Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Greetings and salutations, and welcome back to another review of a film in the Burtonverse! For those of you who don’t know, the Burtonverse is an unofficial term applied to the universe of the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film (which I reviewed/analyzed here), its sequel, the two Schumacher-directed neon nightmares that followed it, and Pitof’s 2004 headscratcher of a movie, Catwoman. Don’t worry, I’ll get to all these films, eventually. Some of them (*cough* Batman & Robin and Catwoman *cough*) may require a more in-depth analysis due to their sheer awfulness, so stick around if you’re interested.

Anyways, on to the film. I’ve said it before, I’m not a very big fan of the Tim Burton Bat-flicks. I find them to be alright, and a lot of the time to be uncomfortable and weird. And that uncomfortable part definitely applies to this film. Batman Returns is…wow. Just wow. It’s extremely awkward and uncomfortable, packed to the brim with Danny DeVito in a fat suit and Michelle Pfeiffer in skin-tight latex making animal-themed sexual innuendos…did I mention this was weird?!

The movie is full of lines like this…and many that are far, far worse.

The writing is also bizarre and awkward. Danny DeVito’s Penguin seems to be several different characters, a crime boss, a circus freak, and a person who was isolated from society and raised by penguins, but he was also in a circus…did I mention this makes no sense?! And it gets far, far worse. He seems to go through about 3, entirely separate, master plans. In the space of about 45 minutes to an hour, he goes from trying to defame Batman and attempting to become the mayor, to kidnapping children, to using rocket penguins to blow up stuff. Yeah, like actual penguins.

He also took the time to construct a Batmobile arcade machine with which to control the Batmobile. No explanation for where he got this, by the way, it’s just there. Seriously?!

Just because you think something looks cool doesn’t mean it makes sense in the context of the story, Burton! How did a penguin-man without a cent to his name manufacture a custom arcade machine?

Do you see where I’m going with this? The film’s events make no sense within the context of either the Batman universe or the movie’s version thereof.

There’s also inexplicably poorly written and illogical lines, like this:

Selina Kyle: You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.

Bruce Wayne: But a kiss can be even deadlier… if you mean it.

Like, what the heck does that even mean?! I just don’t know, you guys.

But enough about the writing already. There’s plenty more to talk about in this mess. How about Batman? Once again, he takes a backseat to his villains in his own movie, so much so that when Michael Keaton’s face finally made an appearance, 35 minutes in, I actually thought, “Oh, right. This is a Batman movie. I forgot.” I thought that sarcastically, of course, in a rather scathing mental tone.

Fine, Burton, if you’re going to place the Rogue’s Gallery at the forefront of the picture, they better be good. And they’re not. For example, Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer, attempting to pull of the mousy secretary look and failing, because she looks like Michelle Pfeiffer) is murdered by Max Schreck (Christopher Walken, in a typically hilarious role), who shoves her out of a high-rise office building’s window. She dies, and is inexplicably brought back to life by cats. CATS!!! Rarely does a movie make me angry, let alone a film I don’t really mind, but this!! This is style over substance in the worst way, it’s style over coherence! Sure, you could say that Pitof’s (Still can’t get over that one-word name. Who does this guy think he is? Madonna? Spike?) Catwoman provided an explanation, but that film’s even more incoherent! And also unwatchable. Like, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III level of unwatchable.

Even after the origin story, her character’s motivation is just: “occasionally think about revenge, but mostly use misplaced and unwanted sexual advances to seduce Batman and give myself a tongue-bath in front of a penguin-man.” I did not want to type the last part of that sentence.

The second villain is a wonderfully hammy Christopher Walken (Bruce Wayne?…Why, are you dressed…like Batman?) as an evil businessman who wants to build a power plant that’s actually going to suck power and…how, exactly, did he hide this fact in his proposal to build it? And what’s he going to do with the stolen power? And does he think that Gotham (which has a “power surplus”) won’t notice when power starts disappearing?

He also has a son, Chip, played by Andrew Bryniarski, who was very clearly told to just do his best Christopher Walken impression. It’s mildly amusing at times, but is usually just annoying. A minor role, but a really irritating one.

And don’t even get me started on Penguin! Oh, you want to hear what I have to say. Okay. Those of you who know anything about comics know that Penguin in the comics is a crime boss who is only called Penguin because, at this point, he’s mildly interested in ornithology. He used to use birds for crime, but he gave up on that schtick by the mid 80’s. So why, in this movie, is he a freaky bird-man?

No, that’s the wrong Michael Keaton movie.
And so is that!
Okay, what’s wrong with you?

In this movie, Penguin’s a strange, deformed circus freak-type character with daddy and mommy issues who eats raw fish and bites off people’s noses, while simultaneously being the one candidate that Max Schreck thinks is best to run for mayor.

Even if you want to completely screw up a beloved comic book character’s origin, why would you? And that’s the main problem with this movie. I think that Jeff Goldblum can phrase this message to Tim Burton best:

And that’s the biggest and most glaring flaw. The rest of the film functions alright, as overstuffed, unfocused superhero films go. The action is well done, though the mass murder committed by Batman is particularly irritating in this one, as he literally blows people up and burns them to death. He’s about three steps away from machine gunning crowds and stabbing people. Seriously, did Tim Burton even read a Batman comic?

Oh….

Wow. Just wow. THEN WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU DIRECT NOT ONE, BUT TWO BATMAN FILMS AND PRODUCE TWO MORE?!?!?! And sure, just dismiss an ENTIRE medium based off of one thing. You know what, I didn’t like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Better swear off Tim Burton films. Or better yet, how about films in general?! Seriously Burton, for such a talented filmmaker, you’re kind of an idiot.

Anyways the action is…fine. The performances are fine. It’s mildly entertaining, and occasionally hilarious, mostly due to Walken’s stilted delivery. But the rest of this film isn’t great. I like watching it more than Batman ’89, but that’s not saying much, and it’s definitely an inferior film. I’m going to have to be brutally honest, and give Batman Returns a C-.

c-minus-school-letter-grade

So, there we are! What do you think of Batman Returns? Is it your favorite Batman film? Least favorite? Did you agree with me, or want to punch me in the face for saying what I did say? If you so desire, let me know in the comment section below. But I’ll see you on Friday with the eighth installment in “My 100 Favorite Films.” I’ll let you know then what shall be reviewed on Monday. Until then, bye!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kgothatjo Magolego says:

    I actually really enjoyed this movie, in particular I thought the mistletoe toe line was amazing because it properly summed up the flirtatious relationship between Batman and Catwoman. I loved Michelle Pffeifer in this role. The way she portrays her character and much like everything else in this movie truly benefits from Tim Burton’s style. It isn’t a hardcore Batman movie because I don’t think the world was ready for such a thing at the time. It’s Batman-lite almost and I liked that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s not a Batman movie, it’s a Tim Burton movie that happens to feature characters loosely based on comics, and I guess that’s just not for me.
      But it’s good to know that someone really likes it.

      Like

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