Batman Returns


Viewed – 09 August 2009  Blu-ray

With all the fuss over last year’s admittedly impressive The Dark Knight, I still came away longing for the old days when Batman was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton as the caped crusader.  This 1992 follow up to Burton’s own Batman see’s Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego pitted against two villains (something that grew to a ridiculous degree in the two awful following films) namely Michelle Pfeiffer’s Cat Woman and Danny DeVito’s Penguin.  Great choices following Jack Nicholson’s acclaimed turn as the Joker last time around.

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The Penguin you see, was abandoned as a baby in the film’s classy, eerie opening sequence, and chooses Christmas Eve to make his return to a city that shunned him; Gotham.  Teaming up with corporate big wig Max Shrek (Christopher Walken) he makes a bid for Mayor, whilst at the same time Max’s bumbling secretary Selina Kyle (Pfieffer) is transformed into Cat Woman after Shrek pushes her out of a window following an unfortunate ‘curiosity kills the cat’ incident.

Although on paper complex, Burton’s assured direction and obvious love for the material makes everything flow effortlessly, with startling set design and a quartet of brilliant performances, be it Walken’s menacing Max or Devito’s ghastly Penguin.  But for me Pfeiffer steals the show every time she appears; sexy, playful and mad as hell – the perfect Batman femme-fatale.

It is then sad to watch this with the memory of Christopher Nolan’s two Batman films firmly in my mind.  Nolan doesn’t know how to create the Batman look, his Batman (despite the spot on casting of Christian Bale) is bland and uninteresting, with too much screen time given to the villians – and here, although Michael Keaton’s Batman / Bruce Wayne is less showy and more subtle than the foes he faces, Keaton delivers a confident and convincing portrayal of the tortured soul that is Bruce Wayne – perfect casting.  I will add that I couldn’t warm to Devito’s Penguin, totally unpleasant and one dimensional, with a very basic story arch that is sadly the films main focus.  Also some of the effects work is showing it’s age, although this is masked well with Burton’s incredible eye for gothic imagery, given a greater flamboyance when mixed with Danny Elfman’s superb score – still the only Bat theme anyone needs.

So in closing, if your a Batman or comic-book movie fan, this is an instant recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

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