Bat-mania: Batman Returns

Guest Post

Returns. From what? Taking that big fat check from the first movie to the Batbank with the Joker in tow and laughing the whole way of course. The Dark Knight has some new duds, a sewer-cruiser and a different house! Even Gotham is different! How does the less well received allegedly darker Burton sequel fare today?

Not so well. I wasn’t completely sold on it when I was a kid though either. It is true that I was really obsessed with it but it just never settled well with me for some reason. Though Batman mindlessly kills numerous of the Red Triangle Circus gang and the story centers around the attempted murder of numerous children, I did not find it as dark as Tim Burton’s original. I found it a little campy in fact, thanks to lines like “Thanks for the saving the day again Batman,” “I’m sorry I uh,” “It’s that mysterious penguin-person, no don’t hurt me,” but thankfully nowhere near as much as the rave inspired, nipple-clad Batblunders that followed it.

There is a lot to like about Returns, one being the cast. Keaton is back as the Bat, and the suit received a $100,000 streamlining, a large portion of which went to comfort fitting the latex blackness for Bruce Wayne as well as an updated visual look. Michael Gough returns as the dependable Alfred to bolster Wayne’s sad little family of two. Danny DeVito is incredible as the grotesque Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer is scrumptious as Selina Kyle, easily shaken and nervous secretary turned assertive, vicious avenger Catwoman, by, well, cats and her vampirish looking boss, industrialist Max Schreck (Christopher Walken).

The all-star cast is efficiently installed in the…plot…right…I am not too sure of what the plot is exactly, though I have seen this movie dozens of times, but it involves Batman trying to beat the Penguin with his Red Triangle Circus goons and Max Schreck all the while trying to sleep with and kill the s&m Catwoman. Somewhere in all of this mania is the city, which is under seige by all three, attempting to celebrate another Christmas, as in the first Burton Batman.

Sprinkled between all of this attempted plotness is plenty of…ACTION! Yes! At least the movie is seldom boring! It really delivers on this front. The Circus Gang burns half of Gotham down, the Batmobile goes haywire and disposes of nearly every police car on the screen! Catwoman blows up a department store! Penguins with rockets! Clowns with machine guns! Crazy fun!

The action and the acting really save the movie, but my personal favorite scenes are those with Bruce Wayne watching TV in his Citizen Kane -like living room alone with Alfred, somberly watching TV. These are just full of pathos and make me feel really sad for the lonely Mr Wayne and Alfred. These only form a very small part of the movie, but nonetheless serve an important function in the little characterization that Wayne gets in the movie.

Burton has been criticized of this one-siding of Batman in Returns and instead focused on the villains. Whatever that case maybe, his much publicized dissatisfaction with Batman led to his handling of the sequel with a much more control and a cleaner-slate approach. Hence the new house, cityscape, etc and importantly, crappiness. Whatever hands touched the first Batman movie should have massaged the sequel, but unfortunately, Burton got full reigns to do whatever he wanted and the result, while great fun, is just not as good as Batman. Is it better than Batman Begins? Without thinking about it too heavily, my instant response is a Bill Parcells Double Whopper sized “no.” Furthermore, as if I needed to tell you this, it still ranks well above Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.

2 thoughts on “Bat-mania: Batman Returns

  1. “Hence the new house, cityscape, etc and importantly, crappiness.” That was a great line and made me laugh.

    Oh and Michelle Pfeiffer was HOT in this movie. mmmmmmmm…

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