Now this is more like it.
This is THE Batman movie of the 90s, the one that nailed everything Tim Burton was at the time, as well as somehow molding a fine image of what Batman could be in a motion picture.
Up until the release of Batman , non comic-book reading moviegoers only had the campy 60s Batman to influence their opinion on the character, thus not recognizing the dark and grim reality of what this character could be (as some of the 80s graphic novels so excellently portrayed).
With Batman Returns , everything that I disliked about Batman seems to have disappeared, with a wealth of sumptuous visuals that make a splendid case for Burton’s creative eye as well as some of the best homages to the comics in all of the Batman films (seriously, the Batman/Catwoman romance stuff is just perfect).
As I rewatched this today, I realized that while this is my favorite of the four 90s Batman movies, it’s the one I’ve seen the least amount of times. I remember watching the first one a lot as a kid as well as watching Batman Forever a lot more than that because what kid doesn’t love Jim Carrey? Even Batman & Robin garnered a lot of watches from this guy as a child, back when my discernment was virtually nonexistent.
But there was something about Batman Returns that just never made me want to go back and watch it like the others. Maybe it’s because the Penguin grossed me out. Or maybe because I was in the cooties phase and wasn’t sure what to make of Michelle Pfieffer’s undeniably sexy Catwoman. Or maybe it’s just because Burton crafted an adult Batman movie that works on dramatic levels that kids just won’t find interesting. I’m banking on all of these, largely because I know myself.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten wiser (I’m practically Gandalf at this point), and as I’ve sifted my way through thousands of films and hundreds of bad ones, I’ve realized what makes a movie good, and Batman Returns has many of those qualities.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies deserve every ounce of praise they get, but I think they’ve received their due. I think it’s time we take a step back, detach ourselves from rewatching them over and over again, and pop this disc in the drive for once, especially around the holidays since the snowy atmosphere and presence of Christmas trees and lights makes for a really fun Christmas movie.
As I rewatched this in preparation for Batman v Superman this Thursday, I found myself shocked at just how well it holds up. The action is as fun as ever, the shot of Keaton’s Bruce rising into the light of the batsignal still gives me chills, and Danny Elfman’s score is still as brisk and tonally consistent as ever (as it is in the first movie).
Some could complain about Danny DeVito’s Penguin being a major deviation from the comics and there are a few moments woven throughout where I think Burton taps too much into his disgusting, gory fetish, but apart from those minor inconveniences, I think DeVito is about as good a choice as any for this particular version of the character.
And I can’t stress enough how much I love the Catwoman stuff here. Anne Hathaway is great in The Dark Knight Rises and I really do think she’s one of the best things about that movie, but Pfieffer is just the best Catwoman we’ve seen, and just like Hathaway worked for the realistic cat-burglar type in Chris Nolan’s film, Pfieffer works for the fantastical resurrected-by-cats type in Tim Burton’s. And the romantic stuff with Bruce and Selina and the battle between Batman and Catwoman and how they tie that up with the reveal in the third act is really quite satisfying to see as a hardcore Batman fan.
But enough rambling. Do yourself a favor sometime and rewatch this (or watch it for the first time if you haven’t seen it). It’s really an underrated gem of a movie and it is, in my opinion, one of the very best Batman movies.