Batman Returns movie review

Here’s where the wheels start to come off.

If you’ll check my Batman post, you’ll see that while I love the movie, I’m quick to admit that it’s not without fault and I’m not the world’s biggest Tim Burton fan.  Batman Returns is chock full of Burtony goodness, and it’s to the film’s detriment – but, if ever there was a movie that was saved by performances, it’s this one.

Michael Keaton returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman and continues to play both roles with such understated class.  Michelle Pfeiffer gives us a cornucopia of performances as the Selena Kyle who is timid but has the raging cat inside her, the Selena Kyle who has felt her power but still keeps it at bay and yet feels the conflict between who she was and who she’s become and then finally as Catwoman, completely off the chain crazy.  Danny DeDevito, meanwhile, goes all in on crazy; even when he’s being subtle (“You don’t really think you’ll win, do you?”), he’s still menacing – and the rest of the time, he’s kinda screaming, but it’s fun.  And then there’s Christopher Walken… this guy is a genius.  Every expression, every line of dialogue, every scene he’s in is increased in quality by his presence.

Meanwhile, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman are just…  oy.  Doing that thing they do; Burton with his artsy fartsy German Expressionism inspired 90s wackiness and Elfman with his choir of sopranos…  He hit the mark so perfectly in the first film, but rather than composing new themes in the same style, he just… I don’t know what he did, but I don’t like it.  Too many sopranos for me.  

And then there’s the story…  they really crammed a lot into this movie.  Let me try to break it down:

  1. The Penguin is controlling the Red Triangle gang – he’s got them tearing up Gotham to create a scenario that will allow him to kidnap Max Schreck, who he’ll then blackmail into helping him orchestrate a coming out party as well as gain access to public records, which he’ll use to get revenge on the society that rejected him by kidnapping and murdering the first-born children of Gotham’s elite.
  2. Selena Kyle works for Max Schreck and wants to be more than a secretary, but when she goes too far at work, Max “kills” her (?) and this trauma turns her into Catwoman because cats brought her back to life (?) and she wants revenge on Max and doesn’t like Batman because…  I dunno, he’s a man?  Lots of question marks here.
  3. Max Schreck wants to create a new power plant because somehow, this will make him more powerful even though Gotham isn’t low on power, so he’d really just be flooding the market and lowering consumer prices…  except he’s really going to be stealing power from Gotham’s existing power plant and then… I guess he’ll somehow store this power (What?  We can’t really even do that now, never mind twenty years ago.) and sell it back when demand increases and the price goes up.
  4. Bruce Wayne doesn’t want Max to build the power plant because he doesn’t trust him, which of course turns out to be right.  Other than that, he’s just sitting at home, waiting for the bat signal to come into the sky and reflect off his bat signals on his house and then project the bat signal onto the wall of his sitting room, where he goes to sit and do nothing.  (Nobody seems curious why Bruce Wayne has giant bat signals on his house in this universe.)  Anyway, the other characters force Batman into the plot periodically.  His version of patrol in this movie is to drive slowly around a snowy, deserted Gotham and never get out of the car.  Batman does clearly want to protect Gotham in this movie, but his conflict with the bad guys isn’t that interesting.  Even his relationship with Selena Kyle/Catwoman is kinda boring.

Still, the movie is fun.  It has action, laughs and great performances, so it’s certainly worth a look.  I’m giving Batman Returns an  out of 10 – it’s a solid B picture with lots of fun performances.

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on February 21, 2014, in Batman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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