May 262019
 

Batman Returns is one of the least favorite of all the Batman movies over the years, though it is far more competently made than Batman & Robin, and I still enjoyed Michael Keaton in the lead.

 

 

Batman Returns
(1992)

Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 126 min. – $41.99 | June 4, 2019

Date Published: 05/26/2019 | Author: The Movieman


MOVIE INFO:
Directed by: Tim Burton

Writer(s): Daniel Waters and Sam Hamm (story), Daniel Waters (screenplay)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Michael Murphy
DISC INFO:
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Music Video, Theatrical Trailer

Slip Cover: Yes
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: 4K, Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (Dolby Atmos), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video (4K): 2160p/Widescreen 1.85
Dynamic Range: HDR10
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codecs: HEVC / H.265
Region(s): A, B, C

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.


THE MOVIE — 2.5/5


Amongst the “Batman” fans out there, this has to be one of most controversial ‘Batman’ movie. Based upon reading many message board posts, it seems that there’s nearly a 50-50 split with some fans having Batman Returns on par or better than the original (if not still the best over Begins) and then there are others who were offended by it and believe it is the worst (or second worst ahead of Batman & Robin) Batman movie ever. Sad to say, but I am in that latter group. After watching Returns for the first time in a few years, I found myself disgusted with what I had seen.

Even though the original Batman went off the reservation when it came to the mythos by making the Joker the killer of Bruce’s parents, I could accept that. And although Nicholson’s Joker stole the show and made Batman a secondary character, I still enjoyed his performance enough that I felt like I had a good time watching. But, with this one, not only is Batman shoved back even more, playing third fiddle, but the lead and more colorful villain was absolutely loathsome… but for all the wrong reasons. I realize that one should root against the villain, but who the hell do I cheer on? Brooding millionaire Wayne? Or how about sex kitten, Catwoman, in her tight fitting costume (don’t get me wrong, that’s all good)? Where ever one turns, there’s nothing to like. Even Gotham City itself lost the little appeal it had. Director Tim Burton brought forth a dark and dank picture that nearly turned me completely off.

On a non-fanbase level, Returns is not a terrible movie. Danny DeVito is good as The Penguin and if the goal was to disgust the audience, well he surely succeeded. Michelle Pfeiffer fits right in as Catwoman and is really the only one that made the movie remotely watchable, but when trying to establish a relationship with Keaton’s Wayne, it never quite worked.

To be fair, there were a couple moments in the film that was true Batman: In the beginning when confronting a goon holding Selina Kyle, he fires one of his gadgets, striking the wall next to the thug to which the guy says “You missed!” and with a tug, Batman rips a piece of the wall and knocks the guy out. Classic and cool. At another point, Batman roams the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile at night, checking on what The Penguin was up to. Classic and cool. But these parts are not enough to overcome some of the other elements.

2019 Update: This is probably my fourth or fifth viewing of Batman Returns and my opinions has fluctuated over the years from confusion at age 11 to disgust to indifference and now this is not just a poor Batman movie but a fairly bad movie overall. The production design and overall feel of Gotham felt cheap, the costume for The Penguin was laughable, as is Danny DeVito’s, albeit energetic, performance. The only thing positive I could say is the 10-minutes of interaction between Batman/Catwoman and Bruce/Selina, the latter at Christopher Walken’s Max Schreck’s party was particularly wonderful but brief.

And yes, if you read my review from circa 2005, there are some differences, perhaps it changed with perspective of time or noticing things I hadn’t noticed before…

 

SPECIAL FEATURES – 5.0/5


This release comes with a semi-glossy and reflective slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy along with a remastered Blu-ray disc.

The commentary track from Tim Burton seemed to me a little more upbeat or lively [vs. Batman]. He spends most of the film explaining things like why he wanted to do the sequel, how the Catwoman was his second favorite villain (behind The Joker) and why he wanted to change the Penguin from a socialite to a monster (Burton never understood the TV show or comic book versions of the character). Beyond that, he also gives some tid bits/trivia such as, during the chase scene, they filmed it on a larger stage at Universal (before it was on Warner Brothers’ stages).

The weakest of the bunch is the original 1992 sneak peek called The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin (21:52). This behind-the-scenes promotional stunt looks like it originally aired on some network channel (maybe NBC) and is the typical thing you saw back in the day.

The Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight – Part 4: Dark Side of Night (30:15) – This one talks about how to make the sequel different but not too different from the original. It’s revealed that to get Burton to direct the sequel, the WB execs allowed him to make a “Tim Burton” movie, rather than being tied down the material. Also discussed is who the villain would be and then just going ahead and making it a two villain movie. A lot of the things Burton talks about here was also discussed in his commentary so some of it can be repetitive.

Beyond Batman (65:37) features 6 documentaries:

  • Gotham City Revisited: The Production Design of Batman Returns (11:16), like Visualizing Gotham before it, is about the new production design. Where Batman used a 40s style, Burton this time around went with art deco.
  • With Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of Batman Returns (13:20), even though Batman’s suit looked nice back in 1989, Burton and company decided a minor makeover was needed to match with the new art deco design. So instead of the ribbed look, they carved out an industrial style into the torso area. Along with Batman’s costume (for which they needed another body cast and such), they also show the process (via current and old interviews) of the making of The Penguin and Catwoman get-ups.
  • Making Up the Penguin (8:04) is a nicely extensive look, from the hair to the nose, at the reasons as to why they went the direction they did with The Penguin. Danny DeVito also talks about how he used the amount of make-up to his benefit. As seen before, we get to see some of Burton’s hideous designs of the Penguin.
  • Assembling the Arctic Army (9:24) is strictly about the penguins used as The Penguin’s army. Because these are penguins, the set had to be kept in the 30 degree range (plus to see the actors’ breath during some scenes). It’s also revealed, most of the penguins, while real, were also either digital (in a time where it was used minimally because it was still new) or were robotic or were people in suits with a robotic head.
  • Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of Batman (11:25) is actually cool to watch as there were (for its time) quite a few visual effect shots they had to do. Some of the more noticeable are the ending where Catwoman looks up at the Bat signal (including a motion control Catwoman, before being replaced with a double), another is Wayne Manor, the signal projected in Bruce’s library, etc.
  • Inside Elfman Studios: The Music of Batman Returns (11:13) is primarily a rehash of the featurette on Batman, though this time Elfman admits that he didn’t have anything to prove this time around. But while he does have the Batman theme down, he needed special themes for Catwoman and Penguin and others (including the penguin army march, as I like to call it).

The Heroes and Villains Galleries (18:19) are mini-featurettes covering the various characters in Returns. For heroes, they talk about Batman and Alfred while the villains go over, of course, Penguin, Catwoman and Max Shreck.

Last, again, is a Music Video (4:22) and the Theatrical Trailer.

 


VIDEO – 4.75/5


Batman Returns waddles onto 4K Ultra HD presented with a 2160p high-definition transfer (HEVC / H.265 codec) and in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio. As with Batman, this is a very dark movie, arguable even darker in tone, where colors are at a premium, though they do shine courtesy of the HDR, primarily the oranges and reds come from the explosions come through quite well. Blacks, like in the first movie, is stark but detail is still discernable, most notably on Batman’s costume, the art-deco like ridges around the stomach and ribs, as well as the edging around the eyes and mouth sections on the cowl.

AUDIO – 5.0/5


Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs come accompanied with Dolby Atmos tracks which sound pretty phenomenal. Dialogue comes through the center channel with good clarity and the action sequences really showcase the nice depth. If memory serves, the original Blu-ray from 2009 already was decent, but this takes it up a level.

 


OVERALL – 4.0/5


Overall, Batman Returns is one of the least favorite of all the Batman movies over the years, though it is far more competently made than Batman & Robin, and I still enjoyed Michael Keaton in the lead. This 4K/Blu-ray combo pack ports over the excellent bonus material to go along with well done video/audio transfers.

 

 

 

 

The screen captures came from the Blu-ray copy and are here to add visuals to the review and do not represent the 4K video.

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