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It’s been a while since we last did one of these, so … let’s do one of these.

Moviemaking is a long and complicated process, especially when you consider the whole picture from script to “That’s a wrap!” For every film, good or bad, that makes it to the finish line, countless others die on the vine. Here are four films that ultimately went unfinished (or unstarted) that have nonetheless gained a certain infamy.

Darker Knight

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is easily the most realistic vision of Batman ever to hit movie screens, and it’s often called the “darkest” version, even with the curious lack of attempted mass-baby-murder. But if you thought those were grim fare, the version Warner Bros. almost made would’ve put you in a coma. Back before they were even talking to Nolan, Warner Bros. had an eye on re-starting the franchise with an adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, helmed by Darren Aronofsky. They even got Miller himself to write the screenplay! Unfortunately, by that point Miller was well into his … “uncomfortable” modern persona, and the pitch he turned in bore almost no resemblance to his own book – or any other version of Batman ever published.

In the Miller/Aronofsky screenplay, Bruce Wayne is no wealthy playboy. In this version, Young Bruce loses his mind and becomes a feral street kid after seeing his parents killed, only to be saved from the gutter and raised by a mechanic named “Big Al” (get it?) who lets the clearly insane but quick-study-at-tools Bruce (who has no clear memory of his parents and thus no knowledge that he’s the missing heir to a fortune) live in his garage.

Bruce is plagued by nightmares and a burning hatred for street crime, especially the mobbed-up brothel across the street which happens to employ a prostitute named Selina Kyle (technically she’s a dominatrix, hence the cat suit, but the script unironically uses dominatrix and hooker as interchangeable terms because, well … Frank Miller). He eventually recovers enough memory to reclaim Thomas Wayne’s “TW”-logo signet ring, which he uses to punch criminals almost to death leaving “TW” bruises that look kind of like the Bat-symbol – hence the media dubbing him “The Batman” and him putting together homeless-nutcase versions of the Batman costume and Batmobile.

For some reason, Warner Bros. decided not to make this movie.

Cowabungle

The Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot made some news when the project was shelved for script problems a few months back. That happens all the time, of course, but what made it newsworthy was seeing it happen in full public view. The film may or may not be back on, but having read the screenplay that apparently caused all the trouble, I’m hoping it stays nice and dead.

I’ve gone over this at length elsewhere, but in the interest of keeping things quick: Think the 80s TMNT cartoon crossed with Bay’s own Transformers re-imagining. The Turtles themselves are secondary characters, while Casey Jones (here reimagined as, essentially, Sam Witwicky in the form of a lovesick high school hockey player) is the main hero who has to help the Turtles reunite with Master Splinter in New York, which just so happens to be where Casey’s onetime girlfriend April has run off to chase her dreams of TV news stardom. Opposing them are The Foot, who are no longer ninjas but rather a rogue military black-ops team led by the evil – wait for it! … Colonel Schrader.

Yes, really. Colonel Schrader. He’s secretly a mutant himself, with blades that pop out of his skin like an evil Wolverine.

Despite the claims that this version would come more from the original indie comics, cartoon mainstays like Bebop and Rocksteady are on hand, as are Krang, The Technodrome and Dimension X … which, incidentally, led to the script’s most infamous twist: The TMNT aren’t mutants, but rather aliens (even they didn’t know, apparently) – a species indigenous to Dimension X and prophesied to save both worlds by protecting magic stones.

Supposedly they are still going to try and get this project happening, though one would assume with major changes to the widely-disseminated (and panned) script.

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World’s Finest

Hey, speaking of Batman, “reboot” wasn’t the only path Warner Bros. was considering for salvaging their onetime superhero cash cow. Along with having Schumacher return for Batman Triumphant (with Jeff Goldblum as Scarecrow) and a live-action Batman Beyond, there was also interest in what would’ve then been the first live-action superhero team-up movie: Batman vs. Superman.

This project got fairly far along. Wolfgang Petersen was signed to direct, Josh Hartnett and Jude Law were in the running for Superman while Christian Bale and Colin Farrell were the top choices for Batman, and they had a script from Andrew Kevin Walker – which was then rewritten by Batman & Robin scribe Akiva Goldsman. The project fell apart, however, when Warners decided to re-introduce the characters as individuals first, leading to the development of Batman Begins and Superman Returns, respectively.

What would they have been fighting over? Goldsman’s script is said to have found the two heroes in the midlife crisis of their respective careers. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are divorced, Bruce Wayne is getting married and planning to retire as Batman. Alfred and Robin are both dead, and this takes place in the same continuity as the Schumacher/Burton Batman movies – although, as near as I can tell, Bruce Wayne’s fiancée from this film is not Elle MacPherson’s character from Batman & Robin. (Admit it: You totally forgot Bruce Wayne had an utterly superfluous girlfriend subplot in that movie.)

Our inciting incident(s)? Superman foils a terrorist attack, but accidentally allows the mystery perpetrator to escape when he prevents a mob of citizens from lynching him. Not long after that, Bruce Wayne’s new wife is murdered on their honeymoon by someone using The Joker’s (still dead in this continuity, remember) Smilex Toxin. Bruce takes Batman out of mothballs to beat some answers out of the underworld, and soon discovers that the killer he’s seeking is The Joker, somehow back from the dead, and – but you’ve already guessed it, right? – he (Joker) was the terrorist Superman allowed to escape. Concluding that this means his wife’s death is therefore Superman’s fault, Batman steals a secret cache of Kryptonite the army had been sitting on and uses it to build a Kryptonite-infused suit of Bat-armor that will let him go toe-to-toe with his onetime ally. Lex Luthor, The Toyman and Lana Lang also appear, and no prizes for guessing that the whole thing turns out to be a scheme by the bad guys (Joker is a clone, incidentally) to get the good guys to kill each other.

Dino-Wars

It’s kind of incredible that there have only been three Jurassic Park movies. You’d think Hollywood would be more eager to exploit a well-known name brand whose premise allows you to just drop rampaging dinosaurs into any scenario you can think of. We’re supposed to be getting a 4th film in the near future, and the only thing that can be said for certain about it is that it won’t be as strange as the one we almost got seven years ago.

Back in 2007, screenwriting legends John Sayles and William Monahan (go look up their respective filmographies – impressive!) handled in a script for Jurassic Park 4 at the behest of Steven Spielberg that would’ve taken the entire franchise in a radical new direction. Oddball spec scripts for well-known franchises are nothing new to Hollywood (Predator allegedly began life as Rambo vs. An Alien pitch) but few of them have ever gotten so close to production while being such a dramatic tonal shift as JP4 would’ve been.

The premise? In an alleged attempt to counteract a growing wild dinosaur epidemic, a mercenary is hired to retrieve that Burma Shave can full of stolen dino embryos Dennis Nedry died trying to spirit out of the original Jurassic Park. But instead of merely making domesticated population-thinning predators, a shadowy corporate agency breeds a team of super-intelligent, partially-human dinosauroid creatures genetically modified and trained to use weapons and tactical gear as part of a Dinosaur Commando Team … who are then dispatched on a big, James Bond-esque “save the world” adventure.

… I honestly have nothing to add to that.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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