|Real name:||Maximillian Shreck|
|Aliases:|| Santa Claus|
|Affiliation:|| Mrs. Shreck (deceased Wife)|
Charles "Chip" Shreck (Son)
Fred Atkins (deceased Partner)
The Penguin (Ex-ally)
Selina Kyle (Ex-Employee)
|Characteristics:|| Gender - Male|
Hair – White
Eyes - Green
|Portrayed by:||Christopher Walken|
- "...I got badder fish to fry."
- ―Max Shreck[src]
Maximillian "Max" Shreck is a powerful, malignant narcissistic, as well as ruthless business mogul who serves as the boss of Selina Kyle (his secretary) and an ally to the Penguin. His first and only appearance in the Batman franchise was in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, not including the comic book adaptation of said movie. He is played by Academy Award-winning actor Christopher Walken.
Max Shreck is introduced in the film as the ruthless and ambitious owner of the multi-million department store Shreck's. His only family is his son, Charles "Chip" Shreck, and it is implied by dialogue that he murdered his wife for unknown reasons.
In the film, Shreck's goal is to build a supposed "Power Plant" for Gotham City's future. Standing in Shreck's way, however, is Mayor Jenkins, who believes such a Power Plant to be unnecessary. Bruce Wayne is also unconvinced of the need for a new plant, and opposes Shreck's plans.
Deal with the Penguin
Later on, that same night, while Shreck is giving the town a speech (he is viewed as "Gotham's Santa Claus"), a group of clown-like criminals known as the Red Triangle Circus Gang attack the city and demand Shreck.
Chip valiantly defends his father long enough for Shreck to escape, although Shreck is caught in a trap and he falls into the sewer, where he sees the same gang and meets their enigmatic leader: a mysterious Penguin-like creature, about whom unbelieved rumors had been spreading. The Penguin demands Shreck help him make his way to the surface in a positive light, and when Shreck at first refuses, the Penguin blackmails him with incriminating evidence of Shreck's past crimes (the Penguin had been studying Shreck for a while in preparation for this). On the condition that the Penguin help him out as well, Shreck agrees.
Attempted murder of Selina Kyle
Shreck then returns to his office, where he finds his timid and shy secretary, Selina Kyle, doing a last-minute check-up for his meeting the next day with Bruce Wayne about the Power Plant. Kyle accidentally reveals that she has found out the true nature about the Power Plant, that it will siphon off power from the Gotham electrical grid and give the Shreck family a hugely profitable energy monopoly. Shreck, fearing that Kyle might let it slip, and refusing to risk what he considers his legacy to his son Chip, pushes her through a window to her death. Unknown to him, however, she survives the fall, and takes up the mantle of Catwoman.
The next day, during a speech, Mayor Jenkins' baby son is kidnapped by a Red Triangle gang member, who flees into the sewer, where he is "attacked" by the Penguin, who "rescues" Jenkins' son and brings him to the surface, becoming a public hero. Shreck witnesses this, and demands the Penguin be granted access into the Hall of Records to search for his parents' names, in the process learning his human name: Oswald Cobblepot.The same day, Shreck meets with Bruce Wayne in his office, who also opposes the idea of the Power Plant and points out that Cobblepot is the leader of the Red Triangle Gang.
Shreck denies this, however, and they are then visited by a heavily plastered but "amnesia-suffering" Selina, who displays a more confident attitude and even impresses Shreck, who vows to kill her only if she tries to blackmail him. However, he says to Chip that Selina's "change" doesn't surprise him.
The Penguin's mayoral bid
Shreck then reveals his plan: to recall the elections by using the Red Triangle Gang's attacks and set up Cobblepot as a candidate for Mayor of Gotham, who will approve of the Power Plant. Meanwhile, Selina, as Catwoman, starts her own revenge crusade against Shreck and blows up an entire floor of his department store.
Later, however, Shreck's plans to make Cobblepot the new Mayor are ruined when Bruce Wayne, from the Batcave, jams the microphones during Cobblepot's speech and plays some insults Cobblepot had made towards the city while controlling the Batmobile with Batman inside it. Cobblepot's true personality and his schemes are uncovered, and he loses his popularity and is forced to return to the sewer, especially after Shreck abandons him.
At Shreck's annual "Maxquerade Ball", the Penguin crashes through and informs the party that his goons are targeting their first-born sons to murder in the sewer (in a twisted act of revenge for what his parents did to him). His intention was to take Chip Shreck and kill him, but Max Shreck, in his first and only noble act, begs that he be taken instead, on the basis that it was he, and not Chip, who manipulated and betrayed him. The Penguin accepts (as he would like to see him die a horrible death), and takes Shreck prisoner, holding him in a cage above a deadly vat of toxic waste, into which he plans to dump Shreck along with the firstborns.
- "Selina - Selina Kyle, you're fired! And Bruce Wayne...why are you dressed up like Batman?"
- ―Shreck to Batman[src]
- "Because he is Batman, you moron!"
- ―Catwoman to Shreck[src]
- ―Shreck to Catwoman before shooting Batman[src]
When Batman intervenes and tricks the Penguin into firing missiles at Gotham Zoo (under which the Penguin's lair is), Shreck manages to escape from the cage, only to be ambushed by Catwoman, who is determined to kill him there and then. Batman arrives, and Shreck attempts to bribe him, only for Batman to push him back and tell him of his impending incarceration. When Batman, however, removes his mask and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne, Shreck uses the Fat Clown's gun to shoot Batman. Narrowly, Batman plays dead to protect himself. He then fires a few shots into Catwoman, who, thanks to her nine lives, is able to survive until Shreck runs out of bullets.
Catwoman, using a taser, sacrifices her penultimate life to electrocute Shreck, giving him a "kiss" by forcing both her lips and the taser into his mouth, pulling one of the generator cables at the same time, engulfing both herself and Shreck in a massive explosion which is soon after revealed to have killed Shreck, frying him horribly and reducing him to nothing but a scorched, skeletal corpse.
Behind the scenes
The character of Max Shreck was originally written to be Harvey Dent. The explosion at the end of the movie was only supposed to scar Dent, which would lead to his becoming the villain Two-Face and set up the third movie in the franchise. Most of Shreck's political aspirations would make more sense coming from Gotham City's District Attorney than a department store mogul.
In another early draft of the script, Max Shreck was discovered to be the Penguin's older brother, the "golden boy" of the Cobblepot family, whereas the Penguin was the deformed outsider. He was supposedly ashamed of his father, after he threw his baby brother into the sewer, and he emancipated himself from the Cobblepot family as soon as he became of age.
Despite being a scheming and selfish man, Shreck shows a few signs of nobleness in the movie, such as near the climax after the Penguin tried to take and kill his son Chip, he convinced the Penguin to take him instead; also when locked in a cage in the Penguin's lair and learning of the Penguin's plot to kidnap and kill all the first-born sons of Gotham City, Shreck shows signs of disgust and discomfort.
His name is a reference to the German actor Max Schreck.
He may also be a reference to Max Zorin, the villain of the James Bond film A View to a Kill. Like Shreck, Zorin sought to make colossal wealth through a monopoly, in this case the destruction of Silicon Valley, giving his electronics firm a monopoly on the world market for a long time. Like Shreck, Zorin resorted to defenestration after someone refused to go along with his plans, whereby an investor was thrown out of a blimp after refusing to endorse Zorin's plans to destroy Silicon Valley (unlike Selina, who considered it unethical, the investor said the investment amount was too expensive). Max Zorin was also played by Christopher Walken.
The Cheshire Cat's head that sits atop Shreck's Department Store is featured in the video game Batman: Arkham City. Shreck is not mentioned in the game but the store is used as the base for the Mad Hatter who hides in an alleyway a short way from the head.