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Retro Movie Reviews: 'Batman Returns'

Kent Martinez |
October 16, 2015 | 12:12 p.m. PDT


Cat Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) Vs Batman (Michael Keaton) in an epic showdown (Warner Bros).
Cat Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) Vs Batman (Michael Keaton) in an epic showdown (Warner Bros).
“Batman Returns” is a dark superhero movie directed by Tim Burton in 1992. The film features Michael Keaton as a Bruce Wayne and Batman and Michelle as his arch nemesis the Cat Woman.

The plot of the film begins with penguin (Danny DeVito) being thrown off a bridge into a dark pawn as a baby. As the years go by, the penguin turned to the dark side and formulated a group of thugs known as the red triangle gang. They begin to terrorize Gotham City and Batman as a result (during act 1 of the film), sees the bat signal in the sky and is off to help the Gotham City police department fight the red triangle gang. Max Shreck, (Christopher Walken) a powerful business man in Gotham City, catches his secretary Selyna Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) in his office looking over documents after hours, finding out private information about him. This leads to him pushing her out of the window, killing her only to be resurrected and transformed into the feisty, evil, psychopath antihero villain that became known as Cat Woman. Batman is now faced with the challenge of facing three opponents who will stop at nothing to destroy Gotham city.

Tim Burton visually shot this movie in a very unique and deliberate way. “Batman Returns” is shot really dark, giving it that gothic look which is how Batman was always intended to look. The bat mobile and the buildings in Gotham city are really animated and 3desked, which “Batman the animated series” (a cartoon show that ran though out the early 90’s) used a style. The streets in “Batman Returns” look abandoned with smoke coming out of the ground as this is the norm for Gotham city and not necessarily a sign of hopelessness and disparity. Tim Burton’s visual style is also very similar to the German expressionism used in “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” very scary and dark. The Bruce Wayne mansion looks haunted and resonates with the one that Edward Scissorhands spends all of his time designing ice crafts in.

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A dark look for the good guys, and bright colors for the bad guys, was the quintessential handy work and trademark of Tim Burton during the early 90’s which we see featured in movies such as “Batman” (1989) and “Edward Sccisorhand” (1990). The red triangle gang who again are the villains in the movie, are the ones with all the pretty bright colors while Batman has the dark color that signifies good. A dark color might give the impression that dark is bad and a bright color that bright is good, but really things aren’t always black and white and can be much more complex and Burton does a great job of emphasizing that point.

Cat Woman is a psychotic, dark villain who is Batman’s greatest arch nemesis and a bigger physical threat than penguin or even Max Schreck. While it may seem like a classic case of good guy vs bad guy, Batman Vs penguin, Batman vs Cat Woman and Batman Vs Max Schreck, it is really more amongst the lines of Catwoman vs Max Schreck, Pinguin vs Cat Woman, Cat Woman and Batman vs Max Shreck, all for one and one for all. More importantly though, it is Batman vs Cat Woman, not knowing that one minute their fighting each other to death, while the next they are loving each other as Bruce and Selyna Kyle under the mistletoe.

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The transformation from innocent, shy Selyna Kyle to Cat Woman was intense and breathtaking and the music utilized in this scene was a vital component that made it outlandishly great. Her look, the way she uses her eyes to show emotion and send out a message, is stylish. Her voice once Cat Woman, is her most effective feature and lines to go along with that, make her a legendary anti-heroine. A great example of that comes in at the 43 minute mark as Cat Woman is defending a young lady from a thief who is attempting to rob her and tells him “I just love a big strong man who is no afraid to show it with someone half his size, be gentle it’s my first time “ before giving him the tic tac toe treatment or at the 78 minute mark of the film when she is on top of the bat and says “your cat knit to a girl like me, handsome dazed and to die for” and proceeds to licking him from the bottom of his chin to the top of his lips. Cat Woman also displayed a very erotic look through that rubberish outfit that fed into her provocative personality making her the bad girl you can’t have and shouldn’t have. Michelle Pfeiffer is one of my favorite actresses if not my favorite, so I might be biased towards her performance but I love her as an actress.

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Michael Keaton played a great Bruce Wayne and Batman as many didn’t think he would during that time. Michael Keaton portrays Bruce Wayne as a maverick, sympathetic very quiet, very humble character. However as Batman, he possesses the greatest killer instinct I have ever seen in any batman character going back to the 89 film. He doesn’t show a lot of mercy and sometimes crosses over the line into what would be considered taking things a little too far. His fighting style is very aggressive and effective. He has quick speed, reflexes and stands with his hands slightly open and arms up almost like a martial artist with a background in karate. He displays incredible punching power and his fight scene against the red triangle gang is the perfect platform were he showcases those skills. He is a lot quicker in fighting style than Christopher Nolan is from the later Dark Knight movie series. His fighting style is actually what stood out the most of all the wonderful gadgets the dark crusader possesses.

The ending is poetic and extremely stylized. Bruce Wayne, ripping his mask off in front of Selina Kyle and revealing himself as the Batman is the true meaning of the phrase “turning point.” The film mashes all 4 characters together into one moment of truth, were Selina realizes that Batman (her arch nemesis) is really the love of her life and Bruce reveling to Selyna that he knew for some time who she really was. Great way to get these two finally together. Lastly seeing cat women stand on top of Gotham City as the camera pans up and the movie ends, is the way it should have ended. Cat woman, Michelle Pfeiffer lives on and should have come out during the third sequel “batman forever!”

Reach Columnist Kent Martinez here



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