Batman Returns, the sequel to 1989’s Batman, sees Tim Burton and Michael Keaton, er, return to Gotham City to dish out some more vigilante justice to its seedy criminal underbelly. This time the caped crusader’s nemeses come in the form of the grotesque Penguin, the extremely slinky Catwoman and the ruthless business tycoon, Maximilian Shreck. The Penguin, otherwise known as Oswald Cobblepot, is called the Penguin because of his vile physical appearance. Abandoned as a baby, he amasses an army of circus freaks and actual penguins, in a bid to take revenge over the city that abandoned him. When Selina Kyle, Shreck’s fumbling secretary comes across his plans to take control of all of Gotham’s power by building a giant capacitor, Shrek ejects her from the building. Several stories above the ground. After her fallen body is ravaged by cats, she awakes, takes on the urge to make a costume, and becomes the super sexy Catwoman. After a run in with Batman, Catwoman falls from a building (again) after he fails to save her, and yet again is left for dead. Forming an allegiance, albeit a fragile one, the villains conspire to get rid of the one thing that keeps disrupting their schemes, The Dark Knight.
1989’s Batman was a hard act to follow. A brilliant movie from start to finish, which would take something special to top it. Luckily then, this was the era when Tim Burton’s output was near perfect. The Christmas set Batman Returns, sees an improvement over an already fantastic previous film, with inspired casting for the villains, with Danny DeVito in absolutely fiendish form as the disgusting Penguin, and Michelle Phieffer is perfectly cast as the perfectly formed Catwoman, and there’s a great turn by Christopher Walken as the Pantomime villain, Shreck. Although it is a Batman film, the villains take centre stage, which is no bad thing, as there is plenty of action involving Keaton’s Batman, including a great post-opening credits set-piece where the Penguin’s thugs stage an attack on the Gotham Christmas lights switching on ceremony. The film boasts a superbly gothic visual style, which really sets the tone of the film, which is dark, yet slightly comic. Without wanting to compare the films as they are different products from different times, Batman Returns is to Batman (89) what the Dark Knight is to Batman Begins. A fantastic continuation of an already impressive first instalment. And while I do prefer the Nolan films to Tim Burton’s, it’s not afraid to get surreal. Nolan’s Batman may be grounded in realism, but Batman Returns just entertains from start to finish and does so with it’s tongue occasionally in cheek. While it’s no Dark Knight, it’s certainly a runner up for greatest Batman film so far. A gem from beginning to end with an excellent style, brilliant script and fantastic performances from all.