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Posts Tagged ‘Fantastic Four’

We lost Stan Lee this week at the age of 95.  Many people first became aware of him from his cameo’s in Marvel movies, but his impact on popular culture goes far beyond that:  For better or worse, make your own mind up; without Stan Lee we probably wouldn’t be seeing all the comic book movies that are dominating cinema screens.  Like many people I first became aware of him from the animated shows of the 1980’s.  These animated show were the start of a push to develop Marvel properties into other media.  Initial results were mixed at best but eventually led to what we now know as the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Stan Lee 1922 2018

But it all started before that, growing up Lee born (Stanley Martin Lieber) loved swashbuckling movies, and dreamt of becoming a novelist.  One of his earliest jobs as a writer came writing obituaries before at the age of 17 a family connection got him a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, the precursor Marvel Comics was at the time a new division of a pulp magazine.

Lee’s first job actually writing in a comic book came with the text fillers for Captain America Comics #3 in 1941.  This was the first time he used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which later became his legal name.  Before long he moved from fillers to writing the backup feature, “‘Headline’ Hunter, Foreign Correspondent”.

His early creations Jack Frost, Father Time, and Destroyer may not be household names now, but things were about to change.  At the age of just 19 Lee was made interim editor, a position that quickly became permanent, one that he remained in for just over thirty years before becoming Publisher.  After the war, were Lee served in first the Signal Corps, and then the Training Film Division, he formed a partnership with artist Jack Kirby, together they created a few characters you may have heard of: the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and the Fantastic Four. x men fantastic four thor iron man black panther hulk ant man

He also created Daredevil with Bill Everett. And with Steve Ditko with, Doctor Strange and his (and Marvel’s most successful character) Spider-Man. Doctor Strange Daredevil Spider-man

As significant as the characters they created, in 1963 gathered them together along with some older character, most notably Captain America to create the  Avengers, a rival to DC’s Justice League (originally Justice League of America). With various reboots, relaunches, spin-offs, alternate universes, and ever changing line-up, The Avengers have been a constant fixture within the comic book world.     The Avengers

In 1981 Lee moved from New York to California in 1981 to develop Marvel’s movie and TV, while the live action of these were forgettable at best, the cartoons introduced a whole new generation to Marvel.  They also provided the springboard of what was to come.  The success of Blade for New Line Cinema, X-Men with Fox Studio’s and Sony’s Spider-Man movies proved there was a market for quality comic book movies that snowballed into the MCU, and who knows where that will take us? Excelsior!

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It’s that time of the month again.  Having only posted twice in August, September is here already and it’s time to look back at the films I watched last month.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Tom Cruise is back for the fifth instalment of the franchise.  Whilst each of the other films had its own identify, or to be more precise the identity of their directors  this film draws its identity from within, from the earlier films.  The franchise has found it character the way Bond did with Goldfinder.  Any flimsiness in the plot is forgotten as it is so much fun.  The standout is relative newcomer Rebecca Ferguson.Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Fantastic Four: After a fantastic debut with Chronicle Josh Trank was the obvious choice to reboot the Fantastic Four.  Or was it too obvious, is the origin story too close to his first feature?  With the director disowning the film before its release, it was never going to be good, but it isn’t as bad as the critical pounding suggests.  The cast is good and give good performances but the story is just dull.Fantastic Four

The Gift: A confident début as feature director by actor Joel Edgerton.  What starts out looking like an 80’s/90’s yuppies in peril thriller becomes something far more interesting. Edgerton co stars with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, all three are excellent. The end has divided opinion, but I think it is perfect for the film.The Gift

Precinct Seven Five: Documentary about the man dubbed the dirtiest cop in NYPD history.  Told with a mixture of talking heads and archive footage. With more than a hint of Goodfellas the unrepentant subject makes for an interesting and enthralling documentary.Precinct Seven Five

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Guy Ritchie’s movie based on the 60’s TV show.  Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have great chemistry with each other and co-star Alicia Vikander.  The 60’s setting is perfectly evoked in style and look.  The action won’t satisfy those expecting Bond or Bourne but that isn’t the point.the-man-from-uncle

Trainwreck: A rom-com that subverts many of the ideas of the genera often to great comic effect.  Written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow.  Schumer is very funny in the lead but the direction is sloppy and flabby.  Scenes are too long and the story looses direction in the middle.Trainwreck

Paper Towns: Based on a novel by John Green most likely to Cash in on the success of The Fault In Our Stars.  Coming of age drama that although not totally original actually has some interesting to say about the genre.Paper Towns

Hitman: Agent 47: A reboot of a movie based on a video game that has most of the same problems as the original movie.  The action scenes are good but the thin plot is stretched too far, the rest of the film is filled with dull exposition.Hitman Agent 47

No Escape: An American arrives in an unnamed southeast Asian country (it borders Vietnam so that leaves China, Laos and Cambodia or a fictional country) just as coup is getting underway.  A tense tail of people trying to survive out of their comfort zone.  Has some good scenes, Owen Wilson does a reasonable job playing against type in straight role but Lake Bell is totally wasted.No Escape

Mission: Impossible was such fun it came close but the movie of the month is:the gift movie poster

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With The Dark Knight Rises bringing an end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy there is a lot of talk about where the character should go from here. It would be naive to think this is the end of Batman on screen. There is too grater appetite from viewers and too much money to be made from the studio point of view for it not to happen.

WARNING this paragraph contains The Dark Knight Rises plot spoilers 

Firstly a little background. You may remember the whole thing about all Marvel characters who couldn’t appear in the Avengers movie because the rights have been licensed to other studios; Fox’s has dibs on Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer while Sony/Columbia have the big money Spider-Man. Batman has no such problem, Time/Warner owns DC Comics giving Warner Brothers exclusive rights to do whatever they wish with the character. The result of this is that the true power lies with the studio. If they want to continue the Nolan universe going with a new director, Joel Schumacher for example, they can. The way The Dark Knight Rises ended leaves great potential for spin-offs. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is set up to become Robin or even a second Batman, this has endless possibilities. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) came to the Nolan Batverse as an established character with a slinky costume and a shady back-story. This gives her character the option for an origin story as well as a spin-off. And then there is Batman himself, depending on your interpretation of the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may or may not be alive. If he is alive, he has certainly left Gotham, what will he get up to in a different country. As tantalising as these possibilities are, it is probably best they remain unmade leaving customers wanting more. Fortunately, my understanding is that Christian Bale has said he won’t play Batman for any other director so they will need to change him to. I would like to think the rest of the cast would do the same. So where do we go from here.

But the Nolan Batman universe doesn’t have to end here, there is something that could happen. What is possibly the best Batman story, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns remains un-filmed (an animated version is due out later this year). Did Nolan avoid using the title because he wants to save it for a future movie? Probably not but you never know. They will have to wait at least fifteen years until Christian Bale is approaching his mid fifties, and that is the interesting thing. Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film, and more importantly from a studio point of view he is yet to make a flop, but that is a career has lasted just fifteen years to date. Given another fifteen years and another half dozen movies there is no way of knowing what position Nolan will be in and what his motivation will be. We also don’t know if the world climate will be right for a movie like The Dark Knight Returns. With all this in mind I haven’t given up on a new Christopher Nolan Batman movie somewhere around 2027! To keep continuity with the existing movie a rewrite will be required removing Superman from the story, this isn’t as big a problem as you would think. Superman would be replaced by a government sponsored elite team who are sent to take Batman down. And best of all the timing fits, there is enough time between now and then for another actor and director to take on the character before Nolan and Bale return.

Before then there is something else we have to contend with. The Justice League aka the Justice League of America first appeared in comic books in 1960, for those not familiar, it is a sort of DC equivalent to The Avengers. Rumours of a Justice League movie have been around for years but is yet to happen. The big problem; all the other original members (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) are all supernatural, superhuman or alien. But the problem goes deeper than that, none of them have appeared in a decent movie for thirty years. The long and short of it, there can be a Justice League movie, but it can not include Christopher Nolan’s Batman. They will also struggle to make it as successful as The Avengers. The sensible thing to do from an artistic point of view would be to make a Justice League movie with its own story, its own cast and its own continuity outside the other movies. If successful it could create its own franchise, if it flops it would do so without harming other franchises.

There is sure to be a reboot, but when and how. Although it seems like longer, there was less than a decade between Batman Begins and Batman & Robin suggesting a reboot could happen as soon as the end of the decade. Or have things been accelerated by the quick reboot of Spider-Man? While I am not suggesting a Joel Schumacher style farce, the tone and style of any reboot has to be dramatically different to Nolan’s vision. This is essential for its own good as well as avoiding the impact on Nolan than way Schumacher’s movies taint the memory of Tim Burton’s movies.

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Anyone who has heard or read anything about the new Avengers movie will have come across comments about which characters can or can not be in the movie because of licensing agreements with other studios. For example Spider-Man is licensed to Columbia/Sony. With expiring deals, lawsuits and mergers there will come a time more characters become available. This has got me thinking about how much the Marvel universes should overlap.

There have probably been more Marvel based movies than you think in recent years. So far, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor have all had there own movies and have all featured together in The Avengers alongside Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Nick Fury who haven’t had their own movie but have made previous appearances in other movies. Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Elektra have appeared together as well as an ill advised (in other words crap) Elektra spin-off. There have been four X-Men movies and a Wolverine origin story. Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Blade, Frank Castle/The Punisher, and Ghost Rider have all appeared in their own movie(s).

The world in which Tony Stark/Iron Man exists appears to be just like our own, other than the advanced technology, mostly in vented by Stark.  A similar thing could be said of Bruce Banner, he and those around him (usually trying to capture him) are the only things out of the ordinary.  Thor on the other hand is pure fantasy, introducing Asgard and the nine realms.  Thor’s power is mystical and he is prevented from wielded it by an enchantment.  But even this has a real world setting.  As with Masters of the Universe (1987) the action takes place on earth, an earth who has no knowledge of other words.  Similar is true of Blade, although the world is full of vampires, most people are blissfully unaware of them.  Fantastic Four could have been an interesting movie, as we see ordinary people becoming supper heroes.  That only leaves X-Men, that develops across the movies where people become aware of mutants.  

Of the movies mentioned above, characters who have appeared in them who have been members (in comic books) of The Avengers in one form or another include: War Machine (from Iron Man 2), Spider Man, Wolverine, Storm, Venom (Spider Man 3 played by the brilliant Topher Grace), Victor Creed/Sabretooth and Daredevil. As well as Fantastic 4 members: Benjamin Jacob Grimm/Thing and Susan Richards (née Storm)/Invisible Woman, (I am led to believe the Avengers has included a Human Torch but this character was a different Human Torch and not Johnny Storm). Red Hulk (has not appeared in any of the movies to date but his alter ego General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross aka Betty Ross’ father appeared in Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) played by Sam Elliott and William Hurt respectively).

So this is how I see it: Blade doesn’t fit into The Avengers universe and vice versa, the same goes for Ghost Rider. As a regular human, Frank Castle/The Punisher could work in the Avengers universe but does the team need another angry loaner who doesn’t play well with others? Then you have the issue of who to play him. The two hulk movies and The Avengers have seen three different actors (Eric Bana, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo) as Bruce Banner, each has got progressively better. The opposite true of The Punisher, with Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson they have got progressively worse. Although Wolverine, Sabretooth and Storm have all been Avengers in the comic books, a world where mutants like the X-Men exist doesn’t really need The Avengers. The Fantastic Four could exist alongside The Avengers and as mentioned above, at least two of them have been members in the comic books, the problem? I have never read any Fantastic 4 comic books but have seen the two film versions, there are too lightweight, and not good enough to fit into The Avengers. That leaves two credible characters who could be future members: Daredevil and Spider-Man who is going through his own soon to be released reboot. Under the right circumstances either could work.

To add to the potential confusion there are a few actor crossovers: Jon Favreau (the director of the Iron Man movies) plays Tony Stark’s friend/chauffeur/bodyguard Happy Hogan in the iron man movies as well as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, Matt Murdock’s friend and legal partner. Chris Evans plays Johnny Storm / Human Torch in Fantastic Four and Steve Rogers / Captain America.

Realistically given the team dynamic a second Avengers movie probably couldn’t accept more than one or two extra members. Given who we have so far, the a second female member wouldn’t be a bad idea. This means dipping into an untapped character, the online version of Empire magazine ran a piece recently suggesting this. The characters and casting they suggested are: Wasp/Janet van Dyne (Stana Katic), Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers (Yvonne Strahovski), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maxim off (Marion Cotillard), Firestar/Angelica “Angel” Jones (Jessica Chastain), Mockingbird/Barbara “Bobbi” Morse (Greta Gerwig), Moondragon/Heather Douglas (Noomi Rapace), Tigra/Greer Grant Nelson (Michelle Rodriguez), She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters (Gina Carano), Squirrel Girl/Doreen Green (Ellen Page). I posted a similar thing just over two years ago, I also suggested Michelle Rodriguez as Tigra/Greer Grant as well as She-Hulk/Jennifer Susan Walters and Huntress/Mockingbird Barbara “Bobbi” Morse (not the same casting though,  I do love the idea of Gina Carano as She-Hulk).

In summary there is crossover potential, even beyond my suggestions providing they keep the X Men and Avengers universes apart. Having said all that, it’s a nice problem to have like a coach with more players than spaces on his team. Look at DC, Given the disastrous attempts to bring their super heroes (other than Batman) to the screen in recent years they certainly don’t have the same problem. And if they did can you see Superman in Christopher Nolan Bat-universe?

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