Joel Schumacher never got the chance to make his proposed third Batman film, Batman Unchained, but many ideas from the project have lived on in other Batman movies and television series. Canceled after the overwhelmingly negative response to Batman & Robin, the movie would have attempted to tie all four Burton and Schumacher Batman films together and give the saga a definitive close. While Batman Unchained never made it to production, several of its ideas have worked well where they’ve appeared elsewhere.
On the big and small screen, Batman and Batman-adjacent media has remained some of the most popular in the superhero genre. While Schumacher’s takes on The Dark Knight aren’t looked back on as fondly as Burton’s Batman or even the campy Adam West projects of the 1960s, Schumacher’s Batman movies may be better than they’re given credit for because of how they inspired creators and projects that came after. From novel character relationships to specific villainous plots, many lines can be drawn from other movies, shows, and video games to Schumacher’s canceled third Batman film.
5/5 Villains Appear As Hallucinations
Batman Unchained would have focused on Batman finally trying to confront and move on from the traumas of his past, including dealing with the memory of his first villain, the Joker. Given that the Clown Prince of Crime met his end in the climax of Burton’s Batman, it may seem impossible for the same version of the iconic villain to make another appearance. However, Jack Nicholson’s Joker would have returned as a hallucination brought on by Scarecrow’s fear toxin.
This unique way to bring back a dead villain was later used in the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight. As Joker dies in the climax of Batman: Arkham City, he infects Batman with his blood. Then, throughout the next game, Joker appears as a hallucinogenic figment of Bruce Wayne’s mind that follows and taunts him as he attempts to stop the titular Arkham Knight. The set-up is unique and specific enough that the creators likely pulled inspiration from the Schumacher film that never was.
4/5 Scarecrow Forms An Alliance With Another Villain
Batman Unchained would have once again seen two popular members of The Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery join forces to take out Batman. The planned story had Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow, team up with another villain as he did in Nolan’s Batman Begins after discovering Batman’s identity. In Unchained, Crane would have worked with Harley Quinn, who wanted revenge for the death of the Joker. The pair would attempt to mentally break Bruce and commit him to Arkham Asylum.
Though the endgame is different, Batman Begins also sees Scarecrow work with another major villain: Ra’s al Ghul. In Batman Begins, Scarecrow’s aims are broader than just Batman, and he’s instead interested in testing his fear gas on all of Gotham City. Villainous team-ups aren’t rare, so it’s possible that Nolan simply decided to have Crane and the League of Shadows work together for unrelated reasons. However, at minimum, it is an interesting coincidence that the next Batman feature film after Unchained was canceled centers on the same villain in a team-up.
3/5 Joker Has A Daughter
Duela Dent, aka Joker’s Daughter, has a complicated history in comics and on television, and it’s usually remained murky if she’s actually the daughter of any version of the Joker. However, Batman Unchained would have definitively given the famed Batman rival a child. In the proposed story, Harley Quinn would have been a toy maker and the daughter of Nicholson’s Joker. While a departure from Harley’s canon origin in the DCAU and DC Comics (in which she’s Joker’s corrupted psychiatrist), it makes sense as an alternate take given their similar look and attitude and would have functioned to connect the fifth Batman film of the era with Burton’s original.
Several DC TV shows premiered in 2022, and 2023 will see the premiere of Gotham Knights (unrelated to the 2022 video game of the same name). The series will follow Unchained in hard-confirming that Joker does indeed have a daughter. In this version, Duela will work with Bruce’s adopted son, Turner Hayes, to solve the mystery of Bruce’s murder. The children of other Batman villains, including Cluemaster and Lincoln March, will join Duela and Turner as well.
2/5 Harley Quinn Makes A Live-Action Appearance
A Harley Quinn live-action appearance doesn’t seem like anything novel after Margot Robbie’s interpretation in several DCU films, but in the 90s, Harley didn’t exist outside of Batman: The Animated Series. Harley is one of few notable Batman characters to be created outside the comics. Though Harley Quinn’s origin story would have been different in Batman Unchained, it would have been her first-ever appearance in live-action. Though Harley would have been Joker’s daughter instead of his psychiatrist and love interest, the connection would have still allowed her to don her traditional harlequin-inspired outfit and mirror Joker’s love for the theatrical and clownish.
While it took over two decades, a live-action Harley Quinn eventually debuted in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Though the film is largely a disappointment due to a confused tone and unmemorable villain, Robbie’s version of Harley is a spot-on rendering of the character from more recent comics. The idea to bring Harley to the big screen was a good one, and Robbie reprises the role in two other DCU films. Furthermore, another version of Harley Quinn will be brought to life by Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie à Deux in 2024.
1/5 Bruce Wayne Leaves Gotham And Finds Peace
After Batman escapes Bane’s bomb and saves Gotham City once again in The Dark Knight Returns, he finally finds some amount of peace and is able to put down the cowl and travel to Italy with Selina Kyle. Heroes finding closure is rare in superhero media, but the finite structure of movies compared to comics means that it’s more realistic. It’s only happened once for Batman so far, but Schumacher’s Batman Unchained would have given Bruce Wayne a similar ending.
After finally defeating Harley, Scarecrow, and the hallucinated guilty memories of his other villains, Bruce Wayne would have set off to Bali. There, to show that he’s overcome his guilt and fear, he would be seen entering a cave and letting the bats swarm around him without fear. The exotic location and final moment of catharsis share similarities with the final scene in Nolan’s trilogy and would have given Schumacher’s lost Batmanproject a sense of finality.