Is Warner Rebranding 'Batman Vs. Superman'?

Did we miss something with last Friday's announcement by WB casting Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons? I sure did!

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By Tstubbs - 2/5/2014
This article by Mark Hughes at Forbes.com has some interesting insight on the official announcement made by WB. Some of this I was already thinking and others I totally missed but find refreashing as well as giving me greater confidence with how WB is handling their DC properties. All credit to Mark Hughes for reading bewtween the lines. Actually it was in the announcement it's just we were all taken a back by Jesse Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor that we missed it. At least I did.

Please leave your comments. I tried to brake the article up but found all of it informative and just wanted to share with CBM fans and read what they think about it.

With Friday’s announcement by Warner Bros. that Jesse Eisenberg will play Lex Luthor in the upcoming sequel to 2013′s Superman reboot blockbuster Man of Steel, with Jeremy Irons announced as Batman’s faithful butler Alfred, the Internet was abuzz with fan and media reaction. However, mostly overlooked in the studio’s official statement were a few interesting details that speak volumes about how the superhero sequel is evolving and what it could mean for the future of DC comic book adaptations in the future.
Warner’s statement quotes director Zack Snyder at length, and refers to the movie as “Snyder’s film.” It notes Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman; Ben Affleck stars as Batman (so you can ignore online rumors about Affleck departing); Gal Gadot will be the first big-screen Wonder Woman; and Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Diane Lane will return in their supporting roles from Man of Steel. But then things get more interesting.

The official announcement includes this paragraph:
The new film is currently being written by Chris Terrio, from a screenplay by David S. Goyer. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Wesley Coller, David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers.
It’s surprising that there’s been no significant reaction to these statements. First of all, notice that the names Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are absent from the list of executive producers. Second, screenwriter David Goyer’s name appears twice, the first time being at the end of a sentence referring to the project as “the new film” that is “being written by Chris Terrio.” Goyer’s name is also listed among the executive producers of the project.

Leaving off the names of Nolan and Thomas (who produced the last two Batman films and Man of Steel, and had previously been named as executive producers on the super-sequel) wasn’t just a casual omission. They could be staying on as executive producers and their names might appear on future press releases; but even if they’re going to be aboard down the line, the decision was clearly made to keep their names off yesterday’s announcement. I’m sure Nolan is ready to end his direct involvement with superhero films and has plenty of other projects to pursue that interest him. And I’ve no doubt they felt their names would naturally pull some spotlight away from other folks working hands-on with the film. But the studio would’ve frankly requested they keep their names attached for appearances anyway, if the studio’s plans didn’t involve explicitly leaving their names out of things at this juncture.
What we have here is a stark contrast from the way Man of Steel was promoted and talked about. That film was presented with Goyer’s and Nolan’s names prominent throughout the creation of the project and the marketing. There was a tendency of people to refer to it — rightly or wrongly — as being “Nolan’s Superman” because of the production’s attempts to link it to the Dark Knight trilogy’s pedigree, which of course was a smart move in light of those films having phenomenal success to the tune of about $2.5 billion box office worldwide, and another half-billion or more in DVD/Blu-ray sales and rentals. The feel of the movie, its tone, and its attempts at illusionary realism reflected a lot of the sensibilities of Nolan’s Batman films. And of course, Goyer’s involvement in the Batman movies — as writer of Batman Begins and one of the story writers for the two sequels — is why there is so much similarity in the approaches between those films and the Superman reboot.

It’s no secret that Man of Steel‘s box office numbers, while strong and among the year’s highest grossing films (it was number five on domestic charts for 2013, and in ninth place worldwide), ended up being lower than Warner had hoped. When adjusted for inflation and accounting for 3D ticket pricing, it didn’t open that much higher than 2006′s Superman Returns and finished with a total increase over that previous film’s global receipts of only in the neighborhood of 35% or a bit higher.
One thing these numbers demonstrate is that Superman Returns actually performed better than people seem to remember or even realized at the time, especially since it had a much harder prior cinematic history to overcome for the character. But it’s hard to deny that, with the superhero genre so much stronger today than it was seven years ago and with the names Nolan and Goyer attached to remind audiences of the creative links to the Dark Knight series, there was an obvious expectation that Man of Steel would put up higher numbers more in the $700+ million range.
The best symbol of the whole situation can perhaps be found in the fact Marvel‘s superhero sequel featuring Thor — with a November release date — will have nearly matched Superman’s summer numbers at the box office in 2013. If two years prior you’d asked whether that would be possible, you’d have been hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t have laughed at the suggestion, even in light of the perception Superman Returns had underperformed. If on top of that you’d asked the question while noting Thor’s film would compete against a Superman movie that had the names “Nolan” and “Goyer” attached to it and that would release in the summer while Thor got a November release, what do you imagine the reaction would’ve been?

I have to note again that in truth, $668 million for Superman is a healthy and respectable total, and should be plenty to give the studio confidence and make them eager to greenlight a sequel. Yet, I also have to note that I understand why any previous plans to perhaps give Superman a second outing on his own might’ve been scrapped in favor of making a few changes to try and help boost the next film’s box office performance, in light of the remarkable success Marvel is enjoying and the fact that Warner is trying to build the beginnings of their own broader unified superhero universe. A second solo Superman movie might indeed put up numbers more in the $700-800 million range, but meanwhile Marvel will have enjoyed another Captain America film likely to perform at least close to the same range as Thor: The Dark World, a Guardians of the Galaxy movie that I suspect is going to shock everyone with how well it performs, and an Avengers sequel that should top the previous Marvel team-up’s staggering $1.5 billion total. How will it look if it’s taking Superman two films to hit $800 million while Marvel’s repeatedly topping $1 billion and matching Superman with less well-known characters?

The point is this: While many people, me included, reacted with some concern about Warner’s choice to put Batman into the next film instead of letting Superman have another solo adventure, and while I still technically wish they’d roll out rebooted solo Batman and solo Wonder Woman franchises before trying to do team-ups, I cannot deny that the above evidence makes a very strong case for Warner’s choice of how to get their DC characters onto the screen and into a unified world sooner. Because whatever else anyone might think of it, there should be no mistake about how much this Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman team-up film is going to make at the box office, especially by opening the summer box office season and having no huge Marvel film to compete against for the superhero-loving audiences.
But getting to that likely blockbuster status, while much easier now that it’s a team effort, requires making some moves in the branding of the DC superhero universe on the big screen. So Warner Bros. is obviously making a bold choice to begin the rebranding by focusing attention on a different set of names this time around.

Zack Snyder, who did a tremendous job on Man of Steel, wasn’t really involved in the story process and decisions for the script from the start on the first film. The tone and approach were already decided before he sat in the director’s chair, and Warner was surely not going to give him the freedom to rework or rewrite a story and script from the creative team coming off the Dark Knight trilogy’s success. That’s no slight on Snyder, it’s just a simple recognition of the reality of the situation at that time. Warner has continued to show confidence in Snyder and kept backing his projects (including risky ones) despite the fact he hadn’t had a really solid box office success since 300. After several movies that performed weakly — Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (all good films) — the studio still gave him the job directing the big-budget reboot of Superman on which all of their future superhero adaption plans seemed to hinge. They probably felt (as I do) that his lack of box office success in recent years didn’t reflect his actual talent and potential.

It seems Warner recognizes the slight underperformance of Man of Steel can’t be blamed on Snyder, who probably elevated the material and helped it perform better. The problems were structural and in the approach, and I think this became even more clear to them after Ben Affleck came aboard the project. Affleck was clearly impressed with the general road map for how to proceed and with Snyder’s and Goyer’s plans overall, but there are signs — and much buzz from some sources — suggesting Affleck was concerned about some particulars of how the sequel was taking shape. The clearest sign was the arrival of screenwriter Chris Terrio on the scene, originally said to be coming in to do some rewrites and a polish but now officially named as the main writer on the project.
Terrio’s and Affleck’s working relationship from Argo no doubt played a big role in the selection of the writer to step in and take over scripting the film. And Affleck’s own work as a filmmaker means he’s bringing a lot of creative input to the proceedings — but this is still Snyder’s film, as the press release pointedly says. So we have the names Snyder, Terrio, and Affleck now front and center in the public presentation of this project, after the prior film’s focus on Nolan, Goyer, and Snyder.
It appears Goyer could be moving into a producing role where he is more involved in helping create broader plans for approaching the DC universe on film, while finding projects and creative talents to bring together for future plans. If Goyer is indeed going to focus more on being part of a team overseeing the development of projects, that means we’ll probably see other writers joining the Warner Bros. efforts to develop more DC superhero adaptations. That’s a good thing, since for four films now over the course of eight years, most all of the writing on the main DC adaptations has been done by the same few of people (Goyer, Nolan, and Jonathan Nolan). It’s no offense to them, they did a great job obviously, but I think the projects will benefit from getting more different creative perspectives, ideas, and styles into the mix as this superhero universe grows.
While I don’t expect Affleck to become “godfather” for DC projects or think he’ll take on a continuous role shepherding the DC universe, I do believe he is already taking an active role in the creative side and will continue to do so in the future. He’s an Oscar-winning screenwriter and producer, award-nominated director and actor, and there’s no doubt that the more input he has in these films the better they will be. That’s of course why Warner sought Affleck out to direct their previous attempt at bringing Justice League to the screen, and why they came back to him to convince him to participate in this newest superhero endeavor.

Chris Terrio won the Oscar for his script for Argo, and that plus the fact Affleck thinks so well of him means we should all be very happy to hear he’s involved in the project. I don’t know if Terrio will be tapped to write future DC movies, but at the moment I strongly suspect he will be — in particular, perhaps Justice League when the time comes for it to move into the story and scripting stages (either on his own, or maybe after Goyer develops a story). If Affleck also makes one or more solo Batman movies, then I’d not be surprised if Affleck works with Terrio on the screenplay for that project. This is speculation, but based on what we’ve heard officially and what I’ve heard behind the scenes, there’s a good chance Terrio will be involved in one or more of those projects when they take shape.
What we have here is a Batman vs. Superman movie written by an Oscar-winning screenwriter, starring an Oscar-winning filmmaker and screenwriter, with a growing cast of other Oscar-nominated and winning performers, from a visionary director. Snyder has had more control from the start, including development of the story and characters (something I’ve advocated since he was first announced as director of Man of Steel). Affleck will bring his enormous filmmaking talents to bear on shaping characters and probably story as well (something I’ve wanted for Batman, since I began endorsing Affleck last year to take over the Batman franchise). And Terrio will use Goyer’s original script as a template on which to write his own screenplay. Warner will want to keep most of the focus on this group on creative talents, to help give the film its own new identity and send the clear message that they’re very serious about doing whatever is necessary for this project to work and to be it as good as it can be.
Even the casting, and Snyder’s remarks about the performers and their roles, contained some hints (for fans familiar with certain key sources) about how much the vision for this film has solidified and will represent some bold choices giving us brand new versions of well-known characters. Is Eisenberg’s Luthor inspired by two particular Superman stories — Birthright and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel? Will Irons’ Alfred take inspiration from the comic Batman: Earth One and the animated Beware the Batman? Those possibilities add to the impression of a production confident enough to take risks with casting and characterization.

With potentially billions of box office dollars on the line here, and with a budget surely in excess of $200 million, Warner looked at what worked and didn’t work with Man of Steel, and decided that some rebranding was in order, including a need to send a message that the future of DC movies wasn’t going to be rooted to the past, and was instead restructuring and moving ahead with a new public image. Friday’s statement sends that message, signaling the “changing of the guard” and getting ahead of previous weeks of rumors and negative stories arising after the announcement the release date had been pushed back from summer 2015 to summer 2016. If the delay and subsequent silence gave the impression of a troubled production, the newest announcement sent the message loud and clear of a production with a firm sense of direction. The delay no longer suggests problems, but rather competence — regardless of whether things were or were not previously off track or suffering from friction or problems.
We saw the first stages of rebranding with Friday’s announcement. No doubt, we’ll see more in the months to come as production gets underway in Detroit and as the details of future projects take shape.


So far I am thrilled with this casting and am really excited to see Jesse's take on Lex Luthor along with other writers and films being announced.
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19 Comments
GliderMan - 2/5/2014, 11:47 AM
Dethpillow?

Is, is that you?
Firgosaurus - 2/5/2014, 12:07 PM
Executive producers literally just walk around the set doing nothing but talk to people.

Producers and Assistant Producers are the ones doing most of the work.

Screenplay goes through at least 5 drafts before they fork out the money. They go through this process to iron out creative and budgeting issues. It's not rocket science.
GeneralZod1138 - 2/5/2014, 1:03 PM
It's no secret that Nolan was not gonna be a part of this sequel.

In fact, I believe he's gone on record saying as much.
ALmazing - 2/5/2014, 1:09 PM
Dude, seriously get your facts straight, Nolan and Thomas not being executive producers happened last year, that's not news,and as far as Snyder not having any say on the story, guess who came up with the brilliant idea of Superman breaking Zod's neck.
dethpillow - 2/5/2014, 1:31 PM
yes!!!! great article...!
you make such a well spoken argument for a lot of things that I've been thinking but only able to really justify as "that's what it looks like to me."

But I've been hoping that what the news and rumors of the last month have been evidence of, is a little bit of a necessary alpha shakeout between Affleck and Goyer. Maybe this was in motion before, probably since even before Affleck was officially hired, but I think the release delay and rumors of Affleck's supposed leaving the project might have both originated from actual personality issues finally getting ironed out.

And maybe I'm just projecting on that, cuz Goyer is easy to use as a scapegoat punching bag.

But regardless, the main point, to me, that it comes down to is that Goyer doesn't belong down there in the kitchen.

give him a bigger title and an office someplace where he doesn't ever actually get to touch any food. He can make up recipes and decide what dishes to put together to make a tasteful and classy menu. He's great at making recipes, a lot of chefs probably suck at making up their own recipes.

But Goyer doesn't belong in the kitchen, actually touching food that we're gonna eat.

And that's why everything that's going on with this so far, despite seeming like a setback and frustrating to fans of DC Comics, I think it's way better in the long run to be able to hopefully, completely distance Goyer from the things he's weakest at doing.

@Anno - yeah, I remember it also as Snyder's movie and Nolan was busy finishing TDKR, I'm almost positive, while MOS was shooting. I remember interviews with him saying basically 'i don't know, i've been wrapped up in my movie, the movie i'm making right here and right now' when people asked him about it.

and he was always clear, This is not my movie. This is Snyder's movie. and clear about what his involvement was limited to.

But people did call it Nolan's Man Of Steel, seriously, it's burned into my memory... the reason I remember this so clearly and vividly is that it was really infuriating when MOS was soon to be released, to hear all these people running around saying look... another cat in the bag for Chris Nolan, another diamond on his opera clock, another feather in his cap...and just wishing there was a way to show them in reality... Nolan has never acted like it was his movie at all. And not like Snyder would take too kindly to that either, you know? How much respect would that show to Snyder if Nolan was all wedging his ass in there at the last minute and pontificating about this and that regarding someone else's movie?

none. and to his credit, Nolan acted like a decent human being about everything regarding MOS. It was all these power mad little dictators running around, self appointed clerks and lords of clerkery in the imaginary Nolan Nation, that it turns out, the man had nothing to do with. and you had people like me blaming him for this Nation's crimes of pompous and degenerate nature. I remember people running around up until those early reviews were coming in that made it sound like MOS was gonna have a rough time. And then all the talk of Nolan's Man Of Steel, was just entirely dropped. I mean it was people on forums and comments sections like this. It wasn't so exaggerated in the media and what not.

But I think tho that the article writer has a point in that his name was used prominently in promotion. I mean they'd be crazy not to. When you're promoting a movie, you gotta send out points u want them to mention in interviews and any little "hook" type thing that someone can easily latch on to. And in this sense he was used as a hook for the movie. He didn't play himself up as such, but it was out there and part of the promo for the movie.

So in that sense, I think it makes sense to recognize a change in this becuz I think that his association with Goyer ended up being the only point active connection between himself and any future movies, so I see his name going as more of a complete restructuring of the balance of power going on behind this movie. And not really at all anything much to do with Nolan himself.

dethpillow - 2/5/2014, 1:33 PM
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what this article is saying. or there's just one misunderstanding in the form of me.

but I don't read it as saying that Nolan was going to ever have more involvement, or of really speaking to any point involving Nolan. the article has nothing to do with Christopher Nolan...
as i read it at least.
LEEE777 - 2/5/2014, 1:41 PM
I liked MOS... but didn't love it... wanted it to be the best film of 2013.

Wanted it so bad but Thor: Dark world was a better picture, MOS should have had the classic Superman score also, its like STAR WARS with no STAR WARS score or JAWS or INDIANA JONES etc. Score was so forgettable, still can't remember it and seen the movie 3 times.

Should have not had Lois knowing Clark's Superman before even he was even Superman officially, should have kept that for the sequel, felt so rushed and full of explosions and flaws, real pity, still it was ten times better than Iron Man 3 though.

Didn't touch WATCHMEN, now that's a near perfect comic book movie.

The dude they cast as Lex Luthor just makes me shudder.


Great read.
Brainiac13 - 2/5/2014, 2:04 PM
That's word for word from the original article.
Tstubbs - 2/5/2014, 2:21 PM
yes t is. I didn't write it. I just wanted to share the article. As stated in the first two paragraphs. Again all credit to Mark Hughes at Forbes.com. Sorry for any confusion.
Brainiac13 - 2/5/2014, 2:28 PM

@Tstubbs

;)
dethpillow - 2/5/2014, 4:18 PM
@Anno - haha, yeah... i wouldn't doubt it.
dethpillow - 2/5/2014, 4:19 PM
@Tstubbs - oh wow, i missed that. totally obvious tho, not your fault at all.
aresww3 - 2/5/2014, 5:23 PM
What a great article, as you may know, I don´t totally agree, but you´ve sent me to bed dreaming as a long time DC fan that good things may be ahead.
ScorpioRisin - 2/5/2014, 5:26 PM
Great article. As much as some of the casting decisions thus far have been iffy to me I have hope in this project. Now more than ever, considering that apparently it is now just Goyer's story and everything else Terrio. Dialogue was always Goyer's weakest link. And considering how much I liked MOS despite it's flaws, I believe this film has the chance to be much much better with the input of the team it has working behind it.
ItsATrap - 2/5/2014, 6:52 PM
Fantastic article.
MightyZeus - 2/5/2014, 8:22 PM
Great article and good write up.
6of13 - 2/6/2014, 12:46 PM
Great and interesting article.
dethpillow - 2/6/2014, 7:47 PM
@ScorpioRisin - yeah, in truth, if MOS had someone competent with humans, stuff like dialogue, and how better to move things to emphasize what people actually feel... MOS would've been a huge massive hit of a movie.

they had Cavill nail it, they had Snyder with his strengths, he gives things a style and is really visually inspiring, but also acknowledging sometimes over the top in that area, but that sells anyways...
and they had the world pretty much dying for a Superman movie.

Goyer was the weakest link. and get him the hell out of there, his stories and ideas are great, he has a lot to contribute, but get him out of the real deal hands on.

MOS would've been crazy breaking ceilings and raking in love and support. which it was hit, no doubt, it did it's job, but we were ready for a SUPERMAN movie. and he tied it all up in abstract connections. people really were dying for it. anyways like you're saying, this next one is gonna really be served by Affleck's presence, i think. he's not some genius, but he understands people. that's what's needed.

but good thing is tho, MOS didn't ruin anything. it's a solid base to knock the next one out of the park on. nothing is ruined just a first installment.
Nubase - 2/7/2014, 7:48 AM
Exec producers don't have 100% input in the movie, its always been like that, nolans name will not be on the main credit but it will be on the ending credits, we must not forget that it was his influence that got MOS made in the first place, he made the phone call to the WB execs, that has been verified.

MOS was the start, it was the complete origins of superman and this is what confused many people cos some were expecting the complete superman with his values and honor.

WB have now greenlit the DC universe because they need to new franchaise, the LOTR trilogy and the Harry Potters movies are finished and the Hobbit trilogy is almost at a end so now they are focusing on the DC universe and bringing all the creative talents to it as well.

l fully expect zack to shoot 2 movies back to back and cavil commnets saying he is shooting scenes for 10 months all but confirms this, l read that ian mckellen did 16 months of shooting for the hobbit trilogy so 10 for 2 movies seems about right and when the second part of the movie get released in 2017 there will be another DC stand alone movie that will be on production most prob wonder women. WB/DC will be releasing a movie almost 18 months l believe.

At this year comic con, expect WB/DC to announce everything.

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