Howdy ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Day #23 of my Month of Superhero Film Reviews! During this month I’ll be reviewing of some of the best and worst comic book adapted films. So we’ve covered the first Batman film, now let’s talk about the slightly controversial sequel in the form of Batman Returns.
So now we return to a film that I remember liking a lot after seeing it the first time. Many Batman fans and critics hate on this film because of its darker, twisted and more Tim Burton-esque style, but honestly I thought that was what made the film so much better than the first film. And that was my frame of mind for the last 2 years, so now that I’ve seen it again with a fresh pair of eyes has my opinion changed at all? Well read on and find out in this review yo!
Now let’s talk about the plot. In Batman Returns egoistical businessman Max Shreck sets a plot against Gotham City in motion. He is joined by Penguin, a deformed and rather deranged man abandoned at birth by respectable parents. Penguin, backed by hoodlums and real penguins, runs for mayor. The plot is further complicated by Selena, a wronged secretary who transforms into Catwoman, a villain with mixed motives.
I really liked the plot in this film. What is apparent from the outset is how much more of a Tim Burton film this is, from the atmosphere, tone, music, everything screams Tim Burton! It’s tale of misguided characters, deceit, revenge moral and ethical choices. As with any good Batman story there’s a lot more going behind the scenes. I liked how this film connected and referenced things from the previous film and presented situations and stakes that were higher and more complex for the characters involved especially when it comes to Bruce Wayne and his time as Batman. I think one of my favourite aspects of this film was the connection between Bruce and Selina, both are people with issues that different but at the same time are complex. They are like kindred spirits both as normal personas and as their alter egos, its interesting to see how they attract and to see we they differ on morals and ethics. The character’s story that wasn’t as interesting was Penguin, I wasn’t too interested in his back story and his whole time in the public eye, it was only after his life went to shit and he decided to mess up Gotham that he became worthy of my time.
Now let’s talk about the cast. Firstly let’s take about Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Keaton is still very good as Bruce Wayne offering us a character who is still alone, complicated and dedicated to his life as the dark knight. I like how his character was still getting over Vicki Vale and how he found interest in Selina Kyle. And as Batman he’s still cool, intimidating, if a bit careless at times. Then there’s Danny DeVito as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. DeVito honestly looks the part and in a lot of ways I couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role and for the most part he was good, psychotic and freaky. But I found his character’s back story and motives to be a bit generic, lame and not nearly as captivating as the Joker, though anyone trying to follow-up the Joker has massive shoes to fill.
And then there’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Selina Kyle at first is this timid little secretary who wants to say a lot but doesn’t have the cuts to do it, and she’s also a bit dull and boring. But after her little accident she adopts a much more fiery persona both as herself and as Catwoman. And Holy Christ was she hotness! Catwoman in this film is fierce, seductive and all sorts of crazy, but that’s what I like about her. Sure she was a bit looney and hard to take seriously, but at the same you could see that she was just a little messed up and wanted to get revenge for the people that wronged her beforehand. Christopher Walken as Max Shreck was pretty good, he played this right asshole who was a good guy in the public eye, but behind closes doors he was definitely a bad man with a massive ego and had some funny moments, but I expect nothing less from Christopher Walken. And lastly Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, he was just around to suggest certain things to Bruce or provide other moments of humour through some good dialogue. Gough just makes for a good and effective Alfred even though his screen time isn’t that big.
Now let’s talk about the presentation. Visually the film is still cool, Gotham City looks distinctive, dark and creepy and I love the art direction and set design, it really does the comics justice. You can also see that there’s a lot more CGI in this film but luckily it’s used in a very minimal and effect manner. There’s a lot more action in this film with Batman fighting Catwoman and Penguin’s thugs, Catwoman’s athletic scenes and all of the explosions that go down in Gotham, in all makes for some great viewing material. As for the soundtrack by Danny Elfman, it retains the main theme from the last film while incorporating new material into the film. Honestly this soundtrack sounds more in line with Tim Burton’s other films, I was especially getting A Nightmare Before Christmas vibe from this score so I think of it as the precursor to that film.
And lastly how does it compare to the comics? As I said before my knowledge mainly comes from the Batman cartoons and research online. Even though this film was very Tim Burton, there were some aspects taken from the comics and translated into this film pretty well. Batman’s costume still looks awesome as does his vehicles. And feel like Catwoman’s costume was decently crafted with a sleek and leather design. I guess the Penguin looked okay, but I’m used to his black suit and monocle. Character wise I’d say there were a few iffy bits and bobs about Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Penguin, but it’s not stuff I’ll lose sleep over.
So to conclude Batman Returns is a film I don’t love as much as I did when I first saw it, but is still a film I greatly appreciate in the superhero genre. Sure it is a lot darker, creepier and silly than the previous film and it a bit misguided in the choices it made for the story and its characters. But there are a lot of things to love about the main cast, action and Tim Burton style of direction. Most people dismiss this film as a failure when compared to 1989’s Batman, but I believe Batman Returns is a good piece of work and it deserves some respect.
Rating: 8/10 (A great sequel that’s on par with its predecessor)
So there’s my review people, only 7 more to go. So have you seen Batman Returns and if so what are your thoughts on it? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts yo! Come back tomorrow and I’ll have a new film review online, until then peace out!