Bruce Wayne is in self-imposed seclusion from life, because he feels he has lost his greatest weapons in the fight against crime: his mystique and his enemies' fear. Dick Grayson attends Gotham University, trying to discover who he is apart from his guardian and unwilling to return as Robin without him. Meanwhile, Dr. Jonathan Crane uses his position as professor of psychology at Gotham University and as resident psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum to conduct his experiments in fear. During a vengeful confrontation with a colleague, Dr. Kirk Langstrom, Crane unknowingly initiates Kirk's transformation into the creature known as Man-Bat. The unsuspecting denizens of Gotham scream for Batman's head, believing the Man-Mat's nightly hunts to be the Dark Knight's bloodthirsty return to action. Bruce dons cowl and cape once more to clear his name and solve the mystery behind these attacks. Eventually, Dick ends up in Arkham Asylum under Crane's unsympathetic watch, Kirk struggles with his "'man vs. monster” syndrome as he longs to both reunite with his wife and get revenge on Crane, and Crane exacts revenge on those responsible for his dismissal from both Arkham and the university while encountering truths about his past.
According to Shapiro, he and his writing partner Stephen Wise pitched DARKNIGHT to Warner Bros. exec Greg Silverman and then sent the script to Joel Schumacher’s production company as Schumacher was still set to direct BATMAN 5 at that time. Schumacher left/was dismissed as director shortly afterward and the script was then sent to Lorenzo DiBonaventura, president of Warner Bros. The script was also sent to executive producers Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker. DiBonaventura then passed the script to Jeff Robinov – who was in charge of the Batman film series at Warner Bros. then – and it was he who made the decision to pass on DARKNIGHT.