News Column

What's next? Will Superman get some super friends?

June 14, 2013

YellowBrix

So the billion dollar question is ... can "Man of Steel" help DC Comics catch up to Marvel Comics at the box office?

Maybe.

Warner Bros. is fast-tracking a "Man of Steel" sequel, with a "Justice League" super-team movie to follow. Hollywood website Deadline.com reported that "Man of Steel's" director / writer team, Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer, would return for more.

Goyer told MTV about some clues within "Man of Steel" foretelling possible films in the DC universe. A truck and a building bear the logo for Lexcorp, the company owned by arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, who never appears in this installment. If you listen carefully, you'll hear mention of S.T.A.R. labs, where, in the comics, the half-man, half-machine Cyborg is born. And a space fight between Superman and Zod destroys a satellite bearing a Wayne Industries logo.

Wayne as in Bruce Wayne.

As in Batman.

Though maybe not the Batman of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" movies.

"The 'Dark Knight' films do not exist in the same universe," Goyer said. "Zack has gone on record. The fact that we have Wayne Industries on the satellite, Bruce Wayne exists in this universe. Lex Luthor exists in this universe. Other metahumans do exist in this universe, so the hope is, depending on how the film does, that we'll be able to roll into some other films."

"Man of Steel" is opening in more than 4,000 theaters, Forbes reported that the studio is downplaying expectations and looking for a $75 million weekend. Some experts say it'll be closer to $90-$100 million, in line with Marvel's first "Iron Man" movie, which made $102 million in 2008. But "Iron Man 3," by comparison, opened with $174 million.

Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics, tried to reboot the Last Son of Krypton in June 2006 with "Superman Returns," starring Brandon Routh. That film opened with $52 million and was considered something of a creative and box office failure.

The studio's last big super-hero movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," grossed $161 million in its opening weekend.

Fans and the studio want a series of DC Comics-based films that build on one another, as Marvel did with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor.

What made the Marvel films unique was their connectivity: four movies set in the same universe, with short post-credits teasers that set up the next film or chapter in the story.

Then Marvel, now owned by Walt Disney Co., assembled those established heroes with other major and minor characters from the films (Hulk from his own films, Black Widow from "Iron Man 2" and Hawkeye in "Thor") in "The Avengers," which made $1.5 billion worldwide.

Marvel is readying a slew of sequels: After this year's "Iron Man 3" ($1.2 billion worldwide gross and counting), comes another "Thor" this fall and another "Captain America" next spring. Next summer, Marvel launches the little-known "Guardians of the Galaxy," which will somehow tie in with the "Avengers" sequel in 2015. And on and on.

Warner's first attempt at opening up the DC Universe beyond Batman and Superman _ 2011's "Green Lantern" _ was a critical and commercial failure. The film opened with $53 million and grossed $220 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo _ seemingly impressive until you consider the film's $200 million budget, not counting marketing expenses.

The studio tried to emulate Marvel with a post-credit scene in "Green Lantern," hinting at a possible sequel that hasn't and likely won't happen.

At the end of his "Dark Knight" trilogy, the notoriously secretive Nolan left the door to the Batcave wide open for sequels.

We held out hope that "Man of Steel" would end with a camera panning across a high-tech computer screen showing footage of the new alien "super man," a report on a green-clad ring slinger (Green Lantern), the discovery of an island of Amazon women (Wonder Woman) and news of a super-fast crime fighter (the Flash). In the background we'd hear the distinctive accent of Michael Caine saying, "I've prepared your breakfast, Master Bruce. Will there be anything more?" and a shot of Christian Bale saying, "Hmm."

No such luck. Those staying through the credits of "Man of Steel" will be rewarded with ... nothing.

If you're a fan of these films and characters, you'll just have to keep your eyes peeled during the film and your fingers crossed.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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