Returns turns up the violence level a bit while turning
down the humor a lot. Undoubtedly the darkest film in the Batman series, Batman
Returns verges on the point of being unpleasant.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito,
and Michelle Pfeiffer
Michael Keaton stars, for the last time, as Bruce Wayne and his caped and
armored alter-ego, Batman. Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer star as The Penguin
and The Catwoman respectively. Keaton, when he gave his reason for abandoning
the franchise in 1995, said that the Batman movies aren't concerned with Batman,
they're more concerned with the super-villains. To prove his words true, one
need not go further than this movie.
The Penguin first appears as a deformed man who was dumped into the sewers
as a child by his parents. He emerges 33 years later to find the identity of
his parents and to become reacquainted with the surface world. To make sure
his re-emergence gains notoriety, he corners Gotham City businessman Max Schreck
(Christopher Walken) into promoting his search by threatening to reveal Schreck's
less than legal business practices to the authorities.
Schreck, it seems, is planning to build a power plant that will actually rob
Gotham City of its power. When his cat-loving secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle
Pfeiffer), discovers his plot, Schreck throws her from an office window. But,
Kyle is resurrected by cats and assumes her new identity as Catwoman. She vows
revenge against Schreck. After The Penguin sees her, he vows to recruit her
in his fight against Batman.
In a series of convoluted schemes, each of these villains attempts to get
what they want. Batman, as Keaton claimed, takes a definite backseat to all
of their plotting and scheming. When Batman does appear, its usually far too
brief and not very exciting.
Other problems arise from these villains' motivations (or lack thereof). Catwoman
vows hatred against Schreck, which is understandable. Although The Penguin
is a villain, his villainous intentions aren't that strong or well-defined.
If you don't pay close attention, it simply seems that he allows himself to
be molded into a criminal by Schreck's lust for power. (The Penguin's plot
to steal first-born sons as an act of revenge is plotted at the beginning of
the film but not acted on until the end -- neutering its effectiveness in the
Max Schreck is clearly evil, but he's not very outlandish and he's overshadowed
because, well, he's not a freak like the usual Batman villain. And that's a
shame because I think Christopher Walken, given the right role, could out-freak
any of the past or present Bat-villains with a lot less makeup and cost.
This movie seems to be a case of trying to cram too much into two hours of
film. Featuring two villains at a time, which became the run-of-the-mill of
the series following this entry, simply means that the villains dominate the
film and Batman might as well stay home and phone his appearances in. Pfeiffer
and DeVito clearly have fun with their roles, but Keaton looks bored and, personally,
I want to see more of Batman in a movie that's named after him.
Batman Returns was released in the UK, 9 seconds were trimmed from the
final cut. A scene of a clown swinging nunchackus and a scene where Catwoman
puts aerosol cans into a microwave to explode a building. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)