It doesn't matter how much you love superhero movies, you have to admit Hollywood is getting close to running out of superheroes to adapt. That's what happens when you release five or six of them every summer. And what's even more amazing is that for every one that got made, there are countless more that died in development because they didn't meet Hollywood's high, high standards.
So it really is amazing to see how close we came to seeing ...
#5. Tim Burton's Superman Lives
Say what you will about Tim Burton, but he did give us two solid Batman pictures that helped the character move away from the campy ghost of the Adam West show (before Joel Schumacher ruined everything again). In the 90s, Warner Bros. hoped Burton would repeat the trick with Superman, and then they hired Kevin Smith to write a screenplay for him. What could possibly go wrong?
So What Was Wrong With It?
Look at it, kids. Take it allll in. WE SAID LOOK AT IT.
Yes, that's a long-haired Nicolas Cage dressed as Superman while posing for a police mugshot, apparently. The authenticity of that picture has been disputed, but the fact remains: Nicolas Cage had, at one point, signed up to play Superman ... and he got frighteningly close to actually doing it.
There are several stages to a movie. This is the "super happy rave party costume" stage.
In truth, Cage's involvement is only the tip of a very large iceberg. As we mentioned, Kevin Smith was brought in to write the screenplay, but he had to work with the ridiculous conditions imposed by producer Jon Peters: Superman could not be seen flying, couldn't wear the classic costume (Peters insisted on a black suit) and somehow, someway, had to fight a giant spider at the end. What was the reasoning behind changing Superman's costume, you ask? Peters thought the classic blue-and-red outfit looked "too faggy."
This season, the heterosexual male is wearing tight, black leather.
There's more. Peters and Warner Bros. wanted the villain Brainiac to punch polar bears at Superman's Fortress of Solitude, presumably to work in a Coke sponsorship (apparently under the impression that Coca-Cola fucking hates those bears). Due to the success of the recent release of the original Star Wars Trilogy, Peters wanted Braniac to have a robot sidekick -- "a gay R2-D2 with attitude" -- and Lex Luthor to have a space dog, because "Chewie's [Chewbacca] cuddly, man. You could make a toy out of him, so you've got to give me a dog."
The Art Designer was appalled when Peters "would bring kids in, who would rate the drawings on the wall as if they were evaluating the toy possibilities." Director Tim Burton hired Wesley Strick to completely rewrite Smith's script, which at this point was a disfigured mess of gimmicks and toy commercials. Strick incorporated another one of Peters' suggestions: Brainiac and Lex Luthor would amalgamate into a mega-villain called "Lexiac" (which sounds like the name of a laxative).
An evil Laxative.
Warner Bros. would spend $30 million and go through several more scripts before Burton and Cage got fed up with all the stupidity and quit the project. Burton still describes Superman Lives as "one of the worst experiences in his life," while Kevin Smith made a popular comedy routine out of the whole thing.
#4. Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One
Ten years ago, Warner Bros. approached a hot independent director to bring some dignity back into the Batman franchise with a darker, more realistic take on the character. No, not Chris Nolan.We're talking about Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky.
Teaming up with comic legend Frank Miller, Aronofsky began developing an adaptation of Miller's classic Batman: Year One comic, and even talked with that guy from American Psycho about taking on the lead role ...
Hollywood doesn't have much imagination.
So What Was Wrong With It?
There's nothing wrong with an independent director doing a Batman movie: Nolan proved that. The problem was that this wasn't so much a Batman movie as it was an insane remake of Taxi Driver (if Travis Bickle wore a cape).
In the script by Frank Miller, with input by Aronofsky, Bruce Wayne becomes a street-dwelling orphan after his parents are killed, growing up into "a borderline psychotic who begins taking violent vengeance on street thugs." Instead of using high-tech gadgets, this lower-class Batman is equipped with whatever junk he can find, since obviously he's working on a budget: a hockey mask, a cape, brass knuckles and a knife. Oh, and instead of the Batmobile? He drives a pimped out Lincoln continental.
We'd rather have the Adam West version.
Remember Alfred, the butler? In this version he's an auto mechanic called Big Al who takes in a young, raging Bruce Wayne ("more of a wild animal than a boy") and raises him. When the movie starts, Big Al has passed away and Bruce is living with his son, Little Al, described as "a gigantic, early middle-aged black man." Also, Catwoman is a sassy dominatrix working in a whore house across the street from Al's garage ... but that part actually is in the comic.
Our theory is that someone saw this scene and thought: "What if the whole movie was like that?"
The Batcave, rather than being a hidden base with intricate technology lining stone walls, is an abandoned subway station. The Batcycle is a regular black motorbike. Robin is an old Jewish lady with an axe. (That last part isn't true, but only that last part.) Even the name is different: In this version he actually calls himself "The Bat-Man." That's how much Aronofsky wanted to distance himself from the comic.
"In fact, you know what, fuck it: Let's call him Hockey-Face Roger and have him lose an arm to heroin."
Aronofsky eventually moved away from the project ... because he was worried it would be too much like Rocky. That's what happens when you strip away all the unique elements in a superhero franchise, Darren -- you're eventually left with Rocky.
#3. Green Lantern Starring Jack Black
In DC's Green Lantern comics, the Green Lantern Corps is an interplanetary police force made up from pretty much every alien species in the universe (except Ewoks, because fuck those guys). Every Green Lantern is handed a power ring that can create literally any object they can imagine, but mostly big green fists. By now, you know there's a big budget Green Lantern movie coming out in June, starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan ... but it turns out that's not the first time Warner Bros. tried to make a movie out of this comic. A few years ago, they were considering doing something slightly different with the character ...
So What Was Wrong With It?
There were two things wrong with this particular version of Green Lantern: First, it would have starred Jack Black. Second, it was the kind of movie Jack Black would star in.
This wasn't a superhero movie starring a comedy actor -- it was a gross-out comedy with a complex superhero mythology awkwardly thrown in, like Thor meets The Hangover. It was the feature film equivalent of a crazy mash-up trailer.
The script by Robert Smigel (the man behind Triumph the Insult Dog) was "influenced heavily" by Jim Carrey's The Mask, turning Green Lantern into an inept, overweight superhero who uses his power ring in comical ways (probably while showing copious amounts of butt crack). Instead of the fearless test pilot from the comic, Black would have played a furniture store employee who gets drunk and eats severed animal heads on TV. Yes, that's in the script.
In one scene, Black's character creates a green elf dressed like a housekeeper for his annoying nerd friend (David Spade?) to have sex with. Which he does. What's next, trapping criminals inside a giant condom? Oh wait, that's also in the script.
The merchandise for this film would've been problematic.
So, yeah, apparently the studio wanted the Green Lantern name only so they could shit all over it (because that worked out so well in Catwoman). That was apparently easier than simply creating a new superhero and making it as stupid as they wanted.
The extremely negative fan reaction reportedly led Warner's canceling the project. Jack Black seemed disappointed to learn that someone else would be playing Green Lantern -- though we still don't get why he doesn't just change the name of the character to "The Green Condom" or something and shoot the movie anyway.