While many Superman fans are pinning their hopes on Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, it appears so too is Warner Bros.’ long-brewing Justice League movie.
Following Monday’s announcement that Kevin Tsujihara will succeed Barry Meyer as CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Variety speculates on the future of Warner Bros. Pictures President Jeff Robinov, who was passed over for the position. Under his watchful eye, the studio has developed such blockbusters as The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and franchises like The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes and The Hangover. However, one of his biggest challenges may lie just ahead.
According to the website, the fate of Justice League is tied to the box-office performance of the Superman franchise reboot. “Other than Nolan’s Batpics, Warners has not been able to effectively exploit the DC library,” Variety writes. “Its 2011 Green Lantern underperformed, and a Justice League film wouldn’t likely be in theaters before 2015, as Warner’s top brass has indicated that they are awaiting the results of Man of Steel, which opens June 14, before moving further ahead.”
Green Lantern is undoubtedly a major reason for the studio’s hesitancy, as the film disappointed both commercially and critically, bringing to a quick end what was envisioned as a long-term multimedia franchise — is it any surprise there will be just one season of Green Lantern: The Animated Series? — and likely slowing the pace of other DC properties like The Flash. What’s more, the timing of Green Lantern was particularly unfortunate: Although the film had been in development since at least 2007, it became the first Warner Bros. superhero release following the 2009 restructuring that created DC Entertainment, “a new company founded to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms.”
While the “new” DC Entertainment had little to do with Green Lantern — the script, director and lead actors were in place before the corporate shakeup — the film was hung around the company’s neck: This is how you fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand?
Lingering unspoken, like the word “Voldemort,” is Bryan Singer’s much-maligned Superman Returns, which casts a long shadow across Man of Steel, and indeed, any of the studio’s superhero plans that don’t involve Batman in a starring role. A commercial disappointment, although certainly not a flop, the 2006 film landed with a thud among franchise fans, many of whom were quick to draw comparisons between Superman Returns and early Man of Steel trailers. And if there’s anything Warner Bros. hopes to avoid, it’s a replay of Superman Returns.
“Superman didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to,” Robinov said in 2008. “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.”
And now, if Man of Steel doesn’t work in 2013, we won’t be seeing Justice League in 2015.