Saturday, June 04, 2005

Comic Books On The Big Screen: So, there's more comic book movies in production right now than probably have ever been projected onto the silver screen. Every comic book imaginable is in some phase of development at one studio or another.

I have two problems with how it's happening:

First, the fate of entire franchises are being left in the hands of a handful of people who may or may not know what they're doing. Hulk, for example, is kind of dead, even though it's a perfectly viable franchise, simply because the first group of people to get their hands on it didn't click with audiences.

This is scary. Rumors were circulating for a while there that Green Lantern, the greatest comic book character of all time and the one with the greatest potential for big screen slam-bag action was being turned into a silly, Mask-style comedy staring Jack Black. Following the collective groan of agony fans across the world emitted when that little tidbit found its way to the web, studio executives, who never ever make mistakes, are denying that was ever on the table.

That was a can't win situation. If they made it, and it went over big, Green Lantern would forever be trapped in the world of silliness. If it tanked, no studio would ever want to touch a Green Lantern project again.

Is there hope for the future for mangled projects? Sure. The Batman franchise was defined one way by the old TV show, but Tim Burton managed to put a clearer direction on it before derailing it himself with his own sequel. Now, the current film may bring that hero back from the depths of development hell. So all is not lost forever if one of these teams mangles a favorite character or two of mine. Much like a comic book death, it probably just means it'll be a while before you hear from them again.

My second complaint is that the piecemeal nature of the sales of these projects is insuring a lot of great stories aren't going to be told. Some of the best stories in Comicdom are cross-over adventures, and when two different studios own the rights to the two characters you want to bring together, things get too complicated to pull it off.

Fortunately, Warner Brothers, who own DC comics, also own the big screen rights to most of the DC characters, so such graphic novels as Cosmic Odyssey still stand a chance of eventually hitting the big screen.

The problem is that studio execs are reluctant to attempt such cross-overs. They see mixing franchises like that as something of a death knell for both characters--think Dracula meets Frankenstein. It's like putting up a big flashing neon sign that says, "Sorry! Out of ideas!"

Film seems to be the only medium to have this stigma. Comic books and television have long recognized the value of cross-promotion. I think film should be able to overcome it as well.

Our first shot will be Batman Vs. Superman, directed by Wolfgang Peterson. How quickly this gets made is apparently entirely based upon how well the upcoming Batman and Superman movies do, but rumor has it both actors have clauses in their contracts that would require them to do the team-up movie if the studio execs deem it would be profitable.

No comments: