Batman Returns | Chicago Reader

Batman Returns

More of the same, but nowhere near as good (funny, disturbing, obsessive) as the uneven original, revealing arrested development on every level. As villain, Danny DeVito's Penguin is a pale substitute for Jack Nicholson's Joker, coming across more as a sketch for a character than a fully realized portrait; ditto for Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, who promises a lot more than she delivers. Both characters are Jekyll-and-Hyde schizos like Batman/Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton again), but it appears the filmmakers were so busy plotting the obligatory special effects that they never got around to developing these three leads past the drawing-board stage. The pictorial effects all seem to come straight out of badly reproduced stills from other movies (Batman, Metropolis, Citizen Kane, Blade Runner), and there's practically no suspense. Tim Burton directs with a strong sense of "once more around the block" from a script by Daniel Waters and Sam Hamm that plays suspiciously like a first draft, and Danny Elfman did the music again. Consider, though: this 1992 release could have been much worse than it is and still have made piles of money, so why make it even halfway decent? With Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, and Michael Murphy.

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