Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, it is the sequel to Burton’s Batman (1989), and features Michael Keaton reprising the title role, with Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Burton originally did not want to direct a sequel because of his mixed emotions toward the previous film. Daniel Waters delivered a script that satisfied Burton; Wesley Strick did an uncredited rewrite, deleting the character of Robin and rewriting the climax. Filming started at Burbank, California in June 1991. Batman Returns was released to financial and critical success, though it caused some controversy for being darker than its predecessor.
A deformed baby boy is thrown into Gotham City’s river by his horrified parents. Thirty-three years later, the child, Oswald Cobblepot, resurfaces as the hideous Penguin (Danny DeVito) who kidnaps and blackmails millionaire Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) with evidence of his corporate crimes into helping him discover the identity of his parents. The Penguin ‘rescues’ the Mayor’s child when he is kidnapped by a criminal which The Penguin set up, which makes him a heroic figure. He is allowed privacy in the Hall of Records to discover his parents, then visits their graves and tells the city he forgives them. When the Penguin’s plight becomes news, Shreck hatches a plan to recall Gotham City’s current mayor and elect Cobblepot in his place, in order to cement his control over the city and complete the power plant project he has been working on. The Penguin’s gang of circus performers cause chaos round Gotham to reduce the popularity of the Mayor. Batman (Michael Keaton) is unconvinced by the Penguin, believing that he and his gang are responsible for several child murders. Meanwhile, Shreck throws his secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the top of his company’s building when she discovers the true nature of his plans: to build a super power station and drain Gotham of its electricity.
Selina survives the fall but it causes a psychotic break and her personality changes. Now influenced by her love of cats and free from any societal or moral restraints, Selina returns home and designs a new costume, becoming Catwoman and focusing on revenge against Shreck for his several unpunished crimes. Selina, meanwhile, falls in love with Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne, a situation complicated by Catwoman’s teaming with the Penguin in an effort to rid Gotham of Batman. They kidnap the Ice Princess, a woman chosen to turn on the Gotham Christmas Tree lights. Batman finds her tied to a chair and gagged in a nearby building. He finds out from her that the Penguin kidnapped her, but Catwoman frees her and takes her to the top of the building. The Penguin knocks her off, and Batman is seen by the crowd, who think he killed the Princess. Catwoman is upset though, thinking the Princess was only going to be scared, whereupon the Penguin tries to kill her. Faith in the Mayor and Batman are lost, making the Penguin’s victory seem a near certainty. When Batman exposes the Penguin’s villainous ways, thereby ruining his political chances, the Penguin mounts an attack to kidnap and kill all of Gotham’s first-born infants, telling the members of a high society party. He kidnaps Shreck when Shreck asks to be taken instead of his son Chip. Batman foils his scheme, whereupon the Penguin decides to launch missiles around Gotham using mind-controlled Penguins. However Batman is able to jam the frequency used to control the penguins and has missiles launched at the Penguin’s base. Shreck looses himself from the cage over the sewers but is confronted by both Batman and Catwoman. Batman attempts to persuade Catwoman to spare Shreck and hand him over to the police, even unmasking himself in the process, but Shreck draws a gun and begins firing on them. In a last effort to stop Shreck, Catwoman causes an explosion and apparently sacrifices her own life to kill Shreck, though Batman doesn’t find her body. The Penguin, having been mortally wounded during his fight with Batman, dies from his injuries after emerging to try and kill Batman, and is taken by his penguins into the sewer waters.
Some time later, Bruce is driving around the city at night with butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough), thinking he sees Selina’s shadow on a wall. Alfred stops the car and Bruce searches for Selina in vain. He does find Selina’s cat, however, which he takes with him and leaves. The camera then pans up to the top of the city, amidst the sky scrapers. As the Bat-Signal lights up the night sky, Catwoman emerges from a rooftop, gazing at it.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Dec 23, 2011 – Last Updated: May 30, 2013