Rumors that Warner Brothers would be announcing an ambitious slate of seven DC Comics films at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con caused a lot of buzz this week, but while there were some surprises, we do have a lot of information on most of the films. And those we don’t, we’ll be willing to speculate. So, without any further ado, where what we know and what we think we know.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Who Are They? Batman and Superman are the two most famous superheroes on Earth. If you are not at least passingly familiar with them, then you probably aren’t reading this article, are you?
Previous TV and Movie Appearances: Too many to mention.
What We Know: Quite a bit. It has started production. Ben Affleck will be Batman, Jessie Eisenberg is Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons is Alfred. The film will at least feature Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Oh, and there will be a football game between the colleges in Metropolis and Gotham.
What We Speculate: The film will eventually lead into a Justice League film (which hasn’t been officially confirmed, except, well, by the sub-title). Jason Momoa was rumored to have signed on for the film, perhaps as Aquaman, a fact the actor has denied, stating that he was not in the film. However, as we reported last week, HitFix is saying Momoa IS in Batman vs Superman playing Aquaman. However, Nikki Finke made it sound like Aquaman was going to first appear in Justice League not BVSDOJ. Someone is lying and/or got faulty information.
Either Momoa is playing Aquaman, only not in BVSDOJ, which means Momoa wasn’t technically lying, Finke was speaking the truth, and HitFix was wrong on that part, or Momoa is playing Aquaman in BVSDOJ, which means Momoa was lying, HitFix was dead on, and Finke was at least partially wrong (and calls this entire list into question). Or Momoa isn’t playing Aquaman, but the character is in BVSDOJ, which makes Momoa right, HitFix partially right, and Finke wrong. Or Momoa isn’t playing Aquaman and Aquaman isn’t in BVSDOJ, which makes Momoa right, HitFix wrong, and Finke right. There’s probably more variations, but I have a headache and need to move on.
I hope that Momoa isn’t playing Aquaman, because I have a better role for him.
Release Date: July 2016
Who Is He? He’s the superhero formerly known as Captain Marvel (still called that in-story, but DC lost the trademark to the name to Marvel), a.k.a. Billy Batson, a young orphan who is given the powers of the gods by a wizard in a subway station. At one point, he was the most popular, best selling character in comics.
Previous TV and Movie Experiences: The character had a successful movie serial in the 1940’s, which I talked about here, and live-action and animated Saturday Morning TV shows in the 1970’s.
What We Know: The film has been in active development from the early 2000’s, but it really picked up in 2007 when screenwriter John August joined director Peter Segal on the project. However, the project was marked down as dead at least twice, once by August in 2009 and again by Segal as recently as December of last year. I guess they were wrong. Dwayne Johnston was rumored to be in talks for a role in the film.
What We Speculate: Okay, since it is coming two months after BVSDOJ, a film that is already cast and filming, if this film is really going to happen, we should hear about who is in the cast and crew at SDCC. Heck, we should have heard about it already. We’ve heard rumblings about July 2016’s Independence Day 2 and King Arthur, and if Marvel’s July 8, 2016 film is Doctor Strange, it already has a director. Some studios have announced their slates into 2018, which makes this announcement even more of a surprise.
Speaking of Marvel films, they have that as-yet-unnamed film on July 8, 2016. Could Warners be planning another move like they did with BVSDOJ and schedule Shazam! on July 8th? Would they really do that twice, go head to head with Marvel again?
Another thing to speculate upon is tone. August said back in 2009 that Warners was looking for a darker, more adult version of Shazam! than Captain Marvel, a family-friendly character for most of his comic book life, calls for. This is part of DC’s horrible “Dark Knight Disease,” where they think every comic book character would do gangbuster business if they were as grim and gritty as Batman. However, in recent DC Comics issues, the character has taken on a grittier tone and feel. The change in tone was brought on by DC Comics executive/writer Geoff Johns, who took over the screenplay writing duties from August back in 2008, so it has an air of being a calculated battle plan.
Speaking of Jason Momoa, even though everyone says that he is a lock for Aquaman, I think he’d be a great choice for Captain Marvel. Look at that picture to the left. Do you see the same resemblance I do? He has said that he was not playing Aquaman and that he is not in BVSDOJ, but he never said he wasn’t playing a DC character. And having him locked up to play Captain Marvel makes the rumor a little bit easier to swallow as it would make the project seem a little less of a surprise and more of a production that was put under a tight veil of secrecy.
Another thing that lends itself to this rumor being accurate was a tweet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sent last year that got a lot of people’s attention:
Since Shazam! was considered dead, people thought of what other DC characters he could play. Lobo and the Green Lantern named John Stewart started being thrown around. The buzz lasted all the way to March and CinemaCon, where Johnston addressed the rumors with reporters. He made it seem like he was already signed on and while he did not mention the character, he did give three attributes that drew him to it:
Here are three qualities. The first quality we were looking for was that he had to be extremely complex and have a lot going on. What that does for me as an actor and the studio is it gives us space that we can explore; his complexities. The other quality was that he had to — the character we were looking for had to be well-known but never brought to life. Then what that does again as an actor, it gives me a little bit of space, and we talked about personality. It just gives me a chance to put an imprint into his personality, with the set of tools that I could bring to the table and put a very unique twist on his personality, but still pay homage to who he is. The third thing — and most important — is he had to be a badass motherf***er, okay, and on a Superman level of power, where [he] could throw down. In those three qualities, I’m happy we’ve found that character. Right now, we’re out to a lot of writers.
This, added to the statement he made earlier in the interview where he said there have been ongoing discussions, points to the fact that the Black Adam negotiations he was making five years ago never really ended. Black Adam in the comics is complex, as he straddles the line between justified villainy or outright tyranny. Black Adam might not be all that well known to the general public, but Captain Marvel fans know him quite well, and he has never been portrayed in live-action. And on a power level, Black Adam has the same powers as Captain Marvel, who has been established in the comics as being on Superman’s power level.
Just something to think about.
Release Date: X-Mas 2016
Who Is He? While DC has had many characters who operated under the “Sandman” moniker, this film version will be based on the Neil Gaiman version of the character. This version is Morpheus, king of Dreams who rules over the land where all our dreams and nightmares call home. The books are extremely popular and its trade paperback collections have been continuously in print since the character debuted in 1988.
Previous TV and Movie Experiences: None.
What We Know: This film has also been in development a long time, since at least the 1990s. The various incarnations ranged from the good (Roger Avary, Ted Ellioy, Terry Russo and Neil Gaiman worked on a faithful adaptation when the movie started development) to the ugly (an action heavy version that resembled the source material as much as I resemble Katy Perry was in the running around 1998).
This version has Joseph Gordon-Levitt on board as at very least producer, joining David Goyer and Gaiman in the role. No word if JGL will also be directing and/or starring as well, but many think that is a strong possibility.
What We Speculate: While in the comics Sandman had a brief crossover with members of the DC Comics superhero community, the character mostly stood alone in his own book. If rumors or stories of other DC characters appearing in Sandman start popping up, be afraid. Be very afraid. Having this particular character be part of the shared universe Warners is trying to create is a mistake.
However, Warners seems to have Harry Potter-esque expectations from this film, and having Gaiman on board ensures that his vision will be coming through. The one thing I wonder about is how the comic book will be translated to the screen. The book as it stands would probably garner an R-Rating, but studios would most likely prefer a PG-13 at least. That change might be deadly to the adaptation.
Release Date: May 2017
Who Are They?: They DC Comics’ biggest heroes–Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest–joined together to fight crime.
Previous TV and Movie Experiences: The team, or some version of them, has appeared in numerous cartoons over the years, and has had a failed pilot attempt in 1997.
What We Know: While Warners’ mad dash towards getting a Justice League movie made seems like a desperate ploy to copy Marvel and their success with The Avengers, we must remember that the situation was almost reversed. A Justice League film came very close to being made in 2007. It was fully cast (Armie Hammer was to play Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, DJ Corona as Superman), George Miller was tapped to direct, and pre-production had begun on the project. However, the studio thought that the script needed a bit of work. Unfortunately, this realization came just as the Writer’s Guild went on strike and the script work was unable to be done. The project was put on hiatus due to this reason, which necessitated the cast to be released from their contracts. A move of the production from Australia to Canada to save on costs made George Miller leave the film. And, just like that, the film went from being almost made to being knee-deep in development hell.
If it was actually completed, it most likely would have been released in 2008,the year the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man. What effect would the success or failure of Justice League: Mortal have had on the Marvel’s film slate? Would Marvel’s plans change? Would it cost them viewers? Would it add more? Would Armie Hammer become an international movie star? Who knows? But it’s fun to play what if.
Anyway, we are sure that the League would consist of Henry Cavill’s Superman, Ben Affleck’s Batman, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. It’s safe to say that Aquaman will be in it, played by Jason Momoa or someone else. It will be directed Zack Snyder and David Goyer will have a hand in it also.
And, once again, this DC movie is going to be released in a month previously staked out by Marvel. This is becoming something of a trend. While it does show confidence by Warners, I don’t think that confidence is justified quite as of yet. They’d be better suited to giving their films a bit of a cushion from Marvel’s.
What We Speculate: That line-up resembles the Justice League line-up in the recent “New52” comic book relaunch, which means we could expect Green Lantern and Flash to be part of the team as well. Shazam and Lex Luthor have recently joined the comic book team, and if the comic book/film symmetry holds, they might be on the team, but I’m leaning towards “not likely.” Could there be other members? Perhaps, because almost every DC hero was in the team at one point or another, but for a film, keeping the number of active members low is an imperative.
Darkseid has been mentioned as a villain in past script attempts for the film, and he is of such a stature and threat level that it is safe to assume that he’ll be the villain here.
Release Date: July 2017
Who Is She?: Well, just the most famous, most iconic female comic-book superhero in the world!
Previous TV and Movie Experiences: Lynda Carter will always be Wonder Woman due to her portrayal of the Amazon in the CBS TV Series from the 1970s. The character has also appeared in numerous animated TV shows and DVDs over the years, and has at least two failed attempts at bringing her to TV in the last ten years.
What We Know: Finally, finally, Wonder Woman is getting a movie. We spoke about the difficulties in bringing the character to the screen here. A lot of those difficulties still need to be overcome, but at the very least there is a Wonder Woman film rumored to be part of Warners’ future, and that’s a good thing.
And this is the best time for a female action hero with an epic back story to hit the screen. This film will reach theaters just months after the Divergent series ends, and that series started very strong. Granted, Wonder Woman comes from comics and not books, and her story is far more convoluted than any of the female-friendly novels that have been successfully adapted. But if you are going to make a Wonder Woman film, you want to make it now.
Obviously, Gal Gadot will be playing Wonder Woman, for perhaps the last time.
What We Speculate: Why? Because Gadot has signed on for only three films. After BVSDOJ and Justice League, that makes Wonder Woman the last of her contract. To me, this has the faint odor of at least Warners’ hedging their bets, at most not really having faith in the character (or Gadot’s portrayal of it) being successful. If Wonder Woman fails, it will be really easy for Warners to walk away from it.
Zack Snyder has two chances to make ready and willing audiences care about Gadot’s Wonder Woman. If he can, and the audience that made Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent and even The Fault In Our Stars popular respond in droves to the Amazing Amazon, Wonder Woman should be a hit. And if it is, it might mean a pretty big payday for Gadot for any future films.
Flash and Green Lantern
Release Date: X-Mas 2017
Who Are They?: The Flash is a man who received super speed after being bathed in lightning-charged chemicals. Green Lantern is an Earthing who was given a green ring by powerful aliens, a ring that creates anything he wills it to in order to protect the universe.
Previous TV and Film Appearances: The Flash has appeared on TV in a short-lived, 1990 TV series, and will be appearing in another one this fall, which could conceivably still be airing when this movie his theaters. Green Lantern was the focus of a disappointing 2011 film, probably the main reason why he’s sharing the bill this time.
What We Know: While having two diametrically different heroes share a film might puzzle the non-comic literate, this film could be an ultimate example of fan service.
The two characters have a long and storied history together in the comics. The characters have crossed over numerous of times, so much that a friendship between the two characters was written into the characters’ continuity. And while there have been many different people who were the Flash and Green Lantern over the years, the connection between the characters continued no matter who was wearing the mask. And this was a great little aspect of both characters. Long time fans of the characters should be pleased by this cinematic pairing.
Of course, a solo Flash film has been in development for a decade, and as late as last year, the plans were for the character to get a film of his own. And even after the dust settled and the less-than-stellar grosses of Green Lantern hit, Warners was still saying that a sequel was forthcoming. The fact that those plans for solo films were left behind and we now have a joint effort just goes to show you Warners’ Etch-A-Sketch approach to planning their DC Comics films. Marvel has a plan all the way to 2028. Even if these rumored films get officially announced, there’s no guarantee they will really be made.
What We Speculate: The pairing of the characters on the big screen does raise a lot of issues & questions. If The Flash series is still running, and four seasons does not seem that hard to believe, does this mean that TV Flash Grant Gustin will reprise the role on the big screen? Having him share the cinematic load with another hero would be a good way to introduce him to world of film and keep the TV series going. That is if Warners doesn’t keep its TV and Film arms separate and the film Flash will be a different character from the one in the TV show..
Of course, as Finke proposed, this might be the end of Ryan Reynolds’ run as Green Lantern. Even though his career is in a rough patch, it doesn’t seem logical for him to go from headlining a film to becoming a partner in his next major appearance. If this is the case, will this be a way for DC/Warners to reboot the character? Or will they just recast a cheaper actor in the role, but keep the back story from the 2011 intact?
And will this be an ipso facto sequel to Justice League? It seems natural that the two characters will make an appearance there. If that’s so, does this lean towards Gustin and Reynolds reprising their roles, as their inclusion takes the onus of including an origin for them in the already crowded Justice League film? Or will they introduce new versions of the duo, making Justice League even more convoluted than it needs to be?
Man, my head hurts.
Man of Steel 2
Release Date: May 2018
Who Is It? The same guy who was the focus of Man of Steel.
Previous TV and Film Appearances: Well, Man of Steel. And there were a few others before that.
What We Know: That it will take five years to get a sequel to Man of Steel. Depending how many more times Superman and his supporting cast appear between now and then, Henry Cavill should still be behind the “S,” and should be joined by Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, et al.
What We Speculate: Well, since the film is so far away, all we could do is speculate. Will it follow the first series of films and make Lex Luthor the villain all the way through? Or we get to finally see other classic Superman bad guys like Braniac, Metallo or Mr. Mxyzptlk? Or will Warners go back to the well and give us the long threatened “Death of Superman” film that is about 20 years stale and really wouldn’t fit in with this incarnation of the character? I believe we’re at least two years away from getting any sort of news or hints about this, so let’s sit back and relax.
However, if things go according to plan and Marvel keeps up with the schedule they have been, The Avengers 3 will be released in May 2018. And The Amazing Spider-Man 4 is also due to hit then as well, which might be sans Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb. I predict a lot of bandwidth will be devoted to talking about this month’s comic book films.
About halfway through this, I came to the depressing realization that I might be writing a lot about a slate of films that might never come to pass. After all, this list has not yet been officially confirmed and is just a rumor (unless you think Kevin Smith is good confirmation). And there are warning signs that this list might not be legit (No Batman film? Could Shazam! go through the development needed to come out in 2016 and yet have no rumors come out about it until now?). But if this list is correct, then we are heading into an exciting time in the comic book film genre. If this slate is successful, it could make the comic book film an eternal genre in film. If it isn’t, it could start the end of the comic book film, a doom that many cinephiles have been hoping for. Thankfully, we’ll have answers about how accurate Nikki Finke was in about a month at San Diego Comic Con. Check back here then, and we’ll see how right our wrong thing things I mentioned today are.