Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Batman Returns (1992) by DB Movies Blog

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Next up is DB from DB Movies Blog with a sequel of the 1989 Batman by Tim Burton, Batman Returns! One of my personal faves because it has the fantastic Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. DB Movies Blog has a range of film-related posts from reviews to trailer to lists and awards recap, etc. Lots of great material to check out! Without further ado, let’s pass it over to her to talk about her choice!

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Batman Returns (1992)

Three years after directing “Batman” (1989), Tim Burton came up with yet another Batman film “Batman Returns”. Visually stunning and well thought-out, the film is about the rise to power of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito), who has been hidden away and shunned by society for 33 years in the city of Gotham. In his quest to become the mayor of Gotham, Penguin is unwillingly helped by a dishonest businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) as the Penguin’s freaky followers intermittently wreck havoc on Gotham to discredit the present mayor and eventually make it look like the Penguin is fighting crime. Meanwhile, Shreck’s shy secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), finds out too much about Shreck’s illegal activities, causing Shreck to try to get rid of her, and the result of his efforts is Selina’s transformation into a Catwoman. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) is also not indifferent to the crimes orchestrated by the Penguin and is determined to stop the Penguin and his gang while having a love-hate relationship with Selina/Catwoman.

From the very first scenes of the film, we are intrigued. We are confronted with a Dracula-inspired-setting and gothic surroundings as we see a couple who gives birth to a deformed baby, and then some time later, on a cold Christmas night, rushes across a Gotham park to throw their newborn baby into a river crossing the park. The eerie wintry landscape and the menacing soundtrack by Danny Elfman complete this picture as we then see a crib of a baby-monster floating down the sewer of the city.

Prior to “Batman Returns”, Burton also directed “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), already establishing himself as the director for shooting the themes of supernatural, odd, unknown and dark. In that vein, Burton makes “Batman Returns” his very own. With Burton’s flair for presenting a Gothic fantasy, “Batman Returns”’s cinematography is moody and grim, now reminding of “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) or “Sweeney Todd” (2007), but with a comical twist, a freaks-show setting and more stand-alone odd characters. Burton transforms the city of Gotham into a lavish wintry high-buildings landscape populated by mysterious pale-faced personalities, odd freaks and brave anti-heroes. In his prior and forthcoming work, Burton relied heavily on the old German expressionist cinematography and “Batman Returns” is no exception. From the very first scenes, the film is all about sharp dark edges, futurism, and the macabre, similar to “The Cabinet of DrCaligari” (1920). We also see the skyline of the Gotham City, and the tall buildings, grim atmosphere and fog reminds of “Metropolis” (1927). The elaborate sculpture work of the Gotham Zoo and the camerawork are also similar to the camerawork and the town scale model found in Burton’s “Beetlejuice”.

Action-wise, “Batman Returns” is also great. From the firebombing of Shreck’s department store to a faulty Batman car racing, the action is fast-paced with great visual effects. Add to this a rich animal symbolism, distinctively-gloomy, but deliciously macabre cinematography and a thought-provoking ending and it is safe to say that Burton has probably crafted the best Batman movie ever.

Having said that, “Batman Returns” is, primarily, a character-driven film. Michael Keaton reprises his role of the Batman, but the spotlight is not on him and he has to give way to “more interesting” and “crazier” characters. Keaton’s performance is unimaginative and unenthusiastic, though he is a very dignified and “intellectual” Batman; that kind of a Batman who will snug in on a weekend in front of a fireplace with a book rather than practise his combat moves in front of a mirror.

Every imaginable Hollywood actress was considered for the role of the Catwoman: from Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster to Cher and Meryl Streep. In the end, Annette Bening was cast, but was replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer is perfectly cast and gives a very convincing, almost iconic performance. She is good as a sexually-frustrated shy secretary Selina and as a confident and blood-thirsty Catwoman. Selina’s duality and her transformation into a Catwoman are particularly well-presented. We see something close to the nowadays “Black Swan” transformation, because Selina is first surrounded by her pink soft toys and immaculate kitchen and then goes berserk and lusts for a dark and mysterious side of life. Her chemistry with Bruce Wayne is also very good, and it is interesting to watch how the pair is mentally trying to figure out each other’s true identities and thoughts.

The real revelations in the film are Danny DeVito in the role of the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot and Christopher Walken in the role of Max Shreck. DeVito’s Penguin is very memorable: he is hideous, totally demented and power-hungry. Walken’s Shreck is also a show-stealer. Cool, strange and menacing, Walken as Max Shreck makes the atmosphere very uncomfortable, and it is a pity that the Shreck’s energy aspirations idea is left underdeveloped in the film.

It is true, however, that “Batman Returns” is not a perfect movie. We hardly get to know anything about the title character and his personal development (a hero’s journey) is questionable. The reason why Batman as a character is so neglected in this film is maybe because Burton/Waters/Strick is not really interested in him. In fact, Burton agreed to do “Batman Returns” only on condition that the studio gives him more creative control over the material and that Daniel Waters, a screenwriter known for his black-comedy “Heathers” (1988), comes on board. The influence of both is evident in the final product.

Another weakness of the film is that it has too many villains which form surprising partnerships, but the biggest criticism at the time of its release was that Burton’s version of a Batman movie was too gloomy and grotesque, sexually too suggestive (e.g. the Catwoman finds herself often on top of the Batman) and violent (e.g. child-kidnapping takes place on a regular basis). There are valid points, but should be seen in a perspective. Unlike the Superman and even the Spiderman series, the Batman series is all about the dark nature of humanity, mysterious personal duality, masks and camouflage, the colour black, unclear freaky characters’ origins, underlying childhood trauma and gloomy settings. Taking this into account, Burton’s gothic, macabre and dark take fits the Batman adaptation perfectly.

Batman Returns” may not be the film to immediately spring to mind when you think “the films of 1990s”, but its unusually presented-superhero theme, advanced computer-generated special effects and the director’s distinctive influence on the style and plot of the film are the features which later came to define films shot in 1990s (wasn’t it the decade of the rise of independent cinema after all?). “Batman Returns” is a Tim Burton film through-and-through. Rich in visuals, it is grim, dark, fantastical and strangely enticing. It also a film which is very entertaining: it has an interesting plot, perfect casting, great soundtrack and a very memorable presentation of such oddball characters as the Penguin and Catwoman.

8/10

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Thanks to DB for a fantastic review of Batman Returns. Definitely a great title (with its flaws) from the 90s!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday for the next entry!

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

After some debate, I decided that this is the first sequel recommendation to appear here mostly because a week or two ago, I reviewed Romancing the Stone (review HERE) and Smash from Smashing from Life told me that The Jewel of the Nile was a great sequel to check out 🙂 Smash is an awesome girl who lives in Toronto.  Honestly, I’m new to her blog but I love everything she posts up and she definitely should get some support to bring her smiles so head on over and show her some love.  I know she did an amazing job when she blogged about a potential location for my upcoming visit to Toronto  HERE 🙂

the jewel of the nile posterDirector: Lewis Teague

Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Spiros Focas, Avner Eisenberg, Paul David Magid

Picking up six months after the first one ends, Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) has sailed around the world with her boyfriend and adventurer Jack Colton (Michael Douglas).  All the romance starts being a bit too much and she wants to go back to New York and try to get her career back as she still can’t find the reality in her books now.  Because of that, she is also struggling to finish up her latest book.  Its at this time, Omar (Spiros Focas), a soon- to-be emperor of the Nile hopes to have her write his biography about how he unites the tribes in the Nile.  She agrees however Jack doesn’t and decides to sail the Mediterranean instead.  At this time, Tarak (Paul David Magid), a man from a tribe in Nile comes to him and asks him and coincidentally Ralph (Danny DeVito)  to get back the Jewel of the Nile.  He agrees and as Joan also sees through the plans of Omar, she finds a way to escape and eventually joins up and together they try to make everything right again in a whole new adventure.

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The Jewel of the Nile was definitely a fun sequel.  For the most part, I actually enjoyed it more than the first one.  The only deal was that Michael Douglas was not as wild and adventurous in his jungle suit.  He was actually in a suit through most of it, but still I still found his performance quite awesome and with Kathleen Turner, they are quite a great on-screen couple.  This one was entertaining even though I found some scenes showing their age a lot more than the previous one.

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I mentioned it a bit on the previous paragraph but the characters in this one actually had more room to shine. For one, Kathleen Turner’s Joan Wilder proved that even though she fell into the over thinking relationships in the beginning, she was still able to bring out that daring and taking chances abilities that she learned from Jack in the previous movie and take care of herself when in danger.  Michael Douglas’s  Jack also had the character development to getting into the whole commitment and facing the expressing his feelings that it seems he was scared of before (or is it settling down that he’s scared of). Still, the romance between them and little quarrels always makes it entertaining.In this one, we still have Danny DeVito with a bigger role this time around and he is definitely the additional comic relief.

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The Jewel of the Nile was a fun adventure through the desert with lots of laughs.  There was a lot of action also with out of control planes, fist fights, chases through the desert and fires, shooting and explosions.  What else can I say? Its just crazy entertaining.  I really enjoyed it and its like I said, I might actually have liked it better than the first 🙂 Maybe you disagree but lets just agree to disagree.  I definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the first one and happened to not have caught this one yet.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Before I start, I’d like to tell you that I’m going to try to pick up the pace with the movie reviews.  I have a whole list to do and because of my eye infection, its causing me to be a bit slower. I know its really been not looking like I’m putting too much time on it but I am, it just takes time to go through the movies and find it all.  Most of the movies are not available on Netflix so I had to physically get a copy. Anyways, so expect more reviews 🙂 It might dip into the first week of September!  Lets get on with this one!

Next recommendation up was in response to my review of Coma (HERE) from Mikey at Screenkicker.  He told me to that I “couldn’t go wrong” with Romancing the Stone when I asked about Michael Douglas films! Check it out!

romancing the stone posterDirector: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito,

Romancing the Stone is an action-adventure-comedy focused around the life of adventure novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner).  Her success in writing does not reflect her personality.  However, when she receives a phone call from her sister Elaine telling her that she is kidnapped and that she needs her to bring to the kidnappers (Danny DeVito and Zack Norman) in Columbia a treasure map in order to be rescue her.  Reluctantly, she arrives in Columbia and after some mishaps, she is lost on her way to Cartagena and meets a jungle saavy Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) and requests for his help.  After some bargaining, he agrees but to find out that she is being chased by Captain Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), police authority of Columbia who is after the same treasure map and will do anything to make sure he gets it.

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I love action adventure movies a lot! This one may have been made before a more recent but similar flick, Nim’s Island but the moment I saw the character of Joan Wilder on screen, my mind thought, Nim’s Island right away.  The story isn’t completely the same but it also features a scaredy-cat adventure novelist that has to conquer their fears and find their courage and protect someone else while being protected also.  Also, I thought to myself, this sure isn’t War of the Roses! That was the first movie I saw Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas on the same screen…but point is, I really found this movie fun.

romancing the stone michael douglas

The best part of this movie was Michael Douglas hands down! I’m still learning about the movies that Michael Douglas has done and no, I haven’t watched Wall Street yet.  I will soon enough.  I have it already.  BUT, somehow I like Michael Douglas in this role because its different from his always being rich and arrogant all the time. He’s still not totally a doe-eyed sweetheart but still, he’s not in a shirt and tie and he’s actually fighting to survive.  Plus, who can say that he doesn’t have great chemistry with Kathleen Turner? Because he does.  Even in War of the Roses, they did, even when they were hating each other’s guts.  They have a believable vibe that just works.

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I actually enjoyed this more as a comedy than as an adventure because it wasn’t that adventurous when they weren’t being shot at. It was pretty funny.  Mostly Kathleen Turner’s character, the nervous author was just ridiculously silly sometimes.  Most of the other time, its the stupid kidnappers.  We always have those in these movies, right? This time we have Danny DeVito and he always cracks me up (even when he was doing the voice of The Lorax)  ;).  This guy is totally awesome!

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Overall, Romancing the Stone definitely has a fun element to it.  You want to see an outstanding performance by Michael Douglass out of his norm, this one is definitely a great choice.  Its a keeper in my collection and I will watch it again.  Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Michael Douglas but even I was impressed 🙂 So maybe, if you haven’t seen this, you should give it a shot.  If you have, tell me what you thought about it!