In 2017, comic book fans get pretty riled up when their favorite superheroes behave unlike themselves on the big screen. Last year, a vengeful Batman let bodies hit the floor in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it wasn’t the first time the Caped Crusader went for the kill. In 1992’s Batman Returns, Batman let a poor dude blow up in a Gotham City sewer. Now, 25 years later, screenwriter Daniel Waters says the scene wasn’t in his script.
“Batman killing the clown by throwing his bomb back at him, that wasn’t in my draft,” Waters told The Hollywood Reporter in a new retrospective interview.
But Waters feels differently about Batman’s famous No Kill rule than most fans do. “To me, if he’s going to kill somebody, it better be worth it. It should mean something. So, when he’s killing people in a devil-may-care way, it’s a little grating.”
Waters thinks there are times when Batman should put his principles aside and kill evildoers for the greater good. His example: 2008’s The Dark Knight, written by Jonathan and director Christopher Nolan. “Batman not killing Heath Ledger at the end of The Dark Knight after proving he can get out of any prison, it’s like ‘Come on. Kill Heath Ledger,’” Waters said.
Although killing was controversial to Bat-fans — despite the fact Batman did kill criminals very early in his comic book history — Warner Bros. didn’t push back on Tim Burton from pursuing his vision of “a different type of superhero” movie. “At the time, it felt like we were exploring new territory and it’s probably quite tame compared to now,” Burton said.
He added: “I think that everybody was on board with the fact that these were going to be a different type of superhero movie. Because it felt new at the time, they really didn’t know what to say about it.”
Violence wasn’t the only thing different to the original script. In Waters’s draft, Batman/Bruce Wayne did a lot more talking, but Michael Keaton cut them out in favor of physical acting. “My version of the script had more a lot more Batman and Bruce Wayne speeches,” Waters said. “Michael Keaton would go through the script and say, ‘Hey, that’s a great line, but you gotta cut it. This is a good speech, but you gotta take it out.’ He wanted to have very minimal dialogue, especially in the Batsuit. When I saw the final film, I realized he was exactly right.”
To Keaton, he preferred letting the suit do the talking. “Once I realized how powerful the suit was in terms of an image on screen, I just used it,” Keaton said.
Batman will return to the big screen on November 17 in Justice League.