‘Mr. Warner, when does U.N.C.L.E. get some publicity?’

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

This past week, Warner Bros. unleashed some publicity images for a movie involving actor Henry Cavill — a movie that won’t be out for 22 months.

That film, of course, is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, due out in May 2016. Warners released a new publicity image of Cavill as Superman. Various outlets bit on doing stories, including Forbes.com and USA Today. The movie currently is in production.

Meanwhile, Cavill has done another Warners feature. By comparison, the studio is in radio silence concerning the film. That project is a film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is due in a little more than six months, in mid-January 2015.

Long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans have a mixed reaction. Some would like to see a new take on the 1964-68 television series. Others wished the studio would have left well enough alone. Either way, there’s a feeling of disrespect. Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in the series (the role Cavill played in the film), says he wasn’t asked to do a cameo. That rubbed some fans the wrong way.

What it comes down to is business. Warners is looking to Batman v Superman as the precursor to a Justice League movie, where a group of super heroes combine their forces. The studio watched as Disney/Marvel had a huge hit with 2012′s The Avengers and the owners of the WB shield want in on that kind of action.

The U.N.C.L.E. film, meanwhile, is more of a back door operation. Warners would, of course, like it to be a hit. But it has bet a relatively modest sum, if $75 million can be called modest. That’s less money that, say, the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes film. That 2009 project, which, like U.N.C.L.E., was directed by Guy Ritchie, had an estimated budget of $95 million. Of course, Downey, fresh off 2008′s Iron Man, was a star. It remains to be seen whether Cavill is a star beyond 2013′s Man of Steel.

Warners has a lot invested in its superhero properties (its parent company owns DC Comics). It’s also trying to play catch up with Disney/Marvel’s machine-like output of films.

Also, Superman has more name recognition among the general public than U.N.C.L.E. does. Christopher Reeve did four Superman films from 1978 to 1987, Warners has produced various Superman TV projects, a 2006 movie and Man of Steel. There hasn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production since a 1983 television movie. The first-generation U.N.C.L.E. fan base isn’t getting any younger.

Put another way, leveraging DC characters is a top priority for the studio. U.N.C.L.E.? Not so much.

For better or worse, U.N.C.L.E. fans are going to have to wait to see what Cavill and Ritchie have done with U.N.C.L.E.

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One Response

  1. I think the January release date shows you what the studio thinks about UNCLE. Of course, that may mean it could turn out to be this misunderstood movie that doesn’t fit into any specific genre hole, but few people spend money on the flicks in the weeks after the holidays.

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