Captain America: The Winter Soldier has started filming and you know what that means…set pictures, both official and unofficial. Last week, SuperheroHype published a bunch of pictures of what appears to be the latter variety.
There are a lot of photos in the set, and most are along the lines of showing us what Samuel L. Jackson wears when he comes to the set and showing us that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has her third hairstyle in as many film appearances. But there is a series of shots that shed further light on what Marvel’s Kevin Feige said about the film in his talk with Entertainment Weekly:
But all is not well between noble Cap and his S.H.I.E.L.D colleagues. “With the greatest generation in World War II, there’s a tendency to reflect on that period and say. ‘Things were black and white back then, and now it’s hard to know who the bad guys are,’” Feige says. “We wanted to play on that a little with Cap being uncomfortable with the way S.H.I.E.L.D., and in particular Nick Fury, operates.”
Well, it looks like that discomfort will come to a head, or chest, in Winter Soldier. Check out this picture:
That’s Scarlett Johansson (or her stunt double)delivering a poorly executed front kick (you hit with the ball of the foot, not the heel) to Maximiliano Hernández, who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jasper Stillwell, the agent who has replaced Agent Coulson as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s superhero liaison. Which would lead you to believe that there might be a resignation notice attached to that heel.
The tense situation goes on through out the photo set…with one exception:
See that smirk on Hernández’s face? Maybe it was a blown take. Maybe it was just the way the paparazzi caught the actor delivering his line. But that smirk leads me to believe that this photo set is not what it seems. I don’t know. I just don’t trust that this is a legit shoot is all. Maybe it’s just a red herring.
If you want to see more pictures from the shoot, click that link above.
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).
Whenever there is talk of what new films Marvel Studios can offer to their film slate, one of the options that invariably comes up is a Nick Fury solo movie (it used to be a Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. film but that was before the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show became a possibility). And while a Nick Fury film could work–he’s a mysterious character in the Marvel films whose back story remains to be told–there are a lot of other Marvel properties in line ahead of him.
Comingsoon.net/Superherohype interviewed Samuel L. Jackson during the press junket for Django Unchained (a press tour that is quickly becoming a well spring of comic book movie news), and asked him about the possibility of a solo Fury film to reveal the character’s story, and the actor let it be know that we might be finding out more about the character sooner than you think, just not in a solo Fury film:
We asked Jackson whether he felt that doing a solo Nick Fury movie would be necessary to answer questions anyone might have about the character.
“I think a lot of people know that,” Jackson responded. “I know him as something else because I’ve been alive longer than most of the fans that watch the movies so I know Nick Fury as the World War II veteran and all that stuff. It might be interesting to do one day but we find out little bits and pieces about Nick and we’re going into ‘Captain America 2′ in late March.”
So, might we find out more about Fury throughout the Marvel films, starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier? And will his film origins match his comic book origin as Jackson seems to indicate? We’ll probably find out much more between now and April 4, 2014, the date the sequel hits theaters.
Samuel L Jackson has signed onto the cast of Spike Lee’s upcoming English-language remake of Chan-wook Park‘s Oldboy. Interestingly, the LA Times is reporting that the role is somewhat smaller than what we have grown accustomed to seeing Jackson in, though it does play a pivitol part in the film.
Park’s film told the story of a man who is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years and upon his equally mysterious release sets out to extract revenge on his jailers. Jackson is signed to play one of the jailers who meets a rather grisly fate at the hands of Josh Brolin, who has been signed to star as the imprisoned man.
It is a moment that is really not for the faint of heart. (Hint – If you’ve seen Marathon Man and got squeamish at a certain scene between Max Von Sydow and Dustin Hoffman, you’re really not going to like what happens in Park’s film.) The Times states that although the scene in Lee’s version will play out differently, but will still be “plenty painful.”
The film is scheduled to begin shooting this fall in Louisiana and New York.
When a film becomes such a hit that it enters the global consciousness, it tends to encourage famous people to come out and profess their love for the movie franchise–and campaign for a role in it. The most famous example of this is Samuel L. Jackson, a fan of the Star Wars franchise who campaigned for–and won–the chance to be a character in prequel trilogy.
Add Angie Harmon to that list. The former Law and Order and Baywatch Nights star has let in be known: she wants to play the Marvel comic character She-Hulk. She really, really wants to.
She-Hulk, in the comic books, is Jennifer Walters, a Los Angeles lawyer who happens to be a cousin to Bruce Banner. When she is shot by members of an organized crime family she was trying to bring to justice, cousin Bruce was on hand to give her a blood transfusion that saved her life. As we all know, Bruce Banner is also the Hulk, and he passed his ”curse” onto Jennifer, who became able to turn into a female version of the Hulk called She-Hulk.
The character, created by Stan Lee and John Buscema in 1980, has had a number of series in her name, and has been a member of the Fantastic Four and, you guessed it, The Avengers.
Harmon has been tweeting her desire to play the character for a while now. The picture to the left is a photo of Harmon “getting into character” that Harmon shared on Twitter. A fan doctored the original photo so it was color-correct, and Harmon tweeted that shot as well.
Entertainment Weekly reports that during the Turner networks up fronts, where Harmon was promoting the third season of her current series, Rizzoli and Isles, Harmon couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved The Avengers. Talk soon turned to her desire to play She-Hulk:
“I have to be her,” Harmon said. “You don’t understand. I have to be her. It’s the best quote ever when The Hulk turns around and goes ‘I’m always angry.’ I was like, Ohmygod! I stood up in the theater and literally cheered. I did.”
And she’d be fine wearing She-Hulk’s skimpy costume? ”I would rock that like there is no tomorrow. I would kill that outfit. I’d put these 36Cs on display. Boom!” she said. “And what about her libido? That’s my favorite part. She-Hulk, bed! She-Hulk, screw! Can you imagine? Then she just picks him up and throws him around the room like the Hulk did with the bad guy. [Makes smashing noises.] But apparently, she’s normal size.” Well, no role is perfect.
Well, we can learn two things from that quote: Harmon’s breast size and that she seems really enthusiastic about the character. Add to this to the fact that earlier in the article she was schooling Mark-Paul Gosselaar (also there for the Turner up fronts) on the history and origins of the character, and it appears that Angie Harmon is a She-Hulk fan girl. More power to her. My respect for her has grown.
It’s hard to tell if Harmon is completely serious, joking, or a combination of the two, but I think Marvel studios could do worse than consider Harmon for the role if they ever decide to bring She-Hulk to the big screen. Especially considering that in the 1990s we came close to having Brigitte Nielsen play the character on film. And her origin story could be a good B-plot for and Incredible Hulk film, if Marvel decides to make one with Mark Ruffalo.
So far, there has been nothing in Marvel’s future plans for a film version of She-Hulk. But you got to love Angie Harmon to keep trying.
Well, I am thrilled to report that the gamble that Marvel took with this plan has paid off and paid off big. The Avengers is a hell of a summer blockbuster film and definitely is much more than the sum of its individual franchises.
Asgardian god Loki (Tom Hiddletson) is anxious to get revenge on his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and aligns himself with a mysterious benefactor for the services of an alien army to lay waste to Thor’s favorite place, Earth. Naturally, this doesn’t sit too well with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), the head of the super spy agency SHIELD, who assembles the world’s most powerful superheroes to stop him including the aforementioned Thor, billionaire Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), World War Two supersoldier Captain America (Chris Evan) only recently reawakened from seven decades in suspended animation, scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who has a rather powerful alter ego and to SHIELD assassins (Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner). However, with that many Type-A personalities in the room together, Loki has little trouble in goading them into quarreling with each other rather than uniting against his plans. But the arrival of Loki’s army in the skies above midtown Manhattan galvanizes our heroes to action against the invading hordes in a finale that is one of the best sustained action sequences seen in quite some time.
Outside of J J Abrams’s recent Star Trek franchise reboot, I can’t think of a writer/director who had a tougher remit than what Joss Whedon faced with this film. He had to balance the concerns of several franchises as well as their stars as well as pick up several pre-existing story threads while still make the film accessible to audiences who haven’t seen the previous installments. Whedon does it in a way that makes it look remarkably easy. (Although not necessary, one will get a greater appreciation of some story elements if they’ve seen last summer’s Thor and Captain America.)
Of course, Whedon is able to draw on his experience as the creator of the television series Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, all of which excelled at character group dynamics. Our heroes aren’t necessarily inclined to play well together and that comes from how well Whedon’s script handles each character, which roots each conflict in their various backgrounds and personality and never for the need just to have a clash between characters.
Surprisingly, the advertisements for the film have heavily featured footage form the film’s climactic and action-packed third act. But all of those cool moments that are highlighted are only a small fraction of what that twenty-five minute sequence has to offer. Staging a battle sequence like this one takes a lot of work and Whedon brings the goods. Michael Bay mounted a similar urban battle between science-fiction heroes in the recent Transformers 3, but his battle in downtown Chicago was a messily conceived affair. Here, Whedon delivers a sequence with much cleaner action, including a couple of shots that place us in the action in markedly different ways. And of course Whedon demonstrates that he is the master of punctuating the drama with just the right amount of comic relief.
Now granted this is not high art, though now that I think of it, if anyone were to make a superhero version of My Dinner With Andre, I would want it to be Whedon. It is however, great popcorn and perhaps the most perfect summer movie we’ve seen in quite a long time.
But for all the things that The Avengers get right, there are a few minor missteps. Whedon gives Cobie Smulders a nice action scene at the beginning of the film but then relegates her for the rest of the film to standing around in the background shouting information from and reacting to readouts on computer displays. The 3D is serviceable enough for a post-production conversion but doesn’t really add too much to the proceedings. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is Alan Silvestri’s score, which is not very memorable. And when a movie like this gets the adrenaline pumping, you want something to hum on your way out of the theater. Unfortunately, the score doesn’t provide that.
Quibbles aside, The Avengers is just wall-to-wall action, thrills and fun. Marvel is going to have to work hard in the next phase of their cinematic plans to build off of what they’ve given us here. And as any comics fan can explain to you if you didn’t get it, the tease at the end of the film promises that they are certainly going to swing for the fences again with the inevitable Avengers 2. And this time I have absolutely no doubt that they will hit it out of the park.
That Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is a chatty old supervillain. In a recent clip from the upcoming The Avengers, we saw him having a discussion with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) with Stark explaining to the Norse god exactly why it would be a good idea not to try and take over the Earth. In this new clip we have Loki being told by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) why he has assembled the Avengers to stop him. I don’t think that Loki is really paying attention in either clip, and that is just going to cause him trouble down the road.
Cobie Smulders has the honor of being the first cast member of The Avengers to hit the talk show circuit to promote the film. The How I Met Your Mother star appeared on Late Night With David Letterman where they screened the short clip below. It is just a bit of walk-and-talk featuring her SHIELD Agent Maria Hill character and Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury, but it still may be a bit spoilerish.
We’ll see how it fits into the overall story when The Avengers is released on May 4.
This afternoon Marvel Studios held a live Twitter chat with Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon and stars Clark Gregg, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson. The quartet answered some fan questions and dodged others about the upcoming superhero mashup and possible plans that Marvel has for future films before unveiling a ten-second preview of the thirty-second commercial for the film that will be unveiled on Sunday during the Super Bowl.
Among the things discussed in the twitter chat include-
The number of Avengers comics Whedon had to read before starting work – “I had already read them all.”
What version of The Avengers did Whedon look to inspiration – the classic stories or the more recent Ultimates version? – “It’s a combo platter: classic, Ultimate, plus a little “Richie Rich” & “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
The possibility of seeing more background on Nick Fury in this film – “Not Yet” (Jackson)
What about that rumored Spider-Man cameo? – “There is no Spider-Man cameo. But the Avengers do turn off the dark.” (Whedon)
How much of the stunt work did the actors do? – “As much as the insurance company allowed. I prepped by working out a bit.” (Jackson)
Can you enjoy The Avengers without having to see the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films? – “You don’t need to see any Marvel movies to enjoy Avengers! But you need to see Steel Magnolias, like, six times.” (Whedon)
Is Loki looking for revenge for what happened to him in Thor? – “He doesn’t want revenge so much as identity. Belonging. Purpose. Self-esteem. Through delusional dreams.” (Hiddleston)
As for the clip itself, we get a few new glimpses of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (a motion-captured Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans), though it looks like there’s no Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Not to worry though, as there’s still 20 seconds more to the commercial that we’ll get to see on Sunday, so he’s probably in there. As well as hopefully a better look at the alien space ships we can briefly see zooming through the Manhattan skyline.
I have to give the folks at Marvel Studios credit. The trailer which they released today for next summer’s The Avengers is certainly exciting enough. But if you’ve been following the production of the film all summer long, a lot of the images are ones we’ve already seen. But now, we’re getting to see them in motion. Salted between many of these familiar sights are some new things including Iron Man flying and Mark Ruffalo transforming into the Hulk. But what it doesn’t have, is a shot of all the Avengers together. Perhaps in the next one.