The success of the film Batman Returns delivered one of the most memorable superhero movies to this day. Michael Keaton continued playing the role of Bruce Wayne aka Batman with the top villain of Danny DeVito as The Penguin. The anti-hero character of Catwoman featured Michelle Pfeiffer providing arguably the most memorable performance of her entire career. Tim Burton’s tale of Batman during the Christmas season of this film opened an imaginative world that helped shape the future.
Many future superhero movies started to use similar storylines to this movie when looking at smaller aspects of it. We will look at some of the things that flew under the radar as being cool and different at the time it was released in 1992. These would become more common in the genre in future years. Find out just how important Batman Returns was with ten storylines that were ahead of its time.
10 Corrupt Businessman
The story of a corrupt businessman holding power over a city involving a superhero seems common now. That wasn’t always the case as Batman Returns was among the first movies to feature a character like Max Shreck played by the talented Christopher Walken.
Shreck was the one to create some of the bigger conflicts for Batman; inspiring Penguin to run for Mayor and causing Selina Kyle to become Catwoman after attempting to murder her. The character of Shreck convinced the people of Gotham that he was a generous man while using everyone for personal gain.
9 Cool "Cat Lady" Character
The character of a “cat lady” is popular today with many movies, television shows and even merchandising including such a person. Batman Returns made it cool when Selina Kyle goes from the shy and nervous assistant to the coolest character in the film as Catwoman.
Cat ladies are either portrayed as a punchline or an unexpected cool character in most adaptations today. There is no doubt that Michelle Pfeiffer is a huge reason why many future media portrayals of cat ladies have been positive. Batman Returns made it cooler to love cats.
8 The Public's Love For A Non-Traditional Politician
Oswalt Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin hatched a devious plan to gain power in Gotham along with Max Shreck. Despite his evil goals, Penguin was portrayed as a heroic figure to the people of Gotham when saving the Mayor’s baby from an orchestrated kidnapping.
The people start supporting Cobblepot’s bid as momentum catches on. Recent years have seen this story become more common in Hollywood with an unusual choice as a politician gaining power after manipulating the residents. Some would say art imitates life, but Batman Returns showed the story perfectly here.
7 Batman's Intelligence
Superheroes were known for their wild over the top powers or their intense personas in the 80s and 90s. The Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman projects would see Bruce Wayne portrayed unlike any other hero at the time to help him stand out even more.
Wayne used his intelligence and prep time as a superpower instead of actual powers to give him the advantage over villains. The future of the genre would see characters like Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Scott Lang use their brains as a huge part of their appeal rather than just their powers.
6 Villains Teaming Up And Turning On Each Other
The idea of super teams and supervillain teams has become popular today with movies like Avengers, Justice League and Suicide Squad getting made. However, Batman Returns was among the first superhero films with the idea of villains teaming up.
The Penguin unites with Max Shreck to put his plan in motion to gain power in Gotham. Catwoman even teams with Penguin at one point as their mutual enemy in Batman united them. The villains eventually turned on each other. This was highly entertaining and became normal in movies of the genre moving forward.
5 Framing Superheroes For Evil Actions
One of the smartest moves by The Penguin in Batman Returns featured him framing Batman for evil actions to turn the people of Gotham against him. Penguin abducts and kills the beloved Ice Princess of Gotham while framing Batman for it.
The Batmobile is also rigged to wreak havoc in the streets harming others until Batman finds a way to stop it. Many future movies have seen villains frame the superheroes for horrible things to turn people against them. The current cliffhanger to the Spider-Man franchise shows just how much this Batman Returns storyline impacted the future.
4 Specialty Weapon For Villain
The recent history of the villains in superhero movies has seen many of them become known for having a special weapon. Batman Returns helped establish that with The Penguin character having his own weapon of choice that helped him harm others throughout the movie.
Penguin used his umbrella as a weapon with the built-in gun among other perks. The umbrella even helped him fly to get away from others when he was exposed. Penguin’s umbrella added a certain appeal to him as a villain that others have ripped off after Batman Returns.
3 Sex Symbol Character
Female superheroes and villains weren’t common in these movies in 1992 when Batman Return featured Selina Kyle as Catwoman. The character was a bit of an anti-hero, which also provided a unique approach to a storyline at the time.
Fans fell in love with Catwoman as Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal created a sex symbol. This has become common in films since then with Mary Jane from Spider-Man, Pepper Potts from Iron Man and many others having the same appeal. Pfeiffer was the first to have such success on the big screen with Catwoman here.
2 Superhero With Calm Demeanor
The 80s and 90s featured studios trying to write most superheroes as extremely tough. Heroes were meant to always showcase their desire to take down villains or pose a threat to anyone challenging them. Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman was nothing like that.
Batman Returns featured Bruce Wayne and Batman's character as one with a calmer demeanor for a superhero. Future characters in superhero films like Captain America, Ant-Man, and Black Panther saw the heroes having a similar demeanor. This may have never happened without the success of Keaton’s Batman.
1 Batman's Unmasking
The old guard of superhero movies would rarely ever see heroes unmask to anyone in their lives. It made sense since the secret identity created an easy story of conflict to add to the entire movie. Bruce Wayne reveals he is Batman to Selina Kyle towards the end of Batman Returns.
The hope of Wayne is that he can speak to the human left in Kyle as Catwoman to prevent her from killing Max Shreck after all the evil things he did to her. This plan doesn’t work, but Batman Returns showed the great appeal of a hero unmasking. The formerly rare story is now quite common as most superheroes reveal their identities to loved ones in movies today.