Everyone loves Batman.
These days, it seems to be an objective fact that Batman is awesome. If someone doesn’t like Batman, no longer is the response, “Yeah that’s fair.” Instead, the appropriate response is, “Wait what? How? Batman is the universal good!” or, “WHAAAT HOW CAN SOMEONE BE SO IRREVOCABLY WRONG?!” I know there are people who don’t like Batman, I’ve even met a few, but their numbers have been dwindling – and I think we can attribute the Bat’s more widespread acclaim largely to the fantastic recent films by Chris Nolan.
Nolan’s run with Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego has received both critical and public praise, and rightly so – they’ve presented a far more coarse version of Batman that had only been seen in the comics before, which resonated with a public engulfed in economic turmoil and various wars and civil unrest. Comic fans rejoiced at seeing Batman’s darker side finally being effectively portrayed on the big screen, and the public got a serious, escapist series of films.
However, before Nolan got to touch the Batman series, the dark knight had endured certain hardships in the cinema – Joel Schumacher is possibly the worst villain Batman has ever experienced – and we try to forget those films that never should have been. Yet I stumbled across a short but interesting list of films about the dark knight that never got made. I wish to share with you now these lost films.
Batman Triumphant (1999)
It might be hard to believe that Warner Bros ever thought that Batman & Robin (1997) was good, but apparently they did – after being incredibly pleased and impressed with the dailies from Schumacher’s cinematic abortion, they decided that Schumacher must direct a third Batman film starring George Clooney as Bruce Wayne.
Called Batman Triumphant, the Scarecrow was to be the film’s main villain, with the Joker appearing as a hallucination caused by Scarecrow’s fear toxins. Harley Quinn was going to be a supporting character as Joker’s daughter out for revenge against Batman for her father’s death. Chris O’Donnell was also supposed to reprise his role as Robin.
Mercifully, once Batman & Robin was released and received the abysmal reviews it deserved, Warner Bros grew rightfully concerned about a third film, and the project’s mid-1999 release date was shelved along with production, saving everyone from more nippled-Batsuit madness.
Batman: DarKnight (1999/2000)
I don’t know if this title is a typo or not, but I’m keeping it as I found it. Which is bloody awful.
Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched Warner Bros a script in mid-1998 which featured Bruce Wayne giving up the Batman mantle and Dick Grayson going to Gotham University. Dr Jonathan Crane used his position as a professor of psychology at Gotham University and head psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum to conduct experiments into fear and its effects. But Crane somehow instigates a transformation in his colleague Dr Kirk Langstrom into Manbat, who then goes on midnight rampages, leading the unhappy citizens of Gotham to believe that Batman is back and killing people.
Inevitably, Batman would come back to clear his name, defeat Manbat and probably beat Dr Crane into submission for good measure, after some sort of showdown between Manbat and Crane, who may or may not become Scarecrow during the film – I would imagine at the end so that there could be some kind of sequel. However, Warner Bros decided not to move forward with this one, and I can’t say I’m missing it.
Batman: Year One (2000)
Here we go, a Batman story that has wide acclaim within the comic community – Warner Bros even abandoned a live-action Batman Beyond film to do this. Frank Miller, writer of the Year One comic was even brought in, which was a big thing for comic book movies.
Christian Bale was actually approached for the role of Batman, which he turned down, and there is no news about any possible replacements as Warner Bros decided for some reason or another to abandon Year One in 2002 in favour of their newest Batman project.
Batman vs. Superman (2004)
Yep, the showdown everyone ever wanted was actually poised for production. The script had Bruce Wayne going suffering a mental breakdown after everyone he knows and loves is dead until he gets engaged. Even Superman is going through a divorce with Lois Lane, so this is pretty crazy stuff. Clark and Bruce are friends, and Clark is to be Bruce’s best man at the wedding – however, Joker decides Bats is far too happy and kills his new wife on their honeymoon. Bruce gets understandably angry and seeks revenge, Clark tries to hold him back, Batman blames Superman for his wife’s death, and the two duke it out in what would be the most badass movie showdown ever.
It turns out the all of this is Lex Luthor’s doing, Luthor being the evil plan-making bastard that he is, and Bats and Supes make up and take him down together. This would have introduced the cinema-going world to a connected DC universe on a massive scale AND given fans the ultimate showdown they’ve always wanted, but it wasn’t to be.
Christian Bale was again approached for the role of Batman, but he turned it down once more – just think, we could have heard that gravely-voiced “SWEAR TO ME” five years earlier. But the director left and Warner Bros decided to go forward with a Batman reboot (see Batman Begins). However, for a bit of fun you can see a billboard for Batman vs. Superman in the 2007 film I Am Legend.
So that’s all I know – I found it great fun reading about all of these abandoned Bat-projects, and I hope you did too. We can only hope that The Dark Knight Rises continues the fantastic legacy that has been created for the dark knight, and whatever reboot there is in store for Batman is handled well and with the correct respect the character deserves.
I mean after all, Batman is one of the few characters who could probably still beat you up despite his handicap of being fictional.