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Don’t change that Bat-channel too quickly! The industry has been scattered since news broke that the Man of Steel sequel was being pushed from its 2015 release date to May 2016. Everyone figures with a shift like this, everyone simply moves to the right, and we start talking about Wonder Woman movies, Ben Affleck’s other jobs, and an inevitable Justice League film. Instead of everything shifting, however, could it be that Warner Bros. plan is to just build on the production plans they already had set?
Buried within a Deadline report about Ben Affleck’s possible commitment to direct the Fox pilot The Middle Man is the news that Affleck will not be free to shoot the show due to plans that involve a certain black cape and cowl. Despite the release date change, the report says that production on Batman vs. Superman is imminent and Deadline claims that "the main players have been summoned to start work right away." This scuttles plans for Affleck to helm his first ever series pilot, a step several major directors have been taking recently (just last night, Fox debuted Rake with Sam Raimi behind the camera). On the TV side of the story, the network remains undecided about either pursuing another director, or waiting for Affleck’s schedule to clear up.
The question is, will that ever happen? Or will the WB ride Affleck like The Lone Ranger rode Silver? Part of this whole Affleck-as-Batman situation, which will involve the actor starring in multiple films as WB’s crown jewel superhero, was about pleasing the actor/director, given that both The Town and Argo were such mainstream successes for the studio. Affleck wants to continue directing, shooting his next feature Live By Night sometime later this year, and in the fall he’ll have press obligations for David Fincher's Gone Girl. Basically, commitments to Batman vs. Superman - which promises to have both a long, arduous blockbuster-level shoot and will be a tremendous physical strain on the 42 year old thespian - mean that he doesn’t have a lot of free time for anything else. The studio likely knows that pushing the superhero film to a start date during any other time in 2014 was a fool’s game, and that by postponing or losing Live By Night they’d be losing another potential moneymaker as well as angering one of their treasured filmmakers. So, hey, maybe they do have a script ready to go, namely one from Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo collaborator Chris Terrio.
Of course, if they’re ready to shoot now, why was the movie delayed at all? Why depart that primo 2015 release date? The opening slot of summer 2016 is undoubtedly also primo real estate, but by that time it will be only the fifth big DC hero film (not including Jonah Hex) since 2008, the start of Marvel Studio’s self-produced empire. In contrast, the competing studio will have put out ten films in the same time period, with the eleventh currently carrying the same May 6, 2016 release date. Seeing Superman and Batman tango onscreen is undoubtedly the audience draw. Waiting another year certainly tempts the overexposure of the genre, though, particularly if it’s a long and drawn-out production period. All it takes is the smallest droplet of bad buzz, and the project will look like a sorry sister next to whatever Marvel is cooking up for that date - or even later that summer. Perhaps there’s more to this story, but regardless: full steam ahead on the Man Of Steel sequel!