Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sat down today and watched Batman Begins from beginning to end. You know, I still think that's the best Batman film to date. But, before I watched Batman Begins, I watched a lot of the bonus material on Batman & Robin. On that DVD, Joel Schumacher flat-out apologizes for how Batman & Robin turned out. It's so sad it's funny.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the 8 years between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins. It's actually quite a long and sordid tale. Not quite as long and sordid as how long it took for a Superman film, but I was there, reading the movie news for the past 8 years and how Batman Begins finally got made.

So, there it was. 1997. Despite making a ton of money, Batman & Robin was reviled by the people and critics alike. But still, a fifth movie was in the planning stages. The Scarecrow was going to be the villain. Joel Schumacher was going to direct again. But, seeing as to how Schumacher became the scapegoat for Batman & Robin, Schumacher said, "No thank you" and walked away. The search was on for a new director. It looked very much like David Fincher was going to take over, but Fincher opted to go make Fight Club instead.

Things kind of quieted down until 2000. Warner Brothers made the big announcement that they were going to develop and released two new Batman films, and thus jump-start the franchise. None of these would be sequels to the first four films; it would be a whole new franchise. The first one was going to be a live-action movie version of the new hit cartoon, Batman Beyond. Paul Dini (co-creator of Batman Beyond) was going to write it, and Boaz Yakin (of the hit Remember the Titans) was going to direct. The other one was going to be an adaptation of the classic story Batman: Year One, directed by Darren Aaronofsky (?, Requiem for a Dream) and written by Frank Miller (the comic genius who wrote Batman: Year One).

But, both projects never went anywhere. Batman Beyond dropped off the radar pretty quick, and the script for Batman: Year One was deemed "too weird." Some of the changes Miller made were to set it in the 1970s and to change Alfred from a stuffy British butler to a smooth-talking black pimp.

Don't forget, as all this was going on, the long, sordid story about making a new Superman movie was going, and it was time to have a crossover in our two stories. In 2002, Warner Brothers then announced that they were going to make Superman vs. Batman, featuring the two heroes squaring off. Wolfgang Peterson (In the Line of Fire, The Perfect Storm) was going to direct. But, there was quite an unexpected negative response to all of this, and Peterson left the project to go make Troy instead.

Warner Brothers was now getting desperate. Comic book movies were big again, thanks to Spider-Man and X-Men, and Warner Brothers/DC Comics was missing the boat. So, the WB decided to follow "the Marvel method:" get a hot indie director who's good with characters and stuff and pretty much trust their judgement. That led them to Christopher Nolan, the new darling boy of indie films thanks to Memento. Nolan signed on, and the first thing he did was get David S. Goyer to help him write it. Goyer is the biggest comic book nerd working in Hollywood right now, and he wrote all three Blade movies (and directed number 3). Following the "start of a new franchise" directive, they decided to fully tell Batman's origin...something that hadn't been done yet.

And the end result? Batman Begins.

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