Annette Bening, who played Mar-Vell in Marvel’s Captain Marvel movie, had gone through script reads and some pre-production and costume fittings for DC’s Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer, who played Janet Van Dyne in Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, took over the role, a decade removed from the Oscar-snubbed role of Stephanie Zinone in Grease 2.
When we look back on how we got where we are, we’re often faced with regrets of things done and left undone. What a gift for the movie-going public, then, that Pfeiffer climbed that ladder, belting out “Cool Rider,” her determination never faltering.
Dennis Linde wrote Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love” and the Dixie Chicks’ hit “Goodbye, Earl.” He produced Kris Kristofferson’s “Jesus Was a Capricorn.” He wrote hundreds of songs for nearly as many artists. And, yet, his greatest contribution to American music is, no doubt, “Cool Rider.
In the song, Pfeiffer sings that she wants “a devil in skin-tight leather.” After seeing her in Batman Returns, don’t we all?
And without the devil, what need is there for Christmas?
At this point, it’s Baby Moses on the River Styx. The movie was written by Danny Waters, the same man who won an Edgar Award for Heathers and also gave us Hudson Hawk and Ford Fairlaine.
Tim Burton’s movie jumps 33 years later to a Christmas scene in Gothamfeller Center Park, or some such place, to see the lighting of the tree, Christopher Walken’s hair, Michelle Pfeiffer’s awkwardness, then Vincent Schiavelli grinding his organ, before we got to see Baby Cobblepot all grown out, living with with penguins in the sewer, as one does.
“You flush, I flaunt it,” Penguin says, entering some kind of pact with Max Schreck (Hello, Nosferatu).
Selina Kyle rushes back to the office, and, for some reason, tells her boss, Schreck, that she’s discovered his plot to drain energy from the city and store it. He pushes her through a window, and she falls with the snow to her seeming death, before a cat licks her fingers and somehow gives her super powers? Perhaps kitty had gotten into Penguin’s thermos?
Cut to the mayor, giving another speech: “This is the Christmas season and should be a time of healing.” A gymnast flips to the stage, steals a baby doll out of a woman’s arms, then descends into the sewers, from which Penguin ascends with a real baby, taking credit for either rescuing the kidnapped child in record time (this is Gotham, after all) or transforming a doll into a human. (I’m not sure which.)
Then there’s a bunch of plot stuff, beginning as Schreck stands on the steps of the Hall of Records to deliver this line: “Have a heart. Give the Constitution a rest. It’s Christmas.”
As it happens, this movie is full of great lines delivered for comic effect and not much else. Penguin, standing at his parents’ graves, tells reporters: “I was their number one son, and they treated me like number two.” It’s funny because “number two” is common slang for a doody.
We soon, though some may argue not soon enough, learn that Penguin’s main goal is to kill all the firstborn sons of Gotham, which seems more Old Testament than Christmas story, back to Moses and Baby Cobblepot rather than the Baby Jesus.
There’s more plot, with Catwoman siding with and then against Penguin as snow and Christmas decorations abound through the Gotham nights.
By the end, we have penguins threatening Gotham with candy cane rockets, a rubber duck tank chase through the snow-covered park, and an electric kiss with Santy Claus.
With Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns is often seen as part of Tim Burton’s Christmas trilogy. Which is fine, as far as that goes. It’s snowy and Christmas happens all around the story, with Bruce and Selina even sharing quips about mistletoe kisses.
As the movie fades away, Selina Kyle has risen from the dead after a few days, more Easter than Christmas, after all.
Or, as Stephanie Zinone said in Grease 2, “There’s gotta be more to life than just making out.”
Yes. The devil in skin-tight latex would know.
Steve Weddle is the author of Country Hardball and host of the Seven Minutes With podcast. He is a founder of the crime fiction site Do Some Damage and the former publisher of Needle magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @steveweddle.