Grade: B (3/5 stars)
I think I had only seen “Batman Returns” once in its entirety, prior to last week. I’m not sure what kept me from watching it again. During my re-watch, I found it to be a bit under-appreciated, even if it does suffer from the same flaws as the first movie.
Tim Burton returns as director, and he keeps the same dark style of film noir that made the look of the first movie so great. Here, Burton makes the tone of the film a little darker and makes the story a bit more over the top. The unfortunate thing is that he still doesn’t invest much time in making the title character interesting, and the viewer is more invested in the villains.
“Batman Returns” also sees the return of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His performance is on par with the one he gave in “Batman,” but the material he’s given is about the same level of mediocrity that was experienced in the first film. In fact, he’s given a bit more cheese to go along with his fighting. “Eat floor,” he tells Catwoman in a scene.
In this sequel, we are introduced to three new villains. Two are well known in the “Batman” world, and one is brand new. Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), and The Penguin (Danny DeVito) are the two the fans know, while Max Schreck (a great Christopher Walken) is the newcomer. However, Walken’s Schreck doesn’t suit up or have some kind of disfigurement. He’s a corrupt businessman, who tricks the people of Gotham into thinking he’s a nice guy.
DeVito is superb as The Penguin. He is one of the things of which nightmares are made. His evil smile, distorted voice, and appetite for freshly caught fish are all perfectly executed in such a twisted manner. Pfeiffer caused quite a controversy with her portrayal of Catwoman. A highly sexualized villain in a comic book film was unheard of at the time of the film’s release. Pfeiffer executes her role with a fiery tenacity.
What’s disappointing about “Batman Returns” is that it has a much darker tone than its predecessor, but there are more goofy moments as well. In one scene, we see Max push Selina Kyle out of a window, which leads to her becoming Catwoman. In another scene, we see Bruce Wayne scratching a CD-ROM. It’s Burton’s quirky style of storytelling that keeps the film from being too dark and depressing, but he also ups the ante on goofiness to make sure the audience isn’t drowned by the overcast of its themes and symbols. Some of it is funny, but some of it is way too silly.
“Batman Returns” was dismissed by many during its original run. As I re-watched it, I can understand why it didn’t settle well with viewers. It doesn’t possess the same amount of energy that “Batman” did. It’s a slower burning film that has the same beautiful set pieces and film noir look of the first one. There’s a lot of good to Burton’s sequel, even though he does take it a bit too far. Yes, it doesn’t quite have the same amount of nostalgic fun, but it can still be appreciated for what Burton was trying to attempt.
“Batman Returns” is available to rent at any All the Best Video or Blockbuster in Chico.
The film can also be purchased at Best Buy, located at 2005 Forest Avenue in Chico.
David also writes as the Chico Events Examiner, National Boardwalk Empire Examiner, and for We Got This Covered.
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