Posted on 5/31/11 03:32 PM
If there is any Batman film that could be considered a cult classic, this would be it. Released in 1992, the film was a financial success, yet was considered a dissapointment compared to the box office preformance of the original. It would later on however recieve a cult following and I am happy to say I am in that cult.
Michael Keaton returns as Batman with Tim Burton at the helm once more. Set during christmas time the film sees a corrupt buisnessman named Max Shreck joining forces with the Penguin (not very willingly), who's childhood experiance has caused him to despise other humans and wants to take revenge on the city of Gotham. Then there's Selina Kyle, a shy secetary who suffers a terrible fate, before returning as Catwoman, who allies herself herself with the Penguin (at least for a while).
It seems like a lot of a characters, and if I were to have a complaint against Batman Returns it would be that the presence of so many villains means for most of the first half we don't get to see much of Batman or even Bruce Wayne. Other than that though the rest of the film works in a perfect Burton kind of way.
I've seen a lot of articles say how this film would have been much better recieved nowadays, since audiances are more accepting of dark superhero movies than they were in the 90's. I'm not sure I'd agree with that, even though I personally love this film. The thing is this film is not only dark but weird as well. It's filled with violence, sexual references and yet at the same time features a bad guy who rides around in a giant rubber duck, and whose plot involes (spoilers!) sending an army of penguins with rockets strapped to backs in order to blow up gotham city.
The reason for this change in tone is simple. With the first Batman movie Burton held back on his usual style to deliver a superhero movie that everyone can enjoy. Here, however, he was given full reign, which is just how I like it, as I always feel that Burton works best when he's unhinged (to this day I still think Planet of the Apes is his weakest film simply because it doesn't feel like a Burton film) to deliver a much more deeper and complex film than the first. It expands the freak nature of Batman and his adversaries in ways only touched upon in the first, Here, the villains aren't simply bad, but range from conflicted (Catwoman) to downright depressed (The Penguin). We feel Catwoman's conflict and her mistrust of Batman because she was someone who had hoped Batman would save her, and yet he didn't even show up. Also despite all their fights against each other when they're masked, as unmasked they behave remarkedly similair, leaving all of a sudden and trying to find excuses to explain why later on. Also the romance between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman still remains the most heartfelt of the entire series. Max Shreck may be corrupt and cruel, and yet in one scene towards the end is willing to get killed in place of his son. Even The Penguin, who is protrayed as the most heartless of them all, is only that way because he himself felt no love when he was a child (in fact the opening scene is arguably one of the best in the movie). This helps make the ending feel so deppressing, esecially compared to the first movie.
The cast meanwhile is top notch. The actors from the first film continue preforming admirably, and I personally feel that people were being to harsh on Danny Devito. He is exactly how you would expect a short fat penguin looking guy to be, and I think people compared him too much to the Joker from the first film even though these are two very different characters. He certainly didn't deserve a razzie nomination. Christopher Walken is awesome as usual (he's the kind of actor who preforms well no matter what movie he's in) but the real scene stealer is Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman who out of the entire series is my second favourite villain after The Joker from The Dark Knight. Anne Hathaway has a lot to live up to in The Dark Knight Rises (then again, we said the same thing about Heath Ledger, so I'm hoping for another surprise)
Also the visual style of this film is amazing. The snow was such a nice touch to the gothic look of the city. Not to mention the score by Danny Elfman is great and the song Face to Face is a classic.
Batman Returns is a Burton film through and through. It's a film that a lot of kids may find it too dark and depressing, while a lot of adults may find too unrealistic, and Batman fans probably won't be happy with all the changes made to the source material. However, for anyone who's a fan a Burton, this is arguably one of his best films, complete with amazing visuals, a powerful music score, a touching romance, and much deeper characters than the first film.