More a Tim Burton movie than a proper Batman film.
I have a real love/hate relationship going on with Batman Returns.
After the release of the phenomenal The Dark Knight Rises I thought I'd watch Batman Returns once more to see if I liked it any better than when I first saw it.
There's one thing I want to get out of the way right now before getting into anything, and that is that ultimately, I did enjoy this movie.
But with everything I enjoyed, there was also a frustrating mistake, and this kind of thing just kept reminding me that while I love Tim Burton as a director, he doesn't have a full understanding of the character of Batman himself, nor any of the other characters really.
It seems that here, Burton is more interested in making a "Tim Burton movie" than a Batman film that is faithful to what the characters really are.
First of all, I want to write about the things that I enjoyed about Batman Returns.
What caught my eye the moment I put the film in was the visuals, the design of the city, the gothic look, the snow, the clutter, the entire atomosphere of Batman Returns feels like you are genuinely looking at Gotham City on screen.
It's not the gritty realism of the Nolan Batman movies, but it's more of a gothic fairytale, one that really works.
All in all I thought that the performances were stellar, I didn't really have problems with the acting as I did with the interpretations of the characters and the way they were written. But more on that later.
The real stand out for me was Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, although the origin is changed around, the character is pitch perfect, and the dynamics between Catwoman/Batman and Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne were a joy for a Batman fan like me to watch.
This aspect was for me, the most entertaining part of the whole movie, and I just wish it could have been the centre a little more instead of the silly "Penquin for Mayor" plot. Keaton and Pfieffer really do in my opinion have a great chemistry.
The score I thought was awesome, a lot of it was reused from the original Batman, but then again there are some things which felt out of place, sometimes I felt like I was watching Edward Scissorhands instead of Batman, and the score contributes greatly to this.
That's pretty much what I liked about the movie. Now for what I wasn't so thrilled about.
First and foremost. I believe the movie is called Batman Returns. But where the hell is Batman? A problem I had with the 1989 Batman was that Batman himself was underdeveloped, in place of the villain getting most of the attention.
Batman Returns having two villains, suffers from this issue even more.
Most of the focus is shifted to the Penquin and Catwoman, and while they are interesting to watch, I didn't pay for a Catwoman movie, or a Penquin movie, when I watch a Batman movie I expect it to be about Batman.
And while on that subject, I think I should bring up that this is the derpiest portrayal of Batman I have ever seen.
I don't blame this on Michael Keaton, I blame it on the way the movie was directed and written.
Batman just doesn't think! Often he'll be outsmarted or outfisted incredibly easily, I wanted to yell at the screen COME ON BATMAN DO SOMETHING! But he just didn't. This Batman likes to stand around and be extremely gullible.
All this solidified in my mind that Tim Burton really doesn't have a firm grasp on the character.
Moving on, I didn't overly mind the interpretation of the Penquin being a sewer monster rather than a mob boss, I just didn't really find him that interesting to watch, as I said before, I was much more interested in seeing Batman, or watching the Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne plot play out.
Instead, what I mostly got was the Penquin having some elaborate plan working with buisnessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) to become mayor and manipulate the city. And at some point he teams up with Catwoman and tries to kill Batman.
It could have worked. Probably more so if Penquin had just stayed a mob boss true to his comic book roots. But I wasn't really engaged with it all that much. The same with Christopher Walken, I love him as an actor, but his character or performance just weren't that interesting.
As I said before, I LOVED Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman, and I didn't at all mind her reinterpretation, because in this movie it truly WORKED.
She just wasn't in the movie as much as I wanted her to be.
On top of this, downright stupid, weird stuff happens that makes no sense.
Batman's batmobile is EASILY hijacked by a bunch of the Penguins thugs. I mean come on. THIS IS BATMAN. He's smarter than that.
Also, there is one sequence where mechanical wings magically appear out from under Batman's cape and he's able to fly of into the distance. The mechanical wings appear OUT OF NOWHERE and once he's done casually flying, Batman just drops them and continues on his buisness.
A lot of other stuff happens that is not only nonsensical, it betrays who the characters are and how they should act.
In light of these mistakes that really could have been avoided, I did find things to enjoy in Batman Returns (the Bruce Wayne/Selena Kyle dynamic). It's not all bad, and while I don't necessarily agree that it's an improvement over the previous Batman movie, it's serviceable, and worth a rent whether you like Batman or you don't.
This has been quite a long review and I'm pretty much done.
I'm going to finish on this, and that is, if you like Batman, give this movie a try. You'll either like it or you wont.
If you like Tim Burton, this movie will definitely feel more familiar to you, it's a gothic fairytale, and that is what Burton does best.
When it comes to a straight up Batman story though, there is a lot that can be improved.