Today's entry: Batman Returns!
Ok, so... this is gonna be a weird one, because I have waaay too many feelings about this film. Straight up, this is one of my favorite movies, ever. On the flip side, it is terrible as a "Batman" film. There are all kinds of themes going on in this film, about duality, class, madness, and penguins with rockets strapped to their backs (it should surprise no one that I love that stuff). But also, it makes no literal sense, and operates solely on dream logic. Which is fine, if you're into that. But if early 20th Century German Expressionism in film isn't your thing, its pretty simple to pull this sucker apart. And since that's the point of Humbug!, that's what I'm going to do.
To begin with, it takes like zero effort to say that the "hero" of the film is bullshit. That's obvious, because Batman isn't really the central character in this film. The movie does the hard work for me! But seriously, here's what Batman does in this film: After the Red Triangle Gang attack the city, he shows up and beats up some bad guys. Then, when they attack again, he blows up a clown. Then he makes out with Catwoman, throws her into a truck, and makes out with her again a little later. He fails to stop the death of a model, then has his car taken over by Penguin's goons. He saves the day, but looses the girl, and can't arrest either Penguin or Max Shrek, cuz they're dead. The end.
Dude, that is a bummer. This is the most depressing Christmas film I've ever seen.
So, aside from the barely-there "romance with Catwoman plot", Batman has no real character arc in this movie with his name in the title. That's because its not really about him, as the opening of the film proves: this is a movie about Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin.
In this interpretation of the character, the Penguin was abandoned as an infant by his parents for being a deformed cat-eating monster, who drools green goo and who has a pathological need to murder children. I want to stress that this is not the traditional interpretation of the character.
He's just a tad off-model, you see.
Penguin pretends he wants to learn who his biological parents are and stuff, but really its all a rouse to get access to the Gotham Hall of Records, to learn where every first born infant child in the city is, so that he can murder them on Christmas Eve. The total lack of sense involved with this plan is lamp-shaded by spending half the movie focusing on Penguin being seduced by the notion of running for political office, but remember, that wasn't his real plan. When Batman exposes him as not-really-caring-about-the-city (but not, it should be noted, for being a SERIAL CHILD MURDERER), he goes back to the "kill all babies" plan. And when THAT happens to fail because Batman succeeds at something finally, he gives a (phenomenal) Patton Speech to a crowd of actual penguins, who go out to blow up the city.
To call the plot of this film "convoluted" would be overly generous.
Assisting/scheming against Penguin is secretly-evil business man Max Shrek. The citizens of Gotham loves him, but every character in the film knows he's a dick, because Christopher Walken plays him. So, you know, there's that. There was probably a draft of this film at some point where "Gotham's own Santa Claus" got exposed for all the murders he's done, but that didn't make the final script. So whatever.
The only person he kills on screen is Selina Kyle. Except maybe he doesn't kill her? Like, maybe she survives? Or she really does die, but she gets magic extra lives from all those cats? (note: this is also not at all a thing from the comics) Who knows, what you can be sure of is it makes her totally crazy. And as any one in Hollywood can tell you, crazy = hot. She gets super extra hot great after getting pushed out the window a dozen stories. And then at the end she makes out with her murderer/boss while using a taser as a sex aid. It's... it's pretty weird, I gotta admit.
I was 7 in 1992. And we wonder why so many people my age are into kinky shit.
Okay, so that's this Batman film, and as much as I love it, I'm the first to admit, it is terrible as a movie about Batman. And at logic. But why am I reviewing it? Is this even really a Christmas film? Well, once the film starts in the present, we're at a Gotham City Christmas Tree Lighting Festival. And the film ends with Alfred saying "Merry Christmas, Master Bruce." And Batman learns a lesson about... treating women with respect (I guess?), and also wow, his billionaire privilege can be a little overwhelming for a working girl, or something? Whatever. I say yes, because the winter/Christmas atmosphere is ever present in this film, even if it doesn't actually matter much to the plot. Also, Batman has a long, storied history of Christmas specials, so I maintain he's a CHRISTMAS FIGURE.
Even if, you know, this particular Batman Christmas Special makes exactly no actual sense.
Next time on Humbug!: The Nightmare Before Christmas! After that I promise to move on from Tim Burton stuff, unless I find out he directed some late 80s Christmas Special I don't know about.