Robert Downey Jr. will have his day in court as ‘Perry Mason’ for Warner Bros.

I foresee a future in which every single franchise film stars either Computer-Generated Johnny Depp or Computer Generated Robert Downey Jr. or, on occasion, both of them.  It is inevitable.

The latest step towards this sure-to-be-reality is the announcement today that Robert Downey Jr. will be the star of “Perry Mason,” a new film and potential franchise that Warner Bros. will be releasing.  I’ve been reading some of the pulp work of author Erle Stanley Gardner recently, and I’m surprised by how sharp and contemporary much of it is.  He’s most famous for creating Mason, and it’s exciting to hear that they’re not only going to use his work as the basis of the film, but they’re also planning to set it in the period 1930s Los Angeles that Gardner captured so well in his work.

With Downey’s second outing as Sherlock Holmes set for release in a few months, and with “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” also both looming, Downey is a very busy man, but I think Mason is a near-perfect fit for him, and I can see immediately why he’d be drawn to it.  He’s famous for that brainy hyper-verbal smart-ass thing he does, and Mason is a verbal bare-knuckle brawler in the courtroom, a guy who is so good at the verbal chess game that he often gets people to confess their crimes no matter how determined they are to bury their secrets.

They’re still early in the process on this one, and we’ll see how it comes together, but Downey’s very picky in terms of collaborators at this point, and it’s often about the chemistry he has with a director or a writer.  He’s so hands-on that it can be intimidating if you’re not just as sharp and strong-willed as he is, and I hope whoever ends up making this is ready to get in there and mix it up, because there’s certainly potential here.  As long as people don’t expect Raymond Burr in any way, shape or form, I think this new “Perry Mason” could be exciting.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” hits theaters December 16, 2011.