Of all the Batman films in the DC universe, Returns is still my all-time favourite.
In fact, it’s my favourite movie ever. My introduction to it was unorthodox. My estranged father bought me a double VHS Batman/Batman Returns box set for my 3rd birthday. I was too young to remember whether I expressed a love for the Caped Crusader or he assumed, being a child, I loved superheroes but that’s what I got. And I still have it over a quarter of a decade later. It still works (just about).
I loved the first movie but the Batman Returns caught me more. It was darker in tone, grimey and paradoxically shinier and more polished (although I might be thinking about Catwoman’s PVC suit). Tim Burton took a risk with his approach and it effectively cost him the franchise, although he was asked back for Forever and co-produced the film. There were plenty of quotable moments from the movie but in this list, I will be picking some of the more obscure scenes from Batman Returns I loved as a kid. They weren’t all pivotal to the plot but they evoked a reaction in me. Let’s begin!
When Selina Kyle pours Max Shreck some coffee
I’m gonna start off super boring. It’s a lowly
secretary assistant pouring her boss some coffee. Nothing to see here, right? Yes, absolutely right. The only reason I liked this was because as a young child, I was fascinated by the idea of coffee and how it would taste. This brown drink that adults loved to drink so much. I was used to tea and hot chocolate but coffee seemed almost exotic. But Batman Returns wasn’t about white people drinking coffee. No, it was much darker than that. I’m older and wiser now and only drink decaf for the taste (the regular stuff increases my anxiety) and I only drink it in the form of mochas. I’m sure Max Shreck would look at me in the same way he side eyed Selina Kyle in the above image.
Bruce Wayne waiting for the Bat Signal in the dark
This is one of my favourite scenes in the whole film. I was a happy child but this intrigued me. Why was he sat in the dark, with only the moonlight to keep him company? What was he thinking about? The fact he had the signal wired up to an automatic lighting system that shone directly into the room was amazing to me. I still don’t know why he was there in dark solitude but I understand it now. I do it myself sometimes. It helps me clear my mind. Perhaps this was his idea of meditation. A lot better than Bruce Wayne’s weird gravity boots from the first movie.
When Batman fought fire with fire. Literally.
One of the major criticisms Tim Burton received for his second Batman movie was the darker approach compared to Batman. As a kid, I thought it was cool. And that was the problem for parents. After all, the film was rated 15 in the UK and PG-13 in the US. It was more difficult to market for younger children in terms of merchandising (although I still have the Duck car and Batmobile from those movies and I used to have the trading cards with awful chewing gum I wasn’t allowed to have – thanks, mum!)
Here, a firebreather tried his luck with Batman’s car, forgetting 1) he’s Batman and 2) he has an armed Batmobile (although the security of that was in question, which I’ll get into later). Batman turned around using a rotating platform embedded in the bottom of the Batmobile and blasted fire from his exhaust. But Batman isn’t supposed to kill people! I guess he did in this one.
Selina Kyle tasing an unconscious clown
While on her way home, Selina was held hostage by a clown from the Red Triangle Gang and his Omega Stun Gun. I assumed this was just a prop for the film but Omega Stun Guns are real. 150,000 volts for $85. Anyway, Batman takes the time to get out of his Batmobile, have a staring contest with the clown, and knock him out using his grapple gun and some of the concrete wall behind him. Yet more public property damage from the man in black.
Max Shreck falling through a trap door
What are the chances Max Shreck would escape to an empty alleyway and stand on a trapdoor leading to the Penguin’s underground lair? Anything is possible in Batman Returns. The sudden drop had me in stitches as a kid and it still makes me laugh today.
The Penguin flaps the dismembered hand of Max’s former partner in his face
There are ways to hold someone to ransom. They often involve money. But not for The Penguin, the rich kid formerly known as Oswald Cobblepot. Batman Returns is set during Christmas (which makes it a Christmas film and I will not hear any debate on the matter) so The Penguin opens up his Santa bag for Max. Has he been a good boy? Hell no.
The first “present” is a Thermos filled with toxic waste. Don’t ask how that didn’t burn through the plastic. The second gift was a bunch of illegal documents taped back together after being shredded. “A lot of tape and a little patience make all the difference”, he said. The third and final present was the best/worst, depending on your point of view. Fred Atkins was Max’s old partner who was “on vacation”, until Penguin revealed that vacation was indefinite via his severed hand. Brilliant sadistic humour from Danny DeVito.
I always thought I misheard this line but it turns out I didn’t. Selina finally got home after her circus ordeal and we find out she took the stun gun home. Good call. She sits down to listen to her messages and finds one she sent herself. She forgot to sort out the papers for Max’s meeting with Bruce Wayne. And that’s when she uttered the famous(?) line. Why did she call herself a corndog? I’ve yet to hear anyone use this as an insult. Selina was a kooky one. Until she went way over the edge.
Cats nibbling on Selina Kyle’s fingers
I haven’t heard a good explanation for this. Why were the cats nibbling her fingers? Did they transfer some kind of supernatural cat spirit into her? Why did they swarm her in the first place? I remain confused but it happened and it somehow gave her “nine lives”. Tim Burton must have been high as hell when he put this together.
“I’m not really one for speeches so I’ll just say thanks.”
I used this quote to announced I was leaving my last job. Nobody got it but I’d been waiting to use it for AGES. In the context of the film, Penguin had devised a plan to have the Mayor’s baby stolen by one of the clown hoodlums responsible for the terror a few nights before. Once the clown flipped into the man cover, the Penguin ascended as the “saviour”. How the Gothamites bought it is anyone’s guess. But they seem comfortable with a man dressed as a giant bat fighting their battles for them so anything goes I guess.
Bruce didn’t realise his soup was “supposed to be cold”
Bruce has a butler for a reason: his parents had him first. Other than a heavy inheritance, he also got Alfred Pennyworth and the Briton was the closest thing to a Robin that Bruce had in the first two movies. In this scene, Bruce doesn’t trust the Penguin and reckons the Red Triangle Gang are linked to him somehow. Alfred brings him his dinner as he works. To Bruce’s surprise, it’s cold. Alfred replies matter-of-factish, “it’s vichyssoise. It’s supposed to be cold.” Bruce returns to eating it once the intended temperature was established. I always thought he said
When Bruce “mistook himself” for someone else
For years I thought he misspoke. Until I realised he hadn’t. Bruce went to that meeting with Max. The one Selina nearly died over. Bruce questions Max’s agenda with his power plant. Max gets defensive and tells Bruce he’d have his assistant throw him out if she was there. And guess who walks in just as he says it. Selina is back with new hair, a less dowdy outfit, and a Band-Aid on her head. Bruce is mesmerised and suddenly forgets who he is and where he is. When Max introduces him to her, Bruce replies “we’ve met.” They have. But he was in his crime-fighting suit and Selina didn’t have 8 extra lives. Selina doesn’t think they’ve met before and Bruce says “I mistook me for somebody else.” He did but Selina thought he misspoke as did I for over 20 years.
Penguins like raw fish, who knew?
I thought this was appetising as a kid. What was I thinking? Probably the same as Oswald as he now wanted to be called. Max popped by his new abode and told him to come downstairs for a surprise. Oswald claimed he was busy. Max tempted him with a raw fish. Oswald didn’t need telling twice. He hobbled down the stairs with his fish to a room full of people: his Mayoral campaign team. Max had the idea to replace the current mayor with Oswald in a dynamic power structure. Or something. Would you vote for a dirty man who ate raw fish?
That time Batman let a man blow himself up… and enjoyed it
Burning a fire breather to death wasn’t enough so Batman let a circus performer blow himself up. While Batman was cleaning up the mess the Red Triangle Gang was leaving (again), one of its members gets in his way. Batman punches him and it does nothing (I don’t even know if it landed). Then he looks down at the GIANT BOMB STRAPPED TO THE CIRCUS DUDE’S WAIST, smiles, punches him into a hole, and the bomb goes off. Batman just killed another guy. What the hell?!
When Batman pulled a “claw” out of his Batsuit
Batman and Catwoman had a fight on top of some houses. She stabbed him in the stomach with her makeshift claws. He bitch slapped her from at least 10 stories high and she conveniently fell into an open top truck filled with kitty litter. How did that get there? Hold on… how could Batman have just back-handed a woman off a tall building without thinking of where she’d land? And how can his armour – which was bulletproof in the previous movie – not withstand a small needle? Yet more unanswered questions. But the bit I enjoyed the most was seeing him pull it out. Why? It showed he was vulnerable and still just a regular guy. With millions of dollars. And major homicidal tendencies.
Bruce and Selina go straight to dessert
Bruce is a lonely dude. He wears a heavy rubber suit and cape every night saving the useless lives of Gotham – not the best icebreaker. He has Alfred but they’re not as close as they became in later films. His last relationship with Vicky Vale ended, it seemed, due to her not being able to date two men at the same time. That’s understandable. But Bruce now had his eyes set on Selina Kyle. A dark mysterious woman who said things straight. I have a crush on Michelle Pfeiffer and this role is exactly why.
In this scene, Bruce sits by the fire with Selina and they talk about his past. He drops a smooth one-liner and she goes dark and non-sequitur again before pouncing on him. They uncover each other’s wounds from the previous night and realise they can’t succumb to their carnal desires. Then Commissioner Gordon appears on the television as the perfect buzzkill and they both have to leave to put on their respective costumes. It’s hard being fucked up.
My all-time favourite scene in Batman Returns
A lot happened between the previous scene and this one. Here’s a breakdown:
- The Ice Princess was captured
- Batman and Catwoman fought again
- Catwoman took her away
- Batman finds her tied to a fire escape ladder
- The Penguin throws an umbrella filled with bats at her, she flails and falls to her death, and more bats fly out of the Christmas she subsequently lit after falling on the giant switch (she was meant to do this without dying)
- The police shoot at him and he falls off a roof
- Catwoman says some stuff and tried to poke her claw into his neck but misses
- Batman “flies” to his Batmobile which has now been hacked by the Red Triangle Gang
- Catwoman celebrates with The Penguin who thinks he has a chance with her
- She tells him to do one. He wraps a helicopter umbrella to her neck and she falls into a glasshouse, managing to live again.
- Batman tries to drive home but his vehicle is under the control of The Penguin
- Batman finds the device that’s causing the issue and regains control, before punching the Batmobile mini-TV screen
So to this scene. As Batman faces a very thin gap between two buildings, he needs his Bat-torpedo (why didn’t they just join them? It’s not even big enough for someone to walk through. Also, when did he get a Bat-torpedo?). The button to activate it didn’t work. He tries again. And again. He is inching closer to the gap. He has nowhere to go as the police are chasing him. And then he utters the immortal phrase,
“Alright, now I’m a little worried.”Batman, 1992
He swipes across all the buttons and switches and finally, it works. He slides through the gap and the police cars chasing him crash into each other. Batman escapes to live another day and find out how the hell he let security get so slack.
Another reference to the first film and a cool hidden switch
Oswald was at the height of his campaign. Bruce – as Batman – was seen as even more of a pariah. But he had a plan. Before he punched his TV, he inserted a CD into the Batmobile to record everything Oswald said about Gotham and its citizens. Very un-mayoral things. (By the way, CD recorders cost about $10,000 in 1992 when this was filmed. Rich bastard). On his way down to his “recording studio”, Alfred mentions security to which Bruce scoffs and reminds him of the time he let Vicky Vale into the Batcave without Bruce’s permission. Alfred didn’t like that. Bruce then plunges his hand into his fish tank and flicks a hidden switch which opens a sarcophagus filled with spikes. Because of course, he does.
Bruce scratches a CD unnecessarily
I thought this was awesome back in the day. Until I realised it was superfluous. Bruce gave Oswald a taste of his own medicine by hacking into his press conference and playing the unsavoury comments he made about Gotham through the speakers. Everyone started throwing vegetables and eggs at him (where the hell did they come from?) and he fleed via his gun umbrella. Max Shreck, who was with him, bounced with a shrug. The CD scratching only seemed to matter to Bruce who never pursued a career in DJing after that.
WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE ESCAPED AND HAD SEX?
Max hosted his annual Masquerade Ball. Bruce had an invitation which he initially rejected before realising Selina might be there too. He turned up without a mask, made a brief “I care about Gotham speech” to Max and he said “yawn” in response. He actually said the words. What an asshole.
Amongst the crowd, Selina appears and they dance. After some horny words, Selina reveals her intentions for being there – she’s gonna kill Maxie Boy. Despite having killed at least two people we know so far in this movie, Bruce questions Selina’s morals. They kiss under the mistletoe and repeats the words Bruce said to her as
The Penguin sending out his “kinfolk” to kill kids
After Batman foiled his Rameses-style plan of snatching all of Gotham’s first-born sons, The Penguin resorted to Plan B. He rigged missiles to a colony of penguins and sent them out to blow shit up. He gave a resounding speech which involved blowing “erogenous zones sky high” (eww) before they were sent off to their deaths. The music accompanying this was brilliant and is transitioned into the Batman theme which was sublime. It got me hyped, regardless of the impending doom of a hundred penguins.
Selina finally talks back to her boss, in PVC
Selina had given up on maintaining her outfit. She’d been “killed” enough times and she was fed up. The man she loved was also her sworn enemy and she still needed to kill Max. Batman had already sorted out The Penguin – by killing him – and now was the time to sort out Max and his feelings for Selina. He suggests they give up the fight and just go home together. Selina loves the idea but rejects it saying she “just couldn’t live with herself”. She wasn’t a house cat.
By this time, Bruce ripped off his cowl and revealed himself to her in a symbolic loving gesture. Max was shocked by this revelation and said, “Bruce Wayne, why are you dressed up like Batman?” Selina, sick of his shit, replied, “because he is Batman, you moron.” Then Max shoots him, shoots Selina a few times but she doesn’t die. Left with two lives, she uses that Omega Stun Gun and they share a “kiss” with it. Sparks fly, but not in that sense. And she’s nowhere to be found. Max, however, is turned into a fried mummy. There goes that power plant!
No Brucey Bonus this Christmas
We’re at the final Batman Returns scene! If you’ve lasted this long, thank you for reading. This made me sad as a kid because I really wanted Bruce and Selina to get together. But it was never gonna work. They were too different. That didn’t stop him from pursuing her for one last time when he saw her silhouette in an alleyway. He got out of his car and went to investigate but only found a stray black cat. He brought it back in and Alfred lightened the mood by wishing him a Merry Christmas. Bruce returned the greeting, wishing goodwill to all men. And women. The film ends with the Batman Returns theme, the