Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Pat Hingle
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: Daniel Waters
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 6 mins
For Keaton’s second outing as the billionaire playboy turned winged vigilante, we see a much lighter touch applied to the character. As Tim Burton’s original Batman moved away from the camp craziness of the 60’s TV show, Batman Returns takes a small step back. With overly elaborate methods of beaming the bat signal into Wayne Manor, and secret entrances to the bat cave that open via a switch hidden in a fish tank. I was half expecting Bruce to ask Alfred (Michael Gough) for his bat-pipe and bat-slippers!
Batman is also hardly in this film, because this movie is more interested in telling the origin stories for the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Cat Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), while also introducing Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), a wealthy business mogul looking to control Gotham’s energy supply. Which for me, represents the film’s main weakness, while simultaneously providing a good reason to see it.
With three villains and two plots for Batman to foil, this story is bloated, but at the same time it supplies us with three great performances from its A-List cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is amazing as Gotham’s feline love interest for the caped crusader, and Danny DeVito is superb as the vile, yet tragic character, Penguin. Christopher Walken is also properly intimidating as Shreck, yet shows a real knack for comic timing.
Visually, this film clearly has Burton’s stamp on it, even more so than the last movie. Set during the Christmas holiday, Returns is more snow-covered red and white candy canes, than Gotham’s usual gloomy grays and blacks. This film is also a lot more theatrical, and Gotham seems smaller as most of the action takes place in the city’s central plaza. Even after including a few wide shots of the city skyline, the film never shakes that studio set feel and look. The fake looking foamy snow another obvious nod to the theatrics, rather than the celluloid. Which may have been Burton’s plan all along, but in my opinion, this approach with the cast and production design, was a step in the wrong direction.
This movie has a lighter tone than Burton’s first Batman film, and includes more humor. In many ways, this installment was the precursor for the disastrous Batman Forever and Batman & Robin films. The movie is rated PG-13 for some violent content.
Gotham feels a lot smaller in this installment of the franchise, but it’s still got all the great visual elements you’d expect in a Tim Burton movie. If your local theater was screening this, I would recommend you watch this on the big screen. At home, a HD viewing on a nice big TV and sound system is the best way to enjoy this film’s visuals and Danny Elfman’s great score.
Best Moment:<< mild spoiler >>
I loved the moment Batman, Penguin and Cat Woman meet for the first time. As Selina Kyle somersaults into the shot, stops, and then calmly says ‘meow’ as the department store behind her explodes! Great moment!