Kevin Tsujihara: A Possible Unsung Hero For Warner Bros.
The story of Warner Bros. adapting their DC properties to the big screen (as well as other media) is a long, weary, and troublesome story. However, one man is in the process of making large changes that have gone unnoticed. For years to come. That man is none other than Kevin Tsujihara.
With each passing year it has become more and more clear that Warner Brothers struggle to bring their DC Comics properties not only to the big screen, but to virtually all forms of media To make matters worse, just about every other major studio that owns the rights to comic characters have had success bringing their characters to life and will continue to do so. Sony has a Spider-Man centric universe planned and in action, 20th Century Fox has an ongoing X-Men universe that is bound to crossover with their new Fantastic Four series, and of course there is Marvel Studios with their extensive Marvel Cinematic Universe that is continuing to grow larger and larger. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has had several unsuccessful attempts at a shared universe before (Green Lantern) and choose to keep the fans the dark regarding their future plans. To most this is classic Warner Bros.; sitting on their hands while other studios enjoy the success of their comic adaptations. However, one man is in the midst of changing WB. Kevin Tsujihara, the Warner Brothers CEO since March of 2013, has ushered in a new era at WB. While it's still very early on in the whole process and a too early to fully judge, Mr. Tsujihara appears to have done more for Warner Bros. and DC Comics in his first year as CEO than what WB has done in the past 5 years.
Mistakes of Warner Bros. Past
Warner Bros. are no strangers to the stench of failure and have become associated with the word "cowardliness". To get a full grasp of this failure, we must go all the way back to the horrid days of Batman & Robin. Considered to be the worst comic book movie of all time, Batman & Robin nearly killed Batman as a character, DC Comics, and the comic book movie genre. It proved that not everything Batman sold. Despite all this, Warner Bros. spent years trying to reboot Batman without giving any other character a glance. Thankfully Warner Brothers and Batman were saved by Christopher Nolan, and the Dark Knight Trilogy proved to be a game changer that gave Warner Bros. a crutch when it came to their DC adaptations and allowed them to make three separate attempts at a shared universe. Unfortunately, two of the three tempts failed. Superman Returns was originally intended to cross over with Batman Begins (although even if the film succeeded Christopher Nolan would have said no to a crossover), but failed to capture fans attention and under performed at the box office. The next attempt came with 2011's Green Lantern, which proved to be a critical and financial failure. What is most devastating about this is the fact that as time has gone on, it's been revealed that Warner Brothers had a DC Cinematic Universe planned out (similar to Marvel Studios), and a long awaited Flash film was in the wings set to follow Green Lantern. This scared Warner Brothers shitless and made them retreat to old reliable (Batman). The next attempt was 2013's Man of Steel, that proved to be a box office smash despite mixed reviews from critics and fans. Other films were put into production besides these three (such as Wonder Woman, Flash, and Lobo films), but these were the only three to actually hit theaters.
New CEO, New Warner Bros.
In March of 2013 Kevin Tsujihara was officially introduced as CEO of Warner Bros., and with that a new era at WB began. Barry Meyer (who held the CEO title before Tsujihara) and Jeff Robinov (who was instrumental to the Dark Knight Trilogy's success) were no longer in large enough roles that could prevent Warner Brothers from moving forward with adapting their DC properties. Despite a last second attempt at a Justice League movie (which is considered dead now) from the two, little movement toward adapting other heroes aside from Batman and Superman were made after Green Lantern. Meyer and Robinov were very apprehensive when it came to their DC properties after Green Lantern, and chose to scrap any plans for a shared universe after their box office bomb. A large reason as to why Man of Steel was even given the green light was due to Nolan and Goyer's involvement with the project (which gave them a sense of faith in the project). However, now that Mr. Tsujihara has taken over as CEO major changes have occurred. After intense arguments with Tsujihara in June, Robinov left Warner Bros. and eventually accepted a job at Paramount Pictures. This came as a shock to many and made people question how could Warner Brothers let the a man who helped create the Dark Knight Trilogy and brought talent like Nolan and Affleck into the picture walk away from the company. It is unfortunate how quickly and messy things ended between Robinov and Warner Bros., it may end up being the for the better. One of the most apprehensive men at WB was gone, and in effect it breathed new life into Warner Brother's DC properties. Soon after Robinov left WB, Legendary Entertainment (whom helped fun nearly nearly half of Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy) departed as well. On the outside it looked as if Warner Bros. was going to be funding all their own DC films, meaning they were going to be even more apprehensive about which properties to adapt. To many of us fans, things appeared to be a train wreck at Warner Brothers. An instrumental player in the Dark Knight Trilogy, numerous rumors of the failed Justice League project emerged (some stating that it's due out in 2020), a new CEO has taken over in the midst of a very important film (Man of Steel) release, and now a mainstay for Warner Brothers had left.
However, over the course of the next few months things appeared to be turning around for WB. Legendary Entertainment was quickly replaced with Dune Entertainment, which gave fans a sigh of relief. And what's been revealed from comments by the likes of Zack Snyder, Kevin Tsujihara, and oddly enough Batman vs Superman's costume designer Michael Wilkinson, is the fact that Batman vs Superman has was something that was part of Tsujihara's plan. People like Robinov went on record stating that he expected Man of Steel to gross over a billion dollars, and with Batman vs Superman announced as the follow up to Man of Steel it appeared as if it was only in development because Man of Steel "under performed" and was a last second decision as well. Notwithstanding, it's been revealed that Batman vs Superman started development in May (a time when Tsujihara was CEO), which was a full month before Man of Steel's release, meaning that Man of Steel's box office gross had no say in what came after Man of Steel. It should also be noted that sometime between April and May, the rumors of a Justice League film written by Will Beall were dead. What does this all mean? It means Tsujihara cleaned the house; he dropped the project that Robinov and Meyer started and went with his own plan that would help set up a shared universe. Batman vs Superman is not a product of Man of Steel's gross, but Tsujihara's word. That is a HUGE step in the right direction. Tsujihara took control and had a plan as CEO that he wanted to implement his plan as soon as possible. He hasn't stopped there, for that is just the beginning.
In just two months Tsujihara made a move more ambitious than anything Warner Brothers had tried in nearly ten years. Tsujihara has promised us fans that large new changes over the coming months and years, and some of the changes have already shown. In September Tsujihara stated "Female centric kind of pictures, that they have been really successful and obviously the Tolkien kind of franchise with the hobbit is kind of a signature piece of new one. Then you have 12 to 14 pictures coming from Warner Bros. And I think the basis, foundation of those 12 to 14 pictures are going to be coming from DC Entertainment. We have Batman versus Superman coming out in ’15, but those are going to be in the coming months a lot of announcements regarding kind of the future movie, television, games and consumer product pieces that are going to be coming from DC.", and those words are becoming more and more true with each passing day. On the animation front, a new DC animated universe is in development by Bruce Timm at the helm. While not much is known about it right now, it is expected to coincide with upcoming DC Comics adaptations, and appears to another Tsujihara move. In the realm of gaming, WB/DC released Batman: Arkham Origins last fall and have Batman: Arkham Knight launching this fall (which is rumored to feature Superman), with a handful of rumors stating that the next major heroes in line for an adaptation being Superman or the Justice League. Television adaptations have seen the most movement, as Warner Bros. will soon have Arrow, Flash, Constantine, iZombie, Young Justice, Hourman, and The Avenger coming from the CW. And finally, the area which concerns yet intrigues fans the most, Warner Bros. film adaptations. Most of the hints dropped have been cryptic, but there a couple of very important things we do know. First off, Batman vs Superman will not only open up a shared universe between Batman and Superman, but will also introduce Wonder Woman to the big screen. It should also be noted that Gal Gadot is signed on for three films. Those films include Batman vs Superman, Justice League, & a solo Wonder Woman film, meaning WB very well may have intentions of a solo Wonder Woman film in the near future. Going hand and hand with this, Guillermo del Toro has stated that Warner Brothers have been making plans for their entire film universe, as well as a plan for their television properties. The next piece of information is interesting (but fits with the rest of everything else that has been revealed) is Warner Brothers are planning on releasing two small budget films a year that would focus on their smaller heroes along with their main heroes. Suicide Squad, Booster Gold, Deathstroke, Sandman (which has been confirmed), and Team 7 are specifically mentioned as properties that WB may look to adapt with small budgets. But that's not all; Warner Bros. are going to announce a series of films in the near future, with Justice League expected to be one of the films a part of films announcement. All this has come under Tsujihara's rule and only came within a few months of being CEO.
Looking to the Future
That is an astonishing amount of information (for WB at least) that has come out in future months and shows Tsujihara along with WB are actively trying to bring their properties not only to the big screen, but to all forms of media. What's wonderful about this is the fact that it's only been one year since Tsujihara, and this has been the most Warner Brothers has done in years. As time goes on, more and more information will be revealed. However it is important to know that not all of this may follow through and it may be too soon to get a clear judgment. Everything is subject to change, and this may all be yet another disaster from WB. Yet at the same time you must try to remain optimistic and understand that this is a new WB. In the past, Warner Bros. have "talked the talk" but never "walked the walk", but in the recent months they have "walked the walk". Tsujihara promised us new television shows and we got them, he promised us new games and we got them in Arkham Origins, Arkham Knight, and Infinite Crisis, and he promised us new films and...nothing yet. We are in the long and painful transition period and will likely remain there until this summer, but at least we know they are coming. With Tsujihara as CEO, we would not have any of this; we would have another close off Batman reboot and a condensed Man of Steel trilogy, and nothing more. Depending on how these next few months (or possibly years) proceed, we could very well be looking at the savior of DC Comics adaptations or the man who failed us yet again. Only time will time will tell what category he falls into.
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