Gotham City is a environment open to interpretation. One reader may view the urban conurbation as a land synonymous with fantastical tragedy with Gothic demonic structures rupturing from Hell, reaching to infect the Heavens with venomous smog and liquid night. An operatic land so immersed in darkness and corruption, that its evil dons the comforting smile of a jester - whilst its only hero basks in shadows; wearing the sinister, almost Satanic, image of a Bat. Others may conjure the conception of hope from the Detective Comic pages - hope that heroism can prosper in the most dire of places - whilst some might synthesise The Dark Knight's world of urban decadence with our own; thriving on the comic's presentation of post-modern realism. This is precisely what makes Batman a tremendous character to watch on screen. With every new director; be it Burton, Schumacher or Nolan, we are presented with a renewed outlook on Bob Kane/Bill Finger's creation. With the release of new information from Darren Aronofsky's radically different, unrealised portrayal of 'Batman: Year One' - we are left to only speculate; what else would have we seen from Gotham City, had one or more of these projects not been moved into 'development hell' by Warner Bros? Over the next 10 days
1. Ivan Reitman's "The Batman" (1985)
Before Nolan, Schumacher or even Burton - the responsibly of bringing The Dark Knight to the big screen was in the hands of producer and life-long comic book geek, Michael Uslan. Armed with great enthusiasm (and a $20 million budget), he commissioned former James Bond and Superman I and II writer Tony Mankiewicz to pen a screenplay entitled "The Batman" in 1983. The choice of screenwriter was obvious... the other DC Comics superhero Superman had been a huge pop culture success just five years earlier and is still seen now as the quintessential origin movie for a comic book character. Mankiewicz was tasked with doing the same for Batman but bringing in more realistic elements and action set pieces taken from the Bond saga.
Mankiewicz's script drew its influence from Steve Englehart's comic book - Batman: Strange Apparitions
, adapting the characters of the villainous gangster, Rupert Thorn and love interest Silver St. Cloud, directly from the comic book - with The Joker, filling in for the lesser known Hugo Strange, who's subplot would have involved attempting to reveal Bruce Wayne's secret identity to the masses. The film would have also dealt with Robin's origins. Uslan hired comic book artist Marshell Rogers (also fresh from work on 'Strange Apparitions' ) to design concept art for the motion picture. Fresh from delivering the sci-fi comedy hit Ghostbusters in theaters, Ivan Reitman was attached to the project to helm and he wanted to bring Bill Murray with him to portray Batman. The concept of having Murray as Batman may seem a ludicrous one, but we have to remember that Michael Keaton, like Bill, was essentially a comedy actor prior to his role as The Dark Detective in 1989 - and with Uslan's dedication to presenting his comic book hero in a tone that reflected 'The Dark Knight Returns', could we have perhaps seen Bill Murray pursue a more serious, drama-orientated career had he donned the cape and cowl in 1985? Or could this 'Batman' followed in vain of the 1960's television series, keeping in tone with Reitman's other comedic works, such as; 'Meatballs', 'Ghostbusters' and 'Twins'? While casting was not officially deciphered for this project, Aronofsky had half-jokingly told Warner Bros. that he would cast Clint Eastwood as The Dark Knight, and shoot the motion picture in Tokyo. He had also approached Christian Bale for the role but c'mon how badass would it have been to have Clint Eastwood as Batman? Yeah, I know, he was probably about 200-years too old for the part, but in the late 1960's - early 70's, Eastwood would have been the mot perfect choice for a young Bruce Wayne. In June 2002, the studio decided to move forward on Batman vs. Superman and abandon Year One after thinking better of adapting the script that was turned in. While I think the idea sounds extremely cool - it is one that seems extremely unmarketable for a motion picture, and would work brilliantly as a stand-alone graphic novel (which is exactly what Aronofsky and Miller are planning on doing someday).
9. Wolfgang Petersen's "Batman VS Superman" (2004)
In August 2001, Se7en writer Andrew Kevin Walker pitched Warner Bros. an idea titled 'Batman vs Superman', a teaming of the two big DC Comic characters that Warner Bros had forever been interested in doing. At one time there were tentative plans to make a Batman and Superman team-up involving Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve in the early 90's but the latter's eventually fatal accident put a stop to that. The new concept was adapted into a screenplay by Batman & Robin screenwriter Akiva Goldsman in June, 2002 for veteran filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen (In The Line of Fire, Das Boot) to direct, and was in loose-continuation with the Burton/Schumacher universe, although the characters of Dick Grayson, Barbara Wilson, Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon were all now diseased. The story however, differed from such incarnations as Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, in that Bruce Wayne's depressed emotions had seemingly become resolved by a fiancee, Elizabeth Miller. The friendship between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne is addressed as the former character being best man at the latter's wedding - however, on Bruce's honeymoon, the Joker kills Elizabeth; and Wayne must succumb to the mantel of the Bat. The Dark Knight falls into a state of mental breakdown, and Superman tries to hold Batman back in his violent plot of revenge against the Clown Prince of Crime - in return, Bruce blames Clark for her death, and the two must battle it out, mano-a-mano. Predictably, the story ends with the two teaming up yet again to defeat the combined threat of The Joker and Lex Luthor
Christian Bale and Josh Hartnett had been tentatively offered the roles of Batman and Superman, and principle photography was to start early-2003, with plans for a five-six month shoot for release in 2004 - however, Petersen left in favour of Troy, and Warner Bros. chose to progress on their Batman reboot, which would become 'Batman Begins'. All in all, I'm rather glad they chose this course of action the idea of having both Batman and Superman battling it out it seems like a lame gimmick and the storyline seems extremely out-of-character for Batman. Thank god for Christopher Nolan.
10: George Miller's "Justice League: Mortal" (2009)
Mad Max director George Miller recently planned to bring the Justice League of America to the big screen, with a script written by the husband-and-wife team of Kieran (brother of Dermot) and Michelle Mulroney. The idea with the quickly put into production project was to trump Marvel's plans to team all their big superheroes together as The Avengers. The plot was never fully revealed, but the film was cast with a batch of young actors who Miller hoped would "grow into their roles" over the course of the film trilogy - these included; Adam Brody as Barry Allen/The Flash, D.J. Cotrona as Superman, rapper/actor Common as John Stewart/Green Lantern, Megan Gale as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Armie Hammer as Batman and Teresa Palmer as the key villain Talia Al Ghul. I remember following the progress of this film on the internet, and feeling bizarrely unenthusiastic about the whole thing - I mean, when I saw the news article "Armie Hammer cast as Batman!", something inside me was telling me that I should dying of excitement, and that this was HUGE news - yet it didn't seem to emote me in anyway. I couldn't process it. Probably because I was more like; "Who the hell is Armie Hammer? Sounds like a toothpaste brand." I'd imagine that was why this project didn't sit too well with fans - the casting of unknowns made it impossible to connect with the film - it all seemed to grand in scale, and every part of us knew this film wouldn't see light of day. And sure enough - we were right. In 2010, the film was announced as 'canceled'. So that's it, 10 Batman Films from the Vaults of Development Hell that never did see the light of day. Some bullets certainly dodged above but perhaps one or two projects that we would loved to have seen come to fruition. Who wouldn't have liked to have seen what Tim Burton did with Batman Forever after his visual and aesthetic signature on the series was so strong with the previous two movies, not to mention how awesome Michael Keaton was as Batman. But alas, sometimes things happen for a reason and that reason is that we got to see Chris Nolan triumphantly reboot the Batman saga in 2005. And which of course comes to an end this summer with The Dark Knight Rises. Don't know about you but we can't wait!