Batman v Superman. Captain America: Civil War. Godzilla vs. Kong. Even if the substance doesn’t quite sizzle as spectacularly as the style, bringing heroes together for a crossover is a no-brainer that reaps a bevy of rewards, from goodwill among fans to a windfall of financial profit.
As these sorts of high-budget, epic showdowns between iconic characters have become more commonplace, audiences have unsurprisingly begun to take them for granted. Many are unaware that, for every brawl now recorded in the annals of cinema history, dozens have never made it past the conceptual stage.
Such is the case of ‘Batman vs. Godzilla’, a dream match between the Dark Knight and The King of the Monsters that, despite an extensive amount of pre-production, ultimately failed to make it to the silver screen.
To fully understand the creative process behind this unmade and undeniably intriguing meeting of pop-culture icons, one would have to travel 50 years into the past – to the era when Batman was introducing the world to a groovy new dance and Godzilla’s image as an analogy to post-WW2 nuclear arms fears devolved into a goofy children’s hero.
That’s right. Adam West’s Batman and the Showa-era Godzilla were set to crossover in the 1960s, at the absolute height of both characters’ most campy periods.
Planned as a joint venture between Batman executive producer William Dozier’s Greenway Productions and the Godzilla-owning Toho Studios, the aptly named ‘Batman vs Godzilla’ was also set to serve as a sequel to the 1966 Batman film.
Before its unfortunate abandonment, the project would receive two treatments, one from Showa-era tokusatsu screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa (Mothra, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and King Kong vs. Godzilla), and another from an unknown American author.
While little is known of Sekizawa’s plans for the characters, the latter treatment has been preserved at the American Heritage Center in the University of Wyoming, as part of a collection of Dozier’s personal papers.
According to the American treatment, the crossover would have featured the same cast as the eponymous American television series, including Batman (Adam West), Robin (Burt Ward), Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) and Batgirl (Yvonne Craig).
The film would have begun with Barbara and her father taking a cruise with to the Far East, the former to meet an old college friend and the latter to inspect Asian police facilities. However, their trip is soon interrupted by an unexpected weather attack from a mad villain who chooses to hold the world hostage for a ransom of $20 million in Gold.
Who might this villain be? Joker, Penguin, Riddler? How about King Tut or Egghead? No, instead, the unknown American author went with newly introduced Nazi war criminal and German meterologist Klaus Finster (whose motivation for wanting to obliterate Japan immediately after moving there following 20 years on the lam in Argentina, is never explained).
When Japanese authorities turn to Batman and Robin for help, the team soon discover that Finster’s control of “the weather” is actually control of Godzilla himself!
Yet, before the Dynamic Duo can contend with Big G, the two embark on a typical-Batman (1966)-style mad dash through Japan, which sees them engage in a sword fight with a gang of kabuki warriors, run through a bathhouse “Benny Hill-style”, and being rescused from an unsuspecting and deadly gas attack in the back of a cab by Batgirl.
Interestingly, when Batman first suspects the involvement of Godzilla, he and Robin watch footage of the Kaiju’s fight against King Kong in King Kong vs Godzilla, in order to confirm his theory.
After performing reconnaissance in the Batcopter, Batman reports his findings to the Japanese government, who respond to the Caped Crusdaer’s report by vowing “”millions for defense and none for tribute” (a line first spoken by former Minister of the French Republic Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1797, in rebuke of pirate forces who demanded unlawful protection money in order to cross the Barbary Coast).
As he begins to concot a plan with which to end Finster’s rampage and free Godzilla from the madman’s control, Batman turns to the people of Japan and asks them to vote between two options for dealing with the Kaiju: Fire him into space onboard a rocket, or throw him down a volcano.
Unanimously, the people of Japan choose to rocket him into the heavens, and Batman then sets forth to subdue Godzilla. After a brief battle with Finster which results in the German villain plummeting to his death ala Hans Gruber in Die Hard, Batman and his team generate a fake mating call from a nonexistent female counterpart, lure the Kaiju away from Tokyo, and then knocks the King of the Monsters unconscious with a large payload of explosives.
Once strapped to the rocket, Batman, Robin, and Batgirl send Godzilla “into outer space, to hold an orbit of 278 miles above Earth forever!”
As absurd as that climax reads, similar elements have made appearances in previous Godzilla-related films.
For example, an Earth-to-space-kaiju-rocket-delivery-system was used to defeat Gamera in his first film, while a ‘siren song’ of seagulls was used to lure Godzilla into a bombing area in Return of Godzilla.
And those are just the movies that actually got made. A Space Godzilla, an unrealized project featuring its own barrel of wackiness, was set to see a female Godzilla pass away from diabetes before her body was converted into a spaceship used to send her child back to their home planet. Seriously.
Sadly, opposite the extensive information known regarding the above treatment, details surrounding Sekizawa’s version, alternatively titled “Battoman tai Gojira” aka “Batman Meets Godzilla” and developed prior to the television series’ premiere, are scarce.
From what can be gleamed from the little information available, it appears that his version would have seen Batman and Robin (as the Barbara Gordon-Batgirl had, at the time, not yet made her debut) battling against Godzilla through the use of numerous specialized vechiles, including the Batmobile, Batcopter, and Batcycle.
The big question to ask, of course, is why this particular project never took off, and the answer seems to be twofold.
One reason is based on the treatment’s description of Godzilla’s final fate and his new residency “above Earth forever”, a plot point which would have presented a number of continuity and production nightmares if Toho decided to bring back the Kaiju for future films.
The other was most likely the changing landscape of comic book characters and their stories. Despite the show’s prominent place in the annals of comic book and television history, Dozier’s 1966 Batman series only lasted three seasons across two years before being abruptly canceled. As the 1970s began to signal a demand that Batman’s character go in a ‘darker’ direction, a big budget film banking on a then-considered-passé interepretation of the character would have been more trouble and confusion than it would have been worth.
It’s also likely that the series’ relatively short-lived success is the reason that Sekizawa’s treament, turned in prior to the even the casting of Batman’s principal roles, also failed to materialize in any way, shape, or form.
Unfortunately, Bat-fans and Godzilla faithful may never know the real reason this project never came to fruition, as aside from the anonymous American treatment and whispers regarding Sekizawa’s, no other production materials have ever been produced for this proposed entry into the Godzilla and Batman mythos.
Would you have liked to see this showdown between Japan and America’s (arguably) two most iconic pop-culture legends?
Tell us if you’ve read it, want to, or if you just care to see Godzilla taking on the Batman (especially today with both properties taking a darker direction at Warner Bros.) on social media or in the comments down below!