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Exclusive: Zack Snyder's Thoughts on Adapting Dark Knight Returns

by
February 25, 2009

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

So the story goes that at the San Diego Comic-Con last year, during the Watchmen panel, Zack Snyder said that he "would love to see Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns made into a movie." Following all the hype surrounding that statement, Frank Miller was asked if he would give Zack his blessing to adapt that graphic novel, which he would. So of course, the next logical step would be to go back to Zack and ask him how he might adapt the story, even though there's a distinct possibility that Warner Brothers will never ever allow this, especially with Christopher Nolan's version of Batman earning them billions of dollars.

In my interview with Zack Snyder on Watchmen, the final question I asked him was about, hypothetically, if he were to adapt The Dark Knight Returns, how would he do it. Some of you may have already heard his answer if you've watched that interview in its entirety, but let's take a closer look at his response again.

"I think the thing that's awesome about Dark Knight, like Watchmen, is that it is a complete and total experience, that was unlike anything anyone has ever seen, and still is," Snyder said. "I think the big challenge for me would be -- it's so 'montage-y' and so media thick, that you just have to -- that's the techniques you'd have to develop and make work. But as far as the rest goes, the thing I'd be really interested in is that kind of Frank [Miller] narration over that cool action, that's a thing we haven't really seen in that context."

I believe Zack is referring to the TV broadcast interviews that are found throughout the story, as well as the narration that Frank put for it. Those aspects are not only what makes it such a unique graphic novel, but are the exact reasons why it would be a challenge to adapt, as Snyder said. For those unfamiliar with the graphic novel, it's set 20 years in the future, after Bruce Wayne has retired, and deals with his return as Batman after Harvey Dent turns to crime again. This really would be a fascinating story to see on the big screen, especially after Christopher Nolan wraps up his Batman trilogy sometime in the next few years.

As I said at the beginning, it's very unlikely that we'll ever see this happen, but of course, I asked Zack about it anyway simply to entertain the idea. I'm not as big of a fan of Dark Knight Returns as I'm sure plenty of others are, but it is at least interesting to continue to hear Zack's take on the whole graphic novel and what he might do with it if ever given the opportunity to one day adapt it. Would it ever work as a movie?

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  • MagnoliaFan
    I wouldn't like to see this as a movie, but somehow Hollywood could make it happen. TDKR is kinda of a bogus story, with Robin as a Girl, and Superman making a cameo in the end. Plus, bringing back the Joker now that Heath nabbed the Oscar is something no actor can replace or live up to now.
  • Matt Suhu
    you're right, Alex. i'd love to see a Batman movie with Miller's narrative, especially listening to what's going on in Bruce's mind when he's beating up criminals. and i'd also pay money just to see Batman go up against evil-patriotic Superman if it's done right.
  • LC
    I also like the idea of making such a movie as this because not only would we know the protagonist thoughts it would also be cool to possible make this into an R rated movie. I doubt that may come about. But, batman being old and coming back to on harvey dent would be great for anyone that basically loves the batman graphic novels.
  • Ross
    Forget TDK Make Kingdom Come! That's Insta Win!
  • jonon
    dont mind this tripe keep going nolan
  • Matt
    #1, bogus story? What? This book is probably the best comic book series of the last 25/30 years. Considering that in the last couple of years there has been a female Robin in regular continuity (albeit very briefly), I don't think that your point regarding the female Robin in TDK holds much weight. And as for Supermans "cameo", it's what pulls the story together. Batman has always fought against the establishment, and his taking on Supes was the ultimate symbol of his fight for "the little man". When you consider the other pap that is being made into films nowadays (ie. computer games that havent even been released yet) I think that this would be a great film. I doubt that theyd get clearance for a Superman/Batman fight on screen though as DC wouldnt want either of their characters to lose, or to look like a bad guy.
  • This would have be incredibly bloody to do justice, I can't see WB giving a green light at all. I could see them doing a Knightfall movie - Have Bane in there, tie in Raz Al Ghul. I donno, hard to say what would be more successful.
  • DarkRaven18599
    The thing is that when it was released, The Dark Knight Returns was an altogether new way of writing a "comic book". Much like Watchmen, which was also released in 1986, Miller and Moore both used the format of a comic book to tell a very adult and well written novel. Both books helped to revolutionize the way comics were looked at by making them more mainstream. TDKR was also a completely different way for the fans to look at the character of Batman. At the time the character was coming off a stint through the 70's and early 80's where he was much less grim and foreboding. Due to the influence of both the TV show and cartoon imagery most people tended to think of Batman as that guy who fought absurdly overdone characters and made witty quips with his young ward by his side. When Miller was through we were back to seeing Batman as what he truly is, a Dark Knight fighting the never ending battle against crime from the shadows and the dark fears of the criminals. As far as making this graphic novel into a movie, it would be essential to put the audience into the head of the caped crusader and make them understand just what Bruce Wayne thinks and feels. The story is about how one man pictures himself as the last bastion against injustice. He's seen his friends and equals slowly put out to pasture by a society that blamed them for their own fears and faults. Good men and women who were shuffled aside by the society they gave their all to protect and are now thought of as maybe not being all they were once believed to have been. The only problem is that Batman is only mortal, not a super-powered dynamo. And in the 20 years he's been inactive he's aged past the point where he could do the things he did before so effortlessly. He has to push himself every moment to maintain his edge, to try and deal with not only his own mortality as he always has, but also now his own failings due to age. As much as Batman comes forth to stand against the corruption and crime in Gotham city, he also comes forward as a means to telling those in power that they do not so fully control all the worlds super-beings as much as they think they do. And maybe also to prove to himself that he still can be The Batman. This is the underlying story that is being told in this book. That one man can take a stand against injustice, even if that injustice is done by those who think they stand on the side of angels. That a man can prove to himself he's still worth a damn as long as he can take a stand. Snyder would have to get you into the head of The Batman and make you see the wall of pressure being placed upon the world to just follow the lead of those in power and do what they're told. He would have to use that voice-over through the use of the media snippets or even direct narration from the Bat himself to help guide the audience into understanding just why this man is pushing his very limits to try and be the hero he once was. Even if only to prove it to himself. I think that this could be a great movie if given the right treatment. And I think Snyder has the ability to establish a sympathy or even empathy with his protagonists to the audience, as well as direct some great action shots. If Miller were to become involved in the development and storytelling I think this would have a great chance to be a Batman movie independent of the stellar work that Nolan has done.
  • Dave Lister, J.M.C.
    Ummm... Mr. Snyder? I'd like you to meet Mr. Nolan; the man who is actually doing a great job of producing Batman films already. In fact, he's doing such an outstanding job, that nobody wants to hear hear how you'd fix everything. You've made what?... one so-so movie in 300 and one off the charts (by all accounts... it has yet to be released, at this point)movie in Watchmen. Christopher Nolan's efforts just reaped a billion dollars, in ticket sales, for The Dark Knight. That is hardly a performance that is begging for some self-aggrandizing "expert" to swoop in and "fix" everything. Go find your own project. Batman is in very capable hands already.
  • CaptainNemo
    Lister, it was a hypothetical question about a production that probably won't happen. Mr. Snyder was merely giving his opinion about adapting TDKR. He didn't say anything about '"fixing" anything, and nor did he say he was an "expert" about anything. So, in conclusion, pull your head out of your ass.
  • Dave Lister, J.M.C.
    Eat shit, Nemo. The fact that I don't go around trying to sniff Snyder's anal vapors all day doesn't disqualify me, from comment. This type of pronouncement was a thinly veiled jockeying for position, on Snyder's part. There's no need for his speculation; the Batman films are doing just fine without him. Why don't you pull your head out of Snyder's ass? Moron.
  • Evan
    I doubt this will happen anytime soon. Snyder has said himself that WB would never let him adapt the novel, seeing as there is an enormous existing franchise.
  • Johnbo
    Snyder is a relatively young director and if Nolan makes one or two more batman movies we would be due for a reboot in 2030 or so (I know that's hell of a long way down the road). So if it would happen it wouldn't be until Nolan's Batman has made all the money it can and the public wants Batman again.
  • Micah
    Similar to new Star Wars movies - there is no way, short of a nuclear holocaust, that this movie won't be made, no matter what the problems are. My bet is that due to Nolan's trilogy, Ledger's death, and legal wrangling over Superman, it won't get made any time within the next decade; but there is absolutely no way that this graphic novel won't get big-screen treatment. There's too much potential money to be made, there's already multiple built-in audiences (Batman fans, Frank Miller fans, DKR fans, etc.) and the story itself has already been written. I'll reiterate: for the same reasons why I believe new Star Wars movies will eventually be made, this is basically 100% going to happen. The question isn't "if", the question is "when?".
  • Janny
    I will hold judgement until I see the watchmen movie... if i love it (like i probaly will, but no squid??!) then Zack making frank miller's the dark knight returns would be pretty damn sweet as its probably my favorite comic of all time
  • ANTONIO
    My idea for making this movie have always been that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale should wait like fifteen years and the make this movie. Hopefully Bale would still be somewhat of good shape at like fifty.
  • Alfredo
    I think this could work as an End of Batman type storyline, after the Nolan trilogy is done and over with. If they adapt it so that it matches the concepts, storylines and visuals of the current movies, and then take it a few steps further, it could totally work as a sequel and not as a (God I hate this word now) reboot.
  • 9mm
    It would not make a good movie. I might be getting it mixed up with the sequel.. but didn't it have Superman, Green Arrow, and some psycho Nazi Chick? You couldnt have Green Arrow just pop up in a movie, where in comics, there is some expectation that the audience has at least a passing familiarity with the characters.
  • I hope one day we see it. Moviegoers are not stupid. They would understand its Batman a few decades from now. How about Keaton doing it. He's now in his mid 50's. chuck
  • Like I've told people a million times now, get Powers Boothe to play Bruce Wayne/Batman and we're half way there. With Snyder we'll be sure to have visuals & a direction that fans can love.
  • There is so much hype around Batman now that I don't see why this couldn't be considered. But it would have to be in the future. Right now it would be too confusing for fans, especially those who don't understand that this is the great graphic novel and a completely separate story from the new series.
  • Fuelbot
    Alex, you really need to get over this. You should've asked about Sucker Punch. I'm sure everyone is much more interested in that.
  • Marcus
  • S
    While I loved this comic it may be too gritty and dark to be a success on the big screen. You've got the joker killing people and then snapping his own neck, the Green Arrow and Batman plotting to take out Superman, Superman is a pawn of the government and doesn't he at one point allow a nuke to go off and creat an EMP, didn't Wonder Woman get sexually assaulted at one point in the novel? I'd love to see a well done TDKR but I don't think it's going to happen.
  • zetsu
    i want zack to make this film like fucking now,it would be fucking great.how many people would think it was as the follow up to chris nolan the dark knight.it's got to be kept separate on it's own then it might work, also make kingdom come.
  • Magic
    Please, Zack, if somebody can kick Nolan off the Batman franchise it's you. It's probably not going to happen, but I would really like to see Nolan removes his clumsy hands away from our Bruce Wayne. The only solution is to make Batman film before Nolan returns to do what he knows best - pure garbage, to show that anyone can be better than him. (Well, Memento was pretty good, I have to admit, but nothing else) Yeah, a little bit hate letter, but what can I do? Truth must be said, and since all the "new" fanboys are blinded by their kicking puberty and hormons, they can't think straight. Nolan is bad for Batman, bad for real fans (people that still have posters of Adam West, or at least Michael Keaton), and only good for the WB bank account. Nolan and his Batman movies SUCK! And Ledger... with all due respect, and I really liked him in A Knight's Tale and Brothers Grimm, but he was just average in TDK. You want to see a real psycho? See Anthony Wong in Ebola Syndrome, and then we'll talk.
  • Django
    If you want to make a relevant Frank Miller film, make goddamn GIVE ME LIBERTY.
  • Lex
    Has it earned them billions? I think you mean billion. Singular.
  • Lacey
    I think it would be batman overkill. the end. please don't do it.
  • SlashBeast
    A Dark Knight Returns film would definitely be interesting. There are a few problems such as Superman and Robin and Superman will have to be established in his own series before he appears in a Batman one. I'm not to keen on Zack Snyder but he may do a good job of it. But I definitely think they should wait until Nolan is done completing his Batman franchise. I don't want Nolan to adapt The Dark Knight Returns either because I want to see more of HIS vision. I'd rather Nolan do an original story for the next Batman film. I loved his Batman movies because it was his own story and not just adapting page for page a story from a comic. I do think this could make a great film though.
  • Daas
    Once the Christopher Nolan TDK magic dies down, and it will, Warner Bros will probably adapt The Dark Knight Returns to film.
  • Fisherr
    I would love to see Zack Snyder do another graphic novel movie as i am pretty confident that Watchmen will rock hard. I would love to see another Batman after Chris Nolan finishes his Trilogy.
  • SS
    This cannot be done anymore because Two-Face didn't survive the events of The Dark Knight. Also the graphic novel is too outrageous for the "Christopher Nolan/Michael Mann-ish" Batman universe of the films.
  • wassssssuuuuuupppppppp
    Rather this by Snyder and Miller than crap by WB and Nolan. Ditch...um...see, I forgot his name. BALE! Ditch Bale!
  • Ajax
    Hmmmmm..... I love TDKR and it would make an awesome film. But there are some problems. Two-Face is "dead" and the Joker is as good as dead as well. Plus, it has Superman in it, which may confuse some newcomers, and there are parts that seem very odd if they were ever t obe put on the screen. I'm sorry, but I don't think it can happen
  • Daniel
    It would be an alright movie,(by the way, am i the only person who wants to see a rated R Batman? That would be so bad-ass)But it wouldn't, maybe, probably do as well as TDK. Maybe
  • Drama
    iI wanna se Mickey Rourke as old Batman driving around in his tank, and then a huge fight with Superman at the end. Awesome. ...Not really. As cool as I think the novel is, I just can't see how this would turn out to be any good on the big screen.
  • Oi. I was with you until I read the word "narration"... And like you said, it "would be a challenge to adapt" How exactly would that work, and not be terribly annoying?
  • Moviegimp
    We have Watchmen coming out which is kind of the same story. The government bans costumed crime fighters, most go away, one doesn't and one joins the government. Be happy with it for now and all the rest will happen or not whenever. I would love to see The Dark Knight Returns done into a movie but I don't think it could be done right. For all the talk of how Watchmen was unfilmable TDKR would be far worse. There is the voice in my head aspect but far harder is the talking heads through out. You could do them both but making them so they weren't annoying as get out would be very tough. That kind of thing works in books and comics but not so much in film. Anyone who says that you can't just throw a character into a film though without them having had their own film first seems silly. Why is that needed. Comic book films are made for comic book audiences, we know who the characters are. Hardly any of the X-Men had their origins explained and everyone figured it out. Putting Superman or Green Arrow into a Batman movie wouldn't confuse most people. Those two have been together on Smallville, most people have a general idea of who they are. Plus Marvel is putting Nick Fury in all it's movies. Only long time comic book fans know who the guy is and cheer. Your average movie goer hasn't a clue.
  • Hostile
    DKR is already an absolutely amazing comic book. Why ruin it by jarringly attempting to crush into into a medium it is totally unsuited to? Hollywood needs to work on developing it's own ideas and stop pillaging the other superior mediums (sorry film fans but you gotta admit, 75% of the worthless social detritus swimming around our ankles is coming straight off the silver screen these days). Film has the potential to be amazing but it feels like 9 out of every 10 new films are just wasting everybody's time and going through the motions for a few cheap thrills. In the comic world, people are still digging up new stories and finding new boundaries, and far more often than in the other popular mediums. V For Vendetta, Watchmen, DKR... these are stories that deserve the graphic novel. Plastering them across the silver screen is nothing short of an insult to the work.
  • Governor
    @ 26 Don't worry, you're not revealing any "truth" to anyone, you're just immaturely ranting about your opinions. As for Zack Snyder, he doesn't have a creative bone in his body, Nolan has more talent than Snyder in his pinky finger. If Snyder made this then it would be a slo-mo, green screen disaster.
  • Hanna
    Hi Zack Snyder is properly the worst choice for this, especially as he has already ruined two perfectly good stories already, that being Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen. Give it to Clint Eastwood, I think he is able to create a film without having to use a previously created visual add for every frame. The last thing you ever want is a fan boy to make a comic book adaptation, which is why the original Superman was so good. Trust me. Peace & Luv H
  • Arcanus
    If they make any batman movies there is one director of which should be an automatic choice: Christopher Nolan. Zack Snyder may have done Watchmen but he is not the one to make a batman movie. Batman is one of the top comic book adaptions yet and is one of the only ones to be succefully adapted both a movie and animated show (but not Batman: The Brave and the Bold or the 60's varient). The WB's batman has pulled off the Joker well but of course The Dark Knight is the best yet. No Zack, but Christopher who made The Dark Knight aught to make Batman: The Dark Knight Returns if they make it.
  • Pablo Splinter
    I would love to see this as a film but please, not by Zack Snyder. How does he still get work? seriously, i can't understand it......
  • Kyle
    i think people need to realize that heath ledger (rip) is dead, and move. let someone else play the joker, and the dark knight returns will give someone that chance. zack snyder is one of the best directors out there, and people don't want to admit it yet. meaning critics. watchman, dawn of the dead, 300, and the soon to be sucker punch are amaizing films. sucker punch will be his best

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