Batman Returns (1992)
|Category||Action||Biographies-Cast & Crew|
|Year Of Production||1992|
|Running Time||121:19 (Case: 126)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Tim Burton|
Warner Home Video
Rebecca De Mornay
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The fact that this film was rated M when the original was rated PG might lead you to believe that the action is more intense in this film, but it is really about the same. The only real difference between the two films is the choice of villain, or villains in this case. Batman Returns begins with a sequence shot in a mansion where the lady of the house has just given birth. Sadly, she has given birth to a monstrosity of such severity that the decision is made to cast the baby into the streams running out of the sewers of Gotham City. The baby floats in a small carriage through the sewers until it is happened upon by a clan of penguins, although what a clan of penguins would be doing in a sewer is really quite hard to imagine.
Anyway, from there, we fast forward thirty-three years to the Gotham City of the present, where Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) is hatching a plan to build one more power plant than Gotham City actually needs. As it turns out, his secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), discovers that the power plant is really designed to drain power away from the city for Shreck's evil purposes. In a rather unwise move, Selina takes her suspicions to Max, who responds by throwing her out of a window and leaving her to die several stories down on the cold ground of the city. Naturally, while she is there, she is tended to by a mob of stray cats, who inspire her to adopt the persona of the Catwoman.
Meanwhile, the Penguin (Danny DeVito) is determined to discover his roots and bring Gotham City under his control at the same time. In order to do so, he enlists the reluctant aid of Shreck, who acts as his political aide. With Batman (Michael Keaton) being an ever-increasing thorn in each of the three criminals' sides, they attempt to frame him for the murder of a popular celebrity. This is where the story hits its weak point, as this is an unnecessary detail which could have been excised in favour of stronger development of the romantic tensions between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.
However, we all know that Batman will surely defeat his enemies and wander off into a solitary existence with his butler, Alfred (Michael Gough). It is how he gets there, and maintains a healthy alliance with Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle), that makes the meat in this sandwich. However, a Batman film without Jack Nicholson is somewhat crippled because of the audience's expectations. Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito, and Michelle Pfeiffer put in a valiant effort to make up for the lack of a great villain, but none of them are able to convincingly portray their characters with the sort of psychotic edge which made Nicholson's Joker so compelling to watch. Christopher Walken's portrayal of a crooked tycoon is convincing enough, but it lacks the extreme edge which was the order of the day in the first film.
Danny DeVito's role as The Penguin is not convincing due to a slight lack of character development that makes his motives and actions unconvincing a lot of the time. Michelle Pfeiffer is hard to take seriously as The Catwoman simply because she goes from a nerdy secretary to a psychotic criminal in one very improbable leap. In this film, the emphasis is on action rather than character or story development, and it shows. Still, as soon as Tim Burton stepped off the director's chair and some moron in Warner Brothers decided to resurrect Robin in spite of the fact that he was given the chop by popular vote among the comic book readers, it was all downhill.
Sharpness is not particularly good at any point in this transfer, although I believe that this has a lot to do with the director's methods in the shooting of the film. Shadow detail is good enough to make out the important details in most sequences, and this is again a reflection on the photographic techniques used in the film. The first sequence of the film contains some moments of rather poor shadow detail, but this also appears to have been a deliberate artistic choice as it is the only instance where the detail plummets to this depth. There was no low-level noise.
The colour saturation was deliberately muted and dull during most of the film, although it was also larger than life during the night-time combat sequences. The DVD is an accurate reflection of the director's intentions with the film's theatrical presentation.
MPEG artefacts were absent from the presentation, but one suspects they would have been rampant had the film been compressed just a little harder. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing on car grilles and windows, and I think I noticed one instance on Michelle Pfeiffer's costume. Film artefacts consisted of some occasional scratches and flecks on the negative, but there were a lot less of these than expected.
English For The Hearing Impaired subtitles are present on this DVD, and they are quite faithful to the spoken dialogue.
The sound is presented in a choice of three languages, all of them encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1: English, French, and Italian. I've listened to both the English and Italian versions of the dialogue, and I found them both to be little different in terms of the quality of the sound mix and placement.
The dialogue was consistently easy to understand at all times, in spite of the way in which Danny DeVito growls his lines and Michelle Pfeiffer speaks very softly throughout the film. Audio sync was never a problem.
The score music was composed and conducted by Danny Elfman, a man who has worked quite frequently with director Tim Burton. One of the most major advantages this film has over its predecessor is that this time the score music is not hampered by cheesy pop numbers from a has-been pop icon. The music in this film was mainly used to support the on-screen action, and it does an excellent job of this at all times. The Batman theme in particular is a driving, moving piece of work that drives the film along in a highly supportive manner.
If there is one place where this Dolby Digital 5.1 mix shines, it is in the surround presence. Ambient sounds of all descriptions can be heard making their way into the surround channels, and the sound of penguins marching around in the rear channels is truly an awesome sound to hear. The music and sounds of such things as metallic doors squeaking are also very well supported by the surround channels, with even the sound of babies crying a pleasant thing to behold in this mix.
The subwoofer was called on to support a plethora of effects such as lightning strikes, engine roars, and the usual sounds of combat between Batman and his usual plethora of opponents. The difference between the Dolby Digital Batman Returns, and Batman (which was originally recorded in Dolby Stereo) is a truly dramatic one to behold.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is good, but nothing to get excited about. Aside from a moment where little can be made out during the opening credits that may have been a deliberate choice by the director, this is the best video transfer of the Batman franchise.
The audio quality is superb, and easily the best of the Batman franchise. As a matter of fact, this is easily the best audio transfer that Warner Brothers have provided me with so far due to the excellent placement of sounds within the soundfield.
The extras are non-existent, which is good if you want quality in spite of the limitations of a single-layer disc, or bad if you want things like theatrical trailers at the expense of video quality. Still, a director's commentary in mono wouldn't have been too much to ask for.
|DVD||Grundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|