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Posts Tagged ‘Spider-Man’

Three years ago I wrote about how licensing agreements will keep certain Marvel comic book characters our of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).  I looked forward to the time when expiration of deals, lawsuits and mergers would start to brink characters back to the fold.  The first of them appears to be Spider-Man.  19-year-old English actor Tom Holland who impressed in The Impossible (2012) has been cast as the new Peter Parker / Spider-Man.  His first appearance will be in Captain America: Civil War next year before his 20th Birthday making him significantly younger that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield (27 and 29 respectively when they first played the character).  Significantly I understand this will not be an origin story.  By the time we see him on screen Peter will have had already had an encounter with a radioactive spider, uncle Ben will be six feet under and Spider-Man will be a fully fledged (but teenage) crime fighter. He will then get his own film in 2017.  The big question, should Spider-Man be in the MCU and potentially an Avenger? The way he has got there is a big of a mess, but unequivocally yes, Spider-Man should be there.  But what, or should I say whose next?tom-holland

A reboot of Fantastic Four is on the way in August, rights still with 20th Century Fox so still outside the MCU.  The chances of some kind of crossover or team-up is certainly helped by the reboot, had they stuck with the original cast we would have the problem of Chris Evans appearance in both franchises.  On the subject of casting, the new movie is full of promise; Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell.  The trailer makes it look darker than the first two lightweight movies, this will fit better with the direction The Avengers are heading.fantastic four

Peggy Carter first appeared on screen in Captain America: The First Avenger played by Hayley Atwell.  She has since made a successful move to the small screen in Agent Carter.  Could a character go the other way?  Daredevil has already appeared on a the big screen in the 2003 with Ben Affleck who has since made the big move to DC.  Although a moderate success it received mixed reviews.  I enjoyed it, however the TV show is considerably better.  Already commissioned for a second series, it could work as a movie,  I am not sure the very localised story will fit the vast canvas of The Avengers, but could see a cameo.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started slowly but found its feet and benefitted from a change of direction thanks to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier.  A plotline that has been developing from the start has been revealed to be The Inhumans.  This is going to develop further, It isn’t clear if this is going to be part of the current show, a spin-off or a movie.  It would be good if they can find a standout character or two that can make the move to The Avengers.

I stand by my previous comments that although Wolverine, Sabretooth and Storm have all been Avengers in the comic books they don’t fit into the MCU, The Avengers would be obsolete in a world where the X-Men exist.  It would also be difficult to introduce them now having never mentioned mutants before.  Whatever happens and whoever they introduce the age old problem remains, there are too many men and not enough women.marvel-avengers

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Ever since the explosion of comic book/superhero movies there has been calls for a female led movie.  At times it has looked like no studio would take the chance on such a project, but there could now be a race to see who gets there first.  There are three major players in comic book movies, the Disney owned Marvel Studios, DC/Warner Bros. and Sony who own the rights to Spider-Man (and many associated characters) thanks to license agreement between Marvel and Columbia (a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment).

Sony could be first out the blocks,  it appears Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been pushed back and will follow a Sinister Six movie in 2016 and an female led spin-off possibly in 2017.  Lisa Joy Nolan (Pushing Daisies, Burn Notice and the forthcoming  Westworld) has been hired to write but no announcement has been made about who the main character will be.  The most obvious options are Spider-Woman and Black Cat,  the latter being the frontrunner as her alter ego, Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones) was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I know nothing about the character, a little research tells me she was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 194 (1979) and has been both an adversary and love interest of Peter Parker/Spider-Man.  I know about as much (or little) about Spider-Woman.  It appears several woman took the name, most notably Jessica Drew, Julia Carpenter and Mattie Franklin. originally introduced in Marvel Spotlight #32 (Feb. 1977) she went on to have her own self-titled series (1978 – 1983).Felicia Hardy Felicity Jones

DC have two options, Wonder Woman or Catwoman.  A Catwoman movie is unlikely at this time thanks to the last attempt, Catwoman (2004).  This leavers Wonder Woman.  First appearing in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941, Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior princess, known in her homeland as Princess Diana of Themyscira, she uses the pseudonym Diana Prince.  She has a range of superhuman powers and an array of weapons as you would expect for a comic book hero.  Gal Gadot has been cast to play the part in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (set for release March 2016) with a possible  Wonder Woman and Justice League movie to follow, no dates announced.Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Marvel already have their character but don’t seem to know what to do with her:  Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow made her first comic book appearance in Tales of Suspense #52 (April 1964).  She was introduced into the current Marvel film universe in Iron Man 2 (2010) played by Scarlett Johansson, also appearing in Avengers Assemble (2012) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and will appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).  Little more than window dressing in Iron Man 2, she and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) were the most interesting characters in Avengers Assemble and added a further dimension to the character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year.  Anyone concerned about the star power of Scarlett Johansson should take a look at the numbers for Luc Besson’s Lucy.Black Widow

Is it a question of who gets there first, or who gets it right?  The success of the rubbish Transformers: Age of Extinction and the failure of the excellent Edge of Tomorrow there is more to success than quality.  With budgets of up to $250million studios are more interested in fanatical success than art or critical acclaim. With this in mind, it isn’t a case of who has the best character, script or idea, but the one who thinks he can turn a profit.  It might be a case of wait and see what the competition do.

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Following last weeks thoughts on where the Batman franchise may go from here, I thought I would take a look how we got to where we are now. The Dark Knight Rises didn’t just happen, a comic book movie this big and epic but also this dark could not have been made in the 80’s or 90’s. Is the world in a darker place making such filmmaking a product of its time? Probably, but there is more to it than that. The billion dollar gross of The Dark Knight (2008) ensured that there would be a third film but things were very different before that. Batman Begins (2005) had a reasonable but unspectacular profit (it grossed around two and half times its budget). A few years before that would a big budget comic book movie have been made especially after Batman & Robin (1997).

When I started getting into movies as a kid the only comic book or super hero movies that had any credibility were Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981). Batman was best remembered for the Adam West/Burt Ward TV show from the 60’s that although it has gained a cult status now it something of a joke for a long time. Then things changed in with Tim Burtons Batman (1989). Although it is a long way from Christopher Nolan’s (very dark) Dark Knight version of Batman it was a million miles from the camp TV show. Gotham City became stylized Art Deco world that didn’t know if it belong to the future or the past. Futuristic gadgets existed alongside old cars and villains carrying Tommy guns. Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is a gloriously awkward character, only just the right side of sanity and probably closer to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark than Christian Bale’s Batman. The big name and star turn is Jack Nicholson as the Joker who has been unfairly forgotten in the shadow of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Batman Returns (1992) offered more of the same, it didn’t expand on the first film or offer anything new or different the way The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins but did boast an unforgettable Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. But then it all went wrong when Joel Schumacher took over.

Before all of that Frank Miller wrote two seminal comic book series The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1987). As well as introducing characters and storylines that their way into Nolan’s films, both books had a dark tone and themes of rebirth and redemption that we have come to associate with Batman. It also popularised the name “The Dark Knight”.

Then in a true comic book way, an unlikely hero came forward to save the genre, Blade (1998). After years of the rights to Marvel comics being sold off for TV shows and rubbish films (often with a tiny budget) Marvel studios first film was a co production with New Line Cinema. Not risking one of their big name comic books their first film and in some ways their most important was Blade. The character originated in the 1970’s as a supporting character in The Tomb of Dracula comic book. He went on to star in his own comic book as well as making appearances in various other Marvel Titles. Released in 1998 written by David S. Goyer (who also has writing credits on all three Nolan, Batman films), directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes. Snipes is perfect in the lead role giving the right blend of stone faced killer, brooding hero and a little deadpan humour. The production had a relatively modest budget of around $45million and produced worldwide Gross revenue of $131million. This does not appear to be much when compared to the near $600million Iron Man took or the or the $2.5billion the three Spider-Man movies have made however without the relative success of Blade these films and the X-Men may never have been made. The sequel directed by visionary geniuses Guillermo Del Toro is even better and also introduced comic book audiences to a darker more melancholic view. Like many of his movies, there is an underlying question of who the monsters really are, and more importantly who are the real monsters.

So these are the films that created the environment that made The Dark Knight trilogy possible but what about its director. Christopher Nolan’s first feature Following (1998) is a low budget, low key affair that is well worth a look. He really made his name with the innovative and brilliant Memento (2000) before making Insomnia (2002) a remake of a Norwegian. Both films made a decent profit received critical praise. Between the first two Batman movies Nolan made The Prestige (2006), another financial success that received largely positive reviews. After the success of The Dark Knight he embarked on what appeared to be an expensive vanity project, Inception (2010), but that too was a runaway success taking over $800million and appearing at the top of many people top ten movies of 2010 (including mine). The net result of each of these movies is the same, they prove Nolan to be a bankable director that studios what to work with.

This leads to the part Warner Bros. played in the production of Nolan‘s Batman trillogy. Ultimately they hired him to make A Batman film. Prior to that, there was always going to be a Batman film but which Batman film? Early ideas involved a fifth film in the existing series and a return for director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher preferred the idea of a reboot bases on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One he was reported to have said: “[I] owe the Batman culture a real Batman movie. I would go back to the basics and make a dark portrayal of the Dark Knight.” This is the first suggestion I have heard of for both a reboot and a darker movie. Lee Shapiro and Stephen Wise pitched an idea to Warner called Batman: DarKnight. It involved the character Man-Bat as well a plot centred around Dr. Jonathan Crane and his experiments into fear (sound familiar). This idea didn’t get off the ground, the studio instead deciding to hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct and adaptation of Batman: Year One. He quickly brought Frank Miller in on the project as a co-writer and approached Christian Bale for the role of Batman. This idea fell by the wayside along with Clint Eastwood’s The Dark Knight Returns and a Wolfgang Petersen directed Batman vs. Superman.

I’m not necessarily saying all of these movies or events had a direct influence on Nolan and his trilogy but they are all the building blocks that made the movies possible.

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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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