Batman Returns (1992): Good Film But Full of Double Standards and Inconsistent Characters

Batman Returns

     “Batman Returns” is a fun film but is also very flawed and doesn’t quite have a focus on knowing what it wants to be about. I would still recommend this film as the performances by the main cast are fantastic, as is the environment and score…this is just no longer a favorite. It is a solid film, but not a favorite as when I watched it the flaws were too many to make it a film I’d continue to come back to watch.

 The film was directed by Tim Burton who was also one of the producers and written by Daniel Waters and also produced by Denise Di Novi.

     The story arrives the Penguin (Danny DeVito) seeking power in Gotham by kidnapping and using businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) to get him what he wants. Elsewhere Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is killed by Shreck and resurrected by cats into the Catwoman as Batman (Michael Keaton) investigates them all and tries to stop their plans.

The Pros: The World – Burton’s world is fantastic and I love returning to it, even if the story isn’t as good as the first film. This is a Gotham that feels both old and new in feel and that is overlayed by a Gothic feel giving it a dark and dying feeling that fits the characters who inhabit it’s world.

The Peguin’s Circus Gang – These guys are awesome! They hack the Batmobile, they wreak havoc on multiple occasions and have a really cool aesthetic, ranging from creepy clown faces, a lady in white and a bearded man in a top hat. I wanted more time with these characters and wanted to know how they came to be with the Penguin and why they worked for him.

The Action – This film has much more action in “Batman” (and Batman has a much higher body count because of it) as well as some great chase and fight sequences. Whether it is Batman v. Catwoman or Batman v Penguin’s Gang the action keeps you drawn in and I wanted to see what would happen next.

The Soundtrack – Danny Elfman is once again in his element as his score captures the horror and gothicness of Gotham as well as the internal struggles of the characters of Batman and Catwoman.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful as the Burton’s shadowy Gotham is presented with contrasts of dark and light like in the first film. Stefan Czapsky did a great job! The film is beautiful and it is largely thanks to how it is presented.

The Characters – The characters are intriguing and a pro, even if they aren’t always consistently written. I still enjoyed these characters even if some of the cons in how they were presented and written brought them down.

Max Shreck – Christopher Walken is a national treasure, he is wonderful as the two-faced corrupt businessman Max Shreck who kills Selina Kyle and manages to keep the Penguin at a safe distance and use the Penguin to his own ends. In the end Selina Kyle gets revenge against him as he meets a fitting end. He also nearly kills Batman as he sees that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person and tries to shoot him. Not many people can claim this victory.

Alfred – Alfred is great in this and is the counselor to Batman once again. Michael Gough really makes a great Alfred and helps us see more of Bruce’s humanity.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Bruce Wayne’s motivations in this are clear, he is Batman seeking to save the city and as many people as he can around him who aren’t part of Penguin’s Gang or the Penguin. We also see his seeking of normalcy too as he shows Catwoman who he is and expresses a willingness to do anything to bring her back from being Catwoman. In her he sees his own fractured identity and an escape, which I wish could have been explored more.

Okay/Pro: Selina Kyle / Catwoman – Selina Kyle is a secretary for Max Shreck who he murders when she accesses confidential documents. From here she goes from nervous and unsure to empowered and sexual. She is a good threat too and manages to hurt Batman on multiple occasion as well as finally getting revenge on Shreck. Sadly her motivations are unclear through most of it as the script decides to present her largely as crazy…which was a waste of character.

Okay: Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin – Like Catwoman, Penguin’s motivations are unclear. He wants revenge, but he wants power, he wants to be accepted, he wants sex…the writers seemed unable to decide what it was he actually wanted and because of this it kept him from being like Nicholson’s Joker whose agenda was clear. DeVito put in a great performance but in the end he is only okay because I didn’t know what he was about or what he wanted.

The Cons: Commissioner Gordon – Gordon is there to light the Bat Signal, seriously in the Burton films he isn’t used at all and shouldn’t have even been put in the script. He’s just an extra body with a familiar name.

The Mayor – The Mayor like Commissioner Gordon is a non-entity who is only there to be protected by Batman and overthrown by the Penguin. What a waste of a character.

Catwoman’s Motivation – We never get her motivation…at first it’s revenge but she never follows through with it and she never seeks revenge against the Penguin even after he tries to kill her. I had no idea why she did what she did, she was just presented as insane. I didn’t know her motivation beyond keeping her job when she is Selina Kyle.

Batman’s Hypocrisy – Batman won’t let Catwoman kill, even the character is bad and a villain and he is doing it all the time. This was really annoying and I hated it as it just made Batman look like a big hypocrite. It only would have made sense if we hadn’t seen him kill people in the last film and this one and if he had stated that his motivation was not to kill but to turn people into prison.

An Inconsistent Penguin – He wants revenge, he wants to be Mayor he just wants to be left alone, he hates everyone, he loves everyone…what did this character want in the end? He seemed to have the destruction of Gotham plot going for a while so why did he even bother running for mayor?

Lack of Narrative Focus – The lack of narrative focus is best illustrated in the unclear motivations of Penguin and Catwoman, who are two major characters we follow whose desires and plans are never fully realized so it leaves their arcs up in the air and unfinished…

   This was a film that was trying to do too much and fell because of it. It still manages to be a good film but the inconsistently written Penguin, Catwoman’s unclear motivation and the lack of clear narrative focus keep this film from being great. To any lover of Burton’s work this is still a must see but the flaws are much more obvious than the first “Batman” film. The world and characters make the film worth the watch though and the cons do not keep this from being a good film and one of the better “Batman” films.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 10 – “Face the Raven” – A Great World and Decent Good Bye

Doctor Who Face the Raven

     This is an episode of Spoilers so I’m not going to talk about the details of what happens until I get further into the review. Suffice to say I do think this episode was great, even though I would have done things differently in regards to the ending…it’s an episode that had an idea that was explored really well and the idea of a bunch of alien refugees living in London was actually really cool.

        “Face the Raven” was directed by Justin Molotnikov and written by Sarah Dollard.

SPOILERS ahead

     The  story involves the return of Rigsy who calls for Clara for help after he’s been infected by an alien curse that has him on a countdown until he dies. It is up to Clara and the Doctor to rescue him and trace the origin of the curse as they discover the street that is ruled by Ashilder/Me who is the Mayor looking after her people, an assortment of alien refugees hiding out in London as Rigsy is accused of having killed their most loved member.

The Pros: The Missing Street – A world of alien refugees who live by a strict code where any breaking of the code leads to Ashildr killing them with the Raven who is possessed by a Quantam Shade that kills the members who have been cursed/Chronolocked. It’s powerful and you see how much the peace is valued and also how easy it is to break it.

 The Janus – The Janus are a 2 headed alien who can see into the past and the future. Anah was the one who made everyone at peace when she talked and we see that they are one of the vulnerable species as their abilities are one anyone threatening could take advantage of.

Rigsy – Rigsy is a father! We learn about his wife and child in this when he is living with the countdown and see him make comfort with his death until Clara convinces him to pass the Chronolock onto her. He helps a lot in this and has some great dialogue and nickname as the Doctor calls him Local Knowledge…only calling him his name when he’s about to tell that the countdown is for his death leading him to have the Doctor to please just call him nicknames.

Ashilder/Mayor Me -Ashildr continues to be a great complicated character. She is very much in the same vein as Jack Harkness and River Song as we see her antagonistic relationship with the Doctor leading her to make a deal with his enemies (my Money is on Missy and Davros) in order to protect her people. If she’ll do something to make up for it remains to be seen, I did enjoy how much she respects Clara though and that she didn’t want her death.

The Doctor – The Doctor is wonderful in this as we see him advocate for the life of Rigsy and also admire Ashildr for keeping the peace on the Street, even though he disagrees with the methods. We also see his anger too as he would have done worse than kill Ashildr if Clara hadn’t forced him to promise to be a Doctor. Before he leaves we see his sadness in Clara’s good bye and his rage as he is transported to an unknown place at episodes end.

Clara Oswald – This is a good episode that shows how Clara has become like the Doctor (risking herself for others) but also what sets her apart as she reminds the Doctor to be a doctor and not a warrior at episodes end. She also takes on the curse of her own free will since she sees all that Rigsy has to live for, while she is living each moment to the fullest in adventure.

Okay/Good: Clara’s Death – Clara faces the raven. It was an okay/good death but not the best exit. I thought Season 8 with her and the Doctor lying to one another was better as was the “Peter Pan” ending with Clara dying as an old woman in the Christmas Special. This was a decent good bye but because the better ones had already occurred it was always going to be less. Now here is to her remaining dead.

      I can’t really state it anymore than I did above, this was not Clara’s strongest death but it still meant something and I do like the Doctor being alone and i hope he stays that way until he gets a new companion. She had her arc and now that it’s done the story can continue to move forward as we see what the Doctor’s enemies have in store. Hopefully we will return to the Missing Street again someday. I really enjoyed that world and could have easily spent 2 episodes there.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 25 – The Clock King – When Time Drives you Mad

Clock-King

“The Clock King,” is our introduction to the character by the same name. He is most reminiscent of the Riddler but his schtick is times and clocks rather than Riddles. This episode is his origin story and also explores the Mayor more. The episode begins with Temple introduced as an efficiency expert who has an important case to keep…the mayor says he should take a break…everything goes wrong on the break and he goes mad as his case fails, after it flashes forward seven years and the consequences of the actions from that day.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The Clock King – I like the Riddler and The Clock King is no Riddler but he has class and smarts that make him a worthy adversary. He even escapes Batman and the collapsing Clocktower he is so good. He also started out as an anal retentive normal guy. He just snaps cause his day goes so wrong (a theme of Batman’s rogues).

The Mayor – We once again see how he is possibly corrupt. We learn that he might have set up the break in order for Temple to fail. Of course this could all be The Clock King’s delusion but the mayor may be kind but he is also manipulative and all about power as established in past episodes. We see more of that in this one.

Batman – We see his brains as he manages to save the mayor and get himself out of an elaborate trap where the room is poisoned and oxygen is out of the room leaving Batman minutes to live. We see the brains of Batman this episode…as well as him discovering who The Clock King is.

Okay: The story – It wasn’t the strongest, but wasn’t bad either. Average I’d say. Batman investigates, minor villain origin story explored, etc.

The music – Not super memorable this episode and forgettable.

This episode does a great job of providing Batman with a new adversary who actually manages not to get caught (like Clayface). He is fun to watch too and actually challenges Batman intellectually…which doesn’t happen often enough with his rogues.

Good episode. I give it an 8 / 10.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 9 – Be a Clown – Joker and the Mayor’s Son

Be A Clown

“Be a Clown” is about the Joker, Mayor and the Mayor’s son. The Joker arrives undercover as another clown and convinces the Mayor’s son Jordan to run away (the Mayor cares more about good publicity than his son’s passions). From here it is Batman attempting save Jordan and bring the Joker down.

Here is my assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Joker – Even in his weaker episodes he elevates the story. This time we get to see him in the Devil role as he attempts to corrupt Jordan and turn him against his father and Batman. We later see him do this again with another child in “Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker,” in a much darker way. This episode he also manages to capture Batman…which is an accomplishment for any of the villains.

Bruce Wayne – Is great as the pretend klutz saving the day…since he manages to save the party by knocking the cake with the dynamite into the pool.

Batman – Has his moment when he uses the Joker’s funhouse against him in order to save Jordan.

Jordan – Is a kid who is actually written well. You get the anger at his dad and the moment when he realizes that he ran off to be with a psychopath. He has some great moments and his voice isn’t annoying like a lot of child actors.

Okay: The mayor – For someone who gets a lot of screen time…he’s still basically a corrupt suit who cares about his kid…which is a shame since he even has a kid in this episode to give him more dimension. We see a character done right next episode with the Harvey Dent two-parter “Two-Face.” “P.O.V.” also did a better job with character exploration.

The music – Isn’t super memorable again, standard fair…nothing special.

The episode is great at showing the danger of the Joker and how deftly he uses people (as we’ll see later with other people in later episodes). It also great seeing a child character written well since most shows and movies suffer from writing children poorly. The episode has a great resolution with helping move things forward between the Mayor and Jordan. They have a sweet moment and it adds to a fun episode.

This episode gets an 8.5 / 10.