Batman Returns

Batman Returns ★★★★★


This was a significant improvement upon rewatch. While Joker was an antagonist I had no sympathy for in the first, Penguin and Selina here are heartbreaking characters who both suffer the horrific power of the rich. Danny DeVito, in any other film that doesn’t have Michelle Pfeiffer, nearly steals the entire show with a committed, disgusting, and hugely empathetic performance. As much as Oswald is a disgusting little jackass, he’s also an orphan who’s parents literally threw him away to die. I am sympathetic to his desire for retribution, even if he’s doing it wrong. But who walks away from the movie leaving a huge impact is Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle. Her Selina is probably in the top 5 Superhero film performances. Lovely, smart, clumsy, badass, scary, sexy, and empathetic. I love and hate her for what she’s doing simultaneously in many scenes, yet not for one second do I not understand why. That masquerade gala scene with her and Bruce is a masterful display of acting, going through so many emotions in a short span of time, without any of it feeling false. Every moment she’s on screen is riveting, and thankfully she’s in it quite a bit. Her and Penguin having to fight yet another rich boy also dressed in the clothes of his trauma is a fascinating conflict they go through with the title character, far more interesting than the stuff in Batman, and far more organic. Gotham feels grosser and more antagonistic here, especially with the brilliant addition of Christopher Walken as Max Shreck, standing in for the corrupt institutions all throughout the city. You understand much better WHY Bruce feels he has to protect the city here; not only can no one else do it, almost everyone else is actively trying to destroy it. There’s quite a bit this film has to say about how the systems that are built to protect us can so easily be corrupted. This is a city that needs Batman. But how about the people? People like Selina and Penguin are often worse from their interactions with The Batman. It can be argued that they were heading to these paths anyway, and maybe they were, but he only tries to help the one he’s in love with, even if he does empathize with Penguin. I like that the film doesn’t try to say definitively the good or bad Batman may have caused, Burton merely presents these people and situations honestly, and let’s the audience decide how they feel about Batman. The only issues for me are Batman killing which happens in this thankfully much less, but it does happen once or twice, and that makes his desperate plea with Selina to take Schreck into the police less impactful. But at least he has learned his lesson about killing by the end. Also, I’m unsure of how intelligent the Penguin is. His wit seems to fluctuate in some scenes depending on where the plot needs to go, and I found it weirdly inconsistent. Still tho, this is a tremendous, bizarre, horny, kinky, gorgeous visionary work that will never happen again. Gotta respect it.