Logan: Jackman signs off Wolverine on a high note


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Hugh Jackman debuted the Wolverine character in 2000’s X-Men, which also kicked off the sustained and successful run of Marvel characters on film. Seventeen years later, he is retiring the character in Logan, the third standalone Wolverine film and the 7th time he has played the clawed mutant (besides 2 cameos).

What’s different this time and why is everyone praising the film? Director and screenwriter James Mangold was given a lot more freedom by the studio, which included allowing it go violent/ R-rated, in keeping with the nature of the character (we can thank 2016’s Deadpool as well, which gave Fox the confidence to approve an R-rated comic book film, realizing it wouldn’t affect box office income).

The result is a very satisfying film, filled with plenty of blood-soaked violence and more importantly, with vulnerable characters who we care about. The first hour and a half is so engaging that one doesn’t realize the time going by. We are introduced to aged and decrepit versions of the invincible characters we have known since 2000. Professor X (played by 76-year-old thesp Patrick Stewart) now in his 90’s and is losing his mental faculties, spends most of the day in a drug-induced stupor. Wolverine’s healing ability is fading (he’s over 140 years old, in case anyone’s still counting) and he has been reduced to earning his living as a limo driver  (driving an uber cool Chrysler stretch)! With no new mutants born in the past quarter century, the X-Men have died out and have become a sort of urban myth, good enough only to feature in comic books. We also meet an intense, mute child Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen, daughter of British actor Will Kean and Spanish actress Maria Fernandez Ache), who is on the run from a bunch of heavily armed bad guys, led by the cybernetically enhanced Pierce (played with great flair by a charismatic Boyd Holbrook). What we get when they all come together is a road trip/ chase movie, featuring a good mix of action, poignancy and some dry humor.

Wearing its R-rating on its sleeve, Logan allows Wolverine fans to see him in his famous ‘berserker rage’ mode more than once. But he’s not the only one. The scene in the first act in which Laura explodes into action and reveals her capabilities is shocking in its violence and intensity. Even Wolverine is stunned. There is another great ‘armrest gripping moment’ at a casino when we get a glimpse of why Charles Xavier’s mind is classified as a weapon of mass destruction.

At the other end of the spectrum, I really liked how the second act brings our heroes in touch with regular people, in this case a family who invites them to dinner. This reminded me of a similar scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron in which we find that Hawkeye has an entire family hidden away on a ranch. I feel that this sort of interlude helps to humanize the superheroes and brings the audience closer to them.

The third act was the weakest part of the movie for me, simply because it featured the obligatory action showdown between the good guys and the bad guys, with not much else. Perhaps the only unpredictable part of this formulaic sequence was what would happen to Wolverine at the end.

Before watching the movie, I had read all about how it plays out like a Western. Mangold has previously directed an excellent Western called 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of the 1957 classic. Even his 1997 breakout film Cop Land can be seen as a sort of modern-day Western with Stallone’s quiet, unassuming sheriff unexpectedly coming up trumps in a final showdown against the corrupt cops living in his town. True enough, all the visual cues in Logan are straight from a Western – the characters look weather-beaten and a lot of the action takes place in sunburnt, dusty locations. And of course, there is the overt reference to the famous 1953 Western Shane, the purpose being to establish the parallels in the relationship between the gunfighter and the boy in Shane and Wolverine and Laura in Logan. Frankly, I thought that this part of the script was a bit heavy-handed, especially when the girl spouts the entire dialogue from the closing moments of Shane, having watched it just once in a hotel room previously.

I also had my usual issues with that ‘home video’ look of night time scenes because of the use of digital cameras, which tend to capture a lot of information (very useful in low light conditions), but can create a ‘flat’ look devoid of texture. DP John Mathieson has used the Arri Alexa camera which is very popular and usually produce a very film-like effect, especially when combined with Panavision lenses (like you see in Mad Max: Fury Road or Rogue One), but am not sure what low-light combo was used here and why some of the night scenes look so terrible. Given that the film takes so much inspiration from Westerns and from Shane in particular, how cool would it have been to have shot it in real film to mimic the glorious Technicolor of Shane.

Considering that the movie is set in 2029, there isn’t much that appears futuristic about it. The only indications are the driverless trailer trucks on the highway and the reference to tigers being extinct.

Overall, it’s a very powerful movie and a wonderful way to end a trilogy, especially one that started so unpromisingly with the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. The X-Men films spin off into new directions now, with new teams coming up in Josh Boone’s X-Men: The New Mutants and Joe Carnahan’s X-Force. There will also be another entry called X-Men: Supernova in Bryan Singer’s continuing series featuring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence as the younger versions of Prof X, Magneto and Mystique. But it looks like this is the end of the road for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s characters…and they should both feel proud of signing off with a bang.

Marvel line-up 2015-17: Part 2


In the second part of my listing of Marvel properties coming to the screen in the next 3 years, let’s look at what 2016 has in store. Compared to the 3 films in 2015, we have a very crowded slate with of 5 titles in the 9 month period from February to November 2016.

Deadpool. Releases in Feb 2016 – The wise-cracking mercenary Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, has been a cult favourite for years, particularly because of his non-stop talkative nature and his habit of ‘breaking the fourth wall’ with the audience. Equipped with an accelerated healing factor, Deadpool started off as a villain and then over time has been cast as an anti-hero. He has appeared on-screen once already, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009. He was played by Ryan Reynolds and somehow this mess of a movie managed to morph his character into a a completely different villain called Weapon XI, who combined the powers of a number of other mutants. In the climactic battle scene, Wolverine decapitates Deadpool. But we know that in the world of comics, no one stays dead for too long. So, after a few years of ‘will they, won’t they’ rumours, it was with great fanboy excitement that a Deadpool ‘test footage’ clip was released on the internet, followed by the announcement of the film release in early 2016. The movie will be directed by first-timer Tim Miller. Marvel movie fans, be warned, this will be an R-rated film with violence and profanity; definitely not suitable for a family outing with the kids (hence the non-summer release date).

Captain America: Civil War. Releases in May 2016 – As a lot of fans suspected after seeing the Crossbones character appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year, the next chapter in his standalone saga is going to deal with the Civil War storyline. This is one of the biggest Marvel story arcs in recent years, which is likely to create far-reaching ripples in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The Civil War ‘crossover storyline’ published during 2006-07 is spread across several titles and deals with a Superhero Registration Act passed by the government, which ends up splitting the various superheroes into two factions, for and against the Act. Iron Man and Captain America end up on opposing sides, leading to widespread conflict, violence and some superhero deaths.

Since the Disney/ Marvel movies do not have rights to all the characters involved in the comic book storyline (such as the X-Men, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four), the movie will feature a simpler storyline which focuses on the ideological conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, something which has been foreshadowed already in The Avengers. Oh and incidentally, at the end of the Civil War comic books, Captain America is apparently assassinated by Crossbones; but of course, we know that nobody stays dead in comic books, so have no fear, Chris Evans will still have one more movie left after this one to complete his 6-film contract! The other big source of excitement in this movie is the introduction of a new Marvel character, T’Challa, the prince of the African state of Wakanda, whose alter ego is Black Panther.

X-Men: Apocalypse. Releases in May 2016 – Three weeks after Disney releases Captain America: Civil War, rival studio Fox brings out the sequel to their most successful superhero movie ever in terms of global box office, this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. After the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine practically killed the X-Men franchise, Fox rebooted the series with the outstanding X-Men: First Class, set during the Bay of Pigs event of the 60’s. This 2011 Cold War thriller is perhaps my all time favourite entry in the X-Men series. Days of Future Past took place in the 70’s and the time-travel story element effectively re-wrote various bits and pieces of X-Men cinematic history. The next entry X-Men: Apocalypse is expected to take place in the 80’s and will have the oldest known mutant as its super-villain: the 5000-year-old En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse. The character was teased during the post-credits scene of Days of Future Past, but the version we see in that scene is of a very young Apocalypse. What we will see in X-Men: Apocalypse will be closer to the image below; not a nice guy.

Bryan Singer will be directing an X-Men movie for the 4th time, but no news yet on which mutants will appear this time around, or whether the older cast from the original series (including Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) will make an appearance. I think we can take for granted that fan-favourite Hugh Jackman will be there as Wolverine. Since he doesn’t age, it’s very convenient for Fox to just pop him into any of these X-Men movies irrespective of which time period the film is set in!

Doctor Strange. Releases in Nov 2016 – After months of speculation, Marvel finally confirmed a date for the Doctor Strange movie, although they have yet to confirm who is playing the character. There has been a virtual revolving door of highly regarded leading men who have been considered for this role, with Benedict Cumberbatch widely tipped to sign on. While the initial set of Marvel films were set in the world of high-tech science (Iron Man’s armour, Captain America’s serum, Hulk’s gamma radiation), the next set of films have explored aliens across the universe (Thor’s world Asgard and the various planets visited by the Guardians of the Galaxy). Now with Doctor Strange, Marvel opens the doors to the supernatural. Dr. Stephen Strange is a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands after an accident. Forced to seek help, he eventually is trained by a mysterious benefactor in the Himalayas and takes on the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme, protector of the Earth against supernatural threats. Horror director Scott Derrickson has been selected to helm the film and an earlier script is being re-written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus). This is another risky venture by Marvel, partly because the magical subject matter is likely to appeal to a different audience type vs. their previous films and partly because the director and writer have had very limited critical or box office success in the past. Of course, Marvel has scored home runs with newbie James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and hit-and-miss indie directors Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, so who’s to say this latest throw the dice won’t work. Marvel make their own luck and their brains trust led by Kevin Feige just seems to have a feel for what audiences will like.

The Sinister Six. Releases in Nov 2016 – Just one week after Doctor Strange comes out, rival studio Sony is set to release a a film about super-villains. Sony owns the rights to the Spider-Man franchise and all related characters. They had a fantastic run with the original trilogy directed by Sam Raimi (from 2002 to 2007). The reboot directed by Marc Webb and released in 2012 had a so-so reception, but everyone agreed that the two leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had fantastic chemistry. In this summer’s sequel, they killed off Emma Stone, effectively ending any reason that audiences would want to watch a 3rd or 4th movie in this franchise. Although the global box office take was around USD 700 mn, it was still lower than what the original Spider-Man made 12 years earlier, not factoring in ticket price inflation. Sony has effectively put future Spider-Man sequels on hold, but seems to be going ahead with Sinister Six, a film that brings together 6 of Spidey’s biggest enemies. In the comic books, the Sinister Six have gone through a few changes in line-up over the years and the film is expected to feature a new grouping consisting of Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Rhino and Vulture. The film will be directed by Drew Goddard, who I have plenty of respect for as the writer of intelligent and entertaining scifi properties like Alias and Lost on TV as well as the movies Cloverfield and World War Z.

So, it’s a mixed bag in 2016. We have two sequels which will be surefire winners – Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. There are two new properties, largely unknown outside the fan base – Deadpool and Doctor Strange – which can take Marvel into new demographics and genres respectively. And there is one film The Sinister Six which is still very much an unknown entity.

X-Men: Days of Future Past struggles against summer competition


How times have changed. Until a few years ago, the Memorial Day weekend in the US would have signified the true beginning of the summer movie blockbuster season. This was the weekend that the biggest movies of the summer would be released, a trend started off by Star Wars in 1977.

This year, for me it actually feels like half the summer is already over. I’ve watched the 4 movies I was most looking forward to already – Captain America 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past. In the 9 weeks of summer that’s officially still left to go, I only have 3 movies I really want to see – Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow (getting great early reviews), the potentially dark and depressing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Marvel’s new franchise hopeful Guardians of the Galaxy (featuring Bradley Cooper voicing a talking raccoon, Vin Diesel voicing a talking tree and some awesome music from the 1970’s).

So, this is my mid-summer scorecard, which also doubles up as a review of X-Men: DoFP:-

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 8/10: I’ve already gone ga-ga over this film, so there’s not much more to say. The 3 Marvel movies released so far have come from 3 different studios. Captain America is produced by Marvel themselves, while Spider-Man and X-Men are with Sony and Fox respectively. Well, it shows. Marvel Studios, with Kevin Feige in charge, just has an intuitive feel of their own material; they have most of their casting right (except for Sebastian Stan as Bucky/ The Winter Soldier) and the look of their films (colour and texture) is glorious. They have the best balance between humour, gravitas and action (something that has been consistent from their first release in 2008, Iron Man).

 

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – 7/10: This was the surprise package for me. I didn’t like the idea of this reboot when it happened in 2012. I didn’t like Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man (how would he fit his ‘big hair’ into his mask, I wondered). I didn’t like Emma Stone because I had seen her in Easy A (2010) and found her character irritating. I loved Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) too much to accept these pretenders to the throne. Well, I had to admit, Garfield made a refreshing change from the dour Tobey Maguire. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone was sparkling. And they kept it going in this summer’s sequel. Although Jamie Foxx was a disappointment as Electro, the creepy performance of Dane DeHaan, the action sequences and the heart-breaking ending all contributed to making this a pretty good entry in the series.

 

  • Godzilla – 8/10: I love movies and books that tease the arrival of something unexpected and awe-inspiring (think Jurassic Park in 1993 and Independence Day in 1996 and countless scifi/ first contact books I’ve read). I don’t mind not seeing the creature/ alien invader in its entirety till the end (think Cloverfield in 2008). Godzilla scored on both counts. Just seeing him roar was thrilling. Unlike many action films these days which rely on shaky cams and quick cuts, Godzilla had an editing and framing style which worked for me…lots of wide shots, held for long enough to see the creature and its surroundings. The cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey who has been Oscar nominated twice for Atonement and Anna Karenina – both beautifully lit and colorful, but also able to use shadows to capture the somber moments. This is the man who has now graduated to big spectacles like The Avengers and Godzilla. The quality shows on screen. Having an actor of the quality of Bryan Cranston anchor the first half of the movie also made a big difference.

 

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past – 6.5/10: This was the film which I expected would get my highest score of the summer. I love Bryan Singer’s work from the original two X-Men movies and I absolutely loved X-Men: First Class, which Singer produced. From screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Sherlock Holmes), I expected to see lots of snappy dialogue and humour, blended with action (yes, he did co-write the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand, but he had owned up to that and promised to make amends this time around). Perhaps because of these high expectations, I came away a bit disappointed, even though there are some outstanding set-pieces in the film.

 

Let’s start with what worked:-

 

The opening action sequence was fantastic. Many things happen at the same time and the choreography is outstanding. I have long been a fan of Colossus from the comic books and in all these years, we only had a brief glimpse of him saving the students during the Xavier Mansion attack in X-Men 2. So it was great to see him in battle with the Sentinels, assisted by a bunch of new faces. The best of the lot was Blink played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing; she has the power to open portals over short distances allowing her team mates to attack or escape from the Sentinels. Meanwhile, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) runs off with Bishop (French acting sensation Omar Sy, completely under-utilized) in tow, phasing through various solid objects with Sentinels in pursuit. Super stuff.

The real scene stealer in this film is Evan Peters who plays Peter (in the comics, he is Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver). There is a truly memorable scene in the Pentagon, which brings all the talent of the film makers and cast to the fore; the set design, props, choreography, special effects and acting all ensure that this will be a much viewed clip on YouTube for years to come.

The fight scene in Paris involving Magneto, Mystique and Beast – taking place on the streets in front of a large crowd of newsmen and members of the public, much of it caught through the perspective of their 8mm cameras.

The end-credits teaser which features En Sabah Nur (aka Apocalypse) in Egypt nearly 4500 years ago, with his Four Horsemen in the background. This sets things up for the next sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse due for release in May 2016, also directed by Bryan Singer.

 

Four things that didn’t work for me:-

 

I thought the title sequence was quite generic, featuring graphics of DNA combining and recombining with some artificial looking bits. I thought they could have been a bit imaginative and played with a time travel theme, or with representations of the different mutant powers. Even if they didn’t do this with the opening (for fear it would give away too much), they could certainly have done it with the closing titles (Pacific Rim and The Avengers both did this quite well).

James McAvoy as Charles Xavier – although we’ve been told that Prof X was going through a tough spell in 1973, it is difficult to reconcile James McAvoy’s take on this character vs. his own interpretation in X-Men: First Class and the iron-like resolve of Patrick Stewart character even in those bleak times being hunted by Sentinels in the future. Whatever the justification for his personal crisis, I just found James McAvoy too wimpy and whiny.

Tom Sigel’s cinematography – In recent years there has been a trend of switching from film to digital cameras. The only problem with some of these cameras is that they lack the inherent texture of film, the graininess/ mistiness that gives movies their magical/ fantastical feel as opposed to the realism of a news broadcast on TV. Because of this, I really dislike watching movies on HDTV/ BluRay and I also dislike movies like Michael Mann’s Public Enemies which look so hyper-real, the scenes actually look like someone’s amateur home video. Sometimes its also about how the cinematographer sets up the camera, as the same digital camera can produce a different visual texture in different movies. Well, in X-Men DoFP, it looked like the close-up scenes and the night time scenes were shot with this ‘home video setting’, while the big action sequences look fantastic and ‘film-like’. It felt like I was watching two different movies spliced together and it irritated me no end.

The music by John Ottman. Nothing to write home about. I was missing something iconic like Magneto’s theme from X-Men: First Class. Although to be fair to the man, he did have his hands full editing the film…that’s right, he’s a world class music composer and film editor. I think he’s a better editor than a composer.

That’s it for my mid-summer scorecard. I feel bad about being so harsh on X-Men; perhaps I may revise my score by the end of summer!

Marvel line-up: 2013-2015


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:-

2013

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.

2014

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.

2015

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.