Friday, August 22, 2008

Warner Bros. Wises Up....

For those of you that don't know already, the company called Time Warner owns a lot of shit. Time for one. And Warner Bros. And about, oh, a fuckillion other holdings and companies, including a little publishing empire called DC Comics.

They've owned DC for loooong time, which explains why almost every flick based on a DC comic has been made, licensed or distributed by Warners. The odd thing, for a lot of comic fans, is how little Warners has really exploited owning the film rights to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, etc. There have been attempts to do a Batman/Superman film for years, and the early 90s attempts to relaunch the Superman franchise usually involved cameos from other DCU characters. There's been a couple references in the Batman films of the 90s to Metropolis and whatnot. Still, there was never a serious attempt to create an onscreen DC Universe; a film version of the way the comic books operate, where everyone knows each other and they often interact.

Then Marvel got in the game. When Marvel started re-acquiring their properties and began making movies with their own money, they got the idea to actively replicate their comic universe on film. Iron Man was their toe dipping into the water. Almost every review talked about the clip at the film's end featuring Sam Jackson as Col. Nick Fury, meeting with Tony Stark to discuss "the Avengers Initiative". The buzz was huge in the comic world. In their next film The Incredible Hulk, Tony Stark meets with Gen. Ross and talks about a little project he's working on. The weapons in Hulk come from Stark Industires. Hulk's bad guy Emil Blonsky is augmented through a derivation of the serum that created Capt. America, whose shield hangs in Tony Stark's lab in Iron Man. Soon after this, Marvel announced a sweeping plan to adapt Ant-Man, Thor and Captain America to film audiences, and further announced their intention to do an Avengers film featuring them alongside Iron Man and the Hulk.

Warners seemed behind the curve. Sure, they had the new Batman franchise up and running, with The Dark Knight building great buzz, but otherwise they seemed to have badly fumbled. Superman Returns didn't connect with audiences. Their attempts to bring Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern to the big screen had been mired in development hell for years. The story of George Miller's attempt to make a Justice League film with pretty, but unknown, actors and no connection to established franchises seemed to get more ill-advised and reviled with each new development. It seemed to many in the comic world that Warners did not have a lot of respect nor a clear vision for what most comic fans regarded as a veritable license to print money, if handled right.

Then The Dark Knight was released. And it made money. A lot of money. And the Watchmen trailer attached to it generated a crazy amount of excitement.

Now, according to Newsarama, they want to relaunch Superman. That's right, there will be little to no connection between the next Superman film and Superman Returns. Warners is going for a blank slate.

Also, according to Variety, expect to see Warners' plan for revamping how their DC properties are developed and brought to the screen, with an eye towards quality. No doubt, they want to follow Marvel's lead and begin creating a more unified universe for the DC characters.

For DC fans, it's about time. And for comic book fans in general, it could become a golden age of comic book movies, where the source material is finally treated with the respect it deserves.

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