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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Batman Returns...The Underrated Batman Film

So one of the great benefits of not having a working computer for a month, was the ability to catch up on my TV and movie watching. And boy, did I catch up. I was captivated by the first season of Ripper Street. (Great show, which is well worth your time.) I watched a little Superman The Animated Series, and revisited the original Batman movie franchise. The film I really wanted to re-watch was Batman Returns.

When it was first released, it got a pretty big mixed reaction from critics and the general public. This was mainly due to the film's overall dark narrative. Let's face it, The Penguin's grand plan was to kill all of Gotham City's children.  You can't get much darker than that!

But I was curious to see how well this film has aged. Generally most superhero films do not age well for various reasons. Some of the reasons include: the special effects/CGI that were used look incredibly dated and terrible. A film's tone/overall direction, or even the actors and actresses who were cast. Prime examples of such films include Batman Forever, Superman 3, and even the first Spiderman. These movies for the previous reason haven't aged particularly well. All of the above was playing in my mind when I popped Batman Returns into my DVD player.

After I was done watching it, I must say, I was very surprised with how well it has aged. Though the storyline was dark for 1992, it now fits very well into 2013 storytelling. With shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Dexter dominating the medium, Batman Returns is almost tame in comparison. What follows are the three things that really stood out for me that make Batman Returns the most underrated live action Batman film ever:

1. Michael Keaton delivers another stellar performance as Batman.  What can I say that hasn't already been said about Michael Keaton as Batman. In my opinion, he is still the best film Batman period. He has the right balance of shadowy figure, kick ass ninja, and loved struck millionaire that makes him believable as Batman. With the Batman character being so out there, we the audience need to be able to justify in our mind what he does. Let's face it, Batman is a vigilante, using his own moral code to determine who is good and who is bad. In our world today, we would not stand for this. So it is beyond important that we suspend our disbelief and rout for this individual. Luckily, Michael Keaton pulls it off!
2. Christopher Walken as Max Schreck. Batman Returns pulls off an amazing feat. This film has three villians. And Max Schreck is the by far the best and most underrated. This individual is responsible for not only creating Catwoman, but letting the Penguin loose on Gotham City. He is conniving, self-center, and willingly to do anything to avoid his comeuppance. In wrestling terms, he is the chicken sh*t heel, and you always want to see the chicken sh*t heel get their comeuppance.

3. The overall look of the film. I loved the Chris Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy, but one part of the trilogy I was never a big fan of, was the way Gotham City looks. It never really felt like Gotham City in those films. And Batman feels "out of place" in that world. But in Batman Returns, there is no doubt about it. You are in Gotham City. It feels like Gotham City. It looks like Gotham City. And Batman belongs in it.

For me, these three elements make Batman Returns a truly great Batman movie. It has a solid story, an awesome cast, and the feel of a comic book movie. Next time you are looking for a Batman film to watch, why not give Batman Returns a second look. It is well worth you time. I've included the film's trailer below.

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