When a corrupt businessman and the grotesque Penguin plot to take control of Gotham City, only Batman can stop them, while the Catwoman has her own agenda. (from IMDb)
Batman 4K 2019 Release Intro
Before Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson (yup, that’s officially a thing now), before Batfleck, and even before Christopher Nolan’s stellar Christian Bale-led trilogy, there were four other Batman adventures that spawned from 1989 to 1997. To celebrate 85 years of the caped crusader, Warner Bros. is re-releasing all four films individually in a brand new 4K transfer with updated accompanying blu-ray discs. (The movies will also be releasing collectively in a set on September 17.)
I was just a kid when Michael Keaton’s Batman debuted. I still remember seeing it on the big screen… and being terrified. It wasn’t a kids movie by any stretch of the imagination, and that kind of set the darker tone for the films that would follow (even though the final in the series, Batman and Robin, was the most “kid-friendly” of the bunch, despite still being pretty creepy at times). Revisiting these films all these years later, it just shows me how far superhero movies have really come. After this year’s gigantic event film, Avengers: Endgame, or even Warner’s newest property, Shazam!, the quality is so much greater than what was produced in the late 80’s and 90’s (and this is coming from someone whose top 4 favorite movies of all time are out of the 80’s). For these Batman reviews, I’m going to give an overview of them as a movie and also in this new transfer quality, while giving my usual content breakdown at the end. The 4K discs didn’t have any special features on them beyond commentaries, but the regular Blu-Ray discs included in these sets do. Since the main feature of these releases are their new 4K transfers, I’m going to just focus on that aspect (and not the blu-ray bonus features).
Batman Returns Review
While my parents had taken me to see the 1989 Batman–which terrified me–I sat out on 1992’s Batman Returns, and let my Dad and older brother screen it first. They decided it was probably too rough for me, so I never actually saw it until a few years ago when I snagged a Tim Burton Blu-Ray collection during an Amazon Daily Deal (I used to be a sucker for those–I’ve gotten better now, though 😉 ). When I finally saw it, I was shocked at just how tremendously different it was from the first film. Same director, same actor as Batman, but the feel of the movie was almost completely different. It was campier and cornier, and the set design was even more cartoony than before. While it was still remarkably dark, it seemed to be making strides toward the more campy feel of the 60’s television show. This time around, the movie seemed even less interested in Batman’s story and really was almost entirely about the life of Oswald Cobblepot–AKA “The Penguin.” While Danny DeVito really goes all-out for this role, it’s hard to get too sympathetic toward him. At times, you want to feel for the guy who’s lived a life of rejection, but he uses it to fuel devious acts of revenge. He’s also truly grotesque–visibly and as a character–and it makes him hard to watch. On the other hand, while her character is far more simplified, Michelle Pfeiffer is delightful as Selina/Catwoman, and way more interesting. Burton’s bizarre touches make everything feel more surreal than grounded, but Pfeiffer makes an excellent Catwoman in spite of it. Last but not least, Christopher Walken plays a scummy businessman who makes up the film’s third villain, which is probably one villain too many, but he ends up being a catalyst for the villainous ways of the other two. Again, all of this puts Batman in the background, and it’s unfortunate because Keaton is so good in the role, he’s held back to just short scenes here and there without much meat given to his dialog, either.
The content for Batman Returns is just as rough as Batman, but in a more surreal way. The first film definitely felt grittier, while this one is just… weirder. Penguin is simply gross to look at, but he’s far less believable than Nicholson’s Joker. Penguin often has black liquid (or black blood) around his mouth, and in one scene, He bites a man’s nose, and we literally see blood squirting out in a stream during this. He then has blood on his mouth and shirt following the attack, as the man whimpers away holding his bloody face. Catwoman has blood on her face in a few scenes, and her first “death” is creepy as she’s thrown out a window but then seems to come back to life (since she has “nine lives” or something). How she got her Catwoman-ly powers is never really explained–it’s almost as if we’re just supposed to assume that a clutter of cats surrounded her dead body and gave her new life. The worst scene, however, is most likely when–again–a man is fried to death. A character gets electrocuted, but when Batman moves some debris to find the body, we see their eyes and mouth frozen wide open with blackened, charred skin. Even Batman recoils in surprise.
The 4K transfer is even better for the sequel. It’s much clearer and sharper than 1989’s Batman. Warner Bros. went back to the original negatives for these transfers and scanned them in at the highest resolution they could. Not every scene looks great, but I promise you we’ve never seen Batman Returns this clear or vibrant before. If you’re a fan of the film, it’s worth getting this one, even if it’s a double-dip for you.
Of these four Batman films, Batman Returns is a significant drop in quality from the first one, but is probably still a hair better than the following sequels (but that’s not saying much). It’s really a pretty steep drop after Batman…
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/1/19)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Selina asks her cat if she’s back from more sexual escapades; Selina puts a skin-tight black suit on and runs her hands up her body saying she feels so much yummier; A thug grabs a woman and suggestively pushes her against a wall (perhaps with intention to rape?), but Catwoman intervenes; Penguin tells Max “I’d like to fill her void” and “teach her my French flipper trick” about a woman; Penguin gropes a woman’s chest as he puts a campaign button on her. He then talks about liking to touch and grope people as part of being mayor. He sees Catwoman and says she’s just the “pussy” he’s looking for. He then makes multiple comments about sexual interest in her and suggests ointments; Selina and Bruce kiss passionately while lying on a couch and grope each other a little bit; Selina suggestively licks Batman’s face; Penguin suggests that he and Catwoman consumate. He clarifies by suggesting they sleep together. She says she wouldn’t touch him, which angers him;
Vulgarity/Language: 4 “h*ll,” 1 “G-d,” 1 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “S.O.B,” 1 “d*mn,” 1 “My G-d,” 1 “b*tch,” 1 “b*stard”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Oswald’s parents drinking; Catwoman and Penguin drink champagne. She drinks it all.
Blood/Gore: Penguin pulls out a dismembered human hand and hands it to Max to shake; Max pushes Selina out the window and we see her hit many awnings before landing on the ground. She has blood on her forehead. We see a cat biting and licking blood off of Selina’s finger, and we see some blood on her neck; A thug grabs a woman and pushes her against a wall. Catwoman saves her and slices his face with her claws, leaving bloody scratches. She then punches him out. The woman tries to thank her, but Selina grabs the victim’s face and threatens her before leaving; We see Penguin eating a raw fish; We see blood squirt when Penguin suddenly bites a man’s nose. There’s then blood running down his chin and on his shirt; Batman has a rip in the side of his suit with blood; We see a bloody cut on a woman’s forehead; We see blood on the side of Bruce’s face after Catwoman slices his face; Penguin has bloody scrapes on his face and hands and blood running from his mouth and nose; We see the ghastly charred and burned face of Max looking scary with his eyes and mouth wide open; Later, Bruce has scrapes on the side of his face.
Violence: We hear the parents of a newborn screaming when they see their baby, which we don’t see; Baby Oswald is in a cage (we can’t really see him) and he pulls a cat into his cage and presumably eats it; Oswald’s parents throw him as a baby into a stream that carries him into a sewer; We see a gang of bad guys wearing skull masks riding on motorcycles with exploding gift boxes. An organ grinder shoots machine bullets into a crowd. A thug hits a Santa Claus with a sled. A man is punched in the face. A fire breather sets fire to gift box decorations. Thugs with machine guns get on the hood of Batmobile. Batman stops short and it throws them off, sending them crashing into a storefront. Fire from car’s boost sets a fire breather bad guy on fire. A thug takes Selina captive. Batman shoots a grappling hook into the wall behind him and yanks it, pulling a piece of wall out and into the back of the guys head, knocking him out. Selina picks up his taser and tests it out on the unconscious guy; Max falls through a trap door in a tunnel; Penguin pulls out a dismembered human hand and hands it to Max to shake; Max pushes Selina out the window and we see her hit many awnings before landing on the ground. She has blood on her forehead. We see a cat biting and licking blood off of Selina’s finger, and we see some blood on her neck; Selina throws a milk carton at a phone and smashes the answering machine. She then shoves stuffed animals down the garbage disposal and smashes pictures on the wall in her apartment; A thug grabs a woman and pushes her against a wall. Catwoman saves her and slices his face with her claws, leaving bloody scratches. She then punches him out. The woman tries to thank her, but Selina grabs the victim’s face and threatens her before leaving; We see Penguin eating a raw fish; We see blood squirt when Penguin suddenly bites a man’s nose. There’s then blood running down his chin and on his shirt; Thugs blow up multiple stores and start looting. Batman beats many of them up in an extended sequence; Catwoman whips the heads off mannequins in a store. She then whips jewel cases. And she whips the guns out of the security guards’ hands; Batman puts a bomb on a big thug and knocks him into a hole where an explosion comes out; Selina blows up Max’s place; Catwoman fights Batman; Catwoman puts a bird in her mouth and Penguin threatens to stab a cat; Penguin throws a Batarang at a woman off screen. It apparently just knocks her out. Later, we see her tied up; Catwoman and Batman fight. She whips him and throws a chair at him. She then holds onto a woman by her throat. She falls from the roof, falling to her death, and we see her land. Cops shoot Batman and he falls backward; She stabs him and he kicks her back; Penguin hangs his umbrella around Catwoman’s neck and sends her flying. She falls through a greenhouse and sits up screaming; The Batmobile goes AWOL and runs into people. It causes a lot of destruction; Citizens throw vegetables at Penguin. He shoots back with his umbrella and then jumps into the crowd. The cops shoot at him; Penguin shoots a clown minion, killing him, and pushes him into the water. We see him briefly floating; A big explosion at a party throws people. Penguin shoots the wall next to Max, threatening him; The Batmobile crashes Penguin’s duck car; Penguin jumps on Batman and he throws him off; Penguin falls through glass into water below. Rockets from his minions blow up the zoo; We see a dead clown underwater with his eyes open; Catwoman whips Max around the neck and threatens him; Catwoman slice’s Batman in the face; Max shoots Bruce; Max shoots Selina 4 times, trying to exhaust her “nine lives.” She then kisses him and grabs a powerline to fry them both; Penguin has bloody scrapes on his face and hands and blood running from his mouth and nose. He then falls over dead; We see the ghastly charred and burned face of Max looking scary with his eyes and mouth wide open; Penguins push the Penguin’s dead body into the water. We see his face underwater as he sinks.