Background in case you haven't seen it: Batman Returns is Tim Burton's 1992 film where the caped crusader fights a trio of villains: Catwoman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), the Penguin (played by Danny DeVito) and the evil industrialist Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken.) The film is an absurd mixture of superhero tropes, Burton's standard ticks, and off-the-wall ideas that only sometimes work out, and I decided to liveblog my reaction to it in real time.
00:01:25 – First murder of the movie: the Penguin's parents have put him in a cage instead of a cradle, and the budding supervillain pulls a cat through the cage's bars and eats it. My cat does not notice as she is still asleep. I don't think she would empathize with the murdered cat if she was paying attention, however, as she has empathy for no one and no thing.
00:02:40 – The infant Penguin is put into a crib and the crib is tossed into a river. This raises the question: was baby Moses sent down the river Nile because God had given him a special destiny, or was he sent down the river because he was a cat eating monster baby? This is a legitimate question since the Egyptians worshipped cats.
00:06:28 – After a few minutes of floating downriver the infant Penguin finally stops when his crib hits an underground platform where two penguins just happen to be hanging around. Why are those birds living in a sewer? Did some kid pick up a penguin as a pet only to have their mama make them flush it down a toilet after it grew too big? That's the only explanation I can think of, since there's now way that Gotham is naturally close enough to a penguin's natural habitat for them to have wandered there on their own.
00:08:45 – First appearance of Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. His wig makes him look like what would happen if a Klingon had a baby with Al Sharpton and then the baby turned out to be white. It's... nuts.
00:10:20 – Selina Kyle (who will become Catwoman later in the movie) is 100% embodying the movie cliche where a hot woman has glasses on and her hair in a bun so no one knows that she's hot. Now, normally the hot woman becomes hot after someone (often a gay best friend) gives her a style lesson, but if I remember this movie correctly Kyle hottens up after a pack of feral felines brings her back from the dead. Teen movies would be more interesting if they copied that little plot development.
00:14:10 – A gang of thugs on motorcycles start to terrorize a large crowd. I can only imagine that the cops have mixed feelings about the fact that they are wearing oversize Dia De Muertos skulls instead of helmets. On the one hand, those skull heads probably satisfy the city's helmet laws, but on the other hand these heads don't seem to have eye holes which seems dangerous. But if there isn't a law on the books that explicitly says you have to have eye holes on your motorcycle helmet then cops' hands might be tied.
00:17:15 – The batmobile was being attacked from behind so Batman pressed a button which lowered a hydraulic jack from the car's undercarriage, pushed it off the ground, and then rotated it 180% degrees. That's probably simpler than doing a three point turnaround, but it does make me wonder if he has a gadget that helps him parallel park, too.
00:19:14 – A city official just thanked Batman for saving the day and added that it looks like “the Circus gang is back.” You know, I've had a few ant infestations that I couldn't quite get rid of, but a Circus gang infestation sounds more entertaining. After all, those ants would never have been able to star in the Warriors.
00:20:42 – First appearance of the adult Penguin. Apparently he's living with a bunch of arctic animals and violent circus performers in a sewer. Now, I don't know a lot about the Old Testament so it's possible that I'm just being ignorant here, but I think that there is a good chance that his life path diverged from Moses' at some point after his baby basket got pulled out of the river.
00:26:21 – Selina Kyle talks to her cats a lot more than I do. But I guess that's why they call her Catwoman and they don't call me Kirkwoman.
00:28:04 – Kyle was caught in the office after dark by her boss Max Shreck. When he asked why she was there so late she said was just “boning up” on some work. I haven't seen a ton of Mad Men but I'm guessing that with an attitude like that she would fit right in over at Sterling Cooper.
00:30:24 – Shreck just pushed Kyle through a window in an effort to kill her. Down on the ground a flock of feral cats have begun to swarm all over her. I don't know who did the cat wrangling on this movie but they were a real pro; there are like thirty cats doing a drive by on her prone body. The cats are definitely winning right now in the cats-vs-Catwoman battle, which raises the question: how many of those cats I could beat in an existential battle? I'm guessing like fifteen of them?
00:33:54 – Kyle is now spray painting all of the cutesy shit in her apartment and making her Catwoman suit by hand. Why did she have spray paint and enough leather to make a human size cat suit on hand? Was she planning ahead? I don't imagine too many meek secretaries just have those supplies just hanging out in their cupboards... Oh man, I am going to be totally boned if Christopher Walken every tries to assassinate me because I currently lack the ability to sew my own superhero suit on short notice.
00:37:08 – The Penguin drives a rubber ducky boat that also has a hydraulic jack in it's base that can raise the boat up on short notice. That's a lot of vehicles with hydraulics for one movie. How long will it be before Dr. Dre shows up in an Impala that's rolling on three wheels?
00:39:50 – The Penguin is now in the city's hall of records looking at birth records to try to track down who dumped him in the river. Suddenly I'm thinking of the Louis C.K. bit where he's frustrated because his young kids won't eat dinner and he tells them: “They have your footprint in the hospital. They know that I have you, I'm not allowed to let you die, you piece of shit, EAT IT! You have a social security number, you're on the grid motherfucker!” THE PENGUIN IS ON THE GRID MOTHERFUCKER
00:41:42: Alfred just asked Batman if he was worried about “this Penguin person.” Dude has the name of an animal instead of a real name! That's some untrustworthy shit! Name me one dude who has an animal name who you would trust with the keys to your house. You can't do it, can you? Shut up, Alfred.
00:43:54 – The Penguin - who has new discovered that his parents were once rich and influential in Gotham - is giving a press conference in a top hat. Well, I don't own catsuit materials but I do own a top hat, so while I am not prepared for Shreck-attack I am at least prepared to start a second life as a sewer mutant if it came to that. This is not a particularly reassuring development in my life.
00:44:10 – The Penguin just told the media “I was a number one son but [my parents] treated me like number two.” They must not have good ghostwriters in the sewer.
00:45:20 – Catwoman just looked at her hand like she was about to do a Spineroonie. Sadly, she did not.
00:46:10 – Shreck tells Bruce Wayne: “A million saved is a million earned.” I know there's been some inflation since Ben Franklin's time but going from a penny to a million still seems a little excessive.
00:47:00 – Selina Kyle returns to surprise Shreck at the office. The only evidence that she was shoved out of a thirty story window was that she has one band aid on her forehead. That's insane, since she landed on her back, so her forehead is the one body part of her body that wouldn't have been hurt, and besides, if her head had been hurt the wound would be too big for a band aid to cover up. I'm not saying that this movie about a bat fighting a penguin fighting a cat fighting a Klingon businessman isn't entirely plausible, but I am saying that there are parts of it I don't entirely buy.
00:50:15 – Max Shreck just pulled a wrapped fish out of his coat pocket to try to bribe the Penguin into running for mayor. Dude, that's too nice of a suit to be stashing dead fish in it. What would happen if you forgot to deliver your package for a few days? Then you'd be ruining some nicely tailored duds! If I was the one who was trying to bribe the Penguin I would have shown up in a hoodie with the fish hidden in the front kangaroo pocket because it's way cheaper to replace a hoodie.
00:52:30 – The Penguin just bit a jack-ass in the nose, which reminds me of the Chris Rock bit about when that tiger attacked Roy of Siegfried and Roy: “that tiger ain't go crazy, that tiger went tiger.” Did the Penguin just go Penguin? Do penguins love to maul their human prey?
00:53:00 – The Penguin just promised to show an attractive woman his “French flipper trick.” Man, the French know everything about sex, don't they? It sounds like they figured out some way to have sex inside a pinball machine, which is some serious next level shit.
00:54:40 – A small poodle just carried a grenade into a corner store and blew it up. I have to say, I'm glad I own a cat, not a poodle. The cat has used it's mouth to bring me unwanted gifts before but never any that exploded.
00:55:45 – Batman just programmed a batarang to fly around a group of thugs that were standing around in a circle and hit each of them in order. They sat still while he was typing their trajectories into the batarang with his fat rubber covered fingers. That was nice of them.
00:56:37 – Catwoman gets around by doing cartwheels for no goddamned reason. Seems like that would be hard on the heels but what the hell do I know, I've never done a cartwheel.
00:57:20 – Two security guards just caught Catwoman breaking into a department store. One says to the other “I don't know whether to open fire or fall in love.” Those are the only two options? Murder or fucking? She's a lunatic in a leather suit, it seems like "calling for psychiatric help" would also be on the list. But I'm not a cop so what do I know?
00:57:50 – WILHELM SCREAM!
00:58:09 – Batman just ignited all the dynamite in a creepy clown's purse and then kicked him down a hole so he could explode underground. That seems rude of him.
00:58:12 – Catwoman just opened up a panel in the back of the department store to reveal a metal canister labeled “GAS”. Does this store really heat itself with the same amount of propane that a mid-size barbecue grill does? That doesn't particularly efficient given how much space they have to heat.
00:59:10 – Catwoman does a series of backflips to get to where Batman and Penguin are talking. They both look at her as if she was fucking crazy (which is admittedly a funny sight gag since neither of them look particularly sane in their costumes.) I'm glad I'm not the only one who is not into the whole backflip thing, although again: the fact that I'm on the same mental page as a sewer mutant is kind of upsetting.
01:00:53 – Batman and Catwoman are now having a whip fight on a rooftop. I don't have much to add to that, but I didn't want to leave that important fact out because I'm kind of worried that I'm not dong a good job of explaining this movie's plot (which is super convoluted because there are so many goddamn villains running around.) I figure that as long as a I do a good job summarizing all of it's whip fights then I'll be doing a passable job as a reviewer.
01:01:48 – Batman kicked Catwoman off a ten story building but her fall was broken when she landed on the back of a dumptruck that was carrying around a full load of cat litter. Umm... Where was that truck going? What construction site needs thirty tons of loose cat litter at ten at night? I know that most major skyscrapers have Illuminati-mandated self-destruct pillars in case the powers that be decide to pull an “inside job” on short notice, but do the Illuminati also require that every skyscraper have a sub-basement that is always ready for the unlikely scenario that the world is afflicted with an outbreak of Godzilla-sized cats? If so, what do they know that I don't? (Besides all of the world's secrets.)
01:06:45 – Catwoman just walked over to a birdcage in Penguin's lair and put his pet bird in her mouth. This infuriated the Penguin so he threatened her pet cat with a knife tipped umbrella, which made her spit the still-living bird out of her mouth. Watching two people in weird costumes sit on a bed and harass small animals with their mouths has really underscored how weird this movie is. Whip fights belong in superhero movies, but what just happened? That belongs in dada art.
01:07:15 – Catwoman is trying to negotiate a deal with the Penguin. Suddenly she said that she felt dirty so she was going to give herself a bath. She started licking her leather suit clean while the Penguin watched. I don't... I mean... Let's just say that's a thing I just saw and move on.
01:11:52 – Catwoman is now pulling double flirting duty: she is back in her Selina Kyle identity and she's being hit upon by Bruce Wayne. I'm guessing he doesn't know where her mouth has just been.
01:12:45 – Wayne and Kyle are now making out, but it's awkward because they each have tender flesh wounds from when they tried to kill each other the night before. Still, I'm more optimistic about the chances of them ending up in a long term stable relationship than I am about 90% of the relationships that start on Okcupid.
01:13:17 – Selina Kyle just commanded Alfred to make up a dirty limerick for her. You can make other people's butlers do that for you? If so, that seems like an underexploited loophole in the Butler code.
01:18:50 – Back to Catwoman flirting with Batman in costume: she just licked his face while they were underneath some mistletoe (which was hanging from a rooftop antenna?), before telling him “you're the second man who has tried to kill me this week.” I think this film could learn a lot about human sexuality if it spent a few hours hanging around a middle school playground; I suspect that the urban legends that the fifth graders are spreading are probably more accurate than the mating dances that this movie has displayed.
01:22:19 – I feel like I've been watching this movie for a million years. The cat's still asleep so it's probably felt like no time at all to her. Einstein's theory of relativity in action I guess.
01:23:30 – The Penguin is now driving the Batmobile remotely while sitting in one of those kid's sized bouncy bumper cars they have outside of grocery stores, and he's trying to steer Batman directly into oncoming traffic. I feel like the Fast and Furious series should take note of this plot device; it might be the only way for those guys to up the ante after their last movie saw them flying cars like they were planes. (Although I should mention that the remote control device is a spinning snowglobe with red-and-white candy stripes on it, so they might want to redesign it so it looks more macho and less Hot Topic-y.)
01:25:40 – Batman has taken control of the Batmobile back from the Penguin and he just hit a switch which made the Batmobile shed 2/3rds of it's bulk right before it went through a tiny alley. I wonder how many times Batman has been reaching over to pick something off the floorboard and accidentally hit that switch? If I was Batman that would probably happen to me all the time and it would be super embarrassing.
01:28:45 – The Penguin is holding another press conference, which Batman then sabotages by taking over the loudspeakers and playing an audio tape of the Penguin talking trash about how dumb the people of Gotham are. Remember when that happened to Mitt Romney in real life? That was hilarious.
01:29:25 – Batman just scratched a CD as if it was a record. Note to self: don't ever hire that guy to DJ one of your parties. (He's already a millionaire so I probably couldn't afford him anyway.)
01:31:50 – The Penguin just screamed “I am not a man, I am an animal!” If he was in Battlefield Earth he would be both at once, since that movie is full of Man-Animals. (It should go without saying that is not good when a movie reminds you of Battlefield Earth.)
01:33:40 – Bruce Wayne is going to a fancy costume ball that is playing an awful jazz-instrumental version of Rick James' Superfreak. This can't end well. In all of cinema history there has never been a single costume ball that didn't end in a rape or a murder or something worse, and there has never been a single jazz instrumental cover of a funk classic that started, middled or ended well.
01:37:28 – Bruce and Selina are flirting under some mistletoe which causes them to figure out each other's secret identity. Neither says: “but you... you're the one who licked my face on that rooftop!”... But you just know they are both thinking it.
01:28:38 – The Penguin crashes the party in a giant motorized rubber ducky. Yup, another costume party that ended badly. Didn't see that coming.
01:40:32 – The Penguin reveals that his plan is to murder all of Gotham's first born, so the Moses thing has returned. You'd think that they would have gone in a Noah-ish direction with him since he loves boats and always has animals around, but I guess lions and giraffes wouldn't be happy hanging out in a cold sewer. (I can't blame them.)
01:42:00 – The Penguin's goons are stealing all of the city's children and Batman is the only one who is trying to stop them. None of the parents are armed with guns? If I lived in a city that was regularly beset by gun toting psychotics I'd probably own a firearm and I'm a pacifist; I can only imagine what kind of firepower Gotham's NRA members would be packing.
01:44:40 – The Penguin has unleashed an army of tiny penguins with rockets strapped to their back. Moses should have thought about arming the frogs he dropped on Pharoah; he might have been able to get out of Egypt a few days earlier.
01:47:20 – Batman is now using a mind control device to take over the missile toting penguins. It's basically exactly like that scene in 1984 where Big Brother uses angry rats to control Winston's mind. Well, that might be putting it a bit strongly; that isn't an exact comparison. But those are two scenes that both use animals and mind control and Batman.
01:49:05 – Batman is using his bat-boat's sonar to track the Penguins floating / driving rubber ducky, and the rubber ducky is actually displayed as a rubber ducky on his display. That's not how sonar works, and there is absolutely no goddamn reason why I should have to use the phrase “rubber ducky” so many times in one sentence in a review of a movie about a brooding crime fighter.
01:50:14 – The Penguin brought a knife tipped umbrella to a bat-fight. Batman brought an army of missile toting penguins. I'm not sure if there are any popular maxims that can explain who was more ill equipped for this scenario.
01:52: 45 – Shreck just tried to bribe Catwoman: “I don't know what you want but I can get it for you with a minimum of fuss. Money. Jewels. A very big ball of string.” Are those three things all equally interchangeable? I can't imagine that Run the Jewels is about to become Run The Very Big Ball of String.
01:52:56 – Catwoman says that she wants Shreck's blood. He says “But I gave... At the Office.” with one of those super unnecessary Christopher Walken pauses inserted in the middle. Walken, I love you, but for the love of God you should be doing everything in your power to wrap this up quicker but instead you are stretching it out.
01:53:40 – Batman just told Catwoman that the law still applies to both of them. So he's liable for those people he shoved off buildings and exploded with dynamite? Or has he forgotten that he's done those things? I'm pretty sure I remember all the homicides I've committed.
01:54:40 – Batman ripped off his cowl to reveal Bruce's face. I would give a million dollars for Bruce to rip off his face and reveal Judge Doom underneath.
01:55:15 – Catwoman just ripped off her cowl, too, and the mass of hair that exploded out is insane. How did she manage to fit that much hair in such a small space? And what shampoo does she use? Her hair has lovely volume. She's really come a long way from the glasses-and-hair-bun look she started with!
01:556:40- Catwoman is now trying to kill Shreck by putting a taser between their faces and then making out with it. Yeah, this film could stand to learn some sex-stuff from some fifth graders.
01:59:00 – Penguin just flopped down dead on top of a ramp and his pet penguins are escorting his body into the water. If he was really Moses Part 2 the water would be parting for him, but nope, he's just getting wetter and deader.
02:01:00 – Well, this certainly didn't hold up as well as I thought it did. I mean, it does have some charms, but it's really overstuffed with plot developments, and it has an awkward ratio of campiness-to-darkness. But I will give it this: it does have plenty of whip fights and missile toting arctic birds, and that has to count for something right?