Logline: A penguin-like man emerges from the sewers of Gotham City, raising Batman’s suspicions about his intentions, while Catwoman has her own agenda.
Review: Tim Burton’s Batman Returns is my favorite film from the initial Batman franchise that began with Burton’s Batman (1989) and ended miserably with Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997). Batman Returns is one of those rare cases in which the sequel is better than the original. It is a more polished production than Batman and increases the fun factor.
Batman Returns will polarize many viewers, though. It is a very dark movie, even more so than its predecessor and can be quite grotesque. Despite all the dark material though, the film has a surprising amount of humor which works extremely well. The film grapples with many themes, including duality and abandonment.
Michael Keaton returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman and delivers an even better performance than he did in the first film. He seems more comfortable in the role. As the Penguin and Catwoman, Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer are fantastic and eclipse Nicholson’s turn as the Joker. I love the new concepts introduced for these compelling characters, such as the notion that Catwoman has nine lives and Penguin was abandoned by his parents and spent most of his life down in the sewers. These characters are very different from their comic book counterparts but that does not bother me.
The dynamic between the Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin is wonderful and raises the interesting question, “How different is Batman from the so-called “freaks” he goes up against? The relationship between Bruce and Selena is more believable than the one between he and Vicky in Batman, mainly due to the fact that Keaton and Pfeiffer have great on-screen chemistry. In supporting roles, Christopher Walken shines as the sleazy Max Shreck and Michael Gough, returning as Alfred, is wonderful as usual.
One should not compare Batman Returns or any of the Batman films from this period to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. They are entirely different films. Admittedly, Batman Returns has a thin plot but story is not the most crucial part of the film viewing experience. Batman Returns has a stunning visual design, an excellent score by Danny Elfman, and larger-than-life characters that are brought to life by some very talented actors. Simply put, Batman Returns is a vastly underrated film and among Burton’s best.
Rating (out of ****): ***1/2