This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering a big week for movies based on video games and DC Comics.
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection, Sony Interactive Entertainment)
John Wick (Certified Fresh at 86%) came out just seven years ago, but in that relaively short time, its three main creators have had several other hits (including the two John Wick sequels, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and this week’s Nobody). Director Chad Stahelski has spent most of that time working on the John Wick franchise, including next year’s John Wick: Chapter 4 (5/27/2022), but this week, we learned of a new project. Following the critical and box office successes of Pokemon Detective Pikachu (Fresh at 67%) and Sonic the Hedgehog (Fresh at 63%), Hollywood is increasingly looking at other video game adaptations, and so Chad Stahelski is now attached to direct Sony Pictures’ Ghost of Tsushima, based on the popular 2020 samurai video game. Ghost of Tsushima now joins a slate of video game adaptations that Sony Pictures has in the works that includes Uncharted (2/11/2022) starring Tom Holland, Metal Gear Solid starring Oscar Isaac, and The Last of Us as a series for HBO Max. Other projects that Stahelski is developing include a Highlander reboot and the John Wick spinoff Ballerina.
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)
The arrival last week of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (Fresh at 73%) seems to have put an end-of-sentence “period” on one part of the DC Extended Universe as Warner Bros. prepares to move on to other movies like The Flash (11/4/2022) and this year’s The Suicide Squad (8/6/2021), which ended up being directed by James Gunn following a brief kerfuffle over Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2018. Warner Bros. quickly swooped in and nabbed Gunn, and this week, the first (red band) trailer The Suicide Squad debuted online. In addition to all of these cool character posters and the reveal of Starro as the movie’s main super villain threat, we also now know that King Shark will be voiced by Sylvester Stallone, who had a brief cameo in Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. The timing of this trailer comes just days after WarnerMedia Studios CEO Ann Sarnoff confirmed that there are no plans to revisit David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (reportedly Ayer’s original take was darker in tone than the released edit) in a way similar to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and also that there are no plans to #RestoreTheSynderVerse either. Finally, speaking of DC Comics movies that aren’t going to happen, Joe Manganiello confirmed this week that the solo Ben Affleck Batman movie, if it had happened, would not only have featured him as the anti-hero Deathstroke, but would also have introduced a new Batgirl as Batman’s sidekick.
(Photo by Jonathan Prime/©Universal Studios)
Going as far back as the 1940s, when Aquaman was introduced two years after Marvel’s Sub-Mariner was a big hit first, DC Comics and Marvel Comics have had competing characters with similar powers or names (The Atom vs Ant-Man, Wonder Woman vs Wonder Man, Swamp Thing vs Man-Thing, etc.). Marvel fans all know Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange now, but that mystical character’s introduction in 1963 actually came 23 years after DC Comics’ similarly named sorcerer, Doctor Fate. Doctor Fate was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, which is going to be introduced to the big screen soon in Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, and this week, we learned that Doctor Fate’s human alter ego Kent Nelson will be played by former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan. This makes Brosnan the second Bond to join a DC Comics project after Timothy Dalton, who plays the Chief in HBO’s Doom Patrol. Brosnan’s fellow JSA members will include Aldis Hodge as Hawkman, Noah Centineo as Atom Smasher, and Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone. Black Adam has faced a number of filming delays in the last few years (most recently due to COVID-19, obviously), but Dwayne Johnson posted an update this week that filming is expected to start in three weeks.
(Photo by JA/Everett Collection)
Doctor Fate wasn’t the only magical DC Comics superhero to make the news this week. Just last week, an investor day image revealed that Warner Bros. was developing a Zatanna movie, and this week, the project was officially confirmed in a proper fashion, with a surprising choice that probably caught many people pleasantly off guard. Director and screenwriter Emerald Fennel (who’s also known as an actress for her role as Camilla Parker-Bowles on Netflix’s The Crown) currently has three Academy Award nominations (for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture) for her feature film directorial debut Promising Young Woman (Certified Fresh at 90%). Studios often swoop in on Oscar winners after the fact, but the particularly astute ones make these moves before the awards are handed out, and that’s what Warner Bros. and Bad Robot have done by hiring Emerald Fennell to adapt their magical superhero movie Zatanna. First introduced in the comics in 1964, Zatanna is a long-time member of the Justice League of America who casts spells by saying what she wants to happen backwards (for example, “Stnap Ruoy Pord Namtab!” might be embarassing for Bruce Wayne), but Zatanna has never been depicted in a live-action film. It’s not yet known if Fennell will also direct Zatanna, or if she might even star as Zatanna or another supporting character.
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
One of the high points of Dame Helen Mirren’s early film career was her portrayal of the evil sorceress Morgana Le Fay in Excalibur (Certified Fresh at 80%), and now, 40 years later, she has signed on to play another magical villain. In a somewhat unusual move, the role that Mirren will be playing in the upcoming sequel Shazam: Fury of the Gods (6/2/2023) does not appear to be directly lifted from any of the 70 years of actual Shazam comic books. Instead, the villain Hespera appears to be a new creation, although she is described as being the daughter of Atlas, who is the first “A” of the anagram “Shazam” that gives Billy Batson his powers (the stamina of Atlas, specifically). It’s not yet known if Atlas or any of the other characters in the anagram will also appear in the sequel. Something that is curious about Hespera being described as the main villain in Shazam: Fury of the Gods, however, is that it differs from the teaser at the end of Shazam!, which suggested that the next major villain would be Mister Mind.
(Photo by Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)
One of the most surprising history-based news stories of the last ten years was arguably the 2012 discovery of the bones of King Richard III under a parking lot in England. Now, the true story of how that all went down is being adapted as a comedy drama called The Lost King, to be directed by acclaimed filmmaker Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Philomena). This week, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) signed on to play the historian who discovered the remains, with Steve Coogan playing her husband (and also co-writing the screenplay). Hawkins is also currently filming the Princess Diana biopic Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, in which she is expected to be portraying a fictional or composite character (although most of the cast are indeed based on real people).
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
Just two weeks ago, we first learned that Steven Spielberg will soon be directing an unusually biographical film about his life as a child and teenager in Arizona falling in love with the art of filmmaking. Michelle Williams was announced right away as being cast as Spielberg’s mother, and this week, another member of the director’s movie family has also been cast. Seth Rogen, who previously starred alongside Williams in Take This Waltz (Certified Fresh at 79%), has been cast to play Spielberg’s favorite uncle in the currently untitled drama. Spielberg and his casting agents are currently searching for the young actors to play the young Spielberg (who won’t be named Steven in the movie) and his friends in 1950s and 1960s Arizona. The drama is expected to start filming on location this summer and be finished in time for a late 2022 release (about a year after Spielberg’s West Side Story remake on 12/10/2021).
(Photo by Anne Marie Fox/TM & ©Copyright Fox Searchlight)
Although Netflix seems to have received more media attention over the last few years as a major winner of film auctions, according to Deadline, MGM has taken over that position since the beginning of 2021, and the old school studio continued that aggressive stance this week by winning another hotly sought film rights package. MGM is in final talks to acquire the rights to Combat Control, a war drama to be based on the true story of Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman of the United States Air Force. Jake Gyllenhaal will star as Chapman, who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his role as a “combat controller” in Afghanistan in 2002, with the film focusing on the 15 years it took for Chapman’s commendation to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor, making him the first airman to receive the medal since the Vietnam War.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Hollywood has been regularly adapting old TV shows into movies since the 1980s (Dragnet was an early example). The results haven’t always been great, though, such as the 2005 movie Bewitched (Rotten at 24%), starring Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, based on the popular 1960s show. What’s less common is for a studio to actually make a second attempt at adapting such a show after the first movie has disappointing returns, but that is exactly what Sony Pictures is doing with Bewitched. Sony Pictures has hired TV showrunners Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett (MacGyver, 12 Monkeys) to start working on a new Bewitched feature film screenplay. Rather than the “meta” approach of the Will Ferrell movie, this Bewitched is expected to be a closer adaptation of the original show’s premise of a witch who settles into suburban domesticity after falling in love with a non-magical advertising executive. Between Zatanna at Warner Bros. and Bewitched at Sony, one has to guess that WandaVision (Fresh at 91%) is having an immediate influence.
(Photo by James Atoa/Everett Collection)
Ghost of Tsushima was not the only video game adaptation to make the news this week. Brad Peyton, who has directed Dwayne Johnson three times in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Rotten at 45%), San Andreas (Rotten at 49%) and the old school arcade game movie Rampage (Rotten at 51%), signed on for another video game adaptation this week. That project will be adapted from the World War II third-person shooter Sniper Elite, a franchise whose latest entry, a supernatural spin-off sequel called Zombie Army 4: Dead War, released just last year. The Sniper Elite movie will tell the story of Allied sniper Karl Fairburne, who engages “in a cat-and-mouse chase through the streets of London at the height of the Blitz during World War II, as he tries to save British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from a Nazi assassin.” Sniper Elite is being produced by one of the Ubisoft executives who was also behind the Assassin’s Creed (Rotten at 18%) movie starring Michael Fassbender.