Batman Returns (1992)

*. Tim Burton didn’t want to come back for a sequel. So this wasn’t considered a sequel. Whatever. If it waddles like a penguin . . .
*. It’s definitely more of the same of what we got in Batman. It still has that studio look, though they moved from Pinewood to the back lot at Warners. There’s still the same silliness carried over from the TV series, to the point where Penguin’s gang are, literally, a bunch of clowns and he cruises around in a giant rubber ducky. It has the same dull palette, making one wonder why anyone would want to make a colour noir. Once again the villains upstage Batman, with Michael Keaton underplaying the part into the ground while the bad guys ham it up.
*. Still, I enjoy this one a little more than Batman. Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken are all having fun and in good form. They also get some decent lines, as there’s actually some wit in the dialogue. Not a lot, but more than in the first movie. Vicki Vale has disappeared, and good riddance, as I’ll take Michelle Pfeiffer any day. Though Bruce Wayne still seems a bit repressed when it comes to the ladies.
*. The script went through a lot of changes and rewrites, with Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams), for example, becoming Max Shreck (Walken). I think this may be what led to the clunky construction. I mean, does Oswald Cobblepot actually want to become mayor of Gotham? If his campaign hadn’t been derailed, would he still have gone ahead with his Herodian plan to kill all of the city’s first-born males? That whole scheme seems like an afterthought.

*. But then how many superhero movies have villainous plots that are in the least bit interesting? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. It’s usually just some scheme for world domination, or a local power grab. Who cares? So while I liked the introduction of the trio of bad guys (the law of villain inflation in superhero franchises was at work again), I was disappointed so little was done with them. Walken’s Shreck (whose own plan for taking over Gotham’s power supply made no sense at all) just disappears, while Catwoman only slinks around in her vacuum-tight suit delivering catty lines, her ambiguity never given any depth and no explanation given for how she became such a master of the martial arts (and the whip) just after getting a bump on the head.
*. Most of the design elements are excellent, but I really didn’t get how the dapper Penguin got turned into Humpty Dumpty, with DeVito wearing a ridiculous fat suit under his nineteenth-century long underwear. He seems like just another circus clown with pillows stuffed into his costume.
*. It’s amazing given how much bleaker Batman was going to get with Christopher Nolan’s movies and Joaquim Phoenix’s Joker that there was so much backlash when Batman Returns came out over its darkness and violence. It only took a dozen years to be left in the dust.
*. More immediately, however, things were going to get a lot sillier. I can understand wanting to change things up because Burton’s game, never very deep to start with, was clearly played out. Unfortunately, change would not lead to a turn for the better. Not by a long shot.

2 thoughts on “Batman Returns (1992)

  1. Tom Moody

    I have a truism (from around the time Christopher Nolan first strapped on the utility belt): “There are no good Batman movies.” I never saw the Bane one or the latest Joker and I never saw the Joel Schumacher ones (because he is a prime hack). So I really have no objective basis for my truism, except to say it’s saved me some misery over the years.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I don’t think there’s ever been a great Batman movie, and there have been some very bad ones. I’d probably rate this one in the top three, which tells you something. The Dark Knight was the best of the Nolan movies and maybe the best overall, but even it had some real problems.

      In any event, I’m going through the whole canon this week. That’s one way of getting them out of my system.


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