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The Penguin was not kidding…
…the whole movie is Max Shreck's nightmarish Dying Dream. In the dream he does things like giving in to his long-held impulsion to kill his obnoxious secretary, and he also sees his old business rival Bruce Wayne as Batman, because… why not? Both their names begin with B! And then there's the stuff that's just plain Dream Logic only a feverish brain could cook up, like the steampunk bomber-penguins. This also serves to explain why Shreck looks so indescribably nonplussed-but-mildly-surprised throughout the whole movie — that's very much the face someone would wear while half-consciously living through a particularly weird nightmare.

Catwoman is a Lannister
"Hear me roar." Also, hair color fits.

Crazy Steve replaced Batman for most of the film

The Agony Booth review suggested this, but it would actually explain the film's inconsistencies. In the first film Batman only killed one person in extreme self defence, never seemed to enjoy it and even tried to save Jack in the chemical plant. In Returns he goes out of his way to blow up mooks while grinning. After the Batsignal summoned him Steve intercepted Bruce, knocked him out and stole his suit and took his place up until the third act. Bruce eventually took him out, which is why Batman is suddenly against Selina killing the man who murdered her in cold blood despite being a ok with blowing up some random goon for giggles. In fact Bruce was so ashamed of what Steve did he completely forswore lethal force for the rest of the series.

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  • Or it wasn't until seeing someone else going down the same path that he realized how far he'd fallen and turned away from it. He even warns Robin away from following that path in the next one.

The infamous missing eye makeup was no mistake.
Batman has been known to look different from the perspective of others, the guilty see nothing but shadow especially around the eyes. Whilst the innocent do see the clear face since they have nothing to fear from him.

The Penguin murdered his parents, then pretended to discover their graves.

This is actually not so much a WMG as a legitimate part of the movie, which becomes increasingly clear if you look over the script or read the novelization.

Chip Shreck would have become a villain in Batman: The Animated Series.
Originally Max was intended to appeared in the cartoon where he apparently survived his ordeal with Catwoman, before they created Roland Daggett instead. But since Max is clearly dead, it seems more logical that his son take up the role. The death of his father would have contribute to his slide to villainy, since he's already like his father (as he's aware he pushed Selina out the window).

Bruce Wayne is a coulrophobic Fantastic Racist.
Why is Batman so unnecessarily brutal in dealing with the Red Triangle Gang, to the point of outright slaying two of its members? The answer, of course, is because they're clowns (well, most of them, anyway), and it had been established that Bruce Wayne has serious issues with comical white-faced characters. Recall the scene in the 1989 film when he's at the steps of the courthouse and shoots a Death Glare at those mimes; this is before he knows they're working for The Joker, and even before he knows that the Joker exists! It makes it hard not to wonder: perhaps Jack Napier didn't kill Thomas and Martha Wayne. We're never told exactly what kind of movie the Waynes went to see that night. Perhaps it featured a particularly terrifying Monster Clown as its villain, and young Bruce naturally conflated that memory with the one of his parents getting shot. So when Napier suffers an accident that turns him clown-faced, Wayne makes him a scapegoat for the tragedy, conveniently "remembering" that the murderer also made the "pale moonlight" reference when in fact this is a rationalization his mind made up! Now Wayne just hates all clowns, or anyone who looks like a clown, and if they're criminals - even relatively harmless ones - they deserve to die.

Max Shreck is the Penguin's older brother.
Based on a draft of the script.

Harvey Dent was disfigured sometime between the first movie and Returns.
Ignoring actor switches, in the first movie, Harvey is seen being extremely politically active in Gotham's affairs, but in
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Returns, he's completely absent, even though, based on what we've seen, he would likely be working as closely with Gordon and the Mayor against the Red Triangle Gang were he in office as he was against Grissom and the Joker. Since he was only removed from office by Maroni's attack, it's very likely he was scarred before Red Triangle became active, regardless of whether he became Two-Face shortly afterward or disappeared for awhile before becoming a supervillain.
  • Probably jossed, since it was mentioned in the Batman Forever novelization that he helped Batman clear his name.

Max Shreck was friends with Dr. Victor Fries.
Among the photos of Max posing with various celebs, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis Jr., on his office 'Hall of Fame,' is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or is it, in fact, an in-universe photo of a younger pre-accident Dr. Victor Fries? According to the Batman & Robin novelization, Dr. Fries was not merely an award-winning scientist and cryogenics genius, but he was also a famous Olympian, which might, thus, explain why Max was so keen to be seen appearing alongside him. Might Max have been the one funding Fries' research, and might he also have been the one who 'pulled the plug' on Fries' on it, thus prompting the latter to cut the corners that later led to his tragic accident (and making Max, the live-action universe's equivalent of Ferris Boyle from Batman: The Animated Series?). Or, here's another theory: Fries has personal animus towards Batman, because he holds Batman responsible for his associate, Shreck's death, which, in turn, led to a change in Shreck Enterprises' fortunes, the funding for Fries' research, and, thus Fries' accident. Or, how about this theory: Chip, Max's abnormally-ripped son, who has often been likened to Schwarzenegger, is in fact, Fries' real son (conceived between Fries and Max's late wife, behind Max's back), and the son and heir, that Max is so intent upon assuring a future for, is, ironically, not even his own flesh and blood.
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