Roll up! Roll up! The Bat-circus has come to town. See a whole range of new Bat-gadgets! See Michelle Pfeiffer in a skin-tight leather costume! See Danny DeVito in a lot of makeup! See some very expensive sets! Don't look, though, for anything resembling imagination, suspense, or humor.

From the script level, all the way through the direction, acting, and editing, BATMAN RETURNS is as much of a mess as the beleaguered Gotham City in which it is set. The paint-by-numbers story attempts a clumsy balance between fantasy and reality which ends up lost between both worlds. The

production design succeeds in creating a comic-book ambience, but director Tim Burton and his screenwriters bring a heavy-handed, plodding realism to bear on what should be pop-mythic material. Neither is the perfunctory plot redeemed by the lavish action sequences; the fights and chases are

incoherent and over-the-top, with the result being confusion rather than suspense.