Caped Crusader Reviews: Batman Returns (1992)
After the success of Tim Burton’s first Batman film, it was a no-brainer to continue the adventures of the dark knight with a sequel. This time, Batman is pitted against the feisty feline Catwoman and the fish-mutant known as the Penguin. Without further ado, here’s my review of Batman Returns.
The film begins 33 years in the past, as the Penguin is being born. Shocked by the bizarre appearance of their child, the Penguin’s parents put him in a basket and throw him into the sewers, leading to the iconic theme tune playing as we follow the basket towards its final destination. This is a great setup of the film’s atmosphere as a whole, dark and moody. This time around, Batman Returns feels more like a Tim Burton film than a Batman film, in the sense that it has that stylized charm to it. Story-wise, it’s pretty simple, the Penguin is looking for his parents, and he asks a rich businessman named Max Shreck to help him. The penguins plans turn more sinister however, when he plans to become mayor of Gotham. Amongst all this, a lowly secretary named Selina Kyle has a strange encounter with some stray cats and becomes Catwoman. Of course, there is a whole love story involving Bruce Wayne and Selina, but neither of them realise who the other person really is. On the whole, the story wasn’t as interesting to me as the first Batman, but it still had enough happening to keep me interested.
Acting is still great, Michael Keaton reprises his role as Batman, Michael Gough still plays Alfred, and (unfortunately) Pat Hingle still plays Commissioner Gordon. Yeah… I still don’t like the way he’s portrayed in this film, still, he doesn’t appear too often, so it doesn’t really matter too much. Michelle Pfeiffer is great as catwoman, really making the character her own with the purrfect (sorry, I had to) amount of attitude. Danny DeVito is fairly solid as Penguin too, however his constant grunting can get a bit tired after a while. Also an honourable mention goes to Christopher Walken as Max Shreck; he’s really good at playing the shrewd businessman, and it’s nice to see him in a role that isn’t..well, awkward (see Nostalgia Critic’s top 11 list of most awkward Christopher Walken moments to see what I’m talking about).
Music is still really good, although toned down a bit more than last time and definitely more haunting; there’s a lot of choir music in the background, which helps with moments like the Penguin’s origin, telling the tragic story with the notes. There are of course some more upbeat scores, as it is set at Christmas time (sometimes I wonder whether it should have been called Batman’s first Christmas), so it evens out pretty nicely.
Like I mentioned before, the atmosphere of the film is even gloomier than the previous film, and sometimes it feels a little bit out of place. The first Batman film had such an amazing gothic style, and with what we got in Returns, it feels a little bit empty, so it’s not my favourite Gotham, although it’s not nearly as bad as the glowstick disaster that is Batman Forever/Batman and Robin which I’ll get to in my later reviews.
As an overall film, Batman Returns is a good sequel, but not the best. Its dark approach lessened the entertainment value for me, simply because it was more of a depressing sort of dark rather than just being more serious and realistic (Batman Begins/The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises). The acting is still great, so I can’t really fault that, and the music is still pretty good, so at the end of the day, it was the atmosphere that killed a bit of the enjoyment for me, but it’s still decent. I give it a 7/10.