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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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August 11 2008

Joss talks about his Batman movie pitch. In the wake of The Dark Knight holding the #1 spot for a fourth week in a row and on course to become the second highest grossing film of all time behind Titanic,Joss talks about his aborted plans to reboot the Batman film franchise.

Joss for the first time gives more details on his attempt to re-start the Batman film series and how his pitch was similar and different from Chris Nolan's.

It would've been cool to see his version :-)
"Sorry, I had a Hulk stuck in my throat" (Joss = awesome.)

Personally, I loved the new Hulk movie. The first one was ok (2.5 out of 4) but the new one is a great action flick. On the big screen that CGI Hulk was scary...multiple screaming kids were carried out by parents a couple different times throughout the film.

And I finally saw The Dark Knight and liked it a lot too. To be honest, I was more geeked-out by The Watchmen trailer that ran before the film.
I love Joss' work, and I'm sure his version of Batman would have been fantastic; but if that meant we wouldn't have had Dark Knight, I can't get on board here. I wouldn't trade that movie for all the hypothetical Batman movies in the world, even Joss's. I literally cannot think of a more perfect movie for that character than the one we just got.
"...sorry, I had a Hulk stuck in my throat--"

Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha./unattractive snort

Joss has always given props to Chris Nolan for his Batman work, but I was much touched by what Joss said about his own Batman pitch in that long 2005 interview with Jim Kozak:

"It was right when they first starting talking about making another 'Batman' movie, and there was no director attached. And I can tell you exactly when I pitched it because – funny little story – my agent said, 'You know, I wouldn’t call you. I know you don’t want to do other people’s stuff, but it’s Batman, and I figured I’d mention it. They want to do something.' I’m like, 'Well, I guess you’d have to Year-One it because, I mean, you can’t go any further in the direction they’ve gone.' He’s like, 'Well, y’know, whatever.' I’m like, 'Y’know, I’m not going to think about it.' And then I talked to my wife, and she’s like, 'Dude.' And she doesn’t even like comic books. She was like, 'No. Are you kidding? It’s Batman!'

And, you know, I started to think about it and I did come up with an origin movie and I just got completely overwhelmed by how much I loved the idea. I was just like, 'Oh my God! This is really … I’m going in to pitch! What the hell!' And I was clearly not on the same wavelength as the people I was pitching to. I was talking about personal epiphanies and they were talking about an ’05 slot. So the meeting was just kind of a non-starter. I was talking about a smaller film, they were really looking for a big franchise thing. So I got in my car and headed back to the office and I literally said to myself, 'How many more times do I need to be told that the machine doesn’t care. The machine is not aware of what is in your heart as a storyteller.' I got back to the office and they cancelled 'Firefly.' So I was like, 'Oh! So, uh, just once more. OK!' That was not a happy day."

Can I tell you'all how happy I am that Joss is getting to tell his stories again his way?
The machine is not aware of what is in your heart

T-shirt! T-shirt!
HA! Loved the Hulk comment.
alexreager - I'm with you on the Watchmen trailer. I forgot why I had come to the theatre when it aired.

winther - I agree with you also. I would have loved a Joss 'Batman' movie..but not to have The Dark Knight wouldn't be cool. Believe the hype (lol). That movie was near perfect for me.

QuoterGal - THX for posting that little tid bit. "The machine is not aware of what is in your heart" - what a line.
Aware of what is in your heart or not, it doesn't care what's in your heart.
How many more times do I need to be told that the machine doesn’t care. The machine is not aware of what is in your heart as a storyteller.

Yeah, that bothers me too. To all those multimedia executives who's greatest preponderance stems solely from the bottom-line, who stomp their way up the corporate ladder to grab the brass ring at any cost, let me say this: You just don't get it.

If your life has no art in it, no spark, no creativity, then you're just a cardboard cog in a blank, gray machine. Who the heck cares if you have an overflowing wallet, a fancier car or a bigger house? I don't.

Go ahead and keep making reality shows and boring, formula movies. I'll keep not watching. If, on the other hand, you supply a true artist what he or she needs to make a great film, I'll watch.
Interesting to read that Nolan's vision is quite close with Joss, but Joss script probably would have the heart that was lacking in Begins. I love Joss creations, and the characters he created, but maybe that's one of the issues Warner had with his script of Wonder Woman, the fact that he went directly with a brand new villain in the first movie, instead of using an estabilshed one from the DC Comics mythos. Of course Princess Diana never had villains as iconic as Batman's, but she did have a few notable names in her rogues gallery.
Am I alone in thinking Batman Begins was a better made film than The Dark Knight? Don't get me wrong I love the sequel, but the first film didn't waste a moment of screen time, every scene was vital to the narrative and the way the villains were all connected was brilliant. Dark Knight felt bloated and too long in comparison, half an hour shorter and it would have been perfect. Less Joker and more Harvey Dent/Two Face.

Now thats not going to be a popular opinion. :)
To reiterate what others have said: I would've loved to have seen Joss take on Batman, but if that means we wouldn't have gotten The Dark Knight, then overall I'm glad it didn't work out in the end. I would still love to see him tackle the character in comics, though.
Though on the other hand it could have been a bad pitch. But I would like to see it told in comic book form. Maybe in Elseworlds form?
Hmmm. I loved Batman Begins. Absolutely loved it and couldn't wait to own it on DVD. I really (times about 5) liked Dark Knight. Batman Begins is still my favorite however. So I'm voting for the comic... if anyone is counting. ;)

But now I want to hug the guy because of that crappy day he had with both the bad pitch and the ending of Firefly. :( Stupid machine.
DC Elseworlds is a great solution, hope some Batman Editor is reading this, because it would great.
Odd, Dave B. I felt TDK was a much better and more efficient film than BB. I didn't feel the running time of TDK at all.
hope some Batman Editor is reading this, because it would great.

Or once Miller's run is over, you could have Joss Whedon's All Star Batman. With Cassaday on board. Well I can dream :).
Considering that Joss was talking about casting Morgan Freeman as WW, I have to wonder if MF was auditioning for Wayne and settled for Fox.
Ha, OneTeV! Imagine for you will an entirely age-inverted "Dark Knight": Michael Caine as Dent and Morgan Freeman as Wayne, with maybe Eckhart as Alfred and Bale as Fox? (I'm not going to bother anybody besides Ledger as The Joker though, because, dude.)
I wonder if Joss was referring to Ang Lee's Hulk or The Incredible Hulk. Can't wait for a more Edward Norton-friendly cut of that on DVD--it was pretty much a disappointment in theatres for the story, though as an action spectacle it worked decently enough. Many of Marvel's films seem to keep getting Director's Cuts that reviewers say are much better than or improve nicely on the theatrical cut--Daredevil, Punisher, Spider-Man 2, possibly some others (haven't seen the DC of any of 'em and haven't seen Punisher at all).

I would buy Joss' Batman comic (only if it's a standalone story like his film script, not if he ever joined the main continuing book(s)), but I gotta admit, I have origin-story-fatigue. Because of all the superhero films in the last ten years having to start at the beginning and the fans (or folks like me who used to read more superhero comics or watched the cartoons) already know these stories off by's understandable that they have to explore characters' origins for the benefit of those new to the franchises, plus it's a logical place to start a story, and often some of the first films are winners, but as a fan it's a lesson in patience. On the plus side, it comes with the assurance that the first sequel will often be better for the real big names (Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2--that may be the leader of the pack outside of The Dark Knight)

[ edited by Kris on 2008-08-11 21:12 ]
I'm sure Joss was referring to the actual "Hulk" movie, since that was so far off the mark from what the comics had been. The Incredible Hulk movie is far closer to the feel of the franchise (and just a plain better movie).
I think I am one of the five people who (1) liked Lee's Hulk movie and (2) saw nothing about the new one that made me want to go see it.
C'mon, five ? Don't exaggerate ;-).

I really liked the new one, they kinda got what people remembered from the TV show - like the opening "gamma" sequence, the duffel bag and walking down the street in the rain - but gave the actual Hulk himself enough character to really convince, more than the series could manage - in that film he did what previously only the comics character could be shown to do, he truly was incredible - in the good way ;). And the CGI was nigh flawless IMO, watching the end sequence, it wasn't like watching two digital "puppets" being manipulated it was really like watching two big, brutishly deformed blokes duke it out. My only issue (and it's in the trailer so I don't feel like i'm spoiling) ? Jumping out of the helicopter was very dumb - I mean, who'd do that ? It's way too reckless and ill-considered.

OK, Joss totally needs to write a Batman story - c'mon DC, get your shit together, if you can get Neil Gaiman you can get Joss, just ask really nicely ;).

Right now the new-ish title 'Batman Confidential' is re-telling the early years, it's basically an ongoing Year One. With a bit of tweaking, this story could fit right into that continuity, easy, you wouldn't necessarily need to Elseworlds it. God, Joss and someone good on the art (Cassaday is the - very ;) - obvious choice, or Jim Lee or Jae Lee) would be like a fanboy dream come true.
The machine is not aware of what is in your heart as a storyteller.

And yet he continues to work for them. As much as I love Joss, this really is a bit much for me to take. When you feel victimized by some person or persons for whom you work, the easiest solution is to stop working for them. They won't have any more power over you once you stop giving it to them. If you choose instead to continue walking the gauntlet, don't be surprised when you're hit.

Granted, this is not realistic for many people, whose only choice is to grin and bear it. Even for those people who can switch jobs, there's always the risk that they will just run into the same situation again. But Joss doesn't have to work for anyone else. He can always continue to write. He could write novels and comic books. He could write plays and musicals. He could make independent films. He could move to exclusive Web-series like Dr. Horrible. In some of these cases, the money wouldn't be as good...but in some of them, it could potentially be better. And in all of them, there would be more creative freedom.

Here's a wacky notion, meant as a counterpoint to everyone who starts talking about "the machine" in disparaging terms. The machine is meant to make a profit. It sells stories, not for the sake of the art, but for the sake of the money. So it has to appeal to a wide range of people. (I know you all know that. So here's where I'll get controversial.)

And that's the way it has to be. That's the way the business is set up. With an ever-expanding range of entertainment opportunities, which is not matched by an ever-expanding day in which to enjoy them, big studios have to pull in advertisers with clear and proven concepts...that's just a fact. You can't reasonably expect someone to sacrifice their bottom line for your sake. For those who want to tell quirky, off-beat, risky stories, mainstream TV and big-budget films will more often than not be toxic environments. The cable and pay-TV channels might well take a chance on them, as might smaller independent studios -- and there's always the Internet. But for fringe concepts to make a big mark, there needs to be a perfect storm.

Which is, by the way, what led to Buffy. A smaller network, looking to become a major player and shopping around for teen-oriented fare, can take a risk on something like that -- and did. When they found out they had a critical darling on their hands, that made them more receptive to a spinoff when Joss proposed one. Finally, that same buzz led to the greenlighting of Firefly, and the higher-than-expected DVD sales from THAT got us our Big Damn Movie. For three genre shows that never managed to gain the mainstream success of, say, Heroes, over a decade of combined production plus one theatrical film is an astonishing track record of success. Instead of going off at the machine, maybe we ought to thank it for what we got. And then get it elsewhere in the future.

I know that this won't be a popular viewpoint. I know many people on here are "fight the power, stick it to the man" types who look down on most modern television and films. Well, fine, you can do that if you want. Just don't be surprised when the rewards are somewhat slim...amazingly enough, studio execs aren't interested in the opinions of those who don't watch.

And if anyone doesn't like the way the machine (any machine) does business: don't buy into it; don't work for it; don't strike for more money so your work can keep on feeding it; don't give them the power to say no to you. SAY NO TO THEM. Buck the system and do it your own way. Otherwise, you're either a part of the system (thus perpetuating it) or you're withdrawn from the system altogether (thus giving the status no incentive to be anything other than quo).
So BAFfler, you're thinking Joss should maybe take some of his own money and create something outside of The Machine? You mean something maybe like a low budget musical, distributed through atypical outlets? Nah, it'd never work.
Joss did stop working for the machine. For four years. And, okay, there was Wonder Woman, but he'd have been stupid to turn down the chance at that.

He's only back now because of Eliza and the regime shift at FOX.
BAFfler, the DVD sales did not lead to Serenity no matter how many times the press tells you different. Urban legend. Did not happen. The movie was greenlit 6 months before the DVD was even released.

And we do need to keep in mind that Joss gets paid millions and millions of dollars to work for that machine. That is a hard thing to walk away from no matter how many times your heart gets broken.
I think maybe it's more, "he should do that instead rather than as well" alexreager. But as Joss has said, he likes playing with the big toys too.

I dunno, it's naive in the extreme but the best solution to me is to work within the system but change it (not like tear it down, more like tweaks - OK, biggish tweaks ;). Or maybe it's more like "reward a nice version of the system with success". And maybe that's exactly what he did by voluntarily re-writing the pilot for 'Dollhouse' - nuFox almost bent over backwards not to ask him to re-write the pilot, them presumably not being stupid and therefore knowing about 'Firefly' (and possibly more to the point, knowing that we know about 'Firefly' ;) but Joss decided to do as much as he possibly can to help them (... to help him). Yes, i'm saying Fox complete him ;).

(in fact, one very speculative way I read that situation was as a kind of last chance saloon - it's almost as if Joss is taking away any and all reasons for nuFox to fuck him, maybe with the thought that if they still do - and to be explicit we've no reason to think they will in any way right now, so far they've been nothing but supportive - then that's it, end of chat, and on he'll go to try to make a living doing net stuff or indies or novels)

I dunno though, sometimes I think network impatience with new shows and a certain amount of inertia goes hand in hand with having the "big toys" - that without the former you don't get the latter. Though in fairness, nuFox is making all the right noises - if they follow through in the really real world, the system could actually change itself from within.
"...sometimes I think network impatience with new shows and a certain amount of inertia goes hand in hand with having the "big toys" - that without the former you don't get the latter.

You may be onto something there. Just ask Tim M. He said he's perfectly fine with writing short-lived shows, as long as they keep writing the checks! :)
We all have our own systems to work within, whether it's a company, or a book club. There's defying the conventional, challenging the accepted, and then there's eschewing it entirely. People with success stories are rarely those who eschew the system entirely because then how would anyone discover their talents? The system is what brings their work to the masses. And in that way, even the most "indie" people have to admit that they work within a system, even if it is less mainstream.

And in that way, every system has its ups and downs and I don't think Joss is saying the system is doomed, I think he's saying that it's flawed and that they simply didn't understand the vision. But it isn't a tone of futility because love for the art transcends anything the system can put against it. At the end of the day, actors, writers, producers and directors all try again and again because they love what they do and the obstacles they come up against don't stop them because they believe what they're doing is worth fighting for...and isn't that the entire reason why Joss' work is loved? Isn't that why fans campaign, despite the system telling us it's all for nothing anyway, and why don't we give up?
Can I tell you'all how happy I am that Joss is getting to tell his stories again his way?

I just read an aborted (by the studio, I think) Joss movie script, and can safely say - be happy!

BAFfler, as TamaraC rightly says, Serenity was well on the way (in fact, in pre-production) before the FF DVD set was even on shelves.

[ edited by gossi on 2008-08-12 00:34 ]
I just read an aborted (by the studio, I think) Joss movie script, and can safely say - be happy!

Was it a really old one that popped up on not long before it got shut down? (Although I notice it seems to be up again, although I don't understand how it works now.)
Tell us more gossi! D:
I've gathered from what Joss has written here in the past that he loves to see his words and mind pictures up on the screen, big or small. No matter how much we might wish otherwise, the chances of his doing that -- and of reaching a profitably-sized audience -- are much much greater if he does it with a studio.
gossi, don't tease ;)

Also: I would very much like to read what Joss wanted to do on the movie. Batman Begins was a fine movie indeed, and the best Batman movie up to that point, but it was not perfect and there were some things that didn't completely convince me. On the other hand, The Dark Knight is - imho - the best comic book movie ever made. It's very nearly perfect and as others above, i would not trade it for anything, even a Joss batman movie. Having said that, I do wonder if I'd have prefered Joss' movie to Batman Begins.

I also think that Joss was referencing the first Hulk movie. The second (which is titled 'The Incredible Hulk' instead of just 'Hulk') is much, much better and I'm pretty sure Joss would agree because we're, like, so close and I know everything about him Joss tends to appreciate well-made mainstream movies.

As for working within/outside of the system: I think Joss is doing a perfect job so far. He has a new network television show, a screenplay in production and had a succesfull internet experiment with complete creative freedom and is still writing comics. I, for one, would not change a thing about the way he's doing things now: both outside and inside of the 'system', getting enough creative control when needed (Fox seems to have given him faith (heh) and freedom on Dollhouse, he's producing his own script and his co-writer is directing and he has creative freedom on the new Buffy comics). I have no complaints. And yes: the system might have unwanted results from time to time (I'm the first one to complain and get annoyed), but is has also brought Joss where he is today. Without the system, we'd not be here on the black right now. That's not to say it shouldn't/couldn't change, but it's certainly not all bad.
It was indeed the one from pdfscreenplays that gossi just read. A script from '94 called Afterlife that I passed along.
I just went there, but I'm with b!x. I can't figure out how to work that site.
They were shutdown by their (now former I believe) host. There is a placeholder there, but they are not up and running again yet. I've been exchanging emails with the man in charge and they are going to bring it back, however.
Bix, I liked Ang Lee's Hulk a lot when I saw it in theatres (just the ending battle was a bit muddled), although aside from a few minutes here and there on TV I haven't re-watched it. X-Men 2 was out that summer too and sorta overshadowed it as the more complete, true-to-spirit-of-comic, emotionally satisfying adaptation, but it was still a good summer to be a Marvel franchise fan for some.

The trailers for The Incredible Hulk really don't offer anything interesting aside from the action, I guess. I saw what you saw in the ads (ie, not much) and went to the movie on hope alone and because a bunch of others were going, we see most superhero flicks. I'm still glad I saw the film, but again, I think the inevitable director's cut will be better. There's story and character in there, Ed Norton ensured that, but Marvel wanted a shorter, more commercial cut and it's their call now that many of their properties are theirs to control completely. A lot of people who hated Ang Lee's Hulk wanted more "Hulk smash!!!", they got that with Incredible. I like "Hulk smash!!!", but I've also read enough Hulk comics to see that there's often a lot of worthwhile story there when it's in the hands of a capable writer. I wanted the action and the intelligent story, which Ang Lee's was mostly successful in delivering, IMO.

Saje mentioned the new Hulk flick harkening back to the Bill Bixby TV series, which I'm sure thrilled a lot of people and I can definitely see it there even though I've only seen a couple episodes of that series...I like backpacking, lone wolf Banner...but I'm also not all that keen on the film makers taking their cues from a loose adaptation TV series of the comics. I dunno what I wanted from another Hulk movie...I guess more of a continuation of the first.

Who knows if Joss has even seen the new Hulk flick. It came out in June. He's busy.
Kris, I agree that the combination of action and intelligent story is better for a Hulk-movie than any one of those by itself. But what Hulk did "wrong" was that it tried to have an intelligent story.. and then failed. The end, like you said, was muddled at best. Furthermore, all the musings in the first half didn't amount to anything and the entire time suspense was building on what was happening to Bruce Banner when in fact pretty much everyone visiting the movie who was even remotely familiar with the chracter (or, in fact, saw the movie poster) already knew. I did like the way "Hulk" was shot, but the pacing was off, the character development uninteresting (and I'm usually more into the character moments than the action) and the action completely unconvincing. Hulk just wasn't that great a movie, imho.

The Incredible Hulk lacks the layers of The Dark Knight or the rounded out character moments of Spider-Man 2, but as an action movie it delivers. Edward Norton is convincing as Bruce Banner and the emotional background is sketched effectively (if not very extensively). It is, in my opinion, simply a better movie and a great action flic. I, for one, really liked it.

ETA: thanks for clarifying, zeitgeist

[ edited by GVH on 2008-08-12 03:19 ]

I started it. Don't think I finished it, and I might have deleted it while trying to get stuff off my laptop which needs a bigger drive.
Joss + Batman = My dream man. Because... When I was about 5, I had this elaborate fantasy where I was going to grow up and marry Batman. And, uh... That dream stays with me to this day... heh... And if Joss wrote my Batman into reality?

Well, seriously. There's just no questioning that.

[ edited by Mrs.BigPileofDust on 2008-08-12 05:30 ]
Oh, nice jaunt in the time machine, Simon.

ETA that apparently I stopped reading Afterlife just before it would have gotten more interesting. I wonder if I can figure out where I stashed it. (I do remember that I wanted to finish it because the whole implantation of personalities/identities thing makes me wonder if any riffs from Afterlife will show up in Dollhouse.)

ETA that I appear to have deleted it. Doh.

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-08-12 08:18 ]
And just one comment on that thread (is it even a thread if there's only one comment?) . . . simpler times, to be sure.
afterlife, gimme gimme.
I know I'm in the vast minority, but Dark Knight wasn't even my favourite comic book movie this summer (that was Iron Man). I like Joss' concept very much, and it would have spared us from an Irish Ras Al Ghul (not that I don't like Neeson). I think if they'd made Ledger's character an original, like in Joss' pitch, I would have appreciated it more. He just wasn't the Joker to me, and I found that very distracting.

So, yes, I would have been happy if Joss' concept were the one they used.

My favourite Batman movie is still Burton's first.
b!X - check your email.
April 2003. Wow, before I joined, actually right before, as I joined whedonesque in May 2003.
Kind of curious about what this project was about.
Does anyone have this Afterlife and wants to pass it along?
Yeah, I'm with NYPinTA, if anybody wants to pass it along...
Or once Miller's run is over, you could have Joss Whedon's All Star Batman. With Cassaday on board. Well I can dream :).
I dunno, I'm not sure even Joss could top that "I'm the goddamn Batman" bon mot.
We should start a distribution ring.

I'm assuming these scripts are now rights-free and legal?
No thanks, i think Nolan was the perfect man for the job. To me Joss is much more of a fantasy-director. And the The Dark Knight was just plain amazing. I personally don't like comics, the medium bores me and lacks life. This includes the Batman comics. I think The Dark Knight's strength is that it has reached a whole new market and rose above being a simple "comic book movie".
Add me to the "bloated" group in assessing Dark Knight. My son enjoyed it, but I just felt like it was too long and tried to do too many things.

I'd love to read one of Joss's scripts...any one...or did I mean, anyone? ;-)
Thanks for that trip back through time, Simon!

I wonder if there's any relation to Johnny Snow. :)

I also wonder where Joss puts the scripts that haven't made it to the screen yet. Are they shoved into the back of his closet? Or are they still something he actively pushes?

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