Warner Bros really are not good at making comic book films. In recent years the latest converts to Blu Ray have spent millions on developing tentpole movies based on the library of great DC Comics characters at their disposal, yet they have never really had that runaway, mega-hit - the type of hit that Tim Burton and Sam Raimi had with their first entries into the BATMAN and SPIDER-MAN franchises. Sure, BATMAN BEGINS turned a domestic profit (only just), and SUPERMAN RETURNS may have had okay numbers (it's status as a "hit" is comparable to GODZILLA and ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) but when you look at the cost of the film, and more importantly the fact that many at the studio put their reputations on the line for it then the word disappointment is an understatement. Let's not even mention CATWOMAN. It should not be a surprise in the slightest that both the JUSTICE LEAGUE and SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL are crumbling. At one time both these projects were jostling for a 2009 release and WB controversially chose to go ahead with JUSTICE LEAGUE based on the strength of the script (more on that later) and the lack of movement from Bryan Singer's team. At the end of last year it was LEAGUE - with actors cast, a director ready and pre-production happening in Australia - which had the momentum. MAN OF STEEL was left dangling, Bryan Singer wanted to make VALKYRIE and THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET first and writers Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris decided they didn't want to return to pen another Superman adventure. The latest word from Entertainment Weekly is that WB have until Tuesday to greenlight JUSTICE LEAGUE, otherwise the film could get delayed until after the WGA strike is over:-
"The studio has a Jan. 15 deadline to either greenlight LEAGUE for a spring production start -- meaning a summer '09 release -- or push it into the post-strike ether."
IESB backs that up with reports that the Australian crew are expecting production to close down if problems can't be resolved. Bizarrely, one of these problems is a script in need of a rewrite. Hang on a second, didn't we hear noises from the studio that the reason they were doing this movie is because they flipped over the script? The first draft of the screenplay was handed in mid-summer and with George Miller boarding long before the strike there was plenty of time to get a shooting draft done. The fact that they didn't, then proceeded to move to Australia, hire an entire crew (including grips, set construction guys, breadline workers etc) and then put them out of work at the worst possible time is just f*%$ing stupid. Did they hope the magic script pixies would somehow fix things in the midst of a WGA strike? What is wrong with these people? At least Bryan Singer's SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL didn't get to that stage. Variety followed up a report from last week with a more detailed story about a solo Superman film. The prognosis is not good:-
"Inside the studio, SUPERMAN is not on any fast track, and word is that Singer may wind up not directing it."
People hoping that the JUSTICE LEAGUE falling apart will give new life to Superman are sadly mistaken. A SUPERMAN RETURNS sequel has never really had any momentum and I always find with these rumblings the phrase "where there's smoke, there's fire" applies best. There is too much talk of JUSTICE LEAGUE and MAN OF STEEL faltering for there not to be any truth to it. Once JUSTICE LEAGUE is delayed the studio will wait for deals to expire on the actors, George Miller will leave and that project will get cancelled - I'd almost guarantee it. Even if the WGA strike ends soon there is still potential for a DGA and SAG walkout, so if WB come out and say JUSTICE LEAGUE is "delayed" this week then they really mean "never going to happen". The studio allegedly has a new TERMINATOR movie ready to go for a 2009 release so at least the do have one blockbuster for next summer. The only problem with that is it's been put together by the Halcyon group and WB are just acting as distributors, so they can't expect a huge chunk of change even if it is a box office hit.