It’s a big summer for superhero films. There is no film more important to the overall success of a studio’s longterm plans than “Man Of Steel” is for Warner Bros, though. Marvel could survive it if “Iron Man 3” didn’t work, and Fox has certainly weathered a terrible “Wolverine” movie already. For Warner, though, everything they have planned in the near-future depends on them proving that they can get their most significant icon right. Warner needs you to believe a man can fly.
The good news is that early buzz from people who have seen the film is very enthusiastic. It sounds like they’ve managed to ground Superman in the real world while also making sure that he does indeed feel… well, super. When we get 74 different superhero films every year, it’s not easy to make us feel a sense of wonder anymore. It’s a character thing more than it’s about the effects at this point, and certainly everything we’re hearing from Zack Snyder and David Goyer and Christopher Nolan sounds like they’re at least starting with the right ideas.
I would imagine Jeff Robinov is more nervous about the film than even the most rabid of fanboys. The cover story of this week’s “Entertainment Weekly” is about “Man Of Steel,” and Robinov addresses the notion head-on that this is step one in something larger. “It’s setting the tone for what the movies are going to be like going forward. In that, it’s definitely a first step.”
While we still have no idea if we’ll actually see any other DC characters in “Man Of Steel” (I’d bet against it), it sounds like there’s something about the film that opens a door to something larger. “I think you’ll see that, going forward, anything can live in this world,” Robinov said. This is obviously a major shift from when Nolan worked so hard to ensure that Batman lived in a very isolated universe.
It sounds like we won’t have long to wait to see how Warner wants to handle things. “We’ll announce something in the next several weeks that will hopefully position the DC characters and the movies we’re going to be making,” Robinov said, and it sounds to me like we can expect a major press release of some kind. At this point, all the attention on “Justice League” has skewed the way the conversation has been going, and I think it’s important to remember that “Justice League” is not the end-all be-all. Just because Marvel’s biggest film was “The Avengers” doesn’t mean that has to be the game plan for Warner as well.
If anything, Warner has an opportunity to prove that they don’t just have to follow the already-established model, and they have the only other roster of characters as deep and as rich and ready for exploitation as Marvel. What “Man Of Steel” needs to do, more than establishing a road-map to another franchise film, is set up a world in which we’re going to want to see these stories start to play out.
Considering how much skepticism there was towards my exclusive report about Joseph Gordon-Levitt returning to the DC universe and playing the John Blake role again, picking up where “The Dark Knight Rises” ended, I find one of Robinov’s statements very revealing. Asked if Nolan’s films still stand alone completely, Robinov said, “They do. Or they did.” Catch that emphasis? Hmmm. “Where we go in the future is a whole other conversation,” he continued, and that certainly sounds to me like they are exploring that possibility. They’ve denied things in the press so far, but that’s because they’re still nailing down the plans. I am confident that Blake’s journey has just begun, and that we’ll see more of that story in the future.
It’s a fascinating moment, and I certainly hope Warner figures it out. I want them to find their own voice. I want them to find someone who can steer the ship overall. I want them to bring these great characters to life in new and exciting ways.
And, for the sake of not just me but for my kids, I want to believe a man can fly again, too. Desperately.
“Man Of Steel” goes up, up, and away starting June 14, 2013.