Comic Book Brain

Batman Returns 1992

Tim Burton directed sequel to his 1989 Batman film.

Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman

The Tashen Marvel Comics Book Library

Screenplay by Daniel Waters

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton, Christopher Walken and Danny DeVito.

Released June 19, 1992

Production budget: $80 million

Gross worldwide earnings: $266,822,354

Earnings: American domestic market $162,831,698 + Foreign market $103,990,656. Only Disney's Aladdin and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York made more money in 1992. Source: Boxofficemojo

Batman Returns Review

Tim Burton's sequel to his huge hit of Batman (which was the #2 highest earning film around the world for 1989, making $411 million), came in as a slightly different kind of movie, and placed as #6 for the highest earning film of 1992 (with $266 million worldwide). (Note: these gross totals reflect that the average movie ticket price in 1992 was only $4.15.)

Burton's Batman II is arguably a much darker film, with a much more obsessive attention to art director spectacle (a peculiar Tim Burton dilemma haunting most of his films) than the first film, which was a sleeker, easier to follow adventure film with all of the mental anxiety shared between Jack Nicholson's Joker, and to a lesser extent, the Michael Keaton Bruce Wayne/Batman). The story in Batman Returns goes further down that road, stuffing the tale with more villain characters with major mental issues, setting a standard that was followed in the also over-stuffed Batman 3 (Batman Forever) and Batman 4 (Batman and Robin) films. (Batman and Robin, though, drops the mental obsession angle concerning Batman, with George Clooney essentially playing 'Bat-Dad,' and his character is probably the most mentally healthy person in the cast, a far cry from Michael Keaton's "almost crazy" Batman of the first film.)

Batman Returns' Villains

Despite cramming the screen with characters, Burton makes sure to give Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman), Danny DeVito (Penguin) and Christopher Walken (Max Shreck) solo turns before the camera, sans Batman, so that we can learn about them and have some sort of reaction to each of them. Daniel Waters' screenplay steers us toward general sympathy for the Cat and Penguin, but none for the brutally cruel Max Shreck.

Burton uses the comic book adventure story to present a satiric take on American election culture (with DeVito's Penguin running for mayor of Gotham) and for the most part, Burton uses this odd angle as a way to darken the tale even further, because his two sympathetic villains (Catwoman and Penguin) are both portrayed as victims to the short-comings and mercilessness of the Gotham society we see in action as Penguin's campaign goes through its paces.

In this way, Catwoman, Penguin and Batman are more or less on one side in the morality of the story, and Max Shreck is on the other side. Burton does allow one redeeming character trait to be extended to Shreck, which is a soft and caring attitude toward his son, but otherwise, Shreck is a ruthlessly brutal businessman with no regard for human life.

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