Before Warner Bros. settled on the idea of creating an interconnected franchise based on their marquee comic book characters, recent history had become littered with failed attempts to bring DC’s most iconic names to the big screen. There were countless abandoned Superman projects and Batman reboots, while George Miller came agonizingly close to getting Justice League: Mortal in front of cameras.
A showdown between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel had almost become a reality over a decade before Zack Snyder delivered Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice though, with Wolfgang Petersen attached to direct what was supposed to be the must-see summer blockbuster of 2004, one that would have featured Colin Farrell and Jude Law as the respective title characters.
However, despite the script going through multiple drafts, any attempt to get Batman v Superman into production soon fizzled out completely, and all we were left with was an Easter Egg hidden in the background of I Am Legend that left fans wondering what might have been. Snyder’s movie faced plenty of criticism from both fans and critics for the grim and super-serious tone that just wouldn’t let up, but in a recent interview, writer Akiva Goldsman revealed that his pitch would have made the DCEU film look like a light-hearted romp by comparison.
“I wrote this version of Batman v Superman when Colin Farrell was cast as Batman and Jude Law was cast as Superman and Wolfgang Petersen was directing, we were in prep and it was the darkest thing you’ve ever seen. It started with Alfred’s funeral, and Bruce has fallen in love and renounced being Batman, the Joker kills his wife, and then you discover it was all a lie… It was a time where you would be able to get these sort of stories together in script form, but they couldn’t quite land in the world. It wasn’t quite landing in the way I think we imagined when we put them on the page. It was really The World’s Finest, in a kind of dark and interesting way.”
You can understand why the studio weren’t completely sold on the idea of a Batman V Superman blockbuster that opens with Alfred’s funeral and features the Joker murdering Bruce Wayne’s wife, because that just wasn’t the way that comic book movies were made at the time. The dark and gritty reboot wouldn’t become fashionable until Batman Begins landed in 2005, and while many people had issues with the version that Zack Snyder eventually brought us, it at least made sense within the context of the DCEU.