With the announcement yesterday of Fantastic Four getting the reboot treatment from Fox Studios, we have now probably got the full line-up of Marvel films for the next 3 years:-
Next year, the action begins in early May with Disney’s release of Iron Man 3, this time directed by powerhouse screenwriter Shane Black, who made his name in the 1980’s and early ‘90s writing the screenplays for the Lethal Weapon series. Of course, he lost his way a bit in the mid-90s with duds like Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight, but in 2005 he made a welcome return with the critically acclaimed crime caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That film also featured welcome returns by a couple of ‘washed out’ actors, namely Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. So, there was a sense of symmetry when it was announced that Mr. Black would be reunited with Mr. Downey Jr. in the 3rd solo adventure for the billionaire super-hero.
In July 2013, Fox extends its X-Men franchise with Hugh Jackman coming back after a 4-year gap to play the indestructible mutant Wolverine (not counting his cameo in X-Men: First Class last summer). Mr. Jackman soared to stardom 12 years ago playing Logan in the first X-Men movie, which can be considered as the launch pad for the vast and intricately linked Marvel movie universe of today. The new movie, titled The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold, who helmed the outstanding Sylvester Stallone crime drama Copland in 1997, helped Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon win Oscars for Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line respectively and directed the critically praised remake of 3:10 to Yuma in 2007. His only real misstep has been the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz ‘comedy’ Knight and Day and so he must be looking forward to getting back on to the critics’ love list with The Wolverine. Likewise, Jackman’s last outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is considered a bit of a mess, so he’ll be keen to get it right this time around. Expectations are high among fanboys because the storyline is based on the famous 1982 comic series set in Japan.
It’s rare to see a Marvel release outside of the summer blockbuster season; next November will see another Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Norse god in Disney’s Thor: The Dark World, directed by Game of Thrones alumnus Alan Taylor. The choice of director clearly indicates that the story will stay primarily in the fantasy realm of the Nine Worlds. It will be interesting to see how this film fares commercially…no doubt Chris Hemsworth has a major fan following and the first Thor film collected nearly $200 million in the US, but Thor is the sort of character better suited to an ensemble piece like The Avengers and may have difficulty sustaining a solo career.
Chris Evans gets things going early in with a spring release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also released by Disney. This is likely to be darker in tone that the first film, with the character of Bucky Barnes returning brainwashed as a Soviet assassin, code named Winter Soldier. Back in 1969, Marvel introduced the first ever African-American hero, The Falcon as a crime-fighting partner for Captain America and now we will get to see the superhero team-up featured on the big screen with Anthony Mackie playing the NYC-based birdman. I also see super-villain Crossbones listed in the movie credits, so one automatically thinks of the Civil War comic book storyline which features Crossbones assisting in the assassination of Captain America…I wonder if that’s how the movie is going to end. Of course, in the Marvel Universe, no one stays dead for very long and Cap will have to be back for the Avengers sequel.
A few weeks later, Andrew Garfield is back as Spider-Man with Marc Webb once again directing the sequel to this summer’s Sony Pictures reboot. This time around, it looks like we are going to have a love triangle with the introduction of Mary Jane Watson’s character to vie with Gwen Stacy for Peter Parker’s affections. The excitement peaked a few days ago with the announcement that Jamie Foxx will play super-villain Electro (as hinted in the post-credits sequence this summer) and Dane DeHaan selected to play Pete’s friend (and closet psychopath) Harry Osborn. DeHaan made quite a splash playing a super-powered psychopath in this year’s found-footage sleeper hit Chronicle and so I can see why the casting director has made this call, as Osborn eventually follows his father’s footsteps and becomes the Green Goblin.
Towards the end of the summer, we have a very exciting team-up arriving on the big screen with X-Men: Days of Future Past from Fox Studios. This is big for several reasons…Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men films in 2000 and 2003, returns as director. This film is the sequel to X-Men: First Class (produced by Singer), which is one of the smartest and most fun films in the Marvel universe. Next year’s sequel features a powerhouse combo of the cast from the original X-Men movies (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) and the actors playing their younger selves from First Class (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender). And last, but not least, the eponymous storyline is considered to be one of the most famous in X-Men comics canon, featuring time travel. I’m just hoping that audiences are not suffering from Marvel fatigue, with this being the 3rd Marvel film in as many months.
Two weeks later, Disney launches a new franchise in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a real wild card for Marvel and I myself have never read any of these comic books. It is difficult to picture how this film will fit into the Marvel cinematic universe; one of the links will be the villain Thanos, who appeared in the post-credits sequence to this summer’s The Avengers. But, other than that, the film is unlikely to connect with any of the other Marvel characters or even set on Earth. You see, the Guardians are a 5-member team which includes an anthropomorphic raccoon (named Rocket Raccoon) and a plant monster named Groot. You get the picture…this is starting look more and more like a CGI-heavy space-adventure film that will appeal primarily to kids.
The marvelous fun in 2015 begins with the just-announced reboot of Fantastic Four. It would be ten years since the first Fox film hit the screens in what was a reasonably enjoyable origin story, in spite of its low budget and lack of spectacular effects. In fact, that was the film that made current Captain America actor Chris Evans famous, playing the brash smart-mouthed Human Torch. Now Fox has brought on board young director Josh Trank to helm the reboot and casting news is sure to follow in the next few months. Trank is a fantastic (pun intended!) choice since he directed the critically and commercially successful found-footage movie Chronicle earlier this year, which featured 3 college kids who gain super-powers and then struggle to deal with the physical and emotional changes.
In May, Disney will release The Avengers 2, the much anticipated follow-up to this summer’s megahit. The entire gang is back – director Joss Whedon and all the actors – and the villain will be Thanos, who comes from an evolutionary offshoot of humans called The Eternals. We are likely to see large scale action once again, similar to the attack on NYC featured in the climax of The Avengers. The trick will be to maintain the inter-character dynamics and light banter which made this year’s film such a breakout hit beyond the hard core fans.
Finally, we have yet another rare November release, with the introduction of the long-gestating Ant-Man into the Marvel cinematic universe. British director Edgar Wright rose to fame with the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead and the cop comedy Hot Fuzz, so one wonders what the tone of Ant-Man will be. Mr. Wright has been working on this script for many years now, but it was only this year that the movie was officially announced, although casting has not yet been finalized. The script has been through several iterations and as I understand the latest version of the story will have both the original Ant-Man Dr. Henry Pym and his successor Scott Lang.
So that’s it; we can look forward to 10 films over the next 3 years. Broadly, the movies are now clustered at 3 studios –the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters are at Fox, Sony has the Spider-Man franchise and the Avengers characters are all at Disney, which owns Marvel. Plus, any new character that enters the big screen henceforth will be through Disney (Black Panther and Dr. Strange appear to be closest to making the jump). For the next 3 years, Joss Whedon is at Disney to ensure that the different Avengers universe films maintain internal consistency and continuity. All of this is overseen of course by Kevin Feige, the President of Production and Marvel Studios. Mark Millar, the award winning Scottish comic book writer has been hired by Fox to do a similar job over there with their movies…in fact, it will be interesting to see if Millar engineers any crossovers between the forthcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four films.
Overall, the Marvel universe is in a good place. Over at rival comic book owner DC Comics, they are trying to get their act together; their Batman franchise has ended, the Green Lantern movie was a disaster, but they are expecting a successful reboot of Superman next year with Man of Steel. The big question though is if they can put together a Justice League ensemble film and replicate the success of Marvel’s The Avengers. Current rumours suggest that DC and Warner Bros. are targeting a 2015 release date for just such a movie.