Tag Archive | "X-Men"

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What Killed The Fantastic Four And The X-Men?

Posted on 03 June 2015 by William Gatevackes

Fantastic_Four_vsMarvel Comics is in the midst of a line-wide crossover called Secret Wars that will press the reboot button on Marvel Universe. Nothing will be the same again, and some of your favorite characters will not make it into the brand new Marvel Comics.

However, the culling of characters has already begun. Over the last year, Marvel Comics has been systematically removing or minimizing the Fantastic Four and X-Men from their comic line and from their merchandising. The reasons why are shrouded in mystery due to Marvel’s radio silence in the matter. But the topic rose to a head this week when the image for the yearly Marvel poster from Trends International was released. The company has been releasing posters featuring a collage of images of most of the Marvel characters for years. Here is the 2007 version:

marvel_comics_wallpaper_2007As you can see, the Fantastic Four are center right, Wolverine is center left, and a number of other X-Men are clearly visible, Now, onto 2013:

marvel_comics_wallpaper_2014The prime real estate is taken up by the characters that have appeared in The Avengers, but the X-Men and Fantastic Four are still prominently featured. Now, this year’s poster:

marvel_comics_wallpaper_2015I’d send you on a “Where’s Waldo” type of quest for the X-Men and Fantastic Four in this poster, but that would be a fool’s errand. Because while the poster features obscure characters such as Devil Dinosaur, White Tiger and the Wrecking Crew, there’s no Fantastic Four and the only X-Man present appears to be Emma Frost, who appears in between Ronan and Venom in the upper left. Of course, that could be another character or just a mistaken inclusion.

marvel 75 yearsThis harkens back to the incident that started this whole controversy. Last year, Marvel published a commemorative comic book for its 75th Anniversary. The cover, seen at left, was profoundly lacking in any characters from the Fantastic Four, the team that jump-started the Marvel Age of comics, or the X-Men, by and far Marvel’s most popular property over the last four decades.

I spoke on that controversy exactly one year ago as I am writing this sentence. I theorized that the quarantine, which was then mostly place on the Fantastic Four characters, might be because of the then pending Supreme Court hearing of the lawsuit brought by the heirs of Jack Kirby. However, more developments have arose that makes this reason unlikely.

First and foremost, Marvel made a settlement with the Kirby Estate, so that sword of Damocles is no longer over their heads. Also, the Fantastic Four titles were cancelled. A mandate was sent out to keep the Fantastic Four characters from being used in any trading card set. Then embargoes were placed on the X-Men characters. Writers were told to not create any new mutant characters for the series. T-shirts based on iconic comic covers would have the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters either removed or replaced with other Marvel heroes. Toy makers were forced to cancel their lines based on the mutant characters. Marvel even went so far as to kill of the popular Wolverine in their books, and it looks like the X-Men books will be cancelled post-Secret Wars, and the X-Men becoming space-faring heroes in whatever series they are in next.

20th_century_fox-logo It has become obvious that what I tried to deny a year ago was really the truth–that Marvel’s mothballing the Fantastic Four and X-Men has something to do with Fox holding the film rights. But what? Some think it’s being done just to spite Fox, or because Marvel is sick and tired of promoting films they have little stock in? Possibly. But throwing away a revenue stream just because it promotes in part a studio seems a bit extreme. And Fox could get more butts in seats with one ad on the side of a New York City bus than all of Marvel’s books and merchandise can give them.

Is it a ploy to try and get the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four back from Fox? Dubious. Fox makes millions on the X-Men franchise and hopes for the same for Fantastic Four. Marvel could kill off every X-Man and every member of the FF and Fox would still not be willing to give up that gravy train.

But I have a theory more outlandish than even that. When Marvel sold the rights for these properties to Fox, it was going through bankruptcy and there was a very good chance that it could have gone out of business. Films were thought to be a quick supply of cash to keep the company afloat, and Marvel was desperate to make a deal. This is why agreement is top loaded in favor of Fox, and why they can keep the rights to the properties as long as they keep films featuring them in production. But what if a desperate Marvel gave away even more than that?

What if Marvel gave all merchandising rights to Fox for the Fantastic Four and the X-Men? What if the same 5/95 percent split in favor of Fox wasn’t just for film merchandise and the films themselves but for any comics and merchandise featuring the comic versions of the characters too?

It seems crazy, I know, but like I said Marvel of the late 90s, early 00s was a desperate Marvel. Marvel’s Tom Breevort has stated in regards to the scorched earth policy about merchandising the properties that Marvel earns a smaller percentage of the revenues for the X-Men and FF characters than the rest of their characters and had mentioned that if someone did not have merchandising rights to the characters, they couldn’t sell merchandise featuring them.

This was taken to mean that Marvel had control over who they gave rights to. But if Marvel no longer had complete control over the rights to the X-Men and FF, the amount of time and effort they take in removing the character from their merchandise would make much more sense.

However, this is just a theory. Unless someone does a cyberhack of Fox’s e-mail, we’ll probably never know the truth. But it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to buy a Wolverine T-shirt anytime soon.

 

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Josh Boone To Direct X-MEN Spinoff NEW MUTANTS

Posted on 13 May 2015 by William Gatevackes

NewMutantsFox’s X-Men shared universe is going to get a little bigger as a long in development mutant property has come one step closer to reality.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone has been hired to direct Fox’s New Mutants adaptation.

The New Mutants were created in 1982 as sort of a way for Marvel to return the mutant franchise back to their roots. Much like the original team that first appeared twenty years prior, this batch of students were teenagers whose powers just developed and needed training in how to use them. However, this time the students were from all over the world, adding an international flavor reminiscent of the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men of the 1970s.

The series and team went through several tonal shifts over its history, from the more esoteric stories of the Bill Sienkiewicz era to the militaristic leanings of the Rob Liefeld era. It is not known which era Fox will pull the team from, or which member it will contain as of yet.

 

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GAMBIT Set To Hit Theaters On October 7, 2016

Posted on 06 January 2015 by William Gatevackes

tatum gambitOne 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:

Fox would confirm that release date latter in the day in a press release listing its film slate into 2017.

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.

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Sony E-Mail Hack Has Spoilers For Fox, Warner’s Superhero Film Slate

Posted on 16 December 2014 by William Gatevackes

x-men-vs-fantastic-fourThe 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:

kravens-last-huntJeff 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’s Aquaman : 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.

Spiderham12Marvel 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.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Off the Radar

Posted on 03 January 2014 by William Gatevackes

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. Sony had 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.

BulletproofMonkBulletproof 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.

Bulletproof_Monk_8627_MediumIf 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.

30-days-of-nightNow, 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.

04934874_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.

2-poster41You 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.

surrogates_movieThe 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.

Whiteout_posterThe 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.

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Is Fox Planning A FANTASTIC FOUR VS X-MEN Film?

Posted on 29 December 2013 by Rich Drees

FantasticFourXMen1

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.

FantasticFourXMenCoverSo, 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.

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RUMOR: Baron von Strucker Added To THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Villain List

Posted on 21 December 2013 by William Gatevackes

Wolfgang_von_Strucker_(Earth-616)_0001First, 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.

Csokas scottThe 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.

We shall see, won’t we?

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Up, Up And Away, Web!

Posted on 08 November 2013 by William Gatevackes

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.

MV5BMzk3MTE5MDU5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjY3NTY3._V1._SX424_SY627_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.

Spiderman - Sam Raimi directs Tobey Maguire and Kirsten DunstRaimi 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.

tobey-maguire-1Raimi 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.

the_original_spider_man_poster_that_was_pulled_after_911Of 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.

uncleben2But 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.

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Will FOX’s FANTASTIC FOUR And X-MEN Films Crossover?

Posted on 19 August 2013 by William Gatevackes

300px-Fantastic_Four_vs_the_X-Men_Vol_1_2 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.

We shall see.

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Will AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 4 Include More Heroes?

Posted on 24 July 2013 by William Gatevackes

alg_spider-man_garfieldMarvel’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.

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