May 10 2008

The Overly Ambitious Marvel Movie Line-Up

Apparently Marvel Comics is punch drunk on a small taste of success.

True, Iron Man did very well at the box office last weekend, and it is expected to do well again this weekend, but it seems to have made them think that they are untouchable. This was their first film production under their own movie studio, and they seem to be under the impression that one success means you can go hog wild.

Let’s take a look at their upcoming slate of releases, shall we?

The Incredible Hulk – June 13, 2008
Punisher: War Zone – December 5, 2008
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – May 1, 2009
Iron Man 2 – April 30, 2010
Thor – June 4, 2010
Captain America – May 6, 2011
The Avengers – July 2011
Ant-Man – To Be Announced

Okay, the films in bold are done for a reason, and that’s because they will loosely form a series. It started with an after-the-credits scene in Iron Man, which I won’t spoil entirely, but “The Avengers Initiative” was mentioned. Rumor is that a similar scene will happen in The Incredible Hulk… then Thor… then Captain America… all building to these characters forming The Avengers for the film of the same title.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, The Avengers is a team of super-heroes in the Marvel universe that has an ever-rotating line-up of super powered beings that join together to fight various evils that pop-up from time to time. I think just about every Marvel character has rotated through the team at one time or another, but the original team was Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk, but Captain America quickly replaced the Hulk. As you can see, it looks like Ant-Man will spin out of this “event movie” as opposed to others leading into it, but his film would still count as part of the series.

While this sounds like a cool idea: get the origins out of the way in their own separate movies, let the team movie just be about a big fight where we only have to deal with the bad guy. The problem is that if even one of these movies is mediocre, the whole thing could get tainted. Take The Incredible Hulk movie for instance, he has already had one failed movie, and now there is a second one coming out that has mixed vibes coming off of it. If it sucks, as some suspect it will, would people be thrilled to see him again in three years as part of a team?

ThorWhile I personally find Thor a lot of fun to make fun of (for reasons I won’t go into), it is going to be difficult to pull him off as a movie. If they follow the comics closely, it will be about a man who is not aware he is the Norwegian God of Thunder. Once he accidentally discovers it, he can tap his cane on the ground, and it will transform into Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, and him into the god himself. What will follow is a whole lot of odd Norwegian-God talk. I’m not sure how popular this is going to be with the masses. He’s a cool character, and he’s had a long run, but it’s going to be an odd sell to the general movie going public.

The whole idea of what will really amount to a six or seven film series isn’t the only problem for the studio. X-Men Origins: Wolverine will probably do well, but Punisher: War Zone… ugh. This will be the third time that Marvel has attempted to launch a Punisher film, and the last two did not do well at all, so why do they think the third time is the charm? There are numerous other characters they could try in a movie before returning to a failed one for a third time, so this really makes no sense to me.

As a comic book fan, I am thrilled to see so many properties coming to the big screen, and they are obviously doing things with more forward thought than DC Comics, but I think now they may just be rushing things a bit too much. For all of my quibbles with the way DC Comics is handling things, at least they are taking a measured approach and not trying to just slam out movies to get them out there.

I may be completely wrong, and this plan may come off with flying colors, but I worry if even one fails, the whole row of dominoes will fall apart. The lynch pin will be the Captain America movie in my opinion (who, oddly enough, is currently “dead” in the comic books) because it will be released only two months before the central movie of the whole series. That will be the last taste in everyone’s mouthes before we launch into a film that will probably have an insane budget due to the number of actors involved, and a gigantic number of special effects. I also pity whomever gets picked to play Cap because they will probably be filming two films very quickly to appear in both their solo film and the team project.

More power to them if this comes off without a hitch, but I will be fairly surprised.

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  • True, the two previous Punisher films were not worthy of what many fans consider to be a very compelling character. Here’s an interesting article that addresses the issue of re-boots and sequels, and why it IS worth doing them.

    Here are a few highlights:

    “So many comic book adaptations have stumbled because somebody in Hollywood changed the character,” says Tim Rassbach, a book editor from St. Louis, who maintains the “Iron Man” Web site . “They always seem to be in a hurry to ruin the property they were so interested in optioning. Take ‘Superman Returns’ as an example. Superman abandons the Earth and becomes a deadbeat dad? Really, that was your idea?”

    “Today’s success has probably come from giving comic fanboys creative control of these comic properties,” Treat says. “Sam Raimi (director of the three “Spider-Man” films) was a fan, as was (“Batman” director) Tim Burton and (“X-Men” director) Bryan Singer. If the creative talents find superheroes silly and irrelevant, it shows.”

    In the Marvel pantheon, The Punisher is a minor god so it’s not the blockbuster that are Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. But everything we so far know about this new production, and it’s new star Ray Stevenson, is looking very sweet.

  • I hope I’m wrong on Punisher: War Zone, because I loved Ray Stevenson in Rome, but you have to wonder how many “reboots” you can do. Also, notice this is exclusive to comic movies Sure you see remakes in other genres, but rebooting seems to be pretty specific to the comic world.

    Someday I will understand why Superman Returns is loathed, because I actually enjoyed it.

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