/Film reader Alex Litel just sent me a link to a password protected page from the official Legendary Pictures website that lists “Superman Unleashed” as one of their upcoming films in development. The temporary plot synopsis included follows:
“Ramping up the action of its esteemed predecessor, the sequel to ‘Superman Returns’ promises to raise the stakes and take the audience to heights of action that no other superhero movie can achieve.”
So there you have it… Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros and DC are still working on a Superman Returns sequel, and not a complete reboot. The film will not be titled The Man of Steel, but instead Superman Unleashed.
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Okay so Superman Returns didn’t make Dark Knight money and Clark is rightfully pissed off. But that wasn’t enough cause for Supes to tamper with The Dark Knight’s Bat Symbol…
I’m not sure the origin of this picture. We found it on Superpunch, who found it on Say it Backwards, who found it on a random message board. Someone points out a visable mistake: that the superman symbol would project backwards into the clouds. Or could it be Bizarro who was the one who was behind the shenanigans?
Variety’s Anne Thompson posted another update on the status of the next Superman film. Basically, no one knows. Warner Bros wants to make another movie, but weren’t happy with the last film. Bryan Singer is still technically attached, and has promised to go “Wrath of Khan” with the sequel, but I don’t think Warner wants a sequel. And a unnamed executive admitted that “it might be better to start from scratch.” It seems to me that we’re looking at the equivalent of a game of chicken, with neither the studio or Singer willing to move out of the way. The interesting sentence in Thompson’s update is this one: “Today I was told that it is a priority at the studio to find the right direction and if Bryan Singer is willing to do that, fine, but if he gets in the way, he may not stay on the project.”
Some have told me that Singer’s deal is that if he wasn’t brought back for the sequel, he would be paid for the work he would have done. I’m not sure if that is the case or not, and even if so, I’m not sure why Warner Bros is hesitating. Comic Book movies are hot right now, and they need to strike before the inevitable downward turn hits. I was one of the few who liked Singer’s Superman Returns despite the flaws. However, It seems clear to me that people don’t want a sequel to Superman Returns, but they do want a Superman movie. It seems to me like the best thing to do is to hire a new director, and let Singer save face by bringing him on board as a producer. The new director can’t be George Miller, but someone young who will have a new take on the classic superhero. Hire Jonathan Nolan to write a script. Try to recapture the magic of The Dark Knight. After all, what would Superman look like in the Nolanverse?
Let’s hope Mark Millar sticks around the movie business for many years, and not only because the guy gives great quotes. With the adaptation of his Wanted comics raking in considerable bank and an adaptation of Kick-Ass on the way from director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), Millar is not allowing a Superman Returns revamp to vanish from his broadening Hollywood map. In fact, in this latest candid interview with the Daily Record, Millar sounds as if he’s setting a dunkirk into action that would see Bryan Singer relieved of his directorial duties…
“Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to reinvent Superman for the 21st century,” said Millar. “I’ve been planning this my entire life. I’ve got my director and producer set up, and it’ll be 2011. This is how far ahead you have to think. The Superman brand is toxic after that last movie lost [a good chunk of change], but in 2011 we’re hoping to restart it. Sadly I can’t say who the director is, but we may make it official by Christmas.”
Ding Ding. Just back in March, Singer confirmed he was meeting with writers with the intention to direct a more action-oriented and less nostalgic sequel. In April, Legendary Pictures chairman, Thomas Tull, cryptically pitched the sequel, tentatively entitled, Superman: The Man of Steel, as “Superman as more of an angry god.”
We speculated then that Tull wasn’t referring to an adaptation of Millar’s Superman: Red Son, his celebrated 2003 comic book that reimagined Supes originally landing to Earth in the Soviet Union rather than in America. “Superman meets Stalin Summer 2011,” yeah, that would pack in the U.S. Crocs set. But Millar seems to have a “detox” vision all worked out. Also, note that while his latest announcement seems incredibly assured, he added…
“But fingers crossed [a Superman revamp] could work out, that would be my lifetime’s dream.”
Did the guy speak too soon about announcing a director then? Before he could convert Wanted‘s success into industry muscle, Millar was making similar comments in 2007, when he announced his Superman “remake” pitch to Warner Bros…
“This has to be Superman for the 21st Century, keeping everything we adore, but starting from scratch and making the kids love it as much as the 30-somethings. I would honestly write this thing for free.”
Personally, I hope Millar gets his wish from the Zoltar machine. Take for instance, the The Incredible Hulk, which has come to be viewed as a success in the eyes of most geeks, but didn’t rack up enough grosses or pop culture clout to overshadow Ang Lee’s prior film. In the end, the new Hulk was not an obvious-enough departure. They didn’t exploit the fact, directly or indirectly, that most people felt burned by the earlier version. There was never an “oh shit!” defining moment in the many trailers, so Web attention once again diverted to the Hulk’s tweaked CGI. A new Superman is even trickier.
Bryan Singer was allowed to make his dreamy passion project using one of the most commercial characters ever. That overpriced mush just didn’t fly. Let’s move on. Singer and another $250 millon isn’t going to solve the problem. That’s like Ang Lee remaking Hulk at the demands of fans. To be frank, Millar knows a lot about “oh shit!” moments and what gets people chattering in this day and age, and he clearly loves the character’s mythology as much as Singer. Why not have him in the driver’s seat for the entire process? More on this as it develops—somebody from WB has to refute/confirm Millar’s latest info, right? Man, what do you think Brandon Routh is thinking about all of this back and forth? It’s neverending.
Oh and you gotta love Millar’s fight for his right to live in Scotland and not relocate to Los Angeles….
“If I lived in LA I’d just write like everyone else. My pals over there are all on their second wives and do drugs. It’s a world I don’t want my kid to grow up in. I’ve been married since I was 23. I have a really normal set up.”
UPLATE UPDATE: Monster post! Millar posted an update regarding his comments above on his site’s message boards (a thanks to Obsessed with Film)…
“PS: That Superman news is interesting, isn’t it? In the interests of clarity (because I’m sure this will be picked up somewhere) a very well known American action director heard about my love of Superman, approached my and asked me to team up with he and his producer to make a pitch for this. We’ve been talking for several weeks now and, if this is going to happen, we’ll know by Christmas. He has huge pull at WB so fingers crossed. But this is nothing more than a huge US name pulling me into his fold and making me part of a package.”
Hmmm, a big name American action director with conecs at Warner Bros. George Miller is a no. I think we can mark through Michael Bay, Gore Verbinski, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and Brett Ratner. Tony Scott’s British.
Discuss: Any guesses as to what director Millar is referring to? Should Millar get a shot at a Superman Returns “detox” or would you rather see Singer fired up for a sequel? Who’s your ideal choice, if not Singer? Purely hypothetical: would you like to see Timur Bekmambetov’s take on the iconic ‘S’ after Wanted? We’re not endorsing, but it would be interesting.
Some major developments for the sequel to Superman Returns, tentatively titled Superman: The Man of Steel, hit the web today in quick succession. First, IESB reports that they’ve received “100%” confirmation that Bryan Singer will return to direct the flick and they’ve also heard that writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek) are in major talks to replace Returns scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris.
And then, later today Empire actually chatted with Singer, who not only confirmed his “intent” to direct, but once again defended Returns‘ poor critical, fanboy and box office reception, while playing up action in the sequel…
“That movie made $400 million!” Singer says to Empire. “I don’t know what constitutes under-performing these days…Look, I can understand, I suppose, what some people mean. Perhaps some people went in with the expectation of it being like an X-Men film, and Superman is a tougher character than that. Especially bringing him back. It really goes back to the fact that you can only please some of the people some of the time. But, yes, I’m just getting back with writers after the strike. We’re just in the development phase. I’m starting to develop a sequel…with the intention of directing it.”
He goes on to jokingly jab at female fans who went ga-ga over Superman Returns, while mentioning the sequel’s upped stakes…
“The first one was a romantic film and a nostalgic film,” he says. “I’ll be the first person to own up to that without making any apologies for it. I knew it was going to be that from the outset. And now that the characters are established, there’s really an opportunity to up the threat levels…Clearly there’ll be a body count [laughs]. From frame one, it will be unrelenting terror! All those teenage girls who found the movie and mooned over James Marsden or Brandon? Well, I’m going to wake them up!”
I’m moderately surprised that Warner Bros. is going ahead with a sequel rather than scrapping it and revamping the character once again a la The Incredible Hulk or Punisher: War Zone. Not to sound like a smirk jerk, but the first film, which cost $200 million (I’ll still add an ! to that), totally blew it in my opinion and was basically one of the largest pet-projects ever. A Superman movie should reign supreme over all comic book films in terms of epic-ness, scope, special effects and box office, but even if Man of Steel boasts more action, it’ll still be difficult to get stoked after the first faux-weepy, overly nostalgic bummer.
Update (2 a.m. EST): CHUD reports that writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are definitely not attached to pen the Man of Steel screenplay.
Discuss: Can Singer knock a sequel out of the park? Moreover was the only complaint about the first film merely action-related?
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Earlier this week when it was announced that Warner Bros would be taking pitches for the Superman Returns sequel, comic book writer Mark Millar self nominated himself to be considered for the job. Millar, who had always wanted to do a Superman comic book, had years of research, and was excited at the prospect of revamping Superman. One big problem: They won’t let him. Here is Mark to explain why:
“…for about fifteen minutes things were looking very sweet. I had a massive three-picture epic in mind, cribbed from notes I’ve been putting together for the last five years for a Superman comic-book revamp and the people I spoke to absolutely loved it. Everyone said this was very, very exciting, but…
Well, sadly, I’m a Marvel guy and we were surprised to find out that WB couldn’t hire me for a DC property. They were incredibly nice and superbly apologetic about it, but when they discussed the matter seriously DC explained just how associated I am with Marvel Comics at the moment and it’s against company policy to hire the competition. It’s absolutely nothing personal. I spoke to some friends at DC and they explained this has happened with a couple of big Marvel writers in the last couple of years and I absolutely respect that. It’s a business after all and to have a guy writing Fantastic Four, 1985, Kick-Ass and another super-big project for Steve McNiven this year which would be mentioned in every article about a Superman movie is not only an insult to their own writers, but makes bad business sense. I have nothing but respect for the DC high-ups and, though obviously disappointed, can absolutely appreciate their position. They’re the custodians of these properties and they obviously know what they’re doing.
So no Millar-penned Superman movie at this stage, I’m afraid. That situation may change, of course. As a Warner chum said to me last night, the last Superman movie had a number of starts and stops and who knows what will happen over the next couple of years, especially after my Marvel contract expires. In the meantime, I’m keeping my 200 pages of notes and sketches on a slow boil, just in case. As for the next movie, I wish whoever does land this gig nothing but the best of luck. I wanted to bring my vision to the screen out of nothing but pure love and hope to be as thrilled as everyone else. They’re talking to a couple of guys with a better screen-writing track record and, like the rest of you, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this sequel to Bryan’s first picture all works out great.”
I can imagine a few scenarios where Millar could be reconsidered for the job, but they are probably unlikely. What if Bryan Singer doesn’t walk from this project like most people expect him to? What if instead he says he wants to give Millar a try? It’s a big IF, especially considering the fact that Millar is excited to do a complete reboot of the franchise, and Singer is probably still attached to his first film.
Last night we reported that Superman Returns scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris are not coming back for the planned sequel, and that Warner Bros is now taking pitches for The Man of Steel. It will be interesting to see what writers come to Warner with story ideas. The first notable is Scottish-born comic book writer Mark Millar, who is best known for his work on Ultimate X-Men, Wanted, Marvel Knights Spider-Man, The Ultimates, and Civil War.
“My guys at CAA get into the office in about seven hours and my call will be waiting for them to talk about this. I want to revamp Superman like Hillary wants thin ankles. Revamping this franchise is what I as given fingers for and so, invited or not, I’m putting my plan together now. I’ve been asked to work on half a dozen screenplays lately, but this is the only one I have ever truly wanted. I have literally hundreds of pages of notes and sketches just waiting for this opportunity. This would be my dream gig and, as a fan, I know exactly what this project needs to work. This has to be Superman for the 21st Century, keeping everything we adore, but starting from scratch and making the kids love it as much as the 30-somethings. I would honestly write this thing for free. Anyway, my treatment is being polished as we type. Wish me luck. I want to do that Superman movie we all want to see.”
The revamp comment is reference to the Hollywood rumors that the studio wants to make a sequel which totally negates Superman Returns, much like Universal is doing with The Incredible Hulk. Warner Bros has denied this publicly, however, many believe that it is only a matter of time before director Bryan Singer leaves the project, which might allow the studio to begin from scratch.
Millar has been very public about wanting to write a Superman comic for DC for a long time now, however it is believed that his continued working relationship with Marvel and controversial comments about DC may have stalled this possibility from happening.
According to Wikipedia, Mark Millar is one of the most popular writers in modern comics, though he remains a controversial figure. His fans praise him for clever, provocative and edgy plots, which often have a social undercurrent, while his detractors point to an overuse of shock tactics and a tendency towards polemicism. He has been praised for his ability to inject new life into pre-existing characters, such as The Avengers, although he has also been criticized for his habit of always cherry-picking high-profile, big money projects.
I’m a casual comic book fan, and have not read much of Millar’s work. However, I found Civil War to be a huge disappointment, but that might be attributed to writing a comic by committee. His 2003-2004 comic book mini-series Wanted is being adapted to the big screen with James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. The movie is set to hit theaters on March 28, 2008.
Hat Tip to Mel V
Last week Bryan Singer signed on with United Artists to direct a World War II Dramatic Thriller, prompting many people to speculate that the Superman Returns sequel would be delayed. Variety reported it, we reported it. Well apparently that isn’t true.
“Filming will probably begin March, 2008, as was always planned from the beginning. The WWII film Bryan plans to shoot over the summer will have NO EFFECT whatsoever on the Superman sequel schedule,” explains Robert Meyer Burnett, who was behind all the behind-the-scenes material for Superman Returns (but is probably better known as the director of the geek classic, Free Enterprise).
So there you have it, direct from a guy who is already shooting the preproduction stages. Although its still hard to believe that Bryan’s new project will be shot and edited by March. And even if it is, doesn’t Bryan need time to focus on the preproduction planning?
Our friends at Movie Marketing Madness have pointed us to what we believe to be the coolest movie advertisement EVER. A photo of the cool elevator advertisement can be seen above. Click on the picture to see a bigger version (thanks to advertising for peanuts).