Batman Begins opened ten years ago today, and The Hollywood Reporter has taken a look back at the path to the movie that reinvented the Batman franchise, from Batman & Robin, the movie that temporarily killed it. Apparently during that time, there were quite a few Batman movies that almost were. Here are the weirdest and the best.
Darren Aronofsky’s Year One
In 1999, Darren Aronofsky hadn’t done a lot of what he’s now known for. This was before Black Swan, before Requiem For a Dream. He HAD, however, made the tension-filled nerve-fest that is Pi, so the leap from that black & white indie freakout to a Batman movie may not be the most obvious choice. But it does make sense as to why that movie might not have gotten off the ground. Frank Miller’s Year One (my personal favorite Batman book) looked at Bruce Wayne rejecting his family fortune until he’d felt he’d earned it, and a young Jim Gordon navigating the corrupt Gotham Police Department. Aronofsky’s take on the story was, well…
“I think I heard a shriek of horror at first,” Miller says of the studio reaction. “They were shocked at how bold it was and wanted it to be softened as much as it could be and then we wanted it to be as hard as it could be.”
The project apparently stayed in at least talks until 2002 (either with or without Aronofsky), when Miller and the studio split ways.
“The whole process was one of discovery for me. I had to figure out what they wanted. Normally somebody like me, if you say you want to make a movie, I’ll come up with something that will be 12 hours long and cost $1 billion to make,” says Miller. “I had to learn a lot more about the restrictions. The restrictions that make sense — such as budgetary and who you can get to play the roles—and the restrictions that don’t make sense — which there are millions.”
Joel Schumacher’s Villain-palooza
While he was in post-production for Batman & Robin, Schumacher started work on another franchise sequel. His plans were for a “very dark” Batman Unchained with Nic Cage as the Scarecrow and Courtney Love in talks for Harley Quinn. Clooney’s Batman and Chris O’Donnell’s Robin would have been back, along with, amazingly, Jack Nicholson’s Joker. There also would have been cameos from Danny DeVito (The Penguin), Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face) and Jim Carrey (The Riddler). It was only the utter laughable bomb that Batman & Robin turned out to be that saved/robbed us of a Courtney Love/Jack Nicholson love pairing.
A Live Action Batman Beyond
Around the same time as Aronofsky’s Year One was going around, creators Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, along with director Boaz Yakin, were working on a live action version of the fantastic animated Batman Beyond. If you’re not familiar with the show (first of all, FIX THAT), it takes place in the future, following an elderly, retired Bruce Wayne training a new young hero.
“It didn’t quite have the fantastic futuristic edge. It was a little bit of an amalgam [of the animated show and traditional Batman comics],” said Dini. “There was a little bit of The Dark Knight, there was a little bit of contemporary comics. There was Terry in the suit. It was old Bruce Wayne. They were in it.”Apparently they just never found an angle that excited them and everyone just sort of lost interest after a first draft was written.
Wolfgang Petersen’s Batman vs. Superman
Nearly a decade before Batfleck took up the cowl, Wolfgang Peterson (the man behind Das Boot, Outbreak, Troy, and a bunch more action spectaculars) was in talks to take on this story. The head of Peterson’s production company has said that they wanted this to be a prestige superhero movie, before that was really a thing. They wanted it to be an Oscar-caliber movie, and the synopsis of a rewrite that was leaked a while back is fascinating.
The Goldsman rewrite for Batman Vs. Superman begins with among the most unlikely things imaginable: Bruce Wayne’s wedding. Bruce has been retired for five years, his bride knowing nothing of his former life as Batman. During Bruce’s honeymoon, his bride is killed, all signs pointing to The Joker as the culprit. This prompts The Batman out of retirement to seek out his mortal enemy, whom he believes had died years earlier.It’s like Batman and Superman do a super tragic Pygmalion, and why oh why isn’t this movie real?
Clark Kent is going through changes of his own, with his wife Lois Lane having left him. After serving as Bruce’s best man earlier in the ceremony — and foiling a terror attack in an action-packed opening scene — he returns to Smallville. Both his parents have died, but his former love interest Lana Lang is still back in Kansas, and he rekindles a romance.
Bruce goes about violently tearing up the underworld to get to the Joker. Eventually it’s revealed Lex Luthor and The Joker have been behind all of their troubles — from the terror attack on Metropolis to the death of Bruce’s wife. The Joker actually plucked Bruce’s wife from obscurity and molded her into a woman Bruce would love, manipulating the couple into falling in love.