When a corrupt businessman and the grotesque Penguin plot to take control of Gotham City, only Batman can stop them, while the Catwoman has her own agenda. (from IMDb)
Batman 4K 2019 Release Intro
Before Twilight's Robert Pattinson (yup, that's officially a thing now), before Batfleck, and even before Christopher Nolan's stellar Christian Bale-led trilogy, there were four other Batman adventures that spawned from 1989 to 1997. To celebrate 85 years of the caped crusader, Warner Bros. is re-releasing all four films individually in a brand new 4K transfer with updated accompanying blu-ray discs. (The movies will also be releasing collectively in a set on September 17.)
I was just a kid when Michael Keaton's Batman debuted. I still remember seeing it on the big screen... and being terrified. It wasn't a kids movie by any stretch of the imagination, and that kind of set the darker tone for the films that would follow (even though the final in the series, Batman and Robin, was the most "kid-friendly" of the bunch, despite still being pretty creepy at times). Revisiting these films all these years later, it just shows me how far superhero movies have really come. After this year's gigantic event film, Avengers: Endgame, or even Warner's newest property, Shazam!, the quality is so much greater than what was produced in the late 80's and 90's (and this is coming from someone whose top 4 favorite movies of all time are out of the 80's). For these Batman reviews, I'm going to give an overview of them as a movie and also in this new transfer quality, while giving my usual content breakdown at the end. The 4K discs didn't have any special features on them beyond commentaries, but the regular Blu-Ray discs included in these sets do. Since the main feature of these releases are their new 4K transfers, I'm going to just focus on that aspect (and not the blu-ray bonus features).
Batman Returns Review
While my parents had taken me to see the 1989 Batman--which terrified me--I sat out on 1992's Batman Returns, and let my Dad and older brother screen it first. They decided it was probably too rough for me, so I never actually saw it until a few years ago when I snagged a Tim Burton Blu-Ray collection during an Amazon Daily Deal (I used to be a sucker for those--I've gotten better now, though ;) ). When I finally saw it, I was shocked at just how tremendously different it was from the first film. Same director, same actor as Batman, but the feel of the movie was almost completely different. It was campier and cornier, and the set design was even more cartoony than before. While it was still remarkably dark, it seemed to be making strides toward the more campy feel of the 60's television show. This time around, the movie seemed even less interested in Batman's story and really was almost entirely about the life of Oswald Cobblepot--AKA "The Penguin." While Danny DeVito really goes all-out for this role, it's hard to get too sympathetic toward him. At times, you want to feel for the guy who's lived a life of rejection, but he uses it to fuel devious acts of revenge. He's also truly grotesque--visibly and as a character--and it makes him hard to watch. On the other hand, while her character is far more simplified, Michelle Pfeiffer is delightful as Selina/Catwoman, and way more interesting. Burton's bizarre touches make everything feel more surreal than grounded, but Pfeiffer makes an excellent Catwoman in spite of it. Last but not least, Christopher Walken plays a scummy businessman who makes up the film's third villain, which is probably one villain too many, but he ends up being a catalyst for the villainous ways of the other two. Again, all of this puts Batman in the background, and it's unfortunate because Keaton is so good in the role, he's held back to just short scenes here and there without much meat given to his dialog, either.
The content for Batman Returns is just as rough as Batman, but in a more surreal way. The first film definitely felt grittier, while this one is just... weirder. Penguin is simply gross to look at, but he's far less believable than Nicholson's Joker. Penguin often has black liquid (or black blood) around his mouth, and in one scene, He bites a man's nose, and we literally see blood squirting out in a stream during this. He then has blood on his mouth and shirt following the attack, as the man whimpers away holding his bloody face. Catwoman has blood on her face in a few scenes, and her first "death" is creepy as she's thrown out a window but then seems to come back to life (since she has "nine lives" or something). How she got her Catwoman-ly powers is never really explained--it's almost as if we're just supposed to assume that a clutter of cats surrounded her dead body and gave her new life. The worst scene, however, is most likely when--again--a man is fried to death. A character gets electrocuted, but when Batman moves some debris to find the body, we see their eyes and mouth frozen wide open with blackened, charred skin. Even Batman recoils in surprise.
The 4K transfer is even better for the sequel. It's much clearer and sharper than 1989's Batman. Warner Bros. went back to the original negatives for these transfers and scanned them in at the highest resolution they could. Not every scene looks great, but I promise you we've never seen Batman Returns this clear or vibrant before. If you're a fan of the film, it's worth getting this one, even if it's a double-dip for you.
Of these four Batman films, Batman Returns is a significant drop in quality from the first one, but is probably still a hair better than the following sequels (but that's not saying much). It's really a pretty steep drop after Batman...- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/1/19)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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