Superhero Month: "Batman Returns" Review

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Superhero Month: "Batman Returns" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Length: 126 minutes
Release Date: June 19, 1992
Directed by: Tim Burton
Genre: Action/Fantasy

"Batman Returns" is the 1992 sequel to Tim Burton's film interpretation of "Batman." Michael Keaton returns as Gotham's dark knight alongside an all-star cast of classic villains, including Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin. After defeating the Joker in the previous film, Keaton's Batman is up against two of his toughest rivals yet.

The Penguin is a deformed villain birthed in the sewers beneath Gotham City. His only goal is to be accepted by the Gothamites above his dark and seedy world, albeit through unconventional and unsavory means. He obtains the help of a shady mogul named Max Schreck to aid him in his quest to rule Gotham as its mayor, bring the citizens of Gotham to their knees with his reign of terror, and tarnish the reputation of Batman once and for all.

Meanwhile, Selina Kyle is a shy and repressed office worker who stumbles upon Schreck's dark secret. Selina gets a second chance at life and then seven more when she is murdered and resurrected as a feline alter ego with special powers. Dropping her drab persona as Selina Kyle, Michelle Pfeiffer's character dons cat ears, a leather bodysuit, and a whip, calling herself Catwoman and stalking the streets of Gotham for trouble and gems. Catwoman becomes the most notorious cat burglar Gotham has known yet, and the black cat crosses Batman's path more than once throughout the film, first as an enemy and then as an unlikely ally.

"Batman Returns" has earned its place in the DC Comics hall of fame and has garnered a cult status among comic and film fans alike. Michael Keaton is often seen as the actor to portray Batman in a way most true to the comics, with his signature dark wit and over-the-top heroics. Batman stalks the streets of Gotham, determined to rid the city he both loves and hates of the very crime that robbed him of his parents.

Tim Burton is known for such dark thrillers as "The Corpse Bride," "Sweeney Todd," and "Alice in Wonderland." The famous director's skill for spinning a story with artistry and melancholy shines through in this on-screen adaptation of what is arguably DC's most famous superhero franchise. "Batman Returns" is full of tongue-in-cheek humor, brilliantly choreographed action scenes, and plenty of drama. The on-screen romantic tension between Batman and Catwoman perfectly captures the relationship between these two iconic would-be love interests.

Michelle Pfeiffer's turn as Catwoman is perhaps the most memorable performance of her career. While Keaton does a formidable job as Batman, the villains really make "Batman Returns" a standalone film that transcends the superhero movie genre. Catwoman's struggle between her former self and her new, unleashed persona is both relatable and fascinating, adding plenty of tension and uncertainty to the film. Her unsteady alliance with Batman is another interesting subplot of the film that showcases the ability of both actors, producing plenty of witty banter and creating dramatic tension.

Another notable performance is Danny DeVito's interpretation of one of the most well-known villains in the Batman universe, the Penguin. The Penguin was born with an unsightly deformity that separated him from the rest of normal society. His parents abandoned him, fueling his bitterness and quest for vengeance, resulting in a twisted parallel to Batman's own dark past. The Penguin sees Batman as a vile enemy standing in his path to what he believes is his rightful place as Gotham's ruler. His reign as mayor of Gotham resembles that of a tyrant more than a politician. Even though DeVito's character is purposely over the top, it is still sympathetic and, somehow, relatable.

The most memorable aspect of the film is the dark humor that runs throughout even the most serious scenes. Burton delivers his signature macabre wit, which lends a truly unique twist to Batman's world. The storytelling is dramatic but humorous in just the right places.

Between the action sequences, stunning visuals and costumes, and villainous power plays, "Batman Returns" is one of the most attention-grabbing action movies of its time. The acting is solid with intentionally campy but lovable characters that stay true to the spirit of the original comic books. Pfeiffer and Keaton add plenty of romantic sparks to the action-packed film, and there is a good deal of suspense and violence to please true fans of the action-movie genre. Even though "Batman Returns" is not loaded with as many special effects as more modern superhero films do, the storytelling and well-choreographed fight scenes earn this film its place as a classic in the "Batman" franchise.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5