Next week we will see the official launch of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
. I mean Superman already had his film, but this time we'll be meeting a few other members of the Justice League in a team up film.
Yeah that's them . . .
It's been well documented, but over the past two decades several DC characters have had false starts in the film world. In some cases, pre-production had already begun or at the very least the scripts had been handed in to the studio executives. For one reason or another, Warner Bros would always get cold feet and wound up not producing these films. Of course we've had great films with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, mediocre films like Superman Returns, and straight up terrible films like Catwoman. Oh and Green Lantern falls somewhere in the middle there, depending on how many beers I've had . . .
Anyway, there are plenty of lists out there that talk about how these films got their start and then they fell to the ground. I love reading about those because it's fun to play the what if game. What if we had gotten a Batman vs Superman film back in 2004? What if Joel Schumacher had actually made Batman Triumphant after Batman and Robin? It's definitely for the best that these films never happened because now we're getting a very exciting start to the DCEU with Batman v Superman later this month, Suicide Squad this summer, Wonder Woman in production, and Justice League Part One currently in pre-production with many more on the way.
Yes . . . Yes . . . YES!!!
Like I said, it's still fun to play the "what if" game. The more I think about it, I wonder why let these ideas go to waste? Why not have these never produced films made into comic books or graphic novels? That would be an interesting way to show off the "what could have been" by giving fans an idea of what these films could have looked like. I've made a list of the films I would like to see brought to life by DC Comics. I've kept the list to mainly the ones I'm genuinely interested in (yes, most of them are Batman) and although I don't have any specific artists in mind I will suggest certain looks for certain characters based on actors I think would have been cast in the role, or who were rumored for roles at the time. So . . . without further ado . . .
JOSS WHEDON'S WONDER WOMAN
Once upon a time, Joss Whedon pitched a Wonder Woman film to Warner Bros. If I remember correctly, this was back in the early 2000s when superhero films were just starting to really become ultra popular with the first X-Men films, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, and of course the Nolan Dark Knight films. Every studio was trying to get their hands on a new superhero to adapt. Whedon had an idea for a Wonder Woman film, apparently being a period piece but also showing Diana throughout history. WB passed on the project, and Whedon was later offered The Avengers by Marvel Studios. So . . . nice job WB. Really, good job!
To this day, Whedon does express some resentment toward WB for passing on the project. It's hard not to sympathize with him considering his track record for action, adventure, and of course female driven franchises. The rumor is that he was considering then unknown actress Colbie Smulders for the part of Diana. He later went on to cast her as Maria Hill in The Avengers. Maybe to make up for it? Who knows! Anyway, my thought is give Whedon a shot to tell his Wonder Woman story as a mini-series. The artist could even model Diana after Smulders to give Whedon, and his fans, closure on what could have been a really great film.
TIM BURTON'S BATMAN 3
Back in 1992, after the premiere of Batman Returns, many fans were unhappy with the way Tim Burton was taking the Batman franchise. Warner Bros got a little cold feet and decided it was best Burton leave the Bat-universe alone and focus on other projects. Before the reins were officially given over to Joel Schumacher, Burton had started work on a potential third film with his crew. At the time, the only villain in the film would have been The Riddler and Robin was due to finally make an appearance (he had been cut out of the first two films). While some of these ideas did show up in Batman Forever, Burton had stepped down and Michael Keaton went with him.
The above pic is a photo that made the internet rounds not long ago. Burton's team had gotten as far as redesigning the Batsuit yet again. Granted, it was probably for the best as Batman Returns remains divisive among fans even to this day. However, you can't deny that it would have been cool to see it come to fruition. So, why not bring it back as a comic book? I'd love to see a Burton-ized version of the Riddler, rumored to have been offered to Robin Williams, along with Robin, Batgirl, etc.
Apparently, this idea was pitched to DC in the same vein as the Wonder Woman '77
and Batman '66
comics, where the stories would take place after Batman Returns
. As you can see, Billy Dee Williams would have become Two-Face, Catwoman would be back, Robin would make an appearance, and (we assume) so would Barbara Gordon. I had a previous post saying that DC should produce a comic like this and it makes me sad that it was passed over. What a missed opportunity! Look at that! How cool is that? Plus it would be cool to see Batman drawn to look like Michael Keaton. And for extra fun, and a nod to Tim Burton, why not draw the Mad Hatter to look like Johnny Depp?
I mean, right? That would be so cool! Maybe DC will change their mind and eventually release a digital comic based on this idea. Because why not? It's not like Batman isn't a hot seller or anything! Speaking of . . .
There's no need to get into the history of this story. The bullet points are that Schumacher was going to direct a third Batman film with George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone returning and with Nicolas Cage playing the Scarecrow. There was even the option for Jack Nicholson to come back as the Joker in a fear induced hallucination. Regardless of your feelings toward Batman and Robin, THAT would have been cool! But Warner Bros decided not to go ahead with Batman Triumphant, probably because the title gives away the ending, and eventually we did get a Batman vs Scarecrow film with Batman Begins but that obviously was MUCH different that what was originally intended.
A few years ago, Schumacher talked about producing a series of graphic novels detailing his original ideas for all three of his Batman films. If you have ever seen his other films then you'll know that the man is actually quite good at crafting dark, twisted stories with complex characters. I'd like to see what he could do with a dark, serious Batman rather than the campy one that he gave us in the first place. It would be cool to see the characters drawn to look like the actors including Nicolas Cage as the Scarecrow.
Look at that! He doesn't even need a mask!
Strangely enough, this isn't the first time we'll see Cage on this list. But we'll get to that later. For now, I'm hoping that Schumacher does get a chance to redeem himself with his Batman graphic novels. That would be a lot of fun to read and see it play out in my head.
GREEN ARROW: ESCAPE FROM SUPERMAX
Now this one would have been interesting! In the late 2000s when The Dark Knight was kicking ass at the box office and Marvel's "shared universe" was being teased to the populace, everyone was trying to get in on the superhero game. David Goyer, co-writer of the Dark Knight trilogy, wrote a script for a live action Green Arrow film that would have seen Arrow framed for a crime he didn't commit, imprisoned in a Supermax prison with some of the worst criminals in the DCU, then trying to escape with a handful of said criminals. Really, this film would have been fantastic. It's a shame Warner Bros got cold feet because everything that was talked about the film sounded so cool. in a way, it would have been Arrow before Arrow was ever conceived. It would have featured C and D list DC villains (haha) with cameos by more high profile characters like the Joker. While I don't think this film would have tied into the Nolan Bat-films, it still would have been really cool.
So again I ask, why not make a graphic novel? Goyer actually has plenty of experience writing comic books. Plus with DC's Rebirth on the way, it would make for a very interesting launch for the Green Arrow comics to go in. Or you know maybe . . . Arrow Season 5? That works too . . . Oh and speaking of David Goyer . . .
DAVID GOYER'S THE FLASH
If you look up "Never Produced Comic Book Films" or something along those lines you'll see David Goyer is attached to quite a few. After writing all three Blade films, co-writing the Dark Knight trilogy, and writing Man of Steel, it's clear that he's a huge fan and wants to be as involved as he can be making new and exciting comic book films. A few years ago, he had written a treatment for a Flash film with the intention to direct it as well. Rumor has it that he wanted Ryan Reynolds for the lead, and the Flash would actually be Wally West, not Barry Allen. However, the story would have featured multiple versions of the Flash, probably traveling through the Speed Force. Goyer went on record saying that the movie would have really played up superspeed for everything they could think of in terms of theoretical physics, wormholes, time travel, all that cool stuff. Basically, it would have been one hell of a trippy film. It probably would have been really unique and exciting.
Just like with the Green Arrow suggestion, maybe this is something that can be visited during DC's Rebirth. I mentioned in a previous post how I think the Flash comics are in desperate need of a new and exciting direction. Out of the box thinking with the Speed Force like Goyer wanted for the film is exactly the kind of direction that could make the comic stand out from everything else. That would be a really exciting comic to read every month or biweekly, as the Rebirth comics are now biweekly. But who knows? Maybe some of Goyer's ideas will make it into the Flash film starring Ezra Miller. Or Goyer could jump on the Flash TV series and throw some cool ideas in the mix. For now though, I'd like to see what his film would have looked like.
Before Superman Returns was released, Warner Bros tried every kind of take on Superman that you can think of. While there is a more famous version of a failed Superman film known (and we'll get there I promise), one that was actually pretty close to production was a Superman film written by JJ Abrams and to be directed by either McG and then later Brett Ratner. Interestingly enough, Henry Cavill actually auditioned and screen tested for Superman back in 2004 for this film. Ratner was going to bring in Anthony Hopkins as Jor El and it looked like everything was up and running. Then details of the script got out: Krypton was not destroyed. Kal El was an alien prince sent to Earth due to a seemingly never ending civil war on Krypton. Lex Luthor was a CIA agent but later revealed to be a sleeper Kryptonian spy sent to kill Kal El. Basically, fans got wind of the changes from the source material and they were not happy about it. Warners got cold feet and scrapped the film, later giving Bryan Singer a shot with his pseudo-sequel Superman Returns.
Yes, there are some changes made from the source material, but moreso than any other film listed here, it's probably why it has the potential to be a really cool graphic novel. It could easily be an "Elseworlds" tale with Superman's history tweaked just enough to be different, but the characters remain largely similar to the main DC continuity. To my knowledge, JJ Abrams has never written a comic book, but it doesn't mean that his script couldn't be dusted off and reworked by a regular DC writer into a really inventive and different look at the Superman mythos. Plus that costume design is really cool! And who wouldn't want to read a Superman book where Jor El looks like Anthony Hopkins?
See? He looks perfect!
SUPERMAN VS BATMAN
This particular film, believe it or not, has been in the works for 15 years. Way back when, Wolfgang Petersen, director of Air Force One, and Andrew Kevin Walker, writer of Seven, were working on a Superman vs Batman film for Warner Bros. This was back when both franchises were separately not going anywhere so there was the idea to throw them together. The basic idea would have been Bruce Wayne's wife murdered by the Joker and he looks to seek vengeance but Superman tries to stop him. Eventually they would team up but the majority of the film would have seen them at odds. Batman v Superman looks to be following a similar path, but it looks like Lex Luthor is manipulating Batman and Superman rather than the Joker. Regardless, that was the idea. But apparently the script was too dark and rewrites were done and each subsequent rewrite looked less and less promising so the film was abandoned.
I actually remember reading about this and being really excited. I was so mad when the film was never made. Now you understand why I keep saying Batman v Superman is the film I've waited my whole life for! Even though there have been PLENTY of Batman vs Superman comics since this film was announced, I'd still like to see what Walker's script would look like in action. The script is available online (I guess) but I've never read it and I probably never will simply because I always have a hard time believing those things are legitimate. I'd rather see an official DC Comics sanctioned graphic novel featuring the Dark Knight vs the Man of Steel. Even though I own like 6 or 7 versions of that story . . . What? I told you before I was greedy.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: MORTAL
Here's a film that would have gone down in history as either the coolest thing ever or the worst. George Miller, fresh off the success of Happy Feet, (no that's not a joke) was tapped by WB to make a Justice League film. This was before the Avengers and during the Dark Knight's heyday. The basic plot was Maxwell Lord brainwashing superheroes, hence the Superman v Wonder Woman fight pictured above, using stolen OMAC technology from Batman. If Mad Max: Fury Road is any indication then the film probably would have been spectacular. However, rumors of Talia Al Ghul's appearance in the film and continuity issues with the Dark Knight trilogy, overblown budget, plus the 2008 Writer's Strike forced WB to shut down production. Which is a shame because the cast looked really cool and that little bit of concept art looks pretty awesome.
Granted, this story was loosely based on the OMAC Project and Tower of Babel comic books but it would still be cool to see this done with those actors' likenesses as their characters. This could be another case of where the comics could go with DC's Rebirth. It's a great philosophical debate where Batman is basically monitoring the other superheroes because, as a mortal, hence the title, he's afraid of the power they possess. Like I said, it's not an original story for the comics, but a new take on it would be great especially with the new Justice League film currently in pre-production. It would be a fun, different take on the Justice League. Especially since that concept art shows the Superman "S" shield is based on Kingdom Come. I freakin' love Kingdom Come, man!
Oh and don't you worry . . . I've saved the best for last . . .
This is one of my absolute favorite stories from Development Hell. There are plenty of reports on this story out there in the interwebs so I won't get into it too much. Essentially, Kevin Smith was hired to write a Superman film, Tim Burton became interested in directing, Nicolas Cage was attached to star, and even Kevin Spacey was in talks to play Lex Luthor. The story was going to be based on the Death of Superman comics and hopefully restart the franchise. Well . . . it never happened for whatever reason. But let's face it - this film, one way or another, would have been fucking amazing. I mean come on! Odds are, this film was a recipe for disaster but you never know. At the very least, it would have been interesting. Batman is a character that already fits in Tim Burton's wheelhouse. Superman? Eh, not so much. I'm sure Kevin Smith turned in a cool script, he's said as much despite the ridiculous restrictions he was given by producer Jon Peters. Late 90s Nicolas Cage, while not a good choice for Superman, was still in his prime and a proven action star. There were even rumors of Michael Keaton being courted to return as Batman for a scene or two.
Let's all be honest here - we all kind of want to see this movie. Smith has written a number of well received comics in the past. Plus his Comic Book Men co-star, Walt Flanagan, has drawn a few of them. So why not get them together and show us what this weird, twisted Superman film could have looked like? Granted, Smith has said that he didn't have a good experience working on the project, but it does seem like he can laugh about it now. If none of my other suggestions come to fruition, this one should! I mean, I'm grinning ear to ear just thinking about it. It would have been a Superman movie to remember (unlike Superman Returns). Man . . . it would have been fucking great! Let's get on the ball, DC and get this produced!
Anyway, those are my suggestions for what WB/DC should do with all these perfectly good scripts they have lying around. Well, I mean they may not be lying around necessarily, but you know what I mean! I love reading about these interesting and/or bizarre films that could have been made. Why not get some use out of them?
Till Next Time!
JJ - the Comic Junkie