YMMV: Batman Returns

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Were Tucker and Esther Cobblepot really Abusive Parents, or were they Well Intentioned Extremists who wanted to spare their son the misery of growing up as a "freak"? When Oswald speaks to the press after "rescuing" the Mayor's baby, he seems to suggest that they were the latter ("....what I guess they felt they had to do....").
    • Here's a third one: they did it to protect others from Oswald. It's regarded that kids torturing/killing animals is a sign something's not right in the head and the kid might grow up to be a serial killer; right before they tossed him, Oswald did kill the family cat, who just got near him.
    • On a fourth hand, they did have baby Oswald in a CAGE. Was he really a monster or could they not see past his deformities, hence providing the mental aspect that did make him a monster?
    • Did Max really care about his son enough to let Penguin take him, or was he smug enough to believe he'd come back unharmed, and making a heroic gesture like that would fuel his good image to the people of Gotham.
    • Does Batman himself have any kind of actual character arc in the film that could then reasonably be reflected in Batman Forever? He goes about his work in much the same way as the previous film, with the death of at least one mook on his hands, yet in Forever he seemed to regret doing things like this. Could it be that he saw what the cycle of revenge and violence was doing to Catwoman and it gave him a wake up call, forcing him to rethink his own life?
    • Is Catwoman basically a zombie? Or otherwise animated by some supernatural force? She dies after an incredible fall, is somehow "licked back to life" by alley cats, survives another 8 deaths, which even by the fantastical standards set by the first film is pretty out there.
  • Anvilicious:
    • "It is human nature to fear the unusual. Perhaps, when I held my Tiffany baby rattle with a shiny flipper instead of five chubby digits, they freaked." (Oswald is just milking the citizens for sympathy.)
  • Awesome Music:
  • Crowning Movie of Awesome: According to the critics, for the pre-Nolan Batman films. It has the highest critical rating of any of the original 4 Batman films and while it remains divisive, it is widely seen as the deepest and most intellectual of the original run of films.
  • Contested Sequel: Fans of the first film and of the Batman films in general are split on this one: Some see it as the best of the pre-Nolan films, some see it as somewhat inferior to the first but better than the Schumacher films, some feel its darkness is too overwhelming even compared to the first film, and some just think it's the best Batman film, period.
  • Ending Fatigue: Batman takes out Penguin's gang and saves the day. Then he has to confront Shreck and Catwoman. Then we see Penguin die from the earlier attack. Then we see Bruce take in Selina's cat and the camera pans in to see Catwoman who is Not Quite Dead. Then it ends.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Catwoman. Just look at that outfit.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The tagline for Batman Returns was "The Bat. The Cat. The Penguin." In 2014's Birdman (unrelated to the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name), Michael Keaton (who plays an actor who in turn plays as the eponymous superhero) would be the one who is a bird themed character.
    • Michelle Pfeiffer plays Catwoman, Batman's most famous love interest in this film. A few years later she would play the love interest and wife to Moses, voiced by fellow Batman actor Val Kilmer, in 1998's The Prince of Egypt.
    • Batman record scratching a cd, which uses lasers, was ridiculous then, but now there are record players that can use lasers instead of needles.
  • Hollywood Homely: Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle. In the time period the movie seemed to be mimicking, executive assistants and secretaries weren't hired for their office skills but for their... ahem... other assets. The movie itself showed that Selina was treated bad mostly because she was so timid she was intimidated just by being in the same room as a bunch of people. But, in her favor, she is also shown pre-transformation as intelligent... just overlooked due to the sexism of her workplace.
    • Completely averted in a coloring book published to market the movie to children, where Selina is depicted as a big-haired, Barbie-like blonde babe without glasses even before her transformation into Catwoman. (Kind of understandable since the activity book was for little kids, for whom Beauty Equals Goodness.)
  • Ho Yay
    • You have to admit that, as far as the unsuspecting citizens of Gotham are concerned, there's something strange about the mysterious closeness between the Penguin and Max Shreck - and not just because the Penguin calls Shreck "Maxie", which is a very affectionate name for a man he's known only a few days. Consider: From the very beginning, and even before he sponsors the Penguin's mayoral campaign, Max is always beside Oswald, always shielding him from the press and standing up for his rights, when there doesn't seem to be any reason why Max should care. (We know, of course, what's going on between the two of them, but the characters in the movie itself can only speculate.) Of course, given what a Manipulative Bastard he is, it wouldn't be out of character for Max Shreck to subtly lead the media to believe this, in order to divert attention from his well-publicized power plant]].
      Reporter: What's the deal, Mr. Shreck - he a personal friend?
      • Shreck's plot isn't diverting attention away from the power plant, it's getting someone who will approve of it.
    • The Les Yay is much more apparent between Catwoman and the Ice Princess. It's not enough to tie the girl to a chair; Selina has to physically humiliate her further by tightening her whip around the Princess's throat so that she almost chokes and then literally dragging her up to the roof.
      Catwoman: Gotta go...girl talk.
      • It must also be mentioned that, in the novel, the Penguin reflects on how sorry he is that he had to kill them both, since he had really wanted to arrange a menage a trois.
  • Iron Woobie: Bruce Wayne at the end. Also Catwoman, considering she gets shot four times and thrown off three buildings.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Even those who dislike the film are willing to admit that Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito turned in great performances.
  • Love It or Hate It: Some fans think that the dialogue, acting, and overall tragic feel to the film gives it a weight and maturity that the other movies just don't have. Other fans believe that this movie is unreasonably dark and depressing, while simultaneously being completely ridiculous. The critics are similarly split.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Bruce Wayne... why are you dressed up like Batman?" Naturally, this requires a Christopher Walken impression for the full effect.
  • Misaimed Marketing: This is not a kids' movie, not by a long shot, but McDonald's had Happy Meal toys made of it. After the parental backlash, McDonald's pulled the toys.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The Penguin crossed the line after he had to ditch the mayor campaign and decided to kidnap all of Gotham's firstborn children, including the babies, with the intention of drowning them in a deep puddle of Shreck's industrial byproducts.
    • The brilliance of Penguin's character in Returns is that he was already on the other side of the line from the start of the movie. His reemergence into society, his attempts to gather census data on the populace of Gotham, all done from the start so he could identify and kill the first born children of every wealthy family in the city. It is even implied that he's already murdered children back when he was the "bird boy" at the Red Triangle Circus's freak show.
  • Narm Charm: The Penguin's death. When Oswald, wearing pajamas, asks for a drink of ice water as his last words, falls over dead, and is ceremoniously pushed into the sewer by six emperor penguins, acing as pallbearers, while sad and dramatic music plays in the background, it should be completely ridiculous! But somehow, it isn't. The scene still works, and is actually rather moving.
    • Selina's aforementioned Freak Out can definitely be this too- though some would fail to see it as Narm at all.
  • Nightmare Fuel: With surprisingly gross behavior from the Penguin (i.e. biting a man's nose and his death scene where carcinogens pour from his mouth). There's also Selina's breakdown and Max Shreck's demise.
    • And the Ice Princess falling to her death - especially since we see her screaming all the way down and hitting the ground. Even Die Hard didn't do that, and that was an R-rated movie!
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo game adaptations are actually fairly good, fun adaptations.
  • Older Than They Think: Despite being a Darker and Edgier movie from a Darker and Edgier time, the primary villains have major callbacks to their Silver Age incarnations: Penguin's gang and weaponized penguins wouldn't have been terribly out of place in the Adam West TV show, and Catwoman's personality shifts were the explanation given in comics for why Batman was Dating Catwoman — he wanted her good personality.
    • The plot with Penguin running for Mayor of Gotham is actually a direct lift from the 60's Batman TV show ("Hizzoner The Penguin"/"Dizzoner The Penguin"), adapted of course. Although in both scenarios he loses.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Former San Diego Chargers punter Gregory Cummins as the bizarrely tattooed Acrobat Thug. ("I'm not really one for speeches, so I'll just say 'Thanks!'")
    • Steve Witting as a disastrously tactless campaign worker who gets a vicious bite in the nose from The Penguin.
    • Lisa Guerrero as a volunteer who gets not-so-subtly groped by the Penguin. She's credited as "Campaign Bimbo".
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Batman sticking the bomb he stole from the thin clown on the circus strongman - with a smile. A rather sadistic smile. Before tossing him down into the sewer to be blown up. Like the 1989 film that came before it and the films that came after it, some deaths in Returns could be said to be Batman "not saving people" or "not being able to save people" (or in the case of the Scary Black Man Batman killed during the 1989 film's cathedral climax after said Scary Black Man completely kicked his ass arguing self-defense since killing the Scary Black Man was the only way to stop him) but what he did to the strongman was simply and undeniably a case of him just straight up killing someone when he didn't have to. The comic book adaptation actually changed it to Batman not killing the strongman at all by just throwing the bomb into the sewer to detonate without anyone attached to it.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Depends on which systems were released for.
    • The Konami games for the Nintendo systems were well-received. For the longest time, the Super Nintendo version was considered the best Batman game ever released. (Until, you know...)
    • The Sega games for the Sega systems received mixed reviews (although the driving sections in the Sega CD version did score a decent reception).
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: Selina's apartment, before her Evil Makeover. Seriously, what grown woman has that many stuffed animals, dollhouses, and pink stuff everywhere? This may be a sign of an already present mental imbalance (i.e., she is the type to cover everything with optimism).
  • Tear Jerker: The Penguin's funeral when the penguins gather around him and drag his body into the sea.
    • "Don't pretend this is a happy ending!"
    • The Penguin's speeches about being abandoned by his parents. They're a ruse to earn him sympathy, but that doesn't mean he pulled those lonely feelings out of nowhere for his act.
  • Uncanny Valley: Shreck comes across as a deliberate version of this- he is always quietly sedate, even when he's been kidnapped by a deformed man-beast and dragged into a sewer, and shows a disturbing lack of empathy. Overall it makes him come across as inhuman, almost vampiric, contrasting with the more bizarre looking yet significantly more human leads. It also makes his rare outbursts of anger much more jolting or even terrifying than they would be otherwise.
  • Vindicated by History: Audience reception to this movie was mixed to negative, with many people finding the movie weird and/or disturbing. In fact, Batman Forever was much better received in 1995 for being more of a popcorn flick. Now over 20 years later, while Batman Returns still has a large amount of detractors (mainly for liberally adapting the source material and Batman playing second-fiddle to the villains, though even Christopher Nolan's Bat-films have been criticized for the latter), just as many people consider it the best Burton/Schumacher film, if not the best Batman film, period. It has the highest rating on Rotten Tomatoes for the Burton/Schumacher series. (Forever, meanwhile, is often ranked by fans somewhere near the bottom of the barrel, thanks in part to its own sequel.)
  • What an Idiot: When Max Schreck sees Batman unmasked, he says "Bruce Wayne? Why are you dressed up as Batman?" Selina quickly points out that Shreck is a moron. He gave Selina another excuse to kill him after he apparently shot Batman in front of her. He had his armor on and Max was unfortunate enough to miss his exposed head.
    • Batman himself for unmasking in front of Shreck. True he was trying to get through to Selina in the hope of making her snap out of her Catwoman persona, and his own emotions may have been rattled by her plight, but it was still a dumb thing to do in front of the villain.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: The name "Red Triangle Gang" may at first seem random, or as an ironic nod to the circus troupe's colorful and innocent origins. But in fact, the "red triangle" is a fairly common antifascist symbol in Europe - a sort of Insult Backfire, since it was affixed to the jumpsuits of political prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps.