Batman Returns

Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken

Later this year in The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway has the hardest job of all.  She's got to be Catwoman.  She's got to grab some skin-tight vinyl and a whip and bring out a dark, seductive side in her we've never quite seen on screen.  It couldn't be a more fitting year for this.  While 2012 marks the epic conclusion to the legend of the Dark Knight, it also marks the 20th anniversary of Michelle Pfeiffer's iconic portrayal of Catwoman in Tim Burton's 1992 flick Batman Returns.

Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) continues his crusade against crime in Gotham City as Batman.  When the criminal mastermind Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito) rises up from the sewer and kidnaps millionaire Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), the Dark Knight's war on crime escalates to new levels.  Penguin, the head of the deadly Triangle gang, partners with Shreck to take over Gotham and the mayor's office.  Now a mayoral prospect, Penguin works tirelessly to tarnish the legacies of the old symbols of Gotham City, namely the current mayor (Michael Murphy) and Batman.

Meanwhile, Max Shreck is preparing to meet with Bruce Wayne regarding the construction of a new power plant in Gotham.  Eager to prove herself as a valuable employee, Shreck's assistant Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) bones up on Shreck's plans for the power plant and even hacks into his protected files.  When Shreck finds out that she's looking at information meant for his eyes only, he shoves Kyle out of a window.  She survives the fall, but loses a few marbles on the way down.  She suits up and becomes Catwoman, an alluring yet ferocious beast that will rock Gotham City and pose an additional threat to Batman at this already challenging time for our hero.

Batman Returns is a worthy sequel to the smash hit Batman.  Director Tim Burton once again immerses us into his distinctly creative vision of Gotham City.  With his unique visual aesthetics, he recreates the magic of the first film in a different way.  Star Michael Keaton delivers another great performance as the Caped Crusader.  What's different in this sequel is that his performance gives us a little more insight into the character of Bruce Wayne.  He captures the loneliness of the life of this crime-fighting vigilante in a much more profound way.  Whether sitting around waiting on the Bat Signal or obsessing with Gotham's flavor of the month Oswald Cobblepot, Keaton perfectly captures how screwed up Wayne really is.

Though we don't have the incomparable Jack Nicholson, we do have Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns.  DeVito gives a fiery performance as the criminal genius Penguin that helps fill the Nicholson void.  With his unique brand of charm, DeVito spits out one great one-liner after another and plays the stinking city of Gotham like a harp from hell.  Christopher Walken gives a surprisingly hilarious performance as the shrewd, crafty Max Shreck.  This corporate exec can bring out his inner badass and get down and dirty when he needs to.

While DeVito and Walken do big things in Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer steals the show as the alluring creature Catwoman.  Life's a bitch; now so is she.  Pfeiffer delivers a dark, sexy performance.  She's seductive.  She's savage.  She's sensual.  Playing the role of a primary villain and of Wayne's romantic interest in the film, Pfeiffer gives us arguably the most memorable performance of her career and one of the greatest portrayals of a comic book character of all time.  She leaves some huge shoes for Anne Hathaway to fill in The Dark Knight Rises later this year.

Batman Returns is a great way to revisit Tim Burton's dark, imaginative view of Gotham City.  The unfortunate part is that this is the last time we would get a taste of Tim Burton’s Batman.  With brilliant filmmaking, outstanding performances, and an impossible romance, the film has the ultimate winning combo.  Batman Returns gets a sober rating.  Don't forget to revisit this classic before you go see The Dark Knight Rises.