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Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. It is a sequel to the 1989 film Batman nd the second installment of Warner Bros. initial Batman film series, with Michael Keaton reprising the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman. The film, produced by Denise Di Novi and Burton, also stars Danny DeVito as the Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Christopher Walken as corrupt police commissioner Gillian B. Loeb. In Batman Returns, Batman must prevent the Penguin from killing all the children in Gotham City.

Burton originally did not want to direct another Batman film. Warner Bros. developed a script with Sam Hamm which had the Penguin and Catwoman going after hidden treasure. Burton agreed to return after they granted him more creative control and replaced Hamm with Daniel Waters. After a falling out, Waters was removed from the project and Wesley Strick was chosen to do an uncredited rewrite shortly before filming. This included normalizing dialogue, fleshing out the Penguin's motivations and master plan and removing scenes due to budget concerns. Strick continued working as the on-set writer all through filming, an early trailer credited Strick as co-screenwriter with Waters having sole story credit but after a dispute from Hamm he received no credit whatsoever. Annette Bening was originally cast as Catwoman but became pregnant and was replaced with Pfeiffer.

Batman Returns was released on June 16, 1992. It grossed $366.8 million worldwide on a budget of $80 million and received positive reviews. Critics praised its action sequences, performances, Danny Elfman's score, effects, and villains, although its dark tone was criticized. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup, as well as two BAFTA awards.

Plot

In 1957, District Attorney Tucker Cobblepot (Paul Reubens) and his wife Esther Cobblepot give birth to their son Oswald a few days before Christmas. Their son Oswald was treated poorly on account of his deformity and violent behavior. Tucker and his wife, Esther, had trouble accepting Oswald and did not believe that Gotham's high society would welcome him. Oswald's abuse of the family cat confirmed Tucker's and Esther's minds that Oswald had the mannerisms of a feral animal. Finally, on Christmas Eve, in the evening,, the Cobblepots took their son Oswald out for a stroll in a baby carriage. Coincidentally, Thomas and Martha Wayne were taking her their son Bruce for a stroll in his carriage. Since Christmas was their favorite time of the year, Bruce's parents wished the Cobblepot couple a merry Christmas. The Cobblepots then politely smiled at them. After ensuring that Thomas, Martha, and no one was around, the Cobblepots threw their carriage, with their baby inside, into a drainage stream into the sewer. Esther started to burst into tears at giving her son away, however, Tucker started to comfort his wife by reassuring her that they both did the right thing. Unknown to the Cobblepots, due to buoyancy, the carriage containing Oswald floated o Arctic World of the Old Zoo, where Oswald was discovered by Emperor Penguins.

In 1992, thirty-five years later, at City Hall, politician Gillian B. Loeb had a meeting with Mayor Harvey Dent, city treasurer Hubbard, Attorney General Robinson, and several other politicians. Loeb was objecting to Dent's policy on criminals who are rich and powerful being denied bail since Loeb felt criminals should be treated equally when being prosecuted. Dent and Robinson opposed Loeb prompting the angry politician to turn his chair around from them, pull out a ballerina doll, and began stabbing it as well as carving it, to pretend he was torturing an actual woman. Loeb eventually calmed down and reassured everyone that friends are allowed to have their disagreements since this is just plain politics. Suddenly, police deputy commissioner Arnold Flass arrived to inform them that it was time for the tree-lighting ceremony. On the way down, Loeb threatened to have there be a recall by providing a petition for it. Dent then laughed at Loeb's face by pointing out that there is no issue and that he is invulnerable. In the sewers, mob boss Lew Moxon (Jon Polito) is there with Oswald, who is now the criminal kingpin known as the Penguin. Moxon hands Penguin an envelope and they both proceed to listen to Gillian B. Loeb's heartfelt speech to the public about the joy of Christmas. Loeb had forgotten his speech and told Flass to remind him to take it out on Selina before making one up.

During Loeb's speech, Gotham is attacked by a disgraced former Canadian circus troupe, the Red Triangle Gang. Despite the efforts of Batman and Lieutenant Bullock to stop the violence, Loeb is abducted and taken to the sewer, where he meets Oswald Cobblepot, the gang's secret leader now known as the Penguin. The Penguin blackmails Loeb with evidence of his corruption. The first evidence Penguin uses to blackmail Loeb is the toxic waste that Loeb has been dumping into the sewers. Loeb dismisses this evidence as credible since it could have came from anywhere. Penguin then asks Loeb about the documents proving he was an accountant for the mob before becoming part of the city council and how Loeb continued to work with them after being elected by the public. Loeb announces that although he is not admitting to anything, he would have shredded such documents if they existed only for Penguin to reveal those documents to be the contents of the envelope that Moxon gave him without acknowledging Moxon's involvement since Moxon asked to be kept anonymous. Penguin then asked Loeb about how police Deputy Commissioner Mckeever was doing. Loeb explained that Mckeever fled to Jamaica months ago because of meeting some woman. However, Penguin explains that McKeever disappeared right at the time when he was closing on corruption in City Hall and revealed what happened the night that McKeever died: Loeb tried to offer McKeever a deal in exchange for dropping the investigation in the restroom at City Hall McKeever refused Loeb's deal due to being an honest cop prompting Loeb to kill McKeever, chop off his body parts with a butcher knife, and then flush McKeever's remains down the toilet. Penguin had McKeever's human body parts and a plastic bag containing the knife that Loeb used to chop McKeever up with Loeb's fingerprints on it. Loeb is forced to give into Penguin's demands to help him escape the sewers and enter the public life of Gotham.

Meanwhile, Selina Kyle, a shy and timid rookie police officer, is listening to bad messages on her answering machine: the first from her mother (who expressed disappointment at her for not going home for Christmas), the second from her boyfriend, who decided to go on a Christmas holiday on his own on advice from his psychologist, and the third from herself (which reminded her that she had to go back to work and prepare documents for Loeb's meeting with Bruce Wayne — something that she herself had forgotten). As she went through the files, Selina inadvertently discovered Loeb's ties to the mob upon searching Loeb's computer. Loeb himself appeared and confronted her about that information, and although Selina swore that she would not let it slip, Loeb pushed her out of the window in order to silence her. Flass saw the whole thing happen and when Loeb nervously claimed that it was an accident, that he leaned in and accidentally knocked her out. However, Flass smiled announcing that Selina jumped out the window on her. Loeb went along with it and asked if it was due to Selina having trouble with her boyfriend, however, Flass replied that Selina did it because of stress. The two men then started to pretend that happened.

Selina had fallen out the window from City Hall and into an alleyway. Selina was mysteriously revived by local stray cats she fed from her apartment window, including her favorite Miss Kitty, and returned home in a daze. Selina went home to find the television on where a reporter was reporting on how Loeb was a friend to poor and the sweetest man in Gotham City. Selina then suffered a psychotic breakdown: she ransacked her apartment, destroyed her possessions by stabbing her stuffed animals repeatedly with a knife, and sewed a homemade cat costume, in preparation for her revenge on Loeb.

The Penguin makes his presence known by "rescuing" a politician's baby from a staged kidnapping attempt, right after Loeb urges that politician to bring the baby to a press conference where Dent is denouncing the urban chaos. Loeb gets the city council to allow Penguin access into the Hall of Records to find his parents. Batman's alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, voices his suspicions about the Penguin's true motives, and investigates his background and connection to the Red Triangle Gang. Years ago, in Canada, the Red Triangle Circus Gang were performing all over the country. The circus performers were the Poodle Lady, the World's Fattest Man, and a boy who looked like a penguin. The RCMP put the circus on hold because children started to go missing on circus grounds. All the circus members were interrogated but the boy who looked like a penguin went missing right before the RCMP could question him. When Bruce is going to meet with Loeb at Loeb's precinct to discuss a charity ball that Bruce is planning to raise funds for the police department, Bruce meets Selina. Loeb was startled to see Selina was alive but relieved thinking Selina had amnesia to due to falling out the window. Selina had to become very confident which intrigued Bruce but made Loeb uncomfortable. Because it intrigued Bruce, Bruce started to behave awkwardly around Selina such as almost forgetting his coat until Selina reminds him. Loeb then asks Flass to keep an eye on Selina and to kill her if Selina suddenly starts regaining her memory.

Loeb and Dent did not get along since Dent knew he was corrupt, but couldn’t prove it since witnesses would change their testimony or disappear. Loeb had Penguin use the Red Triangle Circus Gang to terrorize all the central business districts in Gotham, destroying Dent's reputation and giving Loeb the opportunity to nominate Penguin as mayor. Batman confronted Penguin after subding his gang members. Meanwhile, Catwoman arrived to the kitchen in City Hall, put chemicals in a microwave, and opened a gas tank to release oxygen knowing that would increase the concentration causing an explosion. She also did this because of kinetic collision theory: when two particles collide at the correct orientation with sufficient enough energy. Concentration has been known to increase the collision frequency and that was what resulted in an explosion. After police headquarters is destroyed, Penguin escaped. Batman and Catwoman in which Catwoman almost got killed until Batman saved her. Catwoman then seduced Batman and stabbed him, resulting in Batman knocking her off a building. Catwoman survived by landing in a truck of kitty litter. 

When Selina returned home, she found Flass there snooping around in her apartment. After subduing Flass with her whip, Selina forced the corrupt detective to call Loeb telling him that Selina's clean and that he will be leaving town for a few days. Afterwards, Selina strangles Flass, she disposes Flass' body in cement, an inorganic substance that Selina had a large quantity of in her apartment.  

Bruce and Selina entered into a romantic relationship. As Catwoman, Selina agreed to help Penguin frame Batman for the kidnapping of Gotham’s “Ice Princess” beauty queen. While Batman left to search for the Ice Princess, Penguin’s thugs disassemble the Batmobile and a plant a device in the car that will allow Penguin to control it. Distracted by Catwoman, Batman was unable to stop Penguin from attacking the Princess using a swarm of captive bats. The Ice Princess fell to her death before Batman can save her, making everyone believe that Batman pushed her. 

Penguin ended his alliance with Catwoman after an unsuccessful proposal with a wedding ring and attacked her with his helicopter umbrella. Although not in league with Loeb, Bullock, who hated Batman, then led the police against Batman. Batman discovered that Penguin had remotely taken control of the Batmobile, taking it on a rampage through Gotham. The destruction reminded Batman two things: 1) The higher the kinetic energy, the higher the probability of a successful collision and 2) successful collision geometry is also what would contributes to a successful collision. Batman then disabled the device Penguin used and managed to stop the Batmobile into the garage of teenage garage mechanic Dick Grayson, someone who has Chris Rock outbursts. Together Bruce and Dick managed to fight off the Red Triangle Circus Gang members who attack the garage looking for Batman. Batman then thanked Dick for his help and Dick was thrilled by all this. Batman was also impressed as to how Dick was able to fight off the thugs with his gymnastics and karate.  

During the chase made by Lieutenant Bullock, Batman records the Penguin's disparaging remarks about the people of Gotham. The Penguin's campaign to oust the current mayor is quickly destroyed when Bruce and General Kane play selected comments he made insulting the people of Gotham while controlling the Batmobile at one of Penguin's speeches, the most prominent phrase being, "You've got to admit, I played this stinking city like a harp from hell!" The people of Gotham get angry which is why they started throwing vegetables at Penguin. Penguin then looked to see Loeb abandoning him among his other former supporters. Loeb just shrugged at Penguin and went off to whispered to Bullock, who was there to supervise security, to get ready. Penguin was forced to defend himself with his gun umbrella, shooting at the crowd. The police led by Bullock, pursue Penguin. Penguin then escapes by jumping off the same bridge his parents dumped him as a baby and into the water. Bullock is then upset that the Penguin got away.

At a masquerade ball organized by Bruce to raise money for the police department, Bruce and Selina deduced each other's secret identities. But the two decide to keep dancing until they resolve their differences and Bruce was startled when Selina revealed she brought a firearm to the party to kill Loeb in revenge for pushing her out the window. Bruce wanted to try to convince Selina not to kill her boss. Bullock, who was dressed as a baseball player, confronted Loeb questioning his relationship with Penguin. Bullock was suspicious after Loeb told him to be prepared at Penguin's speech right after leaving Penguin's side, as if Loeb knew Penguin was capable of firing a gun at a crowd of civilians. Bullock also pointed out that Loeb wanted Penguin to replace Dent as mayor right after Dent denied Loeb's policies and the crime wave was a perfect way to remove Dent from office as well as a boy that looks like a penguin in the Red Triangle Circus Gang going missing before the police in Canada could interrogate him about children going missing on circus grounds. Loeb didn’t confirm or deny it and threatened to have Bullock removed as lieutenant. Loeb then asked Bullock if his wife, son, and adopted daughter know he is such a pest. Bullock's eyes widened in paranoia because Bullock didn't want criminals, especially corrupt officials, to know about this piece of information. "What did you just say?" Bullock asked. Loeb started to lean in and whisper it in Bullock's ear: "It's Sarah, Michael, and Cassandra, right?" That made Bullock very angry. "You leave them out of this," Bullock dangerously said in anger, reaching for his baseball bat. "I'll never let anyone hurt them." Before Bullock could lash out at Loeb by hitting him with the baseball bat, a loud explosion started to occur.

Penguin crashed the party revealing his plan to drown the kidnapped children in a vat of toxic waste, including Loeb, whom Penguin forced into the Duckmobile at gunpoint. Batman defeated the kidnappers in the streets of Gotham outside the Luxury Parks Tower building. Inside the building, a clown was about to abduct a sleeping baby in a crib only for Catwoman to strangle the clown with her whip. Batman later forced the Penguin's pet monkey to deliver a note to the Penguin, mocking him about his failure. Enraged, Penguin unleashed an army of penguin soldiers armed with missiles to blow up Gotham Square where several civilians were shopping with their children. Fortunately, Batman went to Dick for help since Dick stole a signal device from the Batmobile as a souvenir. Dick used the signal device to get the penguins to follow him while Dick is running to the Arctic Zoo to meet Batman.

Knowing that Batman is closing in on him and after seeing the rest of the Circus Gang flee, the Penguin rushed over to his Duck Mobile, grabbed one of his umbrellas along the way and drove to the surface, Batman followed him by flying up to the surface going straight through the walls at the top and destroying the Duck Mobile. Batman got out and surveyed the wreckage, but the Penguin pounced on him and they began to fight with the Penguin unleashing a sharp blade from the tip of his umbrella. Penguin then saw Dick rush over followed by all the penguins. Penguin became angry and tried to use the blade to stab the teenager to death only for Batman to hit Penguin in the face to protect Dick. Penguin angrily demanded the signal device and Dick threw it to him nervous. Batman asked Dick why he did that and Dick said it was because Penguin told him to. Dick then pointed out that he cannot handle pressure very well which is why there is a rule at his high school where all the students are forbidden to dare Dick to do anything. Penguin sinisterly and activated the signal device only for the penguins to fire their missiles at the Arctic Zoo, at Penguin, and the rest of the Penguin's henchmen. After Batman shielded Dick from the explosion, he went into the Arctic Zoo to search for Commissioner Loeb.

Loeb managed to escape his cage by promising the monkey a gold watch in exchange for the keys. The monkey handed Loeb the keys, but Loeb just laughed in the monkey's face and started to rush off. Loeb was then attacked by Catwoman, who wanted to kill him. Batman begged Catwoman to hand Loeb over to the law and even revealed his identity to her. Catwoman refused to believe that Loeb will ever be convicted due to being a cop and screamed in anger upon seeing Loeb getaway. Catwoman then spotted the Red Triangle circus gang member that threatened her earlier. The gang member shot Catwoman several times. Catwoman then put the taser to her mouth and kissed the clown, electrocuting him to death. After the smoke cleared, Bruce found the clown's charred corpse, but Catwoman was nowhere to be seen — implying that she survived. Rising from the water, Penguin attempted to kill Bruce with an umbrella but died from his injuries. His penguin family began to carry out a makeshift funeral.

As Commissioner Loeb fled into the sewers, trying to find a way out, he was shot in the foot. Loeb looked up to see that he was being followed by Moxon. Moxon revealed to Loeb how he set this whole thing up by handing Penguin over the bank records proving his corruption. Moxon originally wanted revenge on Loeb for stealing from him but thought he could control Loeb through Penguin only to later find out that was a mistake that cost him dearly since controlling Loeb was Moxon's ticket to controlling the police. Moxon pointed out that on the plus side, some things did go according to plan: the people that Penguin terrorized, including the small business owners, were now paying Moxon's mob for protection, the Batman was now hated by the public, and Moxon had learned Batman was secretly bored billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. With all those positives, Moxon saw there was no point in having Loeb around anymore. Loeb begged for his life, by explaining he can still be useful only for Moxon to shoot Loeb in the head, killing him.

In the aftermath, with Commissioner Loeb gone and Arnold Flass nowhere to be found, Bullock was appointed by Dent to run the police force until Loeb can be found. Mayor Dent and the city council ordered Bullock to revoke Batman's deputy status in the police force and to launch a manhunt against him for killing the Ice Princess. Bullock obeyed but secretly had doubts about Batman pushing the Ice Princess to her death even though Bullock hated Batman for being him. As General Kane was driving Bruce and Dick home from the Arctic Zoo, Dick promised to keep this all secret and asked that his hero name be Robin. Kane then expressed concerns to Loeb escaping and now knowing the true identity of the Batman. Bruce smiled reassuring Kane that he will find Loeb and that there is no way Loeb can have him arrested without any evidence. Despite this, Kane was planning to reach out to his government contacts to find Loeb thinking that Loeb went into hiding to avoid Selina.

Bruce then spotted Catwoman watching him in an alleyway and ordered Kane to stop the car. Bruce rushed into the alley only to find Selina's cat, Miss Kitty. Bruce then picked up the cat and took it home to Wayne Manor. Catwoman was then watching all of this from a rooftop and she pulled off her mask, where there were tears in her eyes, wishing she took up Bruce's offer to stay with him at Wayne Manor.

Cast

  • Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
  • Eddie Murphy as Dick Grayson/Robin
  • Danny Devito as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin
  • Christopher Walken as Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
  • Jon Schuck as General Jacob Kane
  • Jon Polito as Lew Moxon
  • Billy Dee Williams as Mayor Harvey Dent
  • Vincent Schiavelli as The Organ Grinder
  • Pat Hingle as Lieutenant Eddie Bullock
  • Cristi Conaway as The Ice Princess
  • Anna Katarina as The Poodle Lady
  • Paul Reubens as Tucker Cobblepot
  • Diane Salinger as Esther Cobblepot
  • Andrew Bynarski as Arnold Flass
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