(This was originally posted in early 2012).

Hello and welcome to the second installment of a series I like to call: Why It Just Doesn’t Work (or WIJDW for short). In this series of blogs, I take a look at certain scenes from movies, television, comic books, or other media and give my take on why they don’t make sense or just … don’t work.

This time, I’ll be talking about Batman Returns. More specifically, I’ll be talking about the climax of Batman Returns, in which Catwoman has her final confrontation with Max Shreck.

Batman Returns was the second of the Batman films directed by Tim Burton. As the first film had proven to be a HUGE success, Burton and star Michael Keaton returned for a sequel. While the first film had one main antagonist (Jack Nicholson as the Joker), the second film had three. One was Danny Devito as the Penguin, the second was Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and the third was Christopher Walken as original character Max Shreck.

Many people have wondered if the film really needed three villains, but I think it worked out okay. Or at least, having three villains here worked better than it did in Spider-Man 3. But that’s a discussion for another blog entry. This installment will discuss two of the three villains, Catwoman and Max Shreck.

Selina Kyle works as a secretary for the unscrupulous millionaire Max Shreck. When she discovers certain incriminating details about her employer’s future plans (namely, to build a power station that would drain Gotham of its electricity), he pushes her out of a window. After waking up surrounded by alley cats, she becomes Catwoman. Naturally, one of her goals is revenge against the guy who tried to kill her. Along the way, she meets Bruce Wayne and falls for him, initially unaware that he is Batman (who has clashed with her over the course of the film).

In the climax of the film, she corners Max Shreck and is prepared to kill him. Batman arrives and attempts to talk her out of it. First, he tells Max Schrek “Shut up, you’re going to jail.”

To which Catwoman replies “Don’t be naive. The law doesn’t apply to people like him or us.”

He continues to try talking her out of it.

Batman: Why are you doing this? (approaches Catwoman) Let’s just take him to the police. Then we can go home… together.

(Batman stands directly in front of her)

Batman: Selina …. don’t you see? We’re the same. We’re the same … split right down the center.

And then what does he do? He rips off his mask, revealing himself to be Bruce Wayne. Now, there’s nothing wrong with revealing his identity to Selina in an attempt to figuratively talk her off of a ledge. The problem is, he unmasks in front of Max Shreck.

Max’s reaction is “Bruce Wayne … why are you dressed up like Batman?”

To which Selina replies “Because he IS Batman, you moron!”.

This is something that has bothered me ever since I saw the film for the first time. Max Shreck is a corrupt, unscrupulous man who’s not afraid to murder to get ahead. He is NOT the sort who could be trusted not to reveal Batman’s secret identity. Were he to get out of this situation alive, he would almost certainly blab it out to everyone he could; his lawyers, the press, his fellow inmates in prison. As a result, Bruce Wayne would be targeted by hit men or revenge-seeking friends of people Batman put away or scared into jumping off of roofs.

And Batman knows all of this. He knows what kind of person Max Shreck is. So if, at this point, he hasn’t given up on the idea of saving Shreck so that the law can deal with him, his unmasking makes no sense. Shreck, at this point, has to die or else Batman’s secret identity will be revealed to the world (or at least the underworld).

And of course that’s what happens. Catwoman electrocutes Shreck, and then disappears (setting up a possible sequel or spinoff that never happened, but that’s a rant for another day).

In summary, Batman’s unmasking himself in front of Selina DOES work, but unmasking in front of Max Shreck does NOT … unless he knew that there was NO WAY Shreck was getting out of that mess alive no matter what he did or said.

Batman Returns has a number of flaws, and I have mixed feelings about it myself. But it’s still probably one of the better Batman movies, and I highly recommend that you see it if you haven’t already (even though I’ve just spoiled part of the ending for you). It’s certainly better than the two films that followed. But I’ll save my musings on them for next time, when I take an in depth look at …

A Bat Credit Card (aka a nonsensical cheap sight gag)



Agree? Disagree? Want to mention any nuances that I missed? Feel free to leave your comments.


When originally posted, there were the following comments.


04:52 PM on February 19, 2012
I think the idea is that his concern for Selina far trumps his fear of Schrek, and of course, the writers knowing what happens next meant they didn’t have to consider the consequences. Good article, sir.

Chris Lang
04:54 PM on February 19, 2012

BigBlackHatMan says…
I think the idea is that his concern for Selina far trumps his fear of Schrek, and of course, the writers knowing what happens next meant they didn’t have to consider the consequences. Good article, sir.

Well, the writers knew what was going to happen next. But my question is, did Bruce know what was going to happen next? It doesn’t look to me like he did.


05:09 PM on February 19, 2012
@Chris Lang He didn’t. It was a completely cheap moment on the writers’ part by writing themselves out of the complication almost immediately.


05:14 PM on February 19, 2012
That’s a good point, however, Max would have a difficult time proving his claim as I’m sure Bruce had all the right security in place to make sure the press and police couldn’t penetrate Wayne manor to find the Batcave….unlike the flimsy security used for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.(Tim Burton Batman Films made Bruce out to be a lot smarter, IMO). Actually what floored me about that scene was the continuity error in his eye makeup. He uses thick black surrounding his eyes to blend into the batmask. Ordinarily ripping it off would still leave 2 large black circles around his eyes, yet when they cut back to him before he rips the mask off, suddenly his eyes are clean for his closeup when the mask comes off…that was pretty sloppy, I thought LOL! Great article, my friend. Peace.

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