Thursday, December 22, 2016

Recap: "Batman Returns" Part 2: The Cat

So, hopefully, Batman shows up to do more in this segment. I mean, you’d think so. His name is in the title. Unless this is one of those Waiting for Godot things….

Maybe it’s called Batman Returns to reassure us that Batman will show back up after the first half hour.
As times go on, things seem to be getting worse in Gotham City. First it was one clown, now it's a whole gang of them. So Mayor Worthington ends up doing basically all he can, which is to hold a press conference to say that he simply won't stand for all this chaos in his city.

As if to personify that chaos, former San Diego Chargers punter Gregory Cummins, dressed as a clown, backflips onto the stage, steals the mayor's baby and even addresses the crowd before flipping away into the sewers.

...Interesting casting choice.
Acrobat Clown: "I'm not really one for speeches, so I'll just say... thanks."

But once in the sewer, he loudly exclaims in fear that the hideous PENGUIN MAN is confronting him. He hands the baby to his boss, the Penguin, and ol' Pengy emerges from the sewer on his rubber duck lift.

Ducks. Penguins. Same diff.
He hands the baby back to the mayor, allowing the child to eventually live a full, happy life at Professor Xavier's school for gifted mutants.

...In one timeline.
Over at Wayne Manor, Bruce watches on TV as the Penguin milks the crowd for sympathy by explaining his desire to find his real parents.

"Why do I always turn on the TV to find pale, deformed people?"
Alfred: "Mr. Wayne? Something wrong?"
Bruce Wayne: "No, uh, his parents. I hope he finds them."

But Max Shreck is the one standing closest to Penguin, which should immediately be a warning sign. Shreck takes Penguin down to the Hall of Records...

...Which apparently has busts of Elvis Presley on the building facade...
...to search the public records for any information on his parents by going over all the birth certificates. And Shreck ensures that he gets to work in peace by telling off some reporter, who I can only imagine was trained by Alexander Knox, yelling about "freedom of the press."

Max Shreck: "Wait a minute. What about the freedom to rediscover your roots with dignity, in privacy?"
Reporter: "What's the deal, Mr. Shreck? Is the Penguin a personal friend?"
Max Shreck: "Yehs, he's a personal friend. Of this whole city, so have a heart. Give the constitution a rest, okay? It's Christmas."

Inside, the Penguin goes through birth certificates, showing an interesting detail.

The certificate he's looking at gives a birthdate of 9/12/50. Thirty-three years after that would be 1983. So either this film takes place in 1983, or the Penguin is going through some records that clearly don't belong to him. And for some reason, he's making a list of names....

As the Penguin looks stuff up, so too does Bruce Wayne in the Batcave.

No railing yet, but he's got some lights set up. So that's better, I guess.
Alfred serves him some cold soup, which I think he did on purpose. It's vichyssoise, which is meant to be served cold, but the unexpected temperature is enough to get Bruce's mind out of its auto-pilot mode. And I think that's exactly what Alfred wanted.

He might be a bit more subtle than Michael Caine's speechifying, but this Alfred still knows how to bring Bruce back from the brink of obsession. Subtly.

As Bruce continues his meal, he fills Alfred in on his research on the Red Triangle Circus, which featured a freak show containing, you guessed it, the "Aquatic Bird Boy." Apparently, the circus was suspected in the disappearance of several children, and one performer disappeared before he could be questioned. Three guesses who. First two don't count.

Alfred: "I suppose you feel better now, sir."
Bruce Wayne: "No. Actually, I feel worse."

And why wouldn't he? Bruce saw a tragic figure who simply wanted to reconnect with his parents, a dream that Bruce can relate to. And to find that this figure may not be what he seems... well, a would-be kindred spirit has suddenly become a potential enemy. As such, Batman patrols the streets of Gotham in front of the Hall of Records, finding the Penguin still working on his list as Alfred calls to ask why he's still out.

Batman: "I think he knows who his parents are. There's something else."

Not bad, not bad, but Luigi still gives a better death glare.
The next day, Penguin reconnects with his parents. In the cemetery.

They're not in a very talkative mood.
After paying his respects, Penguin talks to the assembled press regarding a few things. First of all, his name.

Penguin: "A penguin is a bird who cannot fly! I am a man!"

"I can't fly, either. And I don't believe that any man can."
"Well, that's just rude."
Penguin: "I have a name! Oswald Cobblepot!"

When asked about the lack of opportunity to reconcile with or rebuke his parents, Oswald launches into the sort of eloquent speech you'd expect from Frank Reynolds.

Oswald: "I was their number one son... and they treated me like number two."

Luckily, he switches tracks and starts talking about how fearing that which is different is, sadly, simply human nature.

Oswald: "Perhaps... when I held my Tiffany baby rattle with a shiny flipper instead of five chubby digits... they freaked. But I forgive them."

The people of Gotham eat up the various news stories on the Penguin, with quotes like "Don't need hands as long as you've got heart." Bob Kane's wife even describes him like "a frog that became a prince."

"Hey, maybe I should start writing this stuff! Just call me... Gossip Gerty!"
But elsewhere in Gotham, crime isn't taking a holiday. As per Superhero Film Cliche #43, it's time for some lady to get mugged for no other reason but to show off somebody's new ability to kick butt and take names. Since Shreck isn't wearing a costume, Penguin is a waddling mound, and Batman was established last movie, this job falls to Selina Kyle and her new catsuit.

Selina: "I just love a big strong man who's not afraid to show it with someone half his size. Be gentle, it's my first time."

She opens up with a few kicks to the face, ripping of Batgirl's signature move, and finishing up with a facial Zorro slice in a #-shape.

She just hashtagged a face.
Selina: "Tic... Tac... Toe!"

The woman about to be mugged thanks her rescuer, only to get grabbed and given a stern talking-to.

Selina: "You make it so easy, don't you? Always waiting for some Batman to save you. I am Catwoman. Hear me roar."

What, your superpower is victim-blaming? And you call yourself a feminist icon? Well… I’ll talk about that when I go over her in the Review portion.

She backflips away into the night and we cut to the next day, where Bruce Wayne meets with Max Shreck. The atmosphere is tepid, since Bruce Wayne isn't the fool he appears to be. He knows Shreck isn't on the level, even though the man claims that it's best to build the power plant now to keep it from costing more later.

Bruce says that according to a report he commissioned, Gotham has a power surplus at the moment.

Bruce Wayne: "What's your angle?"
Max Shreck: "Power surplus? Bruce, shame on you. No such thing. One can never have too much power. If my life has a meaning, that's the meaning."

You know, I can't help but think Shreck should have been Maxie Zeus from the comics.

One of the few good pictures of him. He's a little obscure.
Maximilian "Maxie" Zeus is a wealthy criminal who believes he's actually the Greek god Zeus, and has an unhealthy obsession with lightning.

Max Shreck is a wealthy criminal with an obsession for his little electrical power plant. A power complex over a power complex, as it were.

Sure, the character isn't exactly the same as Maxie Zeus, but hey, look at the Penguin.

At the very least, an obsession with electricity would give his evil scheme here a motivation. As it is... he's just a boring white collar criminal with an ill-defined motivation. That is, as "boring" as a Christopher Walken character can be.

Anyway, Bruce says that both he and Mayor Worthington will oppose the plant.

Max Shreck: "Mayors come and go."

"I mean, look at Mayor Borg. Voted out of office faster than it takes for Commissioner Gordon to turn on the Batsignal."
Max Shreck: "Blue bloods tire easy. You think you could go fifteen rounds with Muhammed Shreck?"

"I fight dirty. I'm not afraid to cut you."
Bruce Wayne: "Well, I guess we'll find out. Of course, I don't have a crime boss like Cobblepot in my corner."

Well, not everybody can have the Penguin in their corner.

Rocky Balboa just got lucky.
Shreck denies everything, but Bruce tells him that they both know Oswald controls the Red Triangle Gang. Which I guess is what we're calling what Gordon dubbed "the Circus Gang" now.

Max Shreck: "Wayne, I'll not stand for mud-slinging in this office. If my assistant was here, she'd already have escorted you out."
Selina: "Anywhere he wants."

Max is understandably shocked to see the woman he murdered. I mean, heck, he pushed a socially-awkward blonde with thick glasses out of a window and she survived. The guy's probably terrified that she'll turn out to be Supergirl.

But Bruce is just happy to eat the eye candy while Selina saunters in like she owns the place, proving that she simply doesn't give a crap anymore.

Max Shreck: "Selina... Selina, Selina."
Selina: "That's my name, Maximilian; don't wear it out, or I'll make you buy me a new one."

As Shreck tries to figure out how to handle this, he buys time by introducing Bruce.

Bruce Wayne: "We've met."
Selina: "Have we?"
Bruce Wayne: "No, I'm sorry. You know what? I mistook me for somebody else. Sorry."

Were it not for something said during the climax, that would be the best line in the movie.

Selina: "You mean mistook me."

"Yeah, that too. You ever been to Metropolis?"
"No."
"Me either. Must have been two other people."
"But I think we can all agree that the important thing is that I'm not Batman."
"Nobody said you were."
"A fact I'm very proud of."
Bruce asks about the gash on the forehead, and Shreck is quick to ask if she injured herself on that SKI SLOPE. The one from her VERY REAL VACATION SHE WAS ON. Presumably with Fred Atkins.

Selina: "It's... a blur. I- I mean, not complete amnesia. I-I-I remember Sister Mary Margaret puking in church. And Betsy Ryan saying it was morning sickness. And I remember the time I forgot to wear my underpants to school and the name of the boy who noticed was Ricky Friedburg. He's dead now. But last night... complete blur."

Oooo... kay?

Bruce keeps staring at her with this look on his face like he's falling head over heels for her. Probably because the two of them are just as nuts as each other.

So Selina gets to show Mr. Wayne to the door as they continue flirting.

Selina: "I'm listed."
Bruce Wayne: "I'm tempted."
Selina: "I'm working."

"I'm Batman."
"Wait, scratch that."
Bruce Wayne: "I'm leaving."

As Bruce descends in the elevator, Chip and Max discuss Selina.

Max Shreck: "Women. Nothing surprises me, Chip. Except your late mother. Who'd have thought Selina had a brain to damage? Bottom line: She tries to blackmail me, I'll drop her out of a higher window."

And so, we cut to Oswald Cobblepot's new office, where he's set up shop with his list of names while his gang lounges in the corner. Max shows up, but simply gets ignored until he tempts Oswald with a nice, juicy fish.

I've heard that this works on Danny DiVito in real life, too.
Oswald gets led downstairs to discover a bunch of preppy white people clapping for him. It seems as though Max has set up a mayoral campaign for Oswald.

"Good luck, my fine, feathered fiend. Hope it works out better for you than it did for me...."
Penguin: "Max. Elections happen in November. Is this not late December?"
Max Shreck: "Don't worry about it."

Many have criticized this plot point, but... well, I won't.

Is it a bit contrived to have an election in December? Oh, most certainly.

But Max made it clear in an earlier scene with the mayor that he can blackmail his employees into demanding the mayor step down. And from there, a second election isn't really so hard to swallow. Not only that, but in 2003, a successful recall election voted in Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. Things like this are possible.

It isn't hard to believe that someone with Max's pull might be able to make something like this happen... although this plot point would make more sense if the character were, say, a district attorney? Named Harvey Dent? As was the original plan?

But all things considered, a December election isn't the real issue with this subplot. But I'll get to that.

For now, Max takes Oswald over to Josh and Jen, his image consultants. I just want to know which of them told you that haircut looked good on you, Max.

Josh suggests accessorizing with a cigarette holder, but Oswald simply spits it out.

"To each his own, I guess."
Jen suggests wearing some prosthetic gloves to hide his hands.

Jen: "Our research tells us that voters like fingers."

Jen fails to get him to drop his fish, so that's the end of that.

Josh: "Not a lot of reflective surfaces down in the sewer, eh?"

IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE HE'S UGLY!

Seriously, Josh, what the heck?

Oswald: "Still, could be worse! My nose could be gushing blood!"

Can't imagine why McDonalds recalled that merchandising deal.
As the office drones get back to work, Shreck starts explaining how he plans on holding this election... without actually explaining anything.

Max Shreck: "You're right, we missed the regularly scheduled election, but... elected officials can be recalled. Impeached. Given the boot. Look at Nixon. Agnew."

Uh, neither of whom were impeached, Max.

Oswald: "Then think of you. Oswald Cobblepot, filling the void.
Penguin: "I'd like to fill her void."

So... let's address the elephant in the room.

We have a loudmouthed celebrity with a bad haircut who knows how to play a crowd running for public office despite no prior experience doing anything related to governing.

And he's got a business empire named for the owner behind his campaign.

And he keeps spouting remarks that are as sexual as they are sexist.

Yeah, you all know the punchline here, and it rhymes with "Ronald Gump."

And speaking of "Gump," that's all I have to say about that. Despite the ample opportunities this movie will afford me, I won't be making any jokes about ol' Shmonald Shmump's campaign for Shmesident. Despite an upcoming opportunity to make a reference to his "grabbing women by the pussy" comment that's practically gift wrapped for me.

The things I do to avoid politics....

Anyway, Max reiterates that he's got enough signatures from employees to overturn the election results...

Oswald: "Teach her my French flipper trick!"

...Not something I want to think about.

Anyway, the campaign needs an issue.

Oswald: "Stop global warming! Start global cooling! Make the world a giant icebox!"

"Well, he's got my vote."
Failing that, there needs to be some kind of catalyst. Something needs to happen to showcase that the current mayor can't do his job properly, and Shreck brings up the Gulf of Tonkin, or the Reichstag Fire.

Hint hint.

Oswald: "You want my old friends up there to drive the Mayor into a foaming frenzy?"

Oswald is liking the sound of this more and more... but remembers his original scheme and tries to back out. But Max presents the election as a way for OSwarld to reclaim his birthright.

Max Shreck: "Imagine, as Mayor, you have the ear of the media... access to the captains of industry... unlimited poontang."

Pretty sure somebody said something similar to... dang it, I said I wasn't going to talk about that.

And so, Oswald agrees to the plan, and it soon erupts in full swing.

Literally.
The Red Triangle Gang begins terrorizing Gotham as Batman arrives to beat up on some more clowns.For some reason, they all stop attacking him to give him enough time to program a remote-control batarang to knock several of them unconscious. A trained dog ends up snatching it and running off before Batman can follow, setting up a later plot point.

Meanwhile, Catwoman decides to break into Shreck's department store, doing more tumbles than Link in a 3D Zelda game. C'mon, you can't tell me you don't continually roll to get places faster. Everybody does it.

In the sporting goods section, she steals a whip and practices with it by performing Oddjob specials on some nearby mannequins. A couple security guards show up to try and stop her, which is her cue to make a "sexy" remark.

Catwoman: "You poor guys. Always confusing your pistols with your privates."

"If that's the case, I hope the thing in my hand isn't the one that's been shooting blanks."
Guard: "Don't hurt us, lady; our take-home's less than 300."
Catwoman: "You're overpaid. Hit the road."

As they run off, Batman casually saunters along the sidewalk, not even stopping to knock a Wilhelm scream out of a guy. That is, until he runs up against a big guy who's immune to punches. So Batman hooks some dynamite he'd earlier grabbed onto him and pushes him into a manhole.

Well, he's dead.
Selina sets up some explosions of her own by cutting a gas line and putting some metal into a microwave as Batman confronts Oswald Cobblepot in the middle of the street.

Batman: "Admiring your handiwork?"
Oswald: "Touring the riot scene. Gravely assessing the devastation. Upstanding Mayor stuff."
Batman: "You're not the Mayor."
Oswald: "Things change."
Batman: "What do you want?"
Oswald: "Ah, the direct approach. I admire that in a man in a mask."

"A little song, a little dance... your head on a lance?"
"I like this guy's style."
Oswald: "You don't really think you'll win, do you?"
Batman: "Things change."

But their little talk is interrupted by Catwoman flipping across the street and giving an ironic little "Meow" before Shreck's department store blows up.

Cool chicks don't look at explosions.
She quickly climbs up the wall, followed by Oswald's getaway in his umbrella-copter.

And to think, the 60s movie used rocket umbrellas. How is it that this movie is the more implausible one here?
Batman climbs onto the rooftop, only to find himself on the receiving end of Catwoman's high-kicks. When he dares to punch her back, she immediately goes down and starts whimpering.

Catwoman: "How could you? I'm a woman."

Yeah, well, you're blowing stuff up. Woman or not, he's got to take you down.

But this Batman isn't as steadfast in his gender-equal butt-kicking as he is in Beware the Batman.

Or even Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
As such, he apologizes and tries to help her up, getting attacked for his trouble. She hangs him over the edge and... wait.

Huh. Looks like they cleaned up that explosion at Shreck's department store already.
Man, Damage Control does great work.
Catwoman: "As I was saying, I'm a woman and can't be taken for granted. Life's a bitch. Now so am I."

Batman decides to cut her monologue short by lobbing a chemical bomb at her arm, knocking her off the roof and allowing him to pull her to safety. To show her appreciation, she starts seducing him and running her hand over him, allowing her to stab the weakest spot in his armor. In response, he becomes the second man to knock her off a building. Luckily, she finds a landing that's as soft as it is ironic.

And there's a big truck of kitty litter... why?
Back at the Batcave, Bruce pulls out one of Catwoman's claws before calling down Alfred with some antiseptic ointment.

The next day, Oswald Cobblepot is looking surprisingly presentable in his tux and tails, and he's certainly more marketable than he was when he was eating fish and biting noses.

Oswald: "I may have saved the Mayor's baby, but I refuse to save a mayor who stood by helpless AS a baby while Gotham was ravaged by a disease that turned Eagle Scouts into crazed clowns and happy homemakers into Cat-Women!"

"I was never an Eagle Scout. What the heck are you talking about?"
As the reporters phone this in, Oswald decides to pin a campaign button on an attractive young constituent.

I still can't see why they thought this movie was inappropriate for kids.
When he heads upstairs to his office, one of his clowns tries to talk to him, calling him "Penguin." But Oswald has grown to prefer the name "Oswald."

Organ Grinder: "Oswald. There's some body here to see you."

Said body belongs to none other than Catwoman, who lies on Oswald's bed.

Oswald: "Just the pussy I've been lookin' for."

Like I said earlier, the joke here is gift wrapped for me. Moving on.

As Oswald fails to get his mind out of the gutter, she tells him that they both have a mutual problem named "Batman."

Catwoman: "The fly in our ointment."
Oswald: "Ointment? I've got scented or unscented!"
Catwoman: "I'll come back later."

Doesn't matter. He's like this all the time.

She tries to turn his attention back to Batman, but he's convinced that Batman is soon to be a corpse, since his clowns are hard at work studying the blueprints to the Batmobile, figuring out how to sabotage it.

Yeah, this plot point made more sense in an earlier draft, where he had his gang infiltrate the garage where Batman took his car to a mechanic named "Dick Grayson."
Catwoman: "He'd have even more power as a martyr. To destroy Batman, we must first turn him into what he hates the most."

A clown?

Catwoman: "Namely, us."

But Oswald isn't entirely convinced that Catwoman is a worth ally.

Oswald: "Maybe you're just a screwed-up sorority chick who's getting back at a daddy for not buying her that pony when she turned sweet 16."

Yet another thing she'd have in common with Batman, then.
In response, Catwoman sticks Oswald's pet bird in her mouth, a special effect accomplished by having Michelle Pfeiffer stick an actual live bird in her mouth.

As perpetually horny as Oswald is, the man apparently doesn't have a vore fetish, since he starts to threaten her nearby cat with his umbrella blade. Catwoman spits the bird out and gets down to brass tacks. Batman napalmed her and she wants to take him down. So Oswald lies back and starts formulating a plan while projecting a shadow puppet on the ceiling.

Wait...

His hands are there....
So where's the light source projecting this on the ceiling?
Catwoman: "The thought of busting Batman makes me feel all... dirty. Maybe I'll just give myself a bath right here."

I've mentioned before that I don't find women acting like cats to be particularly sexy, and perhaps this is where that started.

Michelle Pfeiffer? Hot.

Michelle Pfeiffer licking herself while wearing skintight vinyl? Just... gross. Especially since last we saw, that outfit was covered in kitty litter.

Later at STATELY WAYNE MANOR, Bruce watches the news, where Oswald makes his demand that the Mayor stage a re-lighting of the Gotham Christmas tree, as well as his hope that Batman arrives to preserve the peace.

Bruce Wayne: "Subtle."

Sometime later, Selina Kyle stares at a storefront display, asking her reflection why she's doing any of this, Since crazy attracts crazy, Bruce ends up running into her, and the two walk and talk for a bit. The topic eventually turns to the masked menaces of Gotham as they pass by a newsstand and see the headlines.

Hey, look, the reviews for the Catwoman solo movie!
Bruce Wayne: "It's not even accurate. 'Batman Blows It'? He probably saved millions of dollars in property damage alone."

Yeah, especially since Shreck's department store un-exploded.

The two of them agree to not go to the ceremony that night, but Selina does agree to come over for a bit of dinner.

Later that night, the Ice Princess goes over her role one last time.

Ice Princess: "The tree lights up, and then I push the button. ...Wait, no, wait, I press the button, and then the tree lights up."

How do you fail to understand how a light switch works? You've already done this!

Oswald enters with Batman's remote control batarang, claiming to be a talent scout.

Ice Princess: "You know, I don't just light tress. I'm an actress as well."

"Perhaps you're familiar with my work in the film Batman Returns?"
She poses for Oswald's "camera," only to get whacked by the Penguin’s pilfered batarang.

Coming up in Part 3! Schemes and schemes and schemes and schemes and...

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