The superhero movies trapped in development hell

Tom Beasley
Contributor
'Gambit', 'The Flash' and 'Multiple Man' are all superhero movies trapped in development hell. (Credit: Marvel Comics/Warner Bros)

Superhero movies have dominated Hollywood for decades now, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone churning out 23 films since Robert Downey Jr. first graced the screen as Iron Man in 2008.

It seems that just about every studio has had their crack at the whip when it comes to super-powered characters, with half a dozen making their way to cinemas every single year and Marvel in particular announcing a massive slate for the future.

However, it’s not always plain sailing.

For every superhero movie that does make its way to the big screen, there’s one that might never see the light of day and is set to languish in a writer’s bottom drawer.

Read more: How the MCU can stay fresh in Phase Four

This week, the long-gestating solo effort for Ezra Miller as The Flash got a new boost as It director Andy Muschietti entered talks to direct. Christina Hodson, writer of Bumblebee and Birds of Prey, will have a go at the script. It seems as if this one might be on its way to the screen at last. But will others be so lucky?

The Flash

Ezra Miller portrayed Barry Allen, aka The Flash, in both 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' and 'Justice League'. (Credit: Warner Bros)

When was it announced? Ezra Miller was unveiled as The Flash in October 2014, and had his solo movie slated at the same time DC announced Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

When was it supposed to come out? March 2018.

What’s holding it back? It’s fair to say that personnel changes have repeatedly poured ice water on this one. The Lego Movie duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller were attached to rewrite the original script and direct, but handed the project over to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith. He left the film in April 2016 and was followed out the door just six months later by his replacement - Dope filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa.

The film was soon linked to the Flashpoint comic book arc and Game Night directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were attached for a 2020 release. Problems hit again and, earlier this year, Miller took a more hands-on approach by taking a crack at the script himself. Everything went quiet until this week’s Muschietti announcement, which will give fans a glimmer of hope.

Will it ever come out? The DC Extended Universe is in a real state of flux at the moment, with the studio readjusting as a result of adverse reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. It seems like a near certainty that The Flash will happen in some form eventually, but the 2021 release date mooted last year still seems like a tall order.

Gambit

Channing Tatum has been attached to a possible 'Gambit' movie since 2014. (Credit: Marvel Comics)

When was it announced? Channing Tatum was officially signed up for Gambit in May 2014, after Taylor Kitsch’s take on the character fell flat in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

When was it supposed to come out? October 2016.

What’s holding it back? The card-throwing mutant is a fan favourite character, but the big names attached to the project have caused scheduling issues. Tatum’s negotiation of his contract with Fox in 2015 put a spanner in the works and director Rupert Wyatt left the project over schedule clashes and a slashed budget. Doug Liman was attached, but opted to work on a Justice League Dark movie instead, while Gore Verbinski also pulled out over scheduling in 2017.

The vacant director’s chair remained empty, as the film disappeared and reappeared from the Fox slate. Tatum himself reportedly considered directing at one stage, before the Disney-Fox merger put the project on ice.

Will it ever come out? The Disney-Fox merger has left the fate of existing X-Men projects uncertain, and Gambit is no different. Disney officially removed the project from its release schedule in May but if Tatum is still determined to make it, this one could still show up down the line.

The Crow

The late Brandon Lee portrayed the title character in 1994 film 'The Crow'. (Credit: Miramax)

When was it announced? Stephen Norrington, who abandoned Hollywood after the failure of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, announced in 2008 that he was attached to write and direct a new version of The Crow, which previously hit screens in 1994.

When was it supposed to come out? Various shooting dates were mooted, but the only solid release date ever announced was October 2019.

What’s holding it back? Firstly, it hasn’t been able to hold on to a director. Most recently, The Nun helmer Corin Hardy was on board, with credentials as a superfan of the comics. He was all set to go before the second problem arose - the bankruptcy of production company Relativity Media. This stalled the production and rights issues later reared their head again when Hardy returned to the project in 2017, with Jason Momoa attached to star.

Sony announced a 2019 release date and everything was set to go, but Deadline reported that the deal hadn’t closed, grounding the project yet again. Hardy and Momoa stepped away, leaving the film in limbo.

Will it ever come out? This one looks like it might be doomed to failure, unfortunately.

Multiple Man

James Franco was attached to play Jamie Madrox, aka Multiple Man, in a movie for Fox. (Credit: Marvel Comics)

When was it announced? Fox announced the project in November 2017, with James Franco already attached to play the duplicating mutant.

When was it supposed to come out? No release date announced.

What’s holding it back? This one is another casualty of the Disney-Fox merger, with script development still taking place as the Mouse House was acquiring 20th Century Fox. X-Men producer Simon Kinberg told IGN in September that the script is still being worked on, but Disney does not seem willing to rush their new properties into cinemas.

Will it ever come out? This is one to file under ‘probably not’ but, as the Marvel stable continues to expand, it’s not impossible.

Batgirl

Barbara Gordon was introduced as Batgirl in the 1960s. (Credit: DC Comics)

When was it announced? This one arose in March 2017, with Joss Whedon jumping ship from Marvel to join the DC Extended Universe for the story of Barbara Gordon.

When was it supposed to come out? No release date announced.

What’s holding it back? Whedon stepped away from the project in February 2018, telling The Hollywood Reporter he didn’t have a story and had “failed”. The search for a director has been on since then, with Warner Bros reportedly looking to hire a female voice behind the camera. Meanwhile, Birds of Prey scribe Christina Hodson has been working on the script.

Will it ever come out? Pretty likely. Once Warner Bros can find itself the right director and the perfect leading lady, this one seems like a no-brainer.

Spider-Man 4

Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man on the big screen three times between 2002 and 2007. (Credit: Sony)

When was it announced? Sam Raimi was attached to direct a fourth Spider-Man film immediately after the success of Spider-Man 3 in 2007. At one point, he was considering shooting a fourth and fifth film back to back. John Malkovich was attached to play the Vulture, with Anne Hathaway set to play a version of Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat.

When was it supposed to come out? May 2011.

What’s holding it back? Sony shelved the movie in 2010 when Sam Raimi exited the project due to concerns over meeting the release date. It later emerged that there was never a draft of the script Raimi actually liked.

Will it ever come out? With Spider-Man now firmly established as part of the MCU, this one is never going to happen, despite fans recently getting excited about the prospect of it being adapted as a comic book.

Sinister Six

Sony teased a potential 'Sinister Six' movie in the end credits scene of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'. (Credit: Sony)

When was it announced? Sony announced this supervillain team-up in 2013, with Drew Goddard to write and direct, and teased the line-up in a credits sequence at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014.

When was it supposed to come out? November 2016.

What’s holding it back? The poor critical response and muted box office takings around The Amazing Spider-Man 2 sent Sony back to the drawing board in terms of its Spidey properties. When they brokered a deal in 2015, to put Peter Parker into the MCU, this stalled the momentum of any other movies Sony might have been cooking.

Will it ever come out? With Sony building a universe around secondary Spidey characters, away from the MCU, in Venom and Morbius, this one might not be quite dead yet. As recently as 2018, in fact, producer Amy Pascal told Vanity Fair she feels the project is alive and said she is “just waiting” for Goddard to be ready.

Lobo

Emmett J. Scanlan as DC antihero Lobo in Syfy series 'Krypton'. (Credit: Syfy)

When was it announced? A movie outing for DC's alien antihero and bounty hunter was announced way back in 2009, with Guy Ritchie slated to shoot the movie the following year

When was it supposed to come out? No release date announced.

What’s holding it back? As with so many of these cases, it's the revolving door of personnel that has scuppered the project. Ritchie left the project in 2010 to pursue Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and Brad Peyton got within a whisker of casting his Skyscraper and Rampage actor Dwayne Johnson in the leading role before he committed to play antagonist Black Adam. Most recently, the film was talked about as a potential Michael Bay project in 2018, but budget concerns were reportedly causing problems.

Will it ever come out? In June this year, TV channel Syfy announced they were planning a spin-off series for Lobo after Emmett J. Scanlan's take on the character appeared on their show Krypton. This would seem to put the kibosh on any potential film, for the time being at least.