The New Superhero Movies

With the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron last week, superhero movie season has just begun.Back in the late 1970-mid-1990s era, audiences were lucky to get one big comic book adaptation a year. Now, this is the tentpole genre, with several new superhero movies being released each year. Both Marvel and DC Movies have revealed a busy slate for the coming years. The reality is, however, that the new superhero hero movies are unlikely to be ‘new’ at all, with the plethora of remakes, spin-offs and reboots that are due to come out in the next few years.

New Superhero Movies

There are in fact some new superhero movies set for release – that is to say films that feature characters or concepts that have not been depicted on the big screen before. These include…

Ant-Man

Ant-Man

Marvel’s next cinematic release is Ant-Man, which hits the big screen on 17th July 2015.  Despite not being one of Marvel’s better-known superheroes, Ant-Man first appeared in comics in the early 1960s. Not carrying the same exposure in other media as some other Marvel title characters, it will be interesting to see how Ant-Man fairs with audiences. Nevertheless, Guardians of the Galaxy was not harmed by a lack of mainstream audience consciousness.

Suicide Squad

Director David Ayer has been teasing fans will glimpses of the film on his Twitter account. Although some of the characters have appeared in feature films before (notably the Joker and Lex Luthor), Suicide Squad is classed as one of the new superhero movies because the story of this group has not previously been depicted on the big screen.

Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the lead role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. The sorcerer first appeared in marvel comics in 1963. The film, which is set for release on 28th October 2016 in the UK, appears to be an origins story. Which is just as well, given that the superhero is not one of Marvel’s most popular characters.

Wonder Woman

Courtesy of Zack Snyder’s Twitter account http://twitter.com/ZackSnyder

Although there has been a television film (aired in 1974), as well as the famous television series, Wonder Woman has never starred in her own feature film. Perhaps the most iconic of all female superheroes, Wonder Woman will finally take centre stage in her own cinematic release on 23rd June 2017.

Superhero Sequels

This category occupies the majority of forthcoming releases in the comic book adaptation genre. Many of the new superhero movies are sequels to films released in the last few years, including…

Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds reprises his role (from 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as the Marvel antihero in Deadpool. It is unclear how much of a crossover there will be with the X-Men series of films. But with the star power of Reynolds and the lure of a R-rating in the US, Deadpool is sure to bring in audiences when it is released on 12th February 2016.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

One of the most anticipated movies of 2016, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel and seemingly a precursor to DC’s forthcoming The Justice League Part 1 and 2Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will offer viewers their first look at Ben Affleck as Batman when it is released on 25th March 2016.

Captain America: Civil War

2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the best Marvel films thus far, so expectations are high for its sequel. The film will feature a host of Avengers’ characters, including Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye. It seems to be the closest fix to an Avengers movie until 2018, when Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 is released. Captain America: Civil War will hit the big screen on 29th April 2016.

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men Nightcrawler

The follow-up to 201’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse sees the return of director Bryan Singer. The film reintroduces a number of characters viewers of the first film series will be familiar with. This time they appear as younger versions, including Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler (pictured above). X-Men: Apocalypse will be released on 19th May 2016.

Gambit

Another off-shoot of the X-Men franchise, the character is the subject of his own film when Gambit is released on 7th October 2016. This time around, the character is played by Channing Tatum, following Taylor Kitsch’s turn in the role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It has been reported this week that the character may not make an appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse, making it unclear whether Gambit is a sequel that relates to this world, or is a reboot of the character from the 2009 film.

Wolverine 3

The third-standalone Wolverine film is set for release on 2nd March 2017. Star Hugh Jackman indicated on his Instagram account that this would be the last time he would play the role. Little is known about the plot of the film; it does not yet have an official title. Perhaps the three X-Men film released before Wolverine 3 will have some impact in shaping the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

A cinematic adaption one of Marvel’s less-popular franchises, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge worldwide hit. The sequel, when it is released on 28th April 2017, has a lot to live up to. At the moment, it is unclear whether there’ll be any crossover with the Avengers universe, although one of Guardians of the Galaxy 2‘s stars hopes this will be the case.

Superhero Reboots

There are two clear superhero reboots scheduled for release in the next two years, although some of the above films may fall into this category. Audiences can look forward to seeing new versions of…

Fantastic Four

The 2005 film Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel were hardly great fan favourites, so there does not seem to be a great deal of upset at the reboot of the Marvel franchise. What is promising about this new version is the cast, which includes Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. With a 2017 sequel already planned, Fantastic Four hits the big screen on 6th August 2015.

Spider-Man

Yes a Spider-Man reboot has already been done, with the sequel to that reboot only being released last year. However a new reboot is scheduled for release in 2017, with a number of actors being discussed for the lead role. Although not much is known about this new film at the moment, Spider-Man will appear in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

The Future…

This is not the last of this swath of new superhero movies, with both Marvel and DC planning a slate that will continue until at least 2020. These include standalone films for Aquaman and Black Panther, sequels for Thor and others, and reboots such as Green Lantern. After Marvel’s recent dominance of the superhero genre, it will be interesting to see whether DC can regain some of their earlier magic. Despite the apocalyptic action depicted in the films, this is where the real battle lies.

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World

Thor The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World is an entertaining follow-up to 2011’s Thor. The film boasts the same blend of action and comedy that seems to be a hallmark of the Marvel franchise of superhero movies.

Thor is on his way to becoming ruler of Asgard, Thor is successfully bringing peace to the Nine Reams. Faced with an ancient and perilous enemy however, Thor must reunite with Jane Foster to overcome the evil that threatens the universe…

Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World has the look and feel of a modern Marvel superhero film. And as such, the film should appeal to fans of the success franchise. The sequel ticks the boxes in terms of entertainment, although there does at times feel as if there is something missing.

The only issue with Thor: The Dark World is that it is almost going through the motions. It is as if Marvel have happened on a winning formula, so superhero films are churned out periodically following this blueprint. On the one hand the films are entertaining, but on the other they lack a bit of originality to really give them a spark.

The narrative of Thor: The Dark World works well to generate sufficient tension, excitement and humour. There is a bit of a lull in proceedings towards the end of the first half, but the films recovers well. Action sequences are big and effects are great.

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role well. There is a particularly gratuitous shot of him which feels cheap. It is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, however, who steals every scene that he is in. The reason why the film is appealing is in large part due to Hiddleston’s performance.

Thor: The Dark World is certainly an enjoyable watch. Hopefully the next film in the franchise will offer more of an individual stamp.

Stuff To Look At

Well-known characters dominate this week’s round-up…

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

Just before Iron Man 3 hits cinema screens, the first poster for Thor: The Dark World has been revealed. The film reunites Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman. Thor: The Dark World is due for release on 30th October 2013.

Man of Steel

Here is the latest trailer for Man of Steel, one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Can writers David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan once again weave their magic in a re-telling of DC Comics legend? We will see when the Zack Snyder-directed Man of Steel is released on 14th June 2013.

The Great Gatsby

The soundtrack has been one of the most talked about aspects of The Great Gatsby. Above is a sampler of some of the tracks used in the film. A mixture of covers of well-known songs and samples music from the era the film is set. What else would to expect from Baz Luhrmann? The Great Gatsby is released on 16th May 2013.

The Lone Ranger

Here is the latest trailer for The Lone Ranger. Despite being the sidekick to the title character, it looks as if Johnny Depp’s Tonto may steal the show. The Lone Ranger hits UK screens on 9th August 2013.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second instalment in The Hunger Games trilogy has a first trailer. Catching Fire has a lot to live up to after the huge success of last year’s The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is due for release on 22nd November 2013.

R.I.P.D.

A new action fantasy, R.I.P.D. looks like it could be a lot of fun. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as two undead cops tasked with protecting the world from those who refuse to move to the other side. R.I.P.D. hits UK cinemas on 30th August 2013.

Film Review: Avengers Assemble

So many things could have gone wrong with Avengers Assemble. Thankfully all fears can be allayed as Avengers Assemble is a fantastic film.

Nick Fury is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., an international peacekeeping agency that includes some of the most deadly agents on the planet. When the future of humanity is threatened by Loki, brother of Thor, Fury assembles The Avengers. Together, these superheroes must defend the planet…

With their after-credit stings and references to other characters in the Marvel sphere, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger et al. were all building to this point. Avengers Assemble does not disappoint; it will likely be remembered as one of the most enjoyable films of 2012.

Joss Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn have created a film that hits all the right notes. The story is well crafted; it is a simple enough premise that offers universal appeal. What works so well is the way the various characters come together. Each of the Avengers is offered sufficient screen time so that it never feels as if one is taking precedent.

Avengers Assemble is well paced and never drags, despite its almost two and a half hour running time. The final third is particularly successful, which is testament to Whedon’s directing skills. The film is peppered with humour. This works exceptionally well, with the comedy providing an effective balance for the critical nature of the action.

Production values are faultless. Costuming and production design highlight the more fantastical elements of the film. The effects are great, especially in the opening sequence and the final showdown. The Hulk’s transformation also appears more authentic than in some of the previous incarnations. The score compliments the film perfectly.

Mark Ruffalo is excellent as Bruce Banner. Playing the role for the first time, Ruffalo appears natural, and is well cast. Robert Downey Jr. brings the charm and humour as Tony Stark, much like the previous two Iron Man films. Tom Hiddleston makes a fantastic antagonist as Loki, reprising his role from Thor.

Avengers Assemble is a must-see for those who love good blockbusters. Marvel fans should be thrilled by what Joss Whedon has created.

The Cabin in the Woods Interview

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to take part in a roundtable interview with The Cabin in the Woods director and co-writer Drew Goddard and actor Jesse Williams, who plays Holden in the film. The Cabin in the Woods is a fantastic film, so it was great to be able to discuss it with Drew and Jesse.  Given the nature of the film, some of what was discussed contains spoilers. This part is safe for all to read, while next week’s part will contain some spoilers.

Drew, could you give us a summary of how The Cabin in the Woods ended up on screen, and how you ended up in the driver’s seat?

DG: I wrote Cabin in the Woods with my partner in crime Joss Whedon, I sort of started my career working for him on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We had honed our technique of working together over those years. We just enjoyed working together, so after those shows went away we were just calling each other saying “let’s find something else to do”. We thought doing a feature would be the easiest thing to do for us, just in terms of our lives. So we started kicking around ideas of what we wanted to do, and we just love horror movies, and we love cabin movies in particular. He had this spark, this initial idea for Cabin with this upstairs, downstairs quality of it. As soon as I heard it, I went “oh yeah, that’s great let’s do that”. We just started meeting, and over the course of about five months we fleshed out the story, and once we had that we said, “alright, let’s write this”. We’ve learnt with Buffy that we never had much time to write because we were always behind schedule and we’d have to write scripts over the weekend constantly. But there’s a real energy that comes about when you do that. We wanted that energy, so we said let’s lock ourselves in a hotel, and we’re not allowed to leave the room until we’ve got a script done. It was very much an experiment, but it worked. We found this nice hotel and just kept writing, from like 7am to 2am everyday, round the clock, passing pages back and forth. And in the end we had Cabin. We sensed we’d written it, but it was every much what it was. It was very much a labour of love; just two guys trying to entertain each other.

Do you think this film will have the same impact on cabin films as say Scream did on slashers, do you think this will be the film that other films will be referenced and compared to?

DG: I don’t know, I try not to worry too much about how it will be perceived in the pantheon. We just tried to make the best movie we could. The rest of that is for other people to decide.

JW: I think it’s hard to say right now, I mean it hasn’t even come out yet. We’ve seen it in a couple of theatres with people in it. Sure, that’s going to be a by-product, if it makes an impact, that people will make reference to it, so therefore it will have a lasting effect. We’ll start with one, and see if the math continues down that road.

How would you guys describe the film to somebody in a non-spoilery way?

DG: I would just talk about the genre itself, and how this is our love letter to the genre. It is very much about making the ultimate horror film, or at least what we knew how to do. We just love that horror experience. This came about because we love sitting in the theatre, and feeling that energy when you’ve got the type of horror film that’s fun. And you’re screaming as much as you’re laughing, and when you’re sort of doing both. That can only happen in certain types of films, and we very much wanted Cabin to be that. It’s tough, because we can honestly say that the less you know about Cabin the more fun you are going to have, but you also want to tell people that it is worth their time. So it is finding that balance. Luckily, one of the things that has been nice is that we’ve noticed that people who see the movie understand, and they sort of know what not to do. They sort of do that without us having to ask. I think it’s true of most people,  I think most people don’t like being spoiled, and want to spoil, they just want to talk about the things that excite them. I think that is true of not just this movie but of all movies. I feel like we are definitely seeing that happen here, which is refreshing.

JW:  Yeah, and I think also, the word spoiler is kinda lost, its meaning is kind of amorphous, some people mean it “don’t spoil the ending of some sitcom” it doesn’t even matter, it’s like little pieces to a story where they’re not deal-breakers. Whereas this I feel that people who’ve seen it are coming out and saying “we don’t wanna not spoil it for the sake of the director or the writer or the actor, we’re not gonna spoil it for the audience, we want you to have the best experience possible” and just throw back to before twitter and the information age when everything was just fun to show off, to flex how much information you had ahead of time. Not “Oh, I got to see it before you, and now I’m gonna f**k it up for you.” It’s just a little muscle flex, and that’s not what this is about, you see that  people wanna… Less is more. The first thing about The Cabin In The Woods is don’t talk about The Cabin In The Woods!

How do you feel about the casting, as you’ve ended up with a doctor and Thor?

DG: Its nice to be proven right, as definitely at the time, we had the future of Hollywood in our cast. It’s nice to see that come to fruition before we even came out.

JW: You had that spec script, “Dr. Thor”.

DG: We couldn’t get that made, so we made Cabin. It’s nice and gratifying, it’s what you always want for your actors. You always want them to do even better than before they  met you. It’s nice to feel justified.

Was using the Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer actors again a nod to the fans?

DG: Not really, it’s just because we love those actors and we wanted to use them. Joss has always… this energy he has created, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like you’re getting your friends together and having a party and just sort of “let’s put on a show”. That’s the energy we like to feel, we like to feel that we’re this roving band of misfits, we just pick and pull and mix and match as we go, and I hope we keep this energy going forward.

Drew, with you directing for the first time, did you find there was a big change in perspective from writing and producing?

DG: Well, I certainly can’t blame the director anymore when things go wrong, which was the hardest part. Luckily I was really fortunate in my career to work for people like Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams who very much have a feature mentality to the television shows they’re working on, and they’re very much empowering the writers, and writing in general. Television is a writer’s medium. I was very comfortable doing things like talking to actors and working with guts and looking at budgets and all of those things but there is something rather harrowing about stepping on set the first day and realising there’s no one else to turn to, that all eyes are looking at you. And that takes a lot of getting used to, but there’s also good in that, it’s nice when you realise you’re in charge.

The release date of The Cabin In The Woods seemed to change frequently. How was it on your side?

DG: It was definitely frustrating but I was just concerned about protecting the film. Every time there’s new management, you’re never sure what’s going to happen. Very early on the other studios, they started screening their products. Because what happens when something goes bankrupt, they screen their assets and other people buy them. That’s why it took so long for The Hobbit and James Bond, they were all dropping with us as well. We were in good company, it felt like. The studios saw the film and started loving it and there was a bidding war, and Lionsgate called me, said ‘we love the movie, we’re gonna do everything we can to get it, we’re not gonna change a frame’, and once I knew that, it just became a matter of the red tape getting untangled, and that was fine. There’s worse things in life than having your film come out slightly later than you thought it would. Joss and I joke, but it’s been the best thing that could possibly have happened to us, we love Lionsgate, they’re wonderful to work with, our actors have gone on to become stars. Be careful what you worry about, because it ends up working out fine.

Read the second part of the interview next week. The Cabin in the Woods is released in cinemas on 13th April 2012.

Film Review: Thor

Everyone seems to get their own superhero movie these days. Even Thor, well known but not the most popular of Marvel characters. It is refreshing that these lesser heroes take the spotlight once in a while, a break from the frequent instalments and re-imaginings featuring the most popular comic book protagonists (Spiderman, to name but one).

Brave and brash Thor has always been confident that he would become king. When his coronation ceremony is interrupted, Thor seeks revenge and inadvertently reignites an ancient war. Cast out of Asgard by his father Odin, Thor is banished to Earth…

Thor is an entertaining blockbuster that should please fans of the comic and general cinemagoers alike. The narrative is what one would expect from this genre. It is neither disappointing nor illuminating. Still, Thor distinguishes itself from its contemporaries as much of the action takes place in a fantasy realm. Even the scenes set on Earth occur in indistinct surroundings; the dessert of New Mexico instead of Spiderman‘s New York or The Green Hornet‘s Los Angeles.

Momentum is good in Thor; director Kenneth Branagh keeps the action moving. There is a good balance of action set pieces and conversation-heavy scenes. The ‘fish out of water’ comedy works well, and is a good contrast to the grandiose nature of what is at stake in the film.

Effects in the film are generally good, although some sequences are heavily laden with CGI. Not much in either of the two other-worlds looks real, but perhaps that is the point. Art direction in the fantasy realm scenes is fantastic; there is a real sense of spectacle. The use of 3D is inoffensive. It is easy to forget that the film is in 3D. While it is certainly a good thing that the use of 3D is not distracting, there does not seem to be a point in paying extra to see Thor this way.

Chris Hemsworth offers a good performance as Thor. He looks appropriate for the role, and offers a sincerity that is believable. Anthony Hopkins is decent as Odin, although the actor seems destined to play the grand patriarch for the rest of his career. Tom Hiddleston is suitably ambiguous as Loki. Natalie Portman has little opportunity to show range, thanks to the lack of character development.

With the references to other characters in the Marvel realm, Thor feels at times merely a precursor to the hotly-anticipated movie The Avengers. Nonetheless, Branagh’s well-crafted film is very entertaining.