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Warner Bros. has offered Xerxes, the follow-up to the 2007 box-office hit 300, to Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie, Vulture reports.
But what about Zack Snyder, who helmed the first film and has been developing the adaptation of Frank Miller’s long-discussed graphic novel prequel? Well, the website offers a couple of theories, one centering on “major third-act problems” in David S. Goyer’s Superman script, and the other on poor test screenings for Snyder’s heavily promoted Sucker Punch. Both films, like Xerxes, come from Warner Bros.
It’s the first theory that’s attracting the most attention, with comics and movie websites already asking whether Superman is in trouble. Considering that production isn’t expected to begin until June, it’s probably a little early for that speculation (never mind the involvement of producer Christopher Nolan, who helped to devise the story).
However, pointing to “insiders,” Vulture says Snyder is needed to focus on Superman, as the studio faces a “ticking clock.” That much is true, even if the website botches the facts a little: A judge ruled in 2009 that Warner Bros. must begin production this year on a new Superman movie, or risk opening the door for the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel to bring action over the lack of a rights-reversion clause in the studio’s licensing agreement with DC Comics. (The Siegel family had argued that DC gave parent company Warner Bros. a “sweetheart deal” when it licensed the characters for Smallville and Superman Returns, in violation of a profit-sharing agreement; a judge disagreed.)
The 2013 deadline is when Mark Peary, nephew and legal heir of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, will be able to reclaim his uncle’s share of the U.S. copyright to the material published in Action Comics #1. That means, barring a licensing deal or an outright purchase, Warner Bros. no longer would be able to use certain early elements of the Superman mythos, including his Clark Kent alter ego, Lois Lane and the Superman-Clark-Lois love triangle.
Vulture’s other theory, that Sucker Punch is “like, really bad,” doesn’t seem that big of surprise, considering that the trailers leave the impression it’s a bit of a glorious mess. That’s probably what you should expect — even hope for? — from such a genre mishmash. But the website goes further, pointing to studio displeasure over the box-office performances of Snyder’s previous films Watchmen and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. I’ll give them the latter, which opened a little more than a week before Snyder signed on to Superman. So perhaps Warner Bros. wasn’t yet sure how the animated adventure would play out. But Watchmen? That opened in March 2009, and was a clear financial disappointment almost from the start. Maybe it’s a cumulative effect, but it seems strange for studio executives to still be grinding their teeth about Watchmen — after they’ve entrusted its director with the rebirth of the Superman franchise.
Miller’s Xerxes will be published later this year as a six-issue miniseries from Dark Horse. He describes the story as “a sweeping tale with gods and warriors” that takes place 10 years before Thermopylae, beginning with the legendary Battle of Marathon, which marked the end of Persia’s first invasion of Greece.