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It’s been about four years since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released. It was a dark, brooding take of a rivalry between the two titular heroes, who came to blows due to their inherent distrust for another and Lex Luthor's machinations fueling that flame. Needless to say that not everyone was on board with the dark interpretation.
Still, this vision for a dark Batman and Superman movie goes much further back to 2001. At the time, Akiva Goldsman was tasked to write a Batman Vs. Superman movie that would have starred Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Believe it or not, it sounds like it could have been darker than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Here’s what Goldsman told Collider:
I wrote on […] this version of Batman v Superman [around 2001 or 2002]— 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. Just that the love itself was constructed by the Joker to break [Bruce]. 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. Somehow, the expectations of the object — whether they be audience or corporate or directorial — it wasn’t landing quite in the way I think we imagined when we put them on the page.
Of course, Akiva Goldsman's dark vision for Batman's future never took off. While his vision for this Batman and Superman movie sound dark, he also was the writer of Batman & Robin, and he thought that movie was dark at one point. He has since apologized for Batman & Robin being so bad.
Akiva Goldsman’s Batman Vs. Superman movie would have had Wolfgang Peterson at the helm, not Joel Schumacher, which makes you wonder if he would have taken it down a darker road with Goldsman's script in hand. At the time, WB had every intention to move forward with the project and wanted a 2004 release, but somewhere along the way, the studio dropped it and decided to back Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins instead.
Batman movies that have failed to leave the Batcave are surprisingly not all that uncommon. Joel Schumacher tried to take on Batman once more with Batman Unchained, which could have seen Nicholas Cage playing The Scarecrow. Alex Kurtzman tried to pitch WB a light Batman movie, not realizing the studio wanted a darker tone and turned to Christopher Nolan's interpretation instead. And more recently, Ben Affleck was set to write and direct his own standalone Batman movie before stepping away.
Now Matt Reeves is at the helm for The Batman, which is well into production. Ironically, Colin Ferrell, who was set to play Batman in Akiva Goldsman’s Batman Vs. Superman, is now playing The Penguin in The Batman. And no surprise here, Colin Ferrell read The Batman script and said it was dark, while also calling his scenes "tasty."