Having defeated the Joker, Batman now faces the Penguin - a warped and deformed individual who is intent on being accepted into Gotham society. Crooked businessman Max Schreck is coerced into helping him become Mayor of Gotham and they both attempt to expose Batman in a different light. Earlier however, Selina Kyle, Max's secretary, is thrown from the top of a building and is transformed into Catwoman - a mysterious figure who has the same personality disorder as Batman. Batman must attempt to clear his name, all the time deciding just what must be done with the Catwoman.
Directed by: Tim Burton
. Starring: Michael Keaton
, Danny DeVito
, Michelle Pfeiffer
, Christopher Walken
, Michael Gough
, Michael Murphy
, Cristi Conaway
, Andrew Bryniarski
, Pat Hingle
, Vincent Schiavelli
, Steve Witting
, Jan Hooks
, John Strong
. Music by: Danny Elfman
Batman Returns is an interesting one. It was the second film in the BurtonSchumacher franchise that upon release, scared the crap out of the kids in the audience because of its grotesque, violent imagery and made parents feel uncomfortable letting their kids see it because of the overt sexual innuendo between Batman and Catwoman. Fans seem to generally love it, or hate it. But despite the reputation it held, I still loved this movie as a child. Yes, there were moments that just flat out puzzled me but I still enjoyed it none the less. But as I grow up and mature a little, I see more and more of why this film gets such a mixed reception from the fans. It has some great ideas in there but they just don't quite feel complete in their executions. But does Batman Returns still work as a film? Let's find out!
The plot starts off with Oswald Cobblepot, the infant son of the wealthy Cobblepot family who's born with strange birth defects that make him seem half-man, half-penguin. After eating their house cat, the Cobblepots throw him down to the sewers where he gets raised by penguins. 33 years later, Cobblepot sends his circus gang to attack a corrupt business man by the name of Max Shreck's Christmas festivity where he ends up capturing Max Shreck and threatens to reveal his past sins if he doesn't try to get him back into society. Meanwhile, a shy, socially awkward secretary by the name of Selina Kyle, stumbles upon Shreck's evil schemes and gets pushed out a window for it. After getting resurrected by cats, she goes through a mental breakdown where she smashes up her apartment and takes on her new identity as Catwoman. At the same time, the Penguin fools everybody into thinking he saved the Mayor's baby and runs an election to become Mayor.
Firstly, I'm gonna talk about why do I think so many people love this movie, the style and atmosphere. Like most of Burton's films, this film has this Gothic, moody atmosphere to it that makes it a very fun movie to watch. The production design is stylized and expressionistic, the score is haunting and beautiful, and the sense of humor is macabre and dark. All this makes for a very appealing movie for both the eyes and ears.
But while the atmosphere is great, the storyline is somewhat lost and confused. There's a lot of really cool concepts in this film, but they never seem fully realized and the script ends up suffering because of it. For example, there's the concept of Batman, Penguin, and the Catwoman all being the same deep down as they're all outsiders who put on a different facade to unleash their anger on the thing the thing causes them pain(Batman = crime, Catwoman = women being considered second to men, Penguin = discrimination towards him because of his deformity) but this concept is only brought up towards the end and it feels sorta like an afterthought. They also try to make us sympathize for the villains(with the exception of Max Shreck) which I never did because frankly, they don't come across very redeemable. They just came across as violent douchebags the entire time to me, especially the Penguin, who, even when accepted back into society, STILL decides to get revenge on them and never shows any sign of humanity whatsoever.
But at the same time, Burton comes up with a lot of really great images with these characters. There's so many images in this movie that could easily pass off as a painting and there's some even some really subtle symbolism I've noticed after re-watching it. All this makes me wonder if this movie would've worked better had it been its own art-house film with no relation to Batman whatsoever. And it probably would, as Burton doesn't show a whole lot of interest in Batman anyways since all of the villains'origins were changed drastically from the comics and Batman himself is largely overshadowed by the villains in this film.
Despite those problems, the cast is still great. Tim Burton may not be the world's greatest storyteller, but he's always been able to get good performances out of his actors and this film is no exception. While Michael Keaton doesn't get as much screen time as expected, he still gave a solid performance as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. The casting of Devito is pure genius and I can't imagine anyone else playing the part. And Pfeiffer adds a surprising amount of depth and nuance to her character. But for me, the biggest scene stealer is Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. He's just fascinating to watch as this corrupt, shady businessman who always come across very mysterious and you never know what exactly he's thinking. I want to see more of this guy.
I also thought this movie was quite entertaining. The black humor throughout was funny. While it may be too grotesque for a Batman movie, the twisted atmosphere made it all the more interesting to watch as you don't quite know what Burton's gonna throw at you next. The action sequences were okay for the most part, but there were some memorable moments such as when the Penguin hijacks the Batmobile or the final confrontation between him and Batman.
Overall, while it's not a storytelling masterpiece, the stylish visuals and the excellent cast still make for a very entertaining film. But if you are a fan of the comics, you should probably avoid this one as it is mostly a Tim Burton movie and not really much of a Batman movie.
Review by mrrockey from the Internet Movie Database.