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Why is Batman in this movie?
I had an odd experience with this movie. The first time, I only watched about the last forty minutes of it. I very much enjoyed what I saw. A bleak, morose, oddly humorous atmosphere, top-tier action scenes, and effective characterization.

The second time, though, I had the opportunity to watch from start to finish, and at this juncture I was disappointed. It took me a bit to realize why, but then it became obvious. Who the heck is this Bruce Wayne guy, and why am I supposed to care about him?

Don't get me wrong- I love Batman, but here he has no character arc. He watches stuff happen every so often, then he punches things. The punching things part is great, by the way, but it's something any action movie hero can do. This is Batman. I expect a little more than that out of him. Whenever I see him on screen here, I just get bored waiting for one of the more interesting characters to show up.

The movie was just a lot better when I came in two thirds of the way through guessing what had happened so far. This movie has a very long exposition, a very long finale, and a comparatively brief period where roughly a dozen important plot related events happen so quickly that it just gave me a bad Fridge Logic headache. The eighty minutes I imagined this movie started out with turned out to be a lot better than the ones they actually filmed.

Here's what would have been better- just take Batman out of the movie altogether. Render his narrative roles to Catwoman. That would have given us a lot more time to focus on the remaining characters, and it would have given us a much more satisfying denouement. Batman manages to foil all the evil schemes in this movie through "jamming signals", which for all practical purposes is a Deus Ex Machina. He becomes a Boring Invincible Hero whose only real motivation is "be a good guy". Catwoman, by contrast, isn't invincible at all, and probably could have at least gotten some decent dramatic tension, not to mention the Character Development necessary for her to fulfill Batman's narrative roles while still keeping her own.

Admittedly, this makes it not really a Batman movie anymore, but let's face it. Out of every character in this movie, his arc is without a doubt the weakest. My recommendation? Do it like I did the first time and only watch the last forty minutes. You're not missing much.
Batman is always The Stoic and The Unfunny when compared to his more colorful villains, better writing makes him just as crazy as his enemies, and that makes the stories more interesting, but as much as I love the guy Tim Burton is not a great writer of subtle characters, and I don't think that Michael Keaton is the greatest of actors.
comment #2419 Phrederic 2nd May 10
Conversely I feel that this film was so brilliant because Batman was forced into a ridiculously complex plot driven, you're right, entirely by the villains. I think that his role in the film was unbelievably important as it was psychological test of faith for him. Note that his very belief system is shaken to the core, and even he begins to question whether he is insane or not, and whether what he does and the reasoning behind is even right.

The Penguin: You're jealous, because I'm a genuine freak - you have to wear a mask. Batman: Maybe your right.

But if this film had been all about Catwoman with Batman as a side character, whilst I wouldn't have loved it as much, I feel it could be pulled off. Better than that Halle Barry movie at least *shudders*
comment #2422 iwintheinternets? 3rd May 10
@Phrederic um what? Michael Keaton is a terrific actor because he is a versatile one. Say what you will about his Batman, but Keaton is a terrific actor.
comment #15738 jbiebz 9th Aug 12
What the hell? Of course Batman isn't that developed,...it's the sequel to the 1989 film (which is still the best of them all on paper). It's still made to assume you've seen that film so you know what you need to know about him.

Batman has very little arc in The Dark Knight yet no one complains about that,...it's outright hypocritical to praise that film for how it has a very Villains Act Heroes React plot,...and then trash this one. That's the point,...the first film in each canon establishes the hero,the sequel is about the hero still sticking to it (As is the case of Spiderman,Superman,The Amazing Spiderman,Batman Forever,Batman,and Batman Begins)

And whaddya' mean Burton isn't one for subtle? '89 was all about subtle concerning Batman,one sentence Keaton spoke told more about why Batman is Batman than the whole Nolanverse (let alone the Schuniverse) has done in three movies. Returns likewise used the ballroom to do what The Dark Knight tried to use most of the movie to do.

There are plenty of problems with Returns,but Batman is not the problem. Not following up on the creation of Two Face is the problem
comment #15739 terlwyth 9th Aug 12
Villains Act Heroes React isn't really fair because the Joker's plot is all about Batman, seeing if he can break him, seeing if he can survive. The plot of the whole film directly centres around Bruce Wayne's character and whether he has the strength to resist the psychological pressures of the new situation. So whilst he doesn't have an arc as such, he is developed, because we now know what Batman will do when pressed right up against the wall which we didn't and he didn't at the start of the film. Will you take the responsibility and keep on doing the right thing if someone kills innocent people before you do is an interesting character question in every situation really.

comment #15746 Tomwithnonumbers 10th Aug 12
Catwoman's plot was pretty much the same,and more believable since it had a bit of an Its All About Me vibe instead of being this unrealistic "force of death". And there was both the desire to break Batman and revenge on Shreck. And it isn't like Batman in Returns doesn't question if what he does is the right thing,...there's a reason that Ballroom scene has Bruce go only as Bruce,..and besides lots of what Batman does is found by the actions,it speaks for itself.
comment #15752 terlwyth 10th Aug 12
Fair enough
comment #15765 Tomwithnonumbers 12th Aug 12
I very strongly disagree with both the assertion that Batman is not a major problem in Returns and that the ending with Two Face was a major problem in TDK. We are supposed to see Batman as the moral authority in Returns. Not once in the movie is there a real hint that maybe he's doing something wrong. In that sense it is more like the Adam West version than the previous movie or even Batman Forever. The most we get are a couple of throaway lines about masks and freaks that should have been explored instead of just thrown away. As I said in my review, there is a huge cognitive disonance between what he tells Catwoman about the law applying to all of them and the way he's been murdering people in cold blood the whole movie. It would not be a problem if the movie pointed it out, or showed that he had decided to change his message. But we are supposed to assume that what he says there is what he stood for from the start, which is insulting.

As for the Two Face thing, what good would be served by making him another gang boss, which is as far as you can go with him. There is only so much the tragedy of his origin can carry a 2 plot where he is the bad guy and have him be anything special. He had his rise, fall, and a shot at redemtion which he failed. His arc was complete, and it fit in perfectly with the Joker's plot, with the themes of the movie, and with the questions of who and what Batman is. There really was no need for more. As Catwoman said in returns, he was much, much more powerful as a martyr.
comment #15775 uncannybeetle 13th Aug 12
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