Batman Returns (1992)

CapeCapeHalf a capeHalf a wrecking ballTent

Joel Schumacher is widely said to have ruined the Batman series when he took it over from Tim Burton, but really, this second Burton film is hardly less stupid than Schumacher’s Batman Forever. It has a much more exotic imagination, but for me that’s not enough to carry a picture. All believability is lost, the characters’ knowledge and motivations are often inexplicable. The original comic book was called “Detective Comics” for a reason: Batman, more than any other superhero character, used his intellect to fight communism — I mean, crime. In this movie, he simply knows things by magic. (This phenomenon is often a sign of ham-handed editing by someone other than the director. The original screenplay may have been much more coherent.)

In the end, despite its dark gothic tone, this movie is practically as campy as the ’60s Adam West Batman. Yet, this is the best of the four modern Batman films! The gothic parody opening sequence, showing the re-imagined origin of the Penguin, is hilarious — the camp aspect works very successfully in this brief segment. Danny DeVito is excellent, as he always is. The rest of it... bleh. Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as Catwoman suffers from Madonna Syndrome: the sort of superficial vampy display of feminine allure that somehow thrills the women and girls in the audience while leaving the men cold. (A particularly bad example of this syndrome can be seen in the film version of Charlie’s Angels, but in that case it may have been intentional.)