Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.
1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike. The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.
By the time Mad Max 4: Fury Road is released, there will have been a gap of nearly 30 years between it and its predecessor, 1985′s Beyond Thunderdome. Fury Road has had a long and complicated gestation, to say the least. Twelve years had already passed since the third Mad Max movie when its visionary director/producer George Miller first spoke informally to U.K. comics legend Brendan McCarthy of his desire to make a sequel. A year later McCarthy moved to Sydney, Australia, handpicked by Miller to reboot the Mad Max franchise and co-write the first draft of Fury Road‘s while developing storyboards and the core designs.
That takes us up to about 2003. Money troubles then affected the production, as the estimated $100 million budget proved hard to finance for what is essentially an Australian indie movie. When the funding was finally secured, the production was shelved, as the scouted locations in Namibia were deemed a security risk in the wake of the Iraq War. By 2009, it was being rumored the script would be produced as an Akira-influenced R-rated animation, which seemed all the likelier as Miller’s animation-producing credentials were proven by the Happy Feet franchise. The Dr D studio Miller established as a digital production facility had also started concurrent development of a Mad Max video game, overseen by Miller and God of War II‘s Cary Barlog. But just as those rumors spread, the story took another turn. Locations were being scouted in the production’s native Australia, cast members were being speculated upon and then confirmed. Work was about to start when unexpected levels of rainfall turned Broken Hill in New South Wales from a suitably post-apocalyptic-looking desert into a verdant oasis reportedly covered in a lush blanket of wildflowers.
The needle skips again, and primary photography finally, officially, kicked off in its original Namibian locations in July 2012. And the set there is as leaky as a sieve. As photographs of vehicles being transported to the set hit the Internet, Kennedy Miller Mitchell productions sought to control the flow of information with a press release that included the film’s first official plot synopsis: