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The Alcott Analysis: Batman Returns

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0017ay8f The Alcott Analysis: Batman Returns

by Todd Alcott  

Like Batman, Batman Returns presents three protagonists, almost the same protagonists as 1989‘s Batman — a deformed freak of a gangster (this time the Penguin instead of The Joker), a blonde who’s crazy about bats (Catwoman subbing for Vicki Vale), and Batman himself. In addition to its three protagonists, it offers an antagonist from outside the traditional Batman world — a ringer, if you will, in the form of businessman Max Shreck.

It would be great to report that Batman Returns takes all of these worthwhile, interesting characters and weaves them into a single, unified story, but it does not. Instead, it presents two separate stories, each compelling in its own right, and kind of sutures them together like the irregular chunks of vinyl of Catwoman’s bodysuit. As this is an unusually complicated narrative with three separate, competing plot strands which actually take place in utterly different genres, let’s separate out each character’s storyline and examine them one at a time.

0017b22w The Alcott Analysis: Batman Returns

First we have the Penguin, who is a classic antihero — we’re going to watch the Penguin destroy himself, and we’re going to enjoy every minute. The Penguin is born bad and is literally dumped into the sewers by his wealthy parents before the titles even unspool. This dark, twisted vision of villainy is shocking even by Batman Movie standards, and indicates that we’re headed somewhere very strange in Batman Returns. The Penguin’s parents try to murder him on Christmas, and 33 years later (Christ’s age, for those keeping score) he emerges from the sewers to wreak his revenge upon Gotham City. That’s barely even a Batman plot at all — that’s a monster movie, and it’s light-years beyond anything rolling around in the mind of Burgess Meredith. The Penguin lives in an abandoned zoo (Gotham City apparently has an abandoned zoo), has flippers for hands, a spherical head, a bigger spherical body, two short bandy legs, a beak for a nose and a filthy union suit for clothes. He eats fish and drools green gunk. He’s an incredible creation, horrifying and repulsive, and it’s clear that the director absolutely loves him from head to toe.

Here’s the Penguin’s story: the Penguin wishes to wreak his revenge on Gotham, remember? Okay, so the way he goes about doing that is: he has his circus-themed henchmen stage an attack on a tree-lighting ceremony attended by businessman Max Shreck. The purpose of this attack is to provide cover for the Penguin to kidnap Max, which he eventually gets around to in a sideways kind of way. When Max is in his clutches, the Penguin tells him that his goal is to discover his (that is, The Penguin’s) parentage and regain his place in society, and for this he needs Max’s help.

Doeshe need Max’s help? Turns out, no, not at all — everything he wants to do, he could have easily accomplished without Max’s help. All the Penguin needs is access to Gotham’s Hall of Records, where he can copy down all the names of the city’s first-born children. Once he has that list, he can then have his circus gang round of the children and bring them to his lair. He accomplishes his entrance into Gotham society with another staged attack (he has one of his clowns kidnap a baby), except this time it is the Penguin who appears to save the day. His entrance into the overworld made, he sets about his nefarious scheme.

The Penguin’s goal — his only goal — is to round up and murder Gotham’s first born. That’s what he wants to do at the beginning of the movie, and that’s what he wants to do at the end of the movie. And yet, for almost an hour of the narrative, the Penguin dallies with the notion of running for mayor, at Max’s behest, and tries to ruin Batman’s reputation, at Catwoman’s behest. The mayoral-race subplot of Batman Returns and the Catwoman-revenge subplot are complete diversions, part of other plot strands which we’ll get to in a moment.

For now, let’s say that the Penguin runs for mayor, then quits, then tries to ruin Batman, fails, then goes back to doing exactly what he was doing at the beginning of the movie. He sets into motion his child-napping scheme, and kidnaps exactly one baby before Batman shows up and foils his minions. Outraged, the Penguin, like the Joker before him, then lashes out with a more apocalyptic plan — to destroy an entire neighborhood with a flock of rocket-carrying penguins. (It’s a measure of how strange and twisted this movie is that, by the time the rocket-bearing penguins show up in Act IV, it seems like the most natural thing in the world.) Batman foils this plot as well (using a bat-calling device not unlike the one he has in Batman Begins), turning the penguins’ rockets back on the Penguin, destroying his lair and sending him to a watery grave.

Look at the ark of that character — born evil, thrown out by his parents. Tries one scheme for revenge, gets sidetracked. In the middle of being sidetracked, gets sidetracked again. Is manipulated and used by others, then fails at his appointed tasks. Goes back to his original plan, then fails miserably. Decides to go out in a blaze of glory, then fails at that too. The Penguin’s story in Batman Returns is unbearably sad, and one feels like Batman is a bully for picking on this pathetic excuse for an evildoer. The Penguin has nothing, and builds an empire — Batman has everything, and picks on little people. “You’re just jealous because I’m a real freak!” the Penguin shouts at Batman at the climax, and Batman can only sigh and say “You may be right.” Authenticity may be a strange thing to say a character as fanciful as the Penguin possesses, but despite his monstrousness we feel for his rage, his animalism and lust for revenge. Who among us has not felt discarded and unloved, and has not sought revenge on the world to soothe our wounded souls?

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Next we have Selina Kyle. Selina Kyle is a mousy (mousy! ha!) secretary who stumbles upon an evil scheme her boss has cooked up. Well, perhaps evil is too strong a word —”unethical” is more accurate. Her boss is Max Schreck, and his scheme is a deceitful power plant, about more later. The important thing in Selina’s story is that Selina discovers Max’s unethical plan, Max kills her for her discovery, she gets brought back to life by some cats (cats adopt Selina the same way penguins adopt the Penguin), and from that moment on Selina is mousy no more — now she is Catwoman, a kitten with a whip on her hip and a chip on her shoulder.

When Selina becomes Catwoman, her goal is: a) fight men, b) destroy Max’s department store, and c) kill Max. Once she blows up Max’s department store, she falls in love with Bruce Wayne and plots, with the Penguin, to destroy Batman’s reputation, but we see rather quickly that her heart is no longer in her Batman Villain work. As Selina falls in love with Bruce, Catwoman falls in love with Batman. The whole Catwoman plot of Batman Returns is not only independent of the Penguin plot, it’s in a different genre — it’s a love story in the middle of a superhero movie.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Catwoman plot goes like this: Catwoman is born of Max’s misdeeds, she defends a woman against a would-be rapist then chastises the woman for her stupidity, then destroys Max’s department store. Batman pursues her and fights with her, which then causes her to want to destroy his reputation (why, I’m not sure — he’s a man, I guess, and a member of the Patriarchy, which means he’s her enemy, but she’s also clearly attracted to him, and he even lets her go at one point after she’s committed a fairly serious crime — he seems to be cutting her breaks all over the place). She barely participates in the “ruin Batman’s reputation” plot at all, and by that point she’s fallen in love with Bruce/Batman and is clearly losing her mind, driven mad by the whole being-reborn-by-cats-into-a-badass-feminist-whirlwind-agent-of-destruction thing. (The plot to ruin Batman’s reputation involves kidnapping a woman and making it look like Batman did it, then hijacking the Batmobile and driving it through the streets of Gotham by remote control. Catwoman participates by keeping watch over the kidnapped woman for a bit and fighting off a rescue attempt from Batman. She’s angered when the Penguin murders the kidnappee, which was not in the plan, and repulsed when the Penguin takes the opportunity to propose marriage. She refuses, and the Penguin dissolves their partnership. So that is actually another failure chalked up for the Penguin — tempted by Catwoman, he orchestrates an elaborate scheme to discredit Batman, at her request, takes on almost all the work required to pull off the scheme, and is then rejected by the object of his affection.)

Selina/Catwoman pushes forward with her plot to kill Max, but Max is, at the crucial moment, snatched out from under her by the Penguin, who has reasons of his own for revenge. Catwoman then heads over to the Penguin’s lair, where, after the Penguin’s schemes have all backfired, tries, again, to kill Max. Batman intervenes, and tries to get Catwoman to lighten up a little, taking off his cowl and pledging his deeply messed-up love for her. Max takes the moment of Catwoman’s confusion to shoot Batman, then Selina herself. Selina, her personality melting down before our eyes, takes a stun gun and sticks it in her mouth while kissing Max. Max ends up fried like chicken fricasee, but Catwoman escapes to ponder love and Batman again.

So that’s Catwoman, a kind of “doomed neurotic lovers in the big city” story, which every now and then shares a thematic unity with the Penguin story, but really has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

But we’re still not done! There’s still Max’s story. The Max story goes like this: Max wants to build this power plant. The power plant is not really a power plant, and is in fact a capacitor, a power-sponge. Max wants to build his plant and seeks Bruce Wayne as an investor. Bruce sees the plant for what it is and refuses to help. Without Bruce’s help, to get his plant built Max needs something else — a new mayor. For reasons that utterly escape me, he turns to the Penguin to be his proxy in the mayor’s office. He seduces the Penguin with some raw fish and the hope of sex with many young women. (The Penguin’s frustrated sexuality is only one part of his woeful, stunted pathology, but it is significant — his anger at Catwoman and Batman is partly due to them being young, good looking and — comparatively speaking — sexually functional.)

0017d67p The Alcott Analysis: Batman Returns

The Penguin, it seems to me, makes a spectacularly awful mayoral candidate, but who am I? (The Penguin running for mayor of Gotham is, ironically, one of the few aspects of Batman Returns that derives from the original comics.) The Penguin, sadly, knows nothing of Max’s power plant, he knows only that he will have power of his own, and many sexual conquests, once he is mayor. When Batman foils the Penguin’s mayoral campaign, Max shrugs, gives up his plan for the power plant, and goes on his merry way. The Penguin, abandoned for a second time (or third, if you count Catwoman’s betrayal), realizes he’s been wasting his time seeking power and acceptance in the human world, and goes back to his animalistic plot of revenge. Max spends the remainder of the movie falling prey to those he has wronged — first the Penguin, then Selina. Batman — or Bruce, for that matter — never lays a glove on him. Others must always suffer for his crimes.

And guess what! Did you know, Batman is also a character in Batman Returns! Batman/Bruce’s plot goes like this: Batman responds to the Penguin’s initial attack on the Christmas-tree lighting (where he meets Selina), then tangles with Max, where he meets Selina again, then does a wee bit of detective work to connect the Penguin to the circus gang (I could never figure out why a circus-themed gang, except that circuses are creepy), then disrupts a second circus-gang attack (this one intended to discredit the mayor), then fights Catwoman, then falls in love with Selina, then gets ensnared in the Penguin’s scheme to ruin his reputation, then foils the Penguin’s mayoral run, then tries to talk Selina out of killing Max, then foils the Penguin’s penguin plot, then meets up again with Selina and fails to convince her to not kill Max.

As you can see, Batman is mostly reactive in Batman Returns — he’s more like a mucilage that holds all the different plot strands together. He barely has a goal of his own; the most affecting part of his story — his hesitant love for Selina — is largely overshadowed by the Penguin’s and Max’s various schemes.

Why does the Penguin approach Max in Act I to demand his help? To better tie together the Penguin and Catwoman stories. There are a lot of forced marriages of plot in Batman Returns, starting with the Penguin’s kidnapping of Max and ending with — well, ending with the Penguin’s second kidnapping of Max 90 minutes later. The best part? All this plot, all these different stories, all happen within the space of about two and a half days!

Check this out — Selina falls out a window, dies, comes back to life and re-creates herself as Catwoman all in one night. Then, we see the Penguin emerge from the sewers, then be accepted into society, then go to the Gotham Hall of Records to write down all the names of Gotham’s first born, as Bruce does his research on him and the circus gang. Then we see Catwoman foil the rapist and chastise the victim, and then we see Max meeting with Bruce, and Selina shows up, surprising Max, since she’s supposed to be dead. It feels like about six weeks has gone past, but in fact it’s the next day! The Penguin emerges from the sewers, is accepted into society, becomes a media sensation, goes to the Hall of Records, copies down all the names of Gotham’s first born, finds his parents and gives a press conference all in the space of about two hours!

But it gets better — Bruce turns down Max for his power-plant thing, and the next thing we know Max has organized a mayoral campaign, complete with staff, banners and a promotional scheme — all later that same day! That night — that is, Selina’s second night as Catwoman, she destroys Max’s department store, blows the whole building sky-high, and yet, a night or so later, Max holds a Christmas party in the same store!

The amazing thing is, with all of this craziness, Batman Returns continues to charm and enthrall. As pungent and revelatory as Batman was, Returns is even more so, a chilly, overflowing cauldron of perversity, thrills and dark surrealism. As Burtonesque as the first movie is, Returns offers a purer vision of Burtonism, irrational and passionate. It fails to cohere as a narrative, it’s more like some kind of nightmare dreamscape of curdled ambitions, wounded egos and bisected personalities. (Discussion of the weird Christian symbolism alone could take up another post.) Rarely has a director been given this kind of money to be this kind of weird.

Text ©2010 Todd Alcott

Comments

  1. I appreciate that you posted the screen cap of Michael Keaton in cowl, WITHOUT the black eye make-up…

    …this was of course at the end of the movie, when Batman rips off the cowl, to reveal Bruce Wayne to Selina / Catwoman.

    I remember when “Batman Returns” rolled around onto HBO the following year (’93), telling myself to pay attention to the editing in this scene, for when / how they cut from Keaton with eye makeup to without!

    Have a bit of nostalgia for the marketing of this movie, “The Bat, The Cat, and The Penguin,” and remember full-page ad character photos of each (so, three full-page ads), running in the May or June ’92 issue of Premiere magazine

    While no anticipation could match the fever that lead up to the first Burton Batman in ’89, it was still a lot of fun anticipating this sequel…and man, did they got goth / S & M / dark with it!

    VeryFineNearMint.com

  2. “a chilly, overflowing cauldron of perversity, thrills and dark surrealism.”

    As nonsensical as the plot of the film is, I can’t deny that this is my second-favorite Batman film (after “Dark Knight”). The little pieces and details are so vivid and gorgeous — from the Dickensian quality of the Penguin to the tragicomic Batman/Catwoman affair — it hardly matters that they never truly add up… at least, until the climax, where everything kind of falls apart.

    I’ve always thought of it as an urban gothic fairy tale of unfulfilled dreamers pushed over the edge. And the epilogue has always paid off for me. Even now, I like to imagine there’s a parallel universe where a “Catwoman” movie was made in the early ’90s (starring Pfeiffer, not Halle Berry), or a non-Schumacher version of “Batman Forever” where the lovers reunite. [Insert wistful, unfulfilled sigh.]

  3. Frodo-X says:

    This still remains my least favorite Batman movie. I just never, ever liked the thing. I’d sooner watch Batman & Robin than this one.

  4. Steely Dan says:

    I LOVE this film. One of my all-time favorites. So subversive. An art-house film masquerading as a summer blockbuster. I watch it at least once a year and it still never disappoints. The scene where Bruce and Selina discover each other’s secret identities still amuses me to no end.

    Regarding the circus-themed gang and why they’re circus-themed: from what I remember, the young Oswald (after initially being raised in the sewers by penguins) was taken in by the Red Triangle Circus when he was a boy (he was an act billed as the “aquatic bird boy”), and when the circus was eventually shut down (people would often go missing whenever the circus came to town), the Penguin rallied them into a gang and served as their leader. At least that’s how I remember it.

    I know it sounds silly, but it works within the context of Tim Burton Land.

  5. Easily my favorite of the series.
    I think Daniel Waters is a perfect writing collaborator for Burton, giving his at times gloomy worldview a real edge. It’s a pity they haven’t teamed up since.

    Oh, and if you thought this movie was wacky, seek out the Waters script for the ‘Catwoman’ spin-off film (which is online at various script sites), it’s completely off-the-rails crazy!

  6. Steely Dan:

    I know that the script “explains” why the Penguin has a gang made up of circus performers, I just couldn’t figure out why, thematically, they needed to be circus performers, or how that related to the Batman comics. My research has not found a “circus gang” in Batman comics, or anywhere in the DC universe.

  7. This film grabbed me on a personal level in ways the bloated spectacle of the previous installment didn’t, and it is still one of my favorites. As surreal as it is to type the following words, they are true: the penguin pallbearers break my heart every time.

    Three extraordinary people — all damaged children with MAJOR parent issues — trying and failing to find acceptance, connection or community in a cretinous and compromised world ruled by passionately intense “Max Schreck”s. My twenty-something heart went out to them… or was it to me?

    Remember, in 1989 we had all just barely survived the Reagan Revolution — as horrifyingly and soul-crushingly transformative in its time as the Bush years have been in ours — and we were still surveying the wreckage, so the “our parents failed us” theme had huge social resonance.

    The acme of “personal” Batman films. Burton would continue to explore the “damaged goth-child” character in Edward Scissorhands (and others), and Joel Schumacher would successfully excise personal expression and individual identity from the series — much to the relief of the execs at WB, I would think.

  8. I love this movie.

    Unlike a lot of plotless blockbusters, the lack of anything approaching a logical story was intentional. Your feelings about the movie probably depend upon what you think about that choice, because every other element is fantastic.

    The dialog is witty and there is a thematic weight that matches Burton’s customary bleakness. The performances are fantastic. The visuals are amazing.

  9. Dphunkt says:

    this one seems to stand all on its own, if still tied to the original. all movies that followed seemed to have nothing in common with this, or glossed over the characters in comparison. BR debuted as the hype was settling down, and the excitement was actually gearing up. it wasnt the first, and it wrapped up so cleanly that nothing could follow..itd probably be a horrible if serialized through the franchise though. thanks for the in-depth deciphering :D and would you say that Max’s character was a pay-off from the original ‘4-fecta’ of Dent/ the reporter/ Vale/ and Batman? i kinda thought so..not until reading your analysis’ses though!

  10. I need to pop in this DVD. It’s been too long. This flick came out when I was about 15 and I flipped for it.

    I’m not 100% sure if I’m remembering this right but are there any real exterior shots in this film? I seem to recall even the snowy streets of Gotham basically being inside a soundstage. Really adds to the unreality of it all.

  11. Steve Horton says:

    This inspired an unintentionally funny merchandising tie in. Plastered on Mcdonalds nationwide was this in block letters: BATMAN RETURNS HAPPY MEAL

  12. I found this really, really dark, which put me off as a kid. I’ve never quite warmed to it, despite wanting to. I think my biggest problem is that Batman is barely in it, which is the same problem I have with Robocop 2 (Yeah, Batman, like, isn’t in Robocop 2 at all. What the hell, man).

  13. Todd: Re the Circus freaks- I think Burton chose them as Penguin’s surrogate family as it was the only setting he could imagine Oswald feeling accepted in and relatively normal.
    It’s not overly clear in the screenplay, but Burton did a series of drawings of Oswald’s life in the circus that he gave to DeVito as a starting point for the character’s background.

  14. michael says:

    Good movie. The only bad part was the ending where Bruce literally rips off his rubberized? mask.

    I don’t understand this analysis. This is certainly not the only movie like this and a Burton movie is what it is. No surprises unless you haven’t experienced many kinds of movies, like those who think that comic books are only about superheroes.

  15. Richard says:

    Too bad Batman Forever and Batman & Robin (as well as Spiderman 3 and X-Men 3) couldn’t learn from this movie that having more than 1 main villian, a ridiculous storyline and a dozen plotlines just doesn’t work in the same context as Batman Returns, especially without the surrealism and artiness of an eccentric director.

  16. Lee Carey says:

    The thing I like about the film is, for all the fact that he’s the true villain of the film, Max Shrek is the only character who is a good parent to his child. While Selina’s belittles her, and Bruce and the Penguins’ abandon them, Max sacrifices himself for his son.

    I also think the scene where Bruce and Selina discover their secret identities is classic (“Do we start hitting each other now?”), and Keaton and Pfeiffer act their socks off in their ‘civilian’ relationship with each other.

    For all that is is a surreal and shambolic film, it feels emotionally real, which is why it’s my favourite of the initial four Batman movies.

  17. As a dear friend once said to me “Some Batman is better than no Batman.”

  18. Noumenon says:

    Your description of the Penguin — no, that picture of the Penguin — is enough to convince me I never, ever want to see this movie and it would have been better if it had never been made.

  19. Tommy Raiko says:

    For some reason, I have persistent but vague memories of rumors/reports that an earlier version of this Batman Returns script would have established that the Penguin and Schrek were siblings, thus reinforcing that whole first-born-child element of his motivation.

    But I can’t find any mention of this on the interweb, so I may be misremembering entirely…

  20. David Hackett says:

    I really disliked this at the time, and even with later viewings I still haven’t been able to appreciate even the campy/atmospheric aspects of it, and I usually like Burton’s sensibilities.

    It was just such a mess. Even the sound was bad. I remember one scene where Devito and Walken are talking about their plans and between The Penguin’s fake growling and Walken’s muttering-style delivery, I could barely understand a word.

  21. Agree with David. Never liked this movie. I saw it as a 13 year old and at that point had been a lifelong Batman fan. The black ooze coming from the Penguin’s mouth (and the scene where he eats the raw fish) kind of did it for me.

    I loved Burton’s “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands.” I even liked “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and I think he had something to do with “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But “Batman” was just kind of “eh…” and “Batman Returns” was more “ugh.”

  22. Try watching this film in black and white. All of a sudden, everything works. It’s like watching a Batman version of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.

  23. Stephen says:

    The theme of BATMAN RETURNS is best summed up by The Penguin’s line: “You flush it, I flaunt it!”

    It’s the return of the repressed in the classic Freudian sense. Whatever society or our own individual psyche tries to repress – ugly freaks like Oswald or Selina’s sexuality – will come back and overpower us stronger than ever.

  24. Love this movie. In fact it probably is my favourite Batman. It’s a twisted love story of seriously broken people, in a twisted world. All motivated by a lack of love. Isolation.

    Told beautifully. Sure the plot is nonsense and Max Shrek is a cypher, but it’s told with so much charm…

    I love it.

  25. “Rarely has a director been given this kind of money to be this kind of weird.” FANTASTIC analysis! Good stuff, Todd. Thx.

  26. Frank Rook says:

    The one thing that bugged me when I first saw it, and still does today, is Penguin’s attempt to ruin Batman’s rep by framing him for the death of the dopey beauty queen. Everyone in the city sees Batman on the roof after she falls. No effort is made to clear him of this misdeed, and it isn’t even mentioned. It’s like everyone just accepts he offed this broad and they’re okay with it.

  27. Since you point out that Penguin is 33 years old, a la Jesus, it’s worth also pointing out that the plot to kill all the first born children of Gotham is just the story of Passover with some warping.

  28. Dave Ziegler says:

    @ Tommy Raiko, I was thinking the same thing. Wasn’t it mentioned in the novelization? It’s been years since I’ve read it (not even sure I still have it anymore), but I distinctly remember reading that and thinking, “Ah-ha! Now THAT makes more sense!”

    Of course, I guess it could be a mass hallucination, too…

  29. Peter Urkowitz says:

    I didn’t like this movie at the time, but my memory is vague as to why. So I’m glad to hear that others liked it more.

    I remember being annoyed that the fingerless Penguin groped a girl’s bosom while supposedly pinning a campaign button on her shirt. It just looked unreal — how was this blunt action supposed to result in getting the button pinned?

    Same thing with the penguin pallbearers — they were clearly just walking next to the coffin, not carrying it, but then how was it supposed to be moving?

    Wasn’t this also the movie where Batman does some DJ scratching, but with a compact disc, instead of a vinyl record?

    So those were my nit-picky complaints. Maybe I need to see the movie again to get a bettter idea of what they were really aiming for?

  30. Peter… you are correct.

    I found a lot to dislike about this movie when I saw it as a teen. The DJ scratching with the CD was one of the bigger nits. Batman uses a digital recording to discredit the Penguin, then scratches the CD (which revolves at 200-500 RPM).

  31. Violet Shelley says:

    “Batman pursues her and fights with her, which then causes her to want to destroy his reputation -why, I’m not sure…”

    I think it is pretty obvious. Selina went from a loser to a tigress thanks to her reincarnation and probably for the first time in her life, she started thinking that now in her new life, she was invincible and would no longer be subjected to humiliation at the hands of men. So to suffer defeat despite her empowerment post-rebirth, that too at the hands of a man..AGAIN, was too much for her, hence the hasty decision to team up with Penguin to bring down Bats inspite of her attraction towards him.

    Infact, I think the “Catwoman genre”, as you describe the theme of her sub-plot, is much more than “romance” or even “neurotic urban romance”. It goes much, much deeper than that. Selina loses her mind not just because of her newly gifted supernatural feminist powers but because she horrifically discovers that despite those powers, her existence is still meaningless. She thought that turning into a dominatrix from a repressed soul would be the answer to all of her troubles, but she soon realizes that even a feminist, however powerful, can still be nothing more than a self-righteous caricature(the clue to this is given in the scene where Selina meets Bruce outside a store window where she looks at her reflection in the window and wonders why she is doing what she is doing in her Catwoman avatar). The Selina Kyle story is a heart-breaking tale of the steep rise and immediate fall of the pride and motivation of an individual. She is no longer the mousy damsel-in-distress, hence she cannot live “happily ever after in Bruce’s castle” but now she is losing interest in her hard-as-nails persona as well, which she discovers is just another role she is playing, nothing more. Hence the total meltdown at the end. The romance was just a catalyst and I think it played far more of an important role for Bruce and Batman as you mentioned than it did for Selina and Catwoman.

  32. Snowbag says:

    When I saw this in a theater, I remember being rather surprised that DeVito’s Penguin used the word “poon-tang” in a nominally mainstream PG-13 picture.

  33. Rib Queen says:

    methinks you gave catwoman a gross injustice in your character outline of her. she’s much better constructed a character than you’re making her out to be. but you do need to actually care about gender politics to appreciate her in the film. she is so much more than the love-story-melting-personality-crack-head you make her out to be.

  34. Jakey J says:

    Great analysis. A tad flippant but that could just be your style.

    I do however disagree a bit with your summation of Catwoman. I think Violet Shelley pretty much summed up what needed to be said, minus one thing. Catwoman came into being through Max’s horrific actions. So yes, she is now miss super feminist with powers and a empowered dislike of the Y chromosome. But also adding to her conflict is that she wouldn’t be this way if it werent for a powerful evil man creating her. So now this sudden change that could have empowered her to stop injustice is instead warped by the tradgedy of it all, with the only other powerful male around to vent on being Batman. Only he’s different and good, so she begins to love him. Or something to that effect…

  35. great review! i watched and loved all the batman movies as a kid, and as a young adult now of 25, i really appreciate the dark weirdness of this movie. IMI, tim burton is the only guy to direct a batman movie. schumacher was too gay and nolan is too boring. tim burton got the perfect balance of light and dark, realism and fantasy. returns is darker but still very entertaining and is more what i think the batman material is all about, scarred characters and twisted stories. the performances were wonderful, keaton is still the best batman actor, and probably always will be for me. he definitive. devito was incredible and just became that role, and pofieffer…do i have to say anything? beautiful woman but fantastic actress. are they serious about anne hathway as catwoman? LMAO. pfieffer owns the role.

  36. also to add, i find it a crime thar NOONE has mentioned Danny Elfmans amazing score for the film. if you are in a dark mood one day i would suggest this score. its so darkly wonderful, its got that real gothic sound, and yet it is also whimsical and wacky. the music from the parts when selinas wrecks her apartment is so perfect, really captures the cat like anxiety and pain shes feeling. batmans theme from the last movie is still there but given a bit more whimsy and fun. the penguins theme, darkly triumphant and proud. beautifully dark score, highly recommended especailly the expanded version!

  37. The *best* live-action Batman movie in my opinion. Sure it has a Tim Burton dark fairy-tale vibe, that’s kind of the point. The deco/noir universe is superb and Batman has never been cooler than in this movie. Brilliant. Totally understand why a lot of people don’t “get it” though, it’s definately not your average comic book hero movie.

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