That is, no doubt, the question on the minds of a great number of fans as it appears that Lobo has a director, a logline and the beginnings of a cast while not one but two different iterations of the Amazing Amazon are just a glint in the eyes of their writers. The same can be said for any number of higher-profile DC projects said to be in development, from Aquaman to The Flash.
And that’s got a lot of people’s panties in a bunch, maybe understandably, but it certainly can’t hurt to step back, take a deep breath and realize that DC Entertainment’s movie arm might just know what they’re doing for the first time since…well, ever.
Lobo is not going to be the kind of massive, billion-dollar hit that you’d expect from Batman or Justice League. It probably won’t even gross the $500 million in the global market that you could expect from better-known properties like Wonder Woman and The Flash.
What it will do, more likely than not, is make its money back, generate some audience enthusiasm and a likely sequel, and serve as proof of concept for Warner Brothers brass that DC has properties beyond the Justice League characters.
In the same way that Marvel Studios likely wants to use the success of Guardians of the Galaxy to turn things like Doctor Strange and The Inhumans into big-screen realities, a successful Lobo film would give DC license to try out some movies and TV properties that are more than just guys in tights and capes.
That’s a necessary move for them to make, given that they’re frankly getting on the tights-and-capes bandwagon pretty late. The odds of another five or ten years of the two or three biggest movies of every year being a superhero epic are probably pretty slim, and both DC and Marvel ought to have a backup plan in case we reach a point where only the biggest of the big names can become a blockbuster.
And lest you think I’m being a pessimist…that’s just where we were, about ten years ago.
There’s also the reality that if Warner Brothers wants to get a Justice League movie into production in time for a 2015 release, and if they hope to get a Batman spin-off out of it, the likelihood of getting almost any solo feature films done before then is pretty slim. Man of Steel is a gimme, obviously, as it was in development before Justice League was–but if they can’t get all or most of their solo films done before the team-up…maybe it’s not in the cards for the studio to fund and develop any of them.
If that’s the case–and it seems likely–that leaves the studio with a couple of choices: either they pursue lesser-known properties or they do nothing between now and Justice League. Doing nothing is not a popular option with the fans–it’s also something they’ve been consistently approved of for years, in spite of turning out a pair of DC films within 12 months of one another.
(That’s Green Lantern and Jonah Hex, for those keeping score.)
That they were poorly-received and failed to make money is only incentive for DC to actually try and get the next batch right.
The notion of pursuing lesser-known properties has another benefit–it’s what I’ll call “The Iron Man Effect.” If you take a character with little or no mainstream awareness outside of comics, and you manage to make a successful feature film or TV series out of it, you raise that character’s profile. Imagine, if you will, how much more valuable Green Arrow will be as an intellectual property if Arrow turns out to be a big hit on The CW. Imagine how much more valuable Iron Man is to Marvel and Disney now that he’s a billion-dollar movie franchise instead of just a modestly-selling comic book series.
Without something more precise than any of the market-research that the comics industry does, it’s hard to prove it, but I would posit that given the success of the character in the 1990s there’s still roughly the same awareness of Lobo as a character/property as Iron Man had ten years ago. Assuming DC can make a movie that’s as good–or at least as enjoyable–as it has potential to be, Lobo (especially with a star as marketable and likable as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson behind it) could not only launch a film franchise, but by extension create a valuable brand for DC/Warner. If that works out, it clears the way for other, similar properties. Think of a Swamp Thing film, or The New Gods, what-have-you.
And that’s something we can all pretty much get behind, even if we don’t care for Lobo, right?