This movie has virtually nothing to do with Christmas. It happens to take place during Christmas, and its referenced a few times, but other than that its really just a set-piece. However it does have a major connection to Christmas for me, mainly involving merchandise.
Batman ruled pop culture in the early to mid 90’s. The anticipation for Batman in 1989 was high, once it came out fans loved it, and it was a huge success for Warner Bros. So naturally a sequel with Tim Burton and Michael Keaton was in the works, and subsequently, anticipation for the sequel might’ve been higher than the first. During filming, the production took up most of the sound stages at the Warner Bros Studio lot. Warner was all in on Burton, giving him more creative control and entrusting him with as many resources as he needed to make a superior sequel. Then the movie came out and fans were disappointed to say the least. They expected a movie about Batman and instead got a psychological Tim Burton action movie that happened to have Batman characters in it. I have many fond childhood memories of this movie, none having to do with watching the actual movie itself, but everything to do with the merchandise.
Those who know me well, know that I’m a Bat-Freak of sorts. I was born in 1990, right in the middle of all this Bat-Mania, and the first action figure/ vehicle I ever got was from Batman Returns. The merchandise created for this movie is solely responsible for my fandom. Had I been born 10 years earlier, I’d probably be a Star Wars nut. Eventually the initial toy snowballed into the Batmobile and Batboat. That year for Christmas I got the Wayne Manor/Batcave playset, which I still have today. Eventually I had trading cards, utensil sets, a bathroom kit, jigsaw puzzles, a backpack, a comic book adaptation of the movie, and a ton of other stuff that just slips the mind right now. I owned all of this stuff, and from never having watched the movie it came from.
This is the toy that created a monster.
It’s interesting to note that the design of the Kenner toys stems far from the overall design of the movie. For example there’s a Robin toy, and as we all know Robin is nowhere near this movie. He was featured in the original script, but Burton, likely wanting to focus on his weird takes on the Penguin and Catwoman instead, axed the character. The original Penguin figure looks nothing like Danny Devito’s gross flipper monster in the movie, which makes sense when you’re selling stuff designed for kids. I do not envy the people who saw this movie and had to figure out how to sell toys from it. Its not a movie meant for kids. Hell, the first time I tried to watch it, sometime in 1997, I got so scared during Catwoman’s transformation scene I turned it off. But all things considered Kenner did a pretty good job of leaving out the darkness from the movie in the toys.
The one on the right was made 22 years later.
So instead of reenacting scenes from a movie I had never seen before, I created my own stories with my toys. And I can honestly say that the vast majority of them were probably better than the actual movie. I’ll give you the plot of the one I remember the most vividly, giving insight into what a weird kid I was.
I grew up loosely Catholic, going to Church every now and then, believing in God and Jesus but more as an after thought instead of it being a main part of my young life. My mother had a Nativity set with a little Baby Jesus, Virgin Mary, Joseph, the three Wisemen, some farm animals, and the creepiest fuckin’ piper you’ve ever seen.
This is what pure evil looks like.
This piper really freaked me out as a kid. So much so that he teamed up with the Joker and the Penguin in a plot to kidnap Baby Jesus. Yeah that’s right bitches, a crossover only a twisted Catholic kid could come up with, Batman meets Baby Jesus. So this creepy piper kidnaps Baby Jesus while the Joker and the Penguin steal Santa Claus’ Christmas train, conveniently placed under my Christmas tree. Batman and Spider-Man, (fuck you this is my story), catch wind of this and proceed to team up with Santa to get his train back and to save Baby Jesus. Epic fist fights occur (me smashing toys into each other) and eventually, Penguin gets caught, Spider-Man gets knocked out by the Joker, and then the piper kills the Joker and Santa so he can be the sole person to harness Baby Jesus’ power. Keep in mind, I was 4. Batman comes in with his Batplane, whoops the pipers ass and leaves him on the train tracks to get crushed by Santa’s train. I actually had the train run over this piper figure, in my young mind he was that evil. Batman saves Baby Jesus, and Baby Jesus uses his powers to bring Santa back to life so he can deliver all the Christmas gifts. The End.
Not trying to toot my own horn here, but that’s a hell of a lot better than most of the scripts out in Hollywood right now. And it’s a hell of a lot better than Batman Returns.
I watched the movie before watching this, but I had a hard time thinking about anything interesting to write about it while also linking it to Christmas, so I did this instead. I’m not going to review the movie, maybe somewhere down the road you’ll hear my critical thoughts about it before Batman v Superman comes out.
Batman Returns will always hold a special place in my heart for being responsible for the merchandise that made my childhood and my Christmas’ a little brighter. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Commercialism and Merchandise? It sure as shit ain’t about the story of Christ’s birth anymore. Unless you throw Batman and Santa in there, then sign me up.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays.