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Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns is the key graphic novel that modernized and re-energized the Batman character in 1986. Previously, most people knew Batman only from the colorful 1966 TV show or the silly Superfriends cartoons. Of course, many other artists have contributed to Batman's evolution throughout the years, such as Alan Moore, Neil Adams, Jim Aparo, Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano. Without Dark Knight Returns, however, Tim Burton's Batman or any of the later movies wouldn't have existed. Basically, the character of Batman is what he is today thanks to Frank Miller's masterpiece.
In 2012, Warner released an animated adaptation of the graphic novel which was completely misunderstood by the creative team. Many of the things that made the graphic novel great were ignored or re-interpreted poorly. The first offence they committed was to divide the story in 2 chapters instead of the original 4, thus they had to reorganize the structure to make that change work even if it was nonsensical. Other changes made that didn’t make sense include: introducing the Joker as a drooling idiot; the bright-as-day action sequences with Batman in wrestling-like fights that lasted comically long; the awful narration that replaced the tortured inner dialogue from the graphic novel that made it seem like Bruce Wayne was senile, etc. The list goes on and on.
Fortunately, most of the graphic novel was in the movie itself and it was possible for me to remove almost all of the offending material. I removed the narration, cut the awful dialogue and the endless fistfights and shootouts. Instead, I made Batman a demon who works in the shadows. I made many other suitable changes which are detailed below. This fanfix is now much closer to the source material and actually feels like a proper adaptation. I made very few original creative decisions, but rather relied on the graphic novel as the blueprint, working my way through the entire thing page by page. I had to compromise in a few places but, overall, I'm very happy with the result and I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.
- Edited Bruce's race car crash to hide bad physics and also to keep the action inside the cockpit, close to Wayne, as in the graphic novel.
- Bruce now clinks his glass against Gordon's as in the graphic novel instead of inexplicably ignoring him.
- Removed superfluous dialog between Gordon and Bruce which isn't in the graphic novel.
- Cut mutants break dancing and Bruce walking in front of TVs that show his car crash. Bruce is lost in his thoughts, we shouldn't be distracted by breakdancing. Scene from the graphic novel which was badly adapted.
- Cut from bullet shell to butterfly dancing under the light in crime alley - nice transition which helps us follow Bruce's train of thoughts.
- Cut newspaper with Wayne murder headline - has this newspaper been there for 40 years? Or is it a clumsy way to segue into a flashback? Option two! Scene deleted.
- Added flashbacks to the Waynes' murder.
- Moved nightmare sequence to after Harvey Dent escapes. It becomes the reason why Wayne is up and watching TV later. Which is more in line with what happens in the graphic novel.
- Muffled Martha and Thomas Wayne's voice in the dream as their happiness is a bit too on the nose, plus it's a distant memory more akin to a feeling than actual words spoken.
- Removed Bruce's inner bat voice. Works in the graphic novel, doesn't work here. Also the only time it's used wheras it's all over the graphic novel. Why that "creative" choice? The scene has more emotional weight without.
- Cut Arkham patient playing with letter blocks. It's an institution for the criminally insane, not kindergarden.
- Cut Joker being spoon fed - in the graphic novel he's not catatonic, he just doesn't talk anymore.
- Cut Bruce hallucinating himself in the television
- Cut the Bat narration. It's removed from everywhere else in the adaptation so why is it used here?
- Cut exterior shot of Batman beating up taxi pimp - he's now a shadow
- Cut Batman hitting first mutant multiple times like he's beating him up. He's Batman. He only needs one punch and could kill that mutant in three different ways with his bare hands.
- Cut seeing Batman beating up that mutant at the arcade while he's being shot at (?!?). Now he's an unseen force, like in the graphic novel.
- Cut police car POV of Batman swinging from buildings like Spider-Man
- Cut overhead shot of first clear view of Batman. The audience's POV should never be above him, he is a giant.
- Cut thugs in car cartoonishly screaming while the car falls over the rail
- Cut Batman failing to lift himself up in the abandoned warehouse. Not in the graphic novel. Now he just streneously climbs the rope. We get he's old. We don't need to have it spelled out.
- Inserted Zimmer theme with Bat-signal introduction
- Cut "action Batman" shots on roof helicopte scene. He's not a side-scrolling videogame action hero now, he's an unseen force in the smoke
- Cut demon batman - it's mentionned in dialog in the comic but confusing in the animated version
- Cut Batman's interaction with goon. Since when does Batman explain himself to goons?
- Cut Batman vs Two-Face, he now takes him down right away like in the graphic novel
- Changed the transition for Two-Face's imaginary scarred face from a fade to hard cut from lightning
- Cut Carrie's "Instant pizza" line
- Cut manly man saying "Chill out, they can smell your fear" to his girlfriend who is worried about getting mugged.
- When Carrie saves the couple in that bad neighbourhood instead of that couple walking away as if nothing happened they're stunned and Carrie says "You're welcome"
- Cut exterior of Bat Tank - introduction is now like in the graphic novel, from inside the tank, leaving the reveal for when it arrives at the pit
- Cut the flares light show - in the original Batman blasts the mutant's torch out of his hands. Why is he shooting lights in the sky? His flares now land amongst the mutants as a warning that the next shots will be rockets
- Cut down the assault on the mutants. This is not a video game. The assault is long winded and unecessary.
- Cut Carrie taking down mutants with advanced martial arts
- Cut Carrie saying "Get him" to herself while Batman fights the mutant
- Cut down the fight so it's less of a WWE fight and more realistic and brutal
- Cut Carrie dragging Batman
- Cut down the mud pit fight so it's no longer a wrestling match
- Deleted Gang member's statement right after they literally say they don't make statements
- Book 2 ends with Joker's famous line: "Batman... Darling" which was originally in Book 1 but considering they completely changed Joker's introduction this is more appropriate
- Cut Alfred picking up Carrie from school - it's two panels without dialog in the graphic novel but an entire scene here which lightens the tone too much
- Cut rooftop sequence where police are standing there waiting to be punched by Batman
- Cut police friendly fire - are they really accidently shooting at each other?
- Added error sound when Carrie tries to voice command the copter to make it more clear that she reprogrammed it when she says "Peel"
- Cut Joker's "Be still my beating heart" line, in the graphic novel he's freaked out that Batman is using lethal force
- Cut Joker destroying the bench with his gun
- Cut Joker saying excuse me to people he shoots
- Shortened the unrealistic WWE fight with Joker. Sacrificed some dialog from the graphic novel but it's a lesser than two evils situation.
- Cut police shooting at Batman almost point blank and missing
- Cut helicopter terminator-like POV
- Cut Yindel shooting at Batman with her team and missing
- Cut Gordon's wife giving him a grocery list. Destroys tension.
- Electro-magnetic pulse no longer takes 20 seconds to take effect.
- Cut Alfred saying "You don't know that" about nuclear explosion to Batman. He's Batman. Of course he knows.
- Cut Gordon's long speech about the neighbourhood burning. He cuts to the chase because the city is on fire!?!
- Cut annoying thug who wants to sue Batman
- Cut Gordon knocked off his feet by the explosion. He's 70 years old. That would destroy his body.
- Cut Oliver saying "Lately, it's been cold a lot", it's a rather ham fisted line.
- Cut army man losing Batman because he turned a corner...? Besides, not in graphic novel.
- Cut missiles targeting for too long.
- Cut Bruce peeking out of the corner to see Superman fall. What was he hiding from? Superman has x-ray vision.
- Cut Alfred looking through family album. Not in the graphic novel and slows down Superman v Batman fight
- Cut pointless superpowered fight and cut to the chase. Just like in the graphic novel, Superman is patient with Batman and that's the only reason he loses: his compassion.