DC rolls out more optimistic take on movies

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman was criticized for being overly dark.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Book Con, Warner Bros./DC Entertainment provided its first preview of an more optimistic take on its super hero movies.

The studio used Comic Con to show a trailer for the Woman Woman movie scheduled for June 2017. Also unveiled was a video with footage from Justice League, due out for release in the fall of 2017.

To a degree, both seemed lighter than Batman v Superman, which was criticized in late March for its mostly dark and somber tone.

Batman v Superman got a ton of bad reviews, reflected in a only a 27 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. More importantly, for studio executives, its worldwide box office was $872.7 million.

While impressive for most movies, the movie plunged after a huge opening its first weekend. Also, Warners was looking to join the $1 billion club. The movie didn’t match the 2015 James Bond movie SPECTRE ($880.7 million).

WB/DC’s big competitor, Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, made to the $1 billion club again a few months later with Captain America: Civil War. That movie had a serious, emotional payoff while still retaining the type of humor seen in other Marvel films.

Since then, there has have been executive changes at DC, including elevating Geoff Johns, a comic book writer turned executive, to co-head of DC’s movie operations. The news was broken in May by The Hollywood Reporter, which described the move as a “course correction.”

New York magazine’s Vulture website described Johns as “big on hope and optimism.”

The studio has a lot riding, in particular, on Justice League, because it’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers movies (the Justice League came first in the comics). Also, Justice League, is being directed by Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman.

Anyway, both trailers are below.

Soderbergh says he was twice approached about 007 films

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Director Steven Soderbergh says he twice was in discussions about working on a James Bond film, according to THE PLAYLIST website.

The director, who previously vowed to retire at age 50 but is still at it, made the comments during a screening of his 2012 film Haywire, according to The Playlist.

Here’s an excerpt with the few details:

When the conversation swung back to “Haywire,” Soderbergh dropped a big reveal about the 007 series. “Over the years, I’ve been in conversations… ,” he said with a pause and some hesitation and then just blurted it out. “I’ve been approached twice about doing a Bond film. And it never quite got anywhere. And [‘Haywire’] in some ways, was my opportunity to do what I would do with a Bond movie.”

That’s all there is Bond-wise. No details available about the time the supposed discussions took place.

Haywire, released in the United States in early 2012, featured Gina Carano as a double crossed spy operative who gets revenge. It was made in 2011, before Sodebergh was supposed to make a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Soderbergh dropped out of the U.N.C.L.E. project in late 2011 following disagreements with Warner Bros. over casting and budget. The U.N.C.L.E. film eventually was directed by Guy Ritchie.

Soderbergh is scheduled this fall to director Logan Lucky, a heist film that includes Daniel Craig in its cast, part of the actor’s growing list of non-007 projects.

Forbes raises idea of a Nolan-directed 007 film

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

In the absence of any actual James Bond news, Forbes.com made the case for how Christoper Nolan could enter the world of 007.

The post by Forbes contributor Mark Hughes says Warner Bros. is the studio best situated to strike a new 007 film distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. If that happens, according to Hughes, it could be the catalyst for Nolan to enter the picture.

Mr. Warner (this blog’s nickname for Warners, based on the studio’s cartoons who addressed the unseen Jack L. Warner) “is pursuing the rights full steam and has much to offer — enough, in fact, that I think it makes them the most likely studio to secure the Bond rights,” Hughes wrote. “Warner could use another solid, reliable franchise right now. I also believe Warner is in a strong position to put forward a better deal than other contenders.”

Mr. Warner, meanwhile enjoys a good relationship with Nolan. The director helmed a Batman trilogy for the studio from 2005 to 2012. As a reward, Warner Bros. financed Nolan’s 2010 Inception movie. Nolan, 45, is currently directing a World War II film, Dunkirk, for Warners.

“Warner seems the most likely to bring Christopher Nolan aboard the franchise, and that’s a big chip in the studio’s favor,” Hughes wrote for Forbes.

Nolan has said he likes Bond and 2008’s The Dark Knight includes Bond-inspired bits. Also, Inception included an homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Some fans are intrigued by the idea of a Nolan-helmed Bond film and Nolan’s influences were seen in the Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall and SPECTRE.

In May 2013, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail, who had a history of being correct about his 007 scoops, reported Nolan had been approached about directing what would become SPECTRE. But it became a moot issue when Mendes agreed to a second turn in Bondage.

However, there is a potential barrier to Nolan taking on 007 which would have to be addressed.

Nolan also produces movies, via his production company Syncopy. His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on those films. Would Eon Production co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson agree to such an arrangement on a Bond film?

Eon, in the 21st century, has given directors more freedom than the early years of the franchise. Still, it seems unlikely Broccoli and Wilson simply would yield to Thomas. Could they work out a deal where they’d work together, similar to the way Kevin McClory worked with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman on Thunderball?

Some fans figure Nolan loves Bond so much, he’d simply come aboard without his Syncopy associates. As Tracy said in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “I wouldn’t go banco on that.”

Again, there’s no actual news here. It’s just the speculation about Bond 25 is now branching out from potential successors to Daniel Craig (who has not actually publicly said he’s quitting the Bond role) to other matters.

Our latest questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

We’re not very good at answers but we certainly can generate Bond 25 questions. So let’s get on with it.

What’s up with MGM?: The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news site said in a May 26 story that there have been “no negotiations” between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and other studios concerning which one would release Bond 25.

The last four 007 films have been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. MGM, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have a distribution operation.

“There’s no rush,” MGM chief Gary Barber said during a March call with investors and analysts. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

If Deadline is accurate, Barber wasn’t kidding about not being in a rush.

For now, MGM seems to be trying to develop its non-007 portfolio and to prepare itself for an initial public offering of stock to the public within the next three to five years.

The now-expired Sony deal wasn’t a good one for that studio. Sony co-financed the last two Bond movies, but only got 25 percent of the profits. It remains to be seen whether MGM can get anywhere near such terms in the future.

What’s up with Daniel Craig? By this time, people who read this blog can recite forward and backwards lists of actors (male and female) who’ve been touted as potential 007 successors.

It’s stating the obvious, but Craig hasn’t said whether he’s staying or going. Until he specifies or a successor actually is announced, Craig remains a big unknown.

When will Bond 25 come out? It’s too early to push the panic button but it’s now a real possibility it won’t be released until 2019.

The Deadline story said negotiations between MGM and other studios aren’t likely to occur “until later this year.”

You can’t release a movie until there’s somebody to release it. Whoever eventually strikes a deal with MGM will want a say in the making of Bond 25. If you provided half of the financing, wouldn’t you?

Let’s say a deal is reached in late 2016. How long would it take the partner studio to weigh in and get comfortable with MGM and Eon Productions? Even if Sony were picked again, that studio has new management, so there’d be a new cast of characters involved. Would this process take a few weeks in 2017? Or a few months?

Also, according to Deadline, “There is no workable script yet and the creative elements have yet to come into place.” For the moment, that would also mean securing the services of a leading man and a director.

To have a fall 2018 release, Bond 25 would need to get the creative elements nailed down by late 2017, or about 18 months from now. There’s a lot to be settled before the cameras are ready to roll on Agent 007’s next adventure.

Craig may have another non-007 project, Deadline says

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig may join a heist movie directed by Steven Soderbergh amid signs there’s little progress on Bond 25, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The website also reported that there “no negotiations” yet what studio will distribute Bond 25. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s most recent two-picture deal with Sony Pictures expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

Craig and Katherine Heigl “are said to be finalizing deals to join Steven Soderbergh’s heist film Logan Lucky about brothers who plan a crime during a NASCAR race in Charlotte,” the entertainment news website said.

Logan Lucky “is scheduled for a fall start date, which puts further into question the actor’s willingness to return to the Bond franchise for MGM,” wrote Deadline’s Anita Busch. Deadline said pre-production will begin this weekend during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race and the Daytona Beach, Florida-based racing series “has thrown its support behind the picture.”

Soderbergh once was attached to direct a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He quit the project in late 2011 and for a time declared himself retired from directing.

If Craig joins Logan Lucky, it adds to his growing list of non-007 projects. He’s scheduled to appear in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall and is involved with Purity, a television limited series.

Meanwhile, Deadline said not much is happening on the Bond 25 front. Here’s an excerpt:

There have been no negotiations on where the Bond movie will land (Sony or Warner Bros. are out front on this) and although it was thought that negotiations might start after the first quarter 2016, parties are not likely to engage in negotiations until later this year. There is no workable script yet and the creative elements have yet to come into place. It has also been widely reported (and confirmed by Deadline) that Jamie Bell has discussed the Bond role with his Film Stars Don’t Die movie producer Barbara Broccoli (who has long produced the Bond movies).

The possibility of the 5-foot-7 Bell, 30, being a potential future 007 has been reported in a variety of outlets, including The Independent. He played the Thing in the 2015 version of The Fantastic Four.

Captain America: Civil War a test of Marvel’s momentum

Captain America Civil War promotional art

Captain America Civil War promotional art

The “summer” U.S. movie season gets underway this week with Captain America: Civil War being a test whether Marvel Studios maintain its momentum.

The movie already is in release outside the U.S. In terms of reviews, it’s like the mirror image of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Cap has a 94 percent score on the Rotten Tomatoes website, based on 78 “fresh” reviews and only five “rotten” ones, with many U.S. critics yet to weigh in. Batman v Superman scored 27 percent, with 89 approving reviews and 236 pans.

A big opening weekend seems assured. But Marvel at times operates in such rarefied air at the box office, it can get criticism for not opening *big enough*.

Last year at this time, Avengers: Age of Ultron was cast as “only” having a $191.3 million opening weekend, because that was short of Marvel’s The Avengers’ $207.4 million in 2012. Then again, few are going to be sympathetic to Marvel or its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., if Civil War is seen as not meeting expectations.

Then, of course, there’s the challenge whether Marvel’s latest effort will encourage repeat viewings and generate word-of-mouth to bring more people into theaters. Batman v Superman started out huge ($166 million its opening weekend) but fell off sharply. That film’s global box office, which Warner Bros. had hoped would exceed $1 billion, may fall short of SPECTRE’s $880.7 million.

It will also be interesting to see if Captain America: Civil War will maintain the tone of its 2014 predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which evoked darker, 1970s spy movies.Directors Anthony and Joe Russo , who helmed the 2014 film, were retained for the new movie, which does pick up story threads from Winter Soldier.

The movie's logo

The movie’s logo

At the same time, Civil War is more sprawling, and is inspired by a 2006-07 story line in Marvel Comics that spanned multiple titles. That makes Civil War almost a third installment of The Avengers rather than a Cap adventure.  It’s telling that in the movie’s logo that “Civil War” appear in much larger letters than “Captain America.”

Eight years ago, Marvel Studios began its trek of producing its own films, instead of licensing characters to studios, with the release Iron Man. Marvel plans out movies for years in advance (something Warners is trying to emulate with Superman v Batman and next year’s Justice League film).

Marvel is now in “Phase III,” with Civil War being the test whether it can keep going.

UPDATE: For Marvel, the early news is more than favorable. Captain America: Civil War has generated non-U.S. box office of $200.2 million, Variety reported.

BvS unlikely to join $1B club, may not match SPECTRE

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

We’ve mostly written about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because how it illustrates the expectations game among major movies.

Anyway, the movie is in its fourth weekend of release and it’s now expected Batman v Superman won’t the $1 billion club for worldwide box office — something that had been widely predicted before its release last month. BvS may not match the global box office of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

In the U.S. and Canada, BvS is projected to finish this weekend with about $9 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie is coming in at No. 4 for the weekend.

The movie’s cumulative totals are $311.3 million for U.S.-Canada and $827.3 million worldwide.

Most studios would would kill for those kinds of worldwide numbers. But Warner Bros. had higher hopes for the first joint appearance in movies of DC Comics’ two most famous characters. To provide a little 007 context, Batman v Superman may not match match SPECTRE’s $880.6 million worldwide box office.

The editor of the BoxOfficeGuru.com website said the movie is just about done.

On Twitter, two writers for The Hollywood Reporter did a quick analysis.

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