Today most fans would agree we are in the golden age comic book movies, or are about to set sail into the golden age. We are lucky enough to have comic book movies that not only respect the source material, but are enjoyable for everyone. Sadly, years ago we were not anywhere near where we were today. Let us reflect upon what unfortunately could have been.
George Miller's Justice League: Mortal
This mysterious yet well rumored catastrophe has been something fans have been wondering about for years. Warner Brothers hired screen writers Kieran and Michelle Mulroney to pen the film, with George Miller directing. The infamous Writers Strike put the film on hold for a period of time but when the strike was over major changes were made. The (questionable) decision was then made to shoot the film in full motion capture (think Beowulf). But, problems started to occur and quickly at that. The film's budget was looking to be near or upward of $300 million! The production was so large that Weta was required to focus 100% of its attention to one project. Not only that, but producers of the film couldn't secure a tax credit in Australia (where the film was suppose to be shot), and Miller had fluctuating ideas regarding the plot of the film (i.e. at one point he wanted to take over the script and make it "dark and gritty" like Watchmen). The project was eventually given up on and Warner Brothers focused their attention elsewhere. The film would have featured DJ Cortana as Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern, Adam Brody as Barry Allen/Flash, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, Hugh Keays-Burne as Martian Manhunter, and Jay Burachel as Maxwell Lord. The script (or one of them) has leaked, and to save you guys some time, here is a brief summary:
Batman has created Brother Eye, a Skynet-like program that watches the worlds metahumans and can terminate them at any given time, if need-be. Batman doesn’t trust people with powers as he’s afraid that they could, at any moment, snap and take over the planet. However, characters like Iris Allen, The Flash, Wally West, and Superman (among others) prove Batman wrong in the sense that maybe trusting people isn’t a bad thing and that you should try to look at the good in people, even powerful people, as opposed to the bad.
James Cameron's Spiderman
Back in 1992, coming right off of the all time classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day James Cameron was going to attempt to finally bring us our favorite friendly neighborhood Spiderman. A Spiderman film from the guy that brought us the Terminator franchise? What could possibly go wrong? Cameron's idea was to make Peter Parker a little more "realistic", meaning a angered, horny, adolescent loner who hates just about everybody he knows. The script, if I may say so myself, contained some big deviations from the source material and "questionable" scenes. To get into specifics, there was no Uncle Ben monolog, a Peter and Mary Jane sex scene, JJ is a television station owner, and a weird scene depicted in the concept art above. The villains would have included Sandman and Electro, and both would end up dead atop the World Trade Center by film's end. There have actually been two Spidey films planned by Cameron, but details from one are scarce. Casting wise, Edward Furlong was rumored for Peter Parker and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doctor Octopus (the latter was up for the "second" Cameron film). The film(s) was/were dumped and MGM eventually traded the rights to Sony for James Bond. And as a side note, when Sony gained the rights to Spidey, one of their original choices to portray him was none other than Leonardo DiCaprio, although he has stated in the past he declined the role.
There are a plethora of defunct Batman films out there, ranging from Bill Murray as Batman vs David Bowie as the Joker to a Johnny Depp Black Mask vs a Marlon Wayans Robin, but I think this one trumps them all. Warner Brothers were very pleased with what they had seen from Batman & Robin (this is prior to its release) they began lining up a sequel (go figure). The film would have featured the cast of Batman & Robin returning along with their bat nipples and asses, and would have seen none other than Nicolas Cage as Scarecrow and Madonna as Harley Quinn, and possibly even Jack Nicholson returning as The Joker via hallucinations. The plot involved Harley Quinn being revealed as the Joker's daughter who wants revenge for her fathers death. Not much besides those few details have emerged, but then again not much is needed to know how this would have turned out. After Batman & Robin's release, WB quickly tired to cut ties with every and anything involving this project.
That just screams Superman, doesn't it? Anyway, in the late '90's Warner Brothers were looking to "reinvent" Superman by hiring Tim Burton to direct and Kevin Smith to pen the screenplay. Superman in the film would be, unique, to say the least. He was going to don an all black suit because the original was "too faggy" (producer Jon Peter's words), and wasn't allowed to fly. However, these "rules" would be ignored in favor of other crazy ideas down the line in production. At one point Superman was to fight a giant spider, Brainiac would fight polar bears, Lex Luthor was given a dog from space as a companion, and Brainiac had an assistant named L-Ron, who was described as a "gay R2-D2 who attitude". Other strange plot points include Doomsday blocking out the sun, Superman being resurrected by the Eradicator. Eventually the script underwent rewrites (yet again), leading Brainiac and Lex Luthor to become one person and would have been cleverly called "Lexiac". There were even rumors of children being brought in to see how much toy value character and set designs had. Finally, Warner Brothers dropped the project and moved on to another project. Tim Burton originally wanted Ben Affleck as Kal-El, but Jon Peters put an end to that and cast Nicolas Cage. Courtney Cox was set to play Lois Lane, Tim Allen as Brainiac, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen, and Michael Keaton was confirmed to be involved with the project. Keaton himself dropped hints that he was reprising his role as Batman. This (thankfully) canceled film endured and sounded like hell, but it is still astonishing to look back at what could have been. Be sure to check out the documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? this summer.
Darren Aronofsky's Year One
Now that the worst of the worst is out of the way, let's turn our attention to the one that is probably the radical out of them all. In 2002, when Warner Brothers were wanting to reboot Batman in a dark fashion, famed director Darren Aronofsky was brought on to helm the new reboot. Frank Miller was brought in to help with the script as well. Aronofsky and Miller envisioned a very dark Dark Knight that's full of profanity, along with deviating from the source material that Miller himself wrote. In this, Bruce Wayne was no longer a billionaire but was raised by a large African-American mechanic nicknamed "Big Al" on the streets of Gotham. Bruce underwent a transformation to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and developed the Batman personality over time. Selina Kyle was an African-American prostitute who was out for vengeance, and Jim Gordon was based off of Dirty Harry. Recently, concept art has hit the internet and has left fans wondering what could have been once again.
As always, don't forget to hit the red glove and until next time, stay classy ComicBookMovie...