Batman Returns (1992) Review

Batman Returns (1992) Director: Tim Burton

“We’re the same… split right down the center.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A classic Christmas movie, or perhaps an anti-Christmas movie, Batman Returns offers Tom Burton’s second venture into the Batman lore in a fascinatingly atmospheric film which is ceaselessly compared to the Christopher Reeve Superman counterpart series. However, Batman Returns transports us to the dark and snowy-filled streets of Batman’s Gotham, rather than the sunny and hopeful skies over Superman’s Metropolis.

Following the Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin, Warner Bros gave Time Burton full control over this sequel to the smash success of 1989’s Batman. With a few Expressionist nods to the silent German Expressionists, Batman Returns follows the rise of evil industrialist Max Shreck (played by Christopher Walken) –I was excited to note the use of the name of the famous silent German actor, Max Shreck, who memorably played Count Orlock in F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. The film also portrays the haphazard rise of the Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito) from his ugly beginnings as an unwanted childhood living alone in the sewers to unleashing havoc on Gotham as he rises to the role of Mayor. He blackmails Shreck to ensure his rise, and along the way a neurotic secretary named Selina Kyle (Michele Pfeiffer) is pushed out a window by Shreck because she knows too much, however she is revived by alleycats and reforms herself as the alluring Catwoman. This is all a bit silly if you ask me.

From here, the film wanders in and out of wayward narratives –including a somewhat mediocre climax involving an army of rocket-strapped penguins destroying the zoo (which is the Penguin’s lair) and a battle royale in the sewers which kills the Penguin and Shreck. At least the final closing scene of the film is a nice callback to the comics –featuring the cloud-capped Bat Signal in the sky as the Catwoman looks upward. While the Tim Burton duology is widely praised by fans of the franchise, and both Burton pictures are undeniably better than the two succeeding films which would follow, Batman Returns sacrifices plot for gripping style and visuals. In the end, it is a Tim Burton movie that simply happens to feature Batman in it.

1 thought on “Batman Returns (1992) Review

  1. What Batman Returns agreeably lacked in plot, it at least made up for thanks to the three pivotally conflicted characters. Especially the Penguin who more than ever can make us contemplate why a mutated or disfigured character is often stereotyped as a villain. In my 50s, there’s a lot, even with some of my favorite shows and films from childhood, that I can look back on more wisely for these reasons. But Danny DeVito’s Penguin stands out for me as a most significant reminder of what our entertainment industry should really take more seriously. Especially if we’re to reduce the stigmas towards all the visually unfortunate souls of society. Thank you for your review.

    Liked by 2 people

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