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 Seriesdebuted 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 treatmentis 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 versionincluded 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 fromFebruary 15, 1999by 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 fromFebruary 24, 1999revised 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.
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 discuss the X-Men and why it was miraculous that it made it to the big screen at all.
Today, the X-Men franchise is one of the biggest properties both in comics and in film. But it wasn’t always this way. As a matter of fact, the X-Men were almost a forgotten concept by 1973, just ten years after their creation.
The team were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, and arrived on newsstands the same month that Marvel debuted The Avengers. Stan Lee claims that he came up with genetic mutation for the source of their powers because he simply didn’t want to think up another reason for their origin. If this is the case, Lee is an accidental genius. The fact that the heroes of the X-Men had to hid who they really are for fear of being shunned or ridiculed tapped a vein for readers who could easily relate, be they part of the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, or just plain, old, everyday teenagers. Lee’s choice of an origin for the X-Men opened up an audience for the characters that they wouldn’t have had if they gained their powers through a spider bite or nuclear accident.
But even though the X-men had a built in audience, it took a long time for that audience to find the book. Almost from the very beginning, the book floundered. Kirby left after issue #11, leaving the art in the hands of the rather underwhelming Werner Roth. Lee left after issue #19, turning over writing duties to Roy Thomas. The team kept the same staid yellow and blue costumes until issue #39. While the Fantastic Four was facing off against legendary villains such as Galactus and Annihilus and the Avengers were squaring off with Ultron and Kang, the X-Men’s rogue gallery featured such boring entries as the alien Lucifer, Locust, El Tigre and Eric the Red.
The title was in such dire straits that even the addition of superstar artist Neal Adams in 1969 for a seven issue run couldn’t save it from being cancelled. The X-Men went on hiatus with issue #66. It would return eight months later, but only as a bi-monthly reprint title.
It remained that way until April of 1975 when Giant-Size X-Men #1 came out. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, working from an idea contributed by former writer Roy Thomas, did a total overhaul of the X-Men. Gone was the chummy, schoolyard camaraderie of the previous team. The “All-New, All-Different” X-men were an international team of adults, each with more issues than National Geographic Magazine. You had pre-existing X-Men villains in the relatively laid back Irishman Banshee and the haughty and arrogant Japanese Sunfire. You had new characters such as the African Storm, who was accustomed to being worshiped as a goddess, and the Native American Thunderbird, the one with a chip constantly on his shoulder. By comparison, two other new characters that should have been reviled became the most identifiable. The German Nightcrawler looked like a demon from the pits of Hell, complete with a pointy tail, yet was playful and gregarious (and also a devout Catholic). And it would have been easy to make the Russian character the least popular one on the team, since it was the heart of the Cold War. But Colossus was a simple farmer with skin of steel and a heart of gold, who was more concerned with painting pretty pictures than spewing Communist Party rhetoric.
And the last member of the group? A minor character Wein created several months before in the pages of Incredible Hulk. A diminutive Canadian named Wolverine.
This was not the X-Men team you read when you were a child. And when Thunderbird became the first member of the team to die in action six months later in issue #95 of the restarted X-Men series, it became clear anything could happen.
Wein eventually made way for Chris Claremont as writer, and Claremont’s writing brought new fans in. Claremont took the team from a bunch of combative character flaws to a group of noble souls with their own vulnerabilities and quirks. He humanized the mutantsand played up the “oppressed minority” aspect more than it ever hd been, tasks that went even farther once Claremont was joined by John Byrne as penciller and co-plotter a year and a half later. Claremont and Byrne had an explosive synergy, quickly becoming one of the most renown creative teams in comics, creating such legendary story arcs as the Hellfire Saga (briefly touched on in X-Men: First Class), the Dark Phoenix Saga (which became part of X-Men: The Last Stand‘s plot) and Days of Future Past (which inspired the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past).
By the time Byrne left the book in December 1980, the X-Men were well on their way to becoming the most successful book Marvel published. It would spawn numerous spin-off titles, quite a few crossover events, and help launch the careers of artists such as Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri. And with that success came some attention from Hollywood. As early as 1984, Hollywood had plans to make an X-Men film, which would have made it the Marvel’s earliest entry onto the silver screen.
Roy Thomas and fellow comic book scribe Gerry Conway were hired to write the screenplay for a potential X-Men film for Orion Films. Their film features a different take on X-Men comic book villain Proteus as the main bad guy (instead of a reality warping mutant, it was an organization ran by a vampire-like mutant named Stonewall). The word mutant is never used in the script. The team consisted of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, an ambulatory Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, and a Japanese pop star named Circe who can transmute matter. Orion entered financial difficulties soon after the script was written, and had the back out of the project. Conway and Thomas’ script was shopped around, but with no takers.
Five years later, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont and James Cameron were in negotiations with Carolco Pictures in order to get an X-Men film made. Once again, the studio’s insolvency cause the X-Men film to be dropped. Cameron went on to focus his attention on getting a Spider-Man film made, which we’ll talk about a bit later.
It seemed like the X-Men film was cursed to go to one financially plagued studio to another, yet never being made. But the property’s success in the world of Saturday morning cartoons caused a major studio to take interest. We’ll discuss that next time.
In the effort of being honest, I have an admission to make. One that will make the words that follow seem like sour grapes.
I “applied” to work at Cracked.com.
Applied in the sense that I signed up for their developmental workshop message boards, where writers can pitch stories that might one day make the website and get them paid. I haven’t submitted anything yet (and probably won’t after this) because I was trying to come up with the perfect pitch. One that was factually correct, stood up on its own, and made its argument forcefully yet logically.
JF Sargent. No, really.
As it turns out, that wasn’t really necessary. JF Sargent, who just happens to the be the moderator of that above workshop, posted an article on the site last week called, “5 Reasons Superhero Movies Are a Bubble That Will Soon Burst.” In it, he compares the popularity of comic book films to the “New Hollywood” era of film making, the period from 1967 to about 1982 where young filmmakers made a big splash and changed the face of cinema. The five “reasons” are five similarities Sargent thinks he sees between the two eras. His theory is because the “New Hollywood” era of film making flamed out, surely the superhero film era is also on its way there.
On the surface, it seems like it has the makings of a well researched piece of film criticism, one so logically sound that it can not be questioned. I mean, if Sargent proves that one era hit the same number of landmarks in the exact same way as another era did, why, certainly if first era dies, the other one will die in the same way, right?
Well, it might, if Sargent hadn’t made any glaring factual errors, fudged facts and history, and used subjective logic and “proof” all along the way. There are so many glitches that his arguments go from sounding the definitive death knell for the comic book film to being what appears to be a sad bit of “wishful thinking” journalism.
How many? Well, let’s make a list of our own by going through his text. And we don’t have to wait long. It starts with the lead paragraph:
If you’re a lover of comic books, fantasy novels, or sci-fi, you should be in heaven right now. All of Hollywood caters to your tastes. Hell, if you’re under 20 years old, you don’t even remember what it’s like not to have Hollywood throw $2 billion worth of blockbuster movies at you every summer (while the rest of us remember that as recently as 1994 they made a Fantastic Four movie so bad, it couldn’t even be released).
Okay, let’s start the list:
1. The poor quality of the Fantastic Four film played little to no role in the project being shelved.
I explained as much here, but let me give you the pertinent graph:
There are two schools of thought over why the film was not released. One was that Constantin never intended to release the film at all, and essentially lied to all parties involved in the production just so the film could be made. Another says that Avi Arad, who would become head of Marvel Studios two years after the film was due to be released and helped usher in the success Marvel has had in recent years, paid Constantin and Concorde to shelve the movie because he didn’t want such a cheap production to taint the brand. Regardless, the film was never released either here or abroad, and only exists in a popular bootleg version you can find at most comic book conventions.
Granted, the film was shot for $1 million dollars, a sum way under what it would take to make a good FF film. It was cheap and it looked it. But the main factors at play seem to be the ones mentioned above. And Arad’s reason for putting the film on ice, as described on the very Wikipedia page Sargent linked to, seems less about how bad it was, but how little money was spent on it.
This might be splitting hairs, but it goes to establishing Sargent’s bona fides. The fact that he just casually mentions that the ’94 FF film was shelved was because it was awful, without even presenting an existing opposing point of view, shows a tendency to present only the “facts” that support his argument. Not a good start.
And while we’re here:
2. Sargent uses Wikipedia as a source. A lot.
Not long ago I was in college. I wrote a lot of papers. Wikipedia was strongly frowned upon as a source of information. Why? Because it is crowd-sourced. Anybody can edit an article there,and you can have it say whatever you want. Therefore, it’s not always very trustworthy to back up your arguments. Granted, some of Wikipedia”s articles are sourced, but in that case its better to use the original source.
Sargent’s list begins in earnest by stating both eras began with a surprise box office hit out of the blue. For “New Hollywood,” it was 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. For the comic book era? It was a bunch of films that came out in the early 2000’s that overcame the superhero film-light 1990s. Let me let him tell you:
This changed in 2000 and 2001 when X-Men, Spider-Man, and the first The Lord of the Rings came out. Remember that back then those geek-centric movies were all pretty risky investments for the studios. Not only was this the first time that either of those Marvel superheroes would be seen on screen, but the last superhero movie to come out at that time had been Batman & Robin, which, you know, we’d rather not talk about. As for The Lord of the Rings, the last attempt at an adaptation was a godawful cartoon that was made in the 1980s.
Oh, I think I can get at least four additions to our list from this paragraph alone.
3. Spider-Man came out on May 3, 2002.
Before you call me a nitpicker, here me out. The reason I make an issue out of this is because it is key to Sargent’s comparison that each era begin with a “big bang” if you will–one or more films that were a surprise success. Now, since the “New Hollywood” era is traced back to just one film, it suits Sargent’s argument better if the three “superhero” films came out in quick succession. But they didn’t. It took three years for all the films mentioned to come out. And really, there were only two that are legit, and they came out two years apart. More on that later. But Spider-Man definitely came out in 2002, even Wikipedia got that right.
4. What about Blade?
If Sargent was looking for a comic book film that fit his analogy to a T, Blade is it. It was the first film where Marvel took a more active role in the production of the film, marking a new attention towards fidelity to the source material that Sargent marks as a trademark of the superhero film era. It was also an unknown property without a huge built in audience, so it was not a lock that it would be a success. But it was, it debuted at #1 at the box office just like Sargent’s other examples and made a sizable profit. If there was a film that ushered in the era of the superhero movie, it was Blade.
Why didn’t Sargent use Blade as the start of the superhero movie era? Perhaps he just didn’t know that Blade was a superhero. Or, maybe, for his point to work, for the narrative he was trying to create to gel, he had to create some distance the “last” comic book film, Batman and Robin, and the comic book film’s resurgence. Blade wouldn’t work here because it was released in 1998 and Batman and Robin was released in 1997. That would have meant the superhero film bounced back just 14 months after it’s nadir. And that weakens Sargent’s point almost completely.
Some of you might argue that Blade is not a superhero. He’s a vampire who fights vampires with his vampire powers. That is totally different than a superhero who fights supervillains with superpowers! Okay, but what about…
5. Frodo Baggins, Superhero!?!!?
Listen, determining who is and who isn’t a superhero is a popular topic of debate in comic shops across the country. Is the Punisher a superhero? Someone will that because he wears a costume, yes. Others will say that he doesn’t have any powers, so no. Then someone will bring up Batman, who wears a costume but has no powers, is he a superhero? Someone will say yes because he fights super-powered villains. But, the Punisher fought super-powered villains…well, you get the idea. If your loved one goes to their local comic shop and doesn’t come back for hours, it’s probably because they got sucked into one of these kinds of conversations.
But if you were to go into that shop and say that your favorite superhero was good ol’ Frodo, all sides of the argument would stop fighting amongst themselves,unite, and start arguing against you.
I mean, granted, Frodo has a ring that makes him invisible, and he hangs out with wizards, but he resides in the fantasy/sword and sorcery genre, not the superhero genre. And while fans of one genre often are fans of the other, the genres are not interchangeable. It would be a huge stretch of logic to consider them so.
But Sargent needs big films and big franchises to provide the tools to work with. So, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Star Wars become superhero movies, even though they really aren’t. For the casual reader, this probably won’t matter much. But to fans of the superhero film, the inclusion of these films invalidates Sargent’s argument from the get go. Because he’s not railing against the superhero film, he’s really railing against a larger target–the geek culture film. But I guess that wouldn’t generate as many hits.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, The Mask, and Men in Black all came out in the 1990s.
Sargent likes to paint the 1990s as such:
In the ’90s, all of the major money-maker movies were Die Hard knockoffs (Con Air, Broken Arrow, Face/Off), sober explorations of tragedies (Dances With Wolves, Schindler’s List, Titanic), Adam Sandler being a dumbass, and Tom Hanks doing things that usually didn’t involve having superpowers.
First off, not including Speed in the list of Die-Hard knockoffs is a crime. It was Die Hard on a frikkin bus for goodness sakes!
Second, Sargent intends to show that the 90s were a dry period for the superhero movie. But they really weren’t. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, The Mask, and Men in Black all could be considered superhero films (if Frodo’s a superhero, then so is Agent J). They all came from comic books. All their lead characters fought crime in different ways. And all of them were box office hits in the comic book film unfriendly 1990s. Each one had at least one sequel, which is more than you can say for Sargent’s examples. And, lest we for get, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and, yes, Batman and Robin all were released in the 90s and all made a profit (yes, even Batman and Robin, when worldwide grosses are added in).
So from here, Sargent goes on the the next step:
So next comes the heyday: Geek directors who truly love the source material are suddenly getting the green light to make these movies the right way.
Note the wording: Geek directors who TRULY LOVE the source material. To show the difference in superhero film eras, he says this about the first go round for Batman:
Sargent employs the kind of journalistic skills you’d find in the New York Post, the National Enquirer, and on Fox News here–twisting a person’s words around to fit your own desired meaning. Sargent uses the book Burton on Burton for the source on that information. Let’s see what the paragraph Sargent got that quote from really says:
What Burton really said was that he was never a comic book fan, not that he didn’t like comics. There IS a difference. This is dirty pool by Sargent. He is definitely trying to give his readers the impression that Burton hated comic books. It really doesn’t seem that way. And as explained above, it was because there was a learning curve he couldn’t get by. It wasn’t until Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke comic came along was he able to figure out how to read comics. And he loved that comic book.
8. And he misquotes Sam Hamm too.
“You totally destroy your credibility if you show the literal process by which Bruce Wayne becomes Batman,” said Sam Hamm, screenwriter of the 1989 Batman.
That is the quote that Sargent uses as a source. It was published in a Digital Spy recap of the Batman franchise, surely taken from a Cinemafantastique interview done with Hamm back when Batman first came out. As you can see, Hamm doesn’t call Batman’s origin dumb. He isn’t even talking about Batman’s whole origin. Bruce Wayne’s parents still get gunned down in front of him in the film, so that part of the origins still exists. Hamm was talking about the training part of the origin, the part that Batman Begins did so well. Nowhere in that quote does Hamm say the origin was dumb. It seems pretty obvious that he’s saying that it wouldn’t work in the version of Batman Burton was putting on the screen at the time.
But he doesn’t have to mislead his readers about the current generation of comic book film makers, does he? Every last one of them”TRULY LOVE” the source material, right?
9. By the way, Bryan Singer? The director of X-Men? The film that Sargent says started the Superhero film trend? Not a life-long comic book fan.
From the X-Men panel at the 2000 San Diego Comic Con, transcribed by JoBlo:
How long have you been reading the X-Men comics, or comics in general? Have you always been a fan? Seems to be that you would have to be to get it all so right.
Well, as a matter of fact…<audience laughs>, I never read comics growing up at all. I liked science-fiction, fantasy, and watched a lot of television, but I never read comics. About three and a half years ago, Tom suggested that I take a look at X-Men, I did, and I found it incredibly fascinating, so I began to read, began to read the character biographies, began to read the comics, I watched all 70 episodes of the animated series, and really familiarized myself. So basically I’ve been reading X-Men for about three and a half years, but I’m much more of a contemporary fan.
10. Christopher Nolan? He wasn’t a comic fan either.
But Nolan had never been a big Bat geek; his first contact with the series had been the goofy Adam West TV show, and he’d never read the comics as a kid.
So, that means two of the biggest names in the superhero film renaissance, who according to Sargent’s theory truly loved the source material and made sure they brought it to the screen correctly, had at best a casual, if passing, knowledge of source material before they took over. Yet another hole shot in Sargent’s argument.
Wait! Sargent seems to realize this, because he gives Nolan an out in the third reason “The Studios Start Throwing ALL of the Money at Them,” which really an extension of the previous reason but since all Cracked articles have to have at least five bullet points, they had to make two reasons out of one idea. But I digress:
Nolan talks about being passionate about the character (one of the hallmarks of Nerdywood, as explained above), and he had a weird, borderline crazy idea for the new series: Batman would be gritty and realistic.
Being passionate about a character is greater than truly loving the source material. Unless, of course, you are Tim Burton, because, well, that wouldn’t fit with the argument you are making, right JF?
We’ll get back to reason three later. Let’s go back reason two, especially how “New Hollywood” relates the now disproved idea that hardcore comic geeks were behind all the new comic book movies.
The New Hollywood era was all about film geeks taking over — a bunch of weird, experimental directors known as the “movie brats,” with names like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Stanley Kubrick.
11. Stanley Kubrick really wasn’t part of New Hollywood.
Now, this isn’t the fault of Sargent, but rather the Wikipedia article that acted as his inspiration. And they really aren’t at fault either. Everyone thinks that trying to pigeonhole a certain period time and applying a name to it is a good idea. But it is never a case of black and white, rather it’s a shade of gray. Sargent’s theorem works if New Hollywood era lasted 13 years from inception to demise because we are at year 13 in the superhero era (if you count X-Men as the start of it, which I don’t). However, it’s impossible to get anything so fluid and so debatable into those kind of constraints.
New Hollywood has an veneer of youth to it. The recent film school grads got their hands on the directors chairs and guided Hollywood to a new direction. However, Kubrick was already a 14 year veteran of the film industry when Bonnie and Clyde arrived in 1967, had made seven films by that point, and had already received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. Granted, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was a transcendent piece of work in Kubrick’s career, but you can see hints of where Kubrick was going in 1962’s Lolita and 1964’s Dr. Strangelove. His creativity and willingness to push boundaries does seem to be a perfect match for some of the other auteurs on the New Hollywood list, but he was anything but new when New Hollywood hit.
Let’s go on to his third point (the “Throwing ALL the Money” one, although the throwing of money is barely mentioned). In it, he brings up the theme of risks. First about Nolan’s grim and gritty take on Batman:
That had never been done on film before, but Nolan was young, nerdy, and excited, so the studios gave him an insane-o-copter ride to the money castle, and holy shit did it ever pay off.
Then he tries to convince us that The Avengers was risky. Hee hee!
Fast forward 10 years, and you can see that The Avengers is pretty much the same thing, except even more so. No, it’s not gritty or realistic, but it sure is weird and risky: It expects audiences to follow one story across two sci-fi action movies, a fantasy movie, a fugitive movie, and a World War II era adventure film. Most movies treat you like you can’t even tie your own goddamn shoes, but The Avengers took that risk and ended up going home with 1.5 billion nerd-dollars lining its pockets.
Let’s go in order, shall we?
12. The gritty, realistic Batman wasn’t risky, it was wish fulfillment.
The comic book Batman has been grim and gritty since 1986, when the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns miniseries began publication. While it is true that every version of Batman in other media before Nolan took the edge off the character, the hardcore fans would have actually preferred an interpretation of the Caped Crusader that matched more with his comic book counterpart. When one of the most exciting directors in Hollywood teamed with a screenwriter with comic book experience to bring a Batman to the screen that had more in common with The French Connection than Schumacher’s nipple fest, well, fans were salivating. Add to that a cast that would be chock full of Oscar winners and nominees, and you had the makings of a sure fire hit before the first showtime was announced.
13. What Sargent thinks made The Avengers risky, is what guaranteed its success.
Sargent apparently never heard of the concept of a sequel. Or of the Harry Potter franchise. Because The Avengers essentially was a sequel to all those films listed. You didn’t really have to see all those films to get enjoy The Avengers. But if you enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger or Thor, you had a chance to continue watching his adventures. You had four pre-fab audiences built in.
But if you did see all the films, you had the culmination of a sweeping epic in The Avengers. Movie audiences are not so stubborn as to not follow a franchise through numerous installments, and the James Bond, Harry Potter, and Twilight franchises have showed us. But, hey, if Sargent actually paid attention to this reality, he wouldn’t have had a column.
Sargent felt he needed to manufacture risks for the superhero films to make the connection with the real risks the New Hollywood films endured:
Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was a weird, morally complicated exploration of war based on a nigh-impenetrable 19th century novel, but it dominated the box office. Jaws was the first ever summer blockbuster, and Star Wars only turned out the way it did because Lucas refused to compromise and made the movie himself.
The first two also had incredibly tumultuous shoots and faced having the studio pulling the plug a number of times. And the studio was so worried about Star Wars‘ success that Lucas went and practically begged Marvel to publish a comic book tie-in to the film as an extra form of promotion. So the risk in the New Hollywood era were indeed real. This won’t be the last time the eras don’t exactly match up.
Sargent moves onto the next step of the rise and fall of these genres–studios taking more control of their film projects. It’s here where the parallels between the New Hollywood era and the Superhero film era start to really waiver, because the evidence Sargent presents is definitely in favor of the Superhero era:
You could start to see the signs years ago. After the success of Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies, the studio pressured him into including Venom because he was a popular comic book character — except Raimi had been concentrating on the Silver Age of comics, and the dark, gritty, ’90s era Venom didn’t fit into the world he’d created. When they greenlit a movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, they had such a limited idea of what a comic book movie could be that they turned Alan Moore’s love letter to 19th century prose into a movie with vampires where things explode and Sean Connery does hero things. When they made The Losers, they cut out all the political commentary and replaced it with light-hearted action bullshit. When they made Watchmen, they cut out the self-loathing, rape, and moral complexity and replaced them with slow-motion action scenes. As other people have pointed out, this totally missed the point that Watchmen is about failure.
On this point I do have to agree with Sargent. I do think that undue studio influence does ruin a lot of films. However…
14. Heavy handed studio/producer involvement is nothing new to comic book films…
Tim Burton has to wrangle with his studio bosses during his time on Batman. Richard Donner fought with the Salkinds over the tone of Superman. The reason why the Superman franchise took so long to be rebooted was because various producers wanted the film to include giant spiders or mimic The Matrix. So, this kind of heavy-handedness is nothing new.
15….nor is it exclusive to the comic book films.
Studios insisted that Blade Runner have a happier ending. Universal wanted a happy, 94-minute version of Brazil and got in a war of wills with Terry Gilliam over it. And studio influence handcuffed The Bonfire of the Vanities from the get go, coercing Brian DePalma to cast Bruce Willis and make Sherman McCoy a more sympathetic character. And these are just three examples. There are many, many more (although Sargent has problems finding any during the New Hollywood era).
16. However, if it wasn’t for Marvel playing a bigger role in the creation of their films, the Superhero era might not have even existed.
It fits Sargent’s narrative if Marvel just recently started becoming more hands on (after all, it was Marvel’s Avi Arad who pushed for Venom, not Sony/Columbia), but the truth is the reason why the Superhero era in film began is because Marvel and, in particular, Avi Arad took a hands on role it how Marvel properties would be portrayed on the big screen. The studios would own the rights as long as the kept making movies, and the amount of the profits kicked back to Marvel were paltry, but Arad and other Marvel people would become producers on the films and ensure that the Marvel characters were getting a fair shake on the screen.
When the first wave of Marvel films became a success, due in a large part to Marvel’s hands on approach, Marvel decided they wanted even more control. Through a deal with Merril Lynch, Marvel received $525 million dollars to set up its own production studio to make comic book films their way. The first of these films was Iron Man and the rest, they say, is history. With their own studio, Marvel was able to guide their film franchises, unite them together through shared actors and plot points, and made sure they respected their source material.
And Marvel’s success inspired Warners to get more serious with their DC Comics properties, rebooting the Superman franchise (twice), the Batman franchise (most likely twice) and try to jump start new franchises with Green Lantern and Jonah Hex. Other studios scoured comic book store shelves for properties they could adapt. And hence the Superhero Film era we are living in today.
I could comment and some of Sargent’s other examples, but I don’t think they are worth a list entry. Yeah, there was studio fingerprints all over League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill pretty much washed their hands with the property when they got their checks. It’s not like they cared what the studios did with it. I’m not sold on The Losers suffering from studio interference, but any interference was mitigated by director Sylvan White keeping creators Andy Diggle and Jock in the loop. And I think a lot of the things Sargent found missing in the Watchmen are still there, but I agree the slo-mo additions were awful.
When Sargent’s analogy turns to New Hollywood, he comes up with a profound lack of examples, and the one he does use is incorrect. His idea of how studio interference worked in the New Hollywood era was that corporations started buy movie studios looking for the next Jaws or Star Wars, but decided to play it safe with sequels. The one example he gives of this new regime interfering with creative people is this:
But with these massive budgets, studios were determined to play it safe. That meant, of course, some of the riskier directors had to go — like when they were considering giving Straw Dogs director Sam Peckinpah the Superman movie, but fired him when he pulled a gun out during a meeting.
17. Sam Peckinpah was NEVER fired from Superman. Why? Because he was never HIRED to do Superman.
I imagine that by the time this point appears, half way down the second page of the article, Sargent figures that he has put enough links in his text that people do not bother to even click through anymore. I mean, why else would he write something that is obviously in contrast to what his source material says.
The source is the very good book by Larry Tye, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero. If you click that link you’ll see that Peckinpah pulled the gun during the Salkinds’ SEARCH for a director. Unless Sargent has a vastly different work experience than the rest of the world, you typically aren’t put on the payroll during your interview period.
I know what some of you might be thinking. Big deal. So he got a word wrong. Who cares? Well, I do for two reasons. This is a writer of such a caliber that Cracked tapped him to their workshop moderator, the person who guides novice comedy writers to Cracked super stardom. His not being able to find a word that accurately portrays the point his source material makes is not a good thing. But this very likely could be just a subtle example of what Sargent has been practicing all along, trying to jury rig a weak argument so that it looks stronger. He’s already in trouble because the examples in both eras don’t even out. Since studio interference weighted more heavily in the Superhero Film era, Sargent needs to show a little balance. Using “fired’ instead of “backed away” is a minor change that makes the studios in the New Hollywood era look more forceful, more controlling, more in charge.
Besides, Peckinpah pulled a gun on a job interview! Even if he was fired, would that really be the wrong choice?
We finally come to the end of the eras, when the bets no longer pay off. Once again, this parallel is a little uneven since the New Hollywood has officially ended and the Superhero Film era is still going on. So Sargent dedicates most of his time talking about the Superhero Film era to showcasing where the end may lie, starting with, well, not a superhero film:
They needed three shots to recoup their investment. That’s why the first film, An Unexpected Journey, was based less on the children’s book it gets its name from and more on The Return of the King‘s appendices and whatever bullshit Tolkien scrawled on the Oxford staff bathroom’s wall while he was fucked up on opium.
18. Bilbo Baggins is no more a superhero than Frodo Baggins.
Page up and read #5 on this list. But, for the sake of argument, let’s play along, shall we?
19. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made $1 BILLION worldwide.
That means the trilogy is on pace to make $3 billion. Of course, the sequels could make less or more, we don’t know. Quite a bit less than $5 billion of New Line debt, and New Line has to share the pie with Warner Brothers and MGM, but if you add in all the T-shirts, statues, figures, games, posters and the exorbitant number of home video formats the film was released into, I think it’s a safe bet that The Hobbit won’t capsize the Superhero Film era, even if it was a superhero film.
But they’re not the only ones putting all of their chips on their geek franchise. In addition to the lineup of 10 massive Marvel sequels we mentioned earlier, you have Christopher Nolan (probably) signing on to “Godfather” a Justice League movie — if you’re not familiar, that means that in addition to the Superman reboot we’re seeing this summer, they’d be launching another wave of superhero movies, including a Green Lantern sequel, a reboot of The Flash, a possible Wonder Woman movie, and God knows what else, in order to have them finally all team up in a Justice League tent-pole that would be the DC version of The Avengers.
How wrong is this paragraph? Let me count the ways:
20. Sargent is using Latino Review’s El Mayimbe as a source.
We here at FilmBuffOnline know in that way madness lies. And, well, wrong information lies there too.
21. The “Nolan Godfathering Justice League” rumor was shot down back on April 11, 2013.
We covered it here. Entertainment Weekly got the denials straight from Warners’ president Jeff Robinov and Nolan’s reps. Besides, Nolan is working on a non-Superhero movie of his own, Interstellar, which will probably dominate all of his “godfathering” time.
22. Warner Brothers has been ultra quiet on the Green Lantern sequel.
They announced that a sequel was definitely in the works right after the first Green Lantern came out. There has not been any movement on the sequel at all since that time. Except for rumors that Ryan Reynolds might not even becoming back.
23. A Flash movie would be rebooting what exactly?
This might just be a matter of semantics, but if Sargent means the Flash TV show, then he’s off base. When a TV show moves to the big screen, it’s not being rebooted. It’s being adapted into another medium. But Sargent likes his reboots, so, there you go.
24. It much more likely that Wonder Woman would be a TV show before it becomes a movie.
Warners is actively developing a Wonder Woman TV show, called Amazon, in the mold of its successful Smallville and Arrow series’. Not that this would preclude a film being made, but all energy seems to be heading towards that.
25. As it stands, Warners plans to have the Justice League film first, and use that to spin out solo superhero films, not the other way around.
This is pretty much common knowledge. Last we heard, Justice League was set for a 2015 release. Common sense dictates that Warners would not be able to put up three other superhero films before that time, especially since zero work has been started on any of them. Now, it appears the greenlight for the JL film is on hold until the studio sees how Man of Steel does, and there is supposedly a big announcement forthcoming from Warners about their superhero slate, so this might all change. But, as it stands, it’s Justice League first, other films later, and Sargent is wrong (again).
26. Lord knows if DC will get their act together in time to avoid the comic film apocalypse.
Seriously, the only comic film they have confirmed to be in the pipeline is Man of Steel. And that took years to get up and running. It’s Warners’ M.O. to have let their comic book film linger in development hell. If this is the end of the Superhero Film era, Warners most likely won’t be the reason why it dies, but rather they will be the ones who missed the boat because it did.
Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams, who is already in charge of the new Star Trek franchise, has been tapped to direct the first of the new Star Wars sequels, of which there will be at least five–– three sequels, plus multiple stand-alone spinoffs (Disney wants a new Star Wars movie every single year, like clockwork). How much money in production and promotion do you suppose will be tied up in just the projects we mentioned up there? $10 billion? More?
27. Once again, Star Wars films are not Superhero films.
You do have to admire Sargent’s ability to set parameters then completely ignore them. But, once again, we’ll play along.
28. If you think a new round of Star Wars films helmed by J.J. Abrams has a snowball’s chance in Hell of failing, you need your head examined.
It appears that JF Sargent doesn’t get out much. If he does, he probably doesn’t spend much time in malls or department stores. He obviously hasn’t seen rows and rows of Star Wars toys in the toy department. He probably hasn’t seen the wide assortment of Star Wars themed clothing on sale in not only the children’s department but also the men’s and women’s departments. He probably has never seen the numerous volumes of Star Wars novels in his local bookstore either. He lives in a blissfully ignorant reality where Star Wars is not the biggest cultural icon to ever come out of Hollywood, and a relentless cash cow for George Lucas for the last 36 years.
He was probably a wee baby back in 1999 and wasn’t able to fully comprehend the frenzy that existed when The Phantom Menace hit theaters. Even hardcore fans will admit that was the weakest installment of the franchise, yet it still made over a billion dollars worldwide, the fans still came back for two more installments, and those toy stores are still rolling out new action figures based on the film even 14 years later.
So, yeah, Abrams has to drop the ball on an almost apocalyptic level for him to ruin the Star Wars franchise forever and cause the end of any film era it actually fits into. Even if he screws up the next film in the line so badly that Star Wars fans melt the Internet by complaining so much, those same fans will be back for the next go round. And they’ll still buy the toys, the mugs, the sheet sets, the T-Shirts, the window decals and what have you.
Also note that the source he uses for Disney’s Star Wars plans was an article dated April 17, 2013. Which means he should have known the Latino Review rumor wasn’t legit because it was refuted almost a week prior. Unless he just ignored the EW article because it contradicted the narrative he was trying to tell.
Well, that was silly. Now, onto the fall of New Hollywood!
Star Wars and Jaws are called “the beginning of the end” of New Hollywood (by Wikipedia, anyway) because they created the blockbuster, but the real end didn’t come until around 1980, with the release of two legendary flops: Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart.
29. Star Wars and Jaws went from being a high point of the New Hollywood era just a few paragraphs ago to being the cause of its demise?
That’s what you get when you use Wikipedia as a source unchallenged. Also, when you try to put arbitrary guideposts in effect just to make an “era” line up correctly.
30. One from the Heart actually came out on February 12, 1982.
By this point in Sargent’s argument, we shouldn’t be surprised that he kept this information a secret. After all, it comes after a long line of fact fudging to make his 13/13 argument work. And I guess he deserves partial credit for saying “around 1980” (although the 15 month gap between films stretches the definition of being “around”). But if he doesn’t want us to consider Star Wars and Jaws as the beginning of the end, he shouldn’t be allowed to consider Heaven’s Gate as the beginning of the end just because it suits his purposes. I mean, there were films such as Raging Bull, Body Heat and Reds that came out between Heaven’s Gate and One from the Heart. These are vital films with a lot of success that totally fit in the New Hollywood era, so it wasn’t like there was a parade of dreck that came out between those films.
The weird part of all this is, if Sargent just allowed himself to recognize that the Superhero Film era began with 1998’s Blade, he wouldn’t have to be so dodgy with One from the Heart‘s release date. Because instead of a 13/13 parallel, he’d actually have a 15/15 parallel.
31. All you need is two flops to derail an era? May I present to you Punisher: War Zone and The Spirit.
Both films are excellent representations of the Superhero Film era. The first was a reboot of a superhero that had appeared on the silver screen twice before, the most recent only four years before. He was being rebooted to make him more closely resemble how he was portrayed in the comics. The other was a Golden Age character who was being brought to the screen by Frank Miller, who not only was a big name in Hollywood after the surprise film success of his works 300 and Sin City, but also a close friend with Will Eisner, the man who created the character. Miller seemed like the ideal person to bring this superhero to the big screen.
Unlike Sargent’s example, both these film actually did come out in the same year, 2008, and in the same month as a matter of fact. Both died a quick death at the box office, failing to make their budget’s back. And their failure so quickly after each other had even me asking if this was the end for the comic book film.
But the comic book movie didn’t end. The next year started bumpy with the Watchmen, but bounced back with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 2010 had disappointments with Jonah Hex and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, but 2011 and 2012 became some of the biggest years for any comic book film in their history. And despite what Sargent says, there doesn’t seem to be any signs of stopping.
32. You can argue that the “New Hollywood” era never ended.
Granted, it did seem to end for directors such as Michael Cimino, Peter Bogdanovich and even Francis Ford Coppola. But Robert Altman kept making inventive and risky films right up until he died in 2006. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese went on to win Oscars and keep getting nominations, pushing boundaries and taking risks to this very day. And there are a whole new generation of filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino who were inspired by the era and keep its spirit alive even now.
I’ll be the first to admit that the one surefire way to get me upset is to write an article predicting doom for the superhero film. But I probably wouldn’t have used as much bandwidth to this article if JF Sargent presented his argument honestly and with valid evidence to back it up. Unfortunately, Sargent starts with a shaky premise for an argument, finds it doesn’t work the way he thought it would, so he cuts corners, fudges facts, and plays fast and loose with the premise until it comes out the way he wants it to be.
I guess we shouldn’t expect great journalism from Cracked. After all, it seems more concerned about generating hits than reporting any truths. But you’d expect better from the guy who is supposed to show the way to the novice writers Cracked attracts. If the Superhero Film era is due to end soon, it won’t be for the reasons JF Sargent says it will.
If there was a problem with X-Men: First Class, it was that it didn’t quite jibe with the Bryan Singer X-Men films. Even though the film was supposed to take place in the same continuity as the X-Men films that came before it, but there were glaring changes (the Beast being a beast far earlier than 2003, Xavier getting crippled in 1962 yet walking in 1980, Mystique losing a personality) that made the connection very shaky.
That shouldn’t be a problem with the film’s sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, because it’s quickly turning out that most of the cast will be made up of actors from the first three X-Men films. Singer has announced via Twitter that three more of the cast members from those films will be joining Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen in Days of Future Past.
Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) were cast by Singer for the first X-Men film and appeared in all three. Ellen Page, however, was cast by Brett Ratner as a replacement for Katie Stuart in X-Men: The Last Stand when the role of Kitty Pryde was made larger. Good to see Singer isn’t holding that against her.
The only question we have is, “who’s next?” Let’s run down who’s left from the original films who as of yet have not been confirmed as having a role in the film.
James Marsden and Famke Janssen: While both Cyclops and Jean Grey died in Last Stand (uh, spoilers), they could both show up here. Marsden is a Singer favorite (he brought the actor with him when he did Superman Returns) and his death technically was off screen. Janssen is another story entirely. Although the actress is rumored to have a cameo in The Wolverine, most of the press for that movie makes a point of saying that it follows Last Stand. I think, and this is just blind speculation, her cameo will be in a flashback to the end of that third film where Wolverine killed Jean Grey to save the world (uh, more spoilers?). So, as it stands, I think Jean Grey is dead in this continuity, and Cyclops might still be alive. So Marsden is more likely than Janssen. Of course, with time travel, you could make it so both are alive. Anyway…
Halle Berry: Rumor has it that she will be reprising her role as Storm in this film. Rumor also has it that she and Singer didn’t get along in those first two films. From a plot aspect, it seems like she is a no brainer to return considering who else is coming back. And it is not going be a large time spent with Singer. But if she was coming back, it should have been officially announced by now, don’t you think?
Tyler Mane/ Liev Schreiber: The two men that played Sabretooth. Odds are the scenes these actors appear in will be dystopian future (present?) where all mutants have to band together to fight off extinction. So, bad guys and good guys will come together. Whether or not Sabretooth makes the cut is anybody’s guess, and who would play him is an even bigger mystery. Will it be Mane, who Singer cast yet played the character as a monosyllabic brute, or the charismatic Schreiber, who played the character in a film producers are pretending never existed? Probably option three: avoid the problem and keep him out of the film.
Ray Park: Toad didn’t have that big of a part in the first film, but the character did make it quite far into the process in X2: X-Men United. That might show that Singer has an affinity for the character. Or not.
Rebecca Romijn: Romijn already had a cameo in First Class playing and adult version of Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. Also, if the film wants to follow the comic book story, a member of the X-Men in the future will have to have their consciousness sent back in time to inhabit a younger version of themselves. In the comics, it was Kitty Pryde. That doesn’t play here. Odds are it won’t be either Xavier or Magneto sent back. So, the most likely candidate would be Mystique. I can’t see why Romijn won’t be coming back.
Alan Cumming: He was cast by Singer to play Nightcrawler in X2 and planned to have a cameo in Last Stand. However, the cameo was scrapped supposedly because the cost of the makeup against the amount of screen time didn’t make sense, budget wise. Unless the cost has gone down considerably in seven years, Cumming is dubious at best.
Aaron Stanford: He played Pyro in X2 and Last Stand. His rivalry with Iceman played a big part in both those films. Now that Ashmore is on board, could he be added to the cast? Maybe.
Daniel Cudmore: Colossus plays a big part of the comic book story the film is based on, but a lot of that plays on the relationship the character had with Kitty Pryde in the comics, one that didn’t carry over to the film. Still, having Colossus in the film would be a nice bit of fan service, and Cudmore was the only one to play him.
Kelsey Grammer: Beast is one of the few characters to appear in both the original trilogy and First Class. However, Grammer is two years away from being 60-years-old. Not to be ageist, but that might be a little too old for him to reprise his role as a bouncy furry monster.
Ben Foster: He’s a good actor who would not be above doing a cameo. But his character of Angel in Last Stand was essentially a MacGuffin–not give much development other than what was need to move the plot along. Foster and the character deserved better, but as it stands, I doubt they’d bother to bring either back. See also Cameron Bright (Leech from Last Stand)
Vinnie Jones, Dania Ramirez, Eric Dane or the rest of Magneto’s crew in Last Stand: While there are recognizable names in the mix, their characters were even less developed than Angel or Leech. Their involvement would only be as cannon fodder, and I doubt the actors would come back just for that.
Taylor Kitsch and Ryan Reynolds: As I see it, these guys have three strikes against them. 1). They are all fairly major stars (even Kitsch, whose horrible 2012 hasn’t stopped him from getting prominent roles); 2) neither Gambit nor Deadpool has appeared in the main franchise, instead they 3) appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the film producers of The Wolverine have stated their movie was essentially rebooting. Doubtful they’d make an appearance here.
We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming weeks and months. X-Men: Days of Future Past arrives in theaters on July 18, 2014.
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 how Blade was the true start of Marvel’s dominance of the comic book film.
One way to look at it, he could be the answer to “What if Shaft hunted vampires?” Or it could have very well been a counterpoint to Blacula, which hit theaters the year before. You can make any theory you want, but it seems like Blade’s first appearance in 1973’s Tomb of Dracula #10 played off the popular Blaxploitation trend of the day. It is ironic that a character inspired by a film genre would be the adaptation that would jump-start Marvel’s mastery of the film box office.
The comic book Blade was created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan to be an adversary of Dracula. He was the son of a woman who was attacked by a vampire while giving birth to Blade. This bite passed on certain abilities to Blade, such as not being susceptible to vampires yet being attuned to their genetic makeup, therefore able to track them. Other than that, he was a highly-trained martial artist and fighter with no superpowers.
Before the film came out, Blade typically made only a supporting character in other character’s books, only having one, ten-issue series to his name. Not really the first character you’d expect to be made into a movie, considering Marvel’s most popular titles (X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four) either were stuck in development Hell or adapted with less than stellar results.
But Blade being the first of this new era of Marvel Comics films was probably the best thing to happen to the genre. Being that the character was so low on the totem pole, there were less preconceived notions about the concept, and, therefore, more freedom. It was brought to the screen by three people with respect for the comic book medium—writer David S. Goyer (a man who has written for comic books), Wesley Snipes (who has been attached to every African-American comic book character being brought to the big screen, from Luke Cage to Black Panther) and Stephen Norrington (who would go on to direct League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and would be attached at various times to the Ghost Rider film and The Crow reboot). These men would set the template of how to make a successful comic book film.
That template boiled down to being respectful to the source material while making the best film you can. Changes to the comic book source material shouldn’t be done arbitrarily, but to make the best cinematic presentation possible.
Case in point, the film changes Blade’s origin. His mother is still bitten by a vampire, but before she gives birth. But the bite now turns Blade into what is called a “Daywalker,” someone with all the powers and weaknesses of a vampire yet able to walk in the day time. This change adds more weight and pathos to the character, while making him more of a threat to the vampires.
Another part of the template is that Goyer and Norrington left the campiness at home. Blade is a serious work. Wesley Snipes consistently plays Blade as a grim, driven hunter, never with a wink of his eye towards the audience that he thinks he’s above the material. There are oodles of cyberpunk style layered on, but never to the point of becoming a joke. The project was approached not as adapting kiddie fare; it was approached as a horror concept and treated duly respectfully. And it was released with an R rating, to say that it definitely wasn’t kid’s stuff.
This first Blade almost tripled its budget, which set up the inevitable sequel, Blade II.
Goyer stayed on to write, but the directorial reins were handed over to a pre-Hellboy Guillermo del Toro. This film sent Blade to Europe in search of a hybrid band of vampire called Reavers, so advanced they hunt normal vampires. Blade is forced to team with a group of vampire mercenaries, one played by future Hellboy Ron Perlman, to eradicate the threat to humans and vampires alike.
Blade II made the most money of the series, and a franchise was born. But the future of the franchise was placed in jeopardy with the next sequel—Blade: Trinity.
David S. Goyer took over the directing duties in addition to his writing job this time around, and decided the Blade franchise needed to branch out. Therefore, he added two new vampire hunters to help Blade out: one from the comics in the form of Ryan “Mr. Comic Book Film” Reynolds’ Hannibal King and one original creation in Jessica Biel’s Abigail Whistler. The idea was to allow Blade: Trinity to showcase these characters so audiences would fall in love with them and they could spin them off into their own film franchise or in place of the Blade franchise if Snipes retired the role.
There were a number of problems with this. First off, they forgot to ask Snipes what he thought of this. Well, since he was a producer on the film, they probably did ask him. They probably just ignored what problems he had with the idea. Snipes felt Blade didn’t need another partner, he had Whistler (played by Kris Kristofferson in the first two films and written as Abigail’s father in this one) and that was fine. Snipes eventually sued New Line Cinema and Goyer, stating he hadn’t been paid what he was owed and that his screen time was deliberately reduced at the expense of giving the spin off characters more screen time, which hampered the quality of the film.
He might have had a point there, because the film is the weakest of the three. While I didn’t find it as horrible as some critics, it definitely seemed out of place in style and tone with the two previous Blade films. It attempted to ape the style of the other films, but came off as too glossy and less gritty than the others. The new characters did defuse the focus quite a bit, and while in this film they finally pit Blade against Dracula, the villain is mostly relegated to a background role, making for a wasted opportunity.
Despite the hard feelings, Snipes has repeatedly stated he would like there to be a Blade 4. But the actor’s imprisonment for tax evasion, him being over 50 when released in 2013, and Marvel gaining the rights back from New Line means that any new Blade film will probably be a reboot and most likely not feature Snipes.
Next time, we look at how the new era of comic book films opened the doors for more independent comic books to hit the big screen.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is getting the feel of Bryan Singer putting the band back together. The Hollywood Report brings us an exclusive that another member of Singer’s original X-Men cast might be appearing in the X-Men: First Class sequel.
The magazines Heat Vision blog is quoting sources stating that Hugh Jackman is in negotiations to reprise his Wolverine character for Singer in the film.
One would think that negotiations will go well, as Jackman played Wolverine in First Class, and his cameo was one of the main reasons why the film got a PG-13 rating.
With Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen in the cast, Singer has reunited the three most vital parts of the original trilogy. The question now is who, if anybody, will be next? Will Rebecca Romijn expand HER First Class cameo for the sequel? Will Kelsey Grammer return to play the future Beast now that Nicholas Hoult is back as young Beast? What about Halle Berry and Anna Paquin? Do they have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting Ellen Page to return?
At one point, you would have needed a subscription to the Hollywood trades to get the latest casting announcements for your favorite films. Now, all you need is a Twitter account.
Bryan Singer, who is returning to directing the X-Men franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past, has tweeted that Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart have joined that film’s cast.
McKellen and Stewart have played Magneto and Professor Xavier for Singer in X-Men and X2: X-Men United and for Brett Ratner in X-Men: The Last Stand. The roles were played by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in X-Men: First Class, the film of which Days of Future Past is a sequel to. Fassbender and McAvoy have also been confirmed by Singer as returning from that film, along with Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast).
It seems logical that the casting of Stewart and McKellen confirms that the film version of Days of Future Past will partly mirror comic book version of the story. The comic book dealt with a dystopian future where a politician’s assassination by mutant extremists results in the government creating mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels. These robots ended up killing most of the super powered residents of the world. The few survivors come up with a last-ditch plan to save what’s left of the world–a powerful telepath would send the consciousness of one of the remaining survivors back in time into a younger version of themselves in the hopes of preventing the assassination and keep the dark future from ever coming into being.
Of course, some changes are to be expected. In the comics, the “past” was the present day and the “future” was the, well, future. Here, the “past” will be the 1960s of the first film, and “future” will be the present day of the previous X-films. The telepath in question in the comics was Rachel Summers, daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, a character not as yet introduced in the films franchise (and most likely will never be). And the mutant survivor sent back was Kitty Pryde, who in the film franchise would only be in her 20s in what appears to be the future they are using, and wasn’t even alive in the 60s. And the politician killed was Senator Robert Kelly, who already made his entrance and exit in the first X-Men.
Another complication is how X-Men: The Last Stand ended for Magneto and Professor X. Consider this a SPOILER WARNING for that film (although for many of you, that film was probably spoiled when Ratner signed on to direct it.).
At the end of The Last Stand, Xavier was seemingly killed by Jean Grey by essentially being disintegrated. And Magneto was given the cure that left him powerless. While the final scene of the film hinted that Magneto was getting his powers back, the button scene indicated that Xavier was able to transfer his consciousness into a younger man with a serious brain injury. It is highly unlikely this person resembled Patrick Stewart in any way, shape or form.
These are things that need to be addressed if Magneto and Professor X are to be active in the future segments of Days of Future Past. Any fan of time travel fiction can tell you numerous ways where this can be answered, so it shouldn’t be that big of a problem. But the answer hopefully will be more than “that film never existed.”
Singer ended his tweet with “more to come,” which teases that there could be more members of the original films’ cast making an appearance, a rumor that has been spread for quite a long time.
One of the best things about Mark Millar being name Chief Creative Consultant role for all of Fox’s Marvel properties is that he loves to talk. And when he talks, he is usually giving juicy tidbits of information as a means of promoting himself and the things he does.
Case in point: his recent interview for the podcast of the British film magazine, Empire (which the folks at SuperheroHype were nice enough to partially transcribe). In it, he describes what his job duties entail and what he expects to see from the Fox’s Marvel properties.
One of Millar’s primary duties will be to expand the line:
So they brought me in to oversee that really. To work with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and new properties that could spin out of it because the X-Men alone feels like a universe of itself. There’s so many characters in there and so many great potential spin-off characters.
Fox has been doing fairly well with spinning off films from its X-Men film franchise already, with the Wolverine films and X-Men: First Class tying into that mythology. Millar’s job will then probably be getting dormant or slow-moving mutant projects such as Deadpool, Gambit and New Mutants up and running. In addition, he will probably be looking for new films from other characters from the movies. Let’s hope that he shows more restraint than the comic arm of Marvel did, as anyone who has ever been an X-Man has had one or more series to their own (And that is only a slight exaggeration).
One presumes Millar will also be trying to wring as many spin-off possibilities out of the Fantastic Four franchise, but that might be a bit harder because most of the properties that spun out of the comic book (Black Panther, Inhumans) are owned by Marvel Studios.
Millar also is tasked with having both of Fox’s Marvel licenses play well together:
They asked me to come in and work out a plan. So unfortunately at this point I can’t get too specific. I do have a three to four year plan of where things could go, but you know, I’ll be working with guys like Matthew and Josh Trank, who’s the new director on Fantastic Four, and just figuring out how everything can work together and not contradict each other. But I also don’t want to make it too much of a mess either, with everyone showing up in everyone else’s films.
While this does not mean that Wolverine will be taking a swipe at Ben Grimm’s face, it appears nothing in either franchise will go against the other. It seems to me that if they can find a way for the properties to intermingle in a non-awkward way (like say Reed and Sue Richards son being born a mutant), they’ll pursue it. But at the very least, it will be clear that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four live in the same world on the same planet.
But what about a sense of continuity with the Marvel Studios’ films?:
What my dream is, as a fan, is that when you go and see any Marvel movie that it feels as if they’re all taking place in the one universe like when you pick up a Marvel comic. You should feel as if they’re all taking place in one big kind of cohesive place.
This could be just a continuing of the above thought, but it could also be Millar stating that the Fox Marvel films will have the same “non-contradiction” viewpoint towards the Marvel Studios films. Again, we probably won’t be seeing Wolverine join the Avengers, or Tony Stark and Bruce Banner help Reed Richards with a particularly prickly scientific problem, the Fox films will be more similar in tone to the Marvel Studio films, and fans will have nothing to lead them to believe they don not all reside in the same version of New York City.