Batman Returns doesn’t quite outdo its predecessor even though the film has perfect casting with Danny DeVito as the Penguin.
Listen, if you’re going to use the Joker as your main villain in your first movie, you better have a good card hidden up your sleeve. Thankfully, there are some other strong contenders in Batman’s (Michael Keaton) rogue gallery. In this case, Batman Returns opts to use the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and anti-hero Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), best known as Catwoman. The film manages to go darker in tone because of Oswald Cobblepot’s antics but not too dark.
If anyone has a problem with the film’s darkness, I honestly suggest reading more of the source material. It’s not campy by any means. There’s a reason why we call him the Dark Knight! If you think that the Joker was dark, I have some news for you. The Penguin is certainly more darker in nature and he really has it out for Gotham City. In particular, all the firstborn sons. His parents didn’t want him so he ends up in the sewer and later discovered by the penguins at the Gotham Zoo. As for Selina, she’s seeking revenge against Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) for trying to kill her. Schreck–created solely for the film–wants control of Gotham City for himself. These villains never learn!
Cobblepot runs the Red Triangle Gang, which abducts Schrek and blackmails him. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle had discovered the agenda behind his power plant plans. Even though Schreck tried to kill her, she survived and becomes Catwoman. Once Batman gets involved, there are tangled allegiances. Selina gets to know Bruce Wayne as a person and naturally, they start a romantic relationship. Did you think it was going to be easy? As for Batman, he gets in Catwoman’s way so she allies herself with the Penguin for a short-lived allegiance. Batman and Catwoman eventually learn the other’s identity. It would only have been a matter of time.
Once again, composer Danny Elfman manages to deliver the goods. It’s another top-notch score for the Batman veteran. He manages to outdo his previous work from the first film.
Meanwhile, visual effects are astonishing and to an extent, they’re able to hold up in 2019. I can’t help but wonder if the penguins would be real or CGI in a film created in today’s era. I only wonder about this because of the use of rocket launchers on their backs.
Yet for all the good that there is in the film, we start to see traces of what people have come to not appreciate in Tim Burton films. One wonders as to what another director would have done with the material at hand. Batman Returns may be a solid film but might be even better in the hands of another director.
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
SCREENWRITER: Daniel Waters
CAST: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy