Earlier this week Universal Pictures sent out the most hilarious short press release, possibly in the history of press releases. It read simply, “Legendary Pictures’ UNTITLED 2016 EVENT PROJECT will be released by Universal Pictures on Friday, November 4, 2016.”
That’s it. Nothing more. Way to titillate I guess. But it did send the Internet into an overdrive speculation tizzy. The only details that surfaced, from the Hollywood Reporter read, the film would be, “new and not a sequel or remake, though it may be based on underlying intellectual property."
OK, gotcha. And now that Legendary and Uni have teamed up, it could be all sorts of things. Universal bought the rights to the "Hot Wheels" property recently (which they could easily reimagine as another “Fast & The Furious”), they own the popular video game "Mass Effect," hell, if you check on IMDBPro, and the company has 323 titles in development.
But Latino Review is hearing the rumor (or speculating, it’s a bit hard to tell) that it could be "Namor, The Submariner," the only Marvel project that Universal owns. The internet has shrugged with skepticism and suggested it could be any of the aforementioned titles or something completely different. Latino Review reached out to Legendary Pictures and got a “no comment” which they took as some sort of strange affirmation (we live in a world where evidently it must be either confirmation or denial and even then, assumptions that denials are lies if they don’t fit the narrative).
Many pundits assume that no one knows the Namor character (mostly true outside of comic book geeks), no one likes the Namor character (true, he’s a bit of a dick in the comics, and there’s nowhere to go with the character because Universal can’t tie him to Captain America or The Fantastic Four, the two super hero comics he’s best associated with). Plus any undersea, underwater action/adventure super hero movie would be expensive as hell and no company is going to risk that much on an untested, unknown property, right?
Well, not exactly. No risk, no reward is the Hollywood motto when it comes to would-be blockbusters and you have to think beyond the comics. Legendary Pictures themselves greenlit a very expensive, unknown property called “Pacific Rim.” It wasn’t based on a comic book, novel, video game, etc., it cost up to $250 million or more and it didn’t do amazingly at the box office at first (it eventually crawled up to $411 million worldwide and at one point last year was the highest grossing live-action picture of the year). Movie math is complicated. Did Legendary and Warner Bros. (who co-financed the film) take a bath on the movie? And are Legendary gunshy now from financing expensive risks?
Hell no, they have an adaptation of the popular video game “World Of Warcraft” coming out (simply called “Warcraft”) and popular movie video game adaptations have proved a built-in audience means nothing if the movie isn’t good (see almost every video game movie ever made including this spring's "Need For Speed"). Plus with new partners who help split costs, Legendary can work with Universal to make this happens (sure, if they were still at WB, the story might be different).
No one knows Namor? Well, no one knew “Pacific Rim” and while not a smash hit, it’s become a cult fan favorite that’s done well on home video too. No one likes the character? Well, no one particularly cared for “Iron Man,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and Marvel was able to make one B-character (Tony Stark) and turn him into a global sensation. Their ‘Guardians’ movies looks poised to be a hit and anticipation of “Ant-Man” is sky high too.
Every company is chasing the Marvel model, hot to trot for that ‘Avengers’ $1 billy. Sony Pictures is so hot for it they seem to be destroying their “Spider-Man” franchise in the process, not able to keep their eye on a story for a second because they are world-building towards future installments instead. D.C and Warner Bros. seem to be doing the same. They appear to be rushing towards a “Justice League” movie rather than laying the proper groundwork. Everyone wants to be and do what Marvel has done badly. Every boss is asking their exec, “Where’s our Marvel movie?”
Well, Universal has one character and one shot. Namor is both a super hero and a super villain, so imagining him as a morally complex character? They can’t leverage anything Marvel outside of the Namor world, but maybe they can reimagine the character a little bit and make him a stand-alone project? Whether you think it’ll work or not is not the question. Are Legendary and Universal hot to leverage this character? Hell, the way every studio is drunk/jealous of Marvel's success, I wouldn’t bet against it.