We just talked about the fact that Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie has reportedly been offered the director’s chair on Xerxes, the sequel to 300. That comes as a bit of a shock, because that had previously been thought to be a Zack Snyder sequel, full stop. He did 300, then 300 more or less defined him, and he has been developing Xerxes with original graphic novel author Frank Miller. As of last summer the script was under way.

Along with the report that Xerxes might go to another director there were some allegations about script problems on Superman, which Zack Snyder is currently set to direct, and that his just-completed Sucker Punch hasn’t tested well, leading to studio dissatisfaction and the Xerxes handoff. So what’s going on here?

I’m cautious about Vulture‘s report when it comes to things that don’t directly have to do with Xerxes going to Guy Ritchie. Let’s work through this one one step at a time.

In October, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. gave directorial duties of the new Superman to Mr. Snyder. Yes, Watchmen wasn’t a massive success and the animated owl movie Legend of the Guardians, which he also directed, seemed to fly away silently into the September air. (At $139m global against a $55m budget the film isn’t close to profitable, when you factor in the exhibitor cut and P&A.) At the same time he was well into post-production on Sucker Punch. And the studio still gave him Superman. So there’s something positive there — the relationship between director and studio seemed pretty solid as of fall.

Vulture suggests, based on reports from ‘insiders,’ that Superman needs a lot of script work (a third act, really) and will take every bit of effort to get it into production so that WB doesn’t face any rights issues as the deadline for rights reverting to the Siegel and Shuster estates looms in 2013. (That’s when the Siegel and Shuster estates retake partial control of story elements from Action Comics #1, and thereby the core elements of Superman.) That is easy to believe, in part because there is a burden on WB not just to make a Superman film, but to get it right. It’s a well-known origin story, and while the hero is known the world over, he’s not exactly got the most recognizable pack of villains to choose from.

David Goyer is writing the script and, frankly, it’s an unenviable task. So, third-act problems there? We can buy that. Getting Superman right has to be the priority, so if giving up Xerxes to make Superman is the deal, it’s pretty easy to see why he’d choose one over the other. Even if there aren’t problems with Superman or Sucker Punch, just getting Superman made is going to be more than a full-time job.

The site also says that Sucker Punch has been testing poorly and WB really isn’t happy with it. Based on the trailer alone I can swallow the idea that Sucker Punch isn’t good, or at least isn’t testing well. The movie looks like a mess to me. And yet I’ve been told by people who’ve seen a lot more of it that there are good things in there. Right now we don’t know the truth about the tests, and I wouldn’t take the anonymous report as gospel yet. I’d focus on the fact that Superman is going to be an all-encompassing task, and we’ll evaluate Sucker Punch for what it is when the film is actually released at the end of March.

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