The thing that stands out most to me about Batman Returns is that it’s way more uninhibited than it’s predecessor. Tim Burton didn’t really want to do a sequel until Warner Brothers bent over backyards giving him way more creative control this time around. In that aspect, depending on which side of the fence you land, Returns either suffers or shines brighter.
It’s darker and zanier at the same time. It’s illogical in many parts, relying on cartoon freedoms and movie cliches to save the day. Therefore, it’s best not to think too deeply about Batman Returns. I tried it once, and it’s hard to come back. I long have considered this my favorite of the pre-Nolan era, but my wife dislikes it. Viewing it with her tainted my view and forced me to see the many logical leaps and bounds that it takes. But I maintain that BR should be viewed as purely Tim Burton’s interpretation, filled with his favorite brand of humor and style. It’s fantasy, not even trying to be grounded in the real world.
The Villains: Many complained that the first Batman didn’t have enough Batman in it; that it’s focused more on the bad guy. Returns is no different. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering Batman has the best and most recognizable rouges gallery of any superhero. Here we are treated to Catwoman and the Penguin, as well as Max Shrek, the business tycoon who is just as evil without the masks or flippers. Unlike the Joker, both of our villains here are tragic cases, and you feel sympathetic towards their plight. The cruelty of Oswald Cobblepots parents, keeping him locked in a cage as a baby and later tossing him in the sewers, didn’t really give him the best start on life. Not that there’s an excuse for attempting to murder all the first born children in Gotham. He does get screwed over by Max Shrek, but it’s hard to feel sorry for someone so vile and deceitful. WWJD, huh?
On the other hand, Selina Kyle was just a lowly assistant who got pushed out the window and brought back to life by cats. She loses her mind though, as one might expect with such happenings. She dons black leather and starts blowing up shit and having a mad on for Batman. Her grip on reality slowly slips farther away, and she denies Batman’s offer of help and rehabilitation. On the plus side, she has nine lives and can takes cat baths.
Christopher Walken is totally awesome as usual and was destined to be in a Batman movie.
The soundtrack: Danny Elfman improves on the quintessential Batman theme by added an even more operatic feel. The opening credit sequence of the baby penguin floating deeper into the sewers is one of my favorite parts of the movie due to the score. Also, the song “Face to face” by Siouxsie and the Banshees is great.
Remote Batarang: I actually love the entire fight scene here, as the circus gang causes havoc in the city. I think it’s the best fight scene in both Burton films. And even though the poodle steals his batarang which is later used to frame him for murder, it’s a cool scene. Bats probably made a mental note after that to not let little dogs walk away with his stuff. Break out the poodle repellent bat spray!
The Batman Returns toy line: By far the best bat action figures. Between me and my brother, we had arctic Batman, air attack Batman, jungle tracker Batman, aero strike Batman, and hydro charge Batman. We even had the custom coupe! My favorite, which I treated like a priceless treasure, was laser Batman. It’s the only one I still have. One day it’ll be worth something. Let’s see, it’s been 20 years now, and on amazon it’s going for…10 bucks? never mind.
the low points
Batman kills people: It’s possible that the firebreather that he sets ablaze with the batmobile survived, but the big guy definitely blew up. It was a funny scene though, so I don’t mind it. He kills a dude in the first movie as well. This is one the things that lets you know it’s a unique vision of Batman set in it’s own universe. It can be looked on as a low point though.
And that’s the tricky thing that I was talking about earlier. I can see a lot of the stuff in BR being loathed by fans. but from a different perspective these are the things that make it fun and good. So it’s hard for me to write about the low points. Maybe I just like the movie too much, and I refuse to look the flaws in the face, even though I know they’re there.
Batman Returns will always have a special place in my heart and my childhood. By the way, I still had to watch it with parental supervision, blocking my eyes when Catwoman cuts the dudes face, penguin biting that guys nose, and the short make-out scene between Bruce and Alfred. Don’t remember that scene? Watch it again. It’s there.