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Batman Returns (4K)

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // June 4, 2019
List Price: $41.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted June 10, 2019 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

The second and final Batman film to be directed by Tim Burton, 1992's Batman Returns introduces us to The Penguin, born as Oswald Cobblepot, the deformed boy (whose parents are played by Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger) clearly has issues far beyond his unusual appearance. Unable to handle their son, they wrap him in a blanket, place him in a basket and float him downstream where he winds up drifting into the zoo's shuttered penguin exhibit.

Jump ahead three decades or so and business tycoon and serial polluter Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) is attending a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with Gotham City's Mayor (Michael Murphy). After a quick speech, the ceremony is interrupted by a group of bizarre circus performers who try to abduct Schreck but who are subsequently stopped by Batman. Their second attempt, however, is successful and a captive Schreck is scurried through the sewers of the city only to find himself face to face with The Penguin who has setup base in the zoo. He tries to blackmail Schreck, because he knows of his environmental crimes and backroom deal making, but soon the pair make a deal in which Schreck will help The Penguin move into the city.

Meanwhile, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) toils away as Schreck's secretary. When she uncovers some evidence that her boss would prefer remain hidden, Schreck has her thrown out a window and left for dead. As a small army of stray cats surrounds her, she regains consciousness and heads back into her apartment where she makes a cat suit out of PVC and fashions herself some fingernails that double as claws. Now going by the name of Catwoman, Kyle makes things difficult for the Caped Crusader, who has his hands full trying to stop Schreck and The Penguin, who is trying to find out who his parents were, from getting the Mayor kicked out of office and replaced by The Penguin himself and frame Batman as a villain!

A decidedly darker and stranger film than its predecessor, Batman Returns sees Burton filtering a superhero movie through the clear influence of the German expressionism movement spearheaded by filmmakers like Fritz Lang, Georg Wilhelm Pabst and F. W. Murnau. In fact, it can't be a coincidence that Christopher Walken's character Max Schreck, given that the star of 1922's Nosferatu (which this film makes some visual nods towards) was named Max Schreck. The whole look of the film, the way that Gotham City has been designed, the influences there are very clear and very intentional. We got a bit of this in the first film but here, Burton really runs with it and the movie is better for it. Visually speaking, this is a very impressive looking film. The set design is beautiful in its strange, gothic way, with almost the entirety of Gotham City bathed in deep, dark shadows and the whole thing has a delightfully mad ‘Caligari-esque' feel to it.

As to the performances? Keaton, again, is pretty solid as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He handles his dialogue well, he has the right sense of ‘cool' regardless of which persona he's playing and he works quite well in the part. Danny DeVito is pretty much perfect as The Penguin. His makeup is impressive, sure, but it is the enthusiasm and conviction that he shows through his work that really sells it, and sell it he does. Christopher Walken is very well-cast as the sinister businessman in the film, delivering his lines with that odd, wry sense of style that he's known for. Michael Gough reprises his role as Wayne's trusty butler Alfred and he is, as always, quite charming. And Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman? She's great! She's got the right mix of sex appeal and menace, she looks amazing, she's handy with that whip, what more could you want? She nails it. Pat Hingle reprises his role as Commissioner James Gordon and, once again, he does a fine job.

The plot is, of course, absurd and the movie considerably darker in many ways than the film that came before it. But this works. The film wasn't particularly well-received during its initial theatrical run, with many complaining that it was just too much but the movie has aged very well indeed to the point where some, this writer included, now see it as superior to Burton's original. It's paced well, the production values are fantastic, Danny Elfman's score is once again pitch-perfect and the whole thing is just bizarrely engrossing entertainment from start to finish.

The Video:

Batman Returns comes to 4k UHD with an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p presentation framed at 1.85.1 on a 100GB disc with HDR 10 enhancement. This film, maybe even more than the original picture, is a film that takes place almost entirely in dark and dreary locales. Gotham City is perpetually bathed in greys and blacks and darker hues. Still, this transfer really manages to pop at times, it's a beautiful looking picture that is always rich in fine detail. It looks outstanding from start to finish. Color reproduction is spot on and skin tones look great. The black levels are reference quality and the transfer retains an appropriately filmic look while showing virtually no print damage at all. There's no compression artifacts and edge enhancement and noise reduction never once rear their ugly heads. The sheen of Catwoman's suit, the mottled feathers of a penguin soldier, the pink neon sign in Selina Kyle's apartment, they all really come across beautifully here. Detail truly does shine, not just in close up shots but throughout the entire movie, giving the image more depth than it has had in the past and it delivers a marked improvement over what we've seen before in terms of how this film has looked on home video (and to be fair, it's always looked quite good… but yeah, a big improvement here).

The Audio:

English language tracks are provided in Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The Atmos track is a true thing of sonic beauty. From the opening of the film, with its lush and dramatic score, through to the finale, we get wonderfully dynamic acoustics here. The action scenes come to life with plenty of distinct channel separation and with consistently impressive clarity. Dialogue is always easy to understand and to follow and the levels are always perfectly balanced. Bass response is strong and powerful but it manages to be this way without burying the performers at all. Listen to your subwoofer kick when the Batmobile starts up, there's a really deep, low-end rumble to it but you're still able to hear everything else that you're supposed to hear.

Dubbed options are provided in French (European) German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Polish and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and in French (Canadian), Chinese, Spanish, Czech and Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish, and Thai.

The Extras:

The only extra on the UHD disc is the archival commentary track with Tim Burton. It's a solid track with a lot of good information in it. He spends quite a bit of time praising his cast and detailing what they were able to bring to the film and what they were like to direct. Some interesting stories here. He also talks about the look of the film, the effects work, the pressure that was on to produce a sequel after the huge success of the original film, shooting on sets in Los Angeles, working with the different crew members and quite a bit more.

The Blu-ray, which uses the new transfer, also carries over all of the extras from the previous Blu-ray release (but adds nothing new to the mix) starting with The Bat, The Cat And The Penguin, a twenty-two-minute featurette hosted by Robert Ulrich. This was made in 1992 and it's basically an EPK style piece, but it has some neat vintage behind the scenes footage and interviews shot during the making of the movie.

Shadows Of The Bat: The Cinematic Saga Of The Dark Knight Part 4: The Dark Side Of The Knight is a half-hour piece made up of insight from Burton, most of the key cast members, the writers, the producers and a few other crew members. They talk here about following up the huge hit that was the first movie, how with this second film they tried to expand on what was created there, what they did differently, casting the film, the look of the picture, the merchandising and plenty more. It's interesting stuff. Batman Returns: The Heroes is a seven-minute look at Batman and Alfred, basically just quick little character profiles. Batman Returns: The Villains spends eleven-minutes discussing Shreck, The Penguin and Catwoman and it's more of the same, just simple character profile spots.

Also worth checking out is Beyond Batman, a super-detailed sixty-five-minute examination of the making of the film, detailing what went into the production design required to bring the different sets to life, not just Gotham itself but The Penguin's lair and some of the other unique spots the movie plays out in. there's also lots of discussion of the costumes and the makeup, how The Penguin's army was put together, some of the VFX work that was created for the picture, Elfman's score and quite a bit more.

Rounding out the extras on the disc is a music video for the track Face To Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

This release also comes with an insert card for a Digital HD download version of the film and is packaged with a slipcover.


Batman Returns is a delightfully bizarre superhero epic populated by a host of insane characters well-played by a talented cast. Burton's flair for wild visuals is well served here, the film is a beautiful looking effort and the movie holds up really, really well. Warner Brothers' 4k UHD release presents this strangely entertaining picture in fantastic shape with reference quality audio and video. But there aren't any new extras here, everything from the older Blu-ray release has been carried over. Highly recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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