It’s ride or die time as ‘Justice League’ sets a production start date

A hearty congratulations to Zack Snyder and the folks at Warner Bros. on announcing the start of production on Justice League Part 1 on April 11, 2016.

It's ride or die time.

We already discussed the monumental fan-trum thrown over our recent video conversation (which you can see embedded below), and aside from pointing out that March 25 comes before April 11 on a calendar, I'll say this: it certainly seems that Warner Bros. is committing fully to Zack Snyder's vision for this series, and in doing so, they how have four films (if you include Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman), representing a total investment of at least $850 million worth of production costs (before marketing and advertising) between them and their partners, all riding on people liking these new films more than they liked Man Of Steel.

That remains an iffy proposition, and announcing a sequel's start date before you release a film is not a particularly new or startling development. It's what you do when you want to send the signal loud and clear that you believe you're going to make money. The history of Hollywood is filled with sequel start dates announced before a film opens, and it would be fascinating to see how often those prophecies have actually come true. How's that sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the spin-off Aunt May film coming along?

Anthony Breznican and Entertainment Weekly have in many ways replaced the traditional trades in the role that the trades used to play back in the '80s and the '90s. If you wanted to make an announcement that was as much about political gamesmanship as it was actual information, you used the trades. Your film was having issues? Just tell Army Archerd that everything's fine and make sure he gives you good placement on the “buzz.” Entertainment Weekly (*) has become the one-stop shop for the friendliest of friendly reportage these days. When Disney picked a journalistic partner who they knew would give them the square footage they were looking for in print and online, they picked EW, and they got exactly what they wanted on every bit of Star Wars coverage. They got a smart guy they could put onstage at every event to help them roll out exactly the information they wanted out there at the exact time they wanted it out there. The same is absolutely true of all things involving this new Justice League and the films attached to it. Anthony Breznican is a good writer (his novel Brutal Youth is a damn fine piece of work), but you're not going to see much in that magazine that is critical of the process on any film. That's not why EW exists. Premiere magazine was a Hollywood darling until it bit the hand that fed a few too many times, and suddenly their entire editorial process began to collapse because they lost the access they depended on for their coverage.

I remain, as I have since I walked out of Man Of Steel at the first press screening, hopeful that we're going to get a big, beautiful, sprawling, epic series of movies with these characters. More than that, though, I hope people actually like the film. One of the things that is most baffling to me in this latest burst of fan-trums is that fans seems to ignore just how many people truly hate Man Of Steel and its entire take on Superman. I'm not among those people, but I have certainly heard from them, at length, for the last few years. “Divisive” is not the word they're looking for here, and Zack can make the most beautiful film in the world and it still could be considered a disappointment if they just can't get audiences united behind that vision. There are few people who dig Man Of Steel more than I do, and several years of people yelling at me that I'm wrong hasn't changed that any more than people who still fundamentally understand the conversation I had with Roth Cornet is going to change my mind now. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot of ground to cover and a lot of characters to introduce, never mind actually telling a story at the same time. It is as risky as any film with Batman and Superman in it can be. I hope that when I walk out of the press screening, I am as filled with awe as I was three years ago.

But if you think today's announcement means no one at Warner Bros. is sweating about the performance of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, you simply don't understand how the business of filmmaking works.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice opens March 25, 2016.
* – an earlier version of this story indicated that Entertainment Weekly shared a parent company with Warner Bros. Time, Inc. was spun of from Time-Warner in June 2014 and is now a wholly-independent company.