I decided to add some pictures since I love some pics and I'm putting this on the blog and all. Spoilers for those who have yet to see this movie (if you haven't seen this, you been living under a rock?!)
Batman Returns (1992) directed by Tim Burton
Dark Visual of Gotham City
Batman Returns is the sequel to the blockbuster hit, Batman, about a man devoted to protecting his city from crime. Like the first film, he is attempting to stop the plans of criminals of his corrupted city, Gotham, this time being Penguin and Catwoman. Being that this film is set during the Christmas holiday, the time of family and getting together and being happy, none of the main characters seem to be part of a real family due to them having plans of their own. In fact, it seems that all of the main characters are in fact very psychotic. Throughout the film, the movie is very big and circus-like which gives it a rather dark and creepy feel to a film that doesn’t seem to have much of a redeeming factor. An aspect that depicts just how bizarre this film is is the music that is provided by Danny Elfman. The opening of the film is very choir and childlike. The circus and child choir sounds is always played for the Penguin, representing his lost childhood. Batman’s theme is the typical strong, trumpet and horns playing music, introducing the knight and hero of the story, while Catwoman’s theme has a very twisted and chaotic sound to it, representing her state of mind. The name of this track is Selina Transforms.
The song starts off with haunting violin sounds that twirls in what seems to be zigzag angles as you could picture something spine-chilling is about to emerge. As the music picks up, you start to follow the melodic ride that ends up bringing you to clashing sounds and soft bangs that adds to the gothic and insane sounds that Elfman produces for the Selina Kyle character. As the music keeps going, the song cuts into a bridge that intensifies the song as the pace of the music gets faster with a weirder sound until finally returning to its normal sound and pace. The song slowly ends as Elfman plays around softly and mystically with the violins and ends the track. This track here shows you how demented and confused the character of Catwoman is as the movie goes on, a woman caught between what is right and wrong as one minute she is good, the other she is just outlandish. She starts of as a lowly secretary who is usually ridiculed by her boss because of her position as a woman. Finally, after reaching her limit, she goes berserk and becomes a subject of female empowerment. She goes from a boring, typical woman with no respect to a bombshell who goes out and wears a tight black vinyl suit, revealing much of her body figure.
Now, her costume happens to be one of the most subtle and fascinating parts of her as a character. In a way, the stitched parts of her costume represent her stitched way of mind as she placed together a new piece of herself to show to people. When she first makes her costume, she is comfortable and compact in her new form as a woman as she begins to appear very calm and cool in her skin. As the movie goes on, her mind begins to deteriorate in a very chaotic way as her costumed falls apart along with her towards the end. By seeing how torn apart her costume is, you are able to realize just have broken her mind really was as a character at that point of time during the film.
Besides the main characters, the lighting and visuals of the film gives us that creepy atmosphere of a lost city. The movie concentrates highly on black and white, giving it a very noir look, with a bit of color here and there. Catwoman and Penguin seem to have very ghastly white skin, while a majority of the costume sets are simply black. Every building is very big and extravagant and filled with civilians. The tone really adds a feel that with all the civilians in the street and the way the dimly lit light shows in the picture, you get a sense of feeling that if you were to walk to a dark corner, chances are you would either be robbed or killed. In the very beginning of the movie, a circus gang is shown terrorizing people, shooting around, and attempting to kidnap millionaires. If the lighting were brighter, everyone wore a color set of clothing this film wouldn’t be able to capture just how strange and gloomy the city of Gotham really is. Stated earlier, the feel of the movie gives a sense that there simply is no redeeming factor in this city. Among all the black and grays, the only thing that lights up the picture of the film is usually the white snow that falls from time to time.
Once again, for a Christmas movie, it’s a bit of the opposite of the feel good holidays. But the Christmas season of the film also provides a feel of belonging and comfort, something that all the main characters seem to want. Batman, the strong and loner type meets Catwoman and they both fall in love with each other, wanting to be of comfort, but remember, this is Gotham City. The music also adds a nice dimension to their characters when they are together, as Elfman mixes their two musical scores together, showing just how easily the two characters fit together, but at the same time showing how different they are, with Batman’s trumpet and horns playing next to the very distorted and screeching violins of Catwoman. Penguin also has his unhappy ending, leaving behind who he considers his babies, his little penguin army, and also Max Shreck, the villain behind all the madness in this film, dies, leaving behind his son. In the end, everyone ends up being lonely and losing someone, making it very unhappy ending for a fairytale type and holiday film.
From the very beginning of the movie, you can be aware of what type of movie that you are going to end up seeing. There are two scenes that foreshadow events that are going to happen in this movie, and by looking closely on how those two scenes play out, you can see that there are going to be very unhappy events for certain characters. The first scene has a baby Penguin locked up in a cage by his parents, where he ends up grabbing his pet cat and killing her, foreshadowing later in the film when Penguin kills Catwoman. The other foreshadowing scene is when Batman saves Selina from a mugger. Selina finds a taser and delightfully electrocutes the knocked out mugger, showing Selina’s mindset in the beginning on her conduct to get revenge from all the men who hurt or “kill” her.
In the end, director Tim Burton perfectly captures the corrupted city of crime and the citizens of it, all very broken and lost and fraudulent just as the city they inhabit. The set pieces are all very dark; snow and setting of the Christmas season giving in a ghastly and ghostly feel, with the childlike kooky music adding to the complexity of the characters. Everyone in this movie is just plain bizarre, and Burton finds a way to prove just how out of the ordinary life in Gotham City is in his own gothic style.