Superhero Supremacy: A Comic Compendium One-Shot

Ed previews some up-coming comic book adaptations that currently dominate Hollywood. 

Stan Lee’s induction on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.

With the recent release of Iron Man 3, it seemed like a good a time to catch up with comic book-related films on the horizon, and my word there’s been some interesting rumours, tit-bits and factoids.

The eagerly anticipated Man of Steel is released next month, and if the trailers haven’t whet your appetite by now, I doubt that this film will do much for you, what with invading aliens, Superman arrested, Russell Crowe’s Jor-El, and a brand new continuity to take in. It all looks rather impressive, and hopefully Snyder will have made the comic book film he’s been yearning to. Let’s also hope that the film finally does justice to a character who recently turned 75.

After that, the next big comic release will be James Mangold’s The Wolverine, a sequel of sorts to X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, although the former made me want to kick director Brett Ratner in the face, and the latter made me want to do the same with Ryan Reynolds, Will.I.Am and every single member of the cast. The first trailer released (below) has given me hope that the change in personnel (apart from Jackman, obviously) may have revitalised this spin-off.

Yet, this is all just to keep fans happy until the debut of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Futures Past next year. The inclusion of the diminutive Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) as the antagonist certainly makes me intrigued, as if I wasn’t already wetting myself with excitement. But I do have my concerns, as the inclusion of characters from the modern-day X-Men film series like Rogue could be problematic. Indeed, it appears that anyone who has ever been in an X-Men film will be showing up, including the cast of First Class. Is Singer going to be able to keep a tight grip on all of these mutants like he did in X2 a decade ago? Since Marvel Studios and their Cinematic Universe has taken most of the praise since 2008, it seems like Fox are more than willing to keep things separate and rectify the franchise’s failings with no thought for continuity. This time travel plotline – based on a landmark run of the comic – could be pushing things too far. If Fox manage to ruin this film with their greediness, it could burst the superhero film bubble, and no self-respecting fanboy wants that.

Kick Ass 2 is also due this summer, and after the critical acclaim of the first, I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the inclusion of Jim Carrey, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about this film. The trailer is standard fare, although it does still retain a smidgen of originality as an action/comedy. While Kick-Ass as a version of Mark Millar’s graphic novel was completely unique and refreshing, the influx of superhero films means it needs to try harder this time around and not rely on the shock factor of a child assassin.

Thor: The Dark World is due out in November and will continue Marvel’s Phase 2 after Iron Man 3. After the first trailer, I would forego the rest of the summer season to see this film now if it were possible. The change in director from a thesp (Kenneth Branagh) to a helmsman of Game of Thrones (Alan Taylor) heralds a change of artistic vision that could see this nascent franchise improve. But give me big set-piece battles and Natalie Portman and I’m more than content. But the recent rumours that a large portion of Marvel stars such as Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson (although, she’s sadly not appearing in The Dark World) may not return for another film due to salary issues is deeply worrying. I can honestly say that if any of the primary actors are replaced, I would not see any further films. After The Avengers, it’s too late for that. Don Cheadle may have taken over as War Machine for Iron Man 2, but that was early on in the Cinematic Universe’s existence; we’ve come too far down the rabbit hole now for the actors to be changed without causing confusion and dismay. Just look what happened to Batman in the early 90s and tell me if changing lead actors is still a good idea.

Anthony Mackie is Falcon.

Anthony Mackie is Falcon.

The first Marvel film of 2014 will be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and as Johansson’s Black Widow will be one of the primary characters, I can honestly say I’m really looking forward to it. The inclusion of the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) is quite intriguing, but the fact we’re going to get to see the Winter Soldier on the big screen is definitely the main attraction here, as Ed Brubaker’s run on the comic has produced some of the best storylines the American patriot has ever appeared in. My big fear remains the choice of directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, and the fact that one of the bad guys will be Batroc the Leaper. In Captain America: The First Avenger, he faced off against some futuristic weaponry, now we’ve got a man who’s known for jumping around a lot. At least Crossbones is in it as well, so they’re retaining a bit of much-needed badassery.

Following on from Winter Soldier is the first and only non-sequel of Marvels Phase 2, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Although I’m very excited about this film, I’m worried that Guardians may not perform as well as the other Marvel films due to the team not having the same amount of name recognition that Captain America or Iron Man had. That an ex-WWE wrestler in the form of Bastita has been chosen for Drax the Destroyer rather than an established actor doesn’t necessarily boost my confidence, as Guardians is going to have to be something special to appeal to a large audience. Other currently announced cast members are Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar) as Gamora, and Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) who will play the previously unannounced character of Yondu, an outstanding archer who believes himself to be the last remaining member of his species after an alien invasion. I have to admit that the casting of Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) as the unnamed villain intrigues me greatly. The unconfirmed rumours of David Tennant voicing Rocket Raccoon also gives me hope that he will finally become as popular as he deserves to be.

Joss Whedon’s The Avengers 2 is, of course, the last film of Phase 2, and the only thing we really know about it (apart from the fact that Thanos will appear) is that it’s going to feature two mutants, a brother and a sister. That’s right, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are finally coming to the big screen! I’d made the assumption that whey would reach the screen with Fox over in X-Man land, but I’m glad to be proven wrong.

Ant-Man concept art.

Ant-Man concept art.

Ant-Man will be the first Phase 3 film, and the one we know the least about, as director Edgar Wright has been a bit busy with The World’s End. There was some concept art of the character’s costume, however, and Marvel producer Kevin Feige admitting that the company is only doing Ant-Man because Wright is the one making it. How awesome is that?

Other films destined for release at some point in the future, be it Phase 3 or beyond, are Doctor Strange who is the sorcerer supreme of the Marvel Universe, Iron Fist, a mystic warrior with a literal fist of iron, and Black Panther who is the ruler of Wakanda, an African nation that mixes technology with the mystic. Also planned are The Runaways, the children of a criminal cabal who own LA, vampire hunter Blade, and my personal favourite Ms. Marvel, a human empowered by Kree technology. An Inhumans film is still rumoured, but nothing new has developed since Feige hinted at it almost a year ago.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is Sony’s way of grabbing some of the attention away from Marvel themselves, and with this reboot now on its second instalment and the first taking $750 million worldwide, it’s obviously working for them if not the hardcore comic fans. We shall be seeing more of the lovely Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, although there are some recent photos that indicate it may be her last with an iconic event from the source material. We’ll be seeing two new villains in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti, try not to smirk). The images released of Foxx in his role (right) show him shying away from his green and yellow costume, and being more like his “Ultimate Universe” counterpart, being all blue and electrified. As for Giamatti’s Rhino… its just  him looking pissed off and bald. It all looks amazing, to me at least, and while there may be the odd fan that dislikes the move away from the traditional costumes, the problem is that sometimes they just don’t work in a realistic live-action setting. Fortunately, Spidey’s duds finally look exactly like their comic book counterpart.

Moving away from Marvel, we have the much-anticipated Justice League film. Snyder will direct it if Man of Steel performs well at the box office, and we may be saved from Ryan Reynolds’ involvement as he may not return as the Green Lantern. Also, star and director of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan, will not be involved. This either means no Bruce Wayne or they’ll simply cast a new actor, which as I’ve previously mentioned, rarely works. The continuity of Nolan’s Batman films – including the set-up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt – may be forgotten and a clean slate will be drawn. The loss of Nolan’s involvement will strain the credibility of Justice League and Warner Brothers’ attempts to make a DC Cinematic Universe.

Yet there is some good news from the DC camp, as Guillermo del Toro is supposedly directing a Justice League Dark film currently known as Heaven Sent. The title change is probably a good idea since Dark isn’t most people’s idea of the Justice League, with no Superman, Flash or Wonder Woman in sight. Instead, we have Deadman who can control the bodies of the living, The Spectre who is either a spirit of vengeance or a guardian angel, Swamp Thing who is a protector of the environment, Constantine, an occult detective, the Phantom Stranger, a protector of man, Zatara and Zatanna, a father and daughter team of magicians, Sargon the Sorcerer, and Etrigan the Demon who, despite being from Hell, usually fights on the side of good. Apparently the Floronic Man will be the villain despite usually being one of the Swamp-Things nemeses. Whether this will be a box office success after the poor performance of the much better-known Green Lantern shall be awaited with bated breath, and let’s pray that this Constantine will be better than the one portrayed by Keanu Reeves. Although, with Del Toro at the reins, I’m fairly certain that we don’t need to be worried about it being dark and gloomy.

Speaking of Green Lantern, we may be getting a sequel to the crime-against-nature that was the original. We can only hope that they see sense and just use Hal in the Justice League film, hopefully with a new actor.

All things considered, Marvel is still kicking DC’s ass in terms of quality and quantity, and will probably do so for many years to come. Just remind me: is it Marvel or DC who are owned by the entertainment giant Warner Bros.? By the amount of success each of the publishers have had you’d probably guess wrong, but it’s confusing that WB hasn’t been able to move their expertise over to their comic division. Is this proof that they don’t really care about their comic properties, or just that Warner are useless and need to get their act together? Let’s hope Man of Steel lives up to its name in box office receipts…