes you think the police would automatically take Selina's word for it, much less launch a full investigation of Schreck? Remember that the Mayor introduced him to the crowd at the tree-lighting early in the film as "Gotham's own Santa Claus", and Schreck himself threatens both the Mayor and Bruce Wayne over his power plant plans. Both the Mayor and Wayne should logically have a lot of power and influence in Gotham, and the fact that Schreck is comfortable taking them on shows that he has just as much influence, if not moreso. Schreck could easily call in a few favors and have the investigation quashed...and then push Selina out a higher window, figuratively speaking.
  • When Batman pushed Catwoman off the roof and she landed in kitty litter, how did that count as a death? Didn't the kitty litter break her fall?
    • The whole idea is that several of Catwoman's 'deaths' don't look so deadly - she seems to have survived through pure luck, leaving us in a 'Well, is this really supernatural?' state. Then at the end when Shreck shoots her, and she fries them both with the generator, it's Tim Burton finally confirming that yes, Catwoman did gain supernatural abilities.
    • The "in her head" theory doesn't explain her acquiring acrobatic abilities or knowing how to use a whip as an efficient weapon with no training or practice.
      • Harley Quinn combined majoring in psychiatry with acrobatic training, why couldn't Selina? In fact, the novelisation explicitly explains that her mother pressured her into taking kick-boxing classes.
  • Catwoman still had her whip at the end. She'd used it on gun-toting enemies before, and successfully. So why didn't she just lash the damn gun out of Max's hand rather than letting him shoot her four times? I know she thinks she's semi-immortal, but that wouldn't mean the bullets wouldn't hurt.
    • Depends on character interpretation, but it's possible that with the only person she loved her enemy and unreachable dream, no future, nothing to work for, and a severely damaged sense of personal identity, Catwoman was intentionally goading him into killing her. Or maybe she wanted to see if she actually was immortal. She's clearly not stable by this point.
  • Where the Hell do you get mind controlling rocket launching backpacks for your penguin army?
    • Well, his Red Triangle Gang friends were able to figure out how to hack into the Batmobile using blue prints they supposedly constructed from photographs of said vehicle, at least that's how it was in an earlier script if I'm not wrong. I wouldn't be surprised that they were able to create rocket launchers for Penguins. Especially using the money that Oswald probably got during his run for Mayor.
  • " And Bruce Wayne, why you dressed up like Batman?! " I...I, how could you even... Just why?
    • On one hand, it seems a little dumb considering what Max had already seen Batman do in the scene before unmasking and how bad Bruce played his rich idiot act around Max earlier, but on the other, it's the Bruce Wayne persona doing its job: He's so air-headed and distracted, people have a hard time registering that he's Batman even when they catch him red-handed.
    • I always assumed he was intentionally playing dumb in order to try and cause some sort of distraction. Especially at the way he says "was." If he wasn't, then wow.
  • How does Penguin not get sued or arrested for biting the guy's nose? You think that would hurt his chances of running for mayor.
    • He did it in Schreck's office, and we already know Schreck is good at hushing shady things up. He probably threatened or bribed everyone in the office.
  • Okay, so the citizens of Gotham immediately turn against Penguin because of an audio recording? Voice recordings can be manipulated and altered. Yes, we the audience know Penguin is a scumbag, but a voice can be imitated. If you heard an audio recording of a senate saying despicable things, would you believe it?
  • Why on earth would the circus people stay with the Penguin? They should hate him! He cost them their jobs; he makes them live in a freezing, smelly sewer; he sends them out to commit mindless acts of violence that never seem to involve theft or any other profitable crime; and he hits them or even kills them whenever he gets angry. And why would they decide to follow a disfigured young boy in the first place?
    • Likely fear and/or Stockholm Syndrome.
    • For that matter, did it ever occur to them what was in store for them if Cobblepot had actually been elected mayor? Shreck would have gotten his power plant, and Cobblepot would have access to all the fame and riches and women he could ever want...but what would his gang get out of it? Since the Cobblepot campaign was solely on an anti-crime platform, at best they'd all be arrested and locked up for years or even decades. Or Cobblepot might even decide to have them executed in a "Night of the Long Knives" reenactment. On the other hand, if they got lucky, Cobblepot would seize dictatorial powers and make them his personal death squad - and, let's be honest, that just wouldn't work. What chance would a band of carny sandinistas with some military-grade weapons have against the National Guard? Or the U.S. Army? Or even a U.N. peacekeeping force, if it had to come to that? Unless the Penguin has been running a secret terrorist cell somewhere, his reign of terror would be a very short one.
    • It's likely they're not all or even mostly his old circus mates. A lot of them are probably street thugs who would be in one gang or another anyway, they just happened to pick the circus-themed one.
  • That shady guy Max was whispering to when the Penguin's speech was being sabotaged. He looked really Mob-y. Does Max Shreck have - secretly, of course - underworld connections? If so, why didn't the Cobblepot campaign use them to create a crime wave throughout the city instead of the Red Triangle Gang? Surely someone would remember that they'd seen a kid who looked like Oswald in a circus once, and even remember which circus it was. Why give anyone the opportunity to put two and two together?
    • It may not have even been a mobster, just someone working for Penguin's campaign. Even if it was, organized crime is (usually) a quiet, stealthy game. Max would probably have a hard time convincing his mob connections to do something big, destructive, and public without risking their operations. On the other hand, the Red Triangle gang is by nature loud, senseless, and disruptive, and they were that way even before Penguin had them rioting to stir up controversy for the campaign.
  • Remember the unmasking scene near the end? Batman's mask seems to be made out of soft rubber if he can tear it off so easily. Isn't he worried some crook will accidentally rip it apart during a fight?
    • He's a ninja. If some mook can lay hands on Batman long enough to rip off his mask, then losing his mask is the least of his problems.
  • Just how can one leather coat can make an entire costume for Catwoman?
  • Why did Catwoman berate the woman she saved for "allowing" herself to get captured? The woman (like any other) was just walking down the street, and, through no fault of her own, was blind sighted by a would-be rapist.
  • Why does Max Shreck wear gloves all the time?
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