If both Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter are using the word “divorce” in their coverage of what’s going on between Legendary and Warner Bros. right now, I guess it’s become pretty apparent to everyone now that this is going to get messy.
It’s been very strange to watch the last six or seven months unfold. For the last few years, Warner and Legendary have seemed joined at the hip, and if you’d asked me in 2012 about the future of that relationship, I would have guessed that it was rock solid. So many of the biggest event films from the studio in the last five or six years have been co-produced by the two companies that it seemed to me like things would just keep on heading in that direction.
What we’re starting to see now is a battle over the credit for those films, and it seems like it is very important for Legendary to establish what role they’ve played in the making of these films. “Pacific Rim,” for example, was the first film that went from pitch to release with Legendary calling the shots across the board. If you like that film or if you hate that film, you ultimately have Legendary to thank. They were the ones who rolled the dice on the vision that Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro presented them, and they backed the film completely.
Next summer’s “Godzilla” has become particularly contentious, with Dan Lin and Roy Lee at odds with Legendary over what part they played in getting the film made, and considering how Warner seems to be working with Lin and Lee more often now, it seems like the studio wants to placate the busy producers and keep them happy. Legendary, on the other hand, is already out the door, so Warner doesn’t seem like they’re particularly interested in making Legendary happy in these final few releases.
Perhaps that’s why Legendary has taken “Seventh Son” with them. The film got its first major push at this summer’s Comic-Con, and I think they were expecting bigger buzz on the heels of the reveal of the first footage from the movie. I’m curious about it, since it looks like it at least partially embodies the spirit of the Harryhausen films, but I’ll admit that the trailer we saw looked to me to have some serious issues, not least of which is the way Jeff Bridges appears to have decided that he will only be playing Rooster Cogburn in every film he makes from now on. You have to wonder how excited the Universal team would be to try and sell that while they’re still licking fresh wounds from the release of “R.I.P.D.”
Just yesterday, the story broke about Legendary relinquishing their position on “Superman Vs Batman” to instead retain their position as a co-financier on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” More than any individual titles, I’m curious about the relationships with talent that Legendary and Warner will maintain after this. Kevin Tsujihara is still untested as a studio chief, and one of the things that Warner has always been known for is their relationship with artists. Right now, it has got to be a major priority for Warner to maintain a good close working relationship with Christopher Nolan, and Legendary has to see that as a priority as well. It’s going to be interesting to see if anyone picks one over the other, or if you’re going to see a lot of filmmakers carefully navigating a course between the two, refusing to be drawn into the fight.
I have a feeling this will get uglier before everything is settled, and we’ll see how things shake out in the months ahead.
“Seventh Son” is set for release on January 17, 2014, thought that may change if Universal comes aboard as distributor.