24 Mar

Batman Returns v Superman Returns

“My dear penguins, we stand on a great threshold…”

– The Penguin

The Setup

After about 2 years of enduring Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice commercials, the movie is nearly out. Hard to believe you’ll never see another trailer for that movie, huh? They’ve kind of become part of life in America. Every month you see a new trailer or piece of marketing for Batman v Superman that makes it look like an entirely new movie. We have grown accustomed to its prevalence and it will be odd for it to no longer be there.

Anyway, to honor the end of this monumental marketing push, or maybe more just because we want to, we’ve decided to do a Batman v Superman post of our own. We watched Batman Returns and Superman Returns since, based off their similar titles, they seem to be perfect movies to pit against each other, head to head. In traditional Munch fashion, we cooked up a meal to pair with this heroic competition. For this, we created dishes based off of various traits known to Batman and Superman, and then pitted the two dishes up against each other in a culinary competition to see which prevails.

The Food

With a full day of cooking and two supposedly mediocre superhero movies ahead of us, we started out on the right foot with a healthy superfood salad. (Because superhero… superfood… You get it!)

We chopped and tossed some kale with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and a dressing comprised of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and some seasonings. We topped it all off with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese shavings. The garlicky-citrus flavor of the dressing cut through the bitterness of the kale and made for a light and tasty snack before we dug into the main course. Dietitians will tell you that you cannot rely on a single food type to have super qualities to it, in the same way that we cannot rely on superheroes to come save the day in our very mortal world.

For dinner, we played into the dual identities of both Batman and Superman. We decided that ravioli are really the culinary equivalent to the superhero: just as ravioli have a soft, flavorful interior behind a mostly impenetrable exterior casing, superheroes hide their true identities, personalities, and vulnerabilities behind their costumes and popular personas.

We mixed together a four cheese filling for the ravioli: parmesan, mozzarella, smoked fontina, and ricotta. We seasoned the mix with some dried basil, parsley, and oregano, plus a healthy serving of garlic.

Then the fun began. Just like the memorable montage costume sequence scene in every superhero origin story, we began crafting the superhero suits for our ravioli. It took a lot more time, flour, and dirty hands than it does in the movies, but it was worth it.

We made three different types of dough to create all of the colors we needed: regular pasta dough for the base, black pasta (regular pasta – salt + squid ink), and red pasta (regular pasta – an egg + tomato paste + red coloring to really bump up the contrast). We rolled out countless sheets of each color, used the smallest, most likely non-DC approved, cookie cutters we could find to cut out each superhero’s logo, and a biscuit cutter to create the shape for the ravioli tops and bottoms. We spread a little water on each of the ravioli tops and gently pressed the logos into them until they were fully connected. Finally, we put a heaping teaspoon of filling onto each ravioli bottom, lay the tops over them, and sealed the edges with a little more water and gently applied pressure to the edges.

The key to making this possible was keeping pasta on the sidelines covered in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. If you want to attempt something like this, be sure to keep your work surface covered in flour so that the ravioli don’t stick together as you finish them. We refrigerated the ones we planned on eating immediately and froze the rest for a treat later in the week.

We whipped up some pesto to complete our batman raviolis and tossed the superman ravioli with a little lemon olive oil. The result: the ultimate dueling ravioli dinner. It was incredible and flavorful, though we were undecided on who won the Batman Ravioli vs. Superman Ravioli: Dawn of Pasta final showdown. In the end, I think we were the real winners.

For dessert, we played into our heroes’ weaknesses. For Superman, we went after his largest (and only?) weakness and crafted some kryptonite rock candy. It was pretty unremarkable, but then again, so is the fact that Superman, a god from another planet with x-ray vision and the ability to FLY, can be rendered helpless by a green rock. Just saying.

Batman is weakened by the fragility of his own humanity, so we decided to make a soufflé to capture the tenuousness of the human body. This dessert takes near-perfect timing, measurements, and technique to successfully complete, and might we just say we did a damn good job. The soufflé was rich, fluffy yet dense, and totally satisfying after a long day of cooking and listening to villain monologues. Just imagine us, sitting at a table, tired, speechless, with the heat from the oven dancing across our skin. The spoon, cool to the touch, delivering chocolatey deliciousness to our mouths, the sugar providing us with some sort of rejuvenation. After all we are only human and don’t possess the powers superheroes do.

The Drinks

For the drinks, we decided to build off of the strengths of each superhero. Superman is often referred to as “The Bulletproof Man,” so naturally we made bulletproof coffee. We had heard the term thrown around a bit, and had an idea of what it actually entailed, but to see the recipe in front of you is still pretty jaw-dropping. You basically blend 140% of your daily recommended fat intake into a cup of coffee. Sounds healthy! We used butter (we decided to splurge on with Kerrygold since it was such a prominent ingredient), plus coconut oil to achieve this ridiculous fat-filled goal. It actually tasted pretty okay, the coconut flavor was a nice addition to the coffee, but it was far too rich for any of us to finish. We will have to achieve that bulletproof status another day.

Batman, on the other hand, finds his strength in acquired knowledge: the gadgets he builds, the people he investigates, and the city he serves. We crafted a Gotham (or modified Manhattan) for Batman: rum, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, and a honey syrup garnished with an orange peel. Like the city of Gotham, the drink was clearly inspired by Manhattan but had its own distinctive characteristics. It was exactly the kind of drink we could see Bruce Wayne sipping by the fire as he contemplates the future of the city he tries so hard to protect and serve.

The Rules

We’ve continued to branch out from our usual rule of three, when it comes to the drinking rules. We just did one rule for this movie, inspired by the fact that neither Brandon Routh nor Michael Keaton really went on to do anything of note after their roles in these superhero films. Okay sure Michael Keaton did star in the winner of Best Picture last year but that whole movie was about how Michael Keaton hasn’t really done anything since Batman/Birdman so it still holds.

  • Drink whenever you think the hero is having the one scene that killed their acting career.

The Movie

So, which is the better movie? Batman Returns or Superman Returns? We have decided it would be best to break this out into sections, like we did for our James Bond Series, in order to weigh different aspects against each other.

The Acting

Batman Returns had bigger, bolder, perhaps more comic-book-like performances (looking at you, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer). Superman Returns, on the other hand allowed you to feel some sympathy for Superman and the trials and tribulations he goes through. The acting in either film is by no means outstanding, by which we mean it did not stand out in any way whatsoever and was at times a little rough, but the two films are going for different versions of a comic book movie. You expect over the top in a Tim Burton movie, but the acting of Walken and Keaton seemed at odds with the world Burton was painting. In the case of Superman Returns, the first half of the film is god awful and has it’s own particular brand of stilted moments (*cough* Clark Kent cracking a photo of Lois Lane and her husband *cough*). This category ultimately ends in a tie.

The Plot

This is a tough one. Neither plot was especially interesting. Superman Returns started off bad and eventually got better, Batman Returns started off good and got worse. Lex Luthor’s grand plan was a little pathetic (we will get more into this later), and for Batman Returns, they tried to work too much in at once and didn’t give the beats and moments an opportunity to settle in. We say It’s more important to have a good ending than a good beginning, so Superman Returns wins. We were all pretty focused on the last 40 minutes of Superman Returns, which is the most either of the films held our attention.

The Setting

Batman Returns wins, just because it is leagues more creative (thank you, Tim Burton). Batman Returns was a really interesting take on a superhero movie, as far as the setting goes. Burton created a very Tim Burton-esque Gotham, which is different from any of the other superhero movies we’ve seen. Tim Burton has a look and feel to his films and it is very evident in this movie. Superman Returns, on the other hand, wasn’t anything special. It was a weird mix of Art Deco design, bland 1950s clothing (with the exception of Lex Luthor’s incredible corduroy suits), and 21st century technology. We believe it was trying to take inspiration from the comics as well as the previous Superman films in how they depict Metropolis, but the attempts at creating a strong color palette for that film fell short.

The Hero

Superman Returns definitely pulls ahead here. This is really saying something, because the character of Batman is already ten steps ahead of Superman on the coolness scale. Batman is an ultra-rich-yet-benevolent techie genius who builds his own superpowers. Superman is a combination of every idea anyone ever had for superpowers. Superman has the ability to fly, stop an explosion with his breath, lift a continent, and maintain a perfect hair curl wherever he goes, but only in his Superman outfit, never in his Clark Kent outfit. His hair knows when it has to curl. It’s also fireproof. He has super hair. Superman also has laser eyes, super strength, and super anonymity, to the point where he can talk face to face to someone as Clark Kent, then seconds later talk to them as Superman without putting a mask on or anything and they don’t recognize them. It’s so implausible and we (really it is just André here) can’t get over the fact that this ability was never explicitly addressed. Superman is at his best when he is placing trust in his value and friends, and has a distinct, corny goodness about him.

Again, it kinda sucks to give Superman this win because Brandon Routh’s performance was abysmal, but Michael Keaton’s Batman was even worse. He didn’t make us interested in the Batman character at all. Keaton’s Batman is a very bland one, and hardly shows any detective skills at all. It is hard to say whether that is because Batman Returns just didn’t spend the time with it that it probably needed  or maybe it was actually The Penguin that was the hero in this film.

Acting aside, here’s the real issue with Batman in Batman Returns. This Batman was goofy and fluky in the same way that Pierce Brosnan was in the campy shitshow that was Goldeneye (I know, shots fired. If you disagree with us, you probably haven’t watched Goldeneye since it game out. Perhaps refresh your memory with our review?). Like Bond, we expect Bruce Wayne to be suave and intentional. He should win battles based on his own cunning ability, rather than by luck.

The Villains

We’ve got to give this one to Batman Returns. First of all, Batman Returns had two or three major villains in it (depending on how you classify your villains), and Superman Returns had only one. That’s just math. On top of that, the Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, played by Kevin Spacey, was just a watered down version of Frank Underwood of House of Cards fame. We found ourselves wishing Kevin Spacey was a little more like Frank Underwood in Superman Returns, but instead he just seemed shallow and rushed and wore way too many suits with weird fabric. We’re talking corduroy. We’re talking velvet. Even worse, his master plan was pretty dull – create a new land mass to sell more land. Danny DeVito, on the other hand, at least had an interesting backstory that motivated some of his evil doings even if at times his vision for why he was going after certain people wasn’t always believable. Oh, he also had an army of penguins. Yes, he weaponized penguins and sent them out to destroy Christmas. He has to win.

The Verdict

So who wins? Neither of these movies were great. If you want to pit Batman movies against Superman movies, we would recommend you pick two different movies. Or, maybe Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is actually good and you can get your fix of Batman v Superman in without watching two bad movies. We will see, but early reviews point to that not being the case. However, if you find yourself in some weird situation where you have to pick between watching Superman Returns or Batman Returns, watch Superman Returns (unless you find you love everything Tim Burton does). While it would be a stretch to call either a good movie, Superman Returns earns the win in our book. But let’s be honest: in our version of Batman v Superman, Munch was the real loser.

The Reviews

André: Superman takes the cake. I went into this really expecting to like Batman Returns more than Superman Returns, but I was really turned off by Batman Returns. It was really boring and kinda gross. Superman Returns was bad too, but I had more fun watching Superman Returns, just because it was closer to the right kind of bad movie to enjoy watching with friends.

Leanna: Don’t call it a comeback. Yes, the idea behind pitting the two “Returns” films was a good one in theory, but in practice, oh so painful. Neither was good, but Superman Returns did make me cringe marginally less than Batman Returns. Honestly, I expected more out of Michael Keaton who for one generation was who people thought of when they talked about Batman. I did enjoy seeing Frank Underwood at some point in the future making his final grasps at power as Lex Luthor, but even that wasn’t enough for me to actually like the movie. Let’s just hope DC finally gets these two right in Dawn of Justice.

Ben: Batman Returns 48%. Superman Returns 60%. Maybe it was the time and place, but I found both of these films very difficult to sit through. Batman Returns was plodding in a way I wasn’t expecting, and while Selina Kyle was by far the most interesting thing about that film, the film itself felt very claustrophobic. In that sense, the newer Batman films have been a nice breath of fresh air. Gone are the days when these films had to be shot on sets inside warehouses, hello films shot in real cities. Gotham is a large, menacing city, and it didn’t feel so here. Superman Returns, on the other hand, tries to go for a look and style, but ultimately what they captured is boring and drab. Superman Returns is a weird amalgamation of the Old Superman and New, without a proper identity to anchor itself to. But I do have to give the ending of Superman Returns its props, it held my interest. Final note, both of these films are filled to the brim with white actors, and the one POC in Superman Returns barely has a line. Come on. Not surprising given Hollywood, but frustrating nonetheless.