Batman Returns 1992
This is a movie that like Batman, I hadn’t seen in years and years. But whether it was because I had gotten acclimated to Tim Burton’s style by watching Batman shortly before it, or because it was just a closer fit to my own personal tastes, but I enjoyed Batman Returns a whole lot more than Batman. I think one of the biggest complaints about the movie is that it felt more like “Penguin and Catwoman” rather than “Batman”. And while I agree with the idea, I disagree that it is a complaint. I said in my review of Batman that the rogues gallery is more interesting that Batman himself and that holds just as true here. This movie also plays on the Batman/Catwoman romance in a great way. As much as I enjoyed Anne Hathaway in the Dark Knight Rises, I thought Pfeiffer and Keaton had much better chemistry.
One role that I had somewhat forgotten about in this movie is Christopher Walken as Max Shrek, sorry Shreck. He’s a villainous businessman with a clean public face. It doesn’t surprise me that it was actually planned for his character to be Harvey Dent as they share many similar traits, minus the coin. Walken is actually quite good in this role, with most of his mannerisms that have since become almost a caricature kept to a minimum. In fact, pretty much the entire cast of this movie is pretty spot-on.
Catwoman in this movie has a backstory somewhat changed with the norm. Instead of being a notorious cat burglar, she’s a mousy secretary slash almost-crazy cat lady who has a knack for survival. Unlike the Halle Berry movie that takes the concept to an absurd level, this movie leaves the mysticism to the viewer’s imagination. How I see it is that she managed to survive a fall from a building, and then she created the whole Catwoman persona and decided that she had nine lives. There are no magic cats in this movie, instead there’s a much darker connotation that the stray cats think she is dead and are actually starting to eat her. About the only thing I don’t like about how Catwoman is handled is that it reminds me how many ideas the awful Catwoman movie takes from this one.
The Penguin is the one weak point in this movie. Instead of being a highly reformed gentleman who looks like a penguin that I’m familiar with in the animated series, he’s a sewer dwelling monster who’s forced into the gentlemanly role as he tries to run for mayor. He also has ties to the circus which I thought made him too close to the Joker who was just in the last movie. Not only that, but he also has an army of penguins stolen from the zoo, I guess, that he has somehow developed a mind control system for with no explanation of how he managed to develop such complicated technology when he’s spent his entire life in the sewers/in the circus. That and the other scene where his minions hack into the Batmobile. The penguins seem to only be there to create an absurd scene where they are all sent out with missiles attached to their backs. The entire story arc of the Penguin in this movie reminds me of an episode of the animated series where he becomes accepted in high society with an elitist girlfriend, but it’s actually just a joke to everyone else besides the girl who genuinely comes to care for him. That episode showed the Penguin as a much more tragic and three dimensional character than this movie does, where he is simply out for revenge for his life and is basically a monster in a penguin suit.
Batman himself tends to take more of a backseat to the villains in this movie, and spends more of his time either in the batcave or fighting/flirting with Selina Kyle. I did like the fact that both him and Selina realized each others secret identities rather than having it revealed to each other. He really just isn’t given that much to do other than distrust the Penguin from the beginning. He defeats the Penguin’s mayoral campaign via a recording, in a way that has been done time and time again, I doubt this was the first time and it certainly wasn’t the last. And at the end, while he does reprogram the penguins (and I can’t believe I just typed that sentence), he mostly ends up just being in the middle while a bunch of stuff happens around him. His best scenes in this movie are with Catwoman, both the ones in costume and as Bruce Wayne.
I think this movie was a step in the right direction coming off of his first Batman movie, and I think if he had been given a third shot at it, Tim Burton could have delivered something quite spectacular. This movie goes much darker than he did with the Joker, and while there is still some silly humor, it’s turned down quite a bit. The romantic subplot with Catwoman was much stronger than the one with Vicky Vale in the first movie, and I would have really loved to have seen what would have happened if they had gone with the original plan of Harvey Dent instead of the Penguin and had Tim Burton’s Two-Face in a third movie. But as it is, with Tim Burton going back to his roots with Frankenweenie and another reboot of Batman in the near future, there’s always a chance that we may see another Tim Burton Batman, and honestly I’d like to see that. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.
*Poster art by Tom Whalen