Friday, December 6, 2013

I Wanna Be Like Marvel!

So this past week has been a huge one for superhero movie news.  We've got confirmation and casting of Wonder Woman in the Man of Steel sequel featuring Ben Affleck's Batman.  We have gotten the first trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, looking to up the ante as well with three villains.  Then there was the announcement yesterday that director Bryan Singer plans to follow-up next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past with X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.  Not only that, Fox announced this morning that they've hired screenwriter/producer, Simon Kinberg, to create a "Marvel" style universe for the superhero properties of Fox, being the X-Men and Fantastic Four.  If that's not enough, in the realm of television, DC introduced us to Barry Allen, aka the future Flash, on the CW's Arrow, setting up a Flash spin-off show for next Fall.  Just let all of this sink in for a moment...

Okay, so as a die hard comic book fan, all of this superhero movie news is certainly exciting, but it also sets off a few red alarms.  Had this been a decade ago, I'd be utterly speechless right now at all this awesome news, but the only reason we're getting all of this news is because of one entity:  Marvel Studios.

There is a common misconception, even though the X-Men and Spider-Man films have the Marvel logo before their movies, that's really just a formality.  X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four, are the only three Marvel Comics' properties that Marvel Studios does not currently own the film rights to, with Fox owning X-Men and the FF, and Sony with Spidey.  So as much as you'd love to see Spider-Man fighting alongside the Avengers, it just is more than likely never going to happen.  As for DC and Warner Bros., they're just trying to play catch-up.

At the end of the day, all of these different film studios are just trying so hard to be like Marvel, it's almost embarrassing.  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I can't help but feel all of these films are potentially setting themselves up for destruction.  First and foremost, let me give my thoughts on every piece of big superhero movie news this week, starting with the casting of former Miss Israel and Fast and Furious-actress, Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot

Personally, I think Gadot looks like Wonder Woman, and I'm glad that the filmmakers went for a more exotic looking actress, seeing as how Diana Prince is technically Amazonian.  There has been some complaining from fanboys and the like that she's too skinny and not muscular enough to be Wonder Woman, but I mean seriously, a few months with a Hollywood trainer and they'll all be changing their tunes.  While I've never seen her act before, I'm sold on her so far.  My biggest worry with this news is not who's playing Wonder Woman, it's the fact that they're throwing Wonder Woman into what already seems to be a packed to the gills Man of Steel sequel.

At the end of Man of Steel, we only first saw Superman being called Superman with him assuming the alter ego of Clark Kent at the Daily Planet.  While I did not like Man of Steel as much as I wanted to, I'd still like to see this new Superman get a little more footing as the solo hero we all know and love before the studio tries to shoehorn team-ups just to be like The Avengers.  As well, with further rumors pointing to the potential inclusion of an adult Robin, known as Nightwing, and even the Flash, this film is starting to look less and less like a Man of Steel sequel, or even a Batman/Superman movie, and more like the Justice League.  Maybe Gadot will only be in a few minutes, maybe she might even only show up in the final scene, ala Nick Fury in Iron Man, but I'd personally much rather see another solo Superman outing before any team-ups, and I'd definitely like to see a solo Wonder Woman origin film before teaming her up, seeing as how Diana has never had a live action film made about her.  Of course, the other question that begs to be asked, if Warners and DC are looking to also include the Flash, will it be Grant Gustin's Barry Allen from the CW Arrow-verse?

Actors Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin on Arrow

I truly loved Gustin as Barry Allen, he was everything I wanted out of the character that will soon become the Flash, and I can't wait to not only see the transformation, but to see his own spin-off series.  However, this brings up the biggest question of all these DC TV shows in development, ranging from Arrow, to The Flash, all the way to the Commissioner Gordon TV show, Gotham:  Will these shows tie in with the Man of Steel-cinematic universe or not?  If the Flash is truly going to be in the Man of Steel sequel, it would be stupid to not use Gustin as the Flash, seeing as to the fact that if they didn't, that would mean that there are two competing Flash interpretations at the same time.  This is something that Warners has always tried to steer clear of, unless they're willing to retract all of those statements they made back during the days of Smallville and why that show could never use Batman.

Currently, the Arrow executive producers said that there have been no talks whatsoever about tying the TV shows and the films together into the same universe, and that's truly a missed opportunity.  If they're truly wanting to be like Marvel Studios, then the left hand needs to get with what the right hand is doing, and vice versa.  Say what you want about Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, but at least it ties directly into the Marvel films currently being made, making the world of these stories feel even larger and more like the comics.  Therefore, if Warners is truly aiming for a Justice League film, why not use Gustin as the Flash and Stephen Amell as Green Arrow?  They've already got a fanbase and have proven what they can do with these roles.  Of course, this is a longshot at best and we're more than likely going to be seeing a different Flash whenever they include him in a film, thus reinforcing the argument that DC is already failing at their attempts of a shared universe and to be like Marvel.  On the other side of the coin are Fox with their upcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four films.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Poster

If I'm being honest, I am genuinely excited for next Summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past.  With X-2 director, Bryan Singer, back, and a unique time travel story that looks to combine the original trilogy's cast with the First Class cast, it makes this a film any lover of sci-fi should want to see.  The big detractor is Fox's attempts to try and turn every property they have into a shared universe similar to Marvel's, and yet they wont just bite the bullet and actually share the universe with what Marvel Studios is doing with The Avengers.  Sure, they'd have to broker a deal splitting budget costs and profits down the middle, but if Fox, or for that matter, Sony, really want to be like Marvel Studios, they should give the fanboys what they really want, which is Hugh Jackman and Andrew Garfield fighting alongside Robert Downey, Jr.  The fact of the matter is, it all boils back down to money, and therefore we're going to play the imitation game, which is why in The Avengers: Age of Ultron we'll get Magneto's children, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, joining the team and yet Marvel Studios cannot actually mention the fact that they're mutants and that they're dad is Magneto, which is only a detriment to what Marvel Studios is trying to do.  Of course, back to Fox and the X-Men franchise.

Truthfully, I think it shows good faith and belief in the upcoming film on Fox's part to pretty much go ahead and announce a Days of Future Past sequel with X-Men: Apocalypse.  I love that they brought Bryan Singer back into the fold and they're allowing Singer to really indulge in all the ways he wanted to expand the X-Men cinematic universe back in the day, and Apocalypse is a genuinely fascinating villain worthy of epic treatment.  Apocalypse is the first mutant, born in Ancient Egypt, he's not only immortal, he pretty much can do anything he sets his mind to, making him a genuine threat.  As far as superhero movie news goes, this is more than likely the piece from this past week that I'm the most excited about, and for good reason, however the announcement of Simon Kinberg as Fox's person to try and create a shared universe between X-Men and Fantastic Four dampens the joy a bit.

While I am not against seeing members of the FF crossover into the X-Men films, and vice versa, before we try to jump the gun, why not try and get the Fantastic Four right for once.  We've still yet to have the definitive version of the Fantastic Four onscreen, and if all the rumored deviations to the material pan out to be true, making the FF younger and hipper, then we still wont be getting the definitive version of Marvel's first family.  As it is, we'll just have to wait and see, but honestly, if Fox is not going to play ball with Marvel Studios, they need to at least take a page out of the Marvel Studios' playbook and remain as faithful to the comics as possible, and what they're trying to do with 2015's Fantastic Four reboot, is not sounding all that faithful.  There is a reason these characters have lived on for over fifty years now, and it's not because they're broken and need to be reinvented, it's because they were pretty much perfect from the get-go, so don't change them.  Finally, this brings me to Sony and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Poster

I make no excuses for saying that I loved The Amazing Spider-Man.  I thought Andrew Garfield was an amazing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and director Marc Webb really reinvigorated the franchise.  I am ecstatic about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and was fairly impressed by the first trailer.  It looks like they're going bigger and bolder, while further expanding on my favorite part of the first film, which was the mystery behind Peter's parents' deaths.  The only fear I still have is that they're going too big.  The trailer pretty much all but confirmed that there are going to be three villains:  Electro, Rhino, and Green Goblin, with Easter Eggs for the Vulture and Doctor Octopus already prominent in the trailer.  The last time there were three villains in a Spider-Man movie it was Spider-Man 3, and look how that turned out.  Maybe it's just me being trepidatious, but this film is looking pretty crowded.  Do I think Marc Webb and company can pull it off?  Yeah, but it still doesn't keep me from cocking one eyebrow at this current point in time.  Of course, if Sony is really wanting to lead to a Sinister Six Spider-Man movie, then this is par for the course.

Unlike Fox, Sony only has the Spider-Man rights, therefore their way of doing a Marvel Studios' style universe is by using only Spider-Man characters.  There have long been rumors of a potential Venom movie, even a Black Cat movie (neither of whom I think are big enough characters of their own to support their own series of films), but the Sinister Six being the antagonist for Spider-Man in a future film is how Sony can achieve this.  The Sinister Six is basically the Avengers of Spider-Man villains, teaming up to bring down the Webhead, usually with an even more sinister motive beneath their schemes that is not figured out until nearly too late.  Honestly, I'd love to see the Sinister Six realized on the bigscreen, but I don't want the filmmakers to overload these films either to reach that point.  The good thing is, it seems like Sony and Marc Webb already have a plan in place, having already announced a third and fourth film to the series, with Webb commenting that everything that happens in two will directly affect those two films, once more alluding to all the villains Spidey will fight in these films coming together to form the Sinister Six.  As to how Webb will achieve this, the best way would be to do it like the comic books.

Whenever you have Spidey going up against a random street thug, just replace it with a super villain whose origin is simple enough to be summed up in a line of dialogue.  The great thing is it appears to be what they're doing with Rhino (which I love the mechanical suit from the trailer, by the way), with Webb saying that the Rhino is hardly in the movie.  He might just be a villain Spidey will tangle with once or twice, but nothing more than what would normally happen in other Spider-Man films when a mugger steals a purse and Peter must change into Spider-Man to save the day.  If this truly is the approach Webb is taking, I think it would be the only way they could pull off a Sinister Six film.

All in all, I think Warners, Fox, and Sony, have potential scenarios where they could all get it right, or they could all get it wrong.  Ultimately though, it's all because they want to be just like Marvel Studios and aren't focusing on what's best for the characters that they do own the rights to.  If I were a betting man, I'd place my money on Sony solving the Marvel Studios-styled conundrum first, with Fox in a close second, I think Warner Bros. has a good way to go, though I'd be very pleasantly surprised if they do pull it off.  Though at this moment, I just want to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, and James Spader as the villainous android Ultron, yes please.  All three are fantastic actors and will do the parts right, so as for right now, make mine Marvel.

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