Todd Philips’ controversial new film Joker opens this week. It’s kind of amazing that a character piece with no connection to the DC Universe and no Batman in sight got the green light. Many other movies aren’t so lucky. Even movies with major talent attached to them. Here’s a look at some superhero movies that were never made.
Superman Movies That Were Scrapped:
Christopher McQuarrie’s Man of Steel sequel
In July, the writer-director of Mission: Impossible-Fallout revealed on Twitter that he had pitched a Man of Steel sequel idea that would have tied in to a Green Lantern movie proposal. Ultimately, Warner Brothers rejected both ideas. McQuarrie did not give specifics of the plot of either film.
Matthew Vaughn’s Superman trilogy
The Kingsman director and comics creator Mark Millar pitched a Superman trilogy where the entire first film would have taken place on Krypton. Superman would have grown up on Krypton, a change to his origin story, “maturing into an adult before having to reckon with his loyalty to both planets,” as Vaughn told Polygon. This sounds like it could have really been epic. I wish he’d reveal what his plans for the other two films were.
J. J. Abrams wrote this Superman origin story that would have seen the hero fighting against new villain Ty-Zor, his Kryptonian cousin. McG and Brett Ratner were each attached to direct the project at one point. Warner Brothers ended up going with Superman Returns instead.
Superman Returns sequel
Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns didn’t make enough money at the box office to revive the franchise. He has hinted that a sequel would have been more action-oriented and might have featured the villain Brainiac. This is the one that stings for me. It always pulls at my heartstrings that SPOILER ALERT Superman has a son. I really wanted a sequel to explore that concept in depth. I remember watching Superman Returns with my friend Robert and both of us getting emotional during the scene where Superman watches his son sleeping. This will always be one of the great unmade sequels for me.
This is the most famous unmade Superman film. Tim Burton was attached to direct. Nicholas Cage was going to play Superman. Kevin Smith wrote a draft of the script. There’s even a documentary about it titled The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? The movie would have featured villains Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Doomsday. “The Death of Superman” story line from the comics was part of the movie’s inspiration. After seeing what Tim Burton did with Batman, one can’t help but wonder what his Superman would have been like.
Spider-Man Sequels We’ll Never Get to See:
I know, I know. Spidey’s a sore subject ever since the Sony/Marvel split. But the truth is that Spider-Man’s been breaking our hearts for a while with expected sequels that never made it out of the gate.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man
Casting rumors indicate that John Malkovich would have played the Vulture and Anne Hathaway would have played the Black Cat in this sequel. Concept art indicates that villain Mysterio would have put in at least a cameo appearance. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt was hired to write out plot lines for Spider-Man 5 and 6. The exact reasons this sequel never came together aren’t completely clear. Raimi takes responsibility and says he couldn’t deliver a quality film by the release date and didn’t want to disappoint the fans. Adding insult to injury is the fact that we never got to see Dylan Baker’s version of the Lizard.
The Amazing Spider-Man 3
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ends with a cut scene that teases an awesome sequel. It sets up a group of fan favorite villains called The Sinister Six which Spider-Man would have faced in the next movie. Sadly, writer-director Drew Goddard never got to bring his vision to the screen though there are rumors it could still happen.
Batman Movies That Didn’t Happen:
Ivan Reitman’s Batman
The Ghostbusters director once had his eye on a 1960s-themed Batman project. And the casting for this one is insane. Bill Murray would have played Batman. Eddie Murphy would have been Robin. And David Bowie would have played the Joker. (Aren’t you dying to see that?) Fortunately, this movie fell apart, paving the way for Tim Burton’s Batman.
If Tim Burton had made a third Batman film, Marlon Wayans would have played Robin and Robin Williams would have been the Riddler. It would have set up a spinoff film for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman as well. As much as I like Batman Forever, I wish Burton could have completed his trilogy.
This would have been Joel Schumacher’s follow up to Batman and Robin. Schumacher’s third Batman film, the fifth in the series, would have seen The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn make their first appearances on the big screen. Batman and Robin also would have split up suggesting some of the darker storytelling associated more with Burton than Schumacher.
Other Comic Book Movies That Never Made It To the Big Screen:
Justice League: Mortal
Before Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie came to fruition, Mad Max director George Miller was slated to direct this project in 2008. The movie would have starred Armie Hammer as Batman, D.J. Catrona as Superman, Adam Brody and Anton Yelchin as dual Flashes, and Common as Green Lantern. A high budget and a writer’s strike led to the movie being cancelled.
Fox hired Noah Hawley (creator of TV shows Fargo and Legion) to write a movie about Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom. Hawley has described his script as being an antihero story and a political thriller in the vein of Captain America: Winter Soldier. The movie is largely considered dead after the Disney-Fox merger, however there is still some hope that Marvel may make the film at some point. Especially now that they have plans to revive the Fantastic Four.
The Silver Surfer
Speaking of Fantastic Four characters, comic book writer Brian K. Vaughn was hired to write a script for a stand-alone Silver Surfer script. This was about two years before the Disney-Fox merger. This secretive project is probably DOA as most of Fox’s comic book projects have been under the merger. There is no word on whether actor Doug Jones would have reprised his role from the Fantastic Four sequel.
Green Lantern 2
Ryan Reynolds starred in The Green Lantern in 2011. A sequel was written that focused on Sinestro becoming evil. The first movie was a box office failure and plans for a sequel were scrapped. Reynolds made fun of Green Lantern’s poor box office performance in the more popular movie Deadpool.
Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman
Before the Allan Heinberg script that became Patty Jenkins’ vision, Joss Whedon wrote an unproduced Wonder Woman script in the early 2000s. It was recently leaked to the internet and has faced a lot of criticism for being sexist and focusing too much on Steve Trevor instead of Wonder Woman, even going so far as to make him the main character. Whedon recently quit the Batgirl movie without completing a script, leaving it in limbo. Which makes it another movie we may not get to see or at least not for a long time.
Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max
I saved one of the best for last. This one is cool as hell and I wish they would make it. Framed for an assassination, Green Arrow has to partner with famous DC villains to break out of prison. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Cinema Blend has speculated that this would be an excellent script to transition the Arrow TV series into films.
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