It was the early 2000s. BATMAN AND ROBIN’s backlash in 1997 had caused a radical rethink of where to take the super-hero franchise, at Warners. Superman suffered in the wake, with Tim Burton’s SUPERMAN LIVES, cancelled and countless other pitches, stalled.
Enter Andrew Kevin Walker, Akiva Goldsman and Wolfgang Petersen. A pitch for BATMAN VS SUPERMAN!
The movie was almost good to go for a 2002/3 release. They even got as far as casting. Colin Farrell was readied to play Batman. Jude Law the anointed Superman.
I read the scripts. It was a tightly woven mystery. Fairly self contained: with minimal continuity or set up headaches that plagued the actual ‘BVS’ we eventually received in 2016.
The pitch could have therefore been compatible with any universe you have in your head. If you loved the Burton movies, this could almost be the same version. Ditto for Schumacher-verse and the Reeve/Donner Superman etc.
A retired Batman sees his wife murdered and goes on a vengeful rampage against a resurrected Joker. Superman tries to intervene and the two figures clash.
It’s action heavy and franchise / merch friendly; whilst remaining dark, gritty and atmospheric. Indeed, it’s a rather nihilistic piece and verges on all out horror on occasion.
Alfred is dead. Commissioner Gordon: dead. Lois and Clark: divorced! Lex Luthor (the real villain behind it all as always) is in jail but has long finger nails, which he weaponises in a macabre and brutal prison escape /attack scene.
So, tonally? There were some issues, yes and just as surely as we encountered in the Snyder-verse. And that might have been one of the deciding factors in the move away from this and into separate Bat/Super films from 2005 -14 (Batman Begins -Superman Returns – dark Knight /rises -Man of Steel).
Indeed, maybe that’s the route Warners ought to have maintained? As in Marvel = all connected so let’s make ours more individual and randomised, allowing for but never demanding team up movies? But no. We ended up with the current mess instead whereby nobody knows what is what in DC continuity. And no multiverse can fix that. Yet.
What we do know is that BATMAN V SUPERMAN (ASYLUM was its working title) could, would and should have hit big in 2002/3, regardless of quality. It was a pre Marvel Cinematic Universe (Spider-Man did not count back then; ditto X Men?) landscape so should have held its own.
I have doubts about the wisdom of casting Farrell as Batman (or Penguin, in the latest Bat-film, for that matter). If this was an older, veteran Bruce Wayne, why cast a then very young actor?
Colin = talented, sure. But also very lucky. Ironically enough he was discovered by a Batman director (Joel Schumacher) and his career shot off from there.
I regard Farrell as a kind of poor man’s Downey Junior. As in could possibly have filled in as Iron Man, had Downey tired of that part. But Batman? Then? No, sorry. Don’t see it.
JUDE LAW AS SUPERMAN, by contrast? Made TOTAL sense. Law had a kind of alien quality, as seen in Spielberg’s AI. He was then at the peak of his leading man potential, with good looks verging on absolute perfection. Jude could also ‘do’ everyman / nerdy and would therefore have made for a marvellous, bespectacled Clark Kent. His American accent, unlike that of many Brits, was actually pretty spot on. Law was also adept at action and moved with a kind of balletic grace, which would have enhanced the flying / fight scenes.
Initially reluctant to assume the role, Jude almost changed heart when presented with THAT costume. He tried it on in a hotel room for a split second and the mood took him over.
Oh what might have been.
Still, in our now multi-versed cinematic era? Maybe Jude could still play Kal-el, just as he was mooted equally to play Zod / Brainiac in the abandoned sequel to Superman Returns.
Law’s gift in fact is that he can play anything. Could pull off Lex Luthor, even? Throw in Sienna Miller as Lois Lane /Sadie Frost as Lady Ursa and you have a deal! 😉
BATMAN, SUPERMAN AND JUDE LAW WILL RETURN, NO DOUBT 😉