The question as to what is and what isn’t a Christmas movie always divides families around this time of year, as households reunite under one roof for the festive season.
In my own family home, it’s not uncommon for generational civil wars to break out in the living room over what’s a suitable holiday film.
My sister and I often uniting to defend the classics (Home Alone, Elf, Jingle All The Way) while my younger step-siblings try and force their newer, and frankly sh*tter, movies on us.
I’m sorry Flynn but no matter how much you want it Fred Claus is never going in the rotation. It’s not traditional!
Interestingly enough the Internet, in all its hideous myriad of excesses, is no different my family’s front room with arguments raging even as I type this over whether one film in particular is a Christmas film, and for once it’s not Die Hard.
Batman Returns, Tim Burton’s second crack of the Dark Knight whip (there’s a Catwoman pun in there somewhere but I can’t be bothered finding it), is under the merry movie microscope.
So is Batman Returns a Christmas film?
Well the obvious answer is ‘yes’. It’s set over the festive season, it’s snowing throughout the film and there are Christmas decorations in several scenes including a showdown at a light switch on.
A number of people on Twitter are also convinced that Batman Returns is a Christmas film, but everyone knows the opinion of the Twittersphere isn’t really a ‘verified source’ now is it.
So we’re going to do a deeper dive and really get our teeth into Batman Returns to determine whether it deserves a place in the Christmas rotation.
Let’s start my addressing the ‘trappings of Christmas’ in the film. In my opinion having a tree in a scene, or having a character mention it’s just a few days until the big day, isn’t enough to make a film a proper Christmas movie.
Because if that was true almost every Shane Black film would be suitable seasonal viewing and everyone knows Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang can, and should, be enjoyed all year round.
No it takes more than that for a film to be a true Christmas film. In fact, it takes two things, in my opinion, to qualify and the first has everything to do with the story and themes.
Truly great Christmas films have a number of recurring themes, usually centring on family and redemption.
In Die Hard, for example, the Nakatomi Plaza incident allows John to redeem himself in the eyes of Holly and reunite with his family. It’s basically A Christmas Carol without the ghosts and added guns and explosions.
So does Batman Returns qualify? Yes it does because the entire film is focused on three individuals, Batman, Catwoman and the Penguin, who don’t have families.
Through the film we see how each of these characters copes with the notion of being alone and how they’re brought together through their weird extra curricular activities.
True, they are superheroes and super villains but they do come together.
There’s even a glimmer, for the briefest of moments, that Bruce and Selina at least will be redeemed through their connection with each other.
Unfortunately, unlike in Die Hard where John is ‘redeemed’ by his misadventures, Bruce, Selina, and the Penguin are ultimately too far gone and they all lose everything.
I’ll admit it’s a dour and weird Christmas film, but no one questions wether Scrooged is suitable seasonal viewing and that movie has a scene where Bill Murray is burned alive.
The second important qualifier as to whether a film is a Christmas film is, ironically, something very subjective. It’s how a film makes you feel.
Personally I believe that what really defines a Christmas film, irrespective of story, setting, or even theme, is whether a movie has the ability to tap into your nostalgia and let you remember what it was like to be a kid again.
I’ll be honest Batman Returns does remind me of being a kid, I was four when it came out and I’ve always associated Burton’s frozen Gotham City with the festive season.
In fact watching Batman Returns reminds me of sitting on my parents’ old, cracked, green leather couch in our front room with my mum, my dad and sister all together.
It gives me the warm and fuzzies and if a film makes you feel similarly then it’s a Christmas film, don’t listen to the haters.
Also as a random aside: did any one reading this notice I photoshopped John McClane’s face into the Facebook thumb? I thought as I’d mentioned Die Hard like a million times it would be a fun Easter egg.
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