Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time

The Batman Films




Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Films
Batman (1989) | Batman Returns (1992) | Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) | Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997) | Batman Begins (2005) | The Dark Knight (2008) | The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman (1943) - serial | Batman and Robin (1949) - serial | Batman, The Movie (1966) | Catwoman (2004)

The Batman Films

Batman Returns (1992)
d. Tim Burton, 126 minutes

Film Plot Summary

During the opening pre-credits prologue sequence, a deformed baby boy was born to horrified aristocratic, wealthy parents named Cobblepot (Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger). The child was kept in a cage, and had a monstrous appetite (it ate the family's furry white cat). On a snowy Christmas night, the couple tossed their child in its stroller into Gotham City's cold river to float away into the city's underground sewers. Penguins intercepted the carriage and raised the child for many years there.

Thirty-three years later, the mutant child nicknamed The Penguin (Danny DeVito), was Gotham Globe's front page news: "Penguin -- Man or Myth? Or Something Else" - with the newsboy crying out: "Penguin Sighting...Half-Penguin, Half-Man...The Possible Terror Beneath Our Feet." The film opened with the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Gotham Square - the busty Ice Princess (Christi Conaway) flipped the switch. Other dignitaries included the incumbent Mayor (Michael Murphy) who was opposed by evil and corrupt Gotham City polluter-businessman Maximillian Shreck (Christopher Walken), due to his plan to build an unneeded power plant (Gotham City had a power surplus). The speech-making was interrupted by an attack of a cadre of the Penguin's macabre, skull-masked, acrobatic harlequin thieves called the Circus Gang, some riding on motorbikes with machine-guns.

Bruce "Batman" Wayne (Michael Keaton) was summoned by the Batsign in his castle-like mansion, lit by Police Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle) - the bright spotlight shone directly on reclusive Bruce Wayne's dark face. Batman arrived in his Batmobile and saved the day (and also saved Shreck's ditzy, mousy, browbeaten and shy secretary Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer)). However, profiteer, slum-landlord and polluter Shreck was dropped through a trap door and ended up underground in the Arctic World exhibit of the city's Zoo. There, he met the hideous, deformed, and bizarre Penguin with a Humpty-Dumpty shape and lobster-claw flipper-hands. The Penguin perceived Shreck as a "well-respected monster" while he regarded himself as the opposite, and then he described his purpose - to locate his parents: "I want some respect. A recognition of my basic humanity...I want to find out who I am by finding my parents, learning my human name." Shreck proposed a "'Welcome Home' scenario...perhaps we could help each other out."

After the ceremony, unmarried Selina Kyle returned to her apartment where she lived with her black cat, but returned to the Shreck business office to retrieve a file on Bruce Wayne for the next day's meeting. Returning there also, Shreck threatened his curious secretary when she discovered in his "protected files" incriminating evidence concerning his plans to build a super power plant ("a power plant in name only") and drain Gotham of its energy ("It's gonna be a big giant capacitor") through stockpiling the supply. She told him: "It's not like you can just kill me," but he replied: "Actually, it's a lot like that" - he posed like he was going to kiss her, then pushed her out a window from the top of his company's high-rise building.

Resurrected by a group of stray cats from the cold hard snowy pavement, Selina was revived and returned home where she destroyed possessions of her old 'childlike' life - her neon sign changed from "Hello There" to "Hell Here." She then designed a new feline, tight black-vinyl costume, becoming the slinky, semi-psychotic Catwoman ("I am Catwoman. Hear me roar" and "Life's a bitch and now so am I") - she possessed nine lives, agile (backward-flipping) fighting skills, and a crackling whip.

In Gotham Plaza, the Penguin saved the life of the Mayor's kidnapped baby infant - a staged opportunity "to announce his presence to the world." On television, the Penguin claimed that he was looking for his parents, when he was actually in league with the devious Shreck to destroy Gotham and Batman. He researched genealogical documents in the Hall of Records (and also surreptitiously gathered an enemies list). Bruce Wayne/Batman was unconvinced by the Penguin, believing that he and his Red Triangle Gang were responsible for several missing children, or child murders - Batman mused: "There's something else." The Penguin found his parents' grave tombstones in the city cemetery, and learned his name: Oswald Cobblepot ("I am a man. I have a name").

When the Penguin's plight became news (Headlines: "Penguin Forgives Parents - I'm Fully At Peace With Myself And The World"), partner-in-crime Shreck regarded him as "Gotham's new golden boy" and their duo as a "visionary alliance." After a newly-empowered Selina Kyle reappeared in Shreck's office and met Bruce Wayne, Shrek vowed: "If she tries to blackmail me, I'll drop her out a higher window." Shreck then convinced Cobblepot to run for Mayor (while threatening to recall the current mayor) and promised to fulfill the half-human's destiny that was carelessly discarded by his parents. He would play on public sympathy and the Penguin's own delusions of grandeur. Meanwhile, Batman battled against the Penguin's Red Triangle Gang as they terrorized the city - it was all part of the Penguin's scheme to look good as a prospective Mayor by promising to clean up Gotham ("Cobblepot Can Clean It Up").

Catwoman had a competitive, antagonistic relationship with Batman, and repeatedly fought against him. When knocked down, she complained: "How could you? I'm a woman," but then when he apologized, she retaliated with a swift kick and her whip: "As I was saying, I'm a woman and can't be taken for granted. Life's a bitch, now so am I." Catwoman teamed up with the Penguin in an effort to rid Gotham of Batman by framing the superhero - she claimed that Batman was their mutual enemy: "The fly in our ointment...I want to play an integral part in his degradation...The thought of busting Batman makes me feel all dirty."

With a double-identity, Selina also became the love interest of Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne, a situation complicated by Catwoman's teaming with the Penguin to destroy Batman. A relighting ceremony of the Christmas tree, presided over by the Penguin, was marred by the kidnapping of the Ice Princess. A news report announced that Batman was suspected of being involved in the abduction - the report interrupted the dinner date of Selina and Bruce. They both hurriedly left, donned their costumes, and rushed to the plaza, to again enter into conflict with each other. As Batman attempted to rescue the Ice Princess, he was attacked by the Catwoman, and when the Ice Princess fell from the building, it appeared that Batman had pushed her. The two superheroes faced off again: Catwoman: "You're catnip to a girl like me. Handsome, dazed, and to die for."

When Batman exposed the Penguin's villainous and lecherous ways by broadcasting his real statements to the public (i.e., "I played this stinking city like a harp from hell"), he ruined the Penguin's political chances to become mayor. The crowd pelted the Penguin with tomatoes, eggs and lettuce. He was forced to return to his sewer-dwelling friends, to readopt the name The Penguin ("I am not a human being! I am an animal. Cold-blooded"), and to mount a vengeful attack to kill all of Gotham's first-born male infants (recalling the story of Moses and the Pharaoh in the Bible, and also his own experience as a child) by drowning them in the toxic underground sewage water. He would use the lists of enemy's names he had earlier gathered in the Hall of Records, including the name of Shreck's beloved first-born son Chip. He was retaliating for the way he was treated as a child (earlier, he had said: "I was my parents' number one son, but they treated me like number two").

Batman foiled the Penguin's scheme by sending a note: "The children regret they're unable to attend," causing the Penguin to become even more crazed and threaten the entire city of 100,000 people. He commanded an army of penguins to attack with dynamite strapped to their backs ("Forward, march. The liberation of Gotham has begun"), and held Shreck captive in a giant bird cage above the sewer lake. Batman thwarted the Penguin's new plan by diverting the penguins from Gotham Square back to the Zoo before the dynamite was detonated. The Penguin was then wounded during a one-on-one fight with Batman above ground when the dynamite sticks rocketed into the air and stirred up some bats.

As the Zoo was rocked by explosions above, Shreck escaped from his cage, and was threatened with death by the Catwoman. However, Batman appeared and pleaded with her to turn Shreck over to the police. In a confessional unmasking scene regarding their identities, he said: "Don't you see, we're the same...Split right down the center...Selina, please." She replied: "I would love to live with you in your castle forever, just like in a fairy tale (but) I just couldn't live with myself. So don't pretend this is a happy ending." With lots of remaining lives left (she recalled: "You killed me. The Penguin killed me. Batman killed me"), Catwoman challenged Shreck to finish her off - if he could. When he ran out of bullets, she still had two lives remaining - and she killed both Shreck and herself with an electrocuted kiss, using up one more of her lives.

The Penguin was mortally wounded from his fall - and when he selected the wrong toy to kill Batman ("I picked a cute one" - a cute umbrella instead of a deadly one), he did not survive his injuries and died, while spewing black bile from his mouth. He collapsed flat on his face, and was tenderly dragged by a group of penguins into the cool water for his grave.

Some time later as the film ended, Bruce was driving around the city on a snowy Christmas night with butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough). He ordered the car stopped when he saw Catwoman's shadowy figure silhouetted on a brick wall. Bruce searched for her but only found her black cat, which he carried in his arms back to the car. The camera then panned up to the top of the city between the towering skyscrapers. As the Bat-Signal lit up the night sky, Catwoman (with her sole life) appeared to stand and gaze at it.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

A more action-packed (but suspenseless), cartoony, gothic (or noirish), kinky, mean-spirited, and visually-stunning film than its predecessor. Typical of Tim Burton films, it contained oddball, unusual characterizations. This was the last Batman film to pair director Tim Burton with lead actor Michael Keaton.

With two Academy Award nominations (and no wins): Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects. Danny DeVito received a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor.

With a domestic box-office gross of $163 million (and $267 million worldwide), with a production budget of $80 million.

Although the PG-13 film received critical acclaim, some of its action-oriented, relentless violence and sexual innuendo-filled dialogue also received backlash and criticism by parental groups:

  • the Penguin's leering at a pretty mayoral campaign worker - "I'd like to fill her void...Teach her my French flipper trick"
  • the Penguin's biting of a publicist's nose
  • Shreck's promise to the Penguin of "unlimited poontang" if he'd run for mayor
  • the Penguin's leering at an admiring young person's breasts as he pinned a button on her blouse
  • Catwoman's words to two security guards: "Always confusing your pistols with your privates"
  • the Penguin's words to Catwoman: "Just the pussy I've been looking for"

Bruce Wayne

Batman
(Michael Keaton)

The Penguin
(Danny DeVito)

Maximillian Shreck
(Christopher Walken)

Selina Kyle

Catwoman
(Michelle Pfeiffer)

Alfred Pennyworth
(Michael Gough)

The Ice Princess
(Cristi Conaway)

The Mayor
(Michael Murphy)

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