Comic Book adaptations are breaking bank at the box office, and this summer got off to a rousing start with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which has taken in over $1.3 billion worldwide after one month in theaters. With over 40 superhero movies coming in the next 5 years from Marvel Studios and Warner Bros./DC alone, the cinematic landscape is more flooded than ever with the ultra-popular genre. It's hard to fathom a time when big-budget, highly-anticipated superhero movies never happened. It wasn't even that long ago. Feeling nostalgic, we felt the time was right to break down a few superhero movies that never saw the light of day, most of which had top-notch talent attached on both sides of the camera. Today, we look at 9 Superhero Movies That never Happened!
Despite being trashed by fans and critics alike, Spider-Man 3 actually took in a good chunk of change for Sony, earning $890 million worldwide ($336 million domestic), which was more than enough for the studio to move forward with Sam Raimi's Spider-man 4. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were set to return as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, with a slew of new cast members set to come aboard, such as John Malkovich as The Vulture, Anne Hathaway as Black Cat. There were even reportedly plans to finally turn Dylan Baker's Dr. Curt Connors into The Lizard, which fans had been clamoring for. Sadly, it never happened because Sam Raimi could never find a script he wanted to make, after spending a few years with a number of writers, none of whom delivered a script the director was pleased with. Since Sony wouldn't budge from its May 6, 2011 release date (which, as it turns out, is when Thor hit theaters), and Sam Raimi couldn't make the scripts work, he pulled out of the project, allowing Sony to move forward with The Amazing Spider-Man reboot they were already planning, and we know how that turned out...
2Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One
Back in 2000, Darren Aronofsky was an indie sensation with two provocative film under his belt, Pi and Requiem for a Dream. It was only a matter of time before he landed a big studio project, and, for a time, it looked like that project would be Batman: Year One. Darren Aronofsky was set to direct and co-write the script with the legendary Frank Miller himself, but the director had said in an interview that it was only "somewhat" based on Frank Miller's Batman: Year One comic, and that it would "reinvent" the franchise. The filmmakers, ironically, were eyeing Christian Bale to star as Batman, 5 years before he played the iconic character in Batman Begins. As it turned out, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the project in 2002, in favor of another Batman movie that never happened...
3Joel Schumacher's Batman vs. Superman
In August 2001, Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker pitched Warner Bros. an idea for Batman vs. Superman, with the studio quickly attaching Joel Schumacher to direct. Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the colossal failure Batman & Robin, was brought in to rewrite the script, which followed Batman going through a mental breakdown five years after retiring from crime-fighting, becoming good friends with Superman, only to have their friendship torn apart by Lex Luthor, before they eventually team up to defeat him. Christian Bale was again approached to play Batman, while Josh Hartnett was offered the Superman role. Production was set to begin in 2003, with the studio aiming for a summer 2004 release, but they eventually scrapped the project, choosing instead to focus on separate Batman and Superman projects, which eventually lead to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight resurrecting Batman from its cinematic doldrums.
4James Cameron's Spider-Man
Long before he was the "king of the (box office) world" with Titanic, James Cameron submitted a 47-page "scriptment" to Carloco Films for a Spider-Man film, which told the origins of the web-slinger and featured variations on classic villains Electro and Sandman, with these new characters given completely different names. The story climaxed on top of the World Trade Center, where Peter Parker reveals his Spider-Man identity to Mary Jane Watson. The scriptment was said to feature copious amounts of profanity, along with a scene where Peter and Mary Jane have sex. Carloco shut the project down in 1992 amid a slew of financial and legal problems, and just four years later, Carloco went bankrupt.
5Terry Gilliam's Watchmen
Decades before Zack Snyder's 2009 Watchmen adaptation, filmmaker Terry Gilliam was attached to direct the adaptation in 1991, from a script he co-wrote with Charles McKeown. The director and producer Joel Silver could only raise $25 million for the project, which they were budgeting at $100 million, and, since Terry Gilliam ultimately found it to be "unfilmable," he backed away. Just last year, Joel Silver revealed how Terry Gilliam's story ended, a massive departure from the original graphic novel, where Doctor Manhattan went back in time to prevent his own creation, which in turn created an alternate timeline in which the rest of the Watchmen became merely characters in a comic book, and not actual superheroes.
6Guillermo del Toro's Doctor Strange
Director Scott Derrickson will finally bring Doctor Strange to the big screen for the first time next year, but there were a number of different attempts to do so before then. Before Marvel Studios got the rights to the character back, Guillermo del Toro teased in a 2008 interview that he wanted to write a Doctor Strange movie with Neil Gaiman, but it never got off the ground, and no details were ever given about his take on the Sorcerer Supreme. Before Guillermo del Toro flirted with the project, others such as Wes Craven and David S. Goyer were attached to direct at different points throughout the 1990s, as the characters' rights went from studio to studio.
7Quentin Tarantino's Iron Man
Quentin Tarantino was the king of indie cinema in the 1990s, with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown putting him on the map. In 1999, 20th Century Fox approached the filmmaker to direct an adaptation of Iron Man, but just a few months later, the studio sold the rights to New Line Cinema, with Fox president Tom Rothman claiming that they had too many superhero movies in development, and they "can't make them all." It isn't known if Quentin Tarantino ever seriously considered taking on the project or not.
8George Miller's Justice League Mortal
This is probably the closest one to actually happening, with a full cast in place and production about to begin, before the writer's strike hit in late 2007. Armie Hammer (Batman), D.J. Cotrona (Superman), Megan Gale (Wonder Woman), Adam Brody (The Flash), Common (Green Lantern), Santiago Cabrera (Aquaman), Teresa Palmer (Talia Al Ghul), Zoe Kazan (Iris Allen), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Martian Manhunter) and Jay Baruchel (Maxwell Lord) were set to star. George Miller tried to get production started in either New Zealand in Australia, but it never happened and this project faded into obscurity. Last month, director Ryan Unicomb announced plans for a Justice League documentary, that will offer an unbiased account of what happened, so fans will get to learn a lot more about this project in the near future.
9Tim Burton's Superman Lives
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) of these failed projects, Superman Lives was also very close to production getting under way, with Nicolas Cage starring as the Man of Steel. Kevin Smith wrote the original script, which featured a Superman whose powers derived from the sun, and the villain Doomsday hatching a plot to block out the sun. Subsequent rewrites came in from Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy, but Warner Bros. put the project on hold in April 1998, forcing Tim Burton to leave and make Sleepy Hollow. It was said that over $30 million was spent in pre-production for a film that never saw the light of day. Fans can learn much more about this project in the upcoming documentary The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, which debuts July 9.
That wraps it up for our list of 9 superhero movies that never happened. Do you have a favorite disbanded project that didn't make the list? Or are there any superhero projects in development now that you hope never hit theaters? Chime in with your thoughts below, or let me know what you think on Twitter at @GallagherMW.