It’s widely believed that Tim Burton’s Batman movie is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time, but now someone has turned it into a silent movie… and it’s incredible! Featuring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, this film has inspired many filmmakers and animators since its release in 1989, and it’s still doing so to this day. It’s one of the main reasons that we even have the beloved Batman: The Animated Series.
In typical Tim Burton style, the new version is dark, gothic, and not as child-friendly as we may remember it to have been. Somehow, they’ve made it even darker, more gothic, and somehow more grown-up, by turning it into a silent movie, complete with artificial film grain, stylized intertitles, and color-tinted cells. If you thought it was a masterpiece before, you’ll love this silent version!
Ben Crew, a documentary filmmaker who went viral last year for his fan-made “Muppets Present The Great Gatsby” is the man who re-edited Batman:
I’ve always been a big fan of Batman and of Burton, his movie Ed Wood is my favorite film of all time. I love films that inspire you to seek out other films and Tim Burton’s Batman was that for me. Before I even knew how to use editing software, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to watch Batman as a silent film?”
It took a grueling month to edit, but the first eight minutes were uploaded when they were complete in October 2019 and went largely overlooked.
It wasn’t until I wrote “Muppets Present The Great Gatsby” that I realized my ability to go viral working with properties that I loved. The response I got from Muppet fans with Gatsby encouraged me to make this idea happen for Batman fans.
In February 2021, the fully edited movie was posted online, but again, it gained very little attention. It wasn’t until recently that Crew’s silent Batman went viral, to which he credits Twitter:
I never shared the Batman edit to Twitter until recently because I was frankly still figuring out how to utilize Twitter at the time. When I did finally share the edit on Twitter, it was in response to a prompt tweet. I hadn’t planned on going viral which I think is something people really respond to. I just wanted to share my love of silent cinema and Burton’s film.
When asked why he thoughts Tim Burton’s Batman would have worked so well as a silent film, he pointed out that there’s a prominent influence of German Expressionism on the visuals of the movie, and the gothic Art Deco depiction of Gotham is another nod to that era. Saying:
Its influences are so clear. Right down to Christoper Walken’s Batman Returns character being named Max Shreck, after the actor who played Count Orlok in Nosferatu.
Crew says that Danny Elfman’s score is the key ingredient to the success of Batman’s silent film re-edit:
I believe that Batman and Batman Returns are two of the greatest film scores of all time. This edit works so well because it allows you to experience Elfman’s genius without any words or sounds over it. Too many scores today just serve as background noise. Every note of this score is precise and timed exactly to compliment the action and characters. The visuals and music serve each other in the most beautiful way.
This silent edit does an incredible job of emphasizing Tim Burton’s gothic world and the soundtrack. All the music, including several tracks from Prince, is absolutely perfect for the movie. Throughout the film, there’s only one line of dialogue that isn’t silenced, and that is of the Joker laughing, which really is the icing on the cake:
The biggest inspiration for me while editing Batman: The Silent Motion Picture, was Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs, which is actually the film that inspired the design of the Joker. I made that decision because The Man Who Laughs was released in 1928 during the period in which motion pictures were transitioning to sound, and while it’s a silent film, the Movietone sound system played the score in addition to some sound effects and a song.
Since its rediscovery, Batman: The Silent Motion Picture has been making waves. Batman fans and film enthusiasts, as well as several independent venues across America, have reached out to Crew to organize screenings of his re-edit. He’s already expressed his desire to make Batman Returns into a silent film eventually too, and as for the potential legal response from Warner Bros. Crew says that his re-edit will find its audience no matter what:
Local theaters will need approval from Warner Bros., but they know that this already has a demand. So if I’m going to say anything to Warner Bros., it’s that I loved celebrating the character and I hope they join me in that celebration of not just Batman, but the history of cinema. There is a big audience of fans who would love to see Batman: The Silent Motion Picture in special theater screenings.
If you have not seen this amazing re-edit yet, you can watch it here. Tell us what you think about it in the comments afterward.
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