Thursday, 22 May 2014

Comicbook movie stuff

The comicbook movie news just keeps coming. Between them, Disney/Marvel, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros/DC have flooded the market with superhero movies, each setting up one or more franchises and with plans to continue doing so. While we're already in serious danger of exhausting the desire for comicbook movies, there's plenty to get excited about. There's also plenty to make us sigh and shake our heads.

X-Men: Days of Future Past goes on release today, continuing Fox's premiere superhero franchise onto its fourteenth year. The series has proven itself to be surprisingly resistant to rebooting, primarily by adopting a soft-continuity approach that makes a top-down reboot unnecessary. Hugh Jackman continues to be the core actor in a star-studded cast, with at least one more solo vehicle planned. As well as that, we have X-Men: Apocalypse, and plans for X-Force and Deadpool movies.

With a huge array of both heroic and villainous characters, the X-Men franchise can feasibly run for years more, especially with the recasting of their core characters. At some point, they're going to have to bite the bullet and recast Wolverine, though. There's also the likelihood that Channing Tatum, recently cast as Gambit for Apocalypse, will get to headline his own movie.

Next year will also see the release of The Fantastic Four, rebooting the fun but flawed franchise from a few years back with a supposedly 'grittier' version. There have been contradictory comments concerning whether this film and its sequel will be part of the X-Men movie universe. We do know that Toby Kebbell is set to play Dr. Doom and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear as Harvey Elder, setting him up to be the Mole Man for the sequel. That could be a lot of fun, and make up for our never getting to see him as the Leader in the Marvel movies.

Back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are rumbling along nicely. The second trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy has been released, and I cannot stress just how much I am looking forward to that film. Both trailers suggest that this is going to be a joyfully fun movie, exactly the thing we need when so many superhero properties are obsessed with being gritty and serious, or god help us, 'dark.' After that, Phase Two will come to a close with Avengers: Age of Ultron, for which we will have to wait till next year. Hopefully, it won't be too busy with all six Avengers from last time, Nick Fury and Agent Hill, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the Vision, Ultron and von Strucker all in there. Plus, presumably, a hint of Thanos.

Phase Three is already looking good, with Ant-Man set to star Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. UPDATE: Edgar Wright is no longer directing Ant-Man, which is a massive disappointment and frankly removes the key selling point of the film. A third Captain America film has been confirmed, with a third Thor movie, based on the Ragnarok storyline all but guaranteed (which means Surtur as a baddie, so I'm owed a tenner). Kevin Feige has confirmed that a Doctor Strange movie will be happening, and even mentioned the possibility of an Inhumans movie. A Runaways script has reportedly been in development for some time but has been shelved for the time being, but we might see that in Phase Three. As for other properties, Hollywood Reporter claimed that both Ms. Marvel and Blade were getting movies in the near future, but there has been no definitive statement on either of them.

With Marvel's Agents of SHIELD now over in the US (we're two weeks behind here in the UK), Marvel have confirmed that season two is a go, along with an eight-part series for Agent Carter. This is good for many reasons. SHIELD really picked up once The Winter Soldier was released, so hopefully the new, improved version can continue to do good things into season two. They're not afraid of using lesser elements of the Marvel mythos either, with Lorelei, Graviton, Blackout and Blizzard all making some kind of appearance. Even Man-Thing got a mention (after his missus appeared in Iron Man 3). Agent Carter could be something really special, and I feel that a shorter series is the way to go. Something more self-contained, showcasing Hayley Atwell.

There's also the animated movie Big Hero 6 to look forward to. I'll admit that I know bugger all about the Japanese superhero team, but the just-released trailer looks like it could be a fun movie. Presumably, this is not part of the MCU, although I wouldn't rule out a cheeky reference here or a character cameo. What's odd is that, being a feature-length animation, it will be listed in Disney's Classics range, along with things like Frozen and The Little Mermaid.

After months of wondering if the Man of Steel follow-up will be called 'Batman vs Superman' or 'Superman vs Batman,' it has been revealed the actual title is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which is fairly awful, in a clunky kind of way, but at least makes it even more abundantly clear that this is just WB's attempt to create a Marvel-styled Justice League franchise. The difference being that Marvel spent some time thoughtfully creating a franchise, with the major characters each getting their own movie to establish themselves with the audience. Seeding between the films was minimal at first, developing more as time went on. Not everything worked – The Incredible Hulk failed to garner enough praise to get the sequel it was clearly setting up – but what's most impressive is how much Marvel did, and how quickly, without coming across as heavy-handed. Unlike WB/DC, which is looking increasingly desperate. At least the logo looks pretty decent. Nonetheless, the creative team's contempt for their core audience is making me less and less interested in this overstuffed movie.

On television, on the other hand, DC seem to have nailed it. I have people shouting at me to hurry up and watch Arrow, which has just finished its second season. I'll get to it, but I'm still catching up on stuff from the seventies. The trailer for The Flash is very promising – just the right level of silly fun. 'Run, Barry, run!' The Constantine series trailer looks less promising, however, coming across as a very generic supernatural telefantasy. Time will tell, of course. I wonder if the Vertigo properties are entirely right for the screen treatment. Guillermo del Toro is still slated to be make a Justice League Dark movie, which could work – if anyone can pull it off, it's him – but I'm really not sure what to make of the news that Joseph Gordon Levitt is producing a Sandman movie. Oh, and David Goyer is co-writing it, which again, not so keen on. Sandman is one of my most adored comic series, and I really, really don't want to see it fucked up.

The most exciting news of all, of course, is that DC Thompson has signed a deal with Elstree Studios to finally produce a big budget Bananaman movie for release next year. No answers yet for the big questions. Who will play Bananaman? Will his alter ego be Eric Wimp or Eric Plinge? Will he fight General Blight, or the nefarious Appleman? This all remains to be seen.

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