Plot: A ruthless business named Max (Christopher Walken) seeks to take control of Gotham City, but he wants to do so in a subtle way, so that he doesn’t look bad in the process. His bids to leverage his hold on the city’s energy resources haven’t worked out, so he needs a new plan and soon. When a strange man emerges from the underworld of Gotham, Max thinks he has found his golden ticket, as he can shape this unusual man’s persona and rally to put him in a position of power. Once he has put the man into power, Max can orchestrate his control from behind the scenes, using the new golden boy as a puppet of sorts. But this new face in Gotham is Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito) and Max will soon discover, he is no one’s puppet. As also known as the Penguin, Oswald is a deformed man who was abandoned by his parents as a newborn, a tale of woe he spins into a prospective political campaign. Meanwhile, Batman (Michael Keaton) keeps a watchful eye on these two shady dudes, but he has his hands full with a mysterious female with some feline tendencies. Is Batman too distracted to see what is going on, or will he be able to fight this multi-front battle and save Gotham once again?
Entertainment Value: This sequel continues the dark approach of Tim Burton’s Batman, but dials up both the bleakness and the comic book melodrama. The Joker was a wild, larger than life persona in the first picture, but compared to the villains in this one, he seems almost downright subtle. Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken conjure up performances right out of the comic book pages, corny, over the top, and one liners from all directions. Walken is always eccentric in his roles, but he looks like a maniac in this one and his performance is totally bananas, easily one of his most unhinged mainstream roles. DeVito also hams it up and barks his lines like a true cornball, comic book villain, while Pfeiffer turns her seductive persona up to ludicrous, soap opera levels. I loved the absurd performances of our villains, as it made the movie feel like a comic book and to me, that is a huge positive. Michael Keaton is more or less just a stage prop, as he is buried by his costars’ enthusiastic performances, but it works, because Burton’s Batman is a neurotic tool. The visuals are dark and atmospheric, once again giving us a Gotham that feels alive and part of the narrative. I know this sequel is over the top and camps up the comic book vibes to moonshot levels, but I think this is a fun, highly entertaining movie.
No nakedness. Pfeiffer channels a sex starved porn star in her performance here, but no sex scenes unfold. I loved her soap opera inspired, melodrama soaked turn here though, super fun to watch. The movie does have a little blood here and there, as well as some interesting death scenes. Catwoman’s electrical kiss of death is outlandish, but great at the same time, while the idea of a mobilized militia of penguins strapped with rockets is a wonderful concept. The bloodshed is never graphic and is mostly fight wounds, a little blood here or a scratch there. Despite the over the top comic book feel, the movie is still dark and handles the violence in a more realistic fashion. This one is loaded with one liners, awkward interactions, and thanks to the wild performances, even basic lines tend to come off as melodrama. As I mentioned before, the villains really dial up the camp and that results in a lot of hilarious, odd moments. Batman’s emo presence is also the source of some entertainment, but the villains steal the show here. The melodrama, over the top performances, and strange moments add up to some solid craziness. I mean, the electrical kiss, the penguin funeral, and the penguin militia are just some of the oddball things that happen here.
Overall Insanity: 4/10
The Disc: This movie has been given the 4k treatment by Warner Brothers and the new remaster looks excellent, a beautiful presentation. The film’s dark visuals shine in this edition, with deep, inky black levels that contrast so well with the bursts of vivid, bold colors that appear. That was a must for Batman Returns, as many of the scenes are cloaked in shadows and need that razor sharp contrast performance. The image boasts much improved detail and depth as well, with even the most subtle visual elements on prominent showcase. You can see the tiniest textures on the stitches on Catwoman’s costume, for example. This is a gorgeous presentation that offers a massive enhancement over previous releases.
All of the extras have been collected and ported to this version, including Tim Burton’s audio comments, the Beyond Batman documentary, and just under an hour of promotional featurettes. This release also includes heroes and villains profiles, a music video, and the film’s trailer.