Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Warner Brothers Missing the Point Part 2

As you can see, the first half of the 2000s was a great time for Marvel. Some other Marvel films released in those years, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, The Punisher, Elektra.  Daredevil and the Fantastic Four earned enough to be called blockbusters while The Punisher and Elektra made a little over their production budgets.  As you can also see, Warner Brothers was only making Batman and Superman into big budget movies...again.  While I enjoy Superman and Batman, I’ve always wanted to see The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman get the big budget “A” picture treatment that seems only to be reserved for Superman and Batman at this point. bad!  There actually was a DC comics character that hit the big screen in the summer of 2004. Yep...Catwoman.  Yes...they made a Catwoman movie instead of a Wonder Woman movie.  Guess what?  This Catwoman movie has no connection whatsoever to the four Batman movies that were made at this point!  What was the point of that?  When the Salkinds made the Supergirl movie, they connected it to the Superman movies.  They even tried to get Christopher Reeve to do a cameo as Superman!  Marc McClure reprized his Jimmy Olsen role.  So instead of making a Wonder Woman movie, they make a Catwoman movie with no connections to what had been done before!  You might think that Warner Brothers would take note of the success of the Marvel movies and branch out with some of the other heroes they had access to. As you can see from the Marvel movies I've mentioned, they were making movies based on lots of different characters and making some decent box office doing it.

Batman Begins ended its theatrical run raking in 374 million dollars worldwide.  Superman Returns ended its run with 391 million dollars worldwide.  Batman is rewarded with a sequel while Superman is sent to limbo for a few more years.  Once again, Warner Brothers doesn’t seem to know what to do. If you compare the worldwide gross of Superman Returns with the grosses of the first four Superman movies, it is the top grossing Superman movie.  The domestic gross of Superman Returns adjusted for inflation puts Superman Returns just behind Superman II putting it in third place.  What gives?  I remember reading that the Warner execs thought Superman Returns should have grossed 500 million dollars worldwide. No Superman movie had grossed that much up to that point!  What were they basing that on?  It couldn’t be the grosses of the previous Superman movies!

Summer 2007 sees the release of the third Spider-Man movie.  It was a huge hit and showed no signs of slowing down.  Other Marvel characters that had big screen adventures that year included Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer.  Marvel still looks like they are branching out.

The Summer of 2008 was huge.  This summer saw the release of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and the Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight.  Iron Man proved to be a huge hit and almost came out of nowhere to claim box office gold.  The Incredible Hulk was a re-boot of the Hulk film franchise.  2008 also began the promotion of a movie that would not be released until 2012. That’s right...The Avengers.  Following the credits on Iron Man, was a short scene of Nick Fury talking to Tony Stark. We went nuts for it.  We knew what that meant!  A superhero team up movie!  The Incredible Hulk also had a scene following the credits promoting the Avengers movie!  We were ready for the Avengers!  Wait...wait...Marvel wasn’t finished yet. They went on to make a solo Captain America film and a Thor film both released in the summer of 2011. A sequel to Iron Man was released in 2010. At the end of each of these movies was a brief scene promoting the upcoming Avenger film. The Dark Knight was also a huge hit becoming the top grossing movie based on a DC Comics character.

Something else happened of note in 2008.  While Marvel was promoting a superhero team up movie, The Avengers, Warner Brothers was shelving theirs.  That’s right!  Warner Brothers was actually developing a Justice League of America movie. This would bring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and the Green Lantern together into one movie.  Now to be fair about this, one of the reasons Warners decided to shelve the JLA movie was due to the Writers Guild strike that was going on at that time.  Also, the Screen Actors Guild contract was up in June of that year so there was some understandable uncertainty about being able to make that movie at that time.’re not sure that was a valid enough reason?  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was shot at the time the strike.  We know how that turned out!  What is baffling to me is that once the strike was done and contracts were sorted out, Warners did not decide to move forward with the JLA movie after all!  Remember this is after they see the success of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk promoting the upcoming Avengers movie!

The Avengers opened on May 4, 2012 and went on to gross 1,518,594,910 worldwide at the box office. That put it at number 3 on the all time worldwide charts!  As you may know, The Avengers was written and directed by the creator of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon.  You may not know that in 2007 the very same Joss Whedon was attached to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie!  

You see!  Something is not right with Warner Brothers!  Wait a minute! I guess I did forget to mention the live action Green Lantern movie that was finally made and released in the summer of 2011.  It looked like Warner was going to follow Marvel’s example with the release of that movie.  After all, the Green Lantern is a member of the Justice League. Well...Green Lantern ended up being a modest hit earning enough to be called a blockbuster and earning it’s budget back with its worldwide gross. While that is a respectable performance at the box office, in this climate of huge box office earnings for superhero movie adaptations, that is not really a good sign.

So now your head is probably spinning with confusion like mine was when I was researching this. What does it mean?  I don’t know.  What’s Warners doing now?  Since The Dark Knight made all that money, they decided to Batman up Superman. Yep...Warner Brothers decided that Christopher Nolan had done such a great job with Batman, that he should also make Superman!  Sound familiar? It should!  It’s the Tim Burton scenario all over again.  I know that there are some differences in the situation. Christopher Nolan did not want to direct Superman so he shepherded the new Superman project forward and hired Zack Snyder to direct the movie.  David Goyer wrote the screenplay and Nolan helped with the story.  At the time of this writing, The Man of Steel has been released theatrically and has made 662 million dollars worldwide at the box office.  What did I think of the movie?  Check out our Man of Steel Show on the Half Hour of Power for those details.  

So now that The Man of Steel has made all that money and Christopher Nolan is finished with his Dark Knight trilogy what’s happening now?  Good question!  I can’t figure it out. Instead of making a sequel to the Man of Steel and making a new solo Batman movie, they are jumping straight to a Batman/Superman team up movie.  Well...the title so far is Batman vs Superman.  How is that a sequel to the Man of Steel?  Batman’s name comes first in the title!  This movie is a Batman movie. Make no mistake about it.  Batman will be why you watch this movie!  Once again Superman gets screwed! Then some casting news trickles out that a Wonder Woman type is being looked at and The Flash will make an appearance somewhere and they are even looking to cast a Nightwing! Wow!  So instead of following Marvels example of a steady build up to the team up movie with some solo movies in between, Warner Brothers decides to cram everything in the so called sequel to the Man of Steel!  Yes...yes...I know they cast Ben Affleck as Batman.  That doesn’t scare me. Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger both got huge backlash when they were cast in
Batman movies.  The Ben Affleck casting is the least of what worries me! The fact that Zack Snyder is directing and David Goyer is writing it, is much more frightening to me!  The only light I see in all this is that Ben Affleck is involved.  Why?  If they can get Ben Affleck to direct the JLA movie, that, I think, would be a good thing.  

So there it is.  Superman: The Movie set the bar for how to adapt a superhero comic book into a serious big screen superhero adventure.  Yet it seems at every turn, even though the box office numbers are there to prove that point, Warner Brothers does not see this. Even after the success of the Marvel movies, Warner Brothers still does not seem to see this!  Marvel has grabbed the torch passed to them by the Salkinds, and taken the superhero movie to new heights.  Good for them. They saw the potential and ran with it.

It may be naive of me to hold out hope that Warner Brothers will learn from what Marvel has done especially after the rundown of movies and box office numbers presented here. But so help me I do. I do hope that whatever the plan is with their superhero movie adaptations, that they wake up and do right by these characters that have survived all these years and thrilled us with their adventures.  If that day ever arrives, then maybe I would change my mind about Warner Brothers.  Until then what they have done with superhero movies is just an anomaly...a happy accident for them.  That is sad. 

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