By Jonathan Rosa
Gotham City has always been plagued by criminality everyday. Citizens and law enforcement are tired of this. Even our dark knight hero, Batman is also tired. As Christmas Season begins, everyone desires to take a break and enjoy the glorious holiday; however, not everyone wants that. As Gotham experiences the Spirit of Christmas, darkness emerges in exchanging the joy for terror. Evil over Good, Injustice over Justice, Apathy over Empathy, Cruelty over Kindness and Despair over Hope. In the following film, we’ll see how evil reached higher than goodness on Christmas in the following superhero movie which perfectly presents itself as a Christmas Horror movie.
Batman Returns (1992) is directed by Tim Burton which follows the terrifying and groundbreaking character driven stories of Batman (Michael Keaton), Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) as they battle through the holiday week. The movie begins with the unsettling origin story of Oswald Cobblepot, a deformed child born from one of Gotham’s wealthiest families. Never loved or cared, Oswald was eventually thrown out to a river by his parents. Miraculously, Oswald survive the harrowing ordeal and ended up at a penguin chamber in Gotham Zoo. 33 years later, Oswald (aka Penguin) makes launch attacks on Christmas season with the help of a circus crew. As these attacks unfold, another story occurs where an underestimated executive secretary by the name Selina Kyle is caught in the crossfires. Selina has a boring life due to failed romantic relationships and the sexist discrimination she faces from her boss, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). A corrupt businessman, Max proposed plans in the construction of a nuclear power plant, knowing of the dangerous toxic waste that has been spilled in Gotham. All these stories begin collide when Max is kidnapped and blackmailed by The Penguin by forming an alliance and restore Penguin’s legitimate heritage to Gotham. In addition, Selina is murdered by Max when she uncovers his coverup crimes. However, Selina is revived by cats, thus giving her nine lives.
Gotham City witnesses the heroic and perfect role model of The Penguin thanks to Max’s political influence. As The Penguin elaborates a heinous plan, Selina (aka Catwoman) starts a vengeance against Max. Secrets and dangers lurking among the joyous holiday, Batman must use his wits to uncover The Penguin’s real agenda and Catwoman’s secret. As the story progresses, The Penguin and Catwoman meet up and form an alliance to damage public opinion on Batman and create more chaos in the city. Ultimately, betrayals unfold in this quartet as Max betrays The Penguin when his plans are semi-discovered and Selina betrays Bruce Wayne due to her continuing revenge plan. On Christmas Eve, an unprecedented attack reaches a terrifying climax when The Penguin decides to kidnapped and kill the first-born children from Gotham’s wealthiest families as well as bombard the city. In the end, Batman saves the night but witnessing the death of Penguin as well as Catwoman performing a murder-suicide with Max. The great holiday tragedy ended but with a little Christmas miracle with Batman being called again to action while Catwoman revives with her last live in her pocket.
This Batman film is very grim and extremely dark, considering its topics on ableism, sexism, childhood trauma, revenge, child abuse, corruption and weaponized politics. Batman Returns perfectly displays an ongoing dark tale that Tim Burton started with its predecessor, Batman (1989). However, Batman Returns takes the approach to fully take out the joy of Christmas by giving a harsh look on The Haves and Have Nots of Gotham City. Christmas was supposed to be a holiday where everyone shares happiness and kindness; but in this city, class differences, discrimination and rampant criminality is the culture of the day.
The Penguin is a victim by discrimination and child abuse who eventually finds a chosen family among the penguins. Unfortunately, his desire of revenge consumes him in performing his latest act of cruelty against the children of the rich. Exacting his punishment on the very society that cast him as a child due to be different. His life has similar parallels to Bruce Wayne since both lose their wealthy parents and where cast out to fend for themselves. However, Bruce has privileged opportunities that Oswald never had; in addition, Bruce fights against injustice while Oswald provokes terror. They represent the polar opposites of the social class they were born with and the paths they chose. Another important character is Selina Kyle who is transformed by the unsettling sexism and the malevolent behavior of Max. Before her death, Selina struggled to progress in her life, at home and at work; unfortunately, Max decided to end it with his ego. Reborn as Catwoman with the gift of the nine lives, Selina embarks a revenge path in destroying Max’s world as well as combat the violence against women in Gotham City. Her heart and mind are torn apart when she falls in love with Bruce Wayne, giving her hope to a better life. In the end, her desires and aspirations unite in striking down Max’s reign as well as her duality in the world. In the case of Max, he represents The Haves of Gotham City as well as the terrible mass power he influences with money and votes without caring for the safety of its citizens. Max continues his desired path of absolutism which ends with the coming of The Penguin and Catwoman. Both fearful enemies whom Max betrayed; he formed his own burial on Christmas Eve.
Overall, Batman Returns offers the two sides of good and evil while leaning more to the evil that spreads in Gotham City. Further showing that not even the Spirit of Christmas can save the incoming darkness that dwells in Gotham. However, the only miracle Gotham City has is the Dark Knight that was molded by the evils of society but made his path in making the world a better place. Thus, the Dark Knight is above the evil of Gotham City