If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Batman (Michael Keaton) returns indeed, and just in time too because a new threat has surfaced. A malformed man known as Penguin (Danny DeVito) has risen from the sewers of Gotham and has plans to take over the city to avenge the way it has treated him. With this also comes Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), better known as Catwoman, as she becomes another road block in both Batman and Bruce Wayne's lives.
It's funny how pretty much all of the things I said I didn't like about the first Batman movie are the things that I loved about the second. This time around the villains are unapologetically the main focus of the film, but it works because the characters are actually defined with their own backstories and motivations. Penguin was abandoned as a child and wants revenge. Catwoman is less straightforward but her problem is that she's gone insane. That's actually probably my biggest complaint about the film, that the way Selina Kyle becomes Catwoman doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. But the way it plays out from then on, watching her slip more and more into madness and never understanding what her own goals are, works really well into the Batman mythos.
Danny DeVito gives possibly the best performance of his life in this movie, with the help of Stan Winston's amazing makeup for the character. Just like the story, it's gritty and slightly disturbing to watch, but Penguin is also the biggest comic relief of the film and has some great lines. He's a much more interesting take on a Batman villain than Joker was. It's also a much bigger change than from the comics but it works very well.
As I said, the story is much darker this time around, but that's because it's a lot more emotional and has much more character development. The first felt like a big budget action movie while this feels like a big budget action character piece. The endgame is also much more important the story, with Penguin plotting the whole time. The stakes feel a lot higher than they did throughout the first film and it's not just a villain moping about a superhero spoiling all his plans. Penguin actually does a much better job at getting things done and manipulating the people. And most importantly, Batman feels important to the story. Batman, Penguin and Catwoman all have similar traits that play off each other throughout the film and help you sympathize with all of them. It plays the psychological angle in a subtle and deep way.
Luckily this movie can be watched on its own so I'd say even if you haven't seen the first, this is a must-see.