I have to hand it to Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci. Unlike other film rumor mongers, when he gets tentative scoop, he sells it as such, not making it out as a certainty. And today he has a scoop about one of DC/Vertigo’s most important works making another run at the big screen.
Faraci claims that David S. Goyer has pitched a version of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to Warner Brothers with Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached in some function and with the support from DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Being that the pitch has come from Warners’ go-to guy for comic book adaptations, has one of the hottest actors in the world attached to it, and has the blessing from one of the comic book arm’s head honchos, Warners is said to be “very receptive.”
Sandman was a DC character that dated back to the World War II era, where he appeared as a pulp inspired adventure (later turned costumed superhero). Neil Gaiman was tapped in 1988 to reboot the concept from the ground up, and the character became Morpheus. the Lord of Dreams, ruler of the Dreaming. The series quickly became the best comic book series to come out of the rather dreadful late 80s,early 90s, earning many awards, a lot of mainstream praise and cult following from both longtime comic fans and new readers alike. The series ran for 75 issues until 1996. Gaiman recently returned to the concept with The Sandman: Overture, which is in stores now.
Taking that under consideration, it should be no surprise that attempts were made to bring the Sandman to the big screen before. Unfortunately, it was attempt by Jon Peters during his “there isn’t a comic book property that I couldn’t screw up” phase. There was a rather faithful 1996 script put together by Pulp Fiction’s Roger Avary and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio that got replaced when Peters fired Avary over the direction the film was going. The direction Peters wanted is evidenced in a script by William Farmer–who would later go on to write Jonah Hex--and that direction was stupid action film more reminiscent of Terminator 2 that the original source material. That script was the impetus for one of the most scathing reviews ever on Ain’t It Cool News and even compelled Gaiman himself to call it “not only the worst Sandman script I’ve ever seen, but quite easily the worst script I’ve ever read.” So I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t do backflips thinking this film will ever get made, or if it does that it will be any good, because the precedent isn’t all that reassuring.
It’s assumed that Gordon-Levitt is attached as the star of the film, which I can see working from a physical standpoint at least. However, he is a hyphenate now, and his involvement could also include writing or directing the film as well. Or, it could be like every other comic book film he is supposedly attached to and he will deny involvement and a conflict will pop up to support the denial.
Faraci takes pains to say this is all in the very early stages and nothing has been set in stone. No green lights have been given, no scripts written, no sets constructed and no casting has been done. But Warners seems to really like Goyer, and the really want to exploit all their DC/Vertigo Comics properties. And if they were willing to develop a Sandman film with a Dream Lord prone to fistfights trying kill a girl to stave off the millennial apocalypse, there’s a pretty low bar for Goyer to get over for Warners to move forward on this on this.
Neil Gaiman’s creation Angela has travelled an interesting road since she first appeared in 1993, a path that included her debut in Image , getting caught in lengthy legal battle, Gaiman winning full rights to the character, to her appearing in the pages of various forthcoming Marvel Comics’ books. Could the next step in her journey be an appearance on the big screen under the personage of Karen Gillian?
The Scottish newspaper, Scottish Daily Mail, is saying that Angela is the villain Gillian will be playing in Guardians of the Galaxy. That article is reprinted in its entirety below.
Angela was created by Gaiman and Todd McFarlane in the pages of Spawn #9 as an angel who hunted “Hellspawn” such as the title character. McFarlane regularly used the character in the title, and built a mythology around her. However, the relationship between Gaiman and McFarlane deteriorated over disputed rights of ownership to the British character Marvelman, and Gaiman sued McFarlane over royalties for Angela and other characters created in that issue, winning a sizable judgment. Last year, as part of a settlement in that regard, Gaiman was given full ownership of the character.
Marvel Comics helped Gaiman out financially during the legal proceedings, and, as such, appears to have won the right to publish Angela in their comics. The character is rumored to make her Marvel debut in the Age of Ultron miniseries currently being published and has officially been confirmed to appear in the August issue of Guardians of the Galaxy in a story co-written by Gaiman and the title’s regular writer, Brian Michael Bendis.
The fact that Angela is appearing in the comic book that inspires the movie and the fact that Gillian has the same flaming read hair as the character seems to be the only things that makes this rumor plausible. However, one big stumbling block I see is the fact that the character is owned by Neil Gaiman. Unless there was a backdoor deal where Gaiman sold Angela to Marvel, he still holds 100% of the rights to the character. While this wouldn’t stop Marvel from licensing the character for their comic books, I don’t really see Disney wanting to sign away any part of the licensing and merchandising profits for any character in the film to a third-party .
As Brendon Connelly over at Bleeding Coolstated, this and all other casting questions will soon be answered, as the film will have to start production soon to meet it’s August 2014 release date.
In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll talk about three “superhero” films that offer a bit of metacommentary on comic books and the real world.
After The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan could do no wrong. That film was a surprise success, and its twist ending had many people comparing Shyamalan to Alfred Hitchcock in the kindest of terms. All of Hollywood was looking to do business with the director, and they were willing to let him do whatever he wanted.
Fortunately, Shyamalan had written a spec script during post-production of that film, a script that Touchstone Pictures bought for a record-setting $5 million (the most paid to that point for a spec script). Audiences and critics eagerly awaited this new Shyamalan film, expecting it to be a psychological thriller along the lines of The Sixth Sense. What they got was something entirely different.
Unbreakable wasn’t just a superhero movie, but rather a deconstruction of the superhero mythos. It went one step beyond transporting the Superman archetype to a more realistic setting by becoming a quasi-psychological examination of comic book tropes and trademarks.
The film focuses on David Dunn (Bruce Willis), an unemployed security guard who survives a horrific train wreck, one which killed all of the other 131 passengers on the train. Soon after, he is contacted by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book fan who believes Dunn is a superhuman come to life. Price leads Dunn down a path of self-discovery, which results in a sinister revelation at the end of the film.
The comic book tropes are all over the film, starting with the protagonist’s alliterative name. David Dunn calls to mind a long line of comic book character’s alter egos (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, etc). Much like Superman with Kryptonite and Green Lantern with the color yellow, Dunn finds a weakness that strips him of his powers (It just happens to be water. GL is the butt of many jokes by being able to be neutralized by a banana peel, imagine a superhero who was useless when it rains. Shyamalan reused the weakness for the aliens in Signs, which was even sillier. Why try to conquer a planet that is two-thirds covered in the stuff that can kill you? But I digress…). And Dunn’s arch-enemy is his polar opposite—like Batman, bastion of order, having to tangle with the anarchic Joker, or the physically powerful alien Superman having to constantly fight the intellectually gifted, albeit completely human, Lex Luthor, the indestructible Dunn must contend with a man with a rare bone disease that makes his bones incredibly fragile.
Unbreakable did well at the box office, but disappointing in comparison to The Sixth Sense. This can be chalked up to the ad campaign for the film, which tried to portray it as a psychological thriller in the mold of Shyamalan’s first film.
As it stands, Unbreakable is an example of the way that the world of comics have influenced filmmakers. Two years later, we would see a comic book creator become a filmmaker.
James Robinson, like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman before him, was a British writer who made a big splash in America by reimagining a long-standing DC Comics character. Moore’s character, as we already mentioned, was Swamp Thing. Gaiman’s was the Sandman. Robinson made his name revamping Starman. Starman, like Sandman, was a character first created in the Golden Age of Comics (in 1941 to be exact) who was revamped and refigured into a number of different versions before finally hitting the right one. Robinson’s Starman was the son of the original, a reluctant hero who wrestled with family baggage as often as he did with the bad guys.
Calling Starman one of the best comic books to come out of the 1990s is the textbook definition of a backhanded compliment. The decade was known as a pit of bloated excess, marketing gimmicks and quantity over quality. However, Starman was one of the few comic books to come out of that era that truly deserved to be called great.
The comic book series ended in 2001 and Robinson moved on to Hollywood. In 2002, he wrote and directed Comic Book Villains, a film that spent about 15 seconds in theaters if that long. It wasn’t a superhero film at all, but comic books provided the MacGuffin that propelled the film’s crime noir plot along. The film centered on a collection of valuable comics dating all the way back to the Golden Age. The collector died and two rival comic book stores vie to get the expensive books by any means necessary. Unfortunately, the collector’s mom refuses to sell. As the owners of each store try to change the woman’s mind, their competition for the books soon turns nasty…and quite deadly.
Robinson’s script presented the story with dollops of black comedy and heaping helpings of the dark side of human nature. His cast might not have been A-list, but it was beyond great. Character actors such as Donal Logue, D.J. Qualls, Eileen Brennan and Cary Elwes fill in the leads and make their characters at once likeable and detestable. It’s well worth a look if you come across it on Netflix or if you have room on an Amazon gift card.
The final film we are going to talk about today takes the idea of applying realism to the superhero tropes to a new level, employing a popular style of filmmaking.
The “found footage” genre exploded in popularity in 1999 with the release of The Blair Witch Project, the film that became the trademark of the genre. That movie introduced the conceit that what you were seeing on screen was real, culled from footage filmed by the characters in the film, typically found after something awful happened to them. This conceit usually appears in horror films, where the pseudo-realism adds a creepy sense of dread to the scares. However, it was applied to the superhero genre with 2012’s Chronicle.
In this case, the found footage was taken by the three teens who gained telekinetic powers after coming in contact with a strange, radioactive rock. It chronicled their exploits in using their powers, which typically involved playing cruel tricks on unsuspecting townsfolk. It also documented the corrupting influence these newfound powers had on one of their members as he spiraled out of control into pure evil.
This was deconstructing the idea of superpowers for the YouTube generation. It tapped into the fact that if kids nowadays gained superpowers, they would not immediately go out and track down bank robbers. They’d get their laughs by scaring little girls in toy stores by making the stuffed animals appear to come to life. And they’d record it, not because their powers are amazing, but rather because they were recording their life any way and their origin just happened. Even without the “found footage” conceit, it would have been a realistic portrayal. The conceit just added another layer of realism.
Next up, we’ll look at some kid friendly films that examine the superhero, including one of the best superhero films of all time (and one of the worst).
Fan-favorite author Neil Gaiman has had the film rights to his novel American Gods optioned. However, as to who exactly has made the purchase, Gaiman is being coy about for the moment. In an interview, he revealed-
There is one cinematographer and director on board who has many, many Oscars and is I think is a genius, and I love the fact that he fell in love with this about six or seven years ago and has not given up and just kept coming back and kept coming back.
See the interview embedded below.
In American Gods, Shadow, a recently paroled ex-con, is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday as a chauffeur. As they travel to various small towns, Shadow gradually discovers that Mr. Wednesday is meeting with various representatives of the various pantheons of gods worshipped centuries ago and that the reason for the meetings may mean bad things for mortals.
And while I am a long time Gaiman fan -I have signed editions of some of his early books on my shelf – I only like, but not love, American Gods. The idea that gods would draw their power from their worshippers is a concept that has been floating around in comics for a while and I felt that the middle bogged down with Gaiman writing his research rather than writing his story. Still, I think that there is a lot of material in the book that lends itself to a good film. Hopefully, Gaiman’s mystery “cinematographer and director” can bring it all together.
Another day, another load of updates from SDCC. Some of them have actually been confirmed.
ITEM!: Nathan Fillion has been confirmed as Ant-Man! By Joss Whedon! For five minutes! But it was a joke! Ha-ha!
Personal note to Rich Johnston: I know that part and parcel of being a gossip columnist is that not everything you report pans out or is true. But when you rush info onto your site before completely understanding the information, you might have people like my wife and I doing happy dances for no good reason. You owe me a beer, supposing that you ever remember who I am.
ITEM!: Whedon did confirm Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, which really wasn’t a secret. And apparently Marvel has finished the last minute race to cast Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in time for tonight’s panel. We have more about these here.
ITEM!: Marvel also displayed the helmets of Thor, Odin and Loki from their up coming Thor film.
Pretty snazzy. Not that far from the comic books (what, were you expecting the feathered skull cap from the early days of Thor?) and should look great on screen.
ITEM!: Comic writer Grant Morrison will be making the leap to the big screen. He has been tapped to pen Sinatoro, an indie film for ZDONK Productions.
Here is how the press release describes the film:
The film tells the story of Sinatoro, a man with no past and no memories; the sole survivor of a car crash in the middle of a desolate American desert road. When he encounters the beautiful daughter of a cult leader, she convinces him to help defeat the forces of evil, which have overrun her town. His journey pits him against the world’s most dangerous gangster and allies him with a deranged astronaut, a drunken cowboy, and an army of hobos. As Sinatoro travels through an American landscape made of pop culture nightmares, he struggles to understand who he is and why everyone is out to get him.
Yeah, that sounds like Grant Morrison. Look for it if it ever comes to a theater near. If not, look for it on Netflix. In quasi-related, non-Comic Con news, Neil Gaiman announced on his blog that he has finished the first draft of the screenplay adaptation of his novel Anansi Boys. Morrison might be further along, but I’d imagine more people will see Gaiman’s.
Personally, I think it’s more of a extended test shot than a trailer, but what do I know.
Join us tomorrow as we have news from today’s proceedings, including a look at the Destroyer from Thor, a look at the logo for the Green Lantern film, and what ever comes out of the Warner’s and Marvel panels.
1. The Pink Panther 2 (Sony/Columbia, 3,243 Theaters, 92 Minutes, Rated PG): True story, my niece rented the first Steve Martin Pink Panther film and was greatly disappointed. The pink animated cat never showed up. I wonder how many other kids had the same thing happen to them.
Yes, the needless remake gets a sequel. This time the Pink Panther diamond is stolen and a group of international detectives is on the case. Bumbling Clouseau also is on the case, and his incompetence supposedly creates hilarity.
If I seem dismissive of this remake franchise, well, I am. I have a lot of respect for Steve Martin as a comedian, but he’s no Peter Sellers. This was a series that really didn’t need to be remade because there would be no way they could capture Sellars’ magic.
2. He’s Just Not That Into You (Warner Brothers/ New Line, 3,175 Theaters, 129 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Well, this film certainly took its time being released. I remember seeing ads for this early last year. Usually, it taking that long would be a bad sign.
But how could this movie be trouble? It’s based on a popular, Oprah-friendly, albeit non-fiction, book. And the cast? One Oscar Winner, two solid HBO stars, four or five people who have blockbuster hits under their belts, and at least six actors or actresses who were lead in at least one other movie. This is an all-star ensemble if there ever was one.
But maybe the book, a self-help relationship guide, really doesn’t work as a movie, which seem not to follow the tenents of the book but rather uses the title as a catch all for some generic relationship humor.
3. Push (Summit Entertainment, 2,313 Theaters, 111 Minutes, PG-13): Yes, a comic book movie not based on a comic book. Sure, if you went into a comic book store, you’d find a Push comic, but it’s a tie-in, not the original source material.
And that’s a sure sign of the success of the genre. For you non-fans of the superhero film, it will probaly get much worse before it gets better.
The story is about a group of people with great mental powers who are on the run from the US Government. The Government wants to use them as weapons, they just want to be left alone. If they want their freedom, however, they are going to have to fight for it.
4. Coraline (Focus Features, 2,298 Theaters, 101 Minutes, Rated PG): With all the troubles Watchmen has been having, all the attention has been on Alan Moore. But another British comics bard has been having his fair share of film adaptations made.
Granted, Coraline was a novel from Neil Gaiman, not a comic. But he is one of the best writers to ever come out of comics. And the story is close enough that us comic fans will claim it as out own.
The story focuses on a girl who escaped through a hole in the wall to an alternate dimension. There she finds a carbon copy of her life, only better. However, it doesn’t stay that way for long, and she soon finds herself in great peril.
The movie is done in the stop motion animation style of a la Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. I always thought this type of filmmaking was a perfect match for Gaiman’s writing. I would love to see a Sandman movie done in this style.
I have to admit that the combination of fantasist Neil Gaiman working with stop-motion animator Harry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James And The Giant Peach) on a project makes me positively giddy with anticipation. Both are superb craftsman, and there is much promise to be found in a collaboration between the two.
Fortunately, the two are working together on a project, an adaptation of Gaiman’s book Coraline. In it, a young girl discovers a hidden, mahical doorway in her home, beyond which lies a different dimension where she has different parents. Rotten Tomatoes scored a video behind-the-scenes look at the films production.