In a year when a bloviating billionaire businessman shook up America’s electoral system, it’s no surprise that one of the year’s biggest film hits was a dark vision of American politics run amuck. Variety described a character near the center of the film’s apocalyptic plot as “a specialist in industrial waste and leeching off the city” and noted his political stalking horse partner was running for office “while simultaneously hastening the community’s ruin with his maniacal terrorist attacks.”
The grim yarn takes place in a great American metropolis which has fallen under the villains’ evil spell, and if you guessed it was standing in for New York City, that’s a bingo. Variety called the film’s cityscape “a striking, architecturally fascistic reimagining of Rockefeller Center Plaza.”
Not only that, the political candidate in the tale has his own personal flock of “crazed … rejects” (“deplorables” perhaps?) and his repellant tycoon partner even has an overbearing preppie-gone-bad son who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of our current president’s grown children.
Back then, with a showbiz-approved president moving into the White House, the film’s dank zeitgeist was generally perceived as Burton’s campy experiment in German expressionism, and its savage political points were either casually overlooked or dismissed as Burton’s visual imagination on steroids. But just as Burton subversively turned a comic book blockbuster into a moody rumination on fascism’s rise, the filmmakers of 2017 are also using common tropes, recognizable film forms and popular genres to speak truth as loudly as possible to the current man in power.
The website datalounge.com first noticed the similarities in a post earlier this year, proclaiming “Donald Trump’s presidency is a plot from ‘Batman Returns,’” however there’s been no word from the Tweeter-in-Chief as to whether he’s ever seen the film and no confirmation from Eric Trump about styling himself in the fashion of Chip Shreck.