Everyone knows the deal with 1997’s “Batman & Robin” by now. We don’t need to rehash the abject disappointment that accompanied its release and its legacy of having nearly killed off the Batman franchise — though, that might be fun … but let’s focus, here. In the wake of Joel Schumacher’s second and final Batman movie, Warner Bros. was sent scrambling, lurching from one attempt to reboot the Dark Knight to another.
This went on for some years, with multiple projects being considered and developed before being scrapped. One such project, “Batman: DarKnight,” would have been the complete opposite to “Batman & Robin,” telling a dark tale that would see Dick Grayson used as a test subject in Dr. Jonathan Crane, AKA Scarecrow’s twisted experiments. Of course, we all know how the story plays out, with Warners nixing that movie in favor of Christopher Nolan’s origin tale “Batman Begins.” But it seems things could have been quite different.
It seems odd that Bruce Timm was never offered a live-action Batman film. The co-creator, writer, and showrunner of “Batman: The Animated Series” and the futuristic “Batman Beyond” has consistently delivered celebrated animated projects based on the Dark Knight. But while Timm never got the call to help reboot the live-action franchise, “Batman: TAS” and “Batman Beyond” writer and all-around legendary comics scribe Paul Dini seemingly did.
While novice screenwriters Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise were plotting out their “DarKnight” story as a way to resuscitate the Caped Crusader in the wake of “Batman & Robin,” Dini and fellow “TAS” and “Beyond” writer Alan Burnett were working on another approach — one which could have seen none other than Clint Eastwood playing an aging Bruce Wayne.
The Batman Beyond movie that never was
If all Paul Dini did was co-create Harley Quinn with Bruce Timm — Quinn was inspired by a dream Dini had — that would be enough. But he’s also penned numerous episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond,” the “Arkham” video games, and several Batman comics. In other words, his Dark Knight credentials aren’t in question, which is why Warner Bros. tapped him for a live-action “Batman Beyond” movie.
The animated show, which ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001, and spawned a film which had to be recut to gain its “G” rating, was a follow-up to “Batman: The Animated Series” and focused on a teenage version of t he titular crime fighter named Terry McGinnis. Mentored by an older Bruce Wayne, McGinnis took on the Batman mantle in a futuristic Gotham.
And in an episode of Kevin Smith’s podcast “Fatman on Batman,” now titled “Fatman Beyond” (via Collider), Dini revealed that he and Alan Burnett had been asked by the studio to write a script for a “Batman Beyond” movie, which, according to the writer, would have been helmed by “Max” and “Remember The Titans” director Boaz Yakin.
As Dini recalled it, the “Batman Beyond” film would have been set in a future Gotham that, evidently, wouldn’t have had quite the “futuristic edge” of the cartoon series. As Dini put it, “There was a little bit of The Dark Knight, there was a little bit of contemporary comics and there was Terry McGinnis and the suit and everything.” But what was most interesting about this live-action version was that screen legend Clint Eastwood was allegedly going to be approached to play Bruce Wayne, who just like in the animated “Beyond” series, would be a much older, jaded version of the billionaire.
Things worked out for the best
By the time “Batman Begins” arrived in 2005, Warner Bros. clearly made the right decision to entrust Christopher Nolan, then with just one major studio movie under his belt, with arguably their biggest IP. The film was a big success and launched the celebrated Dark Knight trilogy. But even though Nolan’s films put an end to the Eastwood-starring “Batman Beyond” movie, talk of making such a film has continued right up to today.
Prior to James Gunn and Peter Safran taking over as new co-heads of DC Studios, Christina Hodson was said to be working on a “Batman Beyond” movie starring Michael Keaton. And considering the original series’ success, Warner Bros. could do worse than explore the idea further in future, especially as we enter the age of multiversal cinematic superhero adventures.
Of course, by the time that happens, Clint Eastwood won’t be showing up as Bruce Wayne. The Wayne of “Beyond” is older, but not quite in the range of the 92-year-old. Besides, Eastwood looks set to bow out of the industry with his upcoming project “Juror No. 2,” which co-stars Nicholas Hoult and Toni Collette.
Back in the early 2000s, though, the Oscar winner launched somewhat of a comeback as a director and actor, with 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby” winning four Academy Awards, just a year after Eastwood’s film “Mystic River” won two Oscars. Had he shown up in a “Batman Beyond” movie, he no doubt would have lent some serious gravitas to the production. In that sense, it would have been interesting to see how the film would have panned out, but if it meant we would have never got Nolan’s trilogy, I think things worked out for the best.