Batman Returns (1992) – Tim Burton 

 

It’s time to check in on the Caped Crusader again as I continue enjoying the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. Having previously reviewed Tim Burton’s 1989 interpretation of Batman, it’s time to leap forward to the early 90s to his the eccentric director’s first ever sequel.

Michael Keaton returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman in this tale that I’ve always seen as a character piece as opposed to a full-out superhero movie. It’s about dark sides, our public and real faces. And, much like Burton’s first Batman film, I highly enjoyed this one, featuring another fantastic score by Danny Elfman, this one sees Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken joining Keaton in this dark, neo-gothic comic book.

Oswald Cobblepot (DeVito), known commonly as The Penguin, is living out of the sewers and a shut down zoo, running a circus gang to randomly terrorize the citizens of Gotham as Christmas draws near. But when he pals up with Walken’s Max Shreck, a businessman with questionable ethics and plans, things turn even more dangerous for the citizens of the dark knight’s city.

Added to the mix is Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer), Shreck’s assistant, who digs a little too far into her boss’ dealings, and gets shoved out of a window for her troubles. Instead of dying, she is reborn, taking on the persona of Catwoman, an avenging vigilante who takes no sides, but after a rough encounter with Batman, teams with Penguin to remove the caped crusader from her path.

It gets more complicated when Bruce and Selina begin to fall in love with one another. There are great set pieces as both Batman and Catwoman explore their dual natures.

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This one is a little darker and more adult than the previous entry in the series, but when compared to the Nolan reboot, they almost seem quaint, but still highly enjoyable, and honoring the comic book  from which the films takes its lead.

Wonderfully gothic and moody, with Elfman’s fantastic score driving it, the film is entrenched very much in the world of the comic series, eschewing the reality that Nolan’s film attempted (mostly successfully) to ground themselves in, in favor for an exciting tale.

And there is so much fun to be had in this film. Admittedly, Burton’s Batman takes a lot of lives, there are a number of deaths, something Batman as a general rule doesn’t do, and yet, because of the style of the film, it’s not so much unnoticed as it is not commented upon.

While Bale’s Bruce/Batman combo is a grittier interpretation, there’s something just damned likable about Keaton’s version, the slightly goofy (though we know it’s a cover) version of Bruce, embracing his playboy image.

Burton’s take on the Batman is dark, gothic, fun, comic-booky, and knew how to walk that balance. The same can’t be said for the next director to take up the keys to the batmobile, though the third film in the series is so much better than the fourth…

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