The world loves Batman. Sure, Marvel currently reigns supreme in the world of comic book movies and shared cinematic universes, but the Caped Crusader remains the most popular masked vigilante of all time. Batman’s popularity has given birth to broad scope of projects for film and TV, both realized and unrealized. One of the Dark Knight canon’s most unexpected creations was Batman Beyond, an awesome animated series that was almost an equally awesome feature film.
Batman Beyond is a certified cult favorite among hardcore Batman fans and ’90s kids alike. Set in a future Gotham City, the series saw an elderly Bruce Wayne hire a young protege, Terry McGinnis, to don a high-tech batsuit and take over crime fighting duties under Bruce’s tutelage.
Created by Batman: The Animated Series mastermind Paul Dini, Batman Beyond was a success because it stayed true to the Batman mythos while adding new aesthetic, as well as thematic dimensions to the property. Naturally, a live-action adaptation was in the works, but fell through after a rough stint in development hell.
In the intervening years, Batman has graced the big screen in the form of Christopher Nolan’s uber successful Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Ben Affleck’s acclaimed iteration in the less-successful DCEU.
Though it’s hard to imagine a sci-fi rendition of Batman in today’s comic book cinema landscape, here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About The Canceled Batman Beyond Movie to give you a clear picture of just what we’ve all been missing.
15. Batman Begins killed it
If the waning interest by all of the principal creators may have been the key component of Batman Beyond’s downfall, Batman Begins was certainly the final nail in the coffin. After Batman & Robin, studio execs and fans alike were ready for a fresh take on the franchise, but there really wasn’t room for two separate, equally distinct departures from what had come before.
Ultimately, Christopher Nolan’s gritty reboot won out and gave birth not only to an entire trilogy of Batman films, but nearly a decade’s worth of gritty reboots across multiple franchises.
As an animated series, Batman Beyond was a hit with a relatively small demographic of young, devoted fans. However, there’s little chance that the property would have struck the broad cultural nerve that Batman Begins did.
14. It Was Co-written by series creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett
Unlike most film adaptations, the Batman Beyond movie was mostly the brainchild of the property’s original creators. Paul Dini and Alan Burnett led the project from day one, working on the first draft of the script before a director was attached.
Very little is known about the contents of Dini and Burnett’s script, but it’s probably safe to assume they put it together from previously established elements of the series.
Then again, Paul Dini always brings an even balance of familiarity and fresh ideas to the Batman universe, so perhaps the script introduced a new villain, or revived another classic one we hadn’t yet seen in the series. We can only speculate, but since Dini has written some of the greatest Batman stories of all time, we can rest assured this script was a winner.
13. It might still happen in the DCEU
However unlikely it may seem, Batman Beyond still stands a chance of being revived at Warner Bros. The studio is playing fast and loose with the DC property, and with the news that some of their upcoming movies won’t even be included in the DCEU, the possibilities are endless.
Batman Beyond might be the perfect outlet for Ben Affleck to close out his tenure as Bruce Wayne in a satisfying way, while also making room for an up-and-coming star to dawn the cowl and cape (or, in this case, high-tech wings).
It might also be the perfect story for Warner Bros. to try going the Logan/Deadpool route and Batman Beyond an off-brand, R-rated genre flick. Anything is possible. For now, the best we can do is wait, hope, and get into some serious Terry McGinnis fan casting debates.
12. Boaz Yakin was set to direct
Bringing in young, unlikely directors to helm big tentpole movies is par for the course in today’s film industry, but it’s hardly something new. Tim Burton was a unique up-and-comer when he directed Batman, as was Stephen Norrington when he directed Blade. For Batman Beyond, Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans) was set to direct the film pretty early in the development process.
Yakin was originally looking to make an independent film after Remember the Titans, but his agent suggested another big studio project would be better for his career. Yakin said that, if that were the case, he wouldn’t do anything smaller than Batman.
Yakin’s agent took the response literally enough to set up a meeting with Warner Bros. and it wasn’t long before Yakin was working on a draft of the Batman Beyond screenplay with writers Dini and Burnett. Moral of the story: don’t say you want to do a Batman movie unless you really want to do a Batman movie.
11. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Would’ve Been An Influence
When he was brought in to direct Batman Beyond, Boaz Yakin pitched a movie that would use Sam Raimi’s recent mega hit Spider-Man as a template. Yakin envisioned a similar teenage superhero movie, only slightly darker, with a sharp, futuristic edge.
Yakin’s biggest success up to that point had been Remember the Titans, a movie very much steeped in the high school experience, so it stands to reason that he’d want to keep working within a thematic framework he had already dealt with.
Plus, Spider-Man’s teenage-into-early-adulthood storyline had obviously worked with audiences, and Batman Beyond’s central protagonist, Terry McGinnis, fit that bill perfectly. Had Yakin stuck too closely to the Sam Raimi/Spider-Man formula, his final product may have risked accusations of being a copycat. However, who wouldn’t want to see a future noir version of Raimi’s Spider-Man?
10. It was One of Many Planned Reboots after Batman & Robin
The Batman franchise has its own substantial list of canceled film adaptations, and nearly half of them originate in the years between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins.
After Warner Bros. rescinded the green light for Joel Schumacher’s Batman Unchained, the studio took all sorts of pitches in a desperate attempt to reboot the beloved franchise. In addition to Darren Aronofsky’s now legendary Batman Year One, Batman Beyond was one of the final reboot attempts before Christopher Nolan’s version kicked into high gear.
Of all the reboots proposed in the wake of Batman & Robin’s fallout, Beyond was arguably the most drastic departure from the franchise thus far. It’s hard to imagine the futuristic Gotham of the series existing side by side with gritty neo-crime drama that is Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Then again, it’s hard to imagine a Martin Scorsese-produced Joker origin movie in the DCEU, but here we are.
9. It lost steam when Yakin lost interest
A live-action Batman Beyond may seem like a pipe dream in hindsight, but the project may very well have come to full fruition had the director not lost interest quite so quickly. Boaz Yakin might never have been the ideal director to helm Batman Beyond.
His early attachment to the project was a bit of a fluke, making his genuine interest highly suspect. According to Yakin himself, the responsibility of making a major Hollywood blockbuster started to weigh on him immediately after he turned in a first draft of the script, and he relinquished his seat at the helm soon after.
Directors are becoming more and more interchangeable in today’s film industry, especially for big tentpole movies. It’s pretty common, in fact, for some comic book movies to go through several directors before production begins. However, over 15 years ago, a director leaving a project was much more likely to mean the end of its life, and this was certainly the case with Batman Beyond.
8. Yakin thinks it might’ve hurt his career
It’s rarely a good career move for a young director to walk away from a high-profile project. Boaz Yakin has made relatively few movies since he walked away from Batman Beyond, the most notable being 2015’s rescue-dog feature Max. Yakin has speculated that leaving the project may have affected his career very adversely in the years since.
No director should take on a project they aren’t 100% enthusiastic about. While leaving Batman Beyond may have been an iffy, if not debilitating career choice for Yakin, going through with the movie when he was unsure about it may have just as easily been worse. If Batman Beyond is ever resurrected, it needs to be developed, written, and eventually directed by people who really care about it.
7. Dini and Burnett also jumped ship prematurely
Once they lost their director, it didn’t take long for writers Dini and Burnett to drop the Batman Beyond project and move on themselves. According to Dini, it was pretty evident that the film would not make it through a successful production, so it made a lot more sense to drop out early in the development stage, rather than keep pushing for something that nobody believed in anymore.
In hindsight, Dini and Burnett’s decision to drop the project as early as they did was an astute one. Recently we’ve seen what can happen when studios back projects they’re unsure about for too long.
We’ve also seen how much better things work out when all parties involved agree to change course before it’s too late. As cool a prospect as a Batman Beyond movie is, it’s probably better that it didn’t happen after the interest and confidence of the creators began to wane.
6. It’s pre-production paved the way for Batman Begins and Batman v Superman
Once Batman Beyond’s development officially ceased, Dini and Burnett immediately set to work on pitching other Batman features to Warner Bros. One was a proper Batman movie featuring Ra’s Al Guhl as the central villain.
The other was a Batman vs. Superman treatment. Either of those sound familiar? Who would have guessed that something as unusual to the DC Universe as Batman Beyond would eventually lead to the Caped Crusader’s two most popular cinematic iterations. The comic book gods really do work in mysterious ways.
Many of Hollywood’s most successful modern blockbusters begin with a trial-and-era process that morphs from one not-quite-there pitch into an entirely revamped concept. Batman Beyond may have failed before it really started, but its failure also led to two of Warner Bros. biggest successes in the comic book genre.
5. It would have been more “cyberpunk” than the original series
Dini claims that once Yakin was brought on board as director and co-writer, the Batman Beyond movie shifted gears a bit with the future Gotham setting.
The shiny, pristine future of the series was replaced with something a little more cyberpunk than anything Dini had originally planned. There was already definite cyberpunk element to the series, to be sure. However, the movie would have been a little more like Blade Runner, where the series was Metropolis.
Upping the cyberpunk elements of the series may have given the movie a distinct identity, much in the same way that the gritty realism of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films distinguish them from the Burton/Schumacher movies. It’s a shame we never got to see what a fully realized cyberpunk Gotham city might look like when compared to previous interpretations.
4. It was rumored again to be revived after the Dark Knight trilogy
The Dark Knight trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, a movie that continues to polarize fans. Before the DCEU kicked off with Man of Steel, and later Batman v Superman, many speculated over whether the ending of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy signified a possible Nightwing spin-off with Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Once Nolan put that notion to bed, clarifying that his Batman universe was over, rumors also began to surface at a possible live-action Batman Beyond revival. However, by that point, the shared universe craze was in full swing and DC was already planning a movieverse of its own.
A few years later, Ben Affleck was cast as Batman for Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man of Steel, and the rest is history. Almost seems unfair at this point how many times Bruce Wayne has been resurrected for the big screen when Terry McGinnis hasn’t even had a single chance at a live-action vigilantism spree.
3. It might have starred one of the previous Batmans as old Bruce Wayne
One of the ways Batman Beyond might have eased in new fans is by casting one of the previous Batmans as Bruce Wayne. Due to his departure from the Burton/Schumacher series, as well as his interest to take the character into darker territory, Michael Keaton would have been the ideal candidate at the time (Adam West would have been the right age. However, it’s doubtful that audiences would have been able to take him seriously, especially if he still had some shark repellent from his glory days on hand.
Should the movie be resurrected in the near future, Keaton would be an even more ideal choice now than he was back then. The former Batman has had a critical resurgence in recent years, and he’s finally the right age for the part. Playing an elderly Bruce might also finally give Keaton the chance to explore new territory for the character the way he wanted to 20 years ago. Fingers crossed, everyone.
2. Fans were also pushing hard for Clint Eastwood to play Bruce Wayne
Clint Eastwood as an elderly Bruce Wayne seems like a no-brainer, right? At least, that’s what fans thought at the time of Batman Beyond’s development. When the possibility of a Batman Beyond movie first surfaced, many fans eyed Eastwood as the perfect fit for the gruff, aging mentor that Bruce Wayne embodied in the series.
Eastwood is probably a bit too old even for Batman Beyond’s Bruce at this point, but he would have been perfect in the early 2000s. And should the project be resurrected in the next few years, there are a number of high-profile actors that would fit the profile just as well.
1. It would have made Ace the Bat-Hound a star
Ace the Bat-Hound appeared in the Batman comics as far back as 1955. Clearly a kid-friendly marketing product of his time, Ace has become little more than an inside joke for fans today. His least silly and most popular incarnation to date was in Batman Beyond, where he appeared as Bruce Wayne’s furry, cape-and-cowl-less companion. Rather than fight crime, Ace was largely an effective ornament to Bruce Wayne’s cool, grumpy old man vibe.
The Batman Beyond movie would likely have been a fairly faithful adaptation, meaning that the chances of Ace going full Bat-Hound in the film were highly unlikely. However, maybe there’s a place for the caped K-9 crusader in the DCEU. The way things seem to be going over at Warner Bros., anything could happen.
Are you still holding out hope for a Batman Beyond movie? Should Michael Keaton play Old Man Bruce? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
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