Previously, I took a look at the history of all the failed attempts to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen. In this latest edition, I'll be looking at the proposed Batman Beyond project of 2000 that was ultimately passed on in favor of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. While I'm sure everyone is ecstatic with Warner Bros. decision making here from the information I've collected, the Batman Beyond movie sounds like it could've been a successful addition to the Batman filmography.
At the turn of the 21st century, there were a surprisingly large number of Batman projects in development at Warner Bros. In a sort of battle royale, Warner Bros. had teams of writers and directors all simultaneously working on a re-invention of their Batman property. Names like Frank Miller, Darren Aronofsky, Wolfgang Peterson, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Boaz Yakin and even Joel Schumacher were frantically at work with their respective teams trying to get their adaption green lit before the others. In the next installment, I'll be covering this creator throw-down but first I want to take a look at a project that immediately caught my eye, the Batman Beyond pitch given by Boaz Yakin, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett.
At that particular time, Boaz Yakin was a hot Hollywood director, fresh off the success of Remember the Titans. For his next project, he approached writers Paul Dini and Alan Burnett to collaborate with him on creating a Batman Beyond project for Warner Bros. Also on-board their team as consultants were the esteemed Neal Stephenson and Bruce Timm. This was a power-house team and many fans felt they had the best shot at getting their film greenlit. Alan Burnett is a powerhouse in the animated film world. He's has had a hand in virtually every DC animated project since the waning years of the Super Friends. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm were collaborators on both Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond. Paul Dini is also the man who created Harley Quinn, and would go on to write Batman: Streets of Gotham and write the story for the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. Bruce Timm has so many credits to his name, I simply don't have the space to list them all. Although I will say that he co-created Harley with Paul and that a little known fact is that he got his start as a comic book artist. Teaming up with these two industry giants were the Hollywood "it" director of the moment [Yakin]and an acclaimed science-fiction steampunk author [Stephenson]. Warner Bros. was likewise enthused by this collection of talent and sent the team off to create with no restrictions, parameters, or outlines. In speaking on the project, Burnett had the following to say:
It wasn't they [Warner Bros.] who came to us. It was a young director named Boaz Yakin, who wanted to write Batman Beyond. He was a big fan and he wanted to write with Paul and myself. So the powers on the lot said, 'OK, you guys can go write together.' Actually, we had to go get approval through the writers' guild because three-writer teams have to get approval.
"Boaz had a definite vision of the show. He was the director of Remember The Titans - a really talented fellow. He kept pushing the envelope on the script. It was pretty violent and pretty sexy and in the end, we knew we were dealing with an R-rated script, but we rode along with it. We handed it in [July 2001], and the lot was just shocked, completely shocked, and wanted us to start over essentially. And he saw that he was going to be going through a long process that he didn't want to go through, and so he bowed out.
As Burnett said, the studio was definitely second-guessing their decision to send the team off with no direction as to what kind of product they were expecting. Even though the first script was shot down completely, the team got a second chance while the studio continued development on the project. Rumors had it that Keanu Reeves was approached to play Terry McGinnis and Paul Newman was approached to play on older Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, the writing team of Dini and Burnett continued to work on the project even after the man that brought them together decided to move on. However, in the end the studio ultimately went with Nolan's version and this project was put on hold. Burnett had the following to say on the entire process:
"Paul and I stayed in the game for a little while, but we just stepped out, too. I don't know how movies get made. It's such a long process, so many notes, so many worries about if it's going to fly. They don't tell you to go out and write. They have to feel comfortable with you step by step."
No version of the script or treatment were ever leaked to the public but rumors continue to run rampant even to this day. One strong rumor was that the script had the Joker returning due to Jack Nicholson really wanting to be apart of the movie. It was also heavily rumored that the movie would take place in the same continuity as the Tim Burton films. This could've possibly set the stage for a Cinematic Universe similar to what Marvel is doing today. But again, these are all rumors as the scripts have remained under lock and key at Warner Bros.
What are your thoughts on an R-rated Batman Beyond film? Think it would make sense to go the Batman Beyond route after the The Dark Knight Rises? The idea is intriguing because [again] you could create a universe similar to what's happening over on the Avengers. There would be great potential for interconnected storylines between the Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis eras, similar to what we saw in the animated feature, Return of the Joker. You could also introduce the various DC characters in brief cameos as you switch back and forth between the two timelines. It would be a clever way to compete with what Marvel's doing without blatantly copying their approach. Anyways, sounds like this could've been a very interesting addition to the Batman mythos. I'm a little uncertain though as to whether this will ever be made but if this ever does come to pass, I pray to the Bat gods that Clint Eastwood is cast as Bruce.
Keanu Reeves was rumored to be Terry McGinnis back in 2001.
Paul Newman was rumored to be an old Bruce Wayne back in 2001. He did have the look but I prefer Clint Eastwood.
LOOKING BACK SERIES
Batman Beyond began airing on January 10, 1999 and ended its run on December 18, 2001. With 52 episodes and one direct-to-video movie under its belt, the series was then put on hold for the new Justice League animated series. As of 2007, Batman Beyond remains on hiatus with no plans to revive the series in the near future. This series is the chronological end to what is know as the DC animated universe. SYNOPSIS: In 2040, Terry McGinnis (born on August 18, 2023) is an athletic sixteen year-old high school student and reformed troublemaker with a deeply ingrained sense of personal justice. During the pilot episode, he saves a fellow passenger on a commuter rail from being hassled by one of the Jokerz, and later single-handedly takes on an entire gang of them to defend his girlfriend, ultimately resulting in a harrowing high-speed motorcycle chase through Neo-Gotham's expressways. The chase ultimately ends at the doorstep of Wayne Manor, where a fleeing Terry runs into the elderly Bruce Wayne. Bruce and Terry fend off the Jokerz side-by-side, but the exertion aggravates his heart condition. Terry helps Bruce back to the manor, and while staying there, he discovers the entrance to the Batcave, and later returns to "borrow" the Batsuit to avenge the death of his father. As crime and corruption are beginning once again to rear their ugly heads in Gotham, Bruce ultimately allows Terry to assume the mantle of Batman.