Inside Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One

Image Source, Source 1, Source 2, "I am Vengeance, I am The Night, I am Batman!"
Thanks to Ben Affleck's grim and gritty portrayal of the Caped Crusader in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans are waiting eagerly to see more of the darker aspects of Batman. But before he was the definition of a dark and brooding crime-fighter, he was beloved by families everywhere because of his campy-fun television show starring Adam West as the titular hero. When the show lost steam, Tim Burton managed to deliver a darker approach to Batman, after several failed pitches from various other writers such as Michael Uslan. However, box office ratings for Batman Returns was disappointing for Warner Bros., and as such, we return to the campier roots of Batman, becoming a punchline and is not revived into the serious version we all know and love today until Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins.

But Batman could have undergone a much more adult-oriented approach compared to Batman killing criminals in the recent DC Extended Universe entry. Darren Aronofsky, famed director of mature psychological thrillers such as Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan, with comicbook legend Frank Miller, writer of Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns, were suppose to collaborate in rebooting Batman. But as you might expect, it was canned. So what happened to the ultra-violent and almost unfamiliar Batman: Year One (Not the direct-to-video movie, by the way)? Dateline Movies picks-up this leaked script from Hollywood's script trash bin, and together, let's see what could have happened had this movie was released. Besides, we did promised some Batman and Superman scripts.

Source. Working in Gotham is a Total Nightmare
How did it almost happen?

"It's somewhat based on the comicbook, toss out everything you know about Batman! Everything! We're starting completely anew." - Darren Aronofsky on the many changes applied in the making of the movie

After Joel Schumacher derails the Batman film series with the heavily panned Batman and Robin movie, Warner Bros. didn't notice the storm warnings before it is too late. Batman and Robin was both a critical and a commercial failure, and Warner Bros. was forced to undo everything Schumacher's brought into the Batman mythology. Pitch after pitch for a fifth Batman follow-up, each proposal was eventually refused, but Warner Bros. had a feeling that the audience deserves a dark Batman. The studio brings in psychological drama expert Darren Aronofsky to helm the new project, hoping to reinvigorate interest in the superhero that Gotham deserves. The studio gave a go-ahead sign for a selected group of writers to pen a Batman Beyond movie at the same time, but that's a story for another time. Joining Aronofsky's crusade for a mature superhero movie is Frank Miller, with the two aiming to loosely adapt the critically acclaimed Frank Miller miniseries, Batman: Year One. The result was a Batman movie unlike anything you have ever seen him before, and it is very different from the comics that you have read.

Source, Concept Artwork For Batman's Costume
What was suppose to happen?

The following story outline is a simplified and shortened version of the leaked script. For more information on the complete story, click here. However, if you are in a rush and would rather listen than read, check-out our summarized reading of the script below.  (Our very first podcast)

After attempting to rescue Selina Kyle, a neighbor and a prostitute working at the nearby brothel, from her boss Chi-Chi, Bruce Wayne, an obsessive-compulsive auto mechanic who constantly has nightmares, gets into a fit of rage, and has a talk with Little Al about his inner demons. Little Al, his African-American caretaker and his co-worker at "Al and Son", gives Bruce what he claims to be Bruce's "inheritance". When Bruce woke-up from another nightmare, he overhears that Selina is being assaulted by the corrupt detective Campbell, and a mysterious assailant kills Campbell to rescue Selina. Lieutenant James Gordon, a suicidal father and husband married to his wife Ann, and Detective Arnold Flass, the equally corrupt partner of Campbell, are on the case.

On a stormy day, Gordon responds to a hostage crisis being handled by Commissioner Gillian Loeb, a noted figure within the criminal underworld who blackmails Gordon. Gordon goes in, hoping to negotiate with the hostage taker. Gordon's victory instantly gave him local popularity, and is televised, with a carefully attentive Bruce inspired by his actions through the broadcast to fight for justice. Using the signet ring, with a symbol made-up of an intertwined "T" and "W", left behind by his father as a trademark, starts by searching for Selina, who is now in hiding from the police.

Source, A Portrait of Batman
Bruce then begins his war against crime. Muggers, drug dealers, rapists, and other criminals are left with a scar shaped like a bat, which originated from Bruce's signet ring. Bruce heads to a seedy bar filled with underworld elements, where he is overpowered by various thugs. Trapped in the women's restroom of the lounge, Bruce takes an assortment of chemicals from the janitor's stall, which he uses as a bomb to neutralize the criminals. Meanwhile, Gordon, who lashed-out at his celebratory dinner upon the sight of Loeb and Emilio Estrada, a gangster, at a restaurant, comes forward to the Mayor of Gotham City about the corruption in the police.

Beaten and battered from his previous battle, Bruce decides to teach himself how to make improvised weapons, mostly chemical-based as well as a homemade costume, and learn some fighting techniques through books. He later uses these gadgets on a raid on a chop-shop, which leaves him badly injured. Gordon encounters a local gang member, who he asks to give him some information to expose the corruption within the police. His actions lead him to being ambushed by Flass and his men. After reports come in regarding the "Batman's" vigilantism, with the name originating from mugger's wounds shaped like a bat, Bruce modifies his costume to look like a bat.

Loeb reassigns Gordon to the Batman case in order to secretly get Gordon out of the picture and distracted, much to Gordon's chagrin. On his first day handling the case, Gordon interrogates various criminals hospitalized due to Batman's actions. He notices that all bad guys are traumatized, which leads him to think that district attorney Harvey Dent is the Batman, with Dent reassuring that he is not.

Source, Sketches For James Gordon and Selina Kyle
Batman gets the drop on Chi-Chi and a few gangsters while they have a meeting, which leaves Chi-Chi shot multiple times indirectly by one of the crooks. He want to know where Emilio Estrada is, which a gangster named Sanchez leads him to the docks where Estrada is expecting a shipment of kidnapped women. Batman uses his newly built Batmobile to get there. With Estrada cornered, Batman drugs him with a specialized truth serum and leaves him for the police, duct taped. Loeb manages to allow Estrada to avoid imprisonment. Batman reviews Estrada's confession, from which he learns that Loeb runs the entire criminal underworld all over Gotham City. Little Al soon tends to Batman's wounds, which he then discovers to his disappointment that Bruce is Batman.

Gordon journeys to Arkham Asylum to get a clearer image of the Batman's psychology. While there, he is interviewed by an investigative journalist who is hearing a lot about the force's corruption. At night, Mayor Noone, revealed to be in cahoots with Loeb, is being spied on by the Batman through a nearby gargoyle, learning that the two are planning to eliminate both him and Gordon. The next day, Gordon is threatened when Flass and his allies trash his office, and stealing his document on the corruption. Gordon reaches out to Dent, but to no avail.

Selina is invited by Loeb as a sort-of party favor for the Mayor at his household. Unknown to Loeb, Selina is not there to have fun. Selina is there to steal some items for herself. Loeb, Mayor Noone and more of Gotham's underlings attend a meeting and are updated regarding their operations, as well as their new mortal enemy, the Batman. Batman, however, makes his way into the party as well. Loeb's security personnel catches Selina in the act, and battles the guards while Batman makes his entrance with the Batmobile. Selina and Batman team-up as waves of armed gunmen take their shots at the Batmobile. As they make their escape, Batman cuffs Selina for killing an officer, with the two ending-up fighting in the Batmobile. Batman soon learns that Chi-Chi was the one who killed Campbell. Chi-Chi was also going to kill Selina, but her friend Holly saved her. Selina, before parting ways, gives Batman some files, and tells him that she loves him, revealing that she knows that Bruce is Batman. Once he returned, Little Al presents him a basement  under their repair shop that was meant to be a train repair area, which he claims that Bruce "might like it".

Source, Sketeches For The Batmobile
Gordon, under orders from an infuriated Loeb, orchestrates a scripted crime scene to lure out the Batman, but to no avail. Batman meets with Gordon while he is alone in his car, telling Gordon that he can give Gordon what he wants. To his surprise, Batman is caught in a secondary trap, with four police officers capturing him. Batman fights the cops, and proceeds to an abandoned tenement as he is surrounded by Flass' and Gordon's teams. Loeb makes use of a fire bomb to capture our hero, resulting in the building to slowly collapse, which is actually filled with homeless people. Gordon is angered by the act. As Gordon is tended to his wound, he discovers that Batman has a gift for him, left in his breast pocket, a microfilm exposing Loeb's misdeeds. Fortunately, the injured Batman makes his way back to his headquarters.

Gordon gives the microfilm to Dent, which gives him enough grounds to arrest Estrada. Batman repairs a motorcycle and, while bruised from the last battle, invites Gordon to investigate Loeb's possible last stand. Gordon realizes too late that it was a distraction, and Loeb has kidnapped Ann and his unborn son. Batman and Gordon races to Ann's aid, only for Gordon to be shot badly. Loeb drags Ann into their SUV, torturing her. Loeb holds Ann as a human shield, but Batman managed to disable Loeb and rescue Ann. Loeb and the rest of his gang are then thrown into prison. The film ends with Bruce retaining control of Wayne Enterprises, after running away for fifteen years due to the death of his parents and under the guise of studying in Europe, as Selina, now Catwoman watches the broadcast, looking at the only real man in her life.

Source, A Concept Art For Possible Batman Merchandise
What happened instead?

"I think Warners always knew it would never be something they could make. I think rightfully so, because four-year-olds buy Batman stuff, so they really need a PG property." - Darren Aronofsky on the film's production troubles

Deciding which cinematic route should our Caped Crusader take, Warner Bros. decided to scrap a Batman Beyond adaptation in favor of this one. We'll focus on Batman Beyond some other time, if we could find that script somewhere within the many labyrinths of the Internet. Interestingly, Aronofsky approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman, which we all know he took eventually in Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Source, A Rough Sketch of Batman
However, despite the darkness that was true to Batman's roots in the script, Warner Bros. was worried that the mature content, including its themes of suicide, police brutality and prostitution, as well as its intense violence, would alienate some young viewers, given that about half of Batman's fans are youngsters. In addition, the script contained numerous changes to the source material, which did not meet some expectations. A handful of these include Alfred Pennyworth being an African-American auto mechanic named Little Al instead of being an English butler, Bruce Wayne being a homeless runaway instead of being a billionaire playboy, about half of his weapons of choice are chemical-based (although a nod to his earlier appearances), made use of books to learn how to fight instead of training all over the world, and so on and so forth.

Inevitably, Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One, one of the many attempts at rebooting Batman (another being the first attempt at a Batman vs. Superman movie) was shelved for good.

As mentioned before, we would then get a dark and gritty take on Batman, starting with Batman Begins and ending with The Dark Knight Returns, with Christian Bale donning the cape and cowl. Another attempt at a Batman reboot was Justice League: Mortal, with Armie Hammer originally attached to play the Dark Knight and was supposed to be directed by George Miller, which was eventually canned as well.

The source material of Batman: Year One was recently adapted to the previously referenced direct-to-video animated feature of the same title. The film retained its gritty nature, but was much more comic accurate than the script itself. Ben McKenzie, the star of Gotham coincidentally playing as James Gordon, lending his voice as Batman, with co-stars Bryan Cranston as James Gordon, Eliza Dusku as Selina Kyle, Jon Polito as Gillian Loeb, Jeff Bennett as Alfred Pennyworth and Robin Atkin Downes as Harvey Dent.

Source, Writer Frank Miller
Frank Miller, who initially disliked working in the movies due to his experience in writing the two RoboCop sequels, later-on took part in the filming industry by directing the panned adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit. He also wrote some stories for the two Sin City films, even co-directing the second movie. While doing this, he continued to write more Batman stories with a follow-up to his work on The Dark Knight Return titled The Dark Knight Strikes Again, to mostly negative reviews. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller comments that "We hashed out a screenplay and we were wonderfully compensated, but then Warner Bros. read it and said 'We don't want to make this movie'. The executives wanted to do a Batman he could take his kids to". He later added that he is willing to integrate some of the script's elements into a graphic novel.

Source, Director Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky, who also collaborated with Miller with another unmade film adaptation of one of Miller's other works, namely Ronin, was offered again to direct another Batman film instead of Year One. He declined the offer. He would later originally sign-on to direct The Fighter, which would have reunited him with Christian Bale. He will have a second opportunity in the superhero movie business when he is handed down the director's chair for The Wolverine, but he left due to scheduling conflicts. His recent movie was the Biblical film, Noah.

Source, The Many Initial Faces of The Dark Knight
Okay, I'll admit it. A Darren Aronofsky-directed Batman film would have been exceptionally awesome, and a bold move for the matter because of the obvious dark approach it would take, even if it is darker than watching Batman murder criminals in Batman v. Superman. Considering that DC Comics is noted for their more mature take on the superhero genre, this really would have pushed some boundaries, and we could really have seen a psychological superhero thriller that tells the story of a street-bound crime fighter fighting real-life police corruption. And a Batman movie based on his earlier days written by Frank Miller? This really would have been something. How about you, would you have enjoyed this movie had it been made? Let us know in the comments! Also, don;t forget to check-out the trailer for the upcoming movie, Batman: The Killing Joke, which is just as dark as this movie could have been.


DISCLAIMER: Batman and all other related elements are properties of DC Comics, with the character of the Batman originally created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the film Batman: Year One property of Warner Bros. Studios and its Story Elements originally written by Darren Aronofsky and Frank Miller. This post is strictly for entertainment and informational purposes only. No copyright infringement intended.


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