Here at UTF we’ll be taking a look a Batman Holiday Trilogy, using the Dark Knight as a point of contrast to the holiday season. And to kick things off let us star with…
Batman Returns is not a great Batman movie, but it is a great Tim Burton movie and wonderful edition to any Christmas themed movie marathon you may be having in the not too distant future. Despite its initial summer blockbuster release date Tim Burton’s 1992 flick oozes a dark Christmas atmosphere from the opening scene of Oswald Cobblepot’s birth to Catwoman’s studio demanded silhouette before the credits. The first lines of dialogue in the film are ‘Merry Christmas.’ and the movie ends with Alfred and Bruce wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
The Christmas season functions as much more than a simple background to this tale of the Bat the Cat and the Penguin. The plot points include many Christmas elements from tree lighting ceremonies to Bruce and Selina learning each other’s double identities through the placement of mistletoe.
From crass commercialism to Christian beliefs and Saturnalia traditions what is known as the Christmas season can be interpreted in many manners. Like A Charlie Brown Christmas Batman Returns has a dark core of alienation in a time often believed to be reserved for joy, while still hoping for the goodness of man. When Bruce first learns of Cobblepot he does not see the man as a rival or enemy, but tells Alfred that he hopes the man finds his parents. Selina Kyle’s decision to forgo a life of luxury with Bruce in the film’s climax steps beyond simply taking revenge against Max Shreck for killing her, as she could have killed him a thousand ways that would have left her unscathed as opposed to grabbing a stun gun a power line and asking, “how about a kiss Santi-Claus?” She is willing to sacrifice herself and in this becomes more.
Batman Returns is a film which three tragic leads, placed against what is generally a festive background. Even Max Shreck the corporate raider villain demonstrates his willingness to protect his son at the cost of his own life. While this is not a perfect film and admittedly falls apart pretty quickly after the masquerade ball sequence it is still my favorite movie of the season. By contrasting the darkness of its leads against the spirit of the season Tim Burton created a unique tale that is more emotionally honest than any Santa Claus flick out there.
Batman Noel is a retelling on Dicken’s Christmas Carol with Batman as Scrooge, Catwoman as Christmas Past, Superman as Christmas Present and Joker as Christmas Future. Lee Bermejo’s wrote and produced the artwork for this very original Batman work. One of the strongest criticisms of Batman over the years is that he’s a rich kid pissed about his parents deaths and beats the shit out of petty thugs because of this. The strongest element of this tale is that the narrative follows a father forced to a life of crime to support his child. The tragedy of his condition is played against that of Bruce Wayne’s. Bermejo’s art brings with a realistic texture further bringing the fantastical elements into the world we live in. While the work is a mixed success overall, it is an incredibly original adaption of A Christmas Carol that is willing to pay homage to the emotional beats of the original and not merely the story structure.
Christmas with the Joker
You can end out this little Christmas Trilogy with Batman the Animated Series’ First season episode Christmas with the Joker. While this isn’t one of the series strongest episodes, its by no means one of the weakest. The story begins with Bruce trying to show Dick the film It’s a Wonderful Life, only to be interrupted by the Joker hijacking the airwaves with his own Christmas special promising to execute Commissioner Gordon, Detective Bullock and Summer Gleason. This catalyst springs the dynamic duo into action and what follows is simply a well done Joker vs Batman tale. Neither one of their greatest or worst. What I do find interesting though in re-watching this old series is how truly dark it got for a 4:00pm kids show. I mean the Joker is going to execute bound prisoners on live TV, and the movie Bruce wants to show Dick is about a man contemplating suicide. Sometimes I really miss the 90’s.
So there you have it, did I miss your favorite Batman Holiday moment?
M.R. Gott is the author of the fanboy horror hybrid Rising Dead, as well as Where the Dead fear to Tread. Click here for a free short story or novella.