Between 1997 and 2005, a number of Batman movie projects were in discussion at Warner Bros. Pictures. Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997) had been met with a negative critical reception and before the studio decided to move forward with a series reboot, in the shape of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, a number of projects were considered.
One of these projects was Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise’s Batman: DarKnight. The project never got off the ground, but what if it did?
What is Batman: DarKnight?
Batman: DarKnight is the title of a proposed fifth entry in the Batman: Anthology (1989 – 1997). The film would have taken place after the events of Batman & Robin, and would have featured the villains, Scarecrow and Man-Bat.
In an interview with Batman on Film in 2005, Batman: DarKnight co-writer, Lee Shapiro, said of the project’s title, “we wanted to emphasise the Dark Knight, as well as the nature of our script – a dark night.”
According to Shapiro, following the events of Batman & Robin, the story would have seen Bruce Wayne in a self-imposed seclusion and Dick Grayson attending Gotham University. Bruce feels as if he has lost his way and his enemies are no longer afraid of the Batman.
Meanwhile, Professor Jonathan Crane and Dr. Kirk Langstrom are Gotham University employees, who transform into the Scarecrow and Man-Bat respectively. Man-Bat then terrorises Gotham, leading to Gothamites wrongfully believing it is Batman.
How far did Batman: DarKnight get?
A script was written and it was passed on to Joel Schumacher’s team as well as the then director of development at Warner Bros, Tom Lassally. At the time, Schumacher was still in the frame to direct a fifth Batman movie.
What happened to the script?
It made its way to other people involved in the Batman movie series, including executive producers, Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan. But by this point both Schumacher and Lassally had stepped away from their positions.
A new director of development was appointed, in the shape of Jeff Robinov, but he passed on Shapiro and Wise’s script.
What if Batman: DarKnight had gone into production?
If Batman: DarKnight had gone into production, the Batman Anthology would have continued beyond four films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin). The series would have moved back towards the darker entries of the Anthology, stepping away from the lighter touch of Batman & Robin.
No one could predict whether the series would have continued beyond a fifth entry, but if Batman: DarKnight had made it to production, then Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) would never have happened.
Personally, I love the Batman Anthology, and would have been pleased for it to continue for a fifth, sixth, and seventh entry (and beyond), but I am not sure I would be happy giving up the Nolan films in the process. No Heath Ledger as Joker? That’s a lot to give up!
In the end, we got to see Scarecrow appear in Batman Begins, so that is some consolation. But it would have been fun to see how Joel Schumacher would have brought the character to the big screen.
What do you think? Would you have liked to see a continuation of the Batman Anthology in the form of Batman: DarKnight? Do you think that Scarecrow and Man-Bat would have made good villains? Whatever you think, sound off in the comments section below.
And if you would like to read more posts about the Batman movie series, please take a look around this I’ll Get Drive-Thru, where you will find various Batman film-related posts. Alternatively, check out one of the recommended reads below.