Between the years 1997 and 2005, multiple Batman movie projects were in discussion at Warner Bros. Pictures. After the critical disappointment of director Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997), the studio weighed up options for the next instalment of the Batman film series.
One of these options was Mark Protosevich’s Batman: Unchained. The project never got off the ground, but what if it did?
What is Batman: Unchained?
Batman: Unchained is the title of a proposed fifth Batman movie, to follow Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). The film – sometimes mistakenly called Batman Triumphant – would have seen the Caped Crusader take on the twin menace of Scarecrow and Harley Quinn.
In the movie, Batman would have fought both Scarecrow and Harley, before being sent to Arkham Asylum as part of a villainous scheme. It is here where the Dark Knight would have faced his inner demons, as well as a few familiar faces from his past.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. Pictures and Joel Schumacher wanted to tie all of the previous movies together, by bringing back the likes of Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson for cameos. The actors would have appeared in an hallucination sequence, which would have seen Batman put on trial to face the likes of Riddler and the Joker!
How far did Batman: Unchained get?
Protosevich wrote an initial draft of Batman: Unchained, finishing up just as Batman & Robin was due in theatres. The film was eyeing a 1999 release date, with both George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell expected to reprise the roles of the Dynamic Duo.
But the huge backlash to Batman & Robin had an impact on the movie and after reading the script, Schumacher said it was too expensive to film and the studio parted ways with Protosevich. According to the writer, he kept calling, the studio stopped talking, and the Batman franchise went on hiatus until someone could figure out a way to move forward with the series.
That step forward came in the shape of Batman Begins, which would arrive in movie theatres in 2005 – eight years after Batman & Robin’s debut. However, before Batman Begins went into production, the studio contemplated a number of other projects too, including Batman: DarKnight.
What happened to the script?
According to Protosevich, the script for Batman: Unchained was read by Schumacher, former Warner Bros. executive Tom Lassally, and a handful of other people (most likely execs at Warner Bros.) but it wasn’t taken any further.
What is interesting, especially in this day and age, is that the draft script for Batman: Unchained has never leaked online. And even if it does ever find its way onto the net, it is worth remembering that this is a draft, so the shooting script would have been different (and probably cheaper) than what Protosevich initially wrote.
What if Batman: Unchained had gone into production?
If Batman: Unchained had progressed beyond the initial draft, then Warner Bros. Pictures could have released the most ambitious live-action Batman movie to date. Just imagine seeing all of the past Batman movie villains return to the big screen one last time, in a film that also introduces Scarecrow and Harley Quinn!
By bringing back past villains, the film could have effectively capped off the Batman Anthology, tying all the previous entries together in a huge event. That is, if Nicholson, Pfeiffer et al would have agreed to return to the series.
But bringing Batman: Unchained to the big screen could have also sunk the Bat-franchise even further. Batman & Robin received a critical mauling, so would fans have showed up for another Joel Schumacher-directed entry? Maybe. Maybe not.
What do you think? Would you have liked to see a continuation of the Batman Anthology in the form of Batman: Unchained?
Do you think that Scarecrow and Harley Quinn would have made good villains? What do you think about seeing Nicholson reprising the role of the Joker?
Whatever you think, I’m interested in hearing about it, so sound off in the comments section below.
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And if you would like to read more posts about the Batman movie series, please take a look around I’ll Get Drive-Thru, where you will find a wealth of free-to-read Batman film posts. Alternatively, check out one of the recommended reads below.
- What if: Fan-casting the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies
- Six essential tips for watching Batman movies
- What happened to Batman 5?
3 Responses to What if Batman: Unchained?
I would’ve loved to the fifth installment, Mr. Freeze, Nora Fries, Poison Ivy and should’ve been in the fifth installment as well along with others.
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Me too. Yes, it would have been good to see a positive outcome from the Freeze story.
I feel this would’ve worked best if somehow, some way Keaton had returned to the titular role. I know Clooney refused to play Batman again after B&R. Plus, Keaton coming back gives potential narrative and financial breathing room, potentially. Just handwave all the stuff that Keaton wasn’t in, just keeping the returning villains to Catwoman, Penguin and Joker. That would axe O’Donnell’s Robin but I’d like to think Keaton would’ve been fine with since, at one point, he wasn’t hot on having a Robin.
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