[Editorial] How The Penguin became my favorite Christmas villain

Growing up Batman has always had a special place in my heart just like I’m sure for everyone else. I saw Adam West once at a convention, and my heart sank. I became speechless, with my eyes getting misty and growing up as a kid we had the 60’s Batman, the animated series, comics and of course the Tim Burton movies. It’s safe to say, Frank Miller and Tim Burton turned Batman into what we love today. Breaking the mold and introducing us to a darker version of the character. Even Today’s writers like Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder to even Kevin Smith have brought a fascinating take on the caped crusader, but there’s always been one style, one look, one version of The Batman characters that still stuck out for me. Let’s breakdown how Batman Returns gave us one of the best Christmas comic villains: The Penguin. Batman Returns is the sequel to the 89′ classic film Batman starring Michael Keaton in this version it’s set during Christmas time where the aftermath of The Joker has been swept away leaving Bruce Wayne to a quiet life. That is until the Red Triangle Circus gang disrupts the Christmas tree lighting hosted by Max Schrek (Christopher Walken). Now what I always loved about this film is Tim Burton finally got to make the comic movie he wanted a
Dark, gritty, colorful at times and hauntingly beautiful imagery. Now, in the beginning, we see a glimpse of Oswald’s life full of riches and anything he wanted yet abandoned by his parents in a pretty twisted way. It’s not until later we see little hints of him watching from afar grasping the iron bars of the sewer waiting for the world from his “prison” which he considers home. Our first glimpse of the Penguin meeting Max Schreck is perfect. This small stubby thing is feeding penguins in this abandoned amusement park. Max looks in horror as The Penguin delivers the best line that describes what we’re all thinking if we were in that situation: “I believe the word you’re looking for is, AHHHHHHHHHH” from this point on we’re treated to a fascinating take on the character. Before we’re treated to an aristocrat of Gotham who was a threat but nothing major. His plots were mostly stealing art pieces or just bank jobs. DeVito’s take on Penguin is much darker; for example, his overall plan in the movie wasn’t for world domination, not robbing the rich, not taking over Gotham or even killing Batman. He’s not a “gothic romantic” he’s not a “Tortured Soul” or even an artist. He wants to steal all the first-born children of Gotham and drown them. Has been going on for years for him when he was part of the circus going from town to town. He’s never caught, but Batman began to piece together the information. After all these years I never noticed he was doing this for ages. The character himself is creepy and unsettling his body suit weighed over 100lbs Devito hated the outfit bugging him making him miserable. He used that anger and frustration towards his character which paid off so well. Tim Burton’s art sketches were pretty much on point on what he wanted. A penguin dressed up but hated wearing “Normal” clothing. He came off paranoid and ready to attack with his growls and snarls. Like a hairless possum that walked on his hind legs. We’re then treated to see him break down and hate trying to be humanized as he denounces his legal name and goes by his circus name “Penguin” it was like Burton’s version of the elephant man if he was a horrible person who accepted the fact he’s not “human” but a villain. The costume look took over 3 hours no CGI, no computers. Latex and mold applied with makeup yet Devito moved as if it didn’t weigh a thing. So, as you spend Christmas watching the holiday classics, Goodfellas, Die Hard, Gremlins, Silent Night, Deadly night I’ll be doing my yearly tradition watching Batman returns hypnotized by Danny Devito re-creating a character in a terrifying new way.

Posted by Jai Alexis

Associate Producer for the films Teacher Shortage, Violet. writer of the short film "The First" when he's not working he's eating Mexican food and watching The Golden Girls

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