5 Reasons Why: Batman Returns is Better than Batman ‘89
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When Tim Burton’s Batman was released in the summer of 1989, Bat-Mania had swept the country. There were t-shirts, pictures, posters and more — all emblazoned with the ‘Bat Logo.’ The summer of ’89 was most definitely the “summer of Batman.” Fans adored it. It was dark and gritty but still bright and fun. Michael Keaton silenced all of his critics when he first appeared on the screen. Jack Nicholson reminded the world why he was/is one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen. When its sequel, Batman Returns, was released in 1992, most were planning for a Bat-Renaissance but when the follow up was finally released, it was met with derision. Some people loved the dark, macabre fairy tale that Tim Burton created. Others thought it was “too scary” for children. Tim Burton would soon be replaced by a more “family friendly” director named Joel Schumacher. Fan reaction aside, Batman Returns was much more of a “Tim Burton Movie” than the original Batman. For better or worse, it was Tim Burton’s baby, but was it any good? Yes.
5) The Score was Breathtaking
The original Batman score, written and composed by Danny Elfman was a true cinematic achievement. It was beautiful. How could Elfman top himself in Batman Returns? Well, we don’t know how, but he certainly did. Taken as its own piece, the score to Batman Returns tells a story in and of itself. It’s like a gothic opera. Or a circus, as it were. It takes everything that was great about the original score (like that opening theme) and turns it up to 11. Close your eyes and let yourself be taken to the Circus Macabre.
4) We Feel for the Villains…Which Makes Them That Much Scarier
Jack Nicholson’s performance in Batman cannot be understated. In a phenomenal film, Nicholson was still the best part about it. That being said, The Joker was a real jerk. He started out the film as a bad guy and ended the film as a bad guy. Audiences had very little sympathy, or empathy, for Jack Napier. Compare that with The Penguin and Catwoman. Both had pretty tragic backstories. Selina Kyle was a depressed, neurotic, overworked secretary who got pushed out of a window by her boss. The Penguin was a disfigured, malformed baby who got thrown into the sewer by his parents shortly after his birth. Honestly, we can’t blame either one of them for their lives of crime.
3) Michael Keaton’s Performance
When Keaton returned to the role of Batman, one would think he had a lot less pressure to work under since he had proven himself once already. But he put a lot of pressure on himself to outdo his performance and he did exactly that in Batman Returns. Keaton seemed a lot more comfortable in the bat suit. He seemed more confident as well, and that translated into his performance. Keaton’s Batman, in Returns, was the strong, silent type. He was less neurotic as Bruce Wayne and he made us care about him, even when he wasn’t in the suit. Batman Returns cemented Michael Keaton as the best Batman on film to date.
2) The Visuals
Batman had plenty of awesome visuals, thanks to production designer Anton Furst. Furst did such a good job, in fact, that he won an Academy Award for his work in Batman. How, then, could he top himself in Batman Returns? By including Christmas of course! Nobody thought that they needed a Batman movie in the snow, but now it’s the only thing that matters in this world. From the design of Gotham City to The Penguin’s Zoo, to the sewer itself, the sets in Batman Returns were absolutely breathtaking. The dichotomy of the dark Gotham City being lit up by Christmas was inspired. Batman Returns was a masterclass in Production Design and it has yet to be matched in any future Batman films.
1) This Was Tim Burton’s Movie
Like we said before, for better or worse, Batman Returns was a “Tim Burton movie.” It had more in common with Edward Scissorhands than Superman: The Movie and, to many, that was part of its charm. Batman Returns isn’t necessarily a superhero movie. It’s more like a dark, fantastical fairy tale full of monsters and lovers and nightmares aplenty. Tim Burton made the movie that he wanted to make and, if audiences didn’t like it, that was fine by him. He told a great story about falls from grace, redemption, abandonment, depression and more. There were many layers to Batman Returns, which is why we’re still discussing it 25 years later.
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