Part I - MARVELizing the Movie Industry
With all the buzz going around about each successive superhero film that’s produced, and the announcement of the final Batman installment ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and its newly released teaser at the forefront of the summer madness, what some seem to have forgotten (and what others can’t help but await) is that MARVEL isn’t the only major comic book company out there, and Walt Disney’s purchase of MARVEL has exhibited any and all lag time between MARVEL flicks. With ‘Captain America’ being released just enough time after ‘Thor’ and after all talk of ‘Green Lantern’ has receded (with ‘X-Men: First Class’ splitting the time between them.)
While I openly admit my bias towards the DC Universe, I believe they have been quite lucky to have found independent groups of people who have carried their mantel. The independent Superman and Batman movies of recent years have all been relatively successful and enough to keep fans of the heroes interested. But as of late MARVEL’s (or perhaps Disney’s?) express control over its work has led each and every MARVEL character to have a certain…blueprint they all follow. The discovery, the flighty love interest, tiresome dialogue and plot, reproduced and redone with the same overall aesthetic to each picture. This “MARVEL-izing” of these characters (which ‘Green Lantern’ also seemed to succumb to) has led every modern MARVEL film - sharing in those very common themes, aesthetics and story arcs - to become more of a process than an art.
Believe me, I only criticize because I am a fan of the medium. There’s nothing I’d love more than to see each of these characters squeezed for every bit of story and character development they’re worth, but the major studios are cranking these movies out like they’re going out of style (because in their mind, they are.) Instead of emotional roller coasters of plot development and human interest, MARVEL’s characters are being shown for their cute back stories, love interests, and daddy issues, but as Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’ reboot has shown, these characters can offer more vulnerable sides. Maybe even hint at the darker side of heroism, making them easily malleable and largely character-driven pieces. And though these studios seem fine with devoting multiple sequels to these characters, (‘Thor 2’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ are both slated for 2013 release dates, despite being preceded by the ‘Avengers’ sum total) what they don’t seem game on is investing something in these characters other than money.
Part II - Seeing Green
This summer either seems like the most opportune or least opportune moment to break down the MARVEL vs. DC debate, largely because with this summer came the formal announcements of much more than we had originally thought, with Reynolds likely getting two more shots (or maybe just one now: http://avc.lu/m3vAWz) at developing a watchable Hal Jordan, and it becoming clear that DC will likely follow the ever-approaching ‘Avengers’ flick with a ‘Justice League’ counterpart following announcements of Flash, Aquaman, and of course Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0770828/)
Although DC has yet to announce any official plans to corral their family and produce a ‘Justice League’ equivalent, with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ receiving standing ovations for just a teaser trailer at ‘Harry Potter’ screenings last weekend, and the aforementioned announcements and support for ‘Green Lantern’ (with the sequels being in the wings even before the movie premiered) it is becoming ever-clearer that the ‘Justice League,’ if treated carefully and with a little bit of luck, might just rob MARVEL of all its thunder.
But of course predicaments such as these will always come down to the matter of money, and fortunately for fans of the Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and the Fastest Man Alive (among others whose titles don’t quite flow as well) Warner Bros. largest nest egg just ended, leaving them with quite a hefty payout and hungry for a new franchise to sink their teeth into. Making the end of a generation of Potter fans the beginning of a much larger, pre-existing generation of superhero fans. I can’t say I’m too broken up about the loss of Harry Potter if it means I’ll finally get to see my favorite icons of all time, ‘The Flash’ and maybe even ‘Green Arrow’ (fingers crossed) hit the silver screen as a result. The only question is now that the money is theoretically there… Do we have the man power and the talent that is necessary, and deserving, of such a task?
Part III - Casting Call
With the entirety of the ‘Avengers’ heroes and villains already cast and released, it’s hard not to speculate who might play their Detective Comic rivals, and such speculation often only results in rampant trolling, but remaining in the realm of the hypothetical, and all too wishful, it is a conversation that must be had. And if the fans can’t agree on who best to play Lois Lane, then how will we be able to band against the Executive-types when the sell the role to the hottest brunette they can find?
For a Justice League super-flick to be anywhere close to successful (or AS successful as ‘The Avengers’ WILL be) big names are key and the best place to start would be the one they already have. The return of Christian Bale as Batman would carry some consistency over into DC’s flagship movie, like Robert Downey Jr.’s ‘Ironman’ - while hopefully avoiding any and all similarities to MARVEL’s ‘Incredible Hulk’ gaffe(s.)
Barring another weight loss fiasco from Bale, I’m sure Warner Bros. can fork over enough cash to meet his quote, and with Ryan Reynold’s and ‘Man of Steel’’s Henry Cavill (Zack Snyder can come, too), we’ve got ourselves one hell of a start on a solid Justice League. Speculation on who will play the remaining few (Aquaman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, the villains, etc.) has given Screen Rant-ers and fanboys much to do since that final scene from Ed Norton’s ‘Hulk’ suggested this might not have to be a “one superhero at a time”, “remake after remake” horrible cycle anymore. All systems are go, and the signs as to where DC might head in the near future are starting to become clearer.
Fans can likely expect two things from DC and Warner Bros. if both want a successful venture, first and foremost is big names. ‘Iron Man’ wouldn’t have been much without Downey Jr. in the lead, and neither will Flash or Aquaman (since we’ll all go see Wonder Woman for the outfit.) A recognizable face is a smarter investment in developing a strong movie than die-hard fans would care to admit. ‘Iron Man’ certainly isn’t any one of our “go-to” superheroes, and without fresh-faced Robert Downey Jr. amidst a whirlwind comeback at its helm, the film would have been anywhere near as well-received (Jon Favreau should be kissing his feet.) In the end, having an actor (or actress…or both) on your poster will put the butts in the seats and will convince produce to fork over the cash necessary to churn out the top notch special effects and pretty backdrops that are now required of our audience-pleasing blockbusters. The kind of effects and backdrops nowhere near accessible to a picture-perfect underground leading man with an indie-cred laden dream team behind the camera.
Some talk of which Flash will be portrayed (yes, people. There’s more than one Flash) and who will be the lucky gent to play him have been all the rage among the Fastest Man Alive’s fan base for years. Names like Scott Speedman, for his looks and action background and even Neil Patrick Harris, likely for his current popularity and sharp wit akin to that of Wally West (although it is rumored the ‘Flash’ film[s] will likely take the Barry Allen-era approach.) And with Aquaman more than likely being the final of the main Justice League cast films, the underwater hero has yet to stir much interest.
The other thing fans can expect from the DC, Warner Bros. combination, is that these franchises tend to stay in-house, and aside from Reynolds’ pre-arranged venture over to MARVEL to play Deadpool, we’ve likely already met our new leading men 9and woman) and can certainly expect crossovers from DC imprints of the past. With that knowledge, I’d consider the newly buff Tom Hardy (“Bane” - Dark Knight Rises) for a darker, sly portrayal of the King of Atlantis, but with my luck it’ll fall to ‘Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson and we’ll all continue disregarding him as a leotard who talks to fish. And speaking of ‘Watchmen’ crossovers, Billy Crudup is a prime candidate to reprise his alien-esque kinetic charms as the Martian Manhunter.
As for the rest of the cast, Wonder Woman will likely go to whoever is most attractive to Warner Bros. at the time, but on the other side of the moral compass, Hugo Weaving still impresses from V for Vendetta, (also a DC imprint) he and Jackie Earle Haley (“Rorschach” in Watchmen) could make a strong pair of villains (and Jeffrey Dean Morgan will probably be in there somewhere.) I had my hopes set on Mark Strong as Lex Luthor after seeing him in ‘Sherlock Holmes’, but unfortunately he seems to be trapped in what will likely be the weakest of DC’s legs as Sinestro in ‘Green Lantern’ Hopefully this offers some opportunity for him to return in the penultimate film.
Without these films, and the several other incarnations of these films stretching back decades, comic books might still be the stuff of fantastical adolescents. Now with the billions of dollars already made and the potential billions still out there, these once personal, private escapes into an alternate reality are now available for all to see and buy in the bargain bins at your local Wal-mart. I’m not arguing that these movies are cheapening the comic book experience (that’s for another time) but at the rate at which these movies are being produced (and reproduced) it’s hard not to think these titans of industry have little more than money on their minds and the ends are beginning to reflect the means. How else can you justify filming a Spiderman reboot three years after the last one closed up shop? Andrew Garfield isn’t that good.