daniel cohen looks at the second burton batman…
Release Date: 1992
First Saw It: About 3 weeks after it opened in Danvers, MA. I was eight years old, and the previews kind of scared me a little bit. I finally manned up and asked my mom to take me…she did.
What Drew Me to See It: It’s Batman…obviously.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken
Random Appearance Award: I bet you didn’t know that the Penguin’s father is actually Pee-Wee Herman. Yup…Paul Reubens, the actor who plays Pee-Wee, plays Oswald Cobblepot’s father at the beginning of the movie.
Thank God They Weren’t Cast: This is a pretty infamous story, but Sean Young, who was set to play Vicki Vale in the original film before getting hurt, wanted the role of Catwoman so bad, she came into the producer’s office in full Catwoman gear…yikes.
Director: Tim Burton
The Best Performance: This is a really tough call. I love Michael Keaton as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, but this is a two horse race. As creepy and dedicated as DeVito is to his portrayal of the Penguin, some amazing make-up did enhance a lot of his performance. I got to give it to Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Not only is she sexy and manipulative inside the costume, but her range as this character is quite impressive, as she also has to play the lowly shy secretary. It’s an intense performance from Pfeiffer, and Anne Hathaway has a lot to live up to.
The Supporting Scene Stealer: Even though he’s technically one of the main characters, I’m throwing a bone to Walken, just because he really is the unsung hero of this film. He plays the charismatic evil asshole to perfection. To this day, I’ll never forget the moment right before he pushes Selina Kyle out that window…now that’s acting.
The Moment to Remember: There are a lot of great moments in Batman Returns, but for some reason the one that sticks out to me most is a very subtle one. It’s towards the end of the film, and Batman’s arrival at the Penguin’s hideout is imminent as he barrels down the water in that bat-sub. All of Penguin’s circus cronies begin to leave him. The whole crux of the Penguin character is that he’s been ignored and abandoned his whole life, and now he is finally left with no one. It’s incredible that despite this guy’s truly horrific plan of wanting to slay all first born sons in Gotham, there’s part of me that’s sympathetic towards this monster. Also, Penguin rides away on his duck car, and that car is one of the greatest vehicles in the history of cinema.
The Memorable Quote: “Ah, the direct approach. I admire that in a man with a mask.” –Penguin to Batman
The Groan Moment: This one’s easy: Batman taking off his mask at the end. Now I have no issue with Batman revealing himself to Catwoman. I can live with that. But Max Shreck is standing right there! What the hell, Batman! It seems like that could create some problems for Batman later on down the line. Batman got lucky that Selina killed him.
Why I Can’t Stop Watching It: This is a great movie, and one of Tim Burton’s last great films. But as we all know, Batman Returns is a very controversial film. It’s one of those movies that truly divides people. While I love it, I understand why Batman fans hate it. Being a die hard Batman fan myself, I understand that this isn’t the most accurate depiction of the character, especially with regards to the Penguin. But I appreciate this as a movie, and I don’t think it’s so far off from the character that he’s unrecognizable. But as a film, the characters are very deep, the sets are outstanding, and I truly believe this film is the best work of composer Danny Elfman’s career. I know it’s a bit weird, out there, and just plain demented, but I love the world Burton creates here. But, hey…it’s not for everybody.
Next Week on Batman Month – Fantasy Bat Casting. With Batman being re-booted after the Dark Knight Rises, who do I want to see in some of the bigger Batman roles? Same bat time, same bat channel…