Chris Clow is a comic book expert, retailer and contributor to Batman-On-Film.com and Modern-Myth-Media.com. When not geeking out, he is a Political Science major at Western Washington University. You can find his Dark Knight Rises Countdown column here at Movies.com every other Thursday, and his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.
Last time on The Dark Knight Rises Countdown, I spoke a little bit about the immediate efforts following Batman & Robin to get the character back on the silver screen. It was pretty interesting as this was all unfolding, and it was in that “limbo” era of 1998-2004 that I was starting to become aware, obsessed, and frustrated by the new efforts to get Batman back on the screen. It seemed in the late nineties that for every little tidbit of news I’d read, the longer the wait would be in between this bit and the next bit.
It was also during that era that I discovered my “home” of sorts with Jett and the gang at Batman-On-Film.
I’ll conclude the very brief look here at the pre-Nolan efforts to get Batman back on the screen before handing you off to the latest news to hit the web about The Dark Knight Rises.
2000-2002: Year One, the Misnomer
After Joel Schumacher and company had left the Batman film franchise, there were a few very notable attempts at getting another Batman film off the ground. The first was actually going to be based off of the popular television series Batman Beyond, which takes place roughly fifty years in the future. Bruce Wayne is an old man living alone in his giant palatial home, when a young man enters his life and reignites the mission of the Dark Knight. That concept might sound silly from a conceptual level, but in execution Batman Beyond was a phenomenal series that treated the source material with great reverence, and gave us some great Batman moments with both Bruce Wayne and his successor.
Batman Beyond, at one point, was going to be a feature film from Warner Bros., with writer Paul Dini and director Boaz Yakin onboard. Unfortunately, the concept never saw the light of day, as the studio instead decided to abandon Beyond in favor of a film adaptation of one of the greatest Batman stories ever told: Year One.
Now, if you look hard enough, you can find the script for Year One on the internet. Two things will strike you, if you’re a fan of the original story: The first is that Frank Miller, the original writer, helped co-write the script with the to-be director Darren Aronofsky. The second is the fact that “Batman” isn't in the title at all. With Bruce’s wealth being a secret, working in an auto repair shop, and the guardian being named “Big Al,” it’s a wonder that WB even decided to take a glance at the thing.
A couple of years later, Miller spoke about comic book films in general in an interview that can be found on the 1989 Batman film’s special edition DVD, where he said that the most successful comic book films in recent years are the ones that are truest to the source material. I wish he had taken his own observation to heart when helping to craft this story, as well as in some of his work that came later. Year One wouldn’t be adapted until last year, when the animated adaptation of the story was released by Warner Premiere and DC Entertainment.
The last major effort to create a Batman film would’ve been a shared venture between the two biggest names in the super hero genre: the Dark Knight and the Last Son of Krypton, Superman.
2002-2003: Knight vs. Light?
It doesn’t seem too often that the franchises of Superman and Batman collide, but in the early 2000s it looked like the next big Warner Bros. superhero film would be one that brought the “World’s Finest” heroes together. Automatically, this was an ambitious project since there had never really been a full-fledged superhero team-up film on the silver screen before. The Superman franchise, one that has historically been in even more trouble than the lowest points of the Batman franchise, would be simultaneously restarted along with the Dark Knight in hopes of lighting the way for both heroes to go onto bigger things in the future.
The plan was definitely bold. After the abandonment of J.J. Abrams’ attempted Superman project FlyBy, the stars had aligned and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker successfully pitched Warner Bros. the hybrid film with Wolfgang Peterson attached as director. Batman Forever and Batman & Robin alum Akiva Goldsman was hired to do rewrites before the film went into production.
Why? I don’t know.
The details of the film revolve around a relatively typical comic book team-up scenario where a misunderstanding leads to momentary confrontation, followed by a combination of forces in order to stop the “true” threat. The film picks up five years after Bruce Wayne’s retirement from crimefighting and after he’s endured the losses of Dick Grayson, Alfred, and Jim Gordon. The bright spot in his life, though, is his new fiancée. In Metropolis, Clark Kent is dealing with a divorce from Lois Lane (What?!), but finds his own point of happiness after serving as Bruce’s best man at the wedding.
Things quickly go sour while on the honeymoon when Bruce’s new wife is murdered by the Joker. When plotting his revenge against his longtime foe, Bruce is confronted by Clark, who tries to stop him from seeking revenge. As a result, Bruce’s feelings boil to the surface and in rage blame’s Clark for his wife’s death. This leads to a confrontation that spans through Gotham, Metropolis, Clark’s home town of Smallville, and beyond. Eventually, the entire plot is revealed to have been orchestrated by Lex Luthor, who has sought the simultaneous destruction of both heroes before the World’s Finest put aside their differences to stop Luthor and bring him to justice.
This false start had probably gotten the closest to actually happening, as WB went so far as to greenlight it and put it on the production schedule for early 2003 with a planned summer 2004 release. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point-of-view), Wolfgang Peterson left the project in favor of what would become 2004’s Troy. As a result, WB then decided to shelve the team-up film and move forward with FlyBy and some kind of reboot of the Batman franchise.
Then, in January of 2003 we as fans were blindsided by the news that a director named Christopher Nolan had signed on to helm a new, solo Batman film.
And that, as they say, is history. To check out a lot of the news surrounding many of the old projects up to and including Batman Begins, take a trip back in time and check out Jett’s Archives at BOF!
Now, onto the bits of news!
Rises Storybooks Coming
In late March, BOF secured a few covers from some forthcoming children’s storybooks related to The Dark Knight Rises. The two very direct titles are “I Am Bane” and “Batman vs. Catwoman.” The Catwoman cover in particular, Jett notes, provides a cool, different look at Selina Kyle’s “ball room party” outfit seen in the film’s second trailer. Check out both covers at BOF and see them in full for yourself.
Major Spoiler Hits the Web
Back on March 28th, BOF reported that a major spoiler for the film’s plot has hit several sites all over the web. Jett’s warning reads thusly:
“While the outlets that are sourcing Warner Bros. Pictures when it comes to this news -- and they'd technically be right -- Warner Bros. themselves are not commenting on the story. From where I stand, this was information that was inadvertently announced and never meant to be revealed until the film's release this summer. If you're avoiding spoilers, I'd do my best to avoid this information.”
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that I’m aware of what the spoiler is, which I will not divulge here. If you are trying to have as pure and untouched experience as possible when July 20th rolls around, I join Jett in advising you not to seek out this information.
Attack of the Batmobiles
Strange things were afoot recently at Bob’s Big Boy Burgers in Burbank, as some very definitive vehicles made their first ever joint appearance together in a purported special feature to be present on the Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight Rises. These were all five cinematic Batmobiles, from the 1966 classic all the way up through the destructive Tumbler. The folks at CraveOnline provided BOF with their video coverage of the event, which you can view below!
This Week in Bat-Comics: Detective Comics #8, Night of the Owls Approaches
The only major Batman comic release this week is Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics #8. This issue features the return of Professor Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, and the fear monger’s latest match of wits with the Dark Knight. Daniel’s run to me personally has been a little soft. The fact of the matter is, because it takes a slight detour from where the main story has been, this issue feels like it’s more of an intermission than a new adventure unfolding before your eyes.
The founder himself, Bill “Jett” Ramey, reviews the latest issue of Detective this week on BOF. Give it a read and see if you agree with his take!
Starting next month, though, all of the Bat-titles are going to be taking a cue from the incredible work of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s main Batman title by having the elusive Court of Owls spill into every corner of Gotham City. The Batman crossover Night of the Owls begins with Batman #8 and lasts through May! Check out the BOF crew’s reactions to the event when the opening shot is reviewed by the great John Bierly on BOF later this month!
That about does it for this edition of The Dark Knight Rises Countdown! Be back here in two weeks when the next installment will be ready! As always, if there’s anything you feel needs to be mentioned in a future DKR Countdown, please feel free to leave a comment and I’d be happy to consider any requests. Thanks for reading!
The Legend Ends in 119 Days when The Dark Knight Rises.