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YMMV / Batman Returns

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Tucker and Esther Cobblepot have a lot of these.
      • Abusive Parents?
      • 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..."). But it's implied this is a speech for the cameras, and The Book of the Film implies he killed them...
      • 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 made him a monster?
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    • Shreck's love for his son. The movie leaves just enough ambiguity for us to question whether or not it's genuine. The novelization, however, states a few times that Max realises his son Chip is the only thing he's ever really cared about, even more than money, and is fully willing to seriously risk his life by taking his place.
    • Then there's Chip himself. In the movie, he's merely a spoiled rich kid with hints of being slow witted. The novelization, however, shows that he can be just as cruel as his old man. For example, the book has Chip actually seeing Max push Selina out the window. When Max tries to stammer out that it was an accident, Chip merely smiles and suggests it was suicide.
    • 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?
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    • Was Catwoman truly revived in a supernatural manner, or is it just her being delusional?
  • 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: Danny Elfman is on point, arguably even moreso than the previous film.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Danny DeVito's interpretation of The Penguin, a near-complete departure from the comic book character just as radical as what Heath Ledger would later do with The Joker. While Ledger's take on his character was critically acclaimed by everyone, even those who thought it too much of a departure, DeVito's is more divisive. Some think it's just as awesome, others felt it wasn't even the same character at all and a big contributor to the film's Darker and Edgier elements going too far, some think it was an interesting take that only worked within this particular film (for what it's worth, the Batman Returns version of The Penguin has had far less influence on the comics version of the character than The Dark Knight's take on The Joker did on his comic book portrayal).
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  • Broken Base: 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.
  • Contested Sequel: Fans of the first film and of the Batman films in general are split right down the center 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, a few-but-increasing-number today feel the darkness and the camp end up clashing far too heavily and very badly muddle the film's identity (whereas Forever at least has a very good idea of what it wants to be as a film, as did Batman 1) and some just think it's the best Batman film, period.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: It's one of the strangest and most depressing Batman films. While this is a big part of the appeal to some fans, for others it makes it difficult to enjoy. There's also the fact that for all its bleakness it is also rather campy in some aspects (especially the more fantastical elements related to Penguin's plan), which some argue leads to the film's tone feeling muddled.
  • 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. If you look at her behaviour though, you may argue that antiheroic is sexy.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Quite a few people prefer to ignore the All There in the Manual fact that the Penguin killed his parents himself a few weeks prior, and only pretended to discover their grave leading to the iconic Cemetery scene. The idea makes the Penguin more sinister, which can be compelling in some ways, but is deemed by those fans to be much less powerful and striking than a genuinely morally complex Penguin. For those that it is not compelling enough that such a monstrous character had such a monstrous life blurring the line between the role of his savage nature and the role of his horrible upbringing.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Not only for this series but the entire genre; Catwoman was arguably the first ever secondary villain in a superhero film. With Penguin and Schreck as the main villains, Selina was mostly in her own plot throughout the movie, and she only briefly works with the Penguin. And even then, her job—distracting Batman while the Penguin's mooks hack into the Batmobile—could have been done by another mook. She is still probably the best example of this, as she is a really well-rounded character with emotional depth and impact and much symbolism that fits perfectly into the films themes and mirrors the primary villain's case.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The tagline 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 Tzipporah, the love interest and wife to Moses, voiced by fellow Batman actor Val Kilmer, in 1998's The Prince of Egypt.
    • The endlessly perverted Penguin can be seen as a dry run for Danny DeVito's future role as Frank Reynolds.
    • Batman record scratching a CD, which uses lasers, was ridiculous then, but now there are record players that can use lasers instead of needles.
    • When Shreck and Penguin are discussing plans for the latter's bid for mayor of Gotham, when asked about his campaign platform Penguin responds that one plank of it would be to "Stop Global Warming, Start Global Cooling!" Mr. Freeze would try to fulfill that five years later. The fact that Catwoman in one scene falls through the roof of a greenhouse adds some more unintentional humor in relation to one of that movies' antagonists (Poison Ivy).
    • The Red Triangle Circus Gang, too. In 2012, the FBI designated the Juggalos (fans of Insane Clown Posse) a gang!
    • One of the headlines of the newspapers is "MEE-OUCH!", which was the New York Post's review of Catwoman.
    • The Ho Yay between Shreck and Penguin, given the latter's Adaptational Sexuality in his next live-action incarnation.
    • Michelle Pfeiffer would later play Janet van Dyne in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where she's married to Michael Douglas, the actor who forced Michael Keaton to take that screen name upon becoming an actor.
    • Or possibly Harsher in Hindsight, or just plain irony ... In 1992, Max Shreck could very well have seemed like a shout-out to Donald Trump, being a charismatic but shady business magnate with a flamboyant public persona, but inwardly ruthless, and with penchants for nepotism and dwelling in a big tower with his surname emblazoned on it. These days (2019, as of writing), after Trump's personal move into front-line politics and certain revelations about his sexual ethics (especially a certain infamous "grab them by the ..." soundbite), modern viewers are likely to think the Penguin a more striking resemblance.
    • Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken would meet again in the 2007 film version of Hairspray, but instead of killing him, she tries to seduce him.
  • Penguin saying to Batman "You're just jealous because i'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask!" will be incredibly ironic to many who've played Batman: The Telltale Series, since in that game, Penguin spends most of the time wearing a mask.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Catwoman and the Penguin.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Even those who dislike the film are willing to admit that Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito turned in great performances.
    • Even though his character didn’t appear in the comics, many people who are fans of Christopher Walken tuned into see his very charismatic and semi-hammy performance as Max Shreck.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Bruce Wayne... why are you dressed up like Batman?" Naturally, this requires a Christopher Walken impression for the full effect.
    • This led to a minor snowclone meme "X... why are you dressed up like Y?" Common substitutes are other superheroes and their secet identities (i.e. "Clark Kent... why are you dressed up like Superman?"), or even actors and the characters they're playing (i.e."Kevin Conroy... why are you imitating the voice of Batman?") or vice versa (i.e. "Shreck... why are you dressed up like Christopher Walken?")
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman became a popular feminist icon - which is somewhat understandable, since such characters were relatively few and far between in 1980s and early '90s mainstream films. But Selina herself realizes that she is not an empowering figure at all, but just as much a thug as the men who have persecuted her. This should be clear from the guilt-ridden scolding she gives herself while looking in a shop window, as well as the fact that she cries when Bruce challenges her to explain what she's really feeling.
    • There are also some viewers who enjoy the (first) Christmas tree-lighting scene before it gets disrupted, and all of the good feeling and nostalgia it represents, especially if they remember similar tree-lightings or glamorous department stores similar to Shreck's from otheir childhoods. The director and screenwriter clearly intended everyone to view these proceedings with disdain, as the Penguin (understandably) does.
    • Same could be said about the Christmas Eve costume ball. Yes, these are all Upper Class Twits and lousy parents, but their masks sure look funny and cool.
  • Misaimed Marketing: This movie had a lot of tie-in merchandise aimed at children despite not being a kids' movie by a long shot. McDonalds pulled their Happy Meal toys after parental backlash.
  • 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.
    • The Penguin's parents cross this in the intro when locking him in a cage and attempting to drown him in freezing water. And their expressions when it's all said and done heavily imply they know it, too.
    • Schreck crosses it when he throws Selina Kyle out of a 40 story high window for finding out about his power plant scam.
  • Narm Charm:
    • The shot of Batman record scratching a CD, whilst taking down Cobblepot's mayoral campaign. In another movie, that moment would be straight narm, but this comes from Keaton's Batman, a character who doesn't have moments like this to show off his humorous side. Him record scratching the CD with the added smirk makes it a charming moment rather than straight narm.
    • The Penguin's death. When Oswald, wearing pyjamas, with green slime spewing from his mouth 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 many people, especially the unlucky enough to have witnessed or suffered a real mental breakdown, would fail to see it as Narm at all.
  • 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.
    • Batman killed fairly commonly in his first few years.
  • 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".
  • 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).
  • Protection from Editors: The first film was a studio-driven film that Tim Burton happened to direct. By the time the sequel came around, Burton had a lot more clout. As a result, whereas the first film felt like a Batman film that Burton directed, this feels like a Tim Burton film that has Batman in it.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • As the Batmobile goes on its rampage, the mechanisms used to flip the parked cars can be seen.
    • While the penguins themselves are an example of Visual Effects of Awesome, they're clearly not touching the Penguin's body as they cast him off during his funeral.
    • The Batmobile's armor is clearly cartoonish CGI.
    • Right before Bruce tears his mask off to reveal his identity to Selina, the dark eyeshadow around his eyes is entirely omitted in the shot.
  • 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 is pretty much a sign of an already present mental imbalance (i.e., she is the type to cover everything with optimism). It gets surely worsened by the mistreatment suffered at Schreck's hands, which is highlighted by Schreck's throwaway line to a man at his speech:
    Schreck: Forgot my speech... remind me to take it out on what's-her-name.
  • True Art Is Angsty: Easily the darkest Batman film for many years, bordering on nihilistic, from the grotesque villains to the Downer Ending. It was also the darkest Tim Burton movie at the time, and the backlash pushed him back to his comedic roots with Ed Wood.
  • 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 and it’s usually ranked in the top five of all time Batman films. (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. However, he was killed by Catwoman soon after.
  • 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.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: Cool as the Catwoman suit is, it was also impossible to go to the bathroom wearing it. Michelle Pfeiffer has advised every actress who’s played the role since to make sure they ask the costume designer to consider this.


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