An Alternate Rise of the Blockbuster

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... another update!

But with Superman breaking all records, and earning them more money than they could’ve dreamed of… as much as they hated to admit it, they couldn’t afford to lose him. Donner was allowed to stay and finish what he started.
A vindication for Richard Donner! Good for him - he richly deserves this second chance. IOTL, at least, he struck me as the opposite of George Lucas - surrounded by either incompetents, or simply those who had no idea how to make the right kind of movie - except for his chosen few (like Mankiewicz), and triumphing and creating a great film through hard work, clear vision ("Verisimilitude") and force of will.

ColeMercury said:
Donner instead decided to end the film with Lois still knowing that Superman was Clark Kent. While this was very controversial at the time, it ultimately resulted in the comic books finally having Superman reveal his true identity to Lois Lane the year after the film’s release.
This is also some very good stuff. Lois Lane knowing about Superman's secret identity ahead of schedule will be a shot in the arm to the by-now stale and ultra-predictable comics, and it will allow both of their characters to develop in interesting ways (very different ones from OTL, no doubt, given that this is several years pre-Crisis - assuming that there even is a Crisis ITTL).

ColeMercury said:
Once it was clear that the success of Superman was not a fluke, DC Comics swiftly moved to compound their success and organised in conjunction with Warner Bros. for a new film version of Batman to be made. Tentative talks were also begun regarding eventual film adaptations of Wonder Woman and The Flash.
A new Batman! Given that this is pre-Miller and pre-Moore, the primary source of inspiration for a "darker" Batman would be the O'Neil/Adams years. Though certainly, it would look and feel very different from all of the Batman movies of OTL. As for Wonder Woman, if you can get her onto the big screen, that's quite an achievement! I suspect that any WWII setting would be nixed after 1941 bombs - if it bombs. People (both ITTL and on this thread) will want Lynda Carter to reprise her role, and she is still young enough in the early 1980s...

ColeMercury said:
All the same ingredients that give Star Wars such a universal appeal are there -- it seems to me that the only thing that prevented Superman from getting such a reception was that it came nineteen months later.
I agree, and this landmark reception will also give Superman ammunition that it does not have against certain other superheroes IOTL, particularly his eternal opposite, Batman (who has, of course, had two massive hit movies IOTL).

ColeMercury said:
Because they're not reshooting most of the film, Superman II is released as per the original schedule in December 1979. I don't quite know what the plot of Superman III will be, but Brainiac is the villain and it also provides some of the background for Supergirl's origin story.
You don't appear to have mentioned who is playing Lois Lane - are we to assume it's Margot Kidder? If so, do the more harmonious relations between all parties ensure her full return in Superman III? Creating a new arc for her should be a nice challenge.

Also, please no Richard Pryor, although I should hope that would go without saying.

Looking forward to more, as always!
 
A new Batman! Given that this is pre-Miller and pre-Moore, the primary source of inspiration for a "darker" Batman would be the O'Neil/Adams years. Though certainly, it would look and feel very different from all of the Batman movies of OTL. As for Wonder Woman, if you can get her onto the big screen, that's quite an achievement! I suspect that any WWII setting would be nixed after 1941 bombs - if it bombs. People (both ITTL and on this thread) will want Lynda Carter to reprise her role, and she is still young enough in the early 1980s...
There's also the original Joker comic...
 
Keep Reb Brown as Cap, PUH-LEEEEZE...:p

In all seriousness, I wonder how a superhero craze to the degree of the one started in the 2000's by the success of X-Men will affect comics of the 1980's, particularly Alan Moore and Frank Miller...
 
You don't appear to have mentioned who is playing Lois Lane - are we to assume it's Margot Kidder? If so, do the more harmonious relations between all parties ensure her full return in Superman III? Creating a new arc for her should be a nice challenge.

Also, please no Richard Pryor, although I should hope that would go without saying.
Could we still get Annette O'Toole as Lana Lang because her scenes and interactions with Clark Kent were the better parts of the movie. Maybe if Margot Kidder returns for Superman III, then maybe there can be a bit of a rivalry (like in the comics) between the two.

As for Supergirl, maybe her origin can be more like the comic where Argo City survived as a piece of Krypton that survived the planet's destruction for a number of years. Then Brainiac attacks the city and kills its inhabitants. Zor-El sends his daughter Kara to Earth using the same route his brother used for Kal-El. Kara lands near Smallville but Brainiac followed her to Earth.

Supergirl actually has some potential for modest success because unlike Superman, she came to Earth as a teenager and doesn't sympathize with humanity as much as her cousin. Her movie could center around her finding her place among humanity as a hero in her own right.

And just a thought, would these movies take place in a shared universe?
 
No comments, but interesting so far. Enjoying it greatly. Does the extensive use of the handheld camera by Lucas lead to a spread of cinema verite? Perhaps a Dogme 78? :D
 
Just a general schedule for more superhero films to come: Captain America will be out sometime in 1982, Batman will be released in 1983, and Spider-Man will have to wait until 1985. And, of course, other superhero films will also be released in the '80s and '90s, both from DC and Marvel...
Whoa. A superhero boom in the '80s, cool.

I can only echo some of the comments, I'm happy Richard Donner gets a better break and Lois Lane knows the truth, and I'm intrigued to see what's coming.

Got a feeling ITTL that they won't be filming Moonraker as the next James Bond film after The Spy Who Loved Me.
This is true. They had intended to make Moonraker for some time, but it was certainly the science fiction boom that finally got it off the ground.

Indeed, "James Bond Will Return in For Your Eyes Only" was the ending for The Spy Who Loved Me.
 
What about the X-Men and Fantastic Four?
There will be an X-Men film. And Fantastic Four as well, I guess, but I hadn't thought much about that one.
If a replacement is needed, then might I recommend Vilmos Zsigmond, who I think can match Unsworth's style. Hope John Williams returns as well. As for a Star Wars production designer, would Ken Adam work?
Sure, why not? (Though, of course, you can't have Star Wars without John Williams.)
As for Wonder Woman, if you can get her onto the big screen, that's quite an achievement! I suspect that any WWII setting would be nixed after 1941 bombs - if it bombs. People (both ITTL and on this thread) will want Lynda Carter to reprise her role, and she is still young enough in the early 1980s...
Hmm... keep in mind that this isn't "We will make a Wonder Woman film to be released in 198X", it's more like "We can make a Wonder Woman film some time in tomorrowland". It's on the table because Wonder Woman is familiar to the general public.
You don't appear to have mentioned who is playing Lois Lane - are we to assume it's Margot Kidder? If so, do the more harmonious relations between all parties ensure her full return in Superman III? Creating a new arc for her should be a nice challenge.

Also, please no Richard Pryor, although I should hope that would go without saying.
Yes, yes and yes. And yes it does.
That would be the best possibility for a descent early Batman film. I wonder who will direct personally I favor a young and original director, David Lynch?
I already have a director and star in mind.
Keep Reb Brown as Cap, PUH-LEEEEZE...:p
No.
As for Supergirl, maybe her origin can be more like the comic where Argo City survived as a piece of Krypton that survived the planet's destruction for a number of years. Then Brainiac attacks the city and kills its inhabitants. Zor-El sends his daughter Kara to Earth using the same route his brother used for Kal-El. Kara lands near Smallville but Brainiac followed her to Earth.

Supergirl actually has some potential for modest success because unlike Superman, she came to Earth as a teenager and doesn't sympathize with humanity as much as her cousin. Her movie could center around her finding her place among humanity as a hero in her own right.
Thanks for the background! That's very helpful.
And just a thought, would these movies take place in a shared universe?
No. Except for Superman & Supergirl, obviously.
Got a feeling ITTL that they won't be filming Moonraker as the next James Bond film after The Spy Who Loved Me.
This is true. They had intended to make Moonraker for some time, but it was certainly the science fiction boom that finally got it off the ground.

Indeed, "James Bond Will Return in For Your Eyes Only" was the ending for The Spy Who Loved Me.
Oh, believe me, James Bond will be addressed.
 
I assume WB will be making the DC films since they own them.
Who else might get a film? Captain Marvel/Shazam? Green LAntern/Green Arrow? (O'Neil & Adams's work might do well...) Would comic writers be asked to input in films?

(Of course, I'm personally working on a few ideas for my own TL, which will feature at least two new DC movie franchises in the 2000's...)
 
Update #7 -- the making of two films written by a certain Mr Lawrence Kasdan...

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Lawrence Kasdan initially had a tough time breaking into the world of Hollywood screenwriting. While working as a copywriter for an advertising agency – a job he hated – he had gone through 37 rejections before he sold his first screenplay. The script, titled The Bodyguard, was written with Steve McQueen and Diana Ross in mind to play the lead roles of the bodyguard and the pop singer he is hired to protect; both McQueen and Ross signed on to the film in 1975, but after a stupid dispute between the two over who would get top billing the film had fallen into development hell.

Then, all of a sudden, Kasdan had a lucky break. Once he sold his screenplay Continental Divide to Steven Spielberg, he found he had apparently become Spielberg’s new favourite screenwriter. Spielberg would end up commissioning Kasdan to write the screenplays of his next two films.

The first of those films was a story initially thought up by George Lucas together with Philip Kaufman back in 1973. Much like The Star Wars, it was also heavily inspired by the film serials of Lucas’s childhood but in a different way: the story centred around an archaeologist action hero who would combat Nazis in a search for the lost Ark of the Covenant, and was going by the working title of The Adventures of Indiana Smith (“Indiana” being the name of Lucas’s dog). Indiana Smith had first come to the attention of Steven Spielberg in the course of a conversation with Lucas, at a time when Lucas had just resumed working on The Star Wars and Spielberg was in the middle of post-production for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg had expressed a great deal of interest in the film, but was uncertain about the title character’s surname – to which Lucas replied, “Well, why not ‘Jones’?” (In the same conversation Spielberg had expressed concern over the surname of protagonist Luke Starkiller in The Star Wars, prompting Lucas to change it back to Skywalker; the name “Starkiller” would of course be re-used in a different context in later sequels.)

Kasdan was commissioned to write The Adventures of Indiana Jones in January 1978, at a time when George Lucas was on a break from pre-production on The Star Wars and Steven Spielberg had not yet begun work on his new film 1941; Frank Marshall was also brought on as a producer at the same time. The four of them developed the basic story into a full film over a three-week period, and Lucas also brought in information on potential filming locations in Tunisia he had found while scouting for The Star Wars. Kasdan spent six months writing the first draft script for what was now given the more marketable title of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many more months rewriting and revising. The following year, after The Star Wars proved to be a solid success and 1941 to be a disappointing failure (profitable, but pitiful compared to its two record-breaking predecessors), Spielberg and Lucas began shopping the screenplay around to various studios – after many rejections the film was finally picked up by Paramount Pictures.

The second film came about as a result of pressure from Columbia Pictures for Spielberg to make a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg had initially considered doing so – or perhaps making a prequel involving what happened to the abducted pilots – but soon decided that he would be unable to do it justice. At the same time, Spielberg did not want to disassociate himself from any follow-up to Close Encounters as he had with Jaws; eventually he decided to meet them halfway, by making a stand-alone film that touched on much the same subject matter as Close Encounters and could act as a kind of spiritual successor.

The result was a treatment initially titled Watch the Skies, which turned out to be very different from Close Encounters in its approach to the subject matter: it was a horror film that showed the dark side of alien abduction. The story centred around a family held captive in their farmhouse and terrorised by a team of malevolent alien scientists. Because Spielberg was contractually obligated to direct his next film after Raiders of the Lost Ark for Universal Pictures, he took the role of producer and left it to somebody else to direct.

As Spielberg’s initial outline had been fairly vague in terms of plot and character, Kasdan essentially had to create these aspects himself – he sketched out the individual family members as well as particular alien individuals in the science team, and also added in a subplot of the aliens abducting the youngest daughter (after deciding that having a young son was too similar to Close Encounters). Due to the name “Watch the Skies” being trademarked, the project was renamed Night Skies.

Meanwhile, pre-production on Raiders of the Lost Ark had begun, including the process of casting the hero Indiana Jones. After looking at many established actors including Tom Selleck (who proved unavailable due to being attached to Magnum, P.I.), Peter Coyote and Tim Matheson, the role ultimately went to Lucas’s old friend Harrison Ford. The decision was made on the strength of Ford’s performance as Bail Antilles in The Star Wars, which many had praised as a highlight of the film. Some had even said that Antilles appeared as if he was the hero of his own story, whose path happened to cross with those of Luke and his companions – Lucas, Spielberg and Marshall took this as an indication that Ford could carry his own movie.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in June 1981 to near-universal acclaim, earning glowing reviews from critics and over $350 million at the box office worldwide. Harrison Ford had unquestionably become a star, and George Lucas’s concept of a modern film version of 1940s serial stories had been a success once again. A sequel was of course demanded by Paramount; however, this could not be fast-tracked as Quest for the Kiber Crystal had been: Lucas was busy working on The Star Wars – Chapter III: Return of the Jedi, and Spielberg was still under contract to direct a film for Universal. A second film of The Adventures of Indiana Jones (which was revived as an overarching series title: the first film would later be retroactively retitled Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adventures of Indiana Jones) would end up being a big-budget affair which would not be released until late in the summer of 1984.

Night Skies, directed by Tobe Hooper, was released on Halloween 1982. The end result was not quite a horror film, not quite a science fiction film, but somewhere in between. While the film would end up earning over $100 million worldwide (having been budgeted at $10.5 million), and would also serve as the breakout film role for child actress Drew Barrymore, the film also received complaints for having graphic violence and gore that certain moral-guardian protesters believed exceeded its PG rating. Night Skies had been rated PG due to its content being judged insufficiently graphic to justify an R rating – on the suggestion of producer Steven Spielberg, Night Skies provided the impetus for the Motion Picture Association of America to create the new PG-13 rating.

Working on Raiders of the Lost Ark and also on Night Skies, with all their stylised action, violence and horror, also left Spielberg with the impression that his next film needed to be something that would, in his words, get him “back to the tranquillity, or at least the spirituality, of Close Encounters.” Inspired partly by certain aspects of Night Skies, and partly by Spielberg’s idea from back in 1978 to film a low-budget picture over 28 days about childhood entitled Growing Up (which ended up getting lost in the shuffle of 1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Night Skies), Spielberg’s film for Universal Pictures ended up being a supernatural modern-fantasy film centred around child protagonists, released around Easter 1983.

---

Notes: most of the first four paragraphs is the same as OTL, with only certain details differing. For example, the conversation between Spielberg and Lucas with the "Why not Jones?" exchange happened in OTL but in a different context, and the topic of Luke Skywalker's name was not brought up as Star Wars had already been released. Spielberg, Lucas, Kasdan and Marshall meeting up in January 1978 is as with OTL, but the only difference is that in TTL Lucas would be in the middle of pre-production on The Star Wars and so I've made it that this takes place in the middle of a break for Lucas.

Night Skies is one of the great what-ifs of Hollywood: a movie that was never made itself but had aspects of it recycled into multiple other films. In OTL, Lawrence Kasdan was unavailable to script Night Skies as he was busy working on Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back; Spielberg instead turned to his second choice, John Sayles. Sayles added a lot of his own material to Spielberg's vague treatment, fleshing out the individual family members as well as individual members of the alien scientist team -- including their leader, dubbed "Scar" in the script, as well as a single nice alien dubbed "Buddy" who would befriend the autistic youngest son in the family and end up getting left behind on Earth at the end by his evil brethren.

"Scar" would later reappear as none other than "Stripe" in the film Gremlins, after Spielberg demanded rewrites to make that film less of a black comedy. "Buddy" and his story would end up serving as the inspiration for ET the Extra-Terrestrial -- for much the same reasons about "returning to the spirituality of Close Encounters" as given in TTL, in OTL Spielberg scrapped Night Skies entirely and instead made ET for Universal Pictures. Parts of Night Skies were also recycled into the film Poltergeist -- produced by Spielberg, based on a story by him, directed by Tobe Hooper.

The format of the title Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adventures of Indiana Jones is continuing something I referenced in Update #3. Planet of the Titans has set a precedent for "Individual Movie Title: Overarching Series Subtitle" to be standard rather than the other way around. The Star Wars goes against this, but mainly because of the "Chapter XYZ" bit. Speaking of which, Return of the Jedi is still used in TTL: it's still thematically appropriate.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a little bit less successful than OTL due to Harrison Ford being less recognisable, but it's still a huge hit. Night Skies is likewise a bit less successful than Poltergeist simply because more people see films in summer than on Halloween.

In OTL, the PG-13 rating came about due to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins both being rated PG. In OTL it gets invented a couple of years earlier.

Spielberg's supernatural kids' film for Universal in TTL is a story which doesn't really have an equivalent in OTL, but it has a similar sort of tone and feel to ET. In fact, I guess you could say that if Night Skies is "ET with the feel of Poltergeist" then this other film would be "Poltergeist with the feel of ET". I may elaborate more upon the film in a later update, but I make no promises (partly because I haven't really made up much more about it yet :D ). The release around Easter 1983 and the subsequent promotion tour means that filming for the second Adventures of Indiana Jones film begins a couple of months later than OTL, which in turn means it's released in late July 1984 rather than May.
 
Sure, why not? (Though, of course, you can't have Star Wars without John Williams.)
Don't think it'll be a problem. Superman II is supposedly released in December 1979 ITTL, taking what was Star Trek: TMP's spot IOTL. I'm sure Williams can go back to doing the score of Superman II when he's done scoring Star Wars. Of course, Williams scored Dracula and 1941 ITTL, but I'm sure Dracula can be butterflied away and he can do 3 films in '79. Those are Star Wars, Superman II, and 1941. Also, YOU'VE KEPT INDY JUST THE WAY IT WAS. THANK YOU!
 
I enjoyed the update and don't have much specific to say, just a little:

the role ultimately went to Lucas’s old friend Harrison Ford. The decision was made on the strength of Ford’s performance as Bail Antilles in The Star Wars, which many had praised as a highlight of the film. Some had even said that Antilles appeared as if he was the hero of his own story, whose path happened to cross with those of Luke and his companions
Well thank god for small favours. Hmmm, a Bail Antilles spin-off Star Wars film?

The Star Wars – Chapter III: Return of the Jedi, […] Speaking of which, Return of the Jedi is still used in TTL: it's still thematically appropriate.
I'm certainly curious about the next two The Star Wars films, but I'm a little surprised you didn't go with the original Revenge of the Jedi title.

on the suggestion of producer Steven Spielberg, Night Skies provided the impetus for the Motion Picture Association of America to create the new PG-13 rating.
That's a neat little early change. I assume it's still as undefined as it was IOTL 1980s when bare breasts could be shown in a PG-13?
 
After looking at many established actors including Tom Selleck (who proved unavailable due to being attached to Magnum, P.I.), Peter Coyote and Tim Matheson, the role ultimately went to Lucas’s old friend Harrison Ford.
I can't say I blame you - we write about these things because we love them, after all - but I'm a little disappointed that you didn't take the plunge and cast Magnum as Indy. It is one of the great WIs of pop culture...

ColeMercury said:
The decision was made on the strength of Ford’s performance as Bail Antilles in The Star Wars, which many had praised as a highlight of the film. Some had even said that Antilles appeared as if he was the hero of his own story, whose path happened to cross with those of Luke and his companions – Lucas, Spielberg and Marshall took this as an indication that Ford could carry his own movie.
You're making me miss the days when Harrison Ford actually tried to make great movies :(

ColeMercury said:
Night Skies provided the impetus for the Motion Picture Association of America to create the new PG-13 rating.
That's a very good way to use an ATL product to arrive an OTL result - well done.

I'm certainly curious about the next two The Star Wars films, but I'm a little surprised you didn't go with the original Revenge of the Jedi title.
Agreed. Pop culture lore has it that it was only changed because of The Vengeance of Khan, in the development at the same time; in the end, both film titles were changed: Revenge to Return, and Vengeance to Wrath.

Electric Monk said:
I assume it's still as undefined as it was IOTL 1980s when bare breasts could be shown in a PG-13?
You seem to enjoy fixating on that point, don't you :p

As always, some great stuff here, ColeMercury. I really like the feeling of things being just subtly different in some ways, and dramatically so in others. It reminds us that movie-making is still much more art than science. And, at least in this era, there's still a drive for creativity and talent over cold, hard cash. Who knows how long that will last? The bubble's got to burst some time!
 
You seem to enjoy fixating on that point, don't you
Like any straight guy or not-straight girl, yes, yes I do.

Actually I find it so incredibly weird that it was okay in the 1980s (not exactly the most hip era) and then it wasn't. The same goes for stuff like swearing and violence and how acceptable levels of it in ratings fluctuate in ways that don't seem to make sense. There's a really good academic paper to be written on the subject I imagine.

I can't say I blame you - we write about these things because we love them, after all - but I'm a little disappointed that you didn't take the plunge and cast Magnum as Indy. It is one of the great WIs of pop culture...
I'm just happy I'm not the only one who has (sort of) chickened out of making such a massive change in a lead role for a famous film/tv show :).

I don't blame you either ColeMercury, you did after all toss poor Harrison Ford out from being Han Solo :D.
 
Well thank god for small favours. Hmmm, a Bail Antilles spin-off Star Wars film?
Don't think so, considering the character dies in The Star Wars.
I'm certainly curious about the next two The Star Wars films, but I'm a little surprised you didn't go with the original Revenge of the Jedi title.
I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that Return was the original-original title, then it was changed to Revenge because it sounded better, then it was changed back to Return. But that doesn't matter anyway because in TTL's movie (which actually has a lot of differences from OTL's Return of the Jedi) the title Revenge of the Jedi just doesn't fit.
I can't say I blame you - we write about these things because we love them, after all - but I'm a little disappointed that you didn't take the plunge and cast Magnum as Indy. It is one of the great WIs of pop culture...
Hey -- I didn't want to, and there was a good reason why I didn't (i.e. Selleck being contractually committed to Magnum, P.I.) It all works out.
 
Basically, Raiders is still a big success as ITTL, it just made $34 million less than the one IOTL at the worldwide box office. Also, I think I have an idea for Spiderman. It gets released in the 1990s and James Cameron writes and directs it. Cameron was influenced by Star Wars IOTL, so we can just change the influence to Close Encounters ITTL, and everything else remains the same (Terminator, Aliens, Abyss, T2). Make sure you keep Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. Like Indy, I can't imagine anyone else in the role (Especially not O.J., if you know what I mean). Speaking of Aliens, is Alien still made ITTL and directed by Ridley Scott? I think the success of Close Encounters is enough to convince the Fox brass to greenlight Alien's budget, plus to convince Scott to take the job. IOTL, it was the success of Star Wars that convinced the heads at Fox, but I don't think there'll be much difference if these events happened later in 1977, rather than earlier. Filming for Alien does get pushed back a month or two, but no harm done. Alien just opens in cinemas either in June or July of 1979, rather than May, which is saved for Star Wars of TTL!

Think about it.
 
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A fine update. Nice to see Raiders still happens TTL, a little sad to see ET butterflied out, though intrigued by this "Poltergeist with the feel of ET" film coming up.

Also, FTR: Do the elections of 1976 and 1980 play out essentially the same as OTL?
 
A fine update. Nice to see Raiders still happens TTL, a little sad to see ET butterflied out, though intrigued by this "Poltergeist with the feel of ET" film coming up.

Also, FTR: Do the elections of 1976 and 1980 play out essentially the same as OTL?
Do think this is related to the entertainment industry. Other than that, the 1976 and 1980 US Presidential elections are pretty much the same.
 
Don't think so, considering the character dies in The Star Wars.
Ah, my bad. I must have missed that. Of course we do know Lucas likes prequels… :).

I may be wrong, but I seem to recall that Return was the original-original title, then it was changed to Revenge because it sounded better, then it was changed back to Return.
You're right. Kasdan convinced Lucas to change it, Lucas flipped it back a couple weeks before the film came out (hence why there are posters with Revenge of the Jedi on them).
 
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