Batman Returns (1992) - Two-Disc Special Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure
Warner Brothers || PG13 - 126 minutes - $26.99 || October 18, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-10-23


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Tim Burton
Writer(s): Bob Kane (characters), Daniel Waters (story) and Sam Hamm (story), Sam Hamm (screenplay)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy


Theatrical Release Date: June 19, 1992


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Director's Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailer


  • Disc 2:
  • The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin
  • Shadows of the Bat, Part 4
  • The Heroes and the Villains Profile Galleries
  • Beyond Batman Documentary Gallery
  • Music Video


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Amongst the "Batman" fans out there, this has to be one of most controversial 'Batman' movie. Based upon reading many message board posts, it seems that there's nearly a 50-50 split with some fans having Batman Returns on par or better than the original (if not still the best over Begins) and then there are others who were offended by it and believe it is the worst (or second worst ahead of Batman & Robin) Batman movie ever. Sad to say, but I am in that latter group. After watching Returns for the first time in a few years, I found myself disgusted with what I had seen.

Even though the original Batman went off the reservation when it came to the mythos by making the Joker the killer of Bruce's parents, I could accept that. And although Nicholson's Joker stole the show and made Batman a secondary character, I still enjoyed his performance enough that I felt like I had a good time watching. But, with this one, not only is Batman shoved back even more, playing third fiddle, but the lead and more colorful villain was absolutely loathsome... but for all the wrong reasons. I realize that one should root against the villain, but who the hell do I cheer on? Brooding millionaire Wayne? Or how about sex kitten, Catwoman, in her tight fitting costume (don't get me wrong, that's all good)? Where ever one turns, there's nothing to like. Even Gotham City itself lost the little appeal it had. Director Tim Burton brought forth a dark and dank picture that nearly turned me completely off.

On a non-fanbase level, Returns is not a terrible movie. Danny DeVito is good as The Penguin and if the goal was to disgust the audience, well he surely succeeded. Michelle Pfeiffer fits right in as Catwoman and is really the only one that made the movie remotely watchable, but when trying to establish a relationship with Keaton's Wayne, it never quite worked.

To be fair, there were a couple moments in the film that was true Batman: In the beginning when confronting a goon holding Selina Kyle, he fires one of his gadgets, striking the wall next to the thug to which the guy says "You missed!" and with a tug, Batman rips a piece of the wall and knocks the guy out. Classic and cool. At another point, Batman roams the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile at night, checking on what The Penguin was up to. Classic and cool. But these parts are not enough to overcome some of the other elements.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Despite my disgust with the movie (for a good part), once again, Warner does provide a very good DVD with plenty of features.

The commentary track from Tim Burton seemed to me a little more upbeat or lively [vs. Batman]. He spends most of the film explaining things like why he wanted to do the sequel, how the Catwoman was his second favorite villain (behind The Joker) and why he wanted to change the Penguin from a socialite to a monster (Burton never understood the TV show or comic book versions of the character). Beyond that, he also gives some tid bits/trivia such as, during the chase scene, they filmed it on a larger stage at Universal (before it was on Warner Brothers' stages). One thing I did find after listening that it really seemed like Burton made this movie not for the Batman fans or movie fans in general, but for himself (which in certain scenes, such as Penguins dramatic death scene). Again, although I didn't care for the movie, Burton seemed to enjoy his experience with it and it comes through on the track.

The weakest of the bunch is the original 1992 sneak peek called The Bat, the Cat and the Penguin. This behind-the-scenes promotional stunt looks like it orginally aired on some network channel (maybe NBC) and is the typical thing you saw back in the day (and I might've actually watched this thing when I was 11). There's really nothing much to it as there's the interviews with cast and crew members telling why this is bigger and better than the original and why you should go and see it. Not a complete waste as some people will find it a nice trip down memory lane. Don't know why this was first up on the second disc, and while it's worthless to me, there's no harm in having it on the DVD.

The Shadows of the Bat documentary continues in Part 4, "Dark Side of Night" (29:18). This one talks about how to make the sequel different but not too different from the original. It's revealed that to get Burton to direct the sequel, the WB execs allowed him to make a "Tim Burton" movie, rather than being tied down the material. Also discussed is who the villain would be and then just going ahead and making it a two villain movie. A lot of the things Burton talks about here was also discussed in his commentary so some of it can be repetitive. I think this entire featurette made me realize why didn't think this was a very good Batman movie. In an interview with writer Daniel Waters, he said that they never thought about the fans or endorsements but instead about the art. Now, I'm all for screwing over movie tie-ins, but the fans? Okey-dokey. This part features new interviews with Burton, producers and Danny DeVito but unfortunately along with no new material with Keaton was Pfeiffer too had archive footage. On the lighter side, there's also an interview with Sean Young in discussion with her infamous Catwoman audition in which she made her performance in a room with a producer and Michael Keaton.

Once again, Beyond Batman features 6 documentaries covering various aspects (approx. 65-minutes):

"Gotham City Revisited: The Production Design of Batman Returns" (11:16), like Visualizing Gotham before it, is about the new production design. Where Batman used a 40s style, Burton this time around went with art deco. Strangely, even though I wasn't wild about Gotham before (it seemed awfully small given it's a city the size of New York), this one seems even smaller. At the center of the city design is Max Shreck's business, including the Felix cat-like mascot. Anyways, still a good look into the thinking of the filmmakers. Included here are some nice looking production artwork and interviews with designers and others.

With "Sleek, Sexy and Sinister: The Costumes of Gotham City" (13:20), even though Batman's suit looked nice back in 1989, Burton and company decided a minor makeover was needed to match with the new art deco design. So instead of the ribbed look, they carved out an industrial style into the torso area. Along with Batman's costume (for which they needed another body cast and such), they also show the process (via current and old interviews) of the making of The Penguin and Catwoman get-ups. The reason I liked this one is it shows how difficult it was for all the actors when wearing them. It's also revealed that instead of giving Catwoman a tail, they replaced it with a whip, which is fine by me! Aside from the leads, there's also coverage on the Penguin's circus gang and Max Schreck as well.

"Making Up the Penguin" (8:04) is a nicely extensive look, from the hair to the nose, at the reasons a to why they went the direction they did with The Penguin. Danny DeVito also talks about how he used the amount of make-up to his benefit. As seen before, we get to see some of Burton's hideous designs of the Penguin (which is pretty close to what we get). The amount of time going in to applying the prosthetics (using freezing-cold glue). Some of the issues with the make-up is how much is too much so that DeVito's expressions still come across. Since The Penguin was my least favorite character, this wasn't a great watch for me, but it was fun seeing, just as with Nicholson, DeVito remembering his experience.

"Assembling the Arctic Army" (9:24) is strictly about the penguins used as The Penguins army. Because these are penguins, the set had to be kept in the 30 degree range (plus to see the actors' breath during some scenes). It's also revealed, most of the penguins, while real, were also either digital (in a time where it was used minimally because it was still new) or were robotic or were people in suits with a robotic head. But for the most part, they were actually trained with missiles strapped on their backs (but when launched, they were not real).

"Bats, Mattes and Dark Nights: The Visual Effects of Batman" (11:25) is actually cool to watch as there were (for it's time) quite a few visual effect shots they had to do. Some of the more noticeable are the ending where Catwoman looks up at the Bat signal (including a motion control Catwoman, before being replaced with a double), another is Wayne Manor, the signal projected in Bruce's library, etc. Out of the seven featurettes/documentarie, this is probably the best one and one of the more interesting one's as well.

Finally, "Inside Elfman Studios: The Music of Batman Returns" (11:13) is primarily a rehash of the featurette on Batman, though this time Elfman admits that he didn't have anything to prove this time around. But while he does have the Batman theme down, he needed special themes for Catwoman and Penguin and others (including the penguin army march, as I like to call it). This one also includes both new and archive interview footage with Elfman.

The Heroes and Villains Galleries are mini-featurettes covering the various characters in Returns. For heroes, they talk about Batman and Alfred while the villains go over, of course, Penguin, Catwoman and Max Shreck. Out of these, Catwoman takes the most time, which is fine as the Batman special edition already talked about Batman a bit.

Last time, the original Batman featured a few music videos from Prince, this time, though, they went low key and unknown with a music video from Siouxsie and the Banshees in a song called "Face to Face" which is featured in the New Years masquaraid. Not a bad song and certainly better than most of Prince's stuff, but the video is certainly strange though.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The Batman Returns special edition DVD has seemingly perfect picture. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks very crisp and clear throughout the entire picture. Because this is a Tim Burton movie, it is especially noticeable as even the darker scenes look good and characters are outlined well. Also an improvement over Batman is the sound which is great in either the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 and the outstanding DTS mix. Throughout the movie, I changed from DTS to Dolby to compare, and while the Dolby mix is a little quieter (at the same levels) and doesn't has as much depth by comparison, it is perfectly ok for those who don't use a sound system.



.::OVERALL::.

Even though I'm not a fan of Batman Returns, this two-disc special edition is still very good and worthwhile for both fans and non-fans of the movie. There doesn't seem to be as much material on this one compared to Batman, but for what's there, it's still great. I'm glad to have this in my collection and perhaps one day, maybe soon, I'd give it another try, but as a Batman film, I think it fails. As a regular movie, I can see it as an entertaining Tim Burton film.