In a recent Forbes article about the strengths, weaknesses, and mixed reception of Batman Forever (1995), Mark Hughes characterizes Scaperat’s 2007 fan edit, Batman Forever: Red Book Edition, as a glimpse at the quality of film that director Joel Schumacher intended to make:
The theatrical cut of Batman Forever is in fact missing a lot of what Schumacher was trying to create. There is an alternate version called Batman Forever: Red Book Edition, which is an unofficial, fantastic fan-edit containing all of the great deleted footage edited back into the movie (including a training sequence with Bruce and Dick, in which Bruce opens up about killing) while many of the campier lines are cut out and the neon coloring is toned down. You get a clearer sense Schumacher was attempting to craft a much more dramatic and complex approach to Batman’s psychology and characterization. In fact, there is a sequence about a childhood Bruce falling down the well and first encountering the bats that created his fear, and this concept ended up being revived in Batman Begins. With a freer hand to completely make the film he wanted (which would’ve looked much more like the Red Book Edition) Schumacher could’ve delivered a film that was highly regarded by all fans and that took the series in a different, sustainable direction.
Hughes also includes a new interview with Schumacher, who expressed thanks for Scaperat’s creative efforts:
[Mark Hughes]: I’m wondering if you’ve seen something. There is an alternate version of the film, known as Batman Forever: Red Book Edition, where an editor with tremendous skills — nobody knows who, it was done anonymously — took the deleted scenes, and took the film and put it all back together and made a few little edits here and there to try to create the film that you’ve talked about wanting to have made over the years, something more serious and a little darker. It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and even many people who criticized the theatrical release saw this version and loved it. It won the film many new fans, in other words. Have you seen this unofficial fan-edited Red Book Edition?
[Joel Schumacher]: No… Can I see it? Is there any way I can thank the editor? You can certainly put a thank you from me, for loving it enough to do that and taking such care!
Batman Forever: Red Book Edition (Scaperat, 2007) cut approximately 11 minutes from the original film, incorporated 10 minutes of previously deleted material, and included a new color grading scheme as well as additional music from Elliot Goldenthal’s scores for Alien 3 (1992) and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001). Download Link Container (.dlc) available at Fanedit.info.
Hollywood Bites Back?
It’s exciting when a film director responds to the work of fan editors, especially when that response is supportive and even appreciative. It demonstrates that there are creative professionals who recognize that a transformative work like a fan edit by its nature is not a threat to their artistry or revenue; a fan edit is a creative and critical work that can even complement the original text.
Thus, it is unfortunate that Marshall Herskowitz, former president of the Producer’s Guild of America, has called fan edits “a terrible thing,” and argued, “By changing the intended output of the author, that is an infringement on copyright […] It’s not about commercial exploitation. It’s about promulgation of a new work that is not the intention of the author.” However, Steven Soderbergh, who directed the Herskowitz production of Traffic (2000), apparently does not share the same draconian view; Soderbergh has been releasing his own fan edits on his personal website since 2014. As of this writing, he has re-edited Psycho (1960), Heaven’s Gate (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Contrary to Herskowitz’s interpretation of fan editing, projects like Batman Forever: Red Book Edition are made to elevate under-appreciated films or even reconstruct “lost” versions of films that may have been taken out of the hands of their directors by producers and studios. For example, when Tim Pope, director of The Crow: City of Angels (1996), discovered that a fan editor named DCP had created an approximation of Pope’s original vision of the film using subtitled animatics, he responded earnestly: “It was quite emotional seeing the film that might have been […] Thanks for putting this together and for your enormous efforts.”
Ralph Winter, producer of several X-Men and Star Trek films, remarked, “As a film maker, I think it’s incredible that fans want to participate and delve a little further into the material.” Also, Derek Hoffman, who produced the Warner Bros. sanctioned reconstruction project Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006), said, “As a fan, which I am, I think [fan edits] are really interesting […] However, on the practical side, they’re recutting a film you made and using characters and telling stories that somebody else owns. Is that any different from kids getting together and playing with Star Wars action figures and creating their own stories and universes there? They’re just doing it in a more technological way.”
Adding to this notion of playing and experimenting with media, George Lucas, who is often characterized as the anathema of Star Wars fans because of his revisionst tendencies, has actually demonstrated some support for fan editing. When asked about The Phantom Edit at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards, he replied, “The Internet is a new medium, it’s all about doing things like that. I haven’t seen it. I would like to.” The following year, in an interview for Film Comment, he explained, “Well, everybody wants to be a filmmaker. Part of what I was hoping for with making movies in the first place was to inspire people to be creative. The Phantom Edit was fine as long as they didn’t start selling it.” As a point of clarification, The Phantom Editor was never involved in any sales of The Phantom Edit, and the established fan editing communities strongly oppose selling their works.