The film that was not adapted to the famous comic book was the darkest and the most brutal Batman film ever made.
At the beginning of the early 20th century, things weren’t going well for Batman. In the past, we were when the world was subjected to Batman & Robin film, criticized by critics and is now thought to be among the most sloppy superhero films ever created. The film’s demise led to the demise of a planned fifth Batman film Batman Unchained and left Warner Bros. unsure of what to do with their Batman character. A variety of ideas were proposed, all unified in their determination to bring Batman to his proper place at the top of the genre.
However, his studio’s uncertainty caused him to get lost in the shuffle until it was renewed in 2005 by Christopher Nolan with Batman Begins 2005. Batman Begins. One of the most well-known concepts included Batman the One Year One, a reimagining of Frank Miller’s iconic comic book aimed at bringing the franchise back to its darker origins. Darren Aronofsky directed the film. He was slated to direct the film, and, in stark contrast to what he charged with reviving, Aronofsky was a king in the industry.
The popularity of his debut film Pi and Requiem for a Dream had been the latest favourite indie, and people welcomed the idea of him returning to the once-dormant series. But he came with not exactly what the studio wanted to create. Aronofsky was determined to make the mature tone more appealing than previously, with even Miller expressing doubts about his plans. Conflicts over casting led to more problems, and eventually, year one was cancelled.
The exact nature of what the final film will look like is undetermined. Considering how controversial Aronofsky’s movies tend to attract, it’s likely that he could have created the kind of film that Warner Bros. was hoping for. There’s some regret that this film never saw the stage, and the unique approach to the subject creates a fascinating question to consider.
A Year One adaptation of the film had been considered for years before the involvement of Aronofsky.
Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher campaigned to direct the film in 1998. As the title implies, Year One is an origin story which depicts Batman’s debut year as a police officer after his absence of twelve years in Gotham City. Its stand-alone nature makes it a perfect starting point for anyone wanting to explore Batman comics.
Considering its street-level plot and gritty style, that’s a mile from his previous film-based portrayals, and it’s no wonder it was picked as his most recent live-action reboot. The project was stalled while other failed projects, such as Batman: DarKnight and Batman Beyond, were briefly in the spotlight. However, the appointment with Aronofsky and Miller in 2000 made it clear that production was already underway.
It didn’t take long before The Problems Begun.
The major issue is tone and tone, with Aronofsky seeking to take the comic’s dark tone to a completely different level. Forget superheroes like Superman, who can save the world ten times without scratching. This is a superhero like everyone else. Batman is not afraid of serving up his twisted version of justice, which includes fractured bones and graphic violence released with the regularity of an alarm clock.
One battle sees him lose his front teeth, and dentures require him to endure the remainder of the film, which reveals an impact on the fight scene that lasts for a long time after the auction has ended. Even in the quieter instances, the film didn’t allow its viewers to rest, and Jim Gordon’s opening scene provides a great illustration. The upcoming Commissioner of the Gotham Police Department is not present while capturing criminals or performing another heroic task. Rather, while sitting on the toilet with the service revolver in their mouth, his suicidal thoughts are halted only by his wife’s incompetence, who asks the man to return to sleep.
It’s not surprising that Aronofsky imagined the film with an R rating, and, not surprisingly, the studio wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea. Batman was meant to be their flagship series, and limiting the potential of its box office with this kind of rating was a mistake before it even got out of the gate. Batman Returns was also a victim of similar issues and had disenchanted many of its viewers. This movie created the family-friendly tone that Batman Forever was able to adopt.
Miller expressed concerns about the script and later stated the version he had created of Batman had been ” too nice” for Aronofsky. Given that Miller was often criticized for portraying Batman as violent and moral, it speaks volumes about the direction that year was heading. Clearly, Miller and Warner Bros. had no intention of repeating the past, and yet Aronofsky was determined to make his film.
The movie also showed the casting process to be a challenge. Aronofsky preferred Joaquin Phoenix for the lead role (an interesting detail considering his next part in Joker). The studio was campaigning to cast Freddie Prinze Jr., hoping his successes in films geared towards youth like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and She’s All That would convince this crucial population to accept Batman more seriously.
The future Dark Knight Trilogy actor Christian Bale was also considered to play the part, but the project was scrapped before it could be decided. Instead, the studio gathered around the more financially viable Batman Superman, an epic blockbuster which Wolfgang Petersen had tapped to direct (and it was once more considering Bale to play the lead role). The film was also unable to make it to the big screen once Warner Bros. decided to focus on separate Superman or Batman projects rather than individual Batman and Superman projects. Although that could have resulted in the possibility of a revival in year one, however, by the time it was over, the ship had gone.
Year One may have brought a Different Kind of Batman.
Although it’s impossible to determine exactly what year one could look like, the data available makes interesting speculation. Looking through its incomplete draft (of which a few copies circulated over the years on the internet) offers a fascinating take on the character, which witnessed Aronofsky making his stamp on the series while keeping a connection to the comic’s creator. The character that Bruce Wayne portrayed Bruce Wayne saw the biggest transformations that were made, with Bruce refusing to accept his family’s name to reside in the slums of Gotham.
The only person he has in common is Little Al, the proprietor of an auto shop. Little Al’s upstairs home serves as Bruce’s home with ram-shackled shackles and replaces Alfred for his role as his mentor (with Alfred being absent in the story). Bruce’s dialogue is mostly from narration through letters he writes to his father, who has passed away, which creates the impression of someone who has suffered mental illness before his decision to dress in a bat-like outfit.
The outfit he is wearing is comprised of things purchased at a local sporting goods retailer, and his weapons are grenades made from cleaning products, as well as more common items such as cords, tape and super-glue. The Batmobile was simply an ordinary Lincoln Continental with blacked-out windows. It’s a rather ordinary thing compared to its normal splendour. It’s a more improbable Batman than how he’s usually depicted – a design ethos carried over into the rest of the film.
The overall feeling of Year One was more of a crime drama rather than a typical superhero film, and nowhere is this more illustrated than through its villain. Instead of choosing a character from Batman’s rogue collection, Aronofsky chose to go with the lesser-known Commissar Loeb. Loeb, a minor character in the context of Batman comics, was set to serve as Year One’s principal antagonist. His slimy appearance, which makes ordinary criminals appear like saints to him, made it certain that he would not be a typical superhero.
Due to the grounded style of the movie, it’s difficult to imagine anyone like Two-Face or Mr Freeze fitting in with the world and making the villain who is the centre of Gotham PD could have been an improvement from the flashy villain’s Batman’s films normally employ. In the same way, the secondary characters would also have to be slashed as comic-book characters, for instance, Selina Kyle, also known as Cat woman, who is now a dominatrix in an old Monarch Theatre. This is an instance of Gotham desperately needing a hero, and no other film has captured its brutality more effectively.
However, such a sombre style doesn’t translate to the box office, and it’s not a reason to be surprised that Warner Bros. passed on Aronofsky’s ideas to go with Nolan’s. Batman Begins also borrowed inspiration from Miller’s comic. Still, it did this with a much more delicate blend of thrilling blockbuster action and creative pursuits that remained within the PG-13 rating that is so important. Its Dark Knight Trilogy has been widely hailed by critics as one of the best trilogies of cinema and has been the catalyst for the popularity of superheroes until today; however, it’s hard to imagine Aronofsky’s film achieving the success of its predecessor.
It’s more similar to more “auteur”-driven films such as Joker or The Suicide Squad, which Warner Bros. has recently moved its focus to, with their smaller budgets giving more creative freedom. Aronofsky later said that he compared Year one in a later interview with Joker and said that the movie was “exactly” the film he wanted to make, but he had presented it “15 years too soon”. It’s difficult not to be sympathetic to him for investing so much time and effort into something that the industry wasn’t ready to make yet, yet he seems resigned to not seeing his story ever make it to the screen.
Then again, the most recent Batman Batman film is in the same space as Year One and pictures the same thing, but filled with violence, blood and a darker tone, making for an idea of what his film might have been. Year One definitely would have changed people’s perception of Batman after his recent critical mistakes, but maybe the abrupt change in tone could be a little for some.