Lately, with all this talk about DC films, be it Suicide Squad, or The Killing Joke, I got to thinking about the comic book movies of my youth. That meant I was mostly thinking about Batman. While I was going through this nostalgia trip, I was reminded again of my favorite scene in any of the Batman movies. It’s one that even as a kid managed to stay with me.
The masquerade ball from Batman Returns.
This scene, possibly more than any other, shows why Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), along with Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), can never be together no matter how perfect they are for each other. Which if you think about it, cuts to the core of both of these characters.
I have to start with how the mise en scene sets up the devastation with its symbolism. I know I’m not the first to catch this, but it’s important, that while everyone at the ball is wearing a mask, except for Bruce and Selina.
It’s because they’re already wearing their masks.
Bruce Wayne, and Selina Kyle are the alter egos of who they are. The people they really are, who they truly are, are Batman and Catwoman. The scene isn’t even subtle about it, with Bruce mentioning to Selina if they should go somewhere private and take off their costumes. I’m not fucking around, that line exists. Then comes one of the most heartbreaking lines in the series:
Bruce: …Who do you think you are?
Selina: I don’t even know anymore…
That. That exchange gives us the reason that to be a hero, something must give. And love, joy, and happiness are not options in their world.
What blows my mind about this scene is that its so fucking psychological. The symbolism in both the props, the writing, and even the goddam music (the song is even called Face to Face).This is a movie that came out in 1992, back when comic book flicks were written off as being for “kids” or something with no substance. Batman Returns fucking proves that there’s more to superhero movies than CGI and action. Granted the symbolism in this film in particular may seem heavy handed, but it perfectly encapsulates the nature of its characters.
I just hope that DC and Warner Bros. keep this scene in mind, and that maybe the best thing to do is getting the right director for the material and letting them do what they do best. It worked for Tim Burton.