Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Batman Returns" (1992)

Twenty years ago this summer, the big thing people were anticipating was the return of Batman to the big screen. Some things never seem to change that much. Think about it. The Batman had just beaten his biggest enemy the Joker the last time around, and was about to meet his most conflicting challenge in Catwoman. The villain of the film was going to claim to help liberate Gotham, but was really just out to destroy it.

A lot of people dismiss “Batman Returns” as a letdown of a movie. They tend to lump it in with the Schumacher films that are popcorn, aim-for-mass-appeal projects. But “Returns” is a serious effort. Entertainment Weekly called the first blockbuster art film. Maybe that is part of what turns some people off. Burton is less interested in action and plot and prefers to explore ideas and off-kilter imagery.

Among the ideas in “Batman Returns” are the inherent deceit of the political process, the ease with which a herd is manipulated, the way oppressed and downtrodden people can go crazy with revenge, and perhaps most interesting, the fact that Batman himself has to be a little bit crazy. It does get a bit messy and the story doesn’t stay focused the whole film, but it is a comic book movie after all.

One of the best moments in the film is near the end when Bruce Wayne goes to a masquerade ball. He is the only one there not wearing a costume until Selina Kyle shows up sans mask as well. That is when we realize that they are in fact disguised. Their “normal” personas are their masks. As they dance they suddenly realize who they really are. Selina asks, “Does this mean we have to start fighting?”

Give “Batman Returns” another chance if you haven’t seen it in a while. You may not like everything, but it can’t be faulted for being too formulaic or not having anything to say.

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