Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler, Noah) is a filmmaker known for creating stylized, often surreal, psychological-thillers that focus on the darker aspects of the human spirit. Many would call his works, even at their lightest moments, deeply challenging, even off-putting and offensive. What might surprise you is that Aronofsky has also long sought to dive into the superhero genre, beginning with his long-ago take on Frank Miller’s revered Batman Year One graphic novel.
Back in 1998 Warner Bros. hired Aronosfky — following his breakout indie film Pi — to write and direct Batman Year One, a storyline that was intended to reboot the Batman franchise after the campy Joel Schumacher films, which flamed-out spectacularly with Batman and Robin (1997). However, Aronofsky’s take deviated heavily from Miller’s narrative, proving too dark for WB who eventually shelved the project. According to The Telegraph, Aronofsky aimed for an R-Rated Batman film comparable to Taxi Driver, Death Wish, and The French Connection — a pretty big hurdle for WB’s merchandising plans (try imagining Travis Bickle on a Happy Meal).
Several years later, Aronofsky’s name popped-up again, linked to another superhero reboot: Superman. That’s right, after attempting to out-dark the Dark Knight, the maker of Requiem For A Dream was angling for take at The Man of Steel — a film that eventually went to Zack Snyder. Interestingly, Snyder was similarly chided for telling a too-grim origin for the big, blue, boy scout. According to Batman-News, Aronofsky dropped out of that project, but he commented at the time:
I thought Zack was a great choice [for Man of Steel], and I loved his Watchmen movie. I thought it was great. I thought that as a fan of the comic, you couldn’t hope for a better interpretation. I liked the orthodoxy of it.”
Aronofsky is back in the news again, this time for more recent but still-quite-controversial films — Noah and Mother! — when he revealed that he would love to take another shot at Superman, particularly given that Man of Steel 2 is back in development at Warner Bros. Aronofsky tells Batman-News:
I mean, you know, Superman would always be interesting. But they’re already deep into reinventing him, so that’s not going to happen for a long time.”
However, what’s missing from the discussion is that Superman, who (allegedly) died at the conclusion of Batman v Superman (2016), is fully expected to rejoin his former cohorts, Batman and Wonder Woman, in this fall’s Justice League movie. The big question is: what kind of Superman will arise? Will Superman’s traditionally upbeat personality dominate or will something angrier take his place?
Actually, this is the perfect time to reimagine the character, so why not invest in a darker or moodier version of the last son of Krypton? If not now, when? R-rated superhero films are suddenly all the rage; Logan, Deadpool, Deadpool 2, Venom, Hellboy, and Spawn either burned-up the box office or are dominating the hype cycle with fan anticipation.
With new names like Martin Scorsese entering the genre, this seems like the perfect time for Aronofsky to make his Superman pitch. One might look to his epic take on pro-wrestling in 2008’s The Wrestler, which showed the demise of a once-great 80s TV star who is struggling to survive way past his fighting prime — perhaps that’s not a classic Superman tale, but it was tough and unforgiving and undoubtedly a hero’s journey. Given how formulaic many superhero films have become the last few years (and how cynical society is leaning), maybe Aronofsky’s Superman is the man of steel we need and deserve.