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Prompted by my viewings (saw it twice and can't wait for the D.Cut) of ZACH SNYDER’S already criminally underrated BATMAN V. SUPERMAN (mark my words, in time, the film will be perceived as a classic); I caught a bad case of Supes and Batman fever hence prompting me to re-visit a couple of graphic novels and older celluloid incarnations, one of them being Tim Burton’s then (in 1992 that is) uber misunderstood BATMAN RETURNS (WATCH IT HERE).
The history that is tagged to that flick fascinates the Night of the Living Shite out of me (BTW, you can watch a cool documentary about the film here) specially the Happy Meal debacle that went down at the time. You see when the movie came out; its violence and sexually charged nature took parents aback and they went on a bitch spree, so much so that McDonalds were forced to shut down their Batman Happy Meal promotion to clam them bitches up. Word has it that it’s because of this movie and Ronald McDonald’s pull that WB switched gears, dumped Burton and went in a much LIGHTER direction with BATCRAP FOREVER (1995) and BATCRAP AND CRAPBIN in 1997. NOTE: Thank you Christopher Nolan for bringing Batman on film back on track with your trilogy. I appreciate it man like you wouldn't believe. END OF NOTE.
So how was it wrestling this freak show today? F*cking 24 years later?! EVEN BETTER. In 1992 I was a bit let down by BATMAN RETURNS as it focused more on its villains then Batman; today I can see it for the solid all around effort that it was and is. To say I was wowed by this re-watch would be an understatement. In fact, today, BATMAN RETURNS kicked my ass all over my padded room and never bothered to apologize for it! The story (with its heavy axis on themes of duality and wearing masks) was beyond captivating, Tim Burton was at his genius best in terms of his Gothic and flamboyant visual style while production designer Bo Welch knocked it out of the whore-house when it came to his outside the box and somber designs that captured my morbid imagination. Moreover, I was taken aback at how much horror influences there was at play here (at the end of the day, the flick is about 1 monster and 2 Jekylls and Hydes running amuck) and the mean streak this one wore proudly on its blood soaked sleeve. There was wayyyyy more edge here than I remembered. Good shit!
Performance wise, talk about a treat! You couldn't have asked for a better cast! Michael Keaton (and his trustee toupee) did the low-key, charming, brooding thing to a T (whatever that means), Danny DeVito dove into his monstrous Penguin role (not the debonair P Man I grew up with) and delivered the goods while Christopher Walken went full-on sly slime-ball as the cold-hearted business man. Personally though the show-stealer was without a doubt the yummy Michelle Pfeiffer as both Catwoman and Selina Kyle. Pfeiffer gave an amiable, dangerous, sexy, moving and neurotic cum psychotic performance that has to be seen to be believed. I always remembered her rocking that shit in this one but watching it now – damn - she f-ing owned it and then some! Serioulsy, she IS Catwoman. Nobody nailed the role like she did before or after! Too bad her stand-alone movie never happened and that we got that travesty with Halle Berry making a fool of herself instead. Too bad…
Add to all that LOVE Danny Elfman’s winning score giving the whole that extra dose of oomph, a groovy Christmas setting that made this one a twisted Holiday flick, out there costume designs/makeup, a handful of exciting fist-fights/action scenes, countless clever/edgy lines (I loved “You're catnip to a girl like me. Handsome, dazed, and to die for.” ) and all kinds of bleak humor that hit the spot and you get a superior, creative and go for the throat "auteur" film posing as a superhero opus. I actually only have two qualms with this one. For one I still wished Batman had more to do here – on that, his rocky/love/hate relationship with Catwoman was mucho satisfying so it made up for that. 2- I didn’t like the finale then (Penguins armed with rockets wobbling about) and I didn’t like it now either. Too tacky for my liking – it rubbed me the wrong way (all about that speech DeVito gives the Penguins...urg...). On the whole though BATMAN RETURNS has not only aged very gracefully but much like a fine wine, it just got better and better and better! LOVED IT. Masterpiece.