Batman: The Silent Motion Picture celebrates the character and cinematic history

It’s probably safe to assume now that Tim Burton Batman needs no introduction. Released in 1989, the feature film adaptation of The Dark Knight starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson stands neck and neck with Richard Donner’s 1978. Superman as one of the most influential superhero films of its time, arguably eclipsing the latter in the scope of its impact on popular culture, superhero or otherwise.

The popularity and success of Burton’s film resulted in Batman: The Animated Series, and inspired retroactive changes to the comics’ depiction of Gotham City as well as its own limited comic book series more than 30 years after its release. Mow, someone went to re-edit Burton’s gothic superhero opus into a silent film, complete with color-tinted cels, contrived film grain, and stylized intertitles. And wouldn’t you know it – it’s still fantastic.

Ben Crew, a Chicago-based documentary filmmaker who went viral last year for his fan-made script “Muppets Present The Great Gatsby” last year, is the man behind the re-release. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Batman and Burton, his film Ed Wood is my favorite movie of all time,” Crew told Polygon via email. “I love movies that make you look for other movies and Tim Burton movies Batman that was it for me. Before I even knew how to use editing software, I thought to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to watch Batman like a silent movie? »

Image: Benjamin Crew/Warner Bros.

Although the editing took a month, the first eight minutes were completed and posted online in October 2019, without much attention. “It wasn’t until I wrote ‘Muppets Present The Great Gatsby’ that I realized my ability to go viral working with properties I loved,” Crew told Polygon. “The response I received from Muppet fans with Gatsby encouraged me to bring this idea to life for Batman fans.”

The full edition was completed in February 2021 and posted online, again garnering few responses. It was only last week that the editing of Crew’s silent film by Batman went viral, which Crew attributes to Twitter. “I never shared the Batman edit on Twitter until recently because frankly, I was still looking to use Twitter back then,” Crew told Polygon. “When I finally shared the edit on Twitter, it was in response to a quick tweet. I didn’t plan on going viral, which I think is something people really respond to. I wanted to just sharing my love of silent movies and Burton’s film.

As to why he resents Tim Burton’s work, specifically Batman, is so ripe for silent film treatment, Crew points to the predominant influence of German Expressionism on Burton’s visuals and production designer Anton Furst’s Gothic Art Deco depiction of Gotham City, along with other nods. eye at that time. “His influences are so clear,” Crew told Polygon. “Up to Christopher Walken’s Return of Batman character named Max Shreck after the actor who played Count Orlok in Nosferatus.

A purple-tinted still of a man holding a Joker playing card in Batman: The Silent Motion Picture.

Image: Benjamin Crew/Warner Bros.

Ultimately, however, Crew credits Danny Elfman’s scoring as the key ingredient to Burton’s successful transformation. Batman in a silent film. “I believe that Batman and Return of Batman are two of the greatest movie scores of all time,” Crew told Polygon. “This edit works so well because it lets you experience Elfman’s genius without any words or sound over it. Too many sheet music these days serve only as background noise. Every note in this score is precise and timed exactly to complement the action and characters. The visuals and the music are used in the most beautiful way.

That beauty is certainly reflected in the editing itself, which brings Elfman’s score to the forefront of attention while creatively incorporating several tracks from Prince’s soundtrack album that hadn’t appeared. before in the movie itself. And yes, don’t worry, the infamous “Partyman” scene where Joker and his gang ransack the Gotham Museum remains intact.

Throughout the silent film re-release of Batman, only one instance of dialogue sound is used – that of the Joker’s laughter – a creative choice that Crew attributes to one of the main influences behind the project as a whole. “The biggest inspiration for me when editing [Batman: The Silent Motion Picture] was by Paul Leni The man who Laughs, which is actually the movie that inspired the design of the Joker,” Crew told Polygon. “I made this decision because The man who Laughs was released in 1928 during the era when movies were going to sound, and although it was a silent film, the Movietone sound system played the score in addition to some sound effects and a song.

Jack Nicholson as the Joker screaming in laughter as his makeup peels off to reveal his faded white skin in Batman: The Silent Motion Picture.

Image: Benjamin Crew/Warner Bros.

Since it went viral on Twitter, Batman: The Silent Movie saw a tremendous response from Batman fans and moviegoers, with several independent sites across the country reaching out to Crew to facilitate screenings of its re-release. Crew itself has already expressed its intention to donate Return of Batman the same silent film treatment. As for a potential legal response from Warner Bros., Crew argues that the montage will find its audience, one way or another.

“Local theaters will need approval from Warner Bros., but they know it already has demand,” Crew told Polygon. “So if I have to say anything to Warner Bros., it’s that I loved celebrating the character and I hope they join me in that celebration not only Batman, but the history of cinema. There is a large audience of fans who would like to see Batman: The Silent Movie in special theatrical screenings.

Batman: The Silent Movie is available to stream on Internet Archive.

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