On Christmas day in Gotham, the exquisitely named Esther and Tucker Cobblepot are horrified by their deformed child, Oswald and abandon him to the sewers where he is taken in by a family of penguins that live below the city. And so begins this less than orthodox ‘Christmas Movie’ as overseen by the gothic absurdism of Tim Burton: Danny Devito plays the impressively bizzare Penguin, Micheal Keaton is Batman, Michelle Pffeifer is feline femme fatale – Catwoman, and with none other than Christopher Walken as the maniacal businessman, Max Shreck (in a nod to the German actor in the silent horror, Nosferatu), who is known as the ‘Santa Claus of Gotham’.
Shreck and Penguin team up to defeat that brooding paragon of vigilante principles, Batman, joined in their villainous capers by the formidably shiny Catwoman – whose allegiance is harder to discern. Since its 1992 release, Batman Returns has steadily acquired a growing cult audience; teetering on the edge of Gothic horror, Burton crams the film’s busy spectacle with mad and unsettling details (from giant rubber ducks to missile launching penguins) which, added to Pffiefer’s scene-stealing relish at playing the iconic Catwoman, creates a memorably mad addition to the Christmas canon. Welcome to the dark carnival of Christmas…we are a long way from It’s a Wonderful Life!