As with the franchise’s previous outing, Tim Burton uses his established aesthetic to produce a more than unordinary superhero adaptation that combines buoyant campiness with a horror-like atmosphere. Batman Returns makes no efforts to downplay the zaniness of what the comic-book genre can exude, whether it be from the many human characters obsessed with being some type of animal, the rocket-shooting penguins, or umm… pretty much everything else about this movie.
While the action in Burton’s follow-up is certainly an improvement from its predecessor, much of the filmmaker’s focus seems to be on crafting these attributes to clarity in sacrifice for what turns out to be a film with an overabundance of plot, grand events, and rushed turning points, along with a questionable amount of elongated sequences used to explicate the insane chunk of characters this movie crowds into two hours—a computer-tech-reliant Michael Keaton Batman, a dorky turned sensual woman dressed in tights, a viciously perverted man who had been outcasted by society due to his physical deformities, and a super-rich + powerful Christopher Walkens. This movie was also the beginning of the franchise’s progressive increase in ridiculed cheesiness which, by the time we got to Batman Forever and especially Batman & Robin, hit a head-hurting benchmark of “too much to handle.”
Yet, Batman Returns is entertaining enough due to the performances that encapsulate these arguably excessive characters. No matter how utterly horny their personas can be or how laughably overkill their origins, destinies, and ambitions are, it’s all, in the end, spared at no expenses in promoting fun and games. If anything, it makes Batman Returns quite special? Big shoutouts to Michell Pfeiffer and Danny Devito—they seriously give it their absolute ALL in this acceptable sequel.
“Batman Returns” is now available to stream on HBO Max.