Jun 7, 2012

Universal Moves Forward with SWATH Sequel

Deadline.com - June 7, 2012 EXCLUSIVE: Studios are relying heavily on sequels this summer, but the toughest thing to do is to introduce something new that launches a franchise. It looks like Universal has done that with Snow White And The Huntsman. I’m told that the studio is making all the moves that indicate another chapter is in the offing, and on a fast track.

Universal commenced David Koepp to write the sequel script, which Deadline revealed in late April might happen. The studio is now talking with director Rupert Sanders about a return, after he made his feature directing debut on the first installment. Sanders is interested; he had a great time making the first movie. But unlike most first time directors, he doesn’t have to come back. That’s because Snow White And The Huntsman was sold in an auction by CAA that included a presentation by Sanders of how he was going to shoot the film. Sanders was part of the package, as was producer Joe Roth, and that gave the agency leverage to make a much better deal than a first timer usually gets. The filmmaker is in demand now, but he hasn’t chosen his next film and a sequel might well be it. I understand that the actors in the film have options for two sequels, so that part of the equation shouldn’t be too difficult.

While there were plenty of potshots taken by journalists at Universal and its executives in expectation that Snow White and the Huntsman would suffer the same under-performing fate as Battleship, the film way outperformed its advance tracking for a $56 million opening weekend. It has continued to play during the week and has done $118 million worldwide . It still needs to perform in the next few grueling weeks, considering the film’s costs pegged at a reported $170 million, but there is an opportunity here to make a better film with the sequel. The first film got rushed when Relativity Media hired Julia Roberts and pressed ahead with Mirror Mirror. Relativity burned its bridges with Universal to rush out a film that wasn’t worth it, and Universal also hurried its film. Paying Koepp his fat fee (his franchise scripts include Spider-Man, Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible) indicates the studio will try to make the most of that opportunity, particularly with no reason to rush this time.

Collider - June 7thWhile Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman continues to battle for more box office earnings, Universal is already moving forward with the sequel. With the “origin” story in the Snow White franchise thus set up, it only goes to follow that the next chapter will be fast-tracked. Universal has set David Koepp (Spider-Man) to write the script. Hopefully, the sequel will have a more cohesive storyline, better dialogue and provide a payoff to its promises, something we discussed at length on last week’s podcast. Sanders may or may not be back, but stars Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth are optioned for two more films.

Deadline reports that Universal is anxious to move forward with the Snow White and the Huntsman follow up. The current iteration was a film we were all looking forward to seeing, but ended up being disappointed to varying degrees. Partly to blame was Relativity Media’s push of their own take on Snow White, Mirror Mirror. Then, having a debut director who cut his teeth in commercials didn’t help, although I was impressed by the array of visual displays at work in the film. What killed this picture were the three disparate storylines: an epic rebellion, a fantasy romance and a coming of age tale; none of the three came together in a unifying way that paid off in the end. That’s unfortunate because I think we all agreed that there was a decent story in there somewhere; it could have been afforded more time to develop. There is an opportunity to do that with a sequel…but is a sequel necessary? In my opinion, no; there’s not much story left to tell and not much reason to find one. And for all of Koepp’s hits (Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man), his more recent misses (War of the Worlds, Zathura: A Space Adventure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) give me reason to pass. 

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