Remembering the Batman Vs Superman movie that almost was

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It’s the early 2000s, and Warner Bros. is looking to revitalise their superhero movie universe in a way that won’t result in the studio being laughed at or losing millions of dollars in fantasy projects helmed by madmen that eventually fizzle out. While Batman And Robin may have been a financial hit in 1997, the film was a critical disaster, an homage to the campy 1966 series starring the camp crusader turned big budget action flick that was savaged by critics at the box office and sent the franchise into hibernation for several years.

The less said about Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage’s attempts to make Superman relevant again, the better, as that was but the cherry on top of a turd sundae of failed pitches and re-imaginings that was clearly the work of a lunatic. So what other options did Warner Bros. have? To throw the worlds finest heroes at each other in a brouhaha conflict of course.

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And at one point in time, all the stars were aligned. Wolfgang “Das Boot” Peterson was going to direct, with a script from Andrew Kevin Walker, the man behind Se7en and 8mm. Jude Law and Josh Hartnett were the early favourites for a shot at being the next Superman, while Christian Bale was on the Batman radar.

“It’s never happened before,” Peterson said to MTV in 2002.

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You had it in some of the comic books, but never on the big screen. They’re so different. … It sets up great material for drama. I cannot tell you what really gets them together. I can say that much of [the conflict] is because of the different philosophies that they represent. Superman represents sort of everything clear and bright and noble. He represents our hopes and ideals. Batman, on the other hand, represents the dark and obsessive and vengeful side.

The plot is structured in a way that these two very different sides basically of the same coin have to clash at some point because they handle situations totally differently. … For a large portion of the thing they are at each other’s throats. But then, of course, because they are both crime fighters, they join forces again and fight evil.

And then everything went to hell in a handbasket. Batman Vs Superman saw numerous rewrites and tweaks over more than a year that killed momentum on the project, leading Warner Bros. to reboot Batman (Yay!) in 2005 and make an interquel for Superman in 2006 (Uuuuurghhhh).  Warner Bros. also felt that they’d be cutting their revenue in half by forcing two of their heroes to share the same screen, while a host of other issues ended that project.

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But a script from 2002 was leaked years ago, and it was delightfully mad. Here’s a few highlights of it:

  • Bruce Wayne has been out of the Batman game for five years when the film starts, afraid that one day he might cross the line and start killing his enemies
  • Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon and faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth are all dead
  • Clark Kent’s life is terrible, and he happens to be busy with a divorce from Lois Lane
  • Bruce is getting married, to the lovely Elizabeth Miller. Joy! Celebrations! Clark is naturally his best man. What could possibly go wrong, on this most joyous of days?
  • Elizabeth is killed on her honeymoon night, by the Joker. Yeesh, hard luck there Bruce
  • Oh yeah, the Joker has actually been dead for several years, but Luthor resurrected him as a clone
  • Properly pissed off, Bruce becomes Batman again and seeks vengeance
  • Clark hooks up with Smallville crush Lana Lang, and also comes off as more alien as he considers his time on Earth to be a waste of his gifts
  • At one point, Superman stops a mob from killing a terrorist before Bruce’s ill-fated wedding. Who was actually the Joker in disguise, thus setting up the conflict between the two
  • Naturally, Batman wants to kill the Joker, but Superman won’t let him become a murderer
  • The two fight, but not before acknowledging that their conflict is pointless, while Batman quips that he is “the darkness”
  • Batman is properly prepared for the fight, wearing armour that has Kryptonite minerals mixed into the steel
  • It’s a brutal fight as well. Batman fires missiles from his jet, bear-hugs Superman with the Kryptonite armour and generally kicks all manner of ass
  • Superman fights smart and hard, using his heat vision to damage the armour, but eventually the two face off in one final encounter as Superman flies directly towards Batman…
  • …And gets nailed with a Kryptonite arrow. Both vigilantes are thoroughly buggered at this point, having gone through a rumble that has left each other almost broken
  • Luthor has escaped from prison at this point, using his fingernails to perform brain surgery on two security guards and bending them to his will. Yes, his actual fingernails
  • Luthor and Joker eventually clash with Superman and Batman, with the two villains being defeated and sent back to jail

Massively off-the-wall stuff. It’s taken a few extra years to see Batman and Superman hit the big screen for the fight of the century, but it’ll hopefully be worth it when Batman V Superman launches this week.

Last Updated: March 22, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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