Sam Raimi expressed interest in making a Batman movie, but interestingly, his first superhero movie, The Man of Darkness, appeared after he failed to get the rights to the Dark Knight. Long before he helped revive the comic book genre with his Spider-Man trilogy or return to the Marvel cinematic universe in the movie Doctor Strange in the multiverse of Madness, Sam Raimi made a name for himself in the horror genre thanks to the famous trilogy “The Sinister Dead”. Darkman marked his first chance to finally break into the superhero genre with his own creation, having developed it with production partner Robert Tapert and brother Ivan Raimi.
In the center of the plot of Darkman is Peyton Westlake, a scientist whose lawyer girlfriend learns about a corruption scheme between ruthless mobster Robert Durant and developer Louis Strack Jr., as a result of which Westlake was horribly disfigured and left for dead by Durant’s thugs. Despite not being able to fully recover from the burns, Westlake is left with superhuman abilities that also threaten his insanity as he seeks revenge on Durant and his men. Liam Neeson directed the cast of Darkman as Westlake/Darkman alongside Frances McDormand as his girlfriend Julie, Larry Drake as Durant and Colin Friels as Strek.
In a recent interview dedicated to “Doctor Strange in the multiverse of Madness,” the director shared his wish list of other superheroes he would like to help bring to the screen, and Raimi called Batman and Shadow his best options. While many have reacted positively to both ideas, some may not know that Raimi has actually tried his hand at both characters before, trying to get the rights for DC and pulp fiction heroes to develop for live-action film adaptations. Although none of the attempts were successful, these efforts led to the creation of Raimi’s first superhero film, The Man of Darkness, and the result ultimately worked in Raimi’s favor.
How Darkman Helps Sam Raimi’s Career
Released in theaters in 1990, the film “Darkman” received mostly positive reviews from critics for the terrible Gothic tone and Raimi’s unique visual style. The film also proved to be a box office success, grossing over $48 million on its $18 million budget, which helped launch a franchise that included two direct-to-video sequels, none of which returned Raimi or Neeson and received negative reviews, as well as various comics, a well-received video game and action figures. In the end, Darkman served as a springboard for Sam Raimi to other films and to the genre of superhero films, which later led to his favorite Spider-Man trilogy and the upcoming Doctor Strange in the multiverse of Madness.
So while Sam Raimi’s Batman movie concept may seem appealing to viewers, especially compared to Joel Schumacher’s divisive efforts, his inability to get the rights to the character was really for the best, given that it allowed him to introduce the underrated Darkman. Also, while Raimi was creating his own creation, the Dark Knight was making his way to the big screen with Tim Burton at the helm and Michael Keaton under a cape and hood. Both decisions were initially questioned, but were later highly appreciated by both critics and the public. Meanwhile, Raimi recently confirmed that a sequel to “Man of Darkness” is in development at Universal.