Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Movie Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Acting from the cast
Cons: Overly dark and disturbing
The Bottom Line:
Batman, two villains
Focus on wrong characters
Leaves this film darker

Tim Burton Must Have Been Given More Control with Batman Returns

When I watched Batman, I was surprised that it didn’t feel much like a Tim Burton film.  Yes, there were touches of his trademarks here and there, but it wasn’t nearly as bizaar as some of his films can be.  So I went into Batman Returns hoping the same would hold true here.  Sadly, this movie was much stranger than the original.

Our story actually opens in the past as a family, horrified by their newborn, send him out one winter night into the sewers.  This baby grows up to become Penguin (Danny DeVito).  When Penguin begins his reign of terror on the streets of Gotham during the city’s tree lighting ceremony, he is just searching for answers to who he is.  He says he even understands why his parents sent him away.  However, his path has crossed that of business man Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who thinks he can use Penguin for his own purposes.

Meanwhile, Shreck’s administrative assistant Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is frustrated with her life, or lack thereof.  Working late one night, she runs afoul of Shreck, who tries to kill her.  She takes on a new persona, Catwoman, and begins to go after Shreck to get her revenge.  How will Batman (Michael Keaton) deal with these two villains?

Yes, there is a reason I mentioned Batman last in a Batman movie.  Honestly, this isn’t his film.  This film is about the three villains.  Yes, there are three.  Even this casual fan had heard of Penguin and Catwoman.  I’m not sure if Max Shreck was invented for this movie or if he is in the comics, but he is definitely a villain of this piece with his own agenda.  Anyway, we get plenty about the villains, their backstory, and what makes them tick.  I would guess that the two famous villains get as much screen time as Batman, if not more.  They definitely have more if you combine the time the villains have against the time Batman has.  I get that it is important to know your villain, but this is definitely too much.  Honestly, Batman doesn’t have any real character growth, and you don’t feel any attachment to him.

And this isn’t the fault of the actors at all.  Michael Keaton does a good job.  He’s just let down by a script that gives him nothing to work with.  He’s really playing a straight man to the villains, who are all obviously having fun.  They are almost over the top without actually going there.

Then there are the other Tim Burton touches.  Penguin is disturbing.  I’m not talking about his looks, but his actions are psychotic.  Selina/Catwoman is a much more sympathetic character.  In fact, I’d say she’s the most sympathetic character in the film.  And there are the clowns.  Clowns everywhere.  Tim Burton loves circuses, and he works them in here.  Overall, this has significantly darker themes and scenes than the last film does.  It’s not The Dark Knight dark, but it’s heading in that direction.  Add in the overt sexuality of the film, and it is disturbing.  I’m not talking about fun double entandres, either.  Some of the comments made me uncomfortable, and I was watching by myself.  I can’t imagine watching this in mixed company.

The story itself isn’t bad.  It would help if we spent a little less time with the disturbing and given that time to developing Bruce Wayne/Batman more.

This movie came out three years after the first one, and it is amazing how much film making had advanced in that time.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still dated elements, but it doesn’t feel nearly as dated as Batman does.

Ironically, this movie takes place during the Christmas season.  It’s definitely the anti-Christmas film, which is probably why there isn’t a campaign to consider it a Christmas film like there is with Die Hard.

I’d expected to like Batman Returns after enjoying Batman, but this one left me very disappointed.  I definitely don’t plan to watch this film again any time soon.


  1. I liked this one even more than the first. But that's just me.

  2. "Max Shreck" is a winky-wink reference to the actor who played 'Nosferatu' in the 1922 German silent film generally considered the first vampire movie.

    I didn't "like" either of Tim Burton's Batman movies, but have to admit they are Something To See.