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Reviews Comments: Burton goes to further extremes. Batman Returns film/book review by uncannybeetle

Batman Returns is a very odd film to review. On the one hand, it has the same music and is even more of a visual treat than Burton's first Batman movie. The winter motif is gorgeous, and the movie can be recommended for that reason alone. On the other hand, it takes everything that was wrong with the first movie and dials those factors up to eleven.

I'll styart with one improvement. This time Bruce is socially active and not a complete recluse. That alone goes a long way towards making the character more like Bruce Wayne than just a guy saying he's Bruce Wayne.

But his alter ego, Batman, is even more of a sociopath this time around. He burns people alive and even smiles at a man he has just strapped a bomb to. Then he has the hypocritical nerve to tell Catwoman that the law applies to people like them so she shouldn't kill Shrek. When you see him say that to her, remember that bomb scene.

But for some reason he can feel guilt about hitting women, even one whose only actions in front of him were blowing up a store and trying to beat him up. This isn't a matter of a 'connection' between them stopping him. She's blowing stuff up! Don't apologize to her right after that! Not if you're going around setting other criminals on fire.

Again, the villains' backstories either don't give them proper motivation or are just too wierd. Why does Shrek want to suck the energy from Gotham? I don't know. What does the Penguin want? I don't know. He lied about not knowing who his parents were and running for mayor was not his idea. Catwoman is the only character with any real motivation for anything she does; you just have to suspend your disbelief that going nuts gives a timid secretary acrobatic skills to fight with Batman. It didn't work with the Joker in the last movie, but I'll admit that's nitpicking.

So with Catwoman being the only person with any motivation, and Batman being wildly inconsistent, there is again no plot, only a sequence of events that make little sense when put together.

While I have largely criticized both Burton Batman movies, I do not think that they are bad. They are great Burton movies. But as Batman movies they fall pretty flat.


  • Nemo
  • 9th Aug 12
I thought Penguins motivation was pretty simple- he was abandoned by his parents as a child for his deformity and generally shunned by society, hence he wanted appropriate revenge on society. As he would have been the heir to one of Gotham's wealthiest families, kidnapping and killing the first born children of Gotham's wealthiest families had a certain amount of poetic justice.

Being manipulated to run for Mayor by Shrek is a bit weird, but it at least fits into Shrek's characterisation as a power-made schemer (it's not very deep, but hey, comic book movie).
  • Nemo
  • 9th Aug 12
Also, the Burton films tend to emphasise Bruce Wayne's Man Child traits more. In addition to the general social-akwardness, the casual sociopathy kind of fits in with this- "Wheee!!! I'm just playing a game! I don't care if I casually maim/kill people". As for the apologising for hitting Catwoman, again Man Child- "Oh no! I just hit a girl and now she's crying! I'm gonna get into trouble!"

Granted it's not very accurate to the comics/cartoons and YMMV but as it's own interpretation of the character I've always found it quite interesting.
  • uncannybeetle
  • 9th Aug 12
The question is why the deception. He might have wanted acceptance, but then Batman says he knows who his parents are already. If that one line was not there I'd mostly be fine with it.

There was one moment I wished I had more room to wirte about. When the Penguin says "You're just jealous because I'm a genuine freak and you have to wear a mask" and Batman replies "you might be right." That's some really interesting stuff that was unfortunately not explored.

I also have to wonder what would happen if someone was visiting Wayne Manor when the bat signal went off. Even for a recluse that's lol stupid.
  • Nemo
  • 9th Aug 12
I think you see him looking through the census forms to get a checklist of the various first-born children he intends to kidnap- the looking for his parents ruse was just a means to get access to the census forms.

I do agree on the failure to explore the characters more fully- that's a general issue with Burton- he tries to let the set design tell as much of the story as possible, so a lot of deeper character stuff isn't as explored as it could be.

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