December 29, 2016

Batman Returns

No download this week, either...Quit clicking! You look silly.

Hi, everybody! Derek here. As we are still recovering from Christmas, the guys and I didn't get together again this week. But I continued to watch movies because, well, that's what I do. And, as it's still technically the holidays, I chose to watch what can technically be called a holiday movie, although the holiday itself is more set decoration than a part of the plot: Tim Burton's Batman Returns, starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, and Pat Hingle. It also features cameos from Paul Reubens and the late Jan Hooks.

Walken's hair game is, as always, on point.
The movie opens with the standard stunningly rich couple (Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger as the Cobblepots) having a weird mutant child and dumping it into the local stream, hoping it will float away and never be seen again. That's one of the perks of being rich; don't like the looks of your kid? Just toss it out and try again! I understand there's an entire underground complex at the Kennedy compound for exactly this sort of thing. Only one of them--a giant-headed toddler--ever escaped, and he went on to become a beloved senator from Massachusettes until he passed away in 2009.

I wanna pahk the cah by the garahge.
Jumping forward a few decades... (There's no specific timeline, so it's hard to say how long. My guess is at least thirty years.)

Super-rich guy Max Shreck (Walken) is trying to convince a group of other super-rich guys, including super-duper-rich Bruce Wayne (Keaton), that what Gotham City truly needs is a power plant. And when Bruce points out that Gotham totally doesn't need that at all, Shreck gets all sassy about it, and he looks as though he might slap Bruce with a powdered glove and challenge him to a duel until their squint-off is interrupted by Shreck's clumsy assistant, Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer), who offers tea, gets yelled at, and then calls herself a "corndog".

Shortly after, while Shreck is giving a speech at Gotham's Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a gang of circus performers interrupt the proceedings, and Batman (also Keaton) shows up and hits everybody until they go away. Shreck runs and hides, but gets captured and taken to the sewers, where he meets the Penguin (DeVito, with a lot less make-up than you might expect to get the proper look), who wants to blackmail Shreck into helping him find out who his real parents are.

I feel like I'm missing something...
Meanwhile, Selina comes home to her apartment, where she is well on her way to being a Crazy Cat Lady already, and listens to her answering machine, giving the viewer a deeper look into her depressing lack of a social life. You know, just to establish how pathetic she's supposed to be. One of the messages is from herself, reminding her to get some files ready for Shreck, which she forgot to do, so she goes back to the office. Shreck arrives, and she informs him that she has looked at his protected files, which show that his power plant wouldn't actually generate any power for the city and, in true evil rich guy fashion, Shreck throws her out a window for her efforts.

Okay, maybe she really is kind of pathetic.

Selina survives the fall, despite being tossed from an upper floor of one of the hundreds of comically gigantic buildings around Gotham, and is revived by a bunch of feral cats trying to eat her fingers off. Reasonably traumatized, she goes home, trashes her apartment (including stuffing several stuffed animals down the garbage disposal), and tears apart some of her wardrobe in order to make a skin-tight suit so she can terrorize people, as one is wont to do when tossed out a high window. Heck, I myself have dozens of skin-tight cat suits in my closet, and most of those happened because I just stubbed my toe in the dark on the way to the bathroom. My therapist says it's a healthy hobby, so don't judge.

Like this, but hairier, and with a mustache.
While the mayor of Gotham (Michael Murphy) is giving a speech, another evil clown (as if there is any other kind) shows up and kidnaps his infant child and dives into an open manhole. (That seems kind of unsafe, given that there were dozens of people standing around it, watching the speech.) There is the sound of a struggle, and then a giant duck rises from the manhole. The Penguin is inside, holding the baby, and he returns it to the mayor, thereby establishing himself as a lonely weirdo who wants to help. But as we already know, this is not what it seems. Instead, it is the first step in his plan...

Bruce Wayne is not convinced. Why? Because he's goddamn Batman, is why! He sits quietly in his cave, brooding and reading old news clipping about a gang of performers from a freak show who have been terrorizing people for years. He thinks this Penguin guy is their leader, although Bruce's faithful butler Alfred (Gough) is not so sure.

Alfred's judgement is clouded by his obsession
with "dropping some dope tracks, sir.  "
At the same time, a woman is being mugged, and another woman in a skin-tight cat suit--a "Catwoman", if you will--saves her. (Who knew that body-hugging fake leather magically gives you astounding martial arts skills? Me, that's who. As I said, I have dozens of the things.) But then she threatens the woman because she has the nerve to go around being all womany. Weird chick.

Penguin goes to the hall of records, where he begins compiling a list, ostensibly to find out who his parents are, and eventually announces that he has found them; his real name is Oswald Cobblepot, and his parents, now dead, were one of Gotham's wealthy families.

(You know, with all these wealthy families, you'd think that all this crime that the city has would be under better control. It's like the rich people in Gotham don't even care about the poor or something. Good thing this is fiction!)

Initial costume tests for the movie Twins.
Selina resurfaces at Shreck's office while he's arguing with Bruce again, and she starts acting all weird and talking about forgetting to wear underpants when she was little. Needless to say, she's maybe not in the most stable condition. Naturally, Bruce is totally into her, and almost gives away his secret identity, mentioning that they met already, although he was busy being Batman at the time.

Their next meeting went slightly better.
Shreck begins a drive to oust the current mayor and install Penguin as a replacement. The Red Triangle Gang (yes, they have an actual name) starts terrorizing Gotham. Batman beats up a lot of them, confronts Penguin, and then they both meet Catwoman, who blows up Shreck's department store. Catwoman and Batman smack each other around a little, he throws acid at her, and she falls off yet another building. It's an eventful evening for everyone, and nobody is happy with the outcome. Just like your average Christmas get-together, but with even more rubber and vinyl clothing. (That's a Christmas thing, right? I'm not alone in this, am I?)

Penguin begins his bid to take over as mayor and meets with Catwoman, who really wants to get destroy Batman. Penguin wants to get her out of that cat suit and do horrible, flipper-based stuff to her, but she's having no part of it. So he tells her his plans to steal the Batmobile, and she suggests setting Batman up to look like a bad guy and turning the city against him. To be honest, it's a ridiculously gross scene, with both Penguin and Catwoman making sexual innuendo that just straight-up makes my skin crawl. It's...unsettling.

In a televised speech, Penguin throws down the guantlet to Batman, and Bruce hits on Selina, asking her to dinner. Despite Alfred's attempted cock-block, she agrees.

While Bruce and Selina are tongue-wrestling, the television announces that the tree-lighting girl has been kidnapped, and one of Batman's Batarangs was found on the scene. Both of them react as though the guy on TV is actually watching them make out, and they both make excuses to leave. Batman heads to the scene as the mayor gives a speech about how everything is under control. Penguin's people get hold of the Batmobile and start dicking around with the electronics. Batman finds the kidnapped tree-lighter, and Catowman shows up, so they dance around a bit, and then Catwoman leaves with the girl, taking her to the top of the building and leaves her for Batman to find. When he gets up there, the Penguin jumps out and scares the girl, who falls off the building. Then Catwoman licks Batman's face. It's arousing, yet disturbing. And, as I was 21 at the time, all I wanted in a woman.

Worst. Ride-pimping. EVER.
Catwoman and Penguin have an argument, Catwoman is dropped from great heights again, and Batman hops in the Batmobile to head on home. But he isn't going to be that lucky; Penguin's people did their job, and Penguin has control of the Batmobile, so he drives it around the city, running over people. Batman eventually gets control of the car, and even manages to get a recording of Penguin saying mean things about the city. He's a multitasker...No wonder he's such an awesome superhero.

Catwoman and Penguin have an argument, Catwoman is dropped from great heights again, and Batman hops in the Batmobile to head on home. But he isn't going to be that lucky. Penguin's people did their job, and Penguin has control of the Batmobile, so he drives it around the city, running over people. Batman eventually gets control of the car, and even manages to get a recording of Penguin saying mean things about the city. He's a multitasker...No wonder he's such an awesome superhero.

And, of course, the cool toys.
Despite not killing Batman, Shreck and Penguin's plan to recall the mayor is working, and the people of Gotham want him out. As Penguin gives a speech, however, Bruce and Alfred cut into the audio feed and play the recording Batman made, where Penguin lays out his real feelings about the city, which are not especially positive. The crowd, which happens to have brought a bunch of vegetables, throws them at Penguin (and even he acknowledges that this is kind of weird), and he retreats to the sewers to enact his alternate plan: he will kidnap all of Gotham's firstborn sons and kill them all. Obviously, he is a religious man.

Bruce attends Shreck's Christmas costume party (again, that's a thing, right?), hoping to see Selina. She's there, but she's kind of preoccupied, having only come to kill Shreck. Bruce stops her, but they accidentally reveal their secret identities to each other, and things get awkward. Also, Penguin shows up to reveal his plan and take Shreck's son, Chip. (Andrew Bryniarski.) Shreck, in a rare selfless act, insists on taking his son's place, and Penguin agrees, taking him down to the sewers to kill him.

So...uh...wanna try on each other's costumes?
When they arrive at Penguin's hideout, none of the other kids are there, but there is a note from Batman, which sets Penguin off, and he sends his actual penguin minions out into the city with bombs and rockets strapped to their backs. It's the cutest Armageddon ever!

AWWWWW! Murderously adorable!

Will Batman be able to stop the hundreds of adorable exploding penguins before they can destroy the entire city? Will Catwoman kill Shreck in the grossest way possible? Will Penguin somehow manage to be even more disgusting than he was when we were treated to a close-up of him cramming raw fish into his mouth? Will any of this make sense?

You'll have to watch to find out!

Despite the gross-out factor of this film--and it's mostly DeVito's drooling, snorting Penguin that doles out most of that, I really do like this film. Not only is it one of only two Batman movies that do not show a flashback to Bruce's parents being killed, but Michael Keaton is genuinely likeable as Bruce Wayne, despite his brooding moodiness. And, as disgusting as it is to watch DeVito as Penguin, with his mouth dripping some sort of dark green goo and his upsettingly soiled long johns, that's not a jab at DeVito himself. He acted the hell out of the part, and even managed to make the viewer sympathetic to him at times. (Those times being when he wasn't all drippy and gross while searching for the names of his parents.)

And, of course, I wouldn't be able to finish this review without mentioning Michelle Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle/Catwoman performance. Yes, she was hot as heck in that cat suit, but her actual performance is what really stands out. Her pre-Catwoman Selina is literally almost an entirely different person. She's a shy, quiet woman who really just wants to do a good job, despite working for a man who sees her as little more than a talking coffee dispenser that can type, as well. Now, finding Michelle Pfeiffer bland and boring is a difficult chore for anyone, but she effortlessly makes herself appear meek and unsubstantial in the beginning. Once she transforms into Catwoman, she is an entirely different person, and it carries over into Selina's personality, although it seems everybody is so wrapped up in how attractive she is (mussed-up hair, thick mascara...she kind of looks like the cover of the Hole album Live Through This), nobody seems to actually notice.

Overall, this is an excellent follow-up to 1989's Batman. Unfortunately, the quality of the films dropped like a rock after this, when Burton stepped out of the director's chair and gave the reigns to his evil henchman, Joel Schumacher. Oh, Batman Forever has its moments--it's one of only three Jim Carrey movies I can tolerate--but I would avoid those two movies, for the most part. Val Kilmer is a bland and uninteresting Bruce Wayne, and George Clooney...well, we all know how that one went.

On a final note, I just wanted to say, on behalf of myself, Jake, Larry, and Bosco, have a very Happy New Year, and we look forward to hearing from you in 2017!