Thanks to movies like X-Men and Spider-Man, six or more superhero flicks are released each year now - and this number is about to grow in the near future. However, before the release of the aforementioned movies (and partially thanks to Joel Schumacher), the studios thought twice about greenlighting such projects. They must have been considered too expensive, too risky, and not popular enough with audiences.
Quite a few superhero film ideas have been rejected by various studios. Some of these ideas sound interesting even today, and some others even made it into other projects in part (such is the case of Year One). On the other hand, there were also projects that didn't make any sense. These would probably have angered the comic book fans (such as J. J. Abrams' Superman reboot).
There were also projects that we would have seen anyway, no matter how they turned up (such as Quentin Tarantino's Luke Cage - but this wasn't really a pitched idea).
You’ll find these movies on this list - and don't worry, there are no spoilers!
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4
If Spider-Man 3 was one mess of a movie, it wasn't Sam Raimi’s fault. The director had to introduce Venom in that movie because the studio asked for it (with Venom being such a fan-favorite character). Furthermore, at one point, Raimi did want to continue making Spider-Man flicks (2011 was the year of the fourth installment) - but, again, because Sony interfered, he had to drop his plans.
Spider-Man 4 would have seen the return of the same cast, with Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man having to face multiple villains (which would have made sense for a fourth Spider-Man flick, in a way). The Vulture (who will be played this year by Michael Keaton) was going to be the main antagonist and was going to be portrayed by John Malkovich. Anne Hathaway was going to be Black Cat, and Dylan Barker was set to portray Lizard (eventually, the character appeared in the first Amazing Spider-Man flick).
In addition to these villains, Bruce Campbell would have again cameoed as Mysterio. As said, there are quite a few villains here!
Ultimately, after Sam Raimi left, and Mark Webb disappointed (because of studio interference, of course), Marvel made a deal over the character, and the rest was history!
Edgar Wright's Ant-Man
While Marvel keeps a tight lid on all of its productions, there are moments in which it’s revealed that, in the end, what matters the most is the money a movie makes and not what the fans would like to see. This is the case of Edgar Wright's Ant-Man, a movie for which the director fought. In the end, he did manage to obtain an okay from the studio.
However, Edgar Wright was forced to leave the project over creative differences, and was replaced by Peyton Reed. The script he wrote was rewritten, although some of the scenes Wright had written were kept.
Edgar Wright left because Marvel's Creative Committee wanted more MCU Easter-Eggs, as well as more scientific gibberish over the Pym particles. He left, despite Joss Whedon’s comment that his script was not just the best MCU script, but also the best Marvel script in the MCU.
It's a shame, really, that this Ant-Man didn't happen.
Darren Aronofsky's Batman: Year One
After Joel Schumacher ruined the Batman franchise, Darren Aronofsky pitched his idea for a reboot that he was going to write with Frank Miller. However, even if it were called Batman: Year One, it would be somewhat based on the comic book - nonetheless, it would reinvent the genre and set up a new trilogy.
Aronofsky wanted Christian Bale for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman - this happened back in 2000, five years before the actor became Nolan's Dark Knight.
Back then, Aronofsky had only two movies under his belt - Pi and Requiem for a Dream. But these movies were (and still are) gems. Given their psychological undertones, it would have been awesome to see what the director had in store for the superhero (who is known to be the most paranoid member of the entire Justice League).
But it didn't work out, because the studio was approached with another idea for a Batman movie (with Joel Schumacher directing AGAIN)"¦Nonetheless, there are scenes from Batman Begins that were taken from Aronofsky's script.
Tim Burton's Catwoman
Say what you want about today’s Tim Burton, but his movies used to be really good. After all, his Batman flicks changed everybody's opinion about comic book movies featuring superheroes. And he did something smart when Warner Bros. wanted to make the Batman flicks fun and not so dark.
After Batman Returns established Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, the studio considered the possibility of making a spin-off about the character. Daniel Waters (who wrote Batman Returns) even penned a script, with Tim Burton set to direct.
This was in 1993. However, after the release of Batman Forever in 1995, it was clear that Catwoman wouldn't happen anymore - as Daniel Waters said, his movie was the complete opposite of Joel Schumacher's flick.
As said, Tim Burton was an excellent director. And the fact that Warner Bros. agreed to give him free rein over the film makes me wonder how it would have turned out.
And, yes - there is only one Catwoman, and she is Michelle Pfeiffer.
Peyton Reed's Fantastic Four
Before Tim Story did the Joel Schumacher version of the Fantastic Four, Peyton Reed was supposed to direct a movie about Marvel's First Family. As he described it, the movie was supposed to be like A Hard Day's Night, but with superheroes:
They're the biggest celebrities in New York City. To the world outside, they are the world's coolest superheroes. [But] when they get home, they just fight with each other about everything. They order pizzas and argue about who gets the better costumes and stuff like that. It's a family comedy when they get behind closed doors (via MTV).
Alexis Denisof was set to portray Reed Richards, Charlize Theron was supposed to bring Sue Storm to life, John C. Riley would have provided the voice of Ben Grimm, and Paul Walker was set to play Johnny Storm. So this was supposed to be anything but an origin story (which has become a trend with superhero movies).
As for the villain, Jude Law was going to play Doctor Doom. However, other Fantastic Four villains, including Mole Man were supposed to appear.
So what happened? Nothing, really, even if Peyton Reed did come up with an idea for a poster (a recreation of the very first Fantastic Four issue cover). The director eventually dropped the project, and Tim Story (and, later on, Josh Trank) took it on. Peyton Reed went on and did Ant-Man after Edgar Wright departed.
Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman
Known for bringing great female characters to life, Joss Whedon once worked on a Wonder Woman project. And it was actually a good project, even if it needed bit of polish. According to those who read the script, which wasn't completed yet, Josh Whedon's Diana Prince was excellently described. Sure, her mythology wasn't fully explored, but she was completely different from any other superhero.
The project’s fault was in its villains - a powerful CEO named Callas, who allied herself with Strife. The corporation was called Spearhead, and its headquarters was a skyscraper in the shape of a spear. Go figure.
As far as the main character was concerned, Joss Whedon had the perfect Wonder Woman in mind, an actress with whom he eventually worked in Avengers movies - Cobie Smulders.
It didn't work out - apparently, the studio told Whedon to just stop working on the project (this was the Dark Knight era, anyway, so there weren't any plans for a shared universe that we know of).
Green Arrow-Escape from Supermax
Pitched by writer Justin Marks in 2008, this could easily have been Batman-Escape from Supermax rather than Green Arrow. But it seemed like a fun idea for a superhero flick. Basically, it would have seen the Green Arrow exposed as Oliver Queen, framed for a crime, and sent to a supervillain prison. Then he'd have to ally himself with some villain he himself had locked up in order to escape and clear his name.
Apparently, the Pied Piper, Icicle, and Tattooed Man were all supposed to appear in the film, which was going to be filled with Easter-Eggs (most likely in order to set up a larger shared universe).
As we mentioned, this could have been a Batman flick, since the writer's main character was too generic to resemble the Green Arrow from the comic book. So, in a way, it’s understandable that the project was dropped.
Nonetheless, it does seem like an entertaining flick, especially considering the fact that Queen has to go up against a computer-controlled villain-type tht reorganizes itself every night.
Terry Gilliam's Watchmen
Many years before Zack Snyder adapted Watchmen for the big screen, director Terry Gilliam and producer Joel Silver wanted to bring the iconic novel to life. So, back in 1991, they forwarded a script to the studio and began raising money.
Reportedly, the movie would have cost $100 million, which was a gargantuan sum at that point. The duo managed to raise just $25 million, so they decided to scrap it. In all honesty, given Gilliam's movies, I would have watched it.
And that’s even though Joel Silver later revealed that the movie would have strayed considerably from the novel. Basically, the movie ended with Doctor Manhattan going back in time and preventing his own creation, effectively creating an alternate universe, in which he and the rest of the Watchmen were nothing other than comic book characters.
Yes - it's not the Watchmen novel. But Gilliam's track record (especially the dystopic Brazil) made him a better director for such a project.
Wesley Snipes as Black Panther
Back in 1992, fresh out of the role that kick-started his career, Wesley Snipes was set to become Black Panther. In 1993, the actor was actually very committed to playing this role, saying that there were many superheroes out there, but there were none who were black.
Reportedly, a script was even handed to the studio (Columbia Pictures), and Stan Lee himself liked and approved it.
It didn't really pan out, though. Eventually, Wesley Snipes went out and did two Blade movies. In 2002, he said that he had to choose between doing Blade 3 or Black Panther. Unfortunately, he chose Blade Trinity - and we all know how that was.
In 2004, when Wesley Snipes had been set to star in the movie for 11 years, director David S. Goyer said that it would be overkill for Snipes to portray two different Marvel superheroes at the same time.
The "˜90's were Snipes' years - so I suspect that he would have been a great Black Panther, even if the story wouldn't have had any meat to it. But, hey, those were the "˜90's, so it would have been entertaining"¦
The Wachowskis' Plastic Man
Before striking it big with The Matrix (and then ruining it with the sequels), The Wachowskis penned the script for a Plastic Man movie in 1995. And they said that it was the funniest script they could have written. There were certain changes made to the character (such as his name and origin: Daniel O'Brien, rather than Patrick O'Brien; and an eco-terrorist, rather than a con man turned good). But it was kid-friendly, so, in all likelihood, it would have been successful).
Bryan Spicer (who directed only TV shows until then) was attached to direct. However, he rewrote part of the script, and it ended up completely different from what the Wachowskis had written. Eventually, the project was dropped.
Nonetheless, rumor has it that the same duo picked it up again in 2008 (after they bombed with Speed Racer), with Keanu Reeves set to star. The Matrix actor denied these reports, and nothing’s been heard since.
Of course, would this have been a movie to see? Maybe, maybe not - but it was certainly supposed to be something unique among superhero flicks, given the comic book character the writers chose.