Film News

Warner Bros. Plans to Release 2 Low Budget DC Superhero Films a Year?

It remains a series of moves and countermoves when it comes to the films and TV shows for Marvel and DC (well, technically between Disney and Warner Bros.).  Marvel did The Avengers so now DC is doing Batman Vs. Superman.  DC has carved out a nice niche for themselves with comic book shows on the CW (first Smallville, now Arrow), DC and The CW sharing the same corporate parent (WB).  Marvel is trying to do the same with Agents of SHIELD at a network (ABC) which shares the same corporate parent (Disney).  DC is actively working with three different networks in developing 5 different TV shows, none of which are guaranteed to ever make it on air.  Marvel is developing four shows and a mini-series for Netflix, which appears to have bypassed a traditional pilot stage and fully committed to each show.  

For the most part, Marvel keeps kicking DC’s collective ass, even with Agents of SHIELD disappointing it’s still watched by 4-5 million more people than Arrow.  The latest move/countermove centers around a rumor over at BleedingCool.  Marvel is currently experimenting with when they are releasing their Thor and Captain America sequels.  Both of the original films in each franchise received a standard summer release befitting a comic book movie.  However, Thor: The Dark World was released in November, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is due out next April.  So far, so good, as The Dark World has already eclipsed the domestic and foreign box office totals of the first Thor.  Apparently, DC is planning on mimicking this strategy but doing so in a manner which will further minimize their risk.  According to BleedingCool:

“Well, it looks like this will be DC Entertainment’s big news for 2014: a series of lower-prominence comic books being turned into relatively lower budget movies. Suicide Squad is one specifically mentioned as only needing a $40 million budget, pre-marketing. Some could be made for as little as $20 million. And with two-a-year scheduled for Spring and Fall/Autumn, Warners can expand the Man Of Steel/Batman universe significantly, and make a decent profit in the process.”

To re-cap, Bleeding Cool is hearing that DC plans on developing lower-tiered comic book properties into extremely low-budget films, with the plans to release two a year in the spring and fall to effectively bracket higher-profile summer releases like Batman Vs. Superman or a Justice League movie.  Beyond the Suicide Squad, potential characters/groups which could receive such a movie treatment include Booster GoldDeathstroke, and Team 7.

An instant reaction might be to wonder what a $20-40 million comic book superhero movie would even look like.  After all, that seems like a micro-budget compared to the $200 million plus likes of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and The Avengers. Well, imagine something like Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, both of which cost around $30 million to make.

Now, look at some of the properties being discussed:

The animated Squad. From left to right: Plasti...
The animated Squad from Justice League Unlimited. From left to right: Plastique, Deadshot, Clock King, and Captain Boomerang. Not pictured: Rick Flag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suicide Squad –  A team in the comics of incarcerated villains who perform dangerous missions with low chances of survival for the U.S. Government in exchange for reduced prison sentences.  Amanda Waller is their most notable and consistent boss, and the current lineup in the comics includes  Deadshot, El Diablo, King Shark, Harley Quinn, Iceberg and Captain Boomerang.  This sounds like a potential Expendables team-up action flick or perhaps even a Now You See Me caper story, both of which cost between $75-80 million to make.  Interestingly, Arrow is rumored to be working toward its own version of the Suicide Squad in its current season, having already introduced Amanda Waller and mercenary villain types sure to pop up again like Bronze Tiger.

Booster Gold and Skeets, as depicted in Justic...
Booster Gold and Skeets, as depicted in Justice League Unlimited. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Booster Gold – A limelight-seeking B-squad hero with an incredibly complicated time travel component best summarized as “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.”  He’s a nobody from 2462 who travels back in time in search of fame and glory as a super hero, his advantages as a man from so far in the future being the key to his success in fighting crime in the past.  The character showed up in latter-era Smallville, but is (or at least should be) best known for his showcase in the brillaint episode “The Greatest Story Never Told” in the animated series Justice League Unlimited.  As a point of comparison, director Rian Johnson was able to make an ultra-violent time travel tale for $30 million last year with Looper.

Deathstroke
Deathstroke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deathstroke – A villainous anti-hero mercenary assassin currently being played in his pre-Deathstroke state by Manu Bennett on Arrow.  This could translate to a Punisher-style movie, with both The Punisher and Punisher: War Zone being made for around $30 million.

Team 7 (comics)
Team 7 (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Team 7 – A collection of military specialists who serve as a special task force, the members are each granted superhuman abilities due to a chemical injected into them by their leader (who claims the chemical exposure was due to an enemy attack).  There have been multiple iterations of the group in the comics, but in the new 52 continuity they’ve added in some well-known figures like Black Canary, Deathstroke, Amanda Waller, and Steve Trevor (aka Wonder Woman’s boyfriend).  The closet film that comes to mind is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, at least the section involving Wolverine working on a squad with other superpowered soldiers.  That film cost $150 million to make.

It’s also possible that the rumored Sandman movie to potentially star Joseph Gordon-Levitt could also fall among DC’s apparent planned lower budget offerings [via ScreenCrush].

This all sounds ever so fiscally responsible on DC’s part, but this ultimately falls into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category of news.  There is much said and written about DC’s movie plans, but outside of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel we’re mostly talking about films which never escape development hell (or turn out to be Green Lantern).  Historically, WB’s DC films take a long time to happen if they happen at all, such as the decade long plus development cycles for what became Tim Burton’s Batman and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns and near decade of development prior to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.  In general, they tend to take their time, and what is being discussed now would be them operating at an unprecedented level of efficiency.  Plus, it still seems like they lack a guiding master plan, as indicated by developing an unrelated Suicide Squad movie at the same time Arrow is building toward doing their version of that very group.  Also, shouldn’t they really be focusing more on getting higher profile properties like Wonder Woman off the ground?

What do you think?  Any of these sound like they could be good movies?  Let us know in the comments section.

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