Now, there's a whole lot to love about the Batman movies we've seen on the big screen over the past 25 years or so. Whether it's Tim Burton's gloomy cinematic introduction to the character, the high camp of the mid-90s, or Christopher Nolan's legendary Dark Knight series, there's arguably a Bat-movie for everyone - especially if you throw some of DC's excellent animated films in the mix, too.
There are also, though, a whole lot of Batman movies that we almost got to see - but that didn't quite make it into production.
And, as it turns out:
Some of the Batman Movies We Almost Saw Would've Been Insane(ly Awesome)
After all, Warner Bros. has never been a company afraid of re-inventing one of its most iconic heroes, and there have been a whole lot of moments (largely in between 1997 and 2005) where the future of the Dark Knight was very much up in the air.
And, so, we almost saw a whole lot of strikingly different takes on the hero hit the big screen - details about five of the most intriguing of which (thanks to the diligent interviewing of THR) can be found just below...
1. 1997's Batman Unchained
The Pitch: Joel Schumacher would have directed a follow-up to Batman & Robin, in which Scarecrow and Harley Quinn would've taken the roles of lead villains (with Harley also doubling as the Joker's daughter). According to Schumacher, "It was going to be very dark," and see a wedge driven between Batman and his erstwhile sidekick, while Scarecrow attempted to drive the Dark Knight mad. There still would've been room for cameos from Danny DeVito as The Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as The Riddler, though. And, of course, Jack Nicholson as The Joker...
The Cast: On top of the returning George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell (Batgirl didn't make the script, apparently), Schumacher apparently visited Nicolas Cage on the set of Face/Off, asking him to play Scarecrow. Even more intriguingly, the likes of Courtney Love and Madonna were reportedly up for the role of Harley Quinn.
Why it Didn't Happen: Batman & Robin was released...and it didn't go down well. As the film's screenwriter Mark Protosevich recalls, he handed in a first draft of the screenplay, and then:
"A few days later, I'm getting a call from Joel, whose main comment was that I had written maybe the most expensive movie ever made. Then I remember I never heard from the executive at Warner Bros. I called many times, never got any kind of response...This got into a period of weeks and then a month, and my agent pestering Warners. And the next thing I knew, they were pulling the plug on the whole project. They were going to wait and see what they were going to do with Batman. The Joel Schumacher-driven Batman train was taken off the rails."
That wasn't the only Bat-project Warner Bros. was considering at the time. There was also:
2. 1997's Batman: DarKnight
The Pitch: As a direct response to Batman & Robin's critical mauling and lack of box office success, up-and-coming screenwriters Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched the polar opposite to the unsuccessful last venture. Batman would have hung up his cowl, and the movie would focus on Dick Grayson's Robin, as he went to university, and found himself at odds with Scarecrow, as well as Man-Bat. By the end of the movie, Batman would have returned, setting up a trilogy that would have eventually seen Grayson become Nightwing.
The Cast: The script didn't ever get far enough into development to see much in the way of prospective casting, but it was developed with the return of Clooney and O'Donnell to their respective roles in mind.
Why it Didn't Happen: After two years of deliberations, Warner Bros. finally decided it was better to cut ties with the past Batman movies altogether. As Wise puts it:
"That was where the term reboot came from. They basically wanted to start over."
Soon, then, another Bat-film was on the horizon:
3. 1999's Batman: Year One
The Pitch: A then-up-and-coming Darren Aronofsky would adapt Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, with Miller on screenwriting duty. A young Bruce Wayne would have spent the early part of the movie in poverty, having given up his fortune to prove to himself that he could support himself. Soon, though, as Miller puts it, he would have become "the greatest crime fighter the world would ever know." Much of the film, however, would focus on a young Jim Gordon, as he made his way through the Gotham police force. So, in other words, it was basically Gotham.
The Cast: Once again, the film didn't progress far enough for a cast to be courted, but with no established 'villain' in the script beyond police corruption and organized crime, and a seriously dark tone, it's easy to imagine the production looking to the likes of James Gandolfini, Robert De Niro or Joe Pesci to add some star power.
Why it Didn't Happen: As Miller puts it, the response to he and Aronofsky's script...wasn't great:
"I think I heard a shriek of horror at first...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."
Soon, Warner Bros. looked elsewhere and in the direction of:
4. 2000's Batman Beyond
The Pitch: With director Boaz Yakin hot off the back of 2000's Remember the Titans, he was set to team up with two of the co-creators of the Batman Beyond series, Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, to bring the animated show to life as a live-action movie. It would, therefore, have been set a way into the future, and witness a young Terry McGinnis team-up with an aging Bruce Wayne to become a new, more futuristic Batman.
The Cast: Once again, the project didn't get far enough along for casting to be hashed out, though you'd have to imagine Michael Keaton would have been approaching the right age to play an older Batman...
Why it Didn't Happen: As Dini revealed back in 2012, the creative team largely lost interest:
"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]...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."
The studio also lost interest in the project, which wouldn't have been helped by the animated series ending in 2001.
The most recent of our 5 Bat-movies might just sound awfully recognizable:
5. 2002's Batman vs. Superman
The Pitch: Yup, that's right - next year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was almost beaten to the screen by over a decade. Wolfgang Petersen would have directed a movie in which Bruce Wayne is married (only to be rapidly widowed, seemingly at the hands of The Joker) and Superman has been dumped by Lois Lane. The Joker and Lex Luthor would then trick the two into fighting it out, in predictably temporary fashion. Soon reconciled, the heroes would bring the villains down together, with Superman even giving Batman permission to kill The Joker, on one condition:
"Don't hide behind it. Don't pretend there's some other part of you doing this...This is your right, as a human being. Your retribution. So do this as the man who's going to live with it for the rest of his life. Take off the mask."
Which, - even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the screenplay was written - would've been a strikingly different take on the Man of Steel to the one we've traditionally been used to.
The Cast: This was 2002, so it's safe to say that the usual suspects from the era would have been in consideration for both parts: we could even have seen Ben Affleck playing Batman a decade early...
Why it Didn't Happen: Warner Bros. soon decided that the two franchises would be better off kept separate, with Christopher Nolan being brought in to work on Batman Begins shortly after, and Superman eventually ending up in the hands of Bryan Singer with Superman Returns.
And then, eventually Heath Ledger ended up being placed in the role of The Joker, and everything kinda worked out for a little while there...
What do you reckon, though?
Which 'almost' Bat-film would you have wanted to see the most?