‘Batman Returns’ (Film)

‘BATMAN RETURNS’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Batman with the Penguin and the Catwoman

‘Batman Returns’ is the follow-up to the first ‘Batman’ movie. It was again directed by Tim Burton and stars Michael Keaton as Batman. I enjoyed this movie, although it was a pretty ‘dark’ film to watch!

This movie also features two super-villains in it. It has Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Both are pretty terrifying and menacing in different measures during the film.

When I first saw the movie in the ‘Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology’ DVD box set, I found it pretty horrific in certain places. A lot of the film varied in taste from very gruesome to eerily moving.

This was due to the director Tim Burton’s style of directing. I could tell he was implementing his horror clichés in this movie for us to enjoy as well as adding familiar ‘Batman’ elements we know and love.

Again, I enjoyed the balance of action sequences as well as the dark nature implemented by director Tim Burton. He also enjoyed utilising the two central villains, the Penguin and Catwoman, for this movie.

I don’t think ‘Batman Returns’ is better than the first ‘Batman’ movie. The story’s pretty complex in places, so it was a challenge to keep track of what was going on. But it was entertaining all the same.

Michael Keaton returns in his second appearance as Batman/Bruce Wayne in this movie. Again, I enjoyed the balance he played in the two roles, especially as he fights two villains at the same time.

There’s a moment in the movie where Batman reveals his identity to Catwoman as he takes off the mask and he’s Bruce Wayne. This was surprising to see with Batman doing that, as it’s rarely done.

I also enjoyed it when Batman was fighting the criminals both in the Batmobile and out on the streets of Gotham City. His confrontations with the Penguin and Catwoman were so intriguingly compelling.

Danny DeVito stars as the Penguin in this movie. For me, Danny DeVito starred and directed my favourite children’s film ‘Matilda’. He’s very different in his appearance and performance as Penguin.

In this film, the Penguin is pretty disgusting and gleefully evil. There’s a moment where the Penguin bites somebody’s nose. That was horrible! The Penguin works his way into society from the sewers.

And of course with Danny DeVito as the Penguin, there are also some real penguins to see in this movie. The Penguin even has a gigantic rubber duck to travel in whilst in the sewers of Gotham City!

Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Catwoman in this movie. Michelle’s Catwoman is pretty agile, especially when she does somersaults. She’s also very playful and menacing, especially when she’s fighting Batman.

I like how Catwoman develops as a character, from being a timid secretary in Selina Kyle to being confident and slinky as Catwoman. She also forms a romantic relationship with Bruce Wayne in the movie.

The film also features Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. I’ve seen Walken in the comedy film ‘Mouse Hunt’ with Nathan Lane and Lee Evans. Shreck is a very wealthy businessman and industrialist.

He’s also known to be ‘The Santa Claus of Gotham’. But he’s not as pleasant as he seems to be. Shreck is very power-obsessed as he works with the Penguin and kills Selina before she becomes Catwoman.

There’s an atmosphere of this being a Christmas film, especially as the story is set at that time with snow and Christmas tree decorations. However, the movie’s darker tones make it less Christmassy.

The film also features the return of Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon. They’ve remained constant throughout the four ‘Batman’ films!

‘Batman Returns’ isn’t as good as the first ‘Batman’ movie. The story isn’t as clear and it is pretty gruesome in places. But I enjoyed watching Michael Keaton as Batman with Penguin and Catwoman.

This movie features the last appearance of Michael Keaton in the role of Batman in the film series. This is a shame, especially as this film ends with an appearance of Catwoman who seems to be still alive.

‘Batman Returns’ was released on a 2-disc special edition DVD in 2005. The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s an audio commentary by director Tim Burton and a theatrical trailer of the movie.

On Disc 2, there’s the vintage ‘The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin’ documentary; the ‘Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight, Part 4’ documentary and the ‘Beyond Batman’ documentary/gallery. There’s also the ‘Face to Face’ music video by Siouxsie and the Banshees; ‘The Heroes’ profiles gallery and ‘The Villains’ profile gallery.

‘Batman Returns’ rating – 7/10


‘BATMAN RETURNS’ (NOVELIZATION)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Tim Burton Universe of Batman’ Continues In Book

‘Batman Faces Two Adversaries…One Villainous…The Other Mysterious…’

It’s ironic how I’ve progressed with my journey in examining these ‘Batman’ movie novelizations. It all started in 2018 with me being curious about the ‘Batman Forever’ novelization and whether the story was better in book form. Then I started again by looking at the first ‘Batman’ film novelization.

This was in February to March 2019 and in time to celebrate the 1989’s film’s 30th anniversary. I continued that celebration by seeing the first ‘Batman’ film at the local cinema for a re-release. As I write this review, here I’m continuing my endeavour to examine the ‘Batman’ movies in book form.

I continue this examination by looking at the ‘Batman Returns’ novelization. This is before I finish the exploration of the ‘Batman’ films with the movie novelization of ‘Batman & Robin’, but that’s for another time. I’ve enjoyed revisiting the original ‘Batman’ film series, examining them via book form.

I’ve read ‘Batman Returns’ in the months of August and September 2019. I even read the book while I was away for the ‘Film & Comic Con Glasgow’ in 2019. I re-watched the ‘Batman Returns’ movie chapter by chapter according to the book so as to compare what was similar and what was different.

‘Batman Returns’ is a peculiar story in the ‘Batman’ film series. And I say that with the highest respect and with keen interest. It’s continues on from what director Tim Burton had envisaged with Batman in the first movie from 1989. However, ‘Batman Returns’ takes on a much darker tone here.

The story is rather complex in places and there are themes that were deemed pretty dark at the time of the film’s release in 1992. There were criticisms on more focus on the villains than on Batman himself. It was considered to be less kid-friendly. The dark tones were toned in future films.

I don’t consider ‘Batman Returns’ to be a favourite ‘Batman’ movie of mine. But I admit it is a better film than ‘Batman & Robin’. My main issue with the film is that it tries very hard to weave in so many story elements which the first film didn’t have to do as it was quite a straight-forward action film.

I agree the villains tend to have more focus than Batman. But with that said, and having read the movie novelization myself, I’ve been able to appreciate the characters’ thoughts and motivations with why they did what they did regarding actions and how Bruce Wayne/Batman connects to them.

The book is by Craig Shaw Gardner, who previously wrote the movie novelization for the first ‘Batman’ movie. Surprisingly, Gardner takes a different approach to novelize ‘Batman Returns’ compared to novelizing the first ‘Batman’ film. For the first ‘Batman’ film, the book had 19 chapters.

For ‘Batman Returns’, there are 42 short chapters with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end. I was surprised by this approach. I assumed Gardner would use the same approach he applied for the first ‘Batman’ movie novelization with the one for ‘Batman Returns’. Rather unusual.

But having read the ‘Batman Returns’ novelization, I appreciate Gardner dividing the story like that into 42 short chapters. With the story being complex and focusing a lot on the villains’ motivations, I was able to understand why the Penguin did what he did and why Catwoman did what she did here.

From watching the film itself, I had a challenge trying to understand who the Penguin’s character was. Catwoman wasn’t too much of a problem.But even as she shared the villain spotlight with Penguin, the film could easily fall into the trap of the ‘too many villains’ syndrome as in ‘Spider-Man 3’.

I like how Gardner’s novelization clarifies certain points that I didn’t pick up from the film from very earlier watches. This is especially concerning the villains, although Gardner might have stuck to what was in the original screenplay by Daniel Waters and the story by Daniel Waters and Sam Hamm before it got changed.

The sole objective of the Penguin’s plans is to have revenge on Gotham City after having lived in the sewers with his penguin family because his parents threw him into the river as a child. He did the political stuff in promoting himself to become mayor in order to put a false scent of his villainous scheme.

It was interesting to read from the Penguin’s point of view how he saw the citizens of Gotham City. He takes on a gruesome view towards life. And when Batman reveals his true colours via an edited public address, it’s clear the Penguin wants to rid life in Gotham, starting off with the city’s first born children.

Selina Kyle is an interesting character to begin with when she’s depicted in the story both in film and book form. She starts off being timid, nervous and simply doing her secretary job for Max Shreck. But when she gets pushed out and killed by Max as well as receiving her cat life, she totally changes.

Becoming Catwoman, she becomes confident and sure of herself. This is especially to the point where she seeks revenge on Max for trying to kill her. Selina’s relationship with Bruce Wayne is also interesting, especially as they start dating before the two discover each other’s superhero identities.

At the stage she’s Catwoman, Selina becomes a torn person. She seeks a down-to-earth life whilst at the same time seeking for adventure and mischief. Her refusal to accept Bruce’s offer to be better than what she is as Catwoman before she killed Max at the end signifies her unpredictable nature.

There’s not much in terms of many changes to the actual plot of the film’s story in the book, though certain scenes get switched around in different order. For example, in the film Max Shreck finds Selina Kyle in his office looking through his files a scene after he had just seen Penguin in the sewers.

In the book, the stuff where the Penguin is being introduced to the Gotham world for the first time as a public hero takes place in-between Max’s first meeting with Penguin and the Max killing Selina scene. It did make me wonder whether it all took place in one night in the book instead of few days.

There’s also the scene where Selina meets Bruce Wayne for the first time in Max Shreck’s office. In the film, that scene takes place after Catwoman rescues a woman from a mugger. In the book, the scene takes place before that. Interesting how that got changed from the original script into the film.

From reading the book, I also noticed that the repeat of Selina saying “Honey, I’m home. Oh I forgot, I’m not married” after she was revived by cats following her death isn’t included. I think the movie version of Selina returning home after she got killed and revived is better than the one for the book.

From reading the book, I picked up that Bruce Wayne wasn’t fond of Max Shreck. There seems to be this rivalry between them and Bruce is disapproving of Max’s business efforts. This is when Max has a meeting with Bruce over a new power plant he’s preparing to which Bruce is very opposed against.

The motivations of Max’s character are interesting. He killed Selina in order to protect his work at his own company. It seems to me that Max acts before he thinks and he realises the mistake he made when he tried to kill Selina. His relationship with his son Chip was interesting I was reading the book.

The Christmas atmosphere is prevalent throughout the book as in the film. I don’t think the book would be good to read over Christmas time in much as the film can be seen at Christmas. The darker elements of the movie make it feel less Christmassy, especially when the Penguin does horrid things.

I picked up more on the Penguin and Catwoman trying to ruin Batman as a hero. This is especially when they make it look like Batman killed the Ice Princess. I felt sorry for the Ice Princess. I know she pushed an elderly woman in Chapter 6, but the Ice Princess didn’t deserve such a horrible death as that.

By the way, I’ve noticed some parts of the book are written from the Penguin’s perspective at times. At least, I noticed it in the early chapters of the book when he sends his Red Triangle Circus Gang to attack Gotham. I think it’d be better to have the Penguin’s perspective parts in italics to indicate this.

The book does illustrate Batman’s ingenuity as a detective both as a superhero and in his identity as Bruce Wayne. He has Alfred assisting him to find out more about Penguin’s motivations before he can expose the villain’s public image as a fraud. I found this compelling while I was reading the book.

In many respects, ‘Batman Returns’ is the longest movie novelization I’ve read despite its short chapters. There’s a lot to process regarding characters’ motivations. But it helps to have the book divided like that in order to process what everybody is doing in order to work for the story’s benefit.

Sadly though, it doesn’t help the story’s action scenes to be more dynamic. For the early part of the book where the action takes place as the Penguin’s Red Triangle Gang attacks Gotham, it takes about 10 chapters to get through it. I think the action sequence would’ve been great as one chapter.

Again, it’s very unusual to find ‘Batman Returns’ as a longer book with short chapters whilst the first ‘Batman’ movie novelization is a short book with long chapters. Unless you read five chapters per day from the book, you would find it very engrossing as you take details from the story inside out.

There is the issue regarding the book’s climax in not being action-packed enough and not having an epic fight between Batman and the villains. That is certainly true, especially when Penguin rises up from the sewer waters and is about to fight Batman unmasked before he collapses to the floor dead.

It would’ve been better to have Penguin going on a rampage against Batman in his bloodied scared force in the same way that Green Goblin brutally punched up Spider-Man in the first ‘Spider-Man’ movie. That sadly didn’t occur whilst I was reading the book itself as well as watching the film again.

The book ends on different note compared to how the movie ended. In the film, Bruce thought he saw Catwoman’s shadow when he was in the car with Alfred driving in the snow. In the book, there isn’t a shadow of Catwoman. There’s not even Catwoman looking up at the sky seeing the Bat signal.

I’m surprised by that. I wonder if Catwoman’s appearance at the end of the film wasn’t included in the original script. Maybe Tim Burton liked Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman so much that he decided to include her at the end to indicate she may have survived after all and maybe appear in a future film.

Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer were considering a future spin-off ‘Catwoman’ film which would’ve been interesting had it been made. Unfortunately that ended up being the Halle Berry ‘Catwoman’ movie but there’s no need to talk about that. Anyway, in the book, Catwoman’s fate isn’t revealed.

Overall, I found the ‘Batman Returns’ novelization an enjoyable read. I still don’t consider ‘Batman Returns’ to be an absolute favourite. But having read the book, I’ve been able to appreciate the more intricate details and the motivations of the characters like the villainous Penguin and Catwoman.

Craig Shaw Gardner does a fine job clarifying details, especially with dividing the story into 42 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue, even though the action-packed scenes get squandered in the early part of the story. I’ve been able to appreciate ‘Batman Returns’ more in a book than in film.

Will my appreciation of ‘Batman Forever’ in book form than in movie form be the same? 😀

‘Batman Returns’ (Novelization) rating – 8/10


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6 thoughts on “‘Batman Returns’ (Film)

  1. Great review Tim, my issue is with the conclusion, there’s no fight scenes & the Bat-ski-boat does literally nothing cool, i also think there was to much focus on The Penguin & not enough on Batman but it’s still a decent if flawed Batman movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Simon.

    Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Batman Returns’. Like I said, I don’t think this film is as good as the first ‘Batman’ movie. Yeah, there was too much focus on Penguin and not enough on Batman. But then again, the story was complex in places. Despite that, I found this movie pretty entertaining and enjoyable to watch.

    Thanks for your comments, Simon.

    Tim. 🙂

    Like

  3. Hello Tim,

    Thanks for reviewing the novelization, although I was somewhat surprised when you stated that you felt sorrier for the Ice Princess after reading it. Do you recall the part of the novel when The Penguin watches the Ice Princess push a little old lady down to the ground, and Craig Shaw Gardner describes the ‘old bag’ as being ‘sure to be trampled’? I’d have thought that would reduce one’s sympathy for the character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mat

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on the ‘Batman Returns’ novelization.

      To be honest, I forgot the Ice Princess pushed an old lady to the ground in the story. I checked the novelization again and saw that it did happen in Chapter 6 of the story. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

      I’ve amended my review to include that aspect of the novelization with the Ice Princess as well as my thoughts on sections regarding the story taken from the Penguin’s perspective.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim. 🙂

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      • Hello Tim,

        Thank you for your response, and amendments to your review. 🙂

        No one really deserves to die by falling a couple of hundred feet and landing on an electric switch, but I still wonder if the Ice Princess’s fate was implied to be a form of karma for shoving a little old lady to the ground to be trampled to death, as the novelisation suggests.

        I just like the idea that it’s not just ‘ugly’ or ‘freaky’ people like The Penguin and his gang, or the admittedly beautiful but still outcast Catwoman, who can cause great harm to others, and that even normal and conventionally beautiful people like the Ice Princess are not perhaps as perfect as their outward beauty might suggest.

        Have you ever read the Making Of Book for Batman Returns? I like the various character descriptions that are contained in the first part of the book spotlighting the actors, and where, in respect to the Ice Princess, it says “considering what happens to the Ice Princess is Batman Returns you’d feel a lot sorrier for her if she wasn’t the type to shove little old ladies to the pavement to save her own (admittedly beautiful) skin”.

        Anyway, thanks for your time Tim.

        Mat

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Mat

        I’ve not come across the making-of book for ‘Batman Returns’. It’s probably out of print where I am in the UK. It might be on Amazon though.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Ice Princess’ demise as well as what was indicated in the character descriptions from the making-of book. I wouldn’t have considered that aspect of the story as I was reading the novelization and watching the film. Learning more about the Ice Princess’ character in this regard has opened my eyes more to the story of ‘Batman Returns’ in intricate detail.

        Thanks for your comments, Mat.

        Tim. 🙂

        Like

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