Written by Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise, this screenplay was intended to be the fifth film in the series begun by Tim Burton’s Batman and was to return the tone to dark and serious. Warner Bros. optioned Batman DarKnight and had it in development for two years before deciding to move on to “reboot” the series. After several attempts to re-imagine the Dark Knight, they finally produced Batman Begins. Certain themes and concepts from DarKnight ended up being visited in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Since then, this script has gotten a lot of praise and press. Here are some examples:
- Flickering Myth — Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing The Caped Crusader to the Screen (Part Three)
- IFC — The 7 best unproduced Batman screenplays (and what happened)
- What Culture — Before The Dark Knight Rises – 10 Batman Films That Never Were
- The Hollywood Reporter — Before “Batman Begins”: Secret History of the Movies That Almost Got Made
- Screen Crush — Top 5 Batman Movies That Were Never Made
The story picks up after Bruce Wayne has gone into a self-imposed retirement, but not only has he hung up the cape and cowl, but he has withdrawn from public life as well. He has sent Dick Grayson off to college, where he spars with one of his professors, Jonathan Crane. Crane is experimenting with a chemical that causes intense fear in those who come in contact with it, and he uses Dick as a test subject. After experiencing what seems to be a psychotic episode, Dick is admitted to Arkham Asylum—under Crane’s care. Meanwhile, Crane has caused a colleague, Kirk Langstrom, to be injected with a gene-splicing formula that transforms him into a half human, half bat creature that seeks revenge on Crane as he struggles to regain his humanity. Bruce is forced to return as the Dark Knight to solve the mystery of the Man-bat while helping Dick recover from his trauma, and ultimately face what is to become one of his most fearsome foes—Scarecrow.
Now, for the first time, the unproduced screenplay is available to read in this limited edition publication with forwards by Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise that tell the story of how it nearly was produced.