[box cover]

Batman Returns: Special Edition

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997

  • Batman
  • Batman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman & Robin
  • After the enormous success of the first Batman (1989), Tim Burton was offered the chance to make a sequel and — as is often the case with such efforts — was given more freedom to do what he wanted. As such, the 1992 follow-up Batman Returns is a better Burton film and congeals into a more coherent narrative, even if it winds up less satisfying as a whole. Still living his dual life as Bruce Wayne by day and The Dark Knight by night, Batman (Michael Keaton) takes a backseat role as the film introduces its two leads: The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Born Oswald Cobblepot and dumped in the sewers because of his freakish deformities, The Penguin was raised by penguins. After he kidnaps businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), the two plot to make Oswald mayor. Shreck's secretary, Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer), discovers that Shreck is trying to make a power plant that actually drains energy, which causes her to get thrown out a window. Resurrected by cats, she takes the name Catwoman and plots her revenge. It's also after her transformation that the sparks start to fly between her and Wayne, both in and out of costume. Without the constrains of having Batman be the main character in Batman Returns, Tim Burton gets to explore his fetishistic interests in freaks, carnies, and leather — such is probably why the picture (though successful) didn't strike a chord with mainstream audiences. It's also why critics have suggested it was the best Batman film until Christopher Nolan took up the reins — heartfelt in its way, this is more personal than Burton's first outing. Nonetheless, his artistic flourishes are too detached from the narrative and don't add any depth. And as with the original, Burton's obsession with circuses is still very juvenile — his films may appeal to the Goth-and-candles set, but if you've outgrown that phase of your life, it's hard to appreciate the sensibility. Burton gets the most out of the duality in Selina and Bruce's relationship, which are the story's warmest moments. The humor that comes out of their hidden personas works well, as do the jokes throughout (especially when compared to what Joel Schumacher did for comedy in his two sequels). But if anyone steals the movie, it is Christopher Walken as Shreck. Walken's performance is halfway between acting and caricature, and he's mesmerizing in every scene, from his pitch-perfect delivery to a sequence where he tries to get a monkey to give him some keys. It may be the most perfect role of Walken doing Walkenisms. Warner Brothers presents the two-disc Batman Returns: Special Edition in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on Disc One include and a commentary by Burton and a theatrical trailer. Disc Two offers the vintage "making-of" featurette "The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin" (22 min.) and the new "Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Night Pt. 4: Dark Side of the Knight" (30 min.). Like all four the discs in the series, it offers "Heroes" (7 min.) and "Villains" (4 min.) segments, as well as a look at the technical side of production in "Beyond Batman" (66 min.). Also included is the music video for the Siouxsie and the Banshees "Face to Face." Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

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