Old School Review: Batman Returns

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1992

The 8th film I have seen in theaters…

The Bat, The Cat, and The Penguin

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Christmas comes to Gotham City. Batman has been the city’s protector since defeating The Joker. Suddenly Oswald Cobblepot, long lost heir to a Gotham fortune, arises from the depths (literally) and runs for Mayor. Backed by Gotham mogul Max Schreck, Cobblepot takes aim at Batman, his only obstacle in assuming power. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle, a secretary killed by Max, is resurrected as Catwoman. She sets her aim on Schreck and teams with the Penguin to bring chaos to the city.

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Michael Keaton returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne. This is actually my favorite performance from Keaton in the two films. His work in the first with Vickie Vale was great, but there is something iconic about Batman and Catwoman that electrifies this film. His absence was a big blow to the future of the franchise. His Bat-Suit in this film is my favorite until Ben Affleck appeared 24 years later.

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Michelle Pfeiffer staked her claim as the best Catwoman on film. This has yet to be topped. Her Selina Kyle was slinky, sexy, and purely amazing. Her insane performance became instantly iconic. This is the gold standard.

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What the hell was going on with Penguin? Danny Devito was truly remarkable as Oswald Cobblepot. This insane mutant-like take on the character was 100% Tim Burton lunacy, but it worked. Devito’s performance was such that despite the gross fish eating, he rose to match the performances of his co stars.

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Christopher Walken appears here as Christopher Walken. As with all Christopher Walken performances, he is at peak Christopher Walken.

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Appearing as Penguin’s parents are Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger. Reubens is of course knows for his altar ego- Pee Wee Herman. Sallinger is best knows for her role as Simone in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and 10 years ago as Appolonia in the amazing Carnivale on HBO.

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This is my personal favorite of the original four Batman films. This is probably due to the fact that Burton was trusted a bit more as a director. In “Batman”, it is obvious that the producers reigned him in. Some thought Burton’s aesthetic was not the best fit for the series, effecting his removal as Director for the follow-up. This would lead to the resignation of Michael Keaton, as well as the end of any chance to see Pfeiffer in a Catwoman movie. Halle Berry would take that honor 12 years later in one of the worst films ever made.

The music of the original film by Prince was classic, and Batman Forever may have possessed the best soundtrack of any 1990’s film. The score of this one was better than the first though. Elfman was able to be unleased as well, much to the benefit of my ears. The “song” of the film- Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees (plus Elfman) is my favorite song of the Batman series, followed by Prince’s “Scandalous”.

While Affleck may overtake him, this movie solidified Keaton as my favorite on screen Batman (Conroy is the best overall). As stated before, Pfeiffer has yet to be matched as Catwoman. As great as Devito is, Robin Lord Taylor is taking the throne in “Gotham”. Christopher Walken is still the best Christopher Walken.

Batman Returns also stands as one of my top 5 Christmas movies.

Christmas Movies

  1. A Christmas Story
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  3. Scrooged
  4. Gremlins
  5. Batman Returns

2 thoughts on “Old School Review: Batman Returns”

  1. I’ve long been smitten by Michelle Pfeiffer and it probably didn’t help that I was converted at the height of Pfeiffer Mania- the release of Batman Returns.
    In the late 1980s I was thrilled by The Fabulous Baker Boys, but it was only with Selina Kyle’s whip cracking, spiked heels and barbed comments that I was fully captivated by the Pfeiffer mystique. Michelle’s performance and this review “is the gold standard!”

    1. She remains an incredible actress. I am excited to see what comes from Murder on the Orient Express this year. It is always good to see her in high profile projects.

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