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WB sends ‘Pi’ guy into the Bat Cave

Aronofsky to helm edgy fifth installment of 'Batman'

Helmer Darren Aronofsky will take wing as the director of the fifth installment of Warner Bros. Pictures’ lucrative “Batman” franchise, “Batman: Year One.”

Aronofsky, the visually innovative director of “Pi” and the upcoming “Requiem For A Dream,” has signed on to write and develop the screenplay with Frank Miller, the author of the Warner Books graphic novel “Batman: YO” on which the film will be based.

Eric Watson, who produced both Aronofsky’s “Pi” as well as “Requiem,” is expected to join Warners’ team on the project.

Miller originally penned “Batman: YO” in 1987 as a film noir-infused, four-issue story published by DC Comics that detailed Bruce Wayne’s first year as the Batman, including the self-doubts and blunders he had to overcome in order to emerge as a full-blown crimefighter.

Parallel stories

Paralleling Batman’s development is the story of the future Commissioner Gordon. In “Batman YO,” however, he is merely Lieutenant James Gordon, who is busy battling the internal corruption of the Gotham City police force. The story initially posits the two as natural enemies — the vigilante and the law enforcement officer — but the two learn to respect and trust each other.

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Aronofsky’s decision to take on the “Batman” mantle represents a major departure for the young director, who made his debut at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival with the B&W “Pi,” a study of a mathematical genius’s struggle between brilliance and madness. Similarly, the film balanced its weighty concerns regarding theories of the universe with an edgy visual style and a techno soundtrack.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Warner Bros.’ president of theatrical production, is also said to be a major fan of Aronofsky’s upcoming “Requiem,” a harrowing (and unrated) look at the world of addiction based on stories by Hubert Selby Jr. Artisan Entertainment will release the film Oct. 6.

Warners’ long-running Batman franchise has been a profitable one. However, by the fourth installment, 1997’s “Batman & Robin,” it was widely viewed as creatively bankrupt and needing a good kick in the pants if it were to move any further.

Hard-edged credentials

Aronofsky’s hard-edged indie creds may have helped him win out over other contenders such as Bryan Singer, but Warners’ choice of source material may also serve the filmmakers well: Tim Burton, the director of Warner’s original 1989 “Batman,” was said to be inspired by both “Batman: YO” as well as Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.”

Concurrently, Warners is developing “Batman Beyond,” a live-action adaptation of the WB Kids Network animated series “Batman Beyond,” with director Boaz Yakin (“Remember the Titans”) and writers-series creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, with consultation from cyberpunk sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson (“Cryptonomicon”).

“Batman Beyond” is set 40 years in the future, when Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman and his role is filled by Tim McGinnis, a Gotham high schooler who battles evil corporate forces that killed his father and now control what was once Wayne’s empire.

Aronofsky is repped by ICM.

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