BATMAN RETURNS: Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas

Batman Returns might be a terrible adaptation of the caped crusader. Forsaking the comic book origins of a man who will not kill, Tim Burton’s sequel to the cinematic game-changer delves further into a heart of darkness. Though this iteration comes at the expense of individuals who have had their humanity taken from them by status in Gotham’s economical hierarchy.

A deeply melancholy, operatic work of pure Gothic expression. The identity of three damaged individuals (Batman, Catwoman, Penguin) use masks of all kind to maneuver their way through the complex industrial workings of Gotham City at Christmas. Each reflects upon their place within the city and the masks they wear to survive it.

Romance between Batman and Catwoman is a high water mark for film. Two damaged souls, each who have sacrificed their humanity for agency. The only two who understand one another but could never be together. Michelle Pfeiffer’s plays the charming, down-on-her-luck Selina Kyle as a complete misfit. She’s one of Gotham’s children devoured and spit back out by its powers that be.

Here, that power is a cold Christopher Walken as Max Schreck. Schreck is a capitalist whose scheme is to literally steal the power from Gotham and its citizens, often matching wits with Oswald Cobblepot or another counterpoint, Bruce Wayne. Schreck reminds Bruce that he and Cobblepot might have even gone to the same prep schools had he not been abandoned.

Penguin and Donald Trump parallels are hilarious because yeah neither was loved as a child, both cold probably have done some good after getting in the political spotlight if they were better people. People turn on him when they find out about his complete disdain and illegal dealings, which has yet to happen in real life. One can only hope. Like, there are straight up babies in cages in this, so it was cathartic to watch him die of his own constructs. Still tragic, as he was clearly a creature of his environment and circumstance, discarded by people who should have raised him right to be another shining light alongside Bruce Wayne for the betterment of Gotham City.

Reds, blacks and whites encompass the fabric of Gotham at Christmas. Steam rising, snow falling, people just looking for some sort of connection. Christmas decorations juxtaposed with skull-masked trapeze thugs and heavily-armed penguins is exactly the kind of shit I look for in a movie like this.

Possibly Tim Burton’s masterpiece.

*Viewed a 35mm print at the New Beverly Cinema*

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