In the original story, we noted that the HitFix theory surrounding JUSTICE LEAGUE getting delayed- and possibly ditching Zack Snyder as director- was wrong. We now have confirmation from Entertainment Weekly that production is set to commence on April 11 in England. So this should put to bed any notion that the film was being put on hold, which had some fans concerned that it could end up like George Miller's lost JUSTICE LEAGUE- which went into development hell and then, eventually, was scrapped altogether.
It's happening. "The idea that we could begin to boot up a Justice League concept was a cool thing," Snyder told EW. "It was a little bit of an ‘about time’ moment, and I don’t blame [the studio] for feeling that way, because it’s a long time coming,” he added. “But I do feel like it’s a little bit of a creative hurdle. It seems like an easy thing to do at first glance, the idea that, ‘Oh, we just get the rest of the superheroes in there.’ But you have to [establish] a world where they can exist."
So, to recap, while McWeeny's report about the reception that BATMAN V SUPERMAN is receiving at test screenings has been substantiated to some degree, it's his theory about what the response could lead to that's now off the table.
“My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.”
- Mark Twain
For the past few days, there've been lots of murmurs going around regarding the fact that Warner Bros and DC are starting to get really worried about their upcoming slate of films. Why is that? According to Drew McWeeny from HitFix, it's all related to the response the film has been receiving in test screenings.
Here are the quotes that set everything ablaze. Join me after for a look at what I've heard, where it confirms McWeeny's thoughts, and how it contradicts them, too.
"Warner is a little bit worried. This movie is starting to scare them. It's scaring them because they're showing it to people now, people are actually laying eyes on the film now, and the response has not been what I think they wanted. If I were going to lay a bat on how it may happen, Suicide Squad, they'll go all-in on. They'll push all their chips in on that and I think Suicide Squad's going to be a hit for them. I think Wonder Woman will be finished the way they're working on it right now and they'll release it. I would be surprised if Justice League starts shooting when they say it's going to, and I would be equally surprised if Zack Snyder directed it.
"My guess is what's going to happen is based on what I'm hearing... I've talked to enough people who have seen the film now that I'm starting to sweat a little, is Justice League is going to get moved back and that Ben Affleck Batman movie, that's what's going to end up in that spot. My guess is they're going to throw whatever money it takes at Ben Affleck to make that Batman film happen sooner rather than later. They're going to need to rebuild again, they're going to need to win people over, they're going to need to lay some different groundwork. I don't think this is going to be the springboard into the Justice League that they wanted it to be."
This got lots of people talking, but I didn't want to talk about it until I had some more insight on the situation. For starters, from what I've heard I stand alongside Bill Ramey of Batman-On-Film, in that the term "worried" is a mischaracterization. They're not worried, per sé. What they are is nervous, and that's to be expected. After all, there is a lot riding on BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Not only is the fate of an entire slate of DC films hanging in the balance of whether or not this movie hits, but the very definition of "hit" is now coming into question.
The budget for the film, with promotion included, has reportedly ballooned to north of $400 million. So for the movie to be considered a monster success- which the studio needs it to be- and for it to open the floodgates for the rest of the proposed slate, it would need to make north of a billion. The problem is, according to a well-connected source who spoke with us on a condition of anonymity, the film could be as polarizing as MAN OF STEEL. To be clear, he loved MOS. And he's seen BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and he really liked it, too. But he also recalls how that first film came out and split audiences and critics alike. It wasn't the kind of universal crowd-pleaser that DC wanted then, and that trend may very well continue with BvS.
Again, this isn't to say that the film is bad. Not at all. But it's not for everyone, and that's making the suits nervous, as there's a lot riding on this film and they'd rather it have turned out more accessible. And the comparison to MOS is a troublesome one, because that film made $668 million worldwide- well short of what they hope BvS will bank for them.
This whole moving of the goal posts, in terms of what it takes for the film to be considered a hit, reminds me of the position Sony was in when THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 was meant to be the launchpad for an entire slate of movies set within the Spidey universe. The film came out, made north of $700 million, split critics and audiences, and we all know how that ended: With Sony scrapping all of their plans and making a deal to reboot Spider-Man with Marvel Studios.
So when you've got a film that has this many expectations tied to it, the word "success" is very different than what conventional knowledge would imply.
In an effort to guarantee a better outcome, DC made some bold decisions for this film. They brought in Ben Affleck, who's career resurgence has been a popular storyline in the industry. They brought in an Academy Award winning writer in Chris Terrio. And they brought in BATMAN!
Remember, the idea to include Batman wasn't pre-planned. In fact, the whole Batman Vs Superman angle wasn't cooked up until well after MAN OF STEEL had come out, and it's been said that they didn't decide to include Batman in the film until three days before they announced it at Comic Con. So bringing in The Dark Knight was an impulsive move, and one that was likely aided by the fact that DC knows that audiences love them some Batman.
Yet here we stand, with a film that DC has pulled out all the stops for, and the response so far is that it could be another MAN OF STEEL- that'll excite many, anger many, and not exactly set the world on fire with positive buzz.
It's sounding like the studio wanted THE FORCE AWAKENS, a safe, crowd-pleasing, fun, nostalgic joy ride that appealed to everyone under the sun. Instead, they may have gotten REVENGE OF THE SITH, a film that has some great moments, some iconic images, and be satisfying mainly for longtime, hardcore fans. Hey, at least it's not PHANTOM MENACE.
The one recurring theme coming out of these test screenings, dating back to December, is that Ben Affleck's Batman is the highlight of the film.
But while McWeeny claims this could mean that his solo Batman flick could take the spot of JUSTICE LEAGUE, as the studio retools the team-up movie and shines a spotlight on the Snyder-less Batman flick, our source says McWeeny's idea won't happen. He tells us that JUSTICE LEAGUE is absolutely happening next, and that Affleck's solo film will not take its place. Production on JL is ramping up as we speak, and the thought is that they'll start filming after all of the actors are done promoting BATMAN V SUPERMAN. This also contradicts the idea that Snyder might not direct it.
It's an interesting position to be in, as our source says he really enjoyed BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but that he's afraid to get his hopes up, as he loved MAN OF STEEL and recalls how that film was received. It sounds like Snyder has made another difficult film, and DC will have to keep a very close eye on what works- and what doesn't work- when it comes out next month. It could conceivably lead to a retooling of all of their plans post-JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Sounds like Snyder tried to make wine, while the studio was hoping for water.