Batman Returns (1992)
Plot: A mysterious Penguin man (Danny DeVito) who lives in the Sewers secretly controls a circus crime gang. After he blackmails Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), an influential business man, Shreck convinces the Penguin to run for Mayor. Batman (Michael Keaton) stands in their way, but Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer) gets in the middle, playing both sides.
Batman Returns; the most controversial Batman movie of all time, and possibly of all superhero films as well. I’ll come right out and say it; I think Batman Returns is a great movie. But I totally understand why people hate it. It’s odd, weird, dark, and is not the most faithful adaptation of Batman. I’m one of the biggest Batman fans there is, and I don’t have a problem with Tim Burton giving his own take on the franchise, as long as he makes it good. And he did that for me. The characters here are very well done, especially with the Penguin. The acting is phenomenal. Christopher Walken is a great and forgotten addition. I think the story is improved from the previous entry. Once you learn the Penguin’s ultimate plan, it’s pretty fricking dark and scary. Although, the first scene really lets you know, “Hey folks, this isn’t a kid’s movie.” And I still think there is a lot of faithful Batman stuff going on. Penguin uses his array of cool umbrellas. Catwoman was perfect, playing both sides as you’d expect her too. Michael Keaton is fantastic once again too. A huge criticism people have is that Bruce Wayne/Batman takes a back seat to the villains. This is a fair criticism. After the first action scene, both Bruce and Batman are absent for a long period of time as they set up Penguin and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The music by Danny Elfman is actually better than in Batman, which is really saying something. It’s more subtle, but there are so many beautiful musical moments. Listen to the score as the batmobile slowly pulls up to the Hall of Records as Batman leers at the Penguin working. Or the end credits, where the camera zooms up the buildings and reveals the Bat Signal again. Incredible. The look of Gotham City is different, but works just as well. The Penguin’s Sewer Lair is really something, and the first shot of Wayne Manor as the lights shine on Bruce is gorgeous. I really do love this movie, but I get why people don’t. Unfortunately it was the last Tim Burton one. I’m thankful for the Batman franchise we have now as it’s much better than the Burton/Schumacher regime, but if I had the power to wish any movie in existence, it would be a third Tim Burton Batman film. I’d love to know what he would have done.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout)
Best Performance: Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
-There are four legit candidates, but I got to go with Pfeiffer. She really nails this character. And it’s not easy when you have to play so many different personalities. She plays the weak secretary, the sexy Selina Kyle, the torn Selina Kyle, the Catwoman who loves Batman, and the Catwoman who hates Batman…geez! Her best moment might be when she comes back to Shreck’s office for the first time since being thrown off the building. The way she paces back and forth and stresses the words “die” and “dead” subtlety to Shreck is just brilliant. Anne Hathaway has a tough act to follow in The Dark Knight Rises, but I’m sure the character will be very different from the Batman Returns version.
Worst Performance: Erik Onate as Aggressive Reporter
-Yea, I had to really reach for this one. I couldn’t think of any. This reporter was really annoying though. Why couldn’t they just bring Knox back!
Best Line: “Ah, the direct approach. I admire that in a man with a mask.” –Penguin to Batman
-It’s just a really clever line well delivered by DeVito. And he gives a great little Penguin chuckle after it. This whole scene and exchange of dialogue between Batman and Penguins’ first meeting was very well written.
Worst Line: “Wow…the Batman. Or is it just Batman? Your choice, of course.” –Selina Kyle
-I know it’s supposed to be a lame and dumb line, but that’s exactly what it is; lame and dumb.
-I’m just going to put the Batman/Catwoman fights on here, even though they do go at it more then once. The fight and the dialogue between them are pretty much how I always imagined it would be before I saw it.
-Batman taking off his mask. What the hell! I get that Selina already knows who he is, but Shreck is standing right there! WTF Batman! Fortunately for Batman, Shreck dies, but still. And this raises a lot of questions. Would Bruce Wayne actually stop being Batman if Selina agreed to come home with him, so he just doesn’t care anymore who knows he’s Batman? But even so, his whole life would be different after Shreck outs him. This is just a mess. There is no reason for Batman to do this.
-The overall finale of the Penguin giving his big speech to the missile armed penguins (great music here), the fricking awesome Bat Boat, and the final confrontation Batman has with both Penguin and Catwoman was all fantastic. I did feel bad though when the Penguin’s duck car loses its head. I love that thing.
-Let’s be honest, it’s the stupid cats biting Selina Kyle after she’s pushed from the window. So they bring her back to life? What the hell is really happening here? Plus, it’s just too creepy. I hated watching the blood roll down Selina’s fingers as the cats nibbled on them. This scene gave me nightmares as a kid.
-There are actually a lot of candidates, but I got to go with, “It could be worse. My nose could be gushing blood.” And then Penguin bites the guy’s nose. I look on this today as a hilarious moment, but when I was a kid; it scared the shit out of me. The fact that you can hear very clearly the nose cracking and the blood shooting out like a rocket terrified me.
Bad Ass Moment:
-When Batman pushes all those buttons on the batmobile and it transforms into that skinny little car and shoots through the narrow alley is better than any of those lame transformations in the Transformer movies. It also made for a great Happy Meal toy. Or was it a Burger King’s Kid’s Meal? Great, now I can’t remember. Whatever, it was bad ass.