So it's not very long to go now until the second installment in the DC Extended Universe - Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice release date of March 25 2016 steadily approaching.
A lot of people are excited for this blockbuster event. Some people are still a little hesitant about Batfleck (but we think he's looking pretty good so far). Some people just want to see Woman Woman finally making an appearance in a feature film (we're really excited about this too).
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... Have you heard about the first Batman vs Superman?
The Precursor To Batman Vs Superman
Way back in 2001 an up-and-coming screenwriter by the name of Andrew Kevin Walker (who penned the wonderfully creepy David Fincher directed Se7en and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow) pitched an idea to Warner Bros. At the time Warner Bros. had been trying to solve the problem of how to revive both the Batman and Superman cinematic franchises, and Walker's solution was called Batman vs. Superman.
And it came very close to happening.
The entire screenplay is available online, so if you have some time to kill you can read it in it's entirety here via io9. Otherwise, here's a quick summary.
Batman vs Superman
So Batman vs Superman picks up with Bruce Wayne five years after he's retired from being the Batman. At this point Dick Grayson / Robin, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner James Gordon and the Joker are all dead for one reason or another (no, not Alfred!) and Superman and Batman are pretty good friends.
Whilst Clark Kent has just recently been divorced from Lois Lane (depressing, I know), Bruce Wayne is enjoying his retirement and is about to marry an amazing woman named Elizabeth Miller. And he's pretty darn happy about it.
But on Bruce and Elizabeth's honeymoon disaster strikes when Bruce's new wife is stung by a mechanical bee filled with Joker toxin. She dies in her husband's arms, and a devastated Batman comes out of retirement to find out what the hey is going on and to kill the ever-loving shit out of whoever is responsible.
Because of his moral code Superman tries to warn his friend off his mission of revenge, saying he wont let him kill anyone, but he's basically told to get the hell out of the 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 excellent but non-canon Injustice: Gods Among Us New 52 series, just with the roles reversed.)
Anyway, a lot of other stuff happens; the Joker appears from beyond the grave, there's a lot of fighting, Batman makes some kryptonite armour, and there's plenty of plot twists as it approaches the conclusion.
And as it turns out...
- The Joker that appears in Batman vs Superman is actually a clone of the original Clown Prince of Crime, who is actually very dead.
- Superman's nemesis Lex Luthor knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and cloned the Joker to kill his wife in order to entice him out of retirement.
- Elizabeth (Bruce's dead wife) was actually working for the Joker Clone 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 - should've read the fine print Lizzie).
It turns out that Lex did all this in order to manipulate Batman into killing Superman for him, because why do your own dirty work when you can get the Batman to do it instead?
The screenplay ends in a big showdown between the four of them: Batman, Superman, Joker and Lex. In a twist that surprises no-one it's the two heroes who emerge in the aftermath. The Joker is captured and Lex is presumed dead, though his body is never found (oooh I smell a sequel setup).
But here's the kicker, 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". He can't even.
So Why Didn't It Happen?
Well the Batman vs Superman script was actually green-lit and officially announced to begin production in 2003, with a 2004 release date set. Acclaimed director and screenwriter Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story, The Perfect Storm) was on board to direct with Josh Hartnett and Christian Bale rumoured to being portraying Superman and Batman respectively.
Why didn't it happen? Well you can thank Star Wars 7 directing icon J. J. Abrams and his proposed Superman: Flyby for that.
Superman: Flyby and Batman vs Superman were floating about at Warner Bros. around the same time, and the studio executives felt that the lighter tone of Abrams' script would have better long term potential than the Batman vs Superman one did, and so Batman vs Superman was shelved in favour of Flyby. (Personally I think the Flyby script was even more batshit insane than Walker's BvS, and you can read more about that here if you feel so inclined).
But ultimately neither film was made, Superman: Flyby was passed to X-Men director Bryan Singer who ended up writing an entirely new script with Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, which became 2006's Superman Returns.
Nolan did a similar thing when he took the reigns with the Batman cinematic franchise, crafting a new script that became 2005's Batman Begins. And we all breathe a collective sigh of relief at that one.
If you want to find out more about Batman vs Superman, or are interested to see what it would look like had it been an animated movie, check out the awesome Mr Sunday Movies take on it on YouTube.