Christopher Nolan’s landmark film Batman Begins, released on June 15, 2005, is celebrating its 10th birthday today. Batman Begins completely jettisoned the tone of Joel Schumacher’s irreverent, pun-laced Batman & Robin and created a Batman story that, despite the presence of exploding ninjas and microwave emitters, many considered more serious and realistic. The movie is credited with triggering the current boom in superhero films, hastening Hollywood’s transformation into the reboot-happy monster we all know and tolerate. (It also arguably helped give the phrase “gritty reboot” its current ubiquity.)
In honor of Batman Begins’ anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter provides a primer on five different Batman films that were in development after Batman & Robin opened to near-universal derision in 1997. They were all eventually scrapped in favor of Nolan’s vision, but it’s fun to imagine what might have been for the Caped Crusader. Here are some things fans could have witnessed/endured:
- Batman hallucinating a back-from-the-dead Joker (reprised by Jack Nicholson, if all went as planned) while high on the Scarecrow’s fear toxin in Schumacher’s far-more-serious Batman Unchained.
- A bereaved Bruce Wayne goes on a vengeance quest after the murder of his wife only to be stopped by Superman in Wolfgang Peterson’s Batman Vs. Superman.
- Then up-and-coming director Darren Aronofsky’s take on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One
- A live-action adaptation of Batman Beyond from screenwriters Alan Burnett and Paul Dini
- And then there’s the worst-case scenario: a story focusing on Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson making enemies with a pre-Scarecrow Jonathan Crane in college, as well as an adjunct bad guy in the form of Man-Bat. That one would have donned the ignominious title Batman: DarKnight.
Some of those projects might have worked, while others almost certainly would have pushed the franchise to even more embarrassing lows. At least with Batman Begins—and Nolan’s follow-ups The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises—we got the hero we deserved, and the one Warner Bros. needed.