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Batman ReturnsUSA 1992
Directed by Tim Burton
Running time 126 minutes
If William Shakespeare has made Batman Returns it would have been called “Much Ado About Nothing". Instead Tim Burton follows up his marvellous 1989 Batman with an incessantly overbearing serving of more Gothic lowering, cartoon violence and a thundering Danny Elfman score. When he had a decent story and Jack Nicholson this combination worked but without these ingredients, the second time around the results are tedious.
Abandoned at birth because of his deformities the Penguin (Danny DeVito) grows up in the sewers of Gotham City, Understandably he has an anti-social attitude and this chimes well with the evil ambitions of tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), who is planning to build a power plant that will drain the city of its energy. When his mousey secretary (Michelle Pfeiffer) discovers the scheme he tries to kill her but she is transformed into Catwoman. All three are sworn enemies of Batman (Michael Keaton).
The performances are all fine though De Vito’s Penguin is simply not in the league of Nicholson’s Joker, being more pitiful than gleefully malevolent. And in place of a decent story, Burton amps up the SFX and action. Everything about Batman Returns is simply bigger, darker and noisier than before but whilst the first film had a kind of exhilarating sociopathology about it, the overall effect here is one of almost relentless grimness. Even Keaton’s Batman is a curiously ineffectual almost resigned figure with none of the larger-than-life presence essential to a superhero.
Perhaps in acknowledgement of the film’s failure Keaton bowed out of the franchise with Val Kilmer taking over the part of the Caped Crusader, as did Burton. with Joel Schumacher taking over the directorial reins for Batman Forever, although to no better effect.