Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns is essentially what happens when you tell Tim Burton "Go ahead, do whatever the hell you like." I can only imagine his eye lighting up and a huge grin coming across his face during pre-production when he realized he could basically do whatever the hell eh wanted because the first film made a ton of cash.
In the sequel, Batman must contend not only with the gruesome Penguin (Danny DeVito) but also the voluptuous Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer). I gotta say I had a huge crush on her in high school. Between 1993 and 1995 I probably saw Ladyhawke and Tequila Sunrise more times than the crews of those films did while putting together the final cut before it was released.
Catwoman is the best thing about the film with an interesting character arc and some really great moments. Pfeiffer plays every single moment for maximum effect, shotgunning a carton of milk like she's John Belushi in Animal House, throwing out lines with a low growl and in general being the sexiest thing on two legs. Her freak out scene where she really turns into Catwoman is something to behold. She does the whole "crazy eyes" thing really well.
While Pfeiffer is the best thing about the film, the rest of the cast is good too. Michael Keaton makes for great Bruce Wayne and Batman (he throws in a little more of his natural sense of humor in places this time out) and the end result is pretty damn fun. DeVito delivers an amazingly disgusting take on Penguin, making him maybe the most monstrous villain in the film franchise. It's a real showstopper, though I can certainly see how he could be scary as crap to a little kid. Also good is Christopher Walken as another bad guy and while he does make for one villain too many, he is still always fun to see in action.
The other parts that really make the f8ilm soar (besides the great production design that builds on the previous film) are the music from Danny Elfman and the f/x from Stan Winston. Elfman contributes a great score and as for Winston, his frankly amazing penguin f/x work is maybe my favorite achievement of his. Any guy can make a really cool monster, but making animatronic penguins and little people in suits blend in with the real deal? He earned that Oscar, folks.
The film was given a rather lukewarm reception and a lot of folks tend to think it's too dark... Which is hilarious considering how many of those same folks fawn over the recent Christopher Nolan Batman films to a rather embarrassing degree. Don't get me wrong, they're not awful (though the last one comes perilously close for me) but I'll take the two Burton films any day of the week and twice on Sunday. And as far as Batman killing goes, I've never been one to give that much a damn about being true to the source material as long as it yields something I enjoy. The Batman in the comics and other media may not kill, but this one does. It's merely a different take on the character.
The main reason I dig this film is just how loony it is willing to get. A giant duck n wheels as a getaway vehicle for Penguin, the funeral scene for the guy after he dies, Pfeiffer outdoing anything the previous versions of Catwoman did to come across as catlike, the fact that it has the balls to end with a nice Christmas sentiment this is some seriously nutty stuff. Jeez, we get an army of penguins with rockets strapped to their backs. That's the sort of thing I couldn't have even thought up even when I was in college and fueled mainly be caffeine and cheeseburgers!
Tim Burton really went all out with this one and it's a shame that in recent years he's lost his touch. For the better part of the 90's (plus a little of the late 80's), he was a really, really great director with stuff like Ed Wood standing out along with the two Batman films. Hell, I even dig Sleepy Hollow. This is one of his better films and it is a true fusion of the classic character with Burton's dark and twisted vision. It's not for all tastes and once again, Batman does take a backseat in his own movie, but it's still worth checking out.