I was talking to a friend one day about the Batman franchise. He said that the love people have for a specific film is based on the age/time they saw it. Batman 89 is the first film I ever remember seeing in theaters. So, of course I would go see the sequel before I hit double digits in age. There are two camps for Batman Returns: the lovers and the haters. There really does not seem to be much of a middle ground. Batman 89 and Batman Returns were on TV yesterday. Of course I watched them for the millionth time. There is just something different about them being on TV rather than watching recordings (am I the only one that thinks this way?).
While watching them, I saw a good deal of similarities and thought we could take a look at why Batman Returns doesn’t deserve all of the hate it gets. (While I will be comparing parts of Batman 89 with Batman Returns, I am NOT saying Returns is a better film than 89 is. Batman 89 is, and will always be, a masterpiece for me. However, the sequel does share similarities that people criticize in one film, but not the other.)
Batman Doesn’t Kill
Alright, one of the major issues people have with Batman Returns is his killing of other characters. Now, this is valid. We all know Batman’s number one rule: no killing. In Returns he blatantly kills, or severely harms, the fire breather with the flame of the Batmobile. He also attaches the dynamite to the strong-man resulting in an explosion. Not a Batman move we know.
However, there are similarities in Batman 89. In the church tower leading to the Joker, he grabs a guy with his legs, slams his head into the bell, then drops him into oblivion. Let’s not also forget he shoots at the Joker with machine guns and missiles in the Batwing (and misses him completely yet blows up other areas the thugs are in).
Now you may say that these are not intentional like they appear to be in Batman Returns. Well, how about when the remotely controlled Batmobile goes to blow up Axis Chemicals and drops the bomb right between a thug’s legs…I am assuming he did not make it out of there alive.
Again, there appears to be violent killing elements that Batman 89 gets a pass for. Maybe because it opened the door for comic films. Maybe because there was not much prior to compare it to. But, the fact is, some of these elements appear to be overlooked in 89. (I chose not to include the main villain deaths for each film as they can be seen as somewhat accidental.)
The Film Is Not Kid-Friendly
Now I do know the 90s was the push back against violence on screens. That’s why TMNT II barely used weapons compared to TMNT in 1990. And, we all know the famous McDonalds tie-in debacle. The big issue was that the film was not for kids. Sure, there are blatant sexual innuendos that do not need to be in there. But saying that it was too dark and violent? The film gets most of the hate for the tie-in with McDonalds. However, did anyone from McDonalds not see Batman 89? The film was a success and they wanted to ride the hopeful success for the sequel. But come on. Seeing Batman 89 then being surprised Batman Returns is not for kids is a bit odd to me.
Remember when the Joker has Alicia come in with her face burnt from acid? How about when he references her jumping out a window and smashing her mask stating, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs”?
Or, I don’t know, the time “Antoine got a little hot under the collar” and was electrocuted into a burnt skeleton in front of everyone? Not sure how someone could have seen those moments and been that surprised that Batman Returns “was too dark”.
Batman Returns Is A Time Burton Movie
Yes, we know Tim Burton received more control for the sequel. You can tell many of the differences, however, I do not feel it is glaring to the point that it is not entertaining. Some claim it was not a Batman film. Yes, it is more Burton-esque. but it does still follow some Batman source material. Batman 89 gave the Joker a completely new origin story connecting him directly to Bruce and Batman.
Batman Returns may have taken its liberties, but it did a great job accurately portraying the dynamics between Batman and Catwoman (wonderfully played by Michelle Pfeiffer). The idea of Penguin running for mayor is actually from some source material. We know in the comics his underground mob persona. While we did not get exactly that, there is an episode from the Batman 66 TV show called “Hizzonner the Penguin” where he does run for mayor.
Yes, the sexual references were more than over the top. The bile out of Penguin’s mouth was definitely not needed. But these are the main reasons people do not like it? Sure, it was a much different take on the Penguin. However, Batman 89 was a much different take on…well, Batman on the screen. Also, recently, The Batman created an intriguing new look of The Riddler that was new and fresh. I actually like Danny DeVito’s tragic character (sans the bile and pervyness).
Burton took his criticism in stride and I think he would have righted the ship if he was given the chance for Batman 3. I do think we would have seen a bit less of his craft in a third installment and more of a mix between 89 and Returns. If the outstanding Batman 89 comic series is anything to base it on, then that is exactly what fans would have got. Unfortunately, it was not given the chance. Hindsight is always 20/20 but WB overcompensated and we see what that resulted in…
So again, I am not suggesting that Batman Returns is better than Batman 89. Nor am I saying Returns doesn’t have its issues. However, I am suggesting that 89 does get away with some elements that Returns is extremely criticized for. Overall, if you are a fan of Batman 89, then Batman Returns deserves more love than it gets.
What do you think? Are you a lover or hater of Batman Returns? Why do you think it shares some characteristics of Batman 89, but gets more hate? Would you have liked to see a Batman 3 by Burton? (Check out the Batman 89 comic series!) Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!