Comic book movies may have become the dominant form of blockbuster entertainment in cinemas worldwide, but taking super-powered characters from the printed page to the big screen isn’t always as neat and tidy a process as film studios might like.
Marvel Studios, DC and ‘X-Men’ rights holders 20th Century Fox have shepherded their franchises to billion dollar box office glory; but for every 'Avengers Assemble,’ there’s a 'Fantastic Four’ reboot. Goings-on behind the scenes are often rumoured to be as dramatic as the on-camera action, and while some movies are able to emerge a success despite these troubles, others collapse under the weight of them.
With more comic book adaptations than ever before in the pipeline, inevitably it isn’t plain sailing for everyone, as the following seven films-in-the-works may illustrate…
He may be the fastest man alive, but the first solo movie from Ezra Miller’s The Flash (set to make his debut proper in next year’s 'Justice League,’ following an ultra-brief cameo in 'Batman V Superman’) hasn’t been too quick about getting off the ground.
First off, Warner Bros and DC surprised many by handing the directorial reins to Seth Grahame-Smith, the 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ novelist who has since gone on to success as a screenwriter, but had no previous experience as a director, making him a risky choice for such a major production.
After completing a draft of the screenplay, Grahame-Smith walked over creative differences in April 2016. Two months later, Rick Famuyiwa was announced as his replacement, the director bringing his 'Dope’ actress Kiersey Clemons along to play the female lead Iris West.
Alas, in late October Famuyiwa also quit 'The Flash,’ again citing creative differences: “I pitched a version of the film in line with my voice, humor and heart. While it’s disappointing that we couldn’t come together creatively on the project, I remain grateful for the opportunity.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter recently, Clemons expressed sorrow over this: “Rick was one of the main reasons I wanted to do the movie. So him not being a part of it is obviously very upsetting to me.”
At the time of writing, no new director has been hired, and it looks likely 'The Flash’ won’t be quick enough to make its scheduled March 2018 release date.
After the huge critical and commercial success of 2016’s 'Deadpool’ - no small matter, given it was the first contemporary superhero movie to go R-rated - it seemed a given that the sequel would be a cake walk. Unfortunately not.
The first film’s director Tim Miller pulled out of the sequel in October, and once again 'creative differences’ was cited as the reason. Though the official statement declared the split to be 'amicable,’ it has since been reported that Miller may have been at loggerheads with leading man Ryan Reynolds, who has been granted a higher level of creative control over the sequel, with ideas that didn’t sit well with the director.
Reports say Reynolds is keen to put an even higher emphasis on adult humour in 'Deadpool 2,’ whereas Miller wanted to make a more sophisticated sequel. Reynolds is also said to have vetoed the casting of Kyle Chandler, Miller’s first choice for the key role of Cable.
'Deadpool 2’ has already lost another key player from the first film, as composer Junkie XL has also dropped out in solidarity with Miller, calling the director “the driving force behind Deadpool and me getting involved in this amazing project. Deadpool without Tim at the helm just does not sit right with me.”
Fox are said to be in talks with 'John Wick’ co-director David Leitch to take over as director, whilst Drew Goddard and Magnuss Martens are also said to be in contention. A fan petition to give the job to Quentin Tarantino has received over 16,000 signatures, but we rather doubt that’ll happen.
Another project which initially seemed a slam-dunk, this 'X-Men’ spin-off centred on the card-throwing Cajun mutant seems to have been dealt a bad hand from the start.
After publicly declaring interest, Channing Tatum was cast as the title character in 2014, taking over from Taylor Kitsch who debuted the role in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.’ Not long thereafter Rupert Wyatt ('Rise of the Planet of the Apes’) came on board as director, and future 'Spectre’ star Lea Seydoux signed on for the female lead.
However, it wasn’t long before Wyatt dropped out, citing scheduling issues, as 'Gambit’ was initially fast-tracked with an eye to a late 2016 release. Doug Liman ('Edge of Tomorrow’) replaced Wyatt, but progress was still slow and the 2016 release date was abandoned.
Ultimately Liman also dropped out this August, jumping ship to Warner Bros/DC movie 'Dark Universe.’ No new director has been announced yet, and the film does not have a release date at present.
Producer Simon Kinberg told Slashfilm in August, “I hope that ‘Gambit’ doesn’t take 10 years, but it takes a little honing to get that tone and that voice exactly right… it’s just about getting a screenplay that is worthy of that character, and I think we’re really close right now.”
Now, this one we really could be here all day trying to keep track of. A new take on James O'Barr’s independent comic - famously adapted into the 1994 movie starring the late Brandon Lee - has been on the cards for several years, going through numerous potential directors and leading men.
Plans for a reboot of 'The Crow’ were first announced in 2008 by Relativity Media, with Stephen Norrington ('Blade,’ 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’) attached to direct. However, this project failed to materialise, and in 2011 it was announced that Norrington was off the film, his replacement being Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ('28 Weeks Later’).
At this point 'The Crow’ began to gain some traction, with Bradley Cooper linked to the lead. Cooper soon quit for scheduling reasons, leaving Mark Wahlberg the main contender for the role; but this incarnation also failed to come together, and soon Fresnadillo also left to be replaced by F Javier Gutiérrez in early 2012.
After various actors including Tom Hiddleston and Alexander Skarsgård were linked to the film, Luke Evans finally became the first actor to officially sign on for the title role of 'The Crow’ in summer 2013. But once again it failed to gain momentum, and Gutiérrez dropped out to direct 'Rings’ for Paramount (which, perhaps ironically, has had its own release date rescheduled many times).
Corin Hardy ('The Hallow’) became the next director hired in 2014, but Evans withdrew not long thereafter once his initial option expired. Next, Jack Huston was hired to play the lead role in early 2015, with the film expected to shoot that spring, but the bankruptcy of Relativity Media again threw the project into limbo, and Huston also walked away.
Hardy’s attachment to the film looked uncertain for a time, but the director remains attached with a new leading man in Jason Momoa, and reportedly the film will finally roll in early 2017 – but at this point we won’t believe it until we see it.
A movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s revered DC/Vertigo gothic fantasy series has been in development in some form since the comic was still running in the 1990s, but really gained momentum in recent years with the attachment of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as star and potential director.
Jack Thorne was hired to write a screenplay, which the film’s producer David Goyer praised. However, news of further developments on the project were thin on the ground; this may be in part down to the film not being part of Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe, instead being produced through WB subsidiary New Line Cinema.
Gordon-Levitt dropped out of 'The Sandman’ immediately after new screenwriter Eric Heisserer was hired in March 2016, citing that old 'creative differences’ chestnut once again.
This past week, Heisserer has also quit, believing the material simply won’t work as a movie: the writer told io9, “the best version of this property exists as an HBO series or limited series, not as a feature film.”
While Marvel Studios have had their share of troubled productions (most notably 'Thor: The Dark World’ and 'Ant-Man’), they hadn’t actually removed a film from their production slate until 'The Inhumans.’
A big-screen take on the comparatively lesser-known Marvel super-beings was first announced in October 2014 as part of Marvel’s ambitious five year plan, initially scheduled for a November 2018 release.
However, 'The Inhumans’ was later pushed back to 2019 when Marvel and Sony struck a deal to co-produce 'Spider-Man: Homecoming’ for a July 2017 release. Later, when 'Ant-Man and the Wasp’ was announced for July 2018, 'The Inhumans’ fell off Marvel’s schedule altogether.
There were strong rumours of behind the scenes disagreements over the film, with claims that it had been given the greenlight not at the behest of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige but Jeph Loeb of the Marvel TV division, whose series 'Agents of SHIELD’ had been developing the Inhumans mythology.
However, Feige recently told Slashfilm, “I think Inhumans will happen for sure. I don’t know when. I think it’s happening on television. And I think as we get into Phase 4 as I’ve always said, it could happen as a movie. I think it would be super cool.”
Ever since Ben Affleck was hired as the new Dark Knight for 'Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ it was heavily speculated the actor, Oscar-winning screenwriter and Oscar-nominated director could also be in line to take the helm on a Batman movie of his own.
This was made official in April 2016, with Affleck confirmed to direct, play the lead and co-write the screenplay for a film to be entitled 'The Batman.’ Joe Manganiello has been confirmed to co-star as villian Deathstroke, though it’s rumoured he may be but one of many Batman adversaries to appear in the film.
However, there has now been gossip about the movie being in trouble courtesy of author Bret Easton Ellis (an avowed admirer of the divisive 'Batman V Superman’), who tells The Ringer that friends at Warner Bros tell him “there are serious problems with the script” for 'The Batman’ - and more worryingly, he suggests the studio is apathetic on questions of quality:
“And [Eliis’s friends at WB] just said they went to the studio and they said, ‘Look, the script is … Here’s 30 things that are wrong with it that we can fix.’ And [the executives] said, ‘We don’t care…
”'The amount of money we’re going to make globally, I mean 70 percent of our audience is not going to be seeing this in English. And it doesn’t really matter, these things that you’re bringing up about the flaws of the script.’"
However, it should be noted it’s still fairly early days for 'The Batman,’ which at present doesn’t even have a confirmed release date - and Affleck himself declared he was unhappy with the script this past June, insisting he would not move forward on the film until the script was ready.
Picture credit: 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Marvel, Miramax, DC/Vertigo