Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Character Assassination: Batman Returns

Well, Christmastime is upon us yet again. And nothing says "Christmas cheer" like death!
...well, not really. Unless you're Tim Burton, maker of two of my favorite Christmas movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman Returns.

I could go on and on about Batman Returns (and I probably will at some point), but let's focus on one of the most debated aspects of that movie: the death of Selina Kyle.
...merry Christmas?

What can I say about this picture that the internet hasn't already?
Buildup (Behind the Scenes) Catwoman was in the film since its inception, though her role in the film changed several times. More important than the ideas a-brewin' behind the scenes, is the ending that was forced upon the filmmakers: the survival (?) of Catwoman. We'll get to that, though.

Buildup (Onscreen) 
Selina Kyle, a shy, unassuming personal assistant, uncovers the evil plans of her evil boss, Max Shreck, to build a fake power station to suck up energy and create an artificial energy crisis and do all sorts of bad things. Max reacts by pushing her out of a window several stories to the ground. After being either reawakened from her massive head trauma or brought back to life from said trauma by a flock of stray cats, she has a mental breakdown and takes to the streets as Catwoman. She also (possibly) dies several more times, depending on your point of view, but we'll get to that, too.

The Death(s) 
After falling to her "death" and being either resurrected or woken up by cats, she becomes Catwoman. During which time she gets shot (in non-fatal locations), hit by falling glass shards (which my have miraculously missed her, or just nicked her leather outfit), falls into a truck full of kitty litter (which may have cushioned her fall), and other various things before tazing herself while kissing Max Shreck, seemingly killing them both for good.

Selina attributes her survival to the cats giving her nine lives, but this is up for debate. She may simply have been very lucky eight times and unlucky once. The film leaves this point ambiguous, so you can decide for yourself if her story is mental, magical, or a mixture of both.

Impact and Aftermath  
Selina's various deaths did little to help her fractured mental state.

Truly, she was a bastion of mental health.
Her final one did little for Bruce in the same way. Throughout the movie, they had been growing closer romantically, to the point where they shared everything. Secrets, lies, inner demons. Her final death put the final nail in the coffin for Bruce's personal connections with anyone else. He would never be able to have a normal life. The bittersweet ending where Alfred wishes Bruce a merry Christmas shows that life goes on and you make of it what you will.

Well, until the studio thought they could milk a spin-off out of Catwoman and she showed up in silhouette looking at the sky before the credits rolled, shedding more uncertainty over the possible mysticism involved. Said spin-off went through several (likely terrible) versions before finally materializing with Halle Berry in the lead. Was it worth it, Hollywood?

As you can tell, this is a very unique case of character death, because whether or not Selina Kyle died is entirely left up to each individual viewer. Max Shreck, who was caught by Selina's taser-kiss, however....

Yeah, he's a goner.

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