After the success of Tim Burton’s 1989 film that brought Batman into the darkness again after the light hearted and campy depiction in the 60’s, Warner Brothers and their fans were quick to demand more, and so in 5 years after the first film, a sequel was finally released in 1992 called ‘Batman Returns’ which saw a now star studded cast bring more characters from the pages of the comics to life on the silver screen.
This film tells the story of Oswald Cobblepot, a man born with bird like deformities which frightened his mother and father during his birth, which led to them abandoning their child in a basket, watching it float down a stream into the sewers of Gotham. Little did they know, that he would continue to grow up and become one of Gotham’s most frightening villains known as Penguin.
However this film isn’t just about Cobblepot’s journey, it’s also about the evolution of Selina Kyle, a young, beautiful and timid woman who works for a corrupt businessman known as Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who ends up becoming a major player in both stories of Selina and Oswald, but in different forms. For Oswald, Max is his chance at returning to the surface, to get the respect he believes he deserves, whereas for Selina, he becomes the forceful element that drives her character evolution after an attempted murder.
The cast of this film includes Michael Keaton reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, for the second and final time in the Batman movie franchise. His portrayal continues to be one of the best in the many live action films that Batman has appeared in, which saying a lot these days. He remains creepy, yet slightly comedic which I know isn’t a classic Batman trait but this is a Tim Burton film and as I said in my Batman ’89 review, Burton hasn’t read the comics so it’s somewhat forgivable.
Michelle Pfeiffer brings the character of Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman to life in a very gripping, sympathetic, disturbing and very sexual way. Her portrayal really brings to life the characters abilities and personality, with cat puns included. She brings the prowess of the femme fatale jewel thief to life with her incredible athletic ability, and it is said that Pfeiffer even attending kickboxing classes and learned to handle a whip in order to prepare for the role, which proved very helpful, and she proved that she learned much in the preparation as we get to see her skills on screen in the film.
Danny DeVito brings a very unique and now classic portrayal to the role of Oswald Cobblepot, who lives up to his Penguin name with his animalistic nature, flipper shaped hands and beak-like nose, which are all brought to form with a fantastic costume and effects department. DeVito’s Cobblepot comes complete with the comic book umbrella’s that prove useful in almost any situation, such as an umbrella that fires bullets, one that fires blanks, and even one that doubles up as a propeller powered flying machine that allows him to escape tight situations. His story tells of his rise to power, as he returns to the surface from the depths of the sewers and makes a run for Mayor to gain control over Gotham.
His gruesome appearance and disturbing dialogue, involving sexual innuendoes, however proved too much for young audiences, as Burton’s dark vision for the film received multiple complaints from fans and businesses alike, as they all believed it was too dark for younger audiences, as merchandising businesses like McDonald’s wanted toys they could promote to young children, but sadly the Penguin was too gruesome for that. Line’s such as “I’d like to fill her void” and “Just the pussy I’ve been looking for” were deemed completely inappropriate for the many young fans of the first film, but despite receiving multiple complaints, the dialogue remained in the film, making it the only Batman film where you’d hear such vulgar innuendoes.
Danny Elfman returns, to compose another classic score for the film, and the fifth Tim Burton that he has provided the score to, including Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), and Edward Scissorhands (1990). Elfman would go on to compose for more of Burton’s films, with his work becoming almost synonymous with Burton’s films. The score for Batman Returns, brings the heavy brass that fills the score with such memorable themes, in particular the main theme from Batman 89′ being re-used for multiple scenes in which Batman appears, and with the film set in a Christmas period, the music brings a Christmas themed vibe with plenty of jingles and jolly upbeat tones that bring the film to life.
Overall this film is dark, gruesome, and rather silly but it’s a classic. Keaton’s portrayal as the Dark Knight remains one of the best. Bringing in villains such as Penguin and Catwoman was a great choice by Burton and the casting choices were phenomenal. Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Catwoman is almost perfection, with later portrayals in other films having a lot to live up to and sadly none of them quite managing it. Anne Hathaway’s portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises was a great Selina Kyle but sadly a not so great Catwoman, so Pfeiffer’s portrayal in 1992 is still my all time favourite.
This film gets 4.5/5 from me as it will always be one of my all time favourite Batman films, but sadly it loses .5 of a point for it’s unnecessary silliness.
Leave a Reply