One of the best things to come out of the Sony Hack was the discovery of Channing Tatum’s unbridled enthusiasm for being an actor. If anyone else crowed about their film’s success like Tatum did about 22 Jump Street, they’d be branded a raging egotist. Tatum comes off as a lovably goof who really enjoys and takes pride in his job.
Taking this into consideration, you can’t really fault him for spoiling the release date of his Gambit film on Facebook:
The announcement means that 2016 is shaping up to be a crowded year for comic book films. Gambit will be Fox’s third comic book film that year, joining Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse. The year also marks Warner’s big jump into the shared comic book movie universe with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and potentially Sony’s jump into it as well with Sinister Six. In addition, Marvel Studios has its typical two films per year–Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange and the sequel to last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot will be released. That makes a total of nine films. Yikes.
The press release also announced that Fantastic Four 2 will be moved up from its originally scheduled July 14, 2017 release date and will now come out June 2, 2017. Its spot will be taken by the as-yet-unnamed Planet of the Apes sequel.
The Sony Data Breach is a big story, and the amount of information and the nature of its content is what makes it so big. Sony might try to waive a few lawyers in the faces of news outlets to stop them reporting on the leak, but as long as there are juicy tidbits to be revealed, the stories will be continue to march on. However, the latest info to come to light might encourage other studios to chip in for Sony’s legal team. The latest round of leaks includes behind-the-scenes information pertaining to Warner Brothers and Fox’s movie slate, in addition to Sony’s troubled Spider-Man franchise.
What has been released in the latest round? Let me tell you:
Jeff Robinov has found a new job, and he has an idea for a Spider-Man reboot: Yes, you read that right. Former Warner Brothers Jeff Robinov has found a new job (he’s founded his own studio called Studio 8) and Sony is contemplating rebooting the franchise for the third time in less than fifteen years.
Comic book film fans will read Robinov’s name an wince. He was the Warners’ executive in charge of fumbling the studio’s attempts to bring DC Comics properties to the big screen. He most famously was a proponent of making all superhero films “grim and gritty” like The Dark Knight and might be part of the reason why Superman turned into a neck breaking vigilante in The Man of Steel.
So it should come as no surprise that The Daily Beast reports that that Robinov’s idea to reboot the Spider-Man franchise is to adapt perhaps the grimmest and grittiest arcs from the comics, “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” a storyline where Spider-Man villain Kraven the Hunter gains the upper hand over the hero, shoots him, and leaves him for dead, buried alive. While the real Spidey is out of commission, Kraven adopts his identity and tries to carry on in his name in a far more violent fashion. The story ends with a defeated Kraven taking his own life via a shotgun in the mouth.
Cheery, summer blockbuster material it is. Also fitting that Robinov picks an arc where Spider-Man is barely in the work that acts as his big comeback.
The film would feature an older Spidey, and there would not be another origin story. Robinov also has an apple-pie-in-the-sky list of potential directors, including Brad Bird, Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Frozen), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Don Hall & Chris Williams (Big Hero 6), Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie), Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki), Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), Edgar Wright, and David Yates.
Sony was doing the hard press to get Spider-Man into Captain America: Civil War: The Daily Beast covers a different e-mail exchange between Michael De Luca, co-president of production for Columbia Pictures, to Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment that reveals a whole passel of scoops. One is that De Luca really thought loaning Spidey to Marvel for a cameo would be a good idea:
I really feel, in my heart of hearts, that the new spiderman [sic] in cap 3 could just appear in his own film, be it sinister six or a kick ass spidey film of his own, after that intro in cap 3 and people would be cool with it.
There have also been leaked e-mails where Marvel appears to be totally into the lend/lease of Spidey. So how can we make this happen?
Fox IS working towards a Fantastic Four/X-Men crossover: In the same e-mail chain, as De Luca encourages Pascal to create an expanded universe with the Spider-Man characters, he states that Simon Kinberg told him that Fox is working to an eventual crossover between the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. This is the same Kinberg who has been shooting down that possibility for months.
Of course, De Luca doesn’t give us a timeline, but the meeting between the two franchises might come sooner than you think if the FF reboot is dead on arrival.
Jeff Nichols will be directing 2018’sAquaman : In news that not even a whisper has appeared anywhere up to now, De Luca mentions that Mud director Jeff Nichols will be directing Jason Momoa in 2018’s Aquaman for Warner Brothers. While Nichols is anything but a household name, Mud received very good notices. And, lest we forget, Marvel built its film empire by hiring great directors that normally would fly under the radar.
Marvel is high on Spider-Ham, Sony on Santa Claus Burglar, neither on Tordenkakerlakk aka The Thunder Cockroach: While which studio owns the rights to what character is a fun game for comic book film websites to play, Sony and Marvel have it down to a science. And, apparently, a spreadsheet. Business Insider states that a spreadsheet listing the Spider-Man characters broken down to which ones Sony might want to use one day, ones that Marvel might want to keep, and ones neither seem to have an interest in has been leaked by hackers.
What characters? How about every single character to appear exclusively in a Spider-Man comic book from the very beginning. There is no character too obscure, as the list ranges from The Black Abbott to the Hypno Hustler. The spreadsheet states that Marvel has “frozen” the rights to Spider-Ham, an anthropomorphic version of its character,which apparently means that Sony can’t use them. Sony however is very interested in a character called the Santa Claus Burglar, a petty thief how dresses as Santa to dupe young kids into letting him rob their houses. The character has appeared in only one issue (as far as I can tell) and was eventually defeated by Spider-Man and the real Santa Claus.
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. Today, the success of X-Men and Spider-Man send studios looking for adaptations at smaller comic book publishers.
By 2003, movies from comic books were a big deal. The success of the X-Men and Spider-Man films indicated that there was gold in bringing comic characters to life, and Hollywood wanted to get in on it.
Unfortunately, most of the big guns were taken. Sonyhad Spider-Man and Thor, Fox had the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. Universal had the Hulk, and any DC Comics characters had to go through parent company Warner Brothers first.
Luckily for producers all over town, the comic book industry had expanded so there were a number of other viable companies putting out comics, all with characters ready to be brought to the big screen. Well, the powers that be might have thought they’d be ready. But as we’ll see, sometimes audiences thought differently.
Bulletproof Monk, the comic, was a comic book by committee. The concept was originated by two men who never put fingers to keyboard, nor ink to Bristol board. Michael Yanover and Mark Paniccia created Flypaper Press and a content farm for their ideas, which they would hire writers and artists to flesh out and produce.
One of these concepts was one that would take the Asian Kung Fu film, move it to a city and add Star Wars type mysticism to it. They hired Michael Avon Oeming, who would later gain fame working on Powers, to do the art and asked relative newbie Brett Lewis and indie veteran R.A. Jones to do the writing. Gotham Chopra, son of Deepak Chopra, was brought in as a consultant on the Eastern mysticism in the story. And that story became Bulletproof Monk.
Yanover and Paniccia started shopping the concept to Hollywood before the second issue even came out. They got interest from John Woo, whose movies were an inspiration for the concept. Woo eventually agreed to produce the film. His frequent collaborator, Chow Yun-Fat, was cast as the titular monk. Heath Ledger might have made his comic book film a few years before his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, as he was in line to star as the Monk’s assistant, Kar. He dropped out to accept a role in The Order, and Seann William Scott took his place.
If Yanover and Paniccia were thinking they might have a Men in Black style underdog hit on their hands, they were sorely mistaken. The film opened to horrible reviews and only made $37 million worldwide against a $52 million budget.
Bulletproof Monk might have been committee designed to be a film franchise, 30 Days of Night was a comic book concept that went nowhere, was then proposed as a film idea and was shot down, before IDW Publishing decided to publish it as a comic. It is also one of the most inventive approaches to horror to ever come down the pike.
As the film Insomnia told us, parts of Alaska experience 24-hours of sunshine for weeks at a time. The flip side of this is that they also experience 24-hours of night for weeks at a time.
Now, consider if you were a vampire. You have to hunt your prey—humans—for food—blood—in the small window of time you are both awake. The sun is deadly to you, so you stay behind closed doors and windows in the day time when people are out doing their business. And most people stay indoors when the sun goes down, so your pickings are slim—from the late shift workers, college party crowd, etc.
For you, a month of darkness is a great thing. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith thought so. That’s why they wrote 30 Days of Night, a comic about a cadre of vampires that relocate to Barrow, Alaska and use the small town as their personal smorgasbord.
The series sold loads of copies, spawned numerous print sequels, established IDW as a publisher of note, raised the profile of both Niles and Templeton (who were nominated for Eisner Awards, comic’s version of the Oscars, for the series), and attracted Hollywood’s attention. Yes, the concept that was at first unwanted as both a comic book and a film would end up being a success at both.
In 2002, Sam Raimi’s Senator International picked up the rights to the comic. Niles wrote the first draft of the script, which was rewritten by Stuart Beattie and then again by Brian Nelson when director David Slade came on board. Josh Hartnett played the town Sheriff, Melissa George his estranged wife, and Danny Huston played the leader of the vampires.
The film was a success, making $75 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. It was a huge success on home video, which led to a direct-to-video sequel and two prequel miniseries on FEARnet.com.
You get the feeling that Disney was itching to get into the comic book film business for a long time, because in 2007 they purchased the rights to the Top Shelf miniseries, The Surrogates, a high-concept story set in the sci-fi genre, for its Touchstone shingle.
The story concerned the future of 2054, where everyone has an idealized, mind-controlled robotic duplicate of themselves that they use for everyday interaction while they stay home in their ugly flesh and blood bodies. When someone starts destroying the Surrogates, which kills the owners in the process, an anti-Surrogate cop needs to get to the bottom of the mystery behind it.
The film, produced in part by Elizabeth Banks, was directed by Jonathan Mostow and starred Bruce Willis as the cop. The cast also included James Cromwell, Ving Rhames and Rosamund Pike, which would make for a pretty good film, you would think. Unfortunately, critics gave it mostly negative reviews. The film made $122 million worldwide, a disappointing figure when you think it cost $80 million to make.
Whiteout was another high concept comic book series. Published by Oni Press and created by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, it is a murder mystery set in the scientific stations of Antarctica. It centers on a U.S. Marshall by the name of Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who must investigate the murders of several scientists before she retires her post.
The comic was nominated for a number of Eisner’s, but the 2009 film adaptation was not what you’d call award-worthy. Many would pin the blame for the film’s flopping ($17.8 million worldwide versus a $35 million budget) on it having a female lead. But the 7% fresh rating it got from critics couldn’t have helped. Pity poor Gabriel Macht. This film, in which he plays a UN agent, came at the end of a three year span of completely awful movies he starred in (joining 2007’s Because I Said So and 2008’s The Spirit).
Next, Kevin Smith’s favorite hero gets the big screen treatment, does well, and is never seen again.
We’ve known for sometime that Fox has been planning on merging their long-running X-Men superhero film franchise with their upcoming reboot of their Fantastic Four franchise into a single integrated universe the way that Marvel Studios has done with their properties. They’ve even recently hired on Simon Kinberg to oversee the process.
And now we have an idea as to how that blending of the two franchises may happen, thanks to this report from the financial site The Motley Fool (via Bleeding Cool) –
After multiple movies in their respective franchises, Fox has now decided to combine the Fantastic Four and the X-Men for an “Avengers”-style movie that could pay off huge for shareholders.
Based on a 1987 four issue comic called Fantastic Four vs. X-Men, the movie will see the characters against each other because of secrets regarding the Fantastic Four’s origin.
So, how on the money might they be? Hard to say. Are they reporting from actual information that may be circulating from Fox to their investors? Or is the site making a stab in the dark, in the process showing off their geek side?
If this is a real project, we probably won’t be seeing it anytime soon. The X-Men franchise already has a number of films on the way. We know that next summer we will see X-Men: Days Of Future Past and the recently announced X-Men: Apocalypse is looking as if it will have a 2016 release, while there is also a possible X-Force film and another Wolverine solo film in the development pipeline.
In the meantime, we won’t even be seeing Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot until 2015. I would suspect that Fox would probably want a sequel before they started doing a hard crossover with the X-Men, though they could be taking a play from what Warner Brothers appears to be doing with and being rushing the big team-up films into production as quickly as possible. But even then, I wouldn’t expect to see it before 2017.
First, let’s just say that this rumor originated from El “Almost always wrong” Mayimbe over at Latino Review. However, the much more reliable Drew McWeeny also ran with it over at HitFix, so perhaps we should take this one a little more seriously.
The rumor? That in the opening scenes of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers will be fighting HYDRA, now led by Baron von Strucker.
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker was a Nazi officer who would face off against Nick Fury, Wolverine and Captain America. He was influential in the formation of HYDRA in the comics, and often served as its leader. He stayed relatively young by use of serums created by Hydra to retard the aging process. His main weapon is something called “Satan’s Claw,” a red gauntlet that increases his strength and delivers electric shocks to his opponents.
According to the rumor, Strucker will be leading HYDRA against our heroes only in the opening scenes.The idea is that he will be defeated quickly and the film will then begin to go about its Ultron business. Of course, this doesn’t mean that he won’t be showing up somewhere else later on.
The rumor also states it will be there where Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will be introduced, but doesn’t say how. Could they be Interpol agents fight against Strucker? Are they undercover, infiltrating his organization? Or, maybe, has Marvel found a replacement father for the pair to replace Magneto? Strucker also has a twin son and daughter with superpowers in the comic books. Could Joss Whedon be swapping out Fenris, aka Andreas and Andrea, for Pietro and Wanda? Just an idea.
The casting announcement for the role calls for a physically imposing man, 40-50, and Caucasian for the role. El Mayimbe says that Marvel is looking at Marton Csokas (Lord of the Rings) and Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II) for the role. Just based on looks alone, I think either would be a good choice. And both have geek cred (Csokas, in addition to LOTR, also has roles in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and Scott infamously was originally cast as Wolverine in X-Men before conflicts with MI2 caused him to drop out).
Now is the part of the post where I list the warning flags. First off, it will be good to see HYDRA back in the movieverse, but they were barely a threat for Captain America in the first film. I can’t see they’d put up too much resistance against Thor, Hulk and Iron Man. Speaking of which, Iron Man was left as being retired at the end of Iron Man 3. So his return would need to be explained. Personally, if this rumor is true, I think that Baron Strucker and HYDRA will be facing off against a skeleton crew of Avengers–Black Widow, Hawkeye, maybe Cap, maybe Falcon–and not the whole team.
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. Today, we look at one of the best superhero franchises, the first Spider-Man trilogy.
The years of stops and starts were behind it, and all the legal wrangling was a thing of the past. It was now finally time for Sony to bring Spider-Man to the big screen. The only question was who would be the director at the helm.
Sony was not messing around. When it began its search in 1999, its list of directors included Roland Emmerich ( three years removed from Independence Day and following up the critically lambasted yet still successful Godzilla), Tim Burton (the man who brought Batman to the big screen and was coming off Mars Attacks and a failed attempt to bring a Nic Cage Superman to the big screen), Chris Columbus (much in demand director of Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire who was coming off a hit with Stepmom), and David Fincher (who was still riding high from Se7en and was in the process of making Fight Club at the time).
Each director would do well in capturing a quality of the character. Emmerich would do well with the bombast and spectacle of the character, Burton the quirky weirdness, Columbus the heart and sensitivity and Fincher the dark and morbid underpinnings (his proposal for the film? Start with the death of Gwen Stacy). But the director they chose was able to capture all these characteristics of Spider-Man and more. That director would be Sam Raimi.
Raimi was at the time best known for the Evil Dead series of films, but was starting to move away from genre films with films such as A Simple Plan, For the Love of the Game, and the then in-production, The Gift. But Raimi was also a comic book collector with a focus on the Silver Age. So, Sony hired the perfect man for the job, someone who understood the character yet was a great director with a unique style and vision.
Once Raimi signed on, work began on updating the James Cameron scriptment to the big screen. David Koepp replaced Cameron’s Electro and Sandman analogs with the more pertinent Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Raimi’s wish to play up the father/son triangle between Norman and Harry and Norman and Peter caused Doc Ock to become expendable. The character was removed in Scott Rosenberg’s rewrite. Eventually, practically the only thing remaining in the final film from Cameron’s scriptment was the organic web-shooters.
Raimi then set about casting the film. Even though the studio wanted a big name like Leonardo DiCaprio or Freddie Prinze Jr. (yes, for a brief period after I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That, Prinze was a big name), Raimi insisted on Tobey Maguire for the role of Peter Parker. Casting Norman Osborn/Green Goblin was slightly more difficult, as first choices Nicolas Cage (thankfully) and John Malkovich (regrettably) passed on the role. Luckily, a copy of the script fell into Willem Dafoe’s hands and he began to lobby for the part. Eventually, he won Raimi over and was cast as the villain.
This was a boon for the franchise. Maguire was well enough known as an actor that he was recognizable, but was not so famous that he would overshadow the character. He also was a great character actor, playing Peter’s angst-filled and somewhat sad sack persona without ever becoming annoying. And Dafoe was a great fit for Osborn, creating the right note as a good man going insane. In other hands, the transformation would not be believable. In Dafoe’s it was.
Of course, the casting was solid top to bottom, with everyone doing well in their roles. Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane might not have been the sexpot she was in the comics, but she was the girl next door the script called for. James Franco did well as Harry in what he was given. But the greatest acting job of the entire cast was J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons totally captured the bluster and the bombast of the character to a “T”. Also, watch closely as you will see future stars Joe Manganiello (True Blood) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Flash Thompson and Betty Brant.
But even this time around, the path to the big screen wasn’t without bumps, this time provided by real world events. While teasing the film in the summer of 2001, Sony wanted to show that the film was set in New York and used an iconic New York City landmark in its publicity—the World Trade Center. The Twin Towers feature prominently in the first posters for the film (look at Spidey’s eyes in the poster to the right for their reflection) and in the first teaser trailer.
Unfortunately, the events of September 11, 2001 turned the advertising’s respectful nod to a famous part of the New York skyline into a haunting reminder of the lives lost when terrorists attacked those buildings. The poster and trailer were both recalled and a scene with random New Yorkers added to the final film to reflect the spirit of cooperation citizens showed in the days after the tragedy.
The film itself follows in the formula established by X-Men two years earlier. It made changes to the story so that it would make a better film, but stayed true to the spirit if the original work. Spider-Man is still a decent human being, horribly haunted by one poor decision that left someone he loved dead. The main differences are that he was bitten by a genetically altered spider and not a radioactive one. And his main nemesis dressed up as a flea market version of Iron Man instead of, well, a goblin.
But overall, the film worked because it struck this balance. Uncle Ben still dies, but this time immediately after Peter negligently lets the robber escape. This allows for a powerful scene between Cliff Robertson (as Ben) and Tobey Maguire, as Peter arrives in time to spend a last few minutes with his uncle.
A similar, character-defining death scene occurred the same year in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and the difference in quality is embarrassing. Anakin’s mother’s death is supposed to be one of first things that push him to the dark side. Unfortunately, compared to Uncle Ben’s death, it lacks emotional potency and seems hollow.
Raimi also employed some of his cinematic trademarks in the film. The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Raimi uses in most of his films became the Parker’s family car. And longtime collaborator Bruce Campbell has a cameo as a wrestling announcer who gives Spider-Man his name.
The film set records when released, including becoming the first film to earn $100 million dollars in its opening weekend. The $39,406,872 it made on its first day set a record for the highest opening day total. The film grossed $403,706,375 domestically and $821,708,551 worldwide, making the long road to the screen worth it. Obviously, it also meant that a sequel was in the making. We’ll talk about that next time out as we wrap up the Raimi era of Spider-Man.
Shared universes are all the rage nowadays in comic book films. Marvel paved the way and showed us how it’s done, Warner’s is trying to establish a shared universe with their DC Comic based films, and it looks like FOX is next in line with the Marvel franchises they control.
FOX’s overseer of the Marvel films, comic book writer Mark Millar, took questions from the readers of SFX magazine and he was asked if FOX’s Fantastic Four and X-Men franchise will share the same universe. He had this to say:
Without question I think you have to see some of these guys showing up in each other’s movies. I think the most exciting thing in superhero movies, until The Avengers came along, was when Nick Fury showed up in Iron Man. Even though it was a guy with an eye patch it was really cool – and I expect we will see more of that.
It’s at this point that we should mention that not every comic book franchise melds perfectly with every other comic book franchise. Nick Fury appearing in the solo Avenger films made sense because they were building to a bigger film. While the family-focused sci-fi action team of the FF teamed up with the costumed social allegory that is the X-Men numerous times in the comics, in films the two worlds will be much harder to intermingle.
Unless, of course, the FF reboot decides to introduce Reed and Sue Richards’ son Franklin in the mix. As any savvy comic fan can tell you. Franklin Richards was born a mutant. Unfortunately, this plot point is unlikely to happen as all the casting rumors for the reboot deal with actors who are kids themselves. None of theh names bandied about seem old enough to have a child who is exhibiting mutant powers.
Marvel’s success with bring its own characters to the screen through spin-offs and interconnected stories has inspired the rights owners of Marvel characters other than Marvel Studios to mine their rights for all their worth. We have seen Fox create two eras of X-Men to work with, a spin-off Wolverine franchise and will so add X-Force to its mutant film roster, and now it looks like Sony will be doing the same with its Spider-Man franchise.
As part of the San Diego Comic-Con promotional barrage for Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb spoke with CraveOnline. The conversation turned to Amazing Spider-Man 4 (yes, the second one has yet to come out and they are already talking about a third sequel). What Webb said was quite interesting:
There you go. In that case, you can do no wrong. We always expect a trilogy from movies now. It’s a little arbitrary but what are you gonna do, and yet, you announce that 2 is coming out, and then the release date for 3 and then a little later you said, “Oh yeah, and we’re doing 4.”
Well, I think this was conceived of as a trilogy so there was a defined architecture to the story we were telling and we had sort of a rough outline of what was going to happen. I think [for] the fourth movie, what we’ve discovered is there are so many ancillary characters, that have enormous, cinematic potential that there may be other ways to exploit those characters, in a way that is exciting and fun and worthwhile. It might not just be a Spider-Man movie. Interesting. Yeah, because that’s the thing. We haven’t really introduced any other heroes in the Spider-Man universe, ever.
Right. You know, there was kind of the heroic Green Goblin but that was a footnote, and you do seem very interested in the whole world of Spider-Man and not just his immediacy of influence.
Yeah, exactly. I think there’s… You know, what was fun about the comics is that there’s an entire sort of encyclopedia of characters and stories and histories and nuances and idiosyncrasies and off-shoots. I think that that is something that seems to be really successful and has a lot of potential so it’s sort of, as yet, undefined, but intentionally so.
So, it looks like Webb will be along for the ride for ASM 4 (it was touch and go if he’d even be back for this film) and the film will be introducing more heroes into the mix.
While the Spider-Man comic mythos is not as jam-packed with superhero characters as the X-Men universe is, there have been a number of heroes that got their start in a Spider-Man comic. There have been villains that became heroes such as Sandman and Venom (a number of various incarnations of Venom as a matter of fact), anti-heroes such as Cardiac, Solo, and Silver Sable. And allies such as the Black Cat and Madame Web.
Judging by Webb’s words, it looks like whatever hero is introduced into the franchise will be done with the eye on a spin-off film.
Unfortunately, three of Spider-Man’s biggest allies from the comic books–Morbius, Cloak & Dagger, and the Punisher, will not be in that movie. While all three debut in a Spider-Man comic book, the rights to all three are owned by Marvel.
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. Today, the theme of good and bad as it pertains to the X-Men film franchise continues as we cover its spinoffs—X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a horrible movie. There is no two ways about it. You could see why it got made. Wolverine is the “Fonz” of the X-Men franchise both on the screen and in comics. He’s the breakout star, a man of mystery, and the character audiences are drawn to. Producers could have put any origins story up there for the character and fans would show up in droves. The producers did, and the fans did, although the character, and the actor playing him, definitely deserved better.
The films plot drew on two major comic book storylines, 2002’s Origin by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins, and Andy Kubert (written, rumor has it, so that Wolverine’s origin would be first told in a comic book and not on the silver screen) and Barry Windsor Smith’s 1991 “Weapon X” serial from Marvel Comics Presents. Adjustments were made to wedge them into the film franchise’s continuity and to set up two characters—Deadpool and Gambit—for possible future films. It was a patchwork plot, with holes in the seams big enough to drive a tractor trailer through.
The film opens by distilling the Origin comic series into the first several minutes of the film. We open in the Northwest Territory of Canada. A young James Howlett witnesses the family’s groundskeeper kill his father. Or at least it was the man who Howlett thought was his father. The groundskeeper with his dying breath admits that he is Howlett’s true father. Distraught, Howlett escapes into the woods with the groundskeeper’s son, Victor Creed, who is Howlett’s half-brother. Confusing, yes? Yes, made even more so by cramming all the melodrama into one brief scene.
The half-brothers deal with the death of their father the best way they know how—they kill other people. They relocate approximately 3,000 miles to the United States (where all the good wars happen) to fight in the Civil War and every major conflict America found itself involved in for the next 100 years (apparently, both brothers are immortal as well as being good healers and having claws). Things turn sour during the Vietnam War, as Creed’s vicious nature as becomes too much for even that era’s U.S. Military (his actions eventually get the brothers in front of a firing squad, which is surprisingly ineffective). Creed (Liev Schrieber), however, is just right for a Black Ops group composed of mutants that Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) is starting up called Team X. Howlett joins his brother in his new job for a while, but eventually leaves when the black ops get too black for his taste.
James, now calling himself Logan, lives a simple life with his longtime girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) in rural Canada when now Colonel Stryker comes to call. It appears that members of his old black ops team are being killed off by a mysterious assailant. That mysterious assailant turns out to be Creed, who attacks James and appears to kill Kayla.
Incensed, Logan takes Stryker up on his offer of help and agrees to a process that will give him the advantage over his brother—the bonding of the indestructible metal Adamantium to his bones. The process is a success, but after it is complete, while being submerged under two feet of water and Styker standing at least five yards away, mind you, Logan hears Stryker planning to betray him. Naturally, Logan escapes and plans his vengeance.
He tracks down the few Team X members that are still alive to find out where Stryker’s secret base is. No, not the secret base that Logan just escaped from, a different one (Stryker, apparently, was a big believer in having redundant systems). His buddies Wraith (will.i.am) and Dukes (Kevin Durand) say the secret base is named “The Island” and only one person has ever escaped from the facility—Remy LeBeau, a.k.a. Gambit (Taylor Kitsch).
Wraith and Logan track down Gambit in the hopes that LeBeau will reveal the location of the island. While Gambit and Logan fight, what people on the same side typically do in these movies, Victor arrives and kills Wraith. Logan and Victor once again fight, with Gambit coming into the battle on the side of Logan. Gambit realizes Logan is on the level and decides to take Logan to the same island he was willing to engage is thousands of dollars of property damage to keep from being taken back to.
“The Island” is Three Mile Island, which, in the X-Men film universe, was decommissioned and abandoned after the 1979 partial meltdown of reactor 2 (ours wasn’t—reactor 1 is still running today and has been since the accident) and is located in a remote area accessed only by plane, not smack dab in the Susquehanna River, about 15 miles from Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, about 30 miles from one of the state’s biggest tourist towns, Gettysburg, 20 miles from one of the major colleges in the state, Dickinson College, and several miles from two airports, several major highway systems, and even a golf course. If the film TMI matched up with the real world TMI, it wouldn’t be all that hard to find.
Anyway, when Logan arrives on “The Island” he finds Kayla is there and still alive. She is a mutant with the powers of persuasion who agreed to work with Stryker in order to keep her sister Emma, who Stryker is keeping captive, alive. Stryker’s ultimate plan is revealed. He was taking DNA from the mutants he captured and/or killed and put the genetic material into Team X member Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), giving him all the powers the mutants had (a “Deadpool” of powers, nyuk nyuk) in order to become a weapon Stryker could use to kill all the mutants in the world.
Logan and Deadpool fight. Victor arrives just in time to save Logan and they both defeat Deadpool. Professor Xavier arrives at the secret base that no one except Gambit knew the location of just twenty minutes ago and saves the captive mutants, including a young Scott Summers (Cyclops from the X-films). Kayla dies again, for real this time, and Stryker induces amnesia in Logan by shooting him in the head with an Adamantium bullet.
It would be easy to say that the script for this film was so bad due to the fact that so many plot elements had to line up with the rest of the X-Men film franchise. After all, Stryker had to be alive in time for X2 and Logan had to be suffering from amnesia at the start of X-Men. Any roads taken in this film would have to lead to there. But these limits shouldn’t result in a film like this. You could write a much better script, keep the continuity intact, and have a much better movie.
I could write another 1,000 words on all the plot holes and inconsistencies in the film, like, for instance, how a mutant whose power is to make you do whatever she says could ever be blackmailed in the first place (“Listen, I want you to release my sister, let me and her leave this facility right now, and forget we ever existed. Then you will dance around the complex singing ‘I Feel Pretty’ until you collapse,” said Kayla, in a much better version of the script in an alternate universe). Or why Stryker needed Logan at all. He went through this convoluted plot to get his hands on Logan for two reasons: One, to get the healing factor from his DNA to give to Deadpool and to see if someone with said healing power could survive having adamantium bonded to their bones. Well, he was employing Logan’s brother, who had the same healing factor as Logan, so he had a test subject already in his employ. Stryker, a man who hates mutants so much he is bioengineering an assassin so he can kill them better, tells the mutant Creed that he’d never survive the process. Why would he be concerned? Why would he care? Logically, he’d try the process out on Creed and if it worked, yay, if not, it’s a dead mutant.
But logic has no place in this script. It is less a cohesive tale than a group of big moments lined up one after another. Kayla serves as the dutiful girlfriend until she doesn’t. She dies (BIG DRAMA!) only to re-appear later (BIGGER DRAMA!!) and be revealed to have betrayed Logan (OOH! MEGA DRAMA!), but eventually redeems herself again so Logan can mourn her again (MONDO MONDO DRAMA!). Who cares if these events are convoluted to the point of being nonsensical, and the character is so thinly drawn that the impact is lessened.
The Wolverine, being released next week, appears to be better.
It uses the legendary Chris Claremont and Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries as a framework. Logan is brought back to Tokyo by man named Shingen who owes Logan a great debt. Logan saved Shingen’s life during World War II and he intends to repay that debt by giving Logan his mortality back. Being that he is constant being tortured by the memories of killing Jean Grey, Logan is ready to take him up on that offer. Of course, the offer doesn’t go off all that smoothly and Logan quickly runs into situations that his healing power would be an asset.
However, even this installment wasn’t without a bit of difficulty. Bryan Singer was offered the chance to direct the film, yet refused. Darren Aronofsky was announced as director, but lasted only five months before stepping down. James Mangold eventually stepped in and took over the directorial reins.
X-Men: First Class was Fox’s other foray into X-Men history, but originally it was supposed to be another film. The plan was to make an X-Men Origins: Magneto, detailing not only the early part of Magneto’s life in the concentration camps, but also the beginning of his friendship with Charles Xavier, who would have been a soldier who liberated the camp Magneto was in. The concept was later updated to 1962, and Xavier and Magneto would unite to face a common foe.
Bryan Singer states that his treatment for X-Men: First Class was not inspired by the script for X-Men Origins: Magneto, even though the pair team up to take down a common foe in 1962 (The Writer’s Guild disagreed, and Sheldon Turner, who wrote X-Men Origins: Magneto, receives a writing credit on the film). Singer’s treatment, fleshed out by Jamie Moss, Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, embroiled the pair in a plot that involved the Hellfire Club, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and would have been directed by Singer and have a tone similar to Singer’s X-Men films.
Then Singer backed out as director and Matthew Vaughn stepped in. Vaughn rewrote the script with Jane Goldman and changed the tone of the film to that of a Pop Art artifact, the type of X-Men film that would have been made if they made a film when the X-Men comic first came out (and modern day special effects were available then too).
A first look at the Sentinels from X-MEN:DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, as seen ast SDCC ’13
That tone, and the spectacular acting by Michael Fassbender as Magneto and James McAvoy as Xavier, makes for an entertaining film. Yes, there are flaws, like the notable ways the film separates itself from the previously establish X-film continuity and the incredibly bad acting job January Jones does, but all in all, it was a fun ride.
Vaughn was set to return for a sequel, but his involvement in bringing Mark Millar’s Secret Service to the screen had him back out to the role of a producer. Bryan Singer signed on to direct and the film want from being the second installment of the First Class franchise to a film that ties that franchise and Singer’s together. The film is named X-Men: Days of Future Past and will be partly based on that legendary storyline from the comics.
Next time, we begin our look at the films made from the works of one of comics’ best and most controversial writers, Alan Moore.
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. Today, the first X-Men film enters its home stretch, but not without a lot of belt tightening.
The prospects of an X-Men film might have continued to be grim if it wasn’t for a cartoon.
Love the logos for the team members. You can tell which teammate had a comic book because their logos are far superior.
X-Men: The Animated Series debuted on the Fox Television network with a sneak preview on October 31, 1992 and would earn a permanent spot on the network’s “Fox Kids” Saturday morning line-up the following January. It quickly became one of the most successful cartoons in that block of programming, and executives at 20th Century Fox began to realize the fan base the property had. The live-action film rights, after a brief dalliance with Columbia Pictures about that studio picking them up, were still available. So, in 1994, a year after the X-Men cartoon began its Saturday morning run on Fox’s TV network, their film studio picked up the live-action rights to the characters and the mutants began their inevitable march to the big screen.
Even though 20th Century Fox was the most financially secure company to own the rights to the X-Men film, budget concerns were still an issue. If you were to look at the various treatments that were proposed during the six years it took for Fox to bring the X-Men to the big screen, you can see a trend with each script or treatment—they kept getting cheaper and cheaper.
Andrew Kevin Walker was first tapped to write a script for the film in 1994. As you would expect from the writer of Se7en, this treatment is rather dark. Mutants must register with the government or risk being hunted down and used in experiments to create a breed of super-soldiers. The X-Man Angel has his wings violently ripped off by Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member Sabretooth. And the X-Men not only have to face off against Magneto and his lackeys, but also the Federal government who attack the team with giant robots called Sentinels, familiar to anyone who has read the comics.
It’s easy to see why this treatment wasn’t chosen. While it would have made for an interesting film, it would have most likely set the record for the most expensive film ever made. In addition to the Sentinels, you had a cast that featured the original comic book X-Men (Cyclops, Beast, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel) with, of course, Wolverine facing off against Magneto and his Brotherhood (Sabretooth, Toad, Blob and Juggernaut), scenes that took place in the X-Men’s Danger Room training area and a finale that featured Magneto and his group invading Manhattan, cutting it off from the rest of the U.S. (by the pricey CGI effects of destroying all bridges and flooding all tunnels leading into the island) to claim it as the mutant safe haven/homeland.
Two years later, author Michael Chabon was asked to write a treatment for the film. His version included no super powered villains, but rather pit the X-Men against a shadowy, anti-mutant organization called The League of Gentlemen. Chabon focuses, of course, on Wolverine (who was being conditioned by the League to hunt down other mutants for them) and Jubilee (a popular character from the comics and the cartoon at the time whose parents played a role in the League’s actions). Chabon, makes the team an allegory for the closeted homosexual (a reoccurring theme of Chabon’s writing) in a rather ham-fisted way (Wolverine chastises the team for their reluctance to use their powers in public as them being “in the closet”). He also features the Legacy Virus, the AIDS-like disease that is fatal to mutants and mutants alone.
With the lack of any super powered villains and a climax that is not terribly filled with special effects,Chabon’s treatment would have been cheaper than Walker’s. However, his inclusion of characters such as the Beast and Nightcrawler and a scene with the Danger Room (seeing a trend?) encouraged producers to seek a cheaper option.
The quest for a cheaper X-Men film can be clearly seen in the scripts leading up to the final version. Even though the final screenplay was credited to David Hayter, there’s one from February 15, 1999 by Ed Solomon and Christopher McQuarrie that is 90% of what you see on the screen (Why’d Hayter get the credit? Probably because he was the last person to work on it. Joss Whedon did a rewrite also, of which only a couple lines of dialogue remains. John Logan and James Shamus also took a crack on writing a script for the film. All that leads me to believe that Hayter, who had a cameo in the film, was Singer’s on-set writer to help make last minute changes, hence the credit). But tracing the changes from that draft, a draft from February 24, 1999 revised by the two plus Tom DeSanto and director Bryan Singer and the final film shows a script that was changed less for coherence and more for saving a quick buck.
What changed? Well, in those two drafts above, Cyclops and Storm get scenes from their childhood right after Magneto’s. The Beast is a main character in the first draft, a supporting character in the second and is completely gone by the final film. The Blob was a member of the Brotherhood in the first two drafts and didn’t make the cut. Pyro was a main bad guy in these two drafts, fighting Jean and Cyclops at the Statue of Liberty. He did make the cut into the film, albeit in a cameo as a student at Xavier’s school. There is a scene in the train station and a scene in a shopping mall in these two drafts that were combined into one scene in the film. There is (surprise!) a Danger Room scene in the first draft. Also in the first draft, Senator Kelly arrives at the X-mansion via the toilet and not through the front door.And there is a full-on attack of the school by Magneto and Mystique in these early drafts, instead of it just being Mystique sneaking in to sabotage the Cerebro.
All these changes were put into effect to help X-Men reach a $75 million dollar budget, a figure that was shockingly low for a film of this type. To put the budget in perspective, the Mel Gibson comedy, What Women Want, had a budget only $5 million dollars less than the X-Men. The chintzy budget was one of the main reasons why there was so much negative buzz about the picture before its release. Another reason was the casting of the role of Wolverine.
Hindsight is 20/20, but, looking back, it is impossible to consider anyone else but Hugh Jackman playing the clawed Canadian. He completely owns the role. But he wasn’t the first choice. He wasn’t the second choice either. Heck, he was, at best, the eighth or ninth choice for the part.
Bryan Singer’s first choice was Russell Crowe, an intriguing choice but with a tight budget, the film couldn’t afford him and he wasn’t willing to settle for less. The studio wanted either Keanu Reeves (???) or Gary Sinese for the role. Aaron Eckhart, Edward Norton and Viggo Mortensen were also in the running. Dougray Scott was actually cast in the role, but had to drop out when Mission Impossible II (in which he had a role)went over schedule. Jackman was a stage actor from Australia who specialized in musicals (his most notable role outside of his home continent was in Trevor Nunn’s production of Oklahoma that played in London’s West End in 1998). A song and dance man? As the toughest X-Man? Man, if we could go back in time and set our earlier selves straight.
While Jackman’s casting was one of concern, the casting of Professor X and Magneto wasn’t. Patrick Stewart was an obvious choice for Xavier—fans were calling for his casting ever since Star Trek:The Next Generation was on the air. And for Magneto, we got one of the finest actors of our generation, Ian McKellen. The result was two classically trained, Shakepearean actors bringing out all the nuances of the Martin Luther King vs Malcolm X qualities of their character’s relationship. If we had to start from scratch today and recast the film, the only three I would keep would be Jackman, Stewart and McKellen.
Bryan Singer originally didn’t want to direct the film, thinking a comic book film would be beneath him. However, when the comics were forced on him, he was drawn to the allegories contained in the comic, the fact that the persecuted X-Men could be seen as a commentary into everything from Civil Rights to the Communist Witch Hunts of the 1950s to the Gay Rights Movement. He blended this subtext seamlessly into the action film, and the final product was much stronger for it.
The film was the ninth-highest grossing film in 2000, more than tripling its lower-than-average budget worldwide. That, of course, means sequels. Next time, we’ll start charting the highs—and dreadfully low lows—that were the X-Men spin-offs and sequels.