Batman Returns Blu-ray review

Rob checks out Tim Burton’s vision of the Dark Knight in hi-def, as Batman Returns hits Blu-ray

The majority of folk think that this is the best Batman film of the Bat-legacy from the 1990s and to a point I would have to agrees. Out of the four movies brought out in the original Batman legacy, this is by far the best of the bunch, having neither the vomit- inducing neon of Forever and Batman And Robin or the over the top gurning of Nicholson’s Joker, Returns stands on its own as a gothic piece of Bat-cinema. However, in my opinion, much as Returns is a great movie, it’s not a good pure Batman film; rather it’s a good ‘Tim Burton does Batman film’.

What do I mean by that? Well, look at the evidence; the film is chock full of Burton-isms, Want a Danny Elfman soundtrack? Check. Want it to snow? Check. Want towering spires, dark and brooding buildings? Check. Want a tortured yet heroic figure? Check. Want a circus? And so on. Returns plays like a ‘Best of Tim Burton Movie Clichés’ all rolled into one.

Added to this, of course, there are the issues of the wobbly sets (most obviously gravestones), chunky wires pulling cars over and, of course, the cringe-worthy animatronic penguins with cyborg implants that are just plain silly.

However, this is a comic book film and while the most recent bat outing went for realism, this really is a comic book come to life, a pure snow covered movie ripped directly from the pages of a graphic novel. Sure it’s silly in parts and just plain unbelievable in parts but that’s its appeal and the very reason why so many people like it

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And admittedly there is a lot to like: the grotesque Penguin who is just plain nasty, a hideous grotty troll bought to life with a vitriolic streak that would happily see Danny DeVito’s scene-stealing Oswald Cobblepot snack on fingers and extremities with the same glee as he downs his raw fish. We also have Max Shreck, the second villain of the piece, whose Machiavellian schemes with Christopher Walken’s insane streak just bubbling under the surface creates a ruthless corporate bad guy that would give Lex Luthor a run for his money.

Then, of course, we have Catwoman, a fetish dream come to life, a mix of gothic makeup and liquid latex that I will not spend time describing as we all know what Michelle Pfeiffer bought to the role. A cold shower will be needed even thinking of the types of things she got up to with claws and a whip.

You would even think with all this going on there would be no room for Batman, but there is, with Michael Keaton bringing the right amount of angst to the role and showing us that, with the nightmare to come, that neither Val Kilmer or even George Clooney could hold a candle to Keaton’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. And while the script, story and general sombre tone to the film could all be questioned for quality, there is no denying that this is a beautiful looking film, but as I mentioned before its ‘Burton does Batman’ rather than a pure unfiltered Batman movie.

Leaving that debate to another day and moving onto the disc itself, which, to be honest, is a little disappointing. Like the other Batman Blu-rays this release is really just a transfer and upscale from the DVD releases that came out a few years back. Admittedly, the picture is sharp with the snowy covered Gotham looking pristine and glorious and Catwoman’s suit looking all that more glistening and shiny, but really these effects are little that couldn’t be achieved with a good TV and DVD player.

This shortcut of a direct transfer was backed up by the fact that a lot of the documentaries and special features have all been, in some way or another, released before on other formats. The main feature called ‘Bat, Cat and the Penguin’, a documentary, was on the DVD and from its 90s ‘made for TV’ look, has probably been shown on ITV at least a couple of times around the time the film came out.

This tacking on of old material is also evident by the other documentaries which consist of Tim Burton and various writers and producers having a retrospective look back at the movie with the game really being given away by somebody mentioning that the film came out 13 years ago (with a 1992 release this would put the documents being filmed around 2005) so really all the documentaries are all, at the very least the best part of four years old, so not really the cutting edge special edition HD content you would expect with a release such as this.

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Overall, this is not a truly bad disc, it’s just all rather lazy and, quite frankly, a bit of a cash-in to follow up The Dark Knight. With the extras and transfer being cobbled together from the DVD copy of Returns, if you already have this, then stay away; you are getting nothing new. Even if you are dying to see the movie in HD, then I suggest buying the obviously cheaper (probably even budget) DVD version and watching it through your Blu-ray player upscaled. It’s not quite as strong that way, but is more than likely ood enough, and you’ll also have enough pocket pennies saved for the up and coming Tales Of The Black Freighter DVD to accompany the Watchmen movie next month.


4 stars


4 out of 5