Late this week Interweb chatter in the geekverse spiked twice. First over the release of the San Diego Comic Con schedule for later this month. It revealed that, due to conference-hall scheduling, James Cameron-worshiping fanboys drooling for a peek at some Avatar footage might have to push and shove in line with rabid Twihards squealing for a New Moon presentation and a possible Bobby Pattinson appearance. Oh, the indignation! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the deadly spread of cooties!
The second web-shaking news was of more interest to the general movie-going public. There had been a month of speculation that Hangover-hot Bradley Cooper was a likely shoo-in to play Hal Jordan in the film adaptation of DC Comic’s Green Lantern. (To be directed by Martin Campbell of the Zorro films, Goldeneye, and Casino Royale.) But then came news this past week that in fact three actors were in contention to wear the Lantern’s Power Ring (not to be confused with Sauron’s Ring of Power—totally different geek rings): Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, and Justin Timberlake.
And on Friday Warner Brothers announced that instead of the presumed Cooper it would be Reynolds playing the hot-shot test pilot-turned-intergalactic cop in the live-action superhero flick. This comes after the word in May that Marvel Films would develop a Deadpool spin-off film from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with Reynolds reprising his role as the wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking “merc with a mouth.” Having played Marvel vampire hunter Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, and once on tap to play DC’s Flash (that project is currently stalled out), Reynolds could now become the first actor ever to play heroes for both Marvel and their long-time rival DC. (UPDATED CORRECTION: As reader Jeremy F. points out, this is not true! Halle Berry played Storm for Marvel in the X-Men films and starred as Catwoman in the kinda horrific DC adaptation.)
So, fresh off the success of The Proposal, Reynolds is now being expected to carry two budding superhero franchises? I’ve long been on record as an unabashed Reynolds fan, so I have no problem with him doing either or both masked franchises. And despite lumping them together as “superhero movies,” these are very different characters and stories. Wade Wilson/Deadpool is a sarcastic, manic, pop-culture spouting jester with big guns and swords, whose story will no doubt revolve around down-and-dirty semi-criminal work.
Hal Jordan/Green Lantern is one of the classic DC characters—somewhat temperamental and headstrong (it's that nature that makes him such a galactically renown wielder of the ring, which amplifies willpower), but overall a noble heroic companion to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. (Except for that one time when he went insane and tried to destroy the Earth and then died. But he got better.) And hopefully the Lantern film will primarily be an outer-space action tale.
My only hope is that the no-doubt grueling, time-consuming task of appearing in simultaneous big-budget, big-effects, action movies doesn’t severely limit Reynolds’ ability to keep doing the occasionally comedies or rom-coms where he's so good. After all, look what happened to Christian Bale: he becomes both Batman and John Connor and suddenly you just never see him in lighthearted, charming romantic comedy roles anymore… like American Psycho or The Machinist.
And follow over the jump for the confused current state of the Superman film franchise.
There was also speculation that Superman might make a cameo appearance in The Green Lantern film, as DC starts to take pages from Marvel’s new film handbook: letting its heroes pop up in each others' films, possibly to set up an eventual Justice League of America super-group film (with Supes, Bats, GL, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, plus Aquaman and Martian Manhunter?), a la Marvel’s Avengers movie plan.
Amidst those rumors came a ruling from a U.S. District Court judge limiting the profits that Warner Brothers Studio and DC Comics have to share from recent Superman films with the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. This is a big win for the studio and publisher and a big loss for the Siegel and Shuster estates.
I won’t get into all the legal details and history, but as you probably know, DC screwed Siegel and Shuster out of their fair share of Superman profits for decades. (Siegel died in 1996, Shuster in 1992.) Their families are now fighting for those profits, both from the sale of comic-book material and any TV or films based on Superman.
Last year the same Judge, Stephen G. Larson, awarded the families half the Superman copyright. But the plaintiffs were accusing Warners and DC (fellow subsidiaries of Time-Warner)of recently making “sweetheart deals” for Smallville and Superman Returns that hid the real profits from those projects. (Obviously, profits from Superman film and TV projects greatly outweigh the cash brought in by sales of comic books and other printed materials.) The judge also set a trial date for December to determine how the rest of the profits will be allocated to the heirs.
While this isn’t the best news for the Siegel and Shuster families, it may be good news for fans of live-action Superman films, as the decision frees Warners up to go ahead and make a follow up to Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns.
Thing is, it may not be Bryan Singers’ much-anticipated sequel. Singer had said he had hoped his second Superman flick would be comparable to Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, ditching the stifling, kinda ponderously reverent tone of Superman Returns for more bang-up, heart-pounding action and adventure.
But Singer’s one-time Superman star, Brandon Routh, recently told Brazilian pop-culture site Omelete.com that his Superman contract has expired and while he wants to put the cape and tights back on, everything is up in the air, so to speak. This news comes a year after Warners said they may reboot Superman, a la Nolan’s Batman or what Marvel did last summer with The Incredible Hulk. Again, the idea appears to be to mimic the Marvel Avengers multi-franchise plan. Whether director Singer would be involved with such a do-over remains unclear.
I’m mixed on the idea of a Singer-less Superman. It took so long to finally get Superman Returns out of development and onto the screen—I think everyone involved, fans included, would hate to go through all that again. (With what? A fresh round of Nicolas Cage, Brett Ratner, and McG rumors?) I didn’t hate Superman Returns, though I do feel that while Singer’s meticulous devotion to being faithful and respectful to Richard Donner's Superman created some lovely moments, it also dragged things down a bit. But I like to think Singer could have really gotten a hold of a rollicking, fun sequel and done something amazingly entertaining.
I also didn’t mind Routh, but can’t say I’d care if he stayed or went. And before we go nuts trying to recast the Big Blue Boy Scout, I think the studio will still be looking for an unknown to wear the tights. Bottom line, unknowns are cheap and easy to lock into multi-film contracts. On the other hand, the trend lately has been to bring known and very talented young(ish) actors in for these roles, such as Bale, Downey Jr., and Norton. So maybe Warners will look for a more familiar, more talented face. Uh, how about Bradley Cooper? Justin Timberlake?
So, Reynolds as Green Lantern? And Reynolds as Deadpool? And a new Superman without Routh? Maybe without Singer? How’s everyone feel about all this? And who do we want as Superman?