By Phil Contrino
Fanboys rejoice! Warner Bros. officially announced at ComicCon that 2015 will bring the union of Superman and Batman in a new film directed by Man of Steel-helmer Zack Snyder. A Flash Gordon film is tentatively set for 2016 with a Justice League movie to follow in 2017.
WB's decision to work its way to a Justice League movie is a no-brainer after the massive success of Disney's The Avengers, a $1.5 billion worldwide hit that helped the superhero genre reach a new high at the box office. Will WB be able to beat Disney at the superhero game by leading either its Superman/Batman project or the Justice League project to a higher worldwide haul than The Avengers
First, they'll have to compete with The Avengers 2, which is already slated to open on May 1, 2015. WB will have to be careful to avoid a direct confrontation or else there's a risk of moviegoers experiencing superhero fatigue. (Some would argue this risk is already a reality with the continued reliance of studios on superhero tentpoles.) As if the Avengers 2 challenge wasn't enough, picking a release date will also prove difficult because 2015's slate is already full of very strong tentpole films such as a new Pirates of the Caribbean film, the next James Bond flick, the finale of the Hunger Games franchise and the sequel to Finding Nemo, just to name a few. Most importantly, Disney is still planning to release the new Star Wars movie at some point in 2015. It's worth noting that July 17, 2015 is currently open. WB released The Dark Knight on July 18, 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012, so that release date could be very enticing.
The casting of Batman will definitely have a major impact on the box office performance of these films. Moviegoers embraced Christian Bale in the role in a major way. If Bale decides not to return--and he's made that clear more than once--then many fans could be disappointed. The alternative--hinted at in a not-so-subtle way in The Dark Knight Rises--would be to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt take on the role. JGL playing the role wouldn't be the end of the world, but Bale is definitely the preferable choice both creatively and financially--even if he does command a massive salary for suiting up as the Caped Crusader again. Making these movies without Bale wouldn't be as off-putting as making Avengers 2 without Robert Downey Jr., but it would be close. Disney wisely curbed any thoughts that Downey Jr. wouldn't return by bringing him back on board with a nice payday. WB should also do what it can to bring Bale back.
The overseas potential of a Batman/Superman film is enormous. For proof, look no further than how much the Dark Knight franchise grew overseas. 2008's The Dark Knight took in $468.6 million and four years later The Dark Knight Rises' overseas tally shot up to $631.2 million. Man of Steel has already raked in $337.3 million overseas.
Any conversation about the potential of a 2015 release wouldn't be complete without mentioning China. Based on the current growth rate, it's not hard to imagine that the total Chinese box office could reach $5 billion in 2015. Even though some analysts from China believe that many Chinese moviegoers are getting sick of American superheros, there's still room in a market that big for a Superman/Batman film to rake in a healthy haul. Man of Steel is currently up to more than $63 million in China, an improvement over the $55.6 million haul of The Dark Knight Rises. A modest goal of $100 million in China for the Superman/Batman film is a cautious point to start expectations at.
Here's today's official press release:
BURBANK, CA, July 20, 2013 - On the heels of the worldwide success of "Man of Steel," director Zack Snyderis bringing together the two greatest Super Heroes of all time-Batman and Superman-for the first time on the big screen. The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution,Warner Bros. Pictures.
The current hit, "Man of Steel," has taken in more than $630 million at the worldwide box office to date, and climbing. Along with its star, Henry Cavill, the upcomingfilm brings back Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. The new Batman has yet to be cast.
Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who will then pen the screenplay. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release date inSummer 2015.
Silverman stated, "Zack Snyder is an incredibly talented filmmaker, but beyond that, he's a fan first and he utterly gets this genre. We could not think of anyone better suited to the task of bringing these iconic Super Heroes to the screen in his own way." Kroll added, "We are thrilled to be back in business with Zack and his team on this next movie. The success of ‘Man of Steel' is a wonderful testament to the love and support that both fans and new audiences, worldwide, have for these characters. We are very excited to see what Zack has in store for all of us."
Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment, noted,"Superman and Batman together on the big screen is a dream come true for DC fans everywhere. All of us at DCEntertainment could not be more excited for Zack's continuing vision for the DC Universe."
Zack Snyder, who made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con today, breaking the news to audiences there, later said, "I'm so excited to begin working again with Henry Cavill in the world we created, and I can't wait to expand the DC Universe in this next chapter. Let's face it, it's beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest Super Heroes in the world."
The new film brings back Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder as producers. This time, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers, along with Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan.
Thomas offered, "Whilst our ‘Dark Knight' trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack's fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction. His vision for Superman opened the door to a whole new universe and we can't wait to see what Zack does with these characters."
The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment.