Batman Returns was released in theaters 25 years ago; June 19, 1992.
While it seemed to be a hit with critics, general audiences left theaters mixed. Their complaints of Penguin’s black goo, sexual innuendo, overall complete darkness and a “lack” of Batman on-screen didn’t sit well with many people. However, the movie ultimately was successful earning $162 million domestically, and $266 million worldwide.
In honor of the movie’s 25th anniversary, the staff at Dark Knight News have dug deep into their Batcaves to reflect on one of Batman’s most infamous chapters.
Chris Foti, Staff Writer – Oh Batman Returns, where do we begin? You got so much wrong, but what you got right is so good. The amazing Danny Elfman score. The awesome upgraded Batsuit. Keeping the badass Batmobile. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Christopher Walken. I also loved the aesthetics of a snowy Gotham around Christmas. Who doesn’t love the shot of Batman slowly driving the Batmobile in the snow, while on patrol? But then there was black goo Penguin, raised in the sewer by penguins Penguin, Penguin giving a war speech to his army of penguins, “MY BABIESSSS!”, the penguins were giving Penguin a funeral (they really played up the whole Penguin thing). Alley cats resurrecting Selina Kyle? I’m still unclear what happens there, but I definitely know she wasn’t married. While Batman was a Batman film that was directed by Tim Burton, this was a Tim Burton film that happened to use Batman characters. I like Tim Burton films, so that might be why I have a soft spot for it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Batman, the Nolan films, or even BvS. Having said that, I like to annually watch it around Christmas time to get in that holiday spirit.
Kevin Gunn, Editor in Chief – Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny Devito, Christopher Walken. A top-notch cast lead by Tim Burton. Some parts of this movie I liked better than Burton’s first turn at bat(man – pun intended). I also loved Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reuben’s portrayal of the senior Cobblepot. I was a lone wolf, venturing to the movie theaters solo for this outing. Not all of my family and friends understood my fascination with comics and the Dark Knight. I feel fortunate today because I have fellow geeks to share my love of all things Batman.
Sharna Jahangir, Staff Writer – In Toronto, every Halloween, Batman Returns was one the biggest feature movies of that day. They’d repeat it three times on YTV (channel 25). Probably the reason why Halloween is my favorite holiday. Starting at 8, I knew the schedule every year, and I’d sit and watch it all three times. Pulled in my family.. didn’t realize how adult it was, but as a supportive family, they’d sit and watch. I loved Catwoman and Penguin; they were the most enticing. Her nails and costume demonstrated power; not to mention the adoration her cats, the revenge she took on her abusive boss. It was so gratifying. Danny DeVito’s Penguin is horrifying, but I loved how he destroyed the rich because it’s true, you take away everything from Gotham’s elite, they’re still safe, even when they’re bad people. The Penguin was gratifying as well, their morals, however skewed, were not as bad as other baddies. The penguins themselves were cute as heck! I loved the subtle campiness, how the penguins pushed Cobblepot into the sewer after his death, the music. It’s still a comfort film for me. I believe it’s my favorite version of the older Batman movies (my second one is George Clooney’s Batman, please be nice, Jim Carrey and Uma Thurman were a godsend). Tim Burton is my beloved childhood director; there wasn’t a film he’s made that I wasn’t entranced with. He captured darkness in such a friendly way. That’s how I’d describe Batman: a kind darkness.
Eric Lee, Staff Writer – I remember Batman Returns for the McDonald’s toy and cup merchandise tie-ins the movie inspired. I was six years old at the time and excited to see Batman at my local fast food chain. Flash forward to when my parents brought home the VHS tape of the movie and what a surprise it was to see how darkly different it was compared to my Happy Meal toys. The Penguin was a gross sewer creature who spat out black bile, Catwoman was resurrected by an army of cats, and Batman. Michael Keaton was still the man. I loved Tim Burton’s original Batman and Batman Returns was Burton gone crazier. It may turn some people off, but I still loved it. Not to mention, that Danny Elfman score was even better than the first movie.
Ryan Lower, Staff Writer and Review Coordinator – 25 years later and I still have a love for Batman Returns. I think it’s dark, weird, gorgeous and somewhat iconic. Tim Burton wasn’t a sequel guy, so he went in a completely different direction for the sequel to 1989’s Batman. I appreciate how each film gives us something unique. Michael Keaton is fantastic. Michelle Pfeiffer may be the best Catwoman of all time. Their chemistry was perfect (which is funny considering they dated before filming). Though weird, this may be my favorite version of Penguin. And the best part of the film is Danny Elfman’s score. I loved this movie the first time I saw it when I was 6, and 25 years later, I still do. Favorite quote: “A mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it. But a kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it.”
Adam Poncharoensub, Assistant Editor – Batman Returns was definitely my favorite of the first franchise of Batman movies. It’s dark, yet absurd and above all else, extremely demented. Who knew that that was the perfect recipe for entertaining?! Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito’s portrayals remain some of my favorite iterations of those characters. As it was my first exposure to Penguin and Catwoman, this movie really instilled in me a love for those characters. As an adult, I still prefer this movie’s version of their origins over any other. I mean, take Penguin, for example. Instead of just a fat, rich man, Penguin looked more like his namesake and very much an animal, thereby making one of the blandest and silliest rogues interesting. Its sheer insanity (the good kind, not the one heavily emphasized in Batman and Robin) really makes it memorable, standing above the other three.
Steve J Ray, Staff Writer – Batman Returns was DARK! This isn’t a complaint. Tim Burton’s Batman was always about trying to re-establish the character as a figure of Darkness and vengeance; to separate him from the version that had been so vividly and colorfully established during the Adam West Years. There were no biffs, bangs, or ka-pows with this Batman. He was a figure of fear in a city of terror. The Penguin was a creature from the horror movies, and Catwoman’s new origin was more Gothic than anything that had ever portrayed in the comics. I loved Batman Returns and still do. The film’s influence cannot be understated. The Penguin in the smash hit Gotham owes a lot to Tim Burton’s vision, and Selina’s nine lives – after her fall at the hands of Bruce Wayne’s clone in the show – are also a clear tribute to the 1992 classic. Danny Elfman’s score is still one of my all-time favorites too. His Batman Theme is still the one to beat, in my opinion, and was even adapted for use in the legendary 90s Batman: The Animated Series. Happy Anniversary Batman Returns! You may be more monster movie/horror hybrid than comic-book adaptation, but I think you’re beautiful.