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Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Bat-inee: Batman Returns

It’s Week #2 of the monthly Monday Bat-inee feature, and in case you haven’t guessed, this month will be a retrospective of the many Batman films that have been made over the last few years.  Since March 2013 has four Mondays, we’re going to be looking at four different Batman films.

Last week, we looked at the 1989 film, “Batman”.  And this week, we’re going to be looking at the sequel that was released three years later.

You know, I still remember the buzz that surrounded the release of “Batman Returns”, which hit theatres on June 19, 1992.  At the time, I was just about to graduate from the fifth grade, and I think that almost every kid in my class at the time had made plans to go to the movies as soon as school let out for the summer. 

Well...every kid except myself.  I didn’t really go to the movie theatre much when I was younger, so I missed the original run.  I did watch it on VHS (albeit several years after its original release) and thought that it was a fantastic film.  And, I actually have a personal story to tell in regards to this movie, courtesy of my sister.

In 1992, my sister was dating what could be considered her high school sweetheart of sorts.  As it turned out, his brother worked at a comic book store here in town years ago known as the “Comic Cave” (which has since changed its name).  One of the perks to having a boyfriend whose brother worked at a comic shop was the fact that my sister was allowed to bring home discarded window displays after the store was finished with them.  Naturally, when “Batman Returns” was released, the store featured a slew of Batman comic books and well as a life-size cardboard cutout of Michael Keaton as “Batman”.  And, of course, my sister grabbed the cardboard cutout and had it in her possession for five years.  When she got married (to a different man) in 1997, the “Batman” cutout found a new home in my bedroom.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to the Batman cutout since I moved to my current place of residence.  I wish I still had it.  Not only did it give my bland bedroom a little bit of character, but it was a great reminder of “Batman Returns”.

Michael Keaton once again reprised his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne.  Other actors who decided to play the same roles as they played in 1989’s “Batman” were Michael Gough as Alfred, and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon.

The rest of the cast was completely different, which made sense.  No Batman villain ever appeared in more than one Batman film (at least until the Christian Bale reboots began being filmed), so Jack Nicholson was out.  And, Kim Basinger was busy with her relationship with Alec Baldwin and trying to explain the reason behind her impulsive purchase of an entire Georgia town to come back as Vicki Vale.

New faces to the cast were Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken...and all three appeared as antagonists for Batman (though in the case of one, they found themselves in constant conflict over which side to fight on). 

The film begins once more in Gotham City, thirty-three years in the past, where a wealthy couple decide that the best way to deal with having a song that was physically deformed was to abandon him in a sewer system.  Then again, nobody ever made the claim that the Cobblepots were the sanest family in Gotham City.  I mean, when you consider that Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens played the father, I mean that sets the stage right there!

Anyway, Oswald Cobblepot grew up after being discovered by a flock of penguins, and resurfaces in Gotham City under the guise of “The Penguin” (DeVito).  At the time, we’re not exactly sure what his main goal is in the film, but one thing we do know...he’s not exactly a person that you want to really have on your bad side.

The Penguin begins his evil plot against Gotham City by kidnapping wealthy industrialist Max Shreck (Walken), and confronting him with the various crimes he has committed within corporate America.  He actually goes as far as blackmailing Shreck into helping him infiltrate Gotham City high society, arranges for the mayor’s child to be kidnapped, and “rescues” him to set himself up as a hero within Gotham City, setting the stage for his master plan.

Somehow, timid, lonely, cat-loving Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer) gets caught up in the drama when she accidentally comes across a shocking piece of information regarding a power plant that Shreck’s name is attached to.  She discovers that if the plant is built, it will completely drain all power out of Gotham City.  And, since she has a scheduled meeting with Bruce Wayne, it would be very easy for her to spill her guts about what she knows.

Well, that is until Max shoves Selina through a window to the pavement below, in an attempt to silence her forever.

But Selina doesn't exactly...die.  After a bunch of alley cats revive her, she manages to make her way back to her apartment where her mind completely snaps, and this happens...

NOTE:  Love the symbolism present in the neon sign at Selina's apartment!

Anyway, Selina (along with her sassy little leather outfit) assumes her new role of Catwoman.  And, Catwoman is a bit of an enigma character in that she frequently flip-flops her allegiances.  She initially wants revenge on Shreck for trying to kill her, but eventually teams up with The Penguin to rid Gotham City of Batman forever.  To complicate things even further, Catwoman (under the guise of Selina) ends up developing feelings for Bruce Wayne!  It's a regular little soap opera, Gotham City style!

Now, that's all that I want to say about the plot.  I've already briefly spoiled it a bit in saying that until the reboot of the Batman franchise began, no Batman villain has ever appeared in more than one film.  But what you don't know is what happens to them in the end.  All I'll say is that there's one plot that involves the first born sons of Gotham City, and that the fate of one Batman villain is somewhat ambiguous in this movie.  

Besides, I'm sure you're more interested in the behind the scenes action that took place on the set of Batman Returns, right?  Okay, here we go.

01 - Initially, Tim Burton did not want to direct "Batman Returns", due to mixed emotions about the first film.  The script by Daniel Waters helped ease Burton's doubts.

02 - Harvey Dent and Robin were supposed to be included in the original script of this film, but were written out in an uncredited rewrite by Wesley Strick.

03 - It took approximately two hours each day to apply the make-up that Danny DeVito had to wear to play The Penguin.  He was actually forbidden to even describe what the make-up looked like to anybody else.

04 - Remember how Sean Young had been cast as Vicki Vale in the original Batman, but had to drop out due to a horseback riding injury?  Well, Sean Young tried to get onto Batman Returns in the role of Catwoman.  Believe it or not, she made herself a Catwoman costume and with the aid of walkie-talkies, she managed to track down the producers of the film!  Needless to say, she did not get the role...and in an amusing side story, Tim Burton reportedly hid underneath his desk to avoid having to deal with her!

05 - Annette Bening was reportedly cast as Catwoman, but because she had become pregnant, she was forced to drop out of the production.  Michelle Pfeiffer was brought three times the salary that Bening had been promised!

06 - The inspiration for the human tooth cufflinks that Christopher Walken wears in the film?  The film adaptation of "The Great Gatsby".

07 - Batman Returns was the very first film made in Dolby Digital.

08 - Michael Keaton must have been exhausted at the end of each day of filming.  The Batman costume weighed fifty-five pounds!

09 - Initially, Sam Hamm's idea for Batman Returns involved The Penguin and Catwoman teaming up to search for hidden treasure.  Feeling that a movie about a gothic scavenger hunt wouldn't quite work, Waters was brought in to rewrite the script, and came up with the idea of the corrupt business mogul teaming up with The Penguin to get him elected as Mayor of Gotham City.

10 - At the time of filming, half of the Warner Brothers were taken over by Batman sets.  Because the sets were mobile, they were frequently relocated, causing Michelle Pfeiffer to constantly get lost on her way to filming!

11 - There's a scene where a monkey is delivering a letter to The Penguin from Batman.  It was reportedly the hardest scene to film, as the monkey kept getting frightened by DeVito's make-up!

12 - During the six month shooting schedule, sixty Catwoman costumes were used!  

13 - Because of parental concerns regarding the film, and how some parents believed the film was inappropriate for children, McDonald's was forced to cancel their plan to have Batman themed Happy Meals.

14 - The penguins that were used in the film were treated VERY well.  They had their own refrigerated trailer, their own swimming pool that was filled with fresh ice each day, and were given fresh fish each day.  They even had their own personal bodyguard!

15 - During the film's opening weekend, it made $47.7 million dollars!

16 - Tuna was used on a dummy version of Selina in order to get the scene where the cats revive her after she is pushed out of the window by Shreck.

17 - Danny DeVito was offered a stand-in during the scene in which The Penguin was pelted with rotten food by a mob of angry people, but he refused, and shot that scene himself.

18 - Interestingly enough, Susan Sarandon expressed interest in the Catwoman role, but producers deemed her too old to pull it off.  Sarandon's age at the time of filming?  46.

19 - Michelle Pfeiffer had great difficulty with the costume she had to wear.  The costume was so tight, she would only have a limited amount of time to wear it before she became light-headed and passed out!  In addition, she found it hard to hear her own voice, and initially shouted all of her lines before Burton encouraged her to lower her voice an octave.

20 - Nicole Kidman was also offered the role of Catwoman, but she turned it down.  But she didn't stay away from the Batman franchise for long...

21 - Burgess Meredith (who played The Penguin on the original 1960s television series) was asked to play a cameo role in Batman Returns as the father of The Penguin, but health issues prevented him from being able to make the commitment.

22 - For whatever reason, Tim Burton was apprehensive about having Christopher Walken in the film.  Walken apparently gave Burton the heebie-jeebies!

23 - As mentioned above, Paul Reubens played The Penguin's father.  The mother was played by Diane Salinger.  Reubens and Salinger worked together once the 1985 film, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure".

24 - Believe it or not, the script once had The Penguin and Max Shreck as brothers!  I'm not sure how that would have worked in the final script, but I think that it could have worked.

And, that's our look back at "Batman Returns".

Coming up next week, the third installment of the Monday Bat-inee...and for a clue as to what film we'll look at next week...take a look at behind the scenes fact #20, as well as the image up above...

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