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Warner Bros: Finally Some Justice

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Warner Bros President Jeff Robinov has just now realised that maybe, just maybe, actually knowing something about the IP that his company owns could help avoid killing off the potential gold-mines that are the DC Comics characters.

It really isn’t hard to tell that Warner Bros has been pretty clueless when it comes to how to handle adaptations of DC’s properties. Their saving grace has of course been Christopher Nolan and the success of BATMAN BEGINS and its record smashing sequel, THE DARK KNIGHT. Not surprisingly, the sudden rush of money into WB has made them realise that, if handled correctly, all these silly comic-book things may make them a crapload of money. More importantly they’re seeing that, despite having had a nice windfall with The Dark Knight, they have no substantial future plans.

Personal opinions regarding the film aside, SUPERMAN RETURNS failed to make back its $270mil budget domestically. While it did eventually return a worldwide gross of $391mil, the notion of supporting another one of these comic book movies must have had WB counting their pennies. Which could explain why the sequel to Batman Begins (which had a budget of only $150mil and made $372mil worldwide), The Dark Knight, was only given a budget of $185mil.

Common belief is that the WB’s JUSTICE LEAGUE project fell apart because it ran slap-bang into the recent writer’s strike. But lets face it, the idea of creating a Justice League movie, which didn’t feature already established actors reprising their key roles (Brandon Routh and Christian Bale particularly) was, to use technical terminology, piss-poor at best. And yet now, the way the WB approaches a Justice League movie has suddenly changed:

“We’re not off the notion of a Justice League,” Robinov says. “There’s a massive interest and knowledge in the comicbook industry and it takes time to sort of catch up and understand the characters and the history, where they’ve intersected with each other and what their worlds are. That’s part of the education that we’re going through.”

Suddenly they’re educating themselves! Awesome! So… what’s happened? I mean, the Justice League movie was suppose to have begun shooting before the writer’s strike. But somehow, something has happened. Between the revelation that the Justice League script was “completely f@#ked” (to quote a prominent Australian director) and now, several things have happened that have forced Warner Bros to reassess the way they’re treating the DC well:

Around the time that the Justice League movie started to run off the rails it’s probably a pretty fair guess to say that WB were starting to get the sense that Christopher Nolan had put together something quite special with The Dark Knight. And given that WB were potentially about to step on the toes of Batman (by recasting the character for the JLA movie), it would also be a fair guess to say that this alone gave them pause for thought in regard to pressing forward with a flawed Justice League movie.

But that wasn’t the only thing to upset the apple-cart… Along came Marvel Studios!

With the release of IRON MAN, a movie featuring a relatively unknown character, and which cost $10mil less than Batman Begins to make (and yet made $200mil more), the WB must have realised that Marvel were doing something right. Marvel followed Iron Man with the re-boot of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, which hasn’t had anywhere near the financial return of Iron Man or Batman Begins, but was a necessary evil as far as Marvel’s plans for the future of the universe that they planned to bring to the big screen. Marvel took a hit with the Hulk (if you can call ONLY making $100mil, taking a hit), which was as direct result of making a movie to put that particular character back on track… The same kind of hit that WB may need to take many times over if it burns a whole stable of characters with one poorly thought out Justice League film.

Then, of course, The Dark Knight opened and smashed all expectations. In terms of ‘getting it right’ The Dark Knight is exactly that.

Finally Warner Bros are paying attention. Hopefully Marvel’s successes and failures have resonated with the ‘higher-ups’ at the WB, because, lets face it, Marvel ARE comic-book guys… where as the WB just own some comic-book guys. What’s more, the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight has shown that comic-book IP has the potential to make them buckets of cash. But whatever their motivations, it’s great to see that Warner Bros are taking a serious look at what exactly it is that they own. In the end, the WB ‘getting it right’ is not only good for them, but great for us! [source]

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