“Batman Returns” is likely the Tim Burton-ieast Tim Burton movie of the auteur’s filmography. From the first frames, it’s the perfect sum of its parts: Every shot is highly stylized, the editing is fluid, the music is both overwhelming and ominous, and the A-list cast is at the top of its game. Michael Keaton is fine as Batman, of course, but it’s all about the grotesque duo of villains that haunts Gotham this time around. Danny DeVito’s Penguin is a grotesque freakshow come to life and he’s a wonder to behold, while an iconic Michelle Pfeiffer synthesizes the anti-heroine’s previous screen incarnations into a distinctive-yet-honorific slam dunk of a performance, and walks away with the movie in the process. The plot is imaginative and surprisingly grisly from the get-go, and the movie knows how to weave the “creation” of both villains so effectively that their onscreen ascents feel like nothing less than fate. Add in an engaging, impressively cathartic and downright nihilist climax that follows the movie’s many subplots to their natural conclusion, and what you have is one of the boldest and most effective Hollywood blockbusters of its decade.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)