A Retrospective Look: Batman Returns

As the release of Batman v Superman looms around the corner next week for the 21st & 24th showings, I have decided to take this whole week to dedicate to watching Batman & Superman movies. My first look is the much controversial & yet underrated look at Batman Returns

Editorial Opinion

March 25th is almost here, after a long digesting wait for the next Superman sequel, we have all waited far too long for. Like many others, a marathon seems appropriate to celebrate the importance of Batman & Superman in live-action film, to start off we will be looking at a film that is just much underrated as it is overrated. A confusing picture meshed with ideas that seem to work and some that just seem to off-put others. Here is to me taking a retrospective look, to BATMAN RETURNS! 


So why this movie first? Well it just seems like a run of the mill Batman story as opposed to the other 3 films. The other three films try to explore the inner mind of Bruce Wayne, much rather I don't mind that and I applaud that, this one seems to really dwell deep into the heart and people of Gotham City. What is this city made of? What is the personality? The function? The life? These questions answered subtly & subliminally through the cinematography and the writing. Honestly I don't expect much from the writer of Heathers. The power of corrupt, revenge, child murdering or abandonment, all of it speaks like an old wives tale from Gotham City, which plays off so great. Not only that, but the setting is beautifully done this time around something with great set-pieces that seem far out there and also hit it right on the nose for the level of fantasy Gotham City portrays. Does it make it necessarily stand out though? In terms yea, when a movie gives you the actual setting as a character, it sets up a rather mood that often feels fleshed out than more characters. Besides the fact you know Gotham in the previous film, this one sticks out more due to its people. They don't even have to say a word and they seem just as important as Catwoman.

The film doesn't decide to go off the route of continuing route that other sequels do, while it does technically continue off where Vicki Vale was left off via subtle small quips, this seems more standalone, which began the running theme for 2 other Batman films as well.  For instance, this Bruce Wayne seems more confident than other incarnations, he is more or less a completed character in a world filled with purpose for his crime-fighting persona. One moment does truly feel like he is soul searching for the right woman with his conversation with Selina, while it doesn't add much, his character becomes more like an autopilot who is going right in for the ride with the audience. A clever decision none the less. As for Catwoman, Selina plays off as a woman who isn't appreciated, till she is dead the first time and given her 9 lives in advance. This is probably the most bizzare decision out of the whole film, but a decision I do admire. What Catwoman is, isn't just a vigilante, but shes a walking re-animated corpse, a ZOMBIE. Not that its bad but its so damn weird but....dammit it fits perfectly!


Her performance not only adds to her weirdness, but the one scene that really pulls off as her as a zombie is the scene where she gets back home and starts chugging milk. Her horror to hear a telemarketer voicemail when its to please her boss just sends her into this sheer sight of terror & anger. Michelle, not only nailed this role but she damn well lived it! She IS and always will be Catwoman. As for story everything does sort of work with the world that Tim Burton wanted to create. It is vast and open-ended on how these characters are created strangely and often go into horror realm much like other characters like Killer Croc or Clayface, but then you have...Penguin.

So yea, his character is a bet of a well.....I don't know. Lets go with the positives first, for one, he is a damn good take on the character. For a character as laughable as The Penguin, nothing about him seems very much crime boss, but then again this is the Tim Burton world. His origin and take is very much way more interesting than the usual crime boss of The Penguin, even though recently he has been taken a little more seriously and with good care, something about this role just not only seems to stand out for the wrong and right reasons. One thing I noticed in viewing this movie was his background, how it made him seem like a child murderer. That right there not only makes him not one of the darkest, but also the scariest when he is around children. Then....you got the bad. Penguin not only creates this illusion that he is scary, but that he also has taken lessons from being overly comedic in the worse moments. Some of his lines do work when he is interacting with Batman & Catwoman, but when it comes to others, he is incredibly terrible and unfitting for his character, especially the moment where he makes a shadow puppet of Batman. Trying to evoke creepy and unsettling turned into lame and out of place. How about that one more golden character before I wrap this up?


My god what can I say about this massive achievement in Batman villains? He takes this role beyond him, every joke I ever laughed in this movie, came from him even though they were not funny. While not a real Batman villain in comics, it was a joy to see someone and original go into the Batman mythos, Max Shreck is that. I have no ill words towards this character so I will wrap up this retrospect.

So what do I think of this movie? It is a very well done movie, but why is such an underrated film & overrated? Well for one, its dark history in the film itself. I know Batman can be a dark character, and so can his enemies and the city he lives in, but a lot of just seems unsettling for a Batman movie. Granted this was Tim's take on the character, and not the first film which he felt he was not too happy with. Meanwhile this movie seems more vindicated in that aspect of taking what was once a very much open audience film, to a dark philosophical movie. When I mean philosophical, I mean the way the whole story is laid out towards us. It plays out like a fantasy tale rather than just a regular comic book story. It takes itself to a larger than life scale without even feeling the epic scope that we see in movies today. Granted some characters seem off or forgettable but the four I mention fit in quite nicely to the whole escapades of the film rather than endulging in personal beliefs or struggles. The struggle is for Gotham, a key theme in this film that often expands to a wider sense of villainy and heroics that often takes itself to a whole new realm all together. That itself is played off very cleverly rather than introducing itself as a comic book superhero because Tim didn't see it that way.

While it does become overrated in some aspects when it gets to a lot of moments that seem weirdly off. Penguin using penguins as little weapons with rockets trying to destroy I guess a block of Gotham, Catwomans reasoning for surviving that fall seems a bit odd and just thrown in for good measure and you really don't have anything to learn for this Batman what so ever. I mentioned early he was like us, the audience in which we are the good and they are the bad and we are in it for the ride. Clearly though, he is a character with feelings as apparent with his love for Selina Kyle and the nature of how they both intertwine with each other rather than play off as your normal hero/villain complex, even though I felt some audiences want that sort of take rather than what we got. This Batman even though confident just seems to be on autopilot through this adventure. Also Penguin as a villain tries so hard to mimic the comedic aspects of Nicholson rather than let the character be his own, something that is mirrored and mimicked through out the four films. 

None the less, I do find this movie quite enjoyable and rather to be nothing more than just a sacred look at how deep and how cultural this movie can have Gotham City can be. It stands out to me as a very sincere and great take on Batman that I wish was further explored. Thank you for reading, tomorrow is BATMAN (1989)

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