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What Could’ve Been: A List of Cancelled Movies That Would’ve Started Franchises

There are lots of exciting new movies set to be released this year – but here are some of the more interesting ones that we may never see.

Image: Warner Bros.

Cinema has long-standing, established franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe, and even horror series like Friday the 13th.

However, there have been many films that could’ve altered the very beginnings of these universes – or could’ve changed their tone and the direction they would take very early on. Most of these canceled films are from the 90s and early 2000s and got surprisingly far before cancellation, but they still managed to live on through the movies we see today.

For instance, the concepts that the pre-MCU Marvel movies established, such as mutants, have been taken and altered to fit the new Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Superman Lives

A shot from Nicholas Cage’s screen test wearing the costume. These pictures were released in 2009.
Credit: Warner Bros.

Director Tim Burton was responsible for one of the most iconic interpretations of Batman to date – and his next exploration of the DC universe would’ve been a movie focusing on the man of tomorrow. Nicholas Cage was cast as Superman, and production went as far as almost filming full scenes based on the completed screenplays. The movie was loosely based on the comic The Death of Superman, with many different scripts that altered who Superman would fight and how the story would play out. The movie was already in production hell before Burton joined the project, going through multiple scrapped iterations until the movie was finally canceled.

Batman vs. Superman (2004)

Warner Bros. was pitched an idea for a film starring both Batman and Superman, originally titled Asylum. It was renamed Batman vs. Superman, with a draft being written in 2002 and a theatrical release slated for 2004.

The 2016 movie also focuses on a retired Batman as its main protagonist. Credit: Warner Bros.

Batman has been in retirement for five years, with Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and even Dick Grayson (Robin) all dead. Clark Kent is similarly in a bad situation, being freshly divorced from Lois Lane. An original character, Elizabeth Miller, is going to marry Bruce Wayne, and Kent is chosen to be the best man for the wedding. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is killed by the Joker, and Batman is motivated to put the cape and cowl on once again. The plot also involves Lex Luthor as a villain.

Although this film was canceled, the concept was taken and turned into Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. One of the actors considered for Batman was actually Christian Bale, who went on to play the character in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Director Bryan Singer has still expressed interest in directing this version of the movie and bringing Christian Bale back into the role. With James Gunn restarting the DC universe with a new cast, perhaps this script will play a role in its development.

Friday the 13th: Jason vs. Jason X

Jason X is a supercharged version of Jason that kills people in space. Credit: New Line Cinema

Jason X was a 2001 slasher film and at the time, was the newest entry in the Friday the 13th franchise. It took Jason out of Camp Crystal Lake, and into the far future in space. The movie was objectively horrible, but a lot of people loved the character, so there was a movie that planned to have him come down from space and encounter the original slasher. For some reason, producers decided that they wanted the two characters to be different – but regardless, the movie was scrapped and turned into a comic book instead.

Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One

The 2022 film showed an inexperienced Bruce Wayne in his second year as Batman. Credit: Warner Bros.

Batman: Year One is one of the most influential Batman stories ever written – so it was only a matter of time before it was going to be adapted to the big screen. Darren Aronofsky wanted to show Batman in his first year of being a vigilante, but the story would be completely different from the comic.

The film would be written by Frank Miller, author of The Dark Knight Returns. That was the story that turned Batman into the dark, brooding figure we know him as today – and the film would be rated R so that Miller could dig deep into this side of the hero.

The Batman (2022) adapted both Year One and The Long Halloween, mixing them together to form a cohesive story about a young, angry Bruce Wayne. Although this movie was canceled, the story Aronofsky wanted to adapt made it to the big screen.

Written By

I'm a Business of Cinematic Arts major and a senior at the University of Southern California. I enjoy playing video games, reading comics and manga, and watching anime and movies. I love writing about topics surrounding the film and television industry, and the meanings behind many successful stories.

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