Friday, August 22, 2008

WB Exec Speaks About Superman Sequel & Future DC Films

WB Executive Jeff Robinov spoke to the Wall Street Journal about their current plans for Superman and other DC movies. The plan looks likely that WB will produce as many as 8 big budget releases a year with many of them expected to be from the DC catalouge and to be in a similar dark style to The Dark Knight. It also mentions that the next Superman film will now be a reboot. No word on if Singer or Routh will be attatched.

Mining the comic-book franchise is central to the success of Warner Bros.' strategy. Its lineup of "tent poles" -- Hollywood-speak for big movies that are the foundation of a studio's slate -- has thinned. Warner Bros. has been slow to capitalize on DC, and it now faces a rival in Marvel Entertainment Inc.'s Marvel Studios, the company behind box-office gusher "Iron Man."

Superhero films based on comic-book legends, like "The Dark Knight," have emerged as some of the strongest players in the global market, in part because they're natural candidates for tie-ups with consumer products and games that can also be marketed globally.

"Superheroes are more global than ever in today's commercial world, existing in 30 languages and in more than 60 countries," says Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics. The characters are "a world-wide export," he says.

"Films with our DC properties have the opportunity to support other divisions in the company in a way that our other movies don't," Mr. Robinov says, for example, with products such as a Superman game or toys. By 2011, Mr. Robinov plans for DC Comics to supply the material for up to two of the six to eight tent-pole films he hopes Warner Bros. will have in the pipeline by then.

A movie referred to internally as "Justice League of America," originally said to be for next summer, was planned as one of the studio's major releases. With that film, starring a superhero team, Warner hoped to spark interest in DC characters like Green Lantern who haven't yet attained the level of popularity of Batman. But script problems, among other things, have delayed the movie.

Warner Bros. also put on hold plans for another movie starring multiple superheroes -- known as "Batman vs. Superman" -- after the $215 million "Superman Returns," which had disappointing box-office returns, didn't please executives. "'Superman' didn't quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to," says Mr. Robinov. "It didn't position the character the way he needed to be positioned." "Had 'Superman' worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009," he adds. "But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all."

With "Batman vs. Superman" and "Justice League" stalled, Warner Bros. has quietly adopted Marvel's model of releasing a single film for each character, and then using those movies and their sequels to build up to a multicharacter film. "Along those lines, we have been developing every DC character that we own," Mr. Robinov says.

The studio is set to announce its plans for future DC movies in the next month. For now, though, it is focused on releasing four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, a new film reintroducing Superman, and two movies focusing on other DC Comics characters. Movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development.

Many of the studio's directors credit Mr. Robinov for taking Warner Bros.' films in a darker and deeper direction. Christopher Nolan, who directed "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," says Mr. Robinov "really encouraged the logic of the villain" from "Batman Begins." That led to focusing heavily on the Joker in the sequel. "At the script stage, Jeff really wanted us to be very clear on the Joker's lack of purpose," he says.
Reading the article, the one worry that comes to mind is over saturation. Comic book films may be the in thing now, but if every big budget film is a comic book film, WB and Marvel are gonna effectively kill their cash cows. It is also worth noting there is no problem if WB studios plan to copy The Dark Knight Ethic in terms of quality and the future DC films are given the time, talent, script, budget etc. that is needed to achieve this, but if the plan is to copy The Dark Knight in tone, no one wants to see a number of Dark Knight copies or knock off's a year with a different protagonist and there is a reason Batman is called the Dark Knight.