Making Sense of DC's Film Projects (or trying to)

A common complaint, fair or not, among comic book fans is that DC Comics are more confusing than Marvel Comics.

Without indulging that argument, it’s undeniable that at the moment the upcoming slate of Marvel Studios films is much, much less complicated than Warner Bros. films based on the “distinguished competition” currently in development. Since May and Iron Man’s nearly-$100 million opening weekend, Marvel Studio’s schedule has been nice and tidy - Iron Man 2 and Thor in 2010, Captain America and Avengers in 2011, with films like Runaways and Ant-Man also in the mix.

By somewhat of a contrast all the news about DC movies lately have been ripe with speculation, rumors, legal battles, and a dubious-yet-entertaining report that a sexagenarian Vegas act/Oscar winner will play one of comicdom’s most iconic villains.

In fact, most of the news coming from Warner Bros./DC lately has been about how the two companies have lately rethought their long-term strategy, with the results to be announced in more details within weeks. .

One part of that rethinking was revealed last week when Warner Bros. confirmed they are "rebooting" the Superman franchise after 2006's lackluster Bryan Singer-helmed Superman Returns

Superman didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to,” Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President, told The Wall Street Journal. “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.”

Playing off the success of this summer's The Dark Knight, Robinov also told the Journal, “We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it."

While a report by Variety's Anne Thompson suggesting Warner's' unhappiness over Returns predated the Journal's confirmation by a few days, Thompson's contention that Singer might be given the chance to execute the new direction, but removed "if he gets in the way" seems somewhat dubious. Given Robinov's comments, a change of creative voice seems as likely as a change in direction.

Getting back to their overall strategy, Warner Bros. has made it clear they plan to develop four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, and the Superman reboot, further suggesting those films would include solo hero films.

So with Superman already covered, let's look at the latest info on the third Batman, and other potential properties Warner Bros. has already developed to some degree or another. Bear in mind, this recap does not include Warner/DC's active straight-to-DVD animation projects. As an aside - remember when there used to be maybe one or two comic book films a year - if that? Tracking all of these projects has grown from something like looking forward to Christmas to keeping track of an army...which is to say, be gentle with us, kind readers, if we missed one or two.

The Dark Knight Sequel:

When you’re the second highest-grossing film, domestically, in history, a sequel is considered a given (though the first highest-grossing film, Titanic, has seen no such follow-ups. who wouldn’t want to know what Bill Paxton and his treasure hunting crew are up to these days?). The only questions that remain are exactly when (sometime in the next three years, according in to Robinov) and perhaps more importantly, who will be behind the camera?

Christopher Nolan has not committed to returning for a third film, but Warner Bros seems committed to giving him every opportunity to say yes, and they and producing partner Legendary Pictures are waiting on him to come to them with a "story and a plan"

"There are a lot of us who emotionally would love to do it," producer Chuck Roven told the Hollywood Reporter just this week. "But it's really Chris' call."

And in the take with copious amounts of salt department: Earlier this week, British paper The Daily Telegraph “reported” that according to “a studio executive,” Cher (yes, the 62-year-old Cher) was in talks with Nolan to play Catwoman in the next Batman film, news that made Brian Austin Green campaigning for Riddler seem pedestrian by comparison.

But then… if Nolan decided to make his third Batman film a loose adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight, a 60-something Selina Kyle makes a certain amount of sense.



Wait, why is Watchmen here? The movie’s finished! Kevin Smith even saw it and loved it! Well, sure, but there’s that lingering specter of the studio’s ongoing legal battle with 20 Century Fox, who at one time held the rights to make a Watchmen movie.

Just last week, a judge denied Warner Bros. their motion to dismiss the suit, meaning it could head to trial. Fears quickly popped up that this meant the movie could be delayed or canned entirely (which would just be mean. Have the people at Fox seen how cool that trailer is?) but all that is as unlikely as, well, Cher as Catwoman. The most likely scenario seems to be Warner Bros. handing over some money to Fox, and not intruding on the planned March 6, 2009 release date.

Green Arrow:

First announced in the spring of 2007, Super Max (or, Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max, as it’s apparently tentatively being called now), is intended as an unconventional superhero film.

Instead of the usual “origin, love interest, introduction of super-villain, super-villain somehow puts love interest in peril, big fight” formula, this would put Green Arrow in prison - for a crime he didn’t commit, no less - and having to use his wits alone (a bow and arrows are likely considered contraband), escape from a “super” “max”imum security prison populated by DC super-villains, like Lex Luthor and the Riddler.

After news being quiet about this for months, the project has gained steam in recent weeks and appears to be going forward.

Interestingly, the concept – developed by Batman Begins writer and Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer, along with screenwriter Justin Marks – didn't originate as a Green Arrow project, but instead a "superhero escapes from super-villain prison movie", with Goyer and Marks considering both Marvel and DC characters before settling on Green Arrow as a good fit.

Recently, the success of Marvel's Iron Man has been cited as a catalyst for Warner Bros. getting more and more behind this project, based on the idea Green Arrow and Iron Man are considered comparable as second-tier characters at their respective publishers.

It's apparently still too early for anything juicy like casting announcements, however; and to date, virtually all publicity for the project has come either from Goyer or Marks rather than the typical channels used by the studio machines. If this project does get made, it will be one of hte most transparent start-to-finish films in recent memory.

Green Lantern:

As reported last fall, Greg Berlanti, known best for his TV work as creator and showrunner of Everwood and co-creator (with Young X-Men writer Marc Guggenheim) of Eli Stone, would be directing and co-writing (with Guggenheim and Michael Green) a film to star the Hal Jordan incarnation of the character. This was the first news of a GL movie since Jack Black was rumored to star in a comedic version many years ago.

A script review on IESB two weeks ago shared the fanboy-tickling news that characters like Kilowog, Tomar Re, and Hector Hammond are all set to make appearances (should this script make it to the screen, natch).

Guggenheim also shared some thoughts on the project with Newsarama a couple of months back. He described he and his partners' take as a "respectful approach to the character" and a "loving approach to the entire mythos", with Iron Man also cited as having similarities to GL.


Peter Segal, director of comedies including Tommy Boy and this summer’s Get Smart, and writer John August have been attached to the project since 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Currently titled “Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam,” as recently as June of this year Segal has reported development of the project – which by all accounts will be a faithful adaptation of the comics – got delayed by the recent WGA writer's strike, but that things were still moving forward.

Though it has not been made official, real-life Black Adam lookalike Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been long-thought to be the frontrunner for that role. Johnson co-starred in Segal's Get Smart this summer.

Justice League:

Director George (Mad Max) Miller's much-anticipated-slash-feared Justice League adaptation looked on the fast-track as recently as late 2007, with a fair amount of casting (like Adam Brody as The Flash) announced, but was reportedly shelved and then restarted in the early part of the year, only to be "tabled" again in April, according to producer Joel Silver.

Earlier this month, Miller made some comments that suggested the film might begin shooting in 2009, but in those flurry of recent reports about Warner Bros.' DC movie strategy, while not officially ruled out, nothing seemed to indicate the film was in the immediate pipeline.

"We're not off the notion of a Justice League," Jeff Robinov told Variety a couple of weeks ago. "There's a massive interest and knowledge in the comic book industry and it takes time to sort of catch up and understand the characters and the history, where they've intersected with each other and what their worlds are. That's part of the education that we're going through."

In other words, as Robinov reportedly told The Wall Street Journal last week, Warner Bros. has changed its plans to spin solo superhero movies out of Justice League and instead using the Marvel/Avengers model, will use solo movies like Green Arrow and Green Lantern to build to a Justice League.

Which brings us to…

Wonder Woman

While George Miller has also recently talked up Australian supermodel Megan Gale (whom he cast as Wonder Woman in the Justice League) as perfect for the role (leading to speculation that she could land the role in a solo movie), and the Journal referred to a movie being in "active development", there hasn't been much concrete news on the this front since Joss Whedon became unattached to the project early last year.

Ironically, a movie was shelved in favor of the Justice League, but it seems now the shoes have changed feet.

Producer Joel Silver did report earlier this year that a pair of screenwriters - Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland.- were working on a new script, set in contemporary times, but that was the last significant news.

The Flash

A project that has also been in development for years (David Goyer was once attached), as recently as this past July during a press junket for The Dark Knight, producer Chuck Roven reported the project was still alive and he was "hopeful" it would still happen, with director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) attached.

In 2007 Dobkin described the project as a spin-off of the Justice League movie and declared outright the film would focus on Wally West.

However, as of July and according to Roven, no script existed or seemed even close.

In other words, don't expect The Flash to one of those "four projects in three years" previously mentioned.

Teen Titans

Okay, if Warner Bros. has decided to build a Justice League movie from solo movies on up, what does this mean for the Teen Titans movie, announced in May of 2007?

Akiva Goldsman and Kerry Foster were attached as producers through their Weed Road banner, and Mark Verheiden was attached to write the script. As recently as April of this year, Verheiden spoke about the project in the present tense, in fact, describing it as "back on". The writer revealed he had turned in a draft to Warner Bros., which would feature Nightwing and Robin, would be very faithful to the Marv Wolfman/George Perez iconic run of the comic book, and described Warner Bros. as "absolutely committed" to doing the movie.

Jonah Hex

In July of 2007, Variety reported that the team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, writers/directors of Crank had been tapped to adapt the western property.

According to that announcement, a film version won’t be a straight adaptation of the current comic book series, but will develop the character with some supernatural overtones in the hopes of creating a franchise.

Recently, the movie made the news rounds when an image of actor Thomas Jane apparently with Hex costume and make-up circulated on Internet, but it turned out Jane had proactively had created the photo himself, in and effort to get himself considered for the role by Warner Bros. A good laugh was had by all.

That said, according to insiders, the role of Jonah Hex has been cast, or at hte very least, narrowed down to one or two actors.

Deadman and Doom Patrol.

It was two years ago that these projects were announced in The Hollywood Reporter on the same day during that summer's San Diego Comic-Con.

At the time, Doom Patrol had Adam Turner attached as writer, and Akiva Goldsman attached as a producer.

As for Deadman, at that time, Guillermo del Toro was reported to be in negotiations to develop the film, teaming up with Don Murphy's Angry Films. Then there was news in December of that year of writer Gary Dauberman being brought on to script and Warner Bros. financing a three-minute trailer that del Toro would produce, but its hard to come by any new information since, other than del Toro's always-expanding slate of other new projects.

So that's the current standing as best as Newsarama could dig up on DC's DC Universe proper projects in development. But while we're at it, why don't we look at some other projects Warner Bros. have kicked the tires on, from DC's other publishing imprints, which, when taken into consideration as posisble film projects, more than double the possibilities open to Warner Bros. for projects based on comics.


Okay, so it was supposed to be a TV series (announced in November 2006), but an HBO TV series, so we won't nitpick. The Mark Steven Johnson [Daredevil, Ghost Rider] project has been recently declared all but dead at the cable network for reportedly being "too dark and too violent and too controversial,” according to the writer/producer.

Ya think?

That said, Johnson also reported that he's heard there are efforts to try to re-develop the property as a feature film (it was tried before the HBO series was announced), so this one goes back into the rumor watch pile.

Y: The Last Man

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra''s critically-acclaimed, and now former Vertigo series about well … the last man on Earth and his monkey companion was set-up at New Line Cinema with D.J. Caruso and Carl Ellsworth (both of Disturbia) attached as director and screenwriter, respectively, last summer.

Caruso has made it clear Disturbia and Transformers star Shia LeBeouf is his choice for the lead Yorrick (LeBeouf reportedly shares the interest) and the director has also promised to read real, live monkeys for the part of Ampersand, instead of turning him over to the GCI crew."

As of just a couple of months ago, Caruso expressed an interest in preparing the film for a 2010 release, and structure it as the first film of a trilogy, in order to work in as many elements of the 60 issue comic book series as possible. Such an ambitious plan would probably necessitate a move from New Line to now parent company Warner Bros. and a script has not yet been approved.

Ex Machina

New Line picked up the film rights in 2005, though that option on the Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris political superhero story probably has expired. Reportedly, the property is still in play, with BKV taking a hand in its development.

Sandman & Death

Since going through all the levels of proverbial "development hell" in the mid-90's, there hasn't been much talk of a Sandman movie of late. Gaiman has said over the last couple of years, however, that he feels like Sandman's time is coming soon. This could match with buzzing that Warner's next big comic book based film (after Watchmen) may be announced soon.

Perhaps a little farther along is a film adaptation of Sandman spin-off, Death; The High Cost of Living. Gaiman confirmed on his blog last summer that he would direct the film executive produced by Guillermo del Toro (notice how the same names could popping up). But de Toro has gotten busy with a couple of little somethings called "The Hobbit" and things seemed to have slowed down.

As of this spring, Gaiman said the film - originally set-up at New Line - was being complicated and by Warner Bros. take over of that studio, and while not quite in turnaround, (a script exists, and guess who is interested in a part? Shia LeBeouf again), the "where and when" of things haven't been ironed out.


The Warren Ellis/Chris Spouse created Wildstorm series was optioned by 300 co-producers the "Hollywood Gang" (a.k.a. Gianni Nunnari and Nick Wechsler) last summer and screenwriter Ryan Condal was hired to write the script just a few months back.

The miniseries, released in 2004-2005, is set “one hundred years from now,” when a U.N. weapons inspector discovers thousands of coffins and a weapon of mass destruction beneath the ice of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

Somewhat interestingly, in February of last year, Ellis originally denounced talk of the Hollywood Gang optioning the rights to the series, stating he has never even heard of Nunnari at the time the producer first revealed he as attached to the project.


The Ellis/Cully Hamner miniseries is being adapted at Summit Entertainment, where, according to President of Production Erik Feig the story about an older, ex-CIA agent will be faithfully adapted into a film, with full consideration that, when it comes to espionage flicks today, the Bourne films changed everything.


Once attached to Darren Aronofsky, now the Hollywood Gang (them again) are attached as producers of one of Frank Miller's lesser-known DC projects, with Stomp the Yard's Sylvain White attached to direct and screenwriter Jody Harold (Awake) set to pen the adaptation.

A six-issue miniseries originally published between 1983 and ’84, the centuries-spanning story begins in feudal Japan and continues to a corrupt near-future New York City and focus on a dishonored 13th century samurai reborn into that NY cityscape.

Constantine 2

The original's director Francis Lawrence has expressed a desire to make another, but star Keanu Reeves has apparently said he wouldn't star and doesn't expect a sequel to me made anyway

Twitter activity