From The Archives: BATMAN RETURNS Review; "Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, And Danny DeVito Are Iconic"

From The Archives: BATMAN RETURNS Review; "Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, And Danny DeVito Are Iconic"

With Michael Keaton's return as the Dark Knight imminent in The Flash, we're taking a look back at Batman Returns, an adventure which is arguably both a perfect sequel and superhero movie masterpiece...

Review Opinion
By JoshWilding - Jun 29, 2020 06:06 AM EST
Filed Under: Batman Returns (1992)

Some superhero movie sequels are terrible (Thor: The Dark World, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer), while others are not only better than their predecessors, but so good that they deserve to be hailed as masterpieces (Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Tim Burton's Batman Returns quite easily falls into the latter category, and is without a shadow of a doubt a contender for the best Batman movie. That's undoubtedly high praise when you think back to 2008's The Dark Knight, but Catwoman's twisted origin story and subsequent descent into madness are every bit as compelling as what we saw from Heath Ledger's Joker.

Michelle Pfeiffer's performance is as good as Ledger's, and while Selina Kyle's origin story is...strange...there's no denying that her story arc is both memorable and original. Dealing with a complete mental breakdown, the secretary's (sorry, executive assistant) Catwoman transformation is extremely fun to follow, while her duelling nature as she looks to teach the abusive men around her a lesson (a theme which feels particularly relevant watching the movie today) leads to a lot of gripping twists and turns. Neither a villain nor a hero, she operates somewhere in between, and that makes her budding relationships with both Bruce Wayne and Batman all the more enjoyable. 

Talking of the Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton really finds his footing as both sides of the character in Batman Returns and it's a crying shame he never got a chance to reprise the role for a direct sequel (thank God for The Flash, eh?). Adding even more personality to the eccentric billionaire while clearly having a great deal of fun as Batman, this Dark Knight remains a divisive figure - he grins after blowing one goon up - but Keaton still cements himself as the best big screen Batman here. While the villain doesn't quite steal the spotlight from him this time around, Danny DeVito's Penguin is still incredible. Despite being another character with a bizarre origin story, that actually ends up working really well, and his rise and fall is an arc which often takes centre stage and works better than what we saw from The Joker in Batman. The actor's transformative performance is unmissable, and a clear career highlight. 

Just like Keaton is clearly extremely comfortable in Batman's cape and cowl this time around, Burton also appears to have become a far more confident filmmaker with this sequel. He makes a number of fascinating choices, both visually (Penguin's grotesque appearance is a sight to behold, while it's not at all hard to see why Catwoman's costume is now iconic) and with the story. One moment which stands out comes during a masquerade ball where the only people not wearing a mask are Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle as they wrestle with their alter-egos and the implications they have on their lives. A solitary Bruce being lit up by the Bat-Signal in Wayne Manor emphasises his loneliness before he crosses paths with Selina for the first time, and the Gotham City Burton has created is as unique and exciting as ever. 

Changes to the source material won't be to every fan's liking, but as a standalone Batman story (it doesn't even matter if you've seen the 1989 movie), it works on all levels, and we're left with an amazing masterpiece of a film which deserves to be somewhere near the top of every list of the best superhero movies. 

Tim Burton's Batman Returns is a masterpiece, and the tour de force performances from the trio of Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Danny DeVito are nothing short of iconic. 

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Doomsday8888
Doomsday8888 - 6/29/2020, 6:47 AM
Hell yeah, Josh! F*cking capekino right here!

Batman Returns fans unite!!!
Amuro
Amuro - 6/29/2020, 7:28 AM
@Doomsday8888 -

Penguin's reaction to that scene:

"You're just jealous of me because I'm a real freak and you have to wear a mask !"
WakandanQueen
WakandanQueen - 6/29/2020, 6:52 AM
What a [frick]ing classic
GothamSon
GothamSon - 6/29/2020, 8:50 AM
@WakandanQueen - Just the (*gif*) I've been looking for...
tmp3
tmp3 - 6/29/2020, 7:04 AM
Big step-up from the original. It's such a distinct, singular vision on this universe from Burton, who feels like he had full autonomy over the production. Not really comic accurate, but the changes fit with the story that he was telling. Transforming someone as lovable as DeVito into a grotesque, disgusting mutant was great, and Pfeiffer was a revelation. Keaton was... ok.
The Penguins marching with their little rocket back-packs at the end was cute as hell.
tmp3
tmp3 - 6/29/2020, 7:05 AM
Burton did Edward Scissorhands, this and Ed Wood all back-to-back, and then never directed anything on that level again. Wonder what happened.
regularmovieguy
regularmovieguy - 6/29/2020, 7:18 AM
@tmp3

BR was too much Burton for me. I thought it was executed perfectly in Batman '89. I still appreciate it - Burton's Gotham was a cool [frick]ing world.

Don't know how I felt about Penguin having so many clown henchman when the Joker was the previous main villain.

I also prefer Jack Nicholson's Joker to Danny DeVito's Penguin.
regularmovieguy
regularmovieguy - 6/29/2020, 7:18 AM
@tmp3

Big Fish is a fantastic movie, one of my favorite Burton movies if not my favorite.

It's cheesy af but it hits.
tmp3
tmp3 - 6/29/2020, 7:21 AM
@regularmovieguy - Still need to see Big Fish, but post-Ed Wood Burton's had some [frick]ing stinkers. His Planet of the Apes was terrible, ditto his Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland. Not a fan of Mars Attacks or Charlie & the Chocolate Factory either. Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd were alright though. Ed Wood was, imo, his masterpiece.
regularmovieguy
regularmovieguy - 6/29/2020, 7:24 AM
@tmp3

Check out Big Fish. Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Ewan McGregor, Steve Buscemi...it really is great.

It'll bring a tear to your eye. Agree on everything else-Burton though. He really lost it at some point.
regularmovieguy
regularmovieguy - 6/29/2020, 7:25 AM
@tmp3

I need to see Ed Wood. If that's on Netflix I'll watch that today.

Just turned Batman Returns on my HBOMAX.
tmp3
tmp3 - 6/29/2020, 7:27 AM
@regularmovieguy - The thing about BR for me is that it was doing a lot more interesting things thematically with its characters, while Batman '89 felt like nothing more than a fun romp. Burton really wants to present Batman as "the other", an outsider like most of his protagonists, and by making his co-stars a grotesque mutant and a BDSM cat-zombie he really got to play with those themes, as opposed to B'89 having a super fun Nicholson hamming it up. My big issue with that is that as much as Burton visually frames Batman as an outcast from society, I don't think it really works at all. Like, he's an insanely wealthy dude who beats the [frick] out of goons and is in the good graces of both the public & the police. Also his Bruce is such a bumbling dweeb around any attractive blonde woman, it feels so out of character from any other Bruce we've seen.
tmp3
tmp3 - 6/29/2020, 7:32 AM
@regularmovieguy - That's a hell of a line-up of character actors for Big Fish. Gotta check it out, more Crudup is always a good thing. Yeah, I recently rewatched B'89 & BR on MAX after the Keaton news came out. Ed Wood's fantastic, the guys who wrote it went on to show-run the People v OJ and write Dolemite is my Name. Checking their imdb page, it looks like they wrote Big Eyes too. All the more reason to see it I guess
regularmovieguy
regularmovieguy - 6/29/2020, 8:02 AM
@tmp3

I've heard nothing but great things about it. If it's on Netflix or any other streamer I'm giving it a watch!
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