If “Batman” was the opening act of Tim Burton’s iteration of Batman, “Batman Returns” is a pretty epic second chorus that pretty much completes the picture. Whether or not you believe Burton dropped out, or was ousted by Warner for being too dark or violent, “Batman Returns” is a pretty good closing chapter in Burton’s Batman world, even in spite of its flaws. Hell, it’s a better film than “Batman,” despite the fact it objectively garners the more obvious flaws than the 1989 original.
After being born disfigured like a penguin, Oswald Cobblepot returns to Gotham anxious to find his roots, and stages crimes to make himself a hero as a means of rising to political power. Standing in his way is Batman who sees through Oswald’s charade, and quickly becomes the target of Penguin and his gang of Circus criminals. Meanwhile Selena Kyle, a young secretary who survives a murder attempt by her boss, crooked politician Max Shreck, comes back for vengeance as the whip wielding vigilante Catwoman. Things get even more complicated when Bruce Wayne falls in love with Selena Kyle, who as Catwoman teams with Oswald to destroy Batman’s reputation and turn him in to a criminal.
“Batman Returns” is probably the most vivid vision Tim Burton has in regards to how he pictures Gotham city. While this follow up is a tad more of a spectacle, it keeps true to his intent toward Batman as a mythical crime fighter who is pushed in to the spotlight by two criminal masterminds. As with the Joker, Burton often seems more infatuated with his villains than Batman, and he gives equal narrative time to Catwoman and Penguin, both of whom have their own devious plans. They’re both allies and working against one another. All the while their paths lead to central villain Max Shreck, masterfully played by Christopher Walken.
“Batman Returns” watches better than “Batman” despite the more glaring flaws–and this film is wrought with flaws. Batman doesn’t show up until at least fifteen minutes in to his own movie. Catwoman and Penguin are basically the main characters. Bruce Wayne is depicted as a bit slow witted, and apparently sits in his office in the dark waiting for the bat signal to come on. And can someone please tell me how Penguin got the plans to the Batmobile? That said, “Batman Returns” is a lot of fun, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman still arouses—erm–excitement.
The new release from Warner includes the fantastic new 4K UHD, a Blu-Ray copy, and a Digital Copy for collectors. The UHD contains a vintage commentary track with Tim Burton only. The remastered Blu-Ray, once again, includes features previously included in the Batman Anthology set from years past. There’s your usual audio commentary from Tim Burton who does an okay job, there’s “Shadows of the Bat, Part 4” a thirty minute documentary continuing with a look at the story, performances, casting, and production of “Batman Returns.”
There’s “Beyond Batman” an hour long look at “Batman Returns” that includes six featurettes giving good overviews of the Gotham City sound stage, the film’s make-up applications, special effects, costumes, and more. “The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin” is a twenty two minute EPK with more of the standard interviews and some praise for the production. “The Heroes and the Villains” is an eighteen minute series of video profiles focusing on Batman, the Penguin, Catwoman, Alfred, and Max Shreck. There’s the music video from Soiuxsie and the Banshees with Face to Face, and finally the original theatrical trailer.