|How can you trust a guy with a face like that?!?|
Batman Returns is a fantastically dark film, shamelessly wallowing in child abuse(and murder attempt), deformed, bloodsucking mayors and the oppressive world of Gotham.
In this Jokerless sequel, Tim Burton's semi-disturbed mind is released to suck us into a story of misery and betrayal whilst also showing off love and the true meaning of Christmas. That neverending theme in Burton's films, black and white are taken quite literally here, as the villain is now the creepy-as-hell Penguin from the city's filthy sewers, wreaking revenge on Gotham for abandoning him due to physical deformity.
In a subplot, lowly secretary Selena Kyle is murdered by businessman Max Strick(my favourite character, since he's the closest we get to comic relief) only to magically re-emerge as Catwoman(HOOOOOTTTIIIIEEE).
Batman isn't particularly amused about the three nutters conspiring against him and formulates an ingenious plan bordering on ludicrous(seriously, how did he know about the rocket penguins?)
As I mentioned before, the film shines during the appearances of Max Strick, who seems to be written as a corrupt and vile man who only thinks in terms of profit, but is played lightheartedly by Christopher Walken. In a film of monsters, he's a great normal person who just "goes along with it". That he looks like the Third Doctor from Doctor Who helps.
Michael Keaton gives an even more powerful performance as before(although the situation is not as personal for him) and is brilliant in his absolute pursuit of answers to the problems he's dealing with. He barely says a word and you can just hear the ticks and tocks in his head.
I'm not too keen on the Penguin, since he's just a too in-your-face baddie for me. Sure, he's a man to pity and he's a good lesson for parents, but it's just not something I love. To give him credit, Danny DeVito's performance was great and I liked how he even fooled me at one point into thinking the Penguin was good, even just for a little while.
I'm also digging Michael Gough's bigger role in the movie, giving the occasional Jeeves-line("Sir, shall we change the channel to a programme with some dignity and class?") and subtly pushing Wayne in the right direction. The two understand each other on a deeper level than the audience is allowed to see and even though Gough really does nothing, he just emanates a wonderful warmth and charm.
I liked the study of Catwoman's kinda-split personality and the two halves' love-hate relationship with Bruce-Batman. It's really sad the Catwoman side won out(why can't they just work together?), but then again, not all things go right.
Overall, the movie has a A Christmas Carol feel to it, presenting a very Victorian and subdued look at the Batman saga. I definitely wouldn't suggest it to carefree movie-goers, but for those who really love Batman and have a sense of art, check it out. You might like it.
Personally, I know I'm never watching it again while the first movie is likely to end up on my shelf, but this is a far better, far more confident film. I just like things less grim.