Reactions To Some Comic-Con News

None of us here went to the San Diego Comic-Con, but we learned about the announcements made there and even saw some bootleg footage from the presentations (we won’t bother to post the links to them, they’ll probably be disabled before long). This piece is basically our reactions to what was revealed about certain films and shows for the coming months and 2013.

Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp previewed footage from his next sci-fi epic which stars Matt Damon. It showed Earth as a futuristic, debris-filled wasteland and what was surprising was that Blomkamp didn’t need to do any special effects since he filmed these scenes in the slums of Mexico City. To some of us it felt like Blomkamp’s previous District 9 (but with a more naturalistic feel since there weren’t any shaky cam shots) and that’s a good thing. The viral campaigns touting the futuristic utopian city of Elysium were well done and whetted our appetites.

Fringe, The Final Season

The Fringe team appeared for the final time at Comic-Con and actor John Noble teased about the possibility of a Fringe movie. While enticing and unlikely if it happens let’s hope it doesn’t wind up like The X-Files films. They premiered a special trailer for the final season of Fringe which takes place primarily in the future. In that time period our heroes are trying to overthrow the enigmatic Observers who’ve taken over the world. Plus, it seems as if William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) will appear again. Sweet!

Iron Man 3

A mixed bag here, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) will be the villain in Iron Man 3 instead of another armored villain. However, we were less than enthused with the look of Iron Man’s new armor which is mostly gold with red highlights. It’s not known if this is to be his main armor but why not just stick with the suit he wore in The Avengers?

The Man Of Steel

Sadly what was learned about Zack Snyder’s reboot of Superman wasn’t very inspiring. The footage shown had Snyder’s typical empty but flashy filmmaking style. If you’ve seen Watchmen and Sucker Punch then you can imagine how The Man Of Steel footage appeared. At the same time the scenes from The Man Of Steel looked like they were desperately trying to emulate Christopher Nolan’s look for the Batman films. It just didn’t look right and in light of the recent X-Men and Spider-Man reimaginings it screamed “Me too!” The worst news came when Snyder revealed that John Williams’ iconic Superman score will not be used. That is a huge mistake since that score has become so ingrained with Superman it’s almost as bad as radically changing his costume. We feel that if they could get away with getting rid of the cape and S shield Snyder and Nolan would’ve done so just to be different. Let’s hope DC has better luck with their Lobo movie.

Miscellaneous Marvel Movies

The official titles for Marvel Studios’ next sequels were revealed. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, who has one of our staff members very excited since it seems to indicate the movie will cover one of his favorite Captain America storylines. The other title is Thor: The Dark World, and little else was revealed about the thunder god’s further escapades. But the most interesting announcement was that a film based on the Guardians Of The Galaxy is coming in 2014. Based on the artwork released, this team will not be the classic version featuring Vance Astro but rather one that has Starlord, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon (!). It’s a big risk since the team isn’t as well known or popular as the Avengers and the movie will probably be a big budget epic. The last space-based superhero film Green Lantern proved to be a dud (many blamed the aliens-filled space scenes which lacked a human touch, frankly those were the highlights for the dull, Earth-bound film), let’s hope Guardians Of The Galaxy doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Oz, The Great And Powerful

It seems as if Sam Raimi has moved beyond the Spider-Man movies with this astonishing prequel to the classic Wizard Of Oz. The transition from a small black and white screen to a gorgeous, colorful, widescreen Oz is stunning and rivals Tim Burton’s work. In addition to Oz (portrayed by James Franco who is a great casting choice), other characters appear like Glinda, and the flying monkeys. Oz, The Great And Powerful could be a new fantasy classic.

Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro supposedly blew the audience away with footage from next year’s Pacific Rim. Actually it’s the only film that can compete with Godzilla due to its epic scope and level of destruction. In the film, giant monsters have overrun the Earth and humanity’s last hope lies with human operators of gigantic robots that can go head to head with the monsters. Bottom line: Pacific Rim sounds terrific just based on the talent behind it and can be described as a love letter to kaiju movies and fans of that Japanese genre.

The Walking Dead Season Three

Our resident fan of The Walking Dead is very psyched up for the upcoming third season of the show. We saw the prison our heroes occupy, the evil Governor and badass zombie killer MIchonne, who looks like her comic book counterpart. What was shown looks exciting, suspenseful and harrowing (especially with the scenes featuring the sadistic Governor). Honestly, October can’t come here soon enough.

Star Trek Sequel and Proof Of Concept

There isn’t anything to report about the still untitled Star Trek sequel by J.J. Abrams because the filmmakers decided not to present anything at the Comic-Con. This is just baffling. ┬áMaybe they’re saving the big guns for a Trek convention. Regardless, in a crowded marketplace where films are vying for business and word-of-mouth the people behind Star Trek should’ve had at least a bone to throw to the fans. The film comes out next May and attendees got more info about films set to debut further ahead in time. We hope this isn’t a bad harbinger for the movie. Being that the last film left Star Trek fans divided over its quality, Abrams and company need to hit this one out of the ballpark and they can start by wowing fans now.

There were proof-of-concept footage shown of Ant-Man, Godzilla and Thomas Jane returning as The Punisher at the convention. While they’re cool (esp. seeing Punisher in R-rated action), until there is an actual project being produced they won’t amount to much unless something concrete comes out of showing the footage. However they seem more promising than some of the actual films being promoted.

DC, It’s Time For A Justice League Film

OK DC, Marvel has thrown down the gauntlet. Look at the result: The Avengers film looks to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters-maybe the biggest one. The buzz and hysteria surrounding this film is phenomenal. Toys based on the film are selling well and other merchandise is getting hard to find. Marvel Studios took a gamble and were patient. They carefully nurtured the film properties, which increased awareness for their characters. For The Avengers, Marvel Studios managed to corral the actors originating the super hero roles (with the exception of Edward Norton who didn’t reprise Bruce Banner/The Hulk) and bagged a director (Joss Whedon) who is an unabashed fan. Well it paid off in a super way-an opening weekend draw of over $200 million isn’t anything to sneeze at. So now the question remains: when will DC and Warner Brothers get their act together and put out a Justice League film? We’re not talking about some animated or motion capture film but an actual live-action film featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash and DC Comics’ other great heroes.

Honestly how difficult is it to pull off? Marvel managed to do it, and DC’s characters has had more film and TV exposure so it would be easy to generate enthusiasm for such a film. And Marvel’s efforts are quite considerable if one takes into account how their properties have been scattered among many Hollywood studios. Warner Bros. has owned DC for some time so the logistics of gathering all their characters into one film should not be difficult. Of course, the ideal would be to bring aboard the most recent actors who’ve played the super heroes like Christian Bale or Ryan Reynolds, but it’s not really necessary as seen with Mark Ruffalo taking over the Bruce Banner/Hulk role in The Avengers and Superman and Batman have been recast throughout the years.

It isn’t as if The Avengers sprung up out of nowhere. The first inkling about a film starring Marvel Comics’ heroes came about at the end of the first Iron Man film in 2008 and later that year with The Incredible Hulk. In those films and others since then put out by Marvel Studios there have been many Easter eggs for fans that showed a shared universe. Captain America’s shield was in the background during a scene from Iron Man, the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. turned up, Hawkeye and Black Widow made cameos (Hawkeye in Thor and Black Widow in Iron Man 2) and even the Infinity Gauntlet was shown briefly in Thor. The point of all this was that for four years, Warner Bros./DC and everyone in the world knew Marvel Studios was building up to an Avengers film. Yet DC and Warner Bros. didn’t do anything to match that concept. Their releases didn’t give any indication of a shared universe (the last time this idea was explored were vague railroad PA announcements for a train headed to Gotham City in Superman Returns). It was so simple and would’ve excited fans.

That’s not to say that they haven’t tried to bring the Justice League to life. Putting aside the incredibly awful 1990s TV show pilot and a simplified version of the team appearing informally in Smallville, Warner Bros. was close to producing a Justice League film in 2008. A script was commissioned, George Miller was hired to direct it and he was casting roles, in other words, Justice League was in actual preproduction. But the Writers Guild strike of that year gave Warner Bros. a chance to pause and ultimately kill the project.

Reportedly, the studio wanted to emulate Marvel’s pattern of releasing solo super hero films that would culminate in a Justice League movie. But as of this writing, there is very little evidence that they are working toward such a film.

One worrying factor about building up to a Justice League film is the recent track record of DC movies. Aside from the recent Batman films, Superman Returns, Green Lantern, Constantine, Jonah Hex and Watchmen have been box office disappointments. The Dark Knight Rises is a guaranteed hit but this can’t be stated for next year’s Man Of Steel. Superman has proven to be a difficult character to translate to the big screen unless the right director is chosen and The Man Of Steel’s director, Zack Snyder has had a spotty record at the box office. So if the new Superman film doesn’t deliver it could mean another long drought before Superman returns to the silver screen and could delay a Justice League film.

Christopher Nolan, the director behind the successful Batman reboot, was rumored to be in line for directing a Justice League movie but there isn’t anything concrete stated about that notion. What is troubling for some fans is that Christopher Nolan as said in interviews that he wishes to keep the worlds of the individual heroes separate from each other. So, as with The Dark Knight, there probably won’t be any acknowledgement of Metropolis or Central City in The Dark Knight Rises. Ditto for Man Of Steel, which he is producing.

This mentality is shared by DC Entertainment as well. Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment President, said to IGN back in 2010, “We do have a very different attitude about how you build a content slate. And it isn’t necessarily about connecting those properties together to build a single thing. We think we’ve got great stories and characters that will lend themselves to great standalone experiences.”

Perhaps after looking at how much money The Avengers is making and the film’s popularity, DC and Warner Bros. may change their mind.

Lewis T. Grove