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Batman Returns Review
Max Schreck: "I am the light of this city and I am its mean twisted soul."
Beware: Spoilers may follow
Well with Batman (1989) being both a financial and critical success it only made sense for them to make a sequel. Sure enough, they did so about three years later with Tim Burton once again at the helm. And as far as sequels go it is still pretty darn good. It's not as good as the first movie but it still is enjoyable. It continues the story in terms of both Batman lore and the dilemmas involved in the franchise. It's not just a rehashing of the original movie. Nonetheless, let's take a look, shall we?
The story is as follows: Batman (Michael Keaton) is back once again to fight the forces of evil in Gotham City. This time Batman finds himself up against the nefarious Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and must stop the plot of the sinister Penguin (Danny Devito) and criminal mastermind Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) while once again dealing with his own problems as Bruce Wayne and with the problems of Selina Kyle.
As I said before the story continues the saga in terms of its themes and dilemmas. In this movie's case, it's that of duality. Burton does a brilliant job of showing the theme of duality over the course of the movie rather than just merely talking about it and does an even greater job of showcasing the issues through our main characters; heroes and villains alike. The issues of duality are discussed but match up with what is shown and are discussed to the right amount.
The Batman and Catwoman/Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle relationship in this film is especially strong as well as the strongest Bat-Cat relationship in any live-action Batman movie and is where the theme of duality shines the brightest. And the reason for this is that our main characters are well defined.
Like its predecessor, the story doesn't feature Batman as prominently as our trio of villains. And unlike its predecessor, the villains' screentime compared to him doesn't help create much contrast. However, with that being said we still get to see enough of Batman doing his thing being all shadowy and mysterious and have some awesome action with him. And like I said before his relationship with Selina/Catwoman helps drive the film.
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman is still every bit as awesome as he was in the last movie. We still get to see him do some awesome action as Batman and have some both meaningful and funny moments with him as Bruce. But he himself is not a character content with himself which makes him very relatable. He has no other life but one as Batman to the point that you want him to settle down with Selina and not see her head down Bruce's path.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman is ten times better of a heroine than Vicki Vale both as the timid, klutzy nerd and as the crazy Catwoman. And yes I'll admit her transformation doesn't make a whole lot of sense but the emotion Pfeiffer gives throughout the role is amazing to the point that I'm willing to overlook it. Her struggle regarding who she is and what she wants really makes you root for her. You want everything to turn out ok between her and Bruce despite the fact that she finds it impossible.
Both these characters are their alter egos for a long course of the movie which helps enforce the fact their alter egos have essentially taken over them and both are different given that one is aware of that they both need saving and the other isn't. Both had tragedies in their life that shaped them into their alter-egos which helps build the connection. There is one scene between the two (I won't give it away) that marks a true connection between the two and is so iconic that other Batman adaptations would continue to use this.
Danny Devito as the Penguin is easy to hate given his grotesque appearance but at the same time, he is both funny and silly when it comes to his actions and dialogue. Like the Joker before him, he is chewing up the scenery in every scene he's in being a mix of comical, threatening, and creepy. And like our heroes he has his own subtle issues with duality given his tragic backstory to the point that at the end of the day he is ultimately the Penguin. Nothing more.
Christopher Walken is incredible as the cold-hearted business mastermind Max Schreck. If all our other characters have at least the slightest shred of decency through duality this guy is the exact opposite. He is just incredibly manipulative through his actions and schemes and has little to no shred of human decency in him. This guy truly is the epitome of the theme of corruption shown through Batman movies.
No movie is without flaws however and this one is no exception
The biggest flaw is that the story sometimes gets too dark and depressing. Whereas in the first movie they knew to balance Nicholson's comic, threat, and creepiness it is not balanced all that well with the Penguin and as a result, it is difficult to fully appreciate the humor when it comes.
Batman Returns may not have been as good as the film that came before it but it still continues the story and sticks to the heart of Batman as a whole. Although wasn't taken to kindly when it first came out it certainly has aged well. My only wish is that the general public could have taken as kindly to this movie back then as following this the legacy of the caped crusader would be tarnished for years to come after this (oh I'll get to you one day Schumacher).