Well, it has been no secret that Warner Brothers has been holding off any development of a future Superman film pending the outcome of some ongoing litigation between the family of the Man of Steel’s co-creator Jerry Siegel and the character’s publisher DC Comics. We first told you about it back in June 2008 and mentioned it again just this past September.
Right before Thanksgiving, former Variety columnist Anne Thompson reported from her new home at IndieWire that -Surprise! – Warner Brothers plans for a new Superman film are on hold pending the outcome of the Siegel family’s legislation. Granted, she did sum up the situation fairly well, including the fact that some folks, including comics scribe Mark Millar, have pitched the studio with their vision of a relaunch of the Superman franchise. But there really isn’t much, if any, in the way of new reportage.
One thing that does standout in her report is the price tag of $232 million that she places on Superman Returns, without comment or explanation. It seems Thompson has forgotten that most budget figures that have been bandied about for director Bryan Singer’s have been contradictory, but almost all have had one thing in common- they have factored in the millions of dollars in development costs that studio Warner Brothers had shelled out for over ten years of development on the project. People like Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, Nicolas Cage, J. J. Abrams, Brett Ratner and McG don’t contribute their creative energies to a project for months at a time for free. Set construction had even begun on Burton’s version before Warners put everything back on hold. Thompson’s old employer, Variety, reported development costs over the years topped out at around $40 million, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount was even a bit higher than that.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this state of limbo for the Man of Steel being resolved any time soon. The resolution of the lawsuit will be only the first step. With Siegel’s heirs regaining possession of some of the copyright to the character and attendant elements like Jimmy Olsen and the Daily Planet, Warners will have to negotiate with the family for their use. And if the family doesn’t like what Warners is willing to offer, they can turn around and put the copyrights up for auction between any other studio willing to strike a better deal. And I honestly don’t trust some of the people who make the business decisions at Warners to make one that would be in the best, long-range interest of their company.