Your Motion Picture and Television Connection
Although the highly anticipated Superman sagaMan of Steel doesn't open until June 14, our hero's mightiest foe already has made himself known.
That would be Robert Downey Jr., who plays the title role in Iron Man 3, which opened May 3 and has racked up $386 million in domestic receipts and topped $1.1 billion worldwide. The film has also continued the impressive momentum of the Marvel Studios movies — Iron Man 3 stands at No. 5 in all-time global box office, two spots behind last year'sThe Avengers.
So what's that mean for Henry Cavill as he dons the Superman cape for the first time?
Iron Man's numbers put pressure on both Warner Bros. and DC's flagship superhero to come up with bigger and better projects — possibly a superhero team-up film to answer The Avengers.
"Iron Man 3 being so big certainly makes it harder for Man of Steel to have a chance at being the movie of the summer, which Warner Bros. was hoping it might be," says Devin Faraci of the pop-culture website Badass Digest.
Aside from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, Warner Bros.' movies based on DC Comics characters recently haven't enjoyed the same cache as their rival Marvel counterparts. Green Lanternfailed to launch two years ago, and even the last Superman movie, 2006'sSuperman Returns, received a tepid response with a $52 million opening weekend.
Meanwhile, Marvel has a slate of "Phase 2" films — including Captain America, Thorand Avengers sequels, plus the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy — opening between now and 2015. And the studio already is planning "Phase 3" with Ant-Man and others.
"The success of Iron Man 3 and the Marvel movie universe leaves Warner Bros. years behind the curve," says Peter Sciretta of Slashfilm.com.
It's not all Kryptonite for Superman and his cohorts, though. If anything has a chance of unseating Iron Man 3 as the movie of the summer, it's Man of Steel, says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations.
While it will have more competition than Iron Man 3 did, Bock expects Man of Steel to open with at least a $100 million weekend. He says audiences could expect to see five to 10 DC movies in the next decade if it reaches $300 million during its run and racks up a minimum of $750 million globally.
"That's a number that would say there's a lot of life in this character and in DC Comics in general," Bock adds. "This is the number that most of the Marvel films are going to easily hit. If you want to play in the leagues with those guys, you've got to equal those grosses."
In Man of Steel's favor, ironically, is the fact that Iron Man 3 was a good film, says Mike Sampson of ScreenCrush.com. "A lot of people saw it but more importantly, they left satisfied. They left feeling happy about superhero movies and excited about the future."
Marvel took a "second-tier" hero like Iron Man and turned him into billion-dollar franchise, and in theory Warner Bros. has a much easier road, Sampson adds.
"Batman and Superman are two of the biggest characters — not just superheroes — in the entire world. The interest in seeing those two characters share the screen would be off the charts."
Plus, DC has proven creative talent behind the scenes, says Sciretta — Nolan is a producer on Man of Steel, Zack Snyder (300) is directing and David Goyer wrote the screenplay, as he did for all three recent Batman films.
Fanboys would love to see a rumored Batman/Superman movie in the future, but they'd really salivate over a Justice League film. It's been in various stages of development over the years — director George Miller had it all the way to pre-production, with D.J. Cotrona as his Man of Steel. But the plug was pulled in 2007 due to a double whammy of writers' strike issues and tax-incentive problems in Australia, where it was to be filmed, according to Cotrona.
Getting a supergroup of DC Comics characters on the big screen would give Warner Bros. something to compete with The Avengers and conceivably launch other iconic characters such as Wonder Woman and the Flash.
However, neither of those scenarios may be options if Supes fails to fly. And a potential Justice League movie presents its own set of problems, too, especially creatively.
"Superman operates in a very different world than Batman, who operates in a very different world from Green Lantern," Sampson says. "Getting them all together in one cohesive movie will take some considerable work."
Having stand-alone solo movies like Marvel did to introduce characters is essential, but the thought of Man of Steel not reaching expectations and Justice League going forward anyway "sounds disastrous," Sciretta says. "You can have one or two characters that the mainstream audience doesn't know, but you can't introduce the whole team in a movie."
But Faraci doesn't feel as though a Justice League film is a done deal at all. "If Man of Steel bombs," he says, "it will not happen."
Bock figures that Man of Steel needs to be in the top three films of the summer to even consider a Justice League film. However, being able to confidently plant it as a tentpole film would do wonders in leveling the competition with Marvel and maintaining audience interest.
"As long as they announce films and say, 'Yes, Justice League is coming out in 2016 and a Wonder Woman movie in 2017,' and get them on the release schedule, that will keep fans excited," Bock says. "But they have to start making some moves.
"I'm not going to say this is do-or-die, but it's as close as it gets," he adds. "WithGreen Lantern flaming out and not another Batman film in the near future, all hope for DC Comics now rests on Superman's shoulders."