Batman Returns can be compared to fine wine, where it has aged perfectly 30 years on from its original release. Batman Returns keeps what Batman (1989) did right and elevates it by introducing some new elements. Batman Returns is a character study for the villain’s story arc while the titular hero takes a back seat.
Batman Returns establishes its tone from the very first scene of the film. Double downing on the darker themes Burton focuses the story on the new villains of the movie in The Penguin and Catwoman. Both characters are “strays” so to speak where they have been living as outcasts for most of their lives and they just want to be noticed. Very similar to how he handled the Joker by putting him in the spotlight it’s almost as if Tim Burton is showcasing his love for the rogues rather than the hero himself. Now Batman may take a back seat in this film but when he is on screen he still makes the most of his screen time as we see his growth in the character of not only Batman but Bruce Wayne also.
Show stealing performances from both Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer makes Batman Returns an absolute delight. Danny DeVito as The Penguin is a role he was born to play. Perfectly embracing the cruel savage nature of The Penguin, his scenes are cold and direct as we see him trying to become mayor of Gotham City. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is just perfect as The Penguin, her portrayal has inspired many actresses who have become Catwoman before her and is the de facto blueprint for this character.
Gotham City is still just as impressive as it was in Batman (1989) with gigantic buildings, dark gargoyles spread throughout the roof tops and retaining the gothic vibe, Tim Burton’s design for Gotham is on a level above the rest of the Batman films. Danny Elfman’s score erupts on screen as Batman is swooping, driving and fighting his way to save the day. Batman Returns is everything right with a sequel film. Introducing new characters whose legacy will forever live through in cinema history. Batman Return has built upon its predecessors foundation where it takes the character of Batman and this franchise to new heights.