At this point last summer, fans of comic book movies were buzzing over Marvel Studios’ slate of films. With both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk getting positive response from critics and ticket buyers alike, the studio announced plans to bring several more of Marvel Comics’ heroes to the big screen in a series of films that would culminate with them meeting up to form the superhero super group, The Avengers.
But fans of the heroes published by Marvel’s main rival, DC Comics, were wondering why their favorite characters weren’t making the transition to the big screen as well. True, the Batman film The Dark Knight would become the highest grossing film of the summer, but he was the lone character from the publisher’s 70-plus year history to find themselves on the silver screen. Despite pulling in over $391 million at the box office worldwide, the lackluster fan reaction to 2006’s Superman Returns had studio Warner Brothers floundering to find a new direction for a further cinematic adventure of DC’s most famous hero. The anticipated adaptation of the classic graphic novel Watchmen also failed to generate the expected excitement at the box office this past March. Meanwhile, film adaptations of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Green Arrow continued to languish in development hell, with Warners reluctant to give the go-ahead to any of these projects.
But what a difference 12 months can make. Where there were none scheduled before, there are now several DC Comics characters with dates to appear in your local Cineplex, in addition to several television and direct-to-video projects. With the San Diego Comic Con getting underway today, we thought it would be a good time to roundup the state of the various DC Comics film projects that are being worked on.
The biggest news on DC Comics movie front is a recent Hollywood Reporter story which stated that last fall studio Warner Brothers quietly hired three of the comics publisher’s top writers – Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison – to serve as creative consultants and writers for many of the films being produced under the Warners corporate umbrella. Johns, who worked as an assistant to Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner before moving on to becoming one of DC’s most critically and fan praised writers of the last several years, has already turned in a treatment for a film based on the speedster hero The Flash that screenwriter Dan Mazeau is currently fleshing out. While the Hollywood Reporter story doesn’t state it, Johns is also listed as a producer on an in development Metal Men flick which would feature a team of eccentric robots who battle weird science threats.
The Reporter piece doesn’t specifically state which films Wolfman and Morrison are working on, though a few educated guesses can be made. As Wolfman was the driving force behind a critically acclaimed run of The Teen Titans in the early 1980s, he is probably working with producer Akiva Goldsman, who is currently developing the property. Goldsman is also serving as producer for a possible Doom Patrol feature. As Morrison redefined the team in his classic run on the book in the late 80s/early 90s, he may be working with Goldsman on this.
As for the many other properties that have been optioned, their statuses break down as follows-
Batman sequel- Warner Brothers wants a new Batman film. The fans want a new Batman film. Christopher Nolan has indicated that he would like to make another Batman film. However, we’ll have to wait until Nolan completes his current project Inception, which started filming last week in the UK. But whatever Nolan cooks up for a third installment, it will almost invariably be worth the wait.
Superman sequel- As noted, Warners has not made any concrete steps in following the poorly received 2006 Superman Returns. Director Bryan Singer has promised that his plans would give a sequel film a tone similar to Star Trek II. However, Warners let Returns star Brandon Routh’s contract option lapse earlier this month, so it is a safe bet that they don’t want to go with Snyder again. But Warners will have to get a new film in gear soon. As part of a settlement between DC Comics and Warner Brothers and the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, the trademark to the character will revert from Warners back to Siegel’s and co-creator Joe Schuster’s heirs, where they could conceivably turn around and offer the character to another studio. If Warners is smart, they’ll put together an incredible Superman film and cut the families in on the profits in order to ensure that they want to continue working with the studio.
Jonah Hex- Josh Brolin stars as the titular scarred old West anti-hero. A former Confederate soldier, Hex roamed the western territories as a gun for hire, though being a comic book character, he has encountered foes a little outside of the western genre. In the film, Hex will face off against a voodoo practitioner played by John Malkovich who plans to help the South rise again with an army of zombies. Filming recently wrapped in Louisiana and now post-production is being done in anticipation of the film’s June 18, 2010 release.
The Losers- Principal photography kicked off today in Puerto Rico on this tale of a CIA black-ops team who were betrayed, left for dead and who are now looking to find out why. Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan heads up the cast which includes Jason Patric and Zoe Saldana.
Green Lantern- Now that Ryan Reynolds has been cast as the power ring wielding Hal Jordon, expect more announcements leading up to the time when cameras are scheduled to roll next January in Australia. Casino Royale helmer Martin Campbell is directing this origin story showing how a fearless test pilot is recruited to join an elite corps of interstellar law enforcers.
Justice League: Mortal- Warners has backburned this super hero team-up film in favor of having many of the characters being established in their own films. Don’t expect to see this one in anything less than seven to eight years.
Green Arrow- Although the character’s appearance on the pre-Superman adventures of Clark Kent television series Smallville proved fairly popular, Warners has been slow in leveraging that in to getting the character to the big screen. Currently the studio is two different approaches they are considering. One is a more traditional origin story, while the other features an older version of the Emerald Archer who has been arrested and incarcerated in a prison full of his former foes entitled Supermax.
Wonder Woman- Producer Joel Silver has been working on bring the Amazonian Princess Diana to cineplexes for most of the past decade. Scripters like Joss Whedon and Laeta Kalogridis have come and gone from the project, with it getting no further along the production process. That lack of progress has never stopped rumors from sprouting up that such-and-such an actress as being considered for the title role. Newcomers Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland are currently taking a crack at the screenplay.
Lobo- Another project that Silver has been developing is a cinematic adaptation of the wise-cracking alien bounty hunter, Lobo. Although the character exploded into popularity in the early 1990s due to a mix of social satire and extreme comedic violence, Silver told SciFiWire that a recently completed script, from an unnamed writer, is PG-13 in tone. But despite having a screenplay, the project still has no director attached or a greenlight from the studio.
Sgt. Rock- Silver had been trying to get a movie based on DC’s World War Two action comic off the ground for almost two decades now. At various points in time both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were attached to star. Silver recently put the film on the backburner when director Quentin Tarantino, who was not tied to the Rock project, went off to make his own World War Two picture Inglorious Basterds. He may return to it sooner or later, though I would suspect sooner if Basterds does decent box office.
Billy Batson And The Legend Of Shazam- John August was the most recent writer to work on the project, but in January announced via his blog that he was off the project. There has been no news of a new writer having been hired.
Bizarro Superman- Galaxy Quest writing team Dean Parisot and Robert Gordon are currently developing a screenplay about the botched Superman clone who inadvertently acts as a villain. Given who is working on it, it looks as if it will be a more comedic take on the character, which is good, as Bizarro is one of the few DC characters where this approach could work.
Suicide Squad- The series about a group of supervillains being forced to undertake covert black ops for the United States government is currently being developed by Terminator Salvation producer Dan Lin. The script is from Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li scribe Justin Marks.
Aquaman- A film directed by none other than James Cameron adapting the underwater adventures of DC Comics’ Prince of Atlantis was a major plot point a few seasons back on HBO’s Entourage. Unfortunately, the current prospects for such an Aquaman film remain much dimmer. The character is currently being developed by Apian Way, actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company. Don’t expect any developments soon, though, as they are still looking for a writer.
Adam Strange- Warner is looking for a writer to bring the adventures of an archaeologist transported to an alien planet to be their champion to the silver screen.
Preacher- American Beauty helmer Sam Mendes is the latest director to have been signed to bring Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s controversial series to life. Ennis recently commented that he doubted a film could faithfully adapt the complex work, but screenwriter John August is giving it a try anyway.
Constantine 2- Producer Lauren Shuler Donner indicated last spring that the possibility of a sequel to the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves as an urban mage fighting demons “Looks very good.” However, no writer has yet to be hired for the project.
Now granted, not all of these projects are going to make it to the big screen, but a reasonable percent age of them should, giving comics fans plenty to look forward to for the next several years.