There is no movie character I feel like I've seen enough of on screen than Batman. We all know his story, his hangups, his love for the color black and punching the shit out of people who are poorer than him in his underwear. I've been indifferent to his role in the DCEU and even lost enthusiasm halfway through Batman: Arkham Knight.
I say all of that to tell you I'm excited for a new direction for Batman; a new perspective on one of the DCEU's richest men or maybe even just a swapped out color palette. For all the misgivings we lob at Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, they were different by way of being flashy and fun in ways that the Dark Knight Rises and Tim Burton Batman movies wouldn't allow. There have been many ideas for new Batman movies, and while most of the cutting room floor bits I found err toward the darker side, they're all extremely silly in their self-seriousness. I'll be ranking these Batman movies that were never made from worst to best by the potential the ideas have to be good.
Not long after Batman & Robin scared Hollywood away from big-budget superhero projects for a while, Joel Schumacher had the perfect idea to take Batman in a new direction: Bruce Wayne is retired. George Clooney and Chris O'Donnel would've returned as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, respectively, to help bring Scarecrow and Man-Bat into the fold. Scarecrow - aka Jonathan Crane - would be a professor at Grayson's university who would drive Grayson insane with his fear gas before sicing Man-Bat on the Batman.
As much as I enjoy watching Schumacer's two Batman films, this is at the bottom of my list because it would probably result in a tonal whiplash that it wouldn't be able to recover from. I can't imagine the switch from campy to deathly serious would do anyone any favors.
What do Batman and Ghostbusters have in common? They were both once in the hands of Ivan Reitman. The Canadian director was tapped to make an adaptation of Batman: Strange Appropriations, a story where Joker attempted to figure out Batman's secret identity. It was meant to be dark and gritty, but by casting Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne and Eddie Murphy as Robin, the floor began to crumble beneath this project's feet.
This sounds almost too ridiculous to be real, but I'm putting it in my top 3 because of the sheer audacity Warner Bros. showed to not only hire the director of Ghostbusters to make a dark and gritty Batman movie, but cast comedians (and very good actors, to their credit) in all the lead roles. It would've been all over the place and definitely a sight to see.
As depressing as Batman's beginnings are, it's surprising that someone like Darren Aronofsky hadn't turned the Caped Crusader into an introspective slog of an action movie by the dawn of the new millenium. Flying high off of his breakout feature Requiem For A Dream, Aronofsky would try to do just that, reworking the origin story Year One in his own image. Bruce Wayne would've become peniless and homeless after his parents were shot; Alfred would've been replaced with a mechanic named "Little Al" who would mentor Bruce from his garage; Commissioner Gordon would've been suicidal and attempting to move he and his pregnant wife out of Gotham.
Aronofsky was prepared to stare deeply into the dank and depressing elements of Wayne's story, but it was scrapped by 2002. While I think Aronofsky's brand of psychological horror might be too over the top for even Batman, his character work is masterful and Bruce could've been seen on a wide scale in the same light many fans see him as now: a damaged human being looking to cope.
Having directed both Batman and Batman Returns, Tim Burton was rushed into developing a potential third movie to cap off a trilogy for Warner Bros. He settled on The Riddler, who would've been played by Robin Williams, and even bringing on Marlon Wayans to play Robin. I still lay up at night wondering how a Wayans Robin would've affected popular culture.
Batman Returns not bringing in the numers WB was expecting and a McDonald's Happy Meal scandal that had parents banging down their doors, WB decided to pass on this iteration. It isn't the worst idea for a sequel to a movie where Danny Devito played a heinous penguin man, and considering Burton's career trajectory at the time, it would've been nice for him to end an era with a modestly sized hit.
Who better to bring Batman back to the big screen than the man who made Harrison Ford the President in Air Force One? Petersen's idea for a Batman/Superman faceoff would feature Bruce Wayne retired (a trend) and married until his bride is killed on their honeymoon. Meanwhile, wholesome boy scout Superman and Lois Lane would have been going through a divorce. This would've all been a part of a scheme cooked up by both The Joker and Lex Luthor to manipulate the two titans into fighting each other, presumably because no one had the rights to the Spider-Man/Superman version of this story that would've looked better on screen.
Dawn of Justice didn't move the needle, but this movie had the potential to steer toward the positive. Josh Hartnett was the favorite for Superman, and a certain fella named Christian Bale was up for Batman, about a decade before he'd take the part in Christopher Nolan's trilogy. It's a less complicated path toward the superhero beatdown we all expect, so this could've been something special had Petersen not left to focus more time on Troy.
Batman. Beyond. Movie. Adaptation. 'Nuff said.