By Jim Scroggs
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Have you ever wondered what a Batman rogue's gallery movie or a Superman movie starting Nic Cage would have looked like? These are the films that we've all wondered if they would have worked or very thankful that they didn't get out of developmental hell.
Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman
Between his time of working on Firefly and leading the charge for Marvel's The Avengers, Joss Whedon was making plans to bring Diana to the big screen. Warner Brothers tapped him to write the first movie adaptation of the princess in 2007 but it was a short lived process after the studio kicked him off the project. Some of the drawings that were leaked of the costume showed a fashionable but warrior ready Diana, almost similar to how Whedon's previous works looked like on Buffy, Firefly and Dollhouse. Nobody was cast in the title roll but I still think this could have been a solid attempt to get a strong character on the silver screen but I'm so glad we finally saw Gal Gadot steal BVS and I hope that momentum will carry on into her solo film in June.
James Cameron's Spider-Man
Long before Marvel and Sony decided to play nice with our favorite wall crawler, a certain director who was looking to "Terminate" the way we thought of comic-book movies with the "Titanic" notion of making the first big screen adaptation of Spider-Man. (Yes, I know the Cameron jokes were forced) That's right, coming off The Abyss and Terminator 2, James Cameron agreed to direct, wrote a small version of the script for the movie and that would've hopefully put Marvel on the same standing as DC when it comes to films. This version would have put Leonardo DiCaprio in the suit and to be honest, I wonder how much of Peter Parker we would've seen or even if the character would have been correct. The villains would've been Sandman and Electro but with different human names instead of the regular Flint Marko and Max Dillon. Lance Hendrickson was tapped to play Electro and Micheal Biehn, an actor who I don't have that much familiarity with, would have been Sandman. Robyn Lively, who's known from her time on Twin Peaks, was to play Mary Jane Watson. The rest of the script called for a love scene between Peter and MJ on top of the Brooklyn Bridge, Organic Web Shooters, and it was fairly heavy on the profanity so this would've been a more grown up version of Spider-Man. So far, I don't have a huge issue with these casting choices but the next two characters certainly peaked my interest. The joke on the Internet is by the time Aunt May gets cast again, she'll look 25 but I think the one character that all the Spider-Man films have gotten right has been Aunt May. Rosemary Harris did an amazing job in the Raimi trilogy, I'll certainly give Sally Field her due as well, even though the "Amazing" films didn't live up to it's name and I'm excited to see what Marisa Tomei will bring to the table in the MCU version of May Parker. Now, with all that said, I think the Cameron version could have been better than all of those. His Aunt May was to be Dame Maggie Smith. I do wonder if she would have kept her accent but I'm certain that it would have been a good performance. Finally, the character that I think is the perfect translation from page to screen that I've ever seen. J.K. Simmons portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson is up there with Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent and I'd even put Alfred Molina's Otto Octavius in that conversation but my point is, I didn't think I would've wanted to see anyone else run The Daily Bugle than Simmons. That might be up for debate now after I saw who James Cameron wanted to step in those shoes. R. Lee. Ermey was tapped to play Jameson and I think the tirades would have put Simmons to shame. I think this was a product of the late eighties/ early nineties action films. A little dark with some comedy as well so I get what they were going for but I'm glad we finally have an appropriate version of Peter/Spider-Man in the MCU almost 25 years later.
Justice League Mortal
For the Justice League fans out there, November can't get her soon enough and I think it's going to be a really solid outing for WB/DC when we finally see the historic team up on the big screen. George Miller was signed on to direct the film and the cast was a nice mix of young actors. Adrian Brody was Flash/Barry Allen, Armie Hammer was Batman/Bruce Wayne, Megan Gale was Wonder Woman/Diana, Teresa Palmer as Talia al Ghul. The script called for plenty of story lines coming straight from the comics like Tower of Babel, where Batman's files on his friends get stolen to be used against them, Crisis on Infinite Earths and The OMAC project, kind of Age of Ultron-y. The writers strike of 2007-08 was one of the bigger causes of the failed project, as the studio tried to get a script done it time. The other was involving Australia and allowing the film to be shot there. A documentary is being worked on now so I hope that will shine some light on to this project that sounds like it would have been a win for DC/WB
Say what you will about the Joel Schumacher Batman films but I somewhat enjoyed them for what they were. They were an obvious 180 from the Burton films, which were to appease the mid 90's colorful period with marketing and to be family friendly. WB thought (that is the key word here) they had a good thing so when they saw the dailies for Batman and Robin, they hired Shumacher to make his third film in the franchise. The film was to be called "Batman Unchained"and it would have brought back George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone and added Scarecrow, played by Nic Cage, along with Harley Quinn, rumored to be played by Courtney Love. Personally, I would have gone with Brittany Murphy in that role. The little caveat in this was Harley would have been Joker's daughter instead of being in a relationship, which on paper sounds decent considering the really messed up relationship they have but it's not true to the origin so that might have put some fans off. The script called for Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face to be played by the original actors(Yes, even Jack Nicholson) in a hallucination brought on by Scarecrow's fear toxin. The concept alone of seeing Jack, Michelle Pfiffer, Danny Devito, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jim Carrey all interact in something this crazy would have been worth giving this movie a chance but I totally get why WB put the brakes on the franchise.
This was the closest movie to getting made on this list. So much so that Jon Schnepp produced a documentary on it, which I recommend you watch. At the time, which was mid 1990's, Tim Burton signed on to reinvigorate the Superman franchise and a lot of people thought it would be a success considering what he did for Warner Brothers with the Batman franchise. The film started out as 'Superman Reborn" with Brainiac and Doomsday as the villains. The storyline was based off the recent "Death of Superman" comic and that seemed to be the one constant in the pre production process. Director Kevin Smith wrote the first draft of the film that included a cameo from Bruce Wayne/Batman and he was eyeing Ben Affleck for that role. Smith was later replaced by other screenwriters, Wesley Strick and Dan Gilroy, which had scripts that were a little darker than what Smith had penned. Nic Cage was cast as Clark Kent/Superman and I can be certain that it would have been an amazingly bizarre but believable performance. I believe they wanted to copy the look from Superman 75 and give him long hair so to see Nic Cage in a possible black suit and maybe some late 90's neon looking thing would have been amazing. Sandra Bullock was eyed to play Lois Lane, Chrisopher Walken was set to be Brainiac, Lex Luthor was to be played by Kevin Spacey and I think at one point, Chris Rock was cast as Jimmy Olsen. Producer Jon Peters wanted to put his stamp on this project so much so that he suggested there be polar bears at the Fortress of Solitude and having Superman fight a gigantic spider. Smith appeased Peters by calling it a Thangarian Snare Beast and I think in one of the following scripts, Brainiac turned into a giant spider so Peters must have had a thing for them. Peters did get his giant spider in Wild Wild West so not all was lost. One of the main reasons why this didn't happen is at the time, Warner Brothers had a string of flops, failures and disappointments coming out of the studio and considering the amount of money that was probably going to be spent, they pulled the plug on it. I get why from a financial standpoint but some of the artwork and seeing Nic Cage in a Superman suit is the biggest "What If" on this list.
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