By Dominic Antill

Much has been made of the latest Batman instalments, with Christopher Nolan going to great lengths to strip back the Batman tales. But for me, Tim Burton’s attempt was far better at conjuring a dark, eccentric, comic book fantasy feel than its modern counterparts. 

Following on from his very successful first instalment Batman, Batman Returns is a more ambitious spectacle altogether. 

Indeed, its only downfall perhaps is that it tries a little too hard in trying to make its mark. But that aside the key to this film’s success is its devotion to developing the three main character’s stories.

Michael Keaton is far better at the conflicted psyche of our main hero than any of his subsequent successors. There is an additional layer of quirkiness to his performance, almost acknowledging that perhaps a man dressing up as a bat may be a little eccentric, but this allocates for the fantastical to occur, which it does to some epic proportions here. 

The Penguin, played by Danny DeVito, provides the perfect counterbalance to the Bruce Wayne/Batman complex – he is a monster trying to be accepted, the flip side to the coin, which draws a tragic undertone to his ultimately failing. 

DeVito complete with jagged teeth, deformed hands and a pointy nose may sound ridiculous, but his characterisation substantiates a far greater weighting than simply just being the villain.

Then we have Catwoman, perhaps forever viewed with trepidation thanks to Halle Berry’s attempt – Michelle Pfeiffer as the original (in reboot terms anyway) however is excellent. 

Selina Kyle leads a very drab life, vulnerable and lonely; her encounter one evening with her boss at work Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) sees her pushed out of a window to her death, only to be reborn as Catwoman.

Pfeiffer, leather clad with a wicked tongue, is an intoxicating mix for both Batman and the viewer. A sensual performance, Catwoman is ambivalent to Batman’s morals, instead taking a feminist stance against the big egos charging round Gotham. 

The script does very well to conjure a dark humour out of the extremities of these profiles, a satirical embellishment that tries not to take itself overly seriously whilst still retracting a very humanistic grounding to each character. 

As the threads draw to the final scenes the three psychotically imbalanced characters take it in turns to resolve their personal misgivings with one another, all this while remote controlled penguins equipped with missiles look set to decimate Gotham city. 

The climax may not evoke an edge-of-your-seat response from the viewer, however as their fates are so desperately entwined the obscure soap opera drama need suffice. The ending may not be entirely satisfying but it’s not only Batman that you have invested interest in – which is refreshing.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.