One of the dedicated cinephile’s favorite hobbies is contemplating the movies that might have been, and it’s a pastime we’ve engaged in here at Flavorwire on occasion. Because the Hollywood development process is such a fickle beast, prone to prevailing box office winds, rising and falling trends, and the particular peccadilloes of people in power, the pages of movie history are littered with the corpses of promising films that simply fell apart, for a variety of reasons. David Hughes is one of our most esteemed writers of cinematic obituaries—his books The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made and Tales From Development Hell (out today in a newly revised edition) are entertaining and detailed deconstructions of what went wrong with the movies you’ll never get to see. After the jump, we’ve assembled a few of the most intriguing movies-that-could-have-been from Tales, along with a handful of titles contributed to Flavorwire by the author himself.
Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One
After the critical failure of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin in 1997, Warner Brothers spent seven years trying to figure out what the hell to do with the Caped Crusader. Various ideas were developed: a reboot called Batman Beyond from writer/director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans); the fabled Batman vs. Superman, directed by Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot) from a script by Seven scribe Andrew Kevin Walker (yay!) and Batman and Robin writer Akiva Goldsman (wha?); and an origin story called Batman: Year Zero, from graphic novelist Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylum). But the most intriguing of the bunch was the proposed film version of Frank Miller’s game-changing graphic novel Batman: Year One, adapted by Miller and director Darren Aronofsky, fresh off his breakthrough film Pi.
“The Batman franchise has just gone more and more back towards the TV show, so it became tongue-in-cheek, a grand farce, camp,” Aronofsky told Developmement Hell author David Hughes. “I pitched the complete opposite, which was totally bring-it-back-to-the-streets raw, trying to set it in a kind of real reality — no stages, no sets, shooting it all in inner cities across America, creating a very real feeling. My pitch was Death Wish or The French Connection meets Batman. In Year One, Gordon was kind of like Serpico, and Batman was kind of like Travis Bickle.”
Miller and Aronfsky’s completed screenplay never came to pass; the director presumes the studio got cold feet about its even-darker-than-Batman-Returns tone.