It's not that long to go now until the second instalment in the DC Cinematic Universe - [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870) hits screens, with the release date set for March 26th 2016.
Some people are excited. Some people are hesitant about Batfleck. Some people just want to see Woman Woman finally making an appearance. Some people wonder why Zack Synder is allowed to direct after the mess he made of Man of Steel, or maybe that's just me.
Regardless, this is a highly anticipated film; its the first time we'll see two of the most famous heroes in DC comic book history go head to head on the big screen. But it may never have happened if plans from more than ten years ago had come to fruition...
Batman vs Superman (2004)
Back in 2001 up-and-coming screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (famous for Se7en and Sleepy Hollow) pitched an idea to Warner Bros. for a solution to the problem they had been trying to solve of how to revive the Batman and Superman franchises: Batman vs. Superman. And it came very close to happening.
If you have some time to kill you can read the screenplay in it's entirety here. Otherwise, a summary.
Batman vs Superman picks up with Bruce Wayne five years after he's retired from Batman-ing. At this point Dick Grayson (Robin), Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner James Gordon and the Joker are all dead for one reason or another, and Superman and Batman are good friends. Whilst Clark Kent is recently divorced from Lois (depressing), Bruce Wayne is about to marry a woman named Elizabeth and he's pretty darn happy about it.
However, disaster strikes on their honeymoon when Elizabeth is stung by a mechanical bee filled with Joker toxin. She dies, and a devastated Batman comes out of retirement to find out what the hey is going on and kill whoever is responsible. Superman tries to warn him off his mission of revenge, saying he wont let him kill anyone, but is basically told to get the hell out of Batman's way or Batman'll kill him too. (Funny enough this premise is pretty much the exact same as the events that occur at the beginning of the non-canon Injustice: Gods Among Us New 52 series, just with the roles reversed.)
Anyway there's a lot of fighting, Batman makes some kryptonite armour, and theres plenty of plot twists as it approaches the conclusion. Turns out...
- The Joker that appears is a clone of the original, who is actually dead
- Lex Luthor knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and cloned the Joker in order to entice him out of retirement
- Elizabeth (Bruce's wife) was working for the Joker all along, pretending to be the "perfect woman" so that Lex could set up this entire situation (she didn't know about the 'her getting killed' part though - whoops)
- Lex did all this in order to manipulate Batman into killing Superman for him
It all ends in a big fight between the four of them: Batman, Superman, Joker and Lex, and funnily enough it's the two heroes who emerge. The Joker is captured and Lex is presumed dead, though his body is never found (oooh). Here's the very last lines of the screenplay:
"Clark extends his hand. Bruce takes it. Their handshake is strong and lasting, a friendship renewed.
BATMAN: So, do you want to get a beer?
They start away, across the platform towards the light.
SUPERMAN (V.O): Maybe a soda or something.
BATMAN (V.O.): Oh my God, what is it with you?
See them now, these two heroes, away into the dawn, and gone."
Yep. Just picture Batman going "oh my God".
Why did we never see it?
The script was green-lit and officially announced to begin production in 2003, to be released 2004. Wolfgang Peterson was attached to direct, and Josh Hartnett and Christian Bale were rumoured to being portraying Superman and Batman.
Why didn't it happen? Thank J.J. Abrams (about time he did something useful). When the script for Abrams' Superman: Flyby was floating about the studio execs. felt that the lighter tone of his script would have better long term potential than the Batman vs Superman one did. (Personally I think the Flyby script was even more batshit insane than Walker's BvS and would've been a travesty - you can read about it here).
Ultimately neither film was made, Superman: Flyby was passed to Bryan Singer who wrote a completely new script with Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, and became Superman Returns (2006). Nolan did a similar thing when he took the reigns with Batman, crafting a new script that became 2005's Batman Begins. And we all breathe a collective sigh of relief.