Tag Archive | "X-Men"

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Paquin, Page And Ashmore Returning For X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Posted on 26 January 2013 by Rich Drees

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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.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: A Stab In The Dark

Posted on 28 December 2012 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. 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.

bladeThe 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.

Blade movieBut 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.

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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.

1276357630This 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.

819567e8ab1d3ee18573adf8b5ff7ac3David 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.

2004_blade_trinity_005He 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.

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Jackman To Join Stewart And McKellen In DAYS OF FUTURE PAST?

Posted on 29 November 2012 by William Gatevackes

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?

The situation, as they say, is developing.

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Stewart, McKellen Reunite With Singer For DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Posted on 27 November 2012 by William Gatevackes

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.

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Mark Millar: Three To Four Year Plan, Make FOX Marvel Movies Jibe With Marvel’s And Each Other

Posted on 09 November 2012 by William Gatevackes

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 DeadpoolGambit 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.

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Marvel’s Movie Rights: Who Owns What

Posted on 09 August 2012 by FilmBuffOnline Staff

While Marvel Studios have had great success with building a cohesive cinematic universe with the comic book properties to which they own the film rights, there are still a number of key characters that the studio doesn’t have access to rather generous film rights agreements the studio made back in the 1990s when their parent company, Marvel Comics, was strapped for cash.

It doesn’t really take this past week’s news story that Marvel was looking to trade the rights to certain characters that Twentieth Century Fox had control of in return to extending their option on another to know that ultimately Marvel would like to get them all back under their roof. But until that happens, we’ve assembled a guide as to what characters currently reside at which studios.

Fantastic Four - The Fantastic Four are one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Comics universe, but their movie rights rest with 20th Century Fox, who picked them up in the mid-90s. According to most reports, the rights deal that Marvel initially struck with Neu Constantin (Roger Corman’s production company) and presumably transferred to Fox allowed for usage of all original concepts introduced in Fantastic Four issues 1 through 100.

Thanks to the two films Fox has already produced, we know that in addition to the team itself, Fox also owns the rights to ally Silver Surfer, villains Doctor Doom and Galactus and supporting characters postman Willy Lumpkin, Frankie Raye (although she first appeared in FF #164) and Alicia Masters. Frankie Raye’s appearance in Rise Of The Silver Surfer suggest that her heroic persona of Nova, a herald of Galactus, is also included. And while it is probably safe to assume that most of the FF’s rogue’s gallery are a apart of the rights package, the inclusion of Masters seems to definitely confirm the presence of her father, the villain known as the Puppet Master.

Although the FF have encountered many alien races over the course of their adventures, none more memorable than the shape-shifting Skrulls. Fittingly, the rights situation surrounding the aliens are as amorphous as they are. During an interview promoting the European premiere of The Avengers, Marvel Studio chief Kevin Feige stated that rights to the Skrulls are owned by both Fox and Marvel, and either studio could use them in their films. Although he did not say so, it would not be unreasonable to believe that the Skrulls centuries-old enemies the Kree, who also factored heavily  in many Fantastic Four and Avengers storylines, were under the same shared agreement. Furthermore, Feige did not clarify the status of one particular Skrull character, the so-called Super Skrull, who has all the powers of the Fantastic Four in addition to his native shape changing ability, though it is generally believed that the rights lie solely with Twentieth Century Fox.

Reports on J Michael Straczynski’s script for a Silver Surfer spin-off film stated that it would involve the character returning to his home world of Zenn-La. Presumably, many of the characters created in various comics stories for that portion of the Silver Surfer’s backstory including his lover Shalla-Bal fall under the Fantastic Four rights.

Although the superpowered evolutionary offshoot of heroes known as The Inhumans first appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965), their film rights are still controlled by Marvel Studios as evidenced by statements made by Feige that a film based on the characters was in development. Likewise, Black Panther, ruler of the fictional nation of Wakanda, debuted in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), but his rights are also back at Marvel Studios around who they have been developing a film.

Another character who is often strongly associated with the Fantastic Four is Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. However, the Atlantean monarch’s rights are separate from what Fox owns. Back in September 2006, Universal Pictures had announced a Sub-Mariner movie with Jonathan Mostow signed to direct and rewrite a screenplay by David Self. However, as of May 2012 Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada has stated that “to the best of his knowledge” the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner currently resides with Marvel. Further evidence that Namor has reverted back to Marvel can be found at the end of Iron Man 2 in the scene where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is debriefed by Nick Fury of SHIELD. On a computer screen in the background a world map noting several areas that the spy organization is monitoring we can see one area in the Atlantic Ocean marked, supposedly the location of Namor’s undersea kingdom of Atlantis.

Daredevil/Elektra – Based on who we see in New Regency/Fox’s 2003 Daredevil film and its spinoff Elektra, we can get a pretty good list of characters that are included in the rights package. (Twentieth Century Fox is the production company’s distributor.) This gives us Matt Murdock/Daredevil, his father Jack Murdock, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, love interest Elektra Natchios, her father Nikolas Natchios, crime lord Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin,” villain Bullseye, reporter Ben Urich, Karen Page, Typhoid Mary, martial arts master Stick, the evil ninja clan known as The Hand headed by assassin Kirigi, Hand members Stone and Tattoo and the Chaste, the Hand’s secluded base of training and operations.

Furthermore, sequel discussions at the time of Daredevil’s release mentioned Mister Fear as a possible villain for a second film indicate that he is included. Other villains that are included in the Daredevil rights package probably include the Owl, Stilt-Man, Gladiator, Death-Stalker, Cobra and Mr. Hyde and Man-Bull, though no mention has been made of any of them specifically.

One Daredevil villain, the Purple Man, has an important role in the backstory of Jessica Jones, lead character in the recent comics series Alias. Marvel is currently developing a television series based on Alias, but it is unknown if the Purple Man is available to be included in the show or if his rights are still under the Daredevil agreement. Of course, if Fox doesn’t have cameras rolling on a new Daredevil film by the contractual rights reversion date of October 10 then the question as to who owns the rights to the villain becomes moot.

One thing that that Fox’s Daredevil rights doesn’t include is the right to use the Marvel Comics universe’s paper of record, The Daily Bugle. The rights for the Bugle are part and parcel of the Spider-Man rights over at Sony/Universal, leaving Fox to make the real-life tabloid The New York Post Daredevil supporting character reporter Ben Urich’s employer.

Ghost Rider – Universal has not had much luck at the box office with their two attempts to brong the supernatural character Ghost Rider to the big screen. With the casting the Norse gods of the Thor movies as humanoid aliens with technology so advanced that it appears to be magic, these movies are the only ones that explore the supernatural side of Marvel Comics. Judging from the two films starring Nick Cage, in addition to the characters of Johnny Blaze and his demonic counterpart Zarathos, the studio appears to have the film rights to the characters Blackout, Mephistopheles, Carter Slade/the Phantom Rider and Blackheart. However, if Marvel goes ahead with the previously talked about Doctor Strange film that would explore Marvel’s mystical side, none of these characters would be considered necessary for it as Marvel’s mystical roster is fairly deep and most of them probably reside outside of the Ghost Rider rights.

Spider-ManSpider-Man has one of the most interesting supporting casts and one of the most dynamic rogues galleries in comics. And Sony most likely owns the rights to all of them.

The Amazing Spider-Man has shown that Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, Richard and Mary Parker, Gwen Stacy, George Stacy, Flash Thompson, Curt Connors/Lizard, Norman Osborn/Green Goblin and the Daily Bugle are actively being used in the reboot franchise. Since most of these characters have appeared in some form in the Sam Raimi pre-reboot trilogy, it’s highly likely that Sony still owns all the characters from that series as well, meaning we might see Harry Osborn, Mary Jane Watson, Mendel Strom, the Daily Bugle staff (J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant, et al), John Jameson, Doctor Octopus, Sandman and Venom in the future installments of the reboot.

And, since there have been so many aborted tries at getting various Spider-Man films on the screen, we have a good idea at what other Spider-Man characters Sony owns rights to. James Cameron’s script treatment that he did while the Spider-Man rights were at Cannon/Carolco featured Electro as one of the villains, so that character has to be included in the film rights. Sam Raimi was developing a fourth film of his franchise, one that would have had the Vulture and Felicia Hardy (who may or may not have been her comic book identity, the Black Cat, in this film). Rumor has it that one of the reason Raimi left the franchise was because the producers were trying to force the director to use latter day Spidey villain, Carnage. If so, that’s another character they could use.

Outside of that, it’s fair to say that Sony has rights to Spider-Man villains such as Hobgoblin and Demogoblin (both of which tie into the Green Goblin character), Chameleon, Jackal, Kraven the Hunter, Molten Man and Tombstone, all of whom are pretty much exclusively Spider-Man villains. They might also have rights to foes such as Scorpion, Mysterio and Rhino, a trio who started off as Spidey bad guys yet have fought other Marvel heroes. When you get to villains such as the Beetle and Boomerang, the rights issue gets murkier, because those characters have appeared in enough of other character’s books that they aren’t considered true Spider-Man villains, therefore probably not included in the rights Sony owns.

Several Spider-Man characters that Sony definitely does not own are Cloak and Dagger, who Marvel is developing a TV show for the ABC Family Channel with, Kingpin, who Fox owns rights to due to his connection to the Daredevil universe, and Morbius, whose rights were owned by New Line through their agreement to make a Blade film (he was meant to be the villain for a potential sequel), and whose rights reverted back to Marvel with Blade’s.

X-Men: – Conventional wisdom states that the agreement made between Marvel Comics and Fox for the X-Men film gives rights to all Marvel’s mutant characters to the studio. This makes sense because there are literally hundreds of mutants created in Marvel X-Men family of books. And the conventional wisdom does seem true because Fox has packed numerous mutants into the X-Men films, even including such obscure characters as Phat and Glob Herman. And given the number of X-books Marvel publishes in any given month, Fox has not really begun to scratch beyond the surface of what they can exploit.

But where this becomes problematic is that mutants have spread to pretty much all aspects of Marvel’s comic book output. For instance, Cloak and Dagger and Sub-Mariner are mutants and former members of the X-Men, yet their rights are held by Marvel. Franklin Richards, son or the Fantastic Four’s Reed and Susan Richards, is a mutant (not really a problem for Fox as they own the rights to the character regardless). And then there’s Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch first appeared as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants way back in 1964’s X-Men #4. They were later revealed to be the son and daughter of X-Men villain Magneto. However, a large part of their comic book career was spent in the Avengers books, and both have contributed to many notable storylines in that title. Both also were members of the Ultimates, the version of the Avengers created for Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics, the universe where much of the feel and plot points for Marvel’s film universe is taken.

So, who owns the rights to these characters: Fox or Marvel? The answer is yes.

Kevin Feige, during an interview promoting the European premiere of The Avengers, stated that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are owned by both Fox and Marvel, and either studio could use them in their films much like the arrangement for the right to the Fantastic Four villains, the Skrulls.

Of course, the rights situations for any of these characters could change at any time, depending on the terms of each individual contract. Though we would suspect that over time Marvel Studio will eventually see most, if not all of their characters come home to live under the same corporate roof again.

-Rich Drees and William Gatevackes contributed to this article.

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Photos Of Hugh Jackman From The Set Of THE WOLVERINE Tell A Story

Posted on 06 August 2012 by William Gatevackes

Pictures taken on the set of The Wolverine that appeared on The Life of the Mind blog show more than just a haggard and woolly Hugh Jackman, they might just show what direction the X-Men Origins: Wolverine sequel is headed.

The four pictures presumably show Jackman on the way to the set, and cut a very different image of Wolverine than we are used to. Instead of the buff, sideburns wearing Wolverine from the rest of his film appearances, they show Jackman with long, disheveled hair and a bushy beard, looking quite like a homeless person or a young Alan Moore.

But he could also look like a prisoner of war, which would fit with previous information we have received about the film.

Several weeks ago, the Australian press was invited to the film’s set. At the time, the gathered press took many photographs of the set pieces being built and the concept art made for the film. These images made the rounds on the Internet, but quickly were removed (much to some news organizations’ chagrin). The photo to the right is the only one we dare to share, if only because the pictures there are so small. But you can still find some of the original images online if you know where to look.

The set pictures showed two set models. One was a pit of sorts with a heavy metal vault-like door on top that appears to something you’d place a particularly nasty prisoner in. This model was shown already build into a full size set piece. The other model was of a prison camp, with barracks surrounded by metal fencing. The concept art showed the prison camp, scene of a nuclear bomb being detonated, and the destructive aftermath of the bombing on Japan.

These pictures seem to indicate that a fairly sizable portion of the film will take place in a World War II era Japanese prisoner of war camp, and, added to the pictures released today, Wolverine most likely was rather long-time guest at one of the camps.

The camps and the nuclear war imagery also leads one to believe that another one of Wolverine’s iconic comic book stories will be partially adapted into the film. 2008’s Logan, written by Lost‘s Brian K. Vaughan and draw by Eduardo Risso, add a new wrinkle to the character’s back story–a stay in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the final days of WWII. The miniseries famously detailed what would win in a battle between Wolverine’s healing power and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima (SPOILER ALERT: The healing power wins).

The miniseries also introduced a new enemy for Wolverine, an American who was turned into a flaming skeleton in the blast. This villain is later confronted Logan in the modern day, when Logan gets revenge on the villain for actions he did decades earlier.

In my opinion, the film will keep the whole “fighting your nemesis decades later” aspect of the story (which is confirmed by the studio’s plot summary for the sequel) but take away the flaming skeleton and insert Shingen from the Claremont and Miller Wolverine mini series. As I mentioned here, it looks like two actors, one young (Hiroyuki Sanada) and one old (Hal Yamanouchi), have been cast as the villain from that series, Shingen Yashida. It would not be a stretch to believe that the film will have Sanada play a WWII-era Shingen, perhaps as an abusive guard or commandant for the camp Logan/Wolverine is in, and then have the older Yamanouchi play Shingen later in life. Due to the age differences in the actors possibly playing Shingen, this would place the non-WWII parts of The Wolverine in the 1980’s, after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, yet quite some time before X-Men.

If this is in fact the way the writers are going with this film, I think it is both good and bad. Good in the sense that it builds a stronger sense of conflict between Yashida and Logan, and it would be interesting to see how an amnesia-suffering Logan reacts to facing his old enemy. Bad in the sense it takes a bit of the pathos out of the relationship between Logan and Mariko. It takes the randomness out of the love affair and brings in too much coincidence for my tastes.

Another area of concern is the film’s continuity with its previous installment. X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s opening credits expressly shows that Logan and Sabretooth were part American forces taking part in the Normandy invasion in the European theater during WWII. This asks the question, how did Logan move from one theater of war to another in the span of 14 months (if he’s really going to be in Japan when the bombs drop) and where Victor/Sabretooth  is while Logan is a prisoner, because that title montage shows the pair were inseparable until well after the Vietnam conflict. The X-films have played fast an loose with continuity, and there have been other elements of X-Men Origins: Wolverine contradicted in other films, but these are still issues that need to be addressed.

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Opinion: NEWSARAMA And The Infuriating Power of Lists

Posted on 03 August 2012 by William Gatevackes

In this day and age, if you are a form of media that covers another form of media, eventually you will come up with a list. Rolling Stone has put out special, oversized volumes about what songs, albums and guitarists are the best in their eyes. Entertainment Weekly can be counted on at least one issue a year feature a list of some kind, most recently it was the “50 Best Films You’ve Never Seen” and “25 Best Cult TV Shows From the Past 25 years.” And VH1 and E! have made it a staple of their programming.

The reason why they turn to list making is simple–because it’s popular. In a world full of opinionated people, any collated list  that represents the authoritative ranking of anything will get attention. People want their tastes validated. Or, they want to see how wrong these media outlets are. These lists sell copies.  They garner high ratings. They get shared on Facebook. They get linked to. And the more controversial the better, For example, take Sight and Sound‘s yearly poll’s swapping of Citizen Kane with Vertigo and the furor that kicked up.

But sometimes, it appears that there’s more that goes into constructing these lists than just picking the best or worst of a particular medium. Some lists seem to be compiled just to garner controversy. Yes, there will be “no brainer” items on the list, but there will also be notable omissions as well. There will be items included that seems to serve no other purpose than to make people angry. And even if you agree with every item put on and left off, you have the rankings themselves to quarrel over.

A sterling example of this are two lists that have appeared on Newsarama.com, one of the oldest comic book news sites on the Internet, over the last week. One was the “10 Best Comic Book-Based Movie PERFORMANCES Of All Time” and the “10 Worst Comic Book-Based Movie PERFORMANCES of All Time.” Both lists were compiled by the “Newsarama Staff,” and both are controversial in their own right. At best, the lists were sloppily compiled with mind-numbing gaps of logic, at worst, the list were compiled deliberately to anger comic book movie fans and generate controversy.

Here is Newsarama’s 10 Best List:

  1. Heath Ledger, The Joker, The Dark Knight
  2. Robert Downey, Jr, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, & The Avengers
  3. Gary Oldman, Commissioner Gordon, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises
  4. Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men First Class
  5. J.K. Simmons, J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3
  6. Tom Hiddleston, Loki, Thor & The Avengers
  7. Chloe Grace Moretz, Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass
  8. Andrew Garfield, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man
  9. Anne Hathaway, Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises
  10. Chris Evans, Jensen, The Losers
And here’s their 10 Worst:
  1. Most Everyone and Anyone in Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies
  2. Halle Berry, Storm, X-Men & Patience Phillips/Catwoman, Catwoman
  3. Billy Zane, The Phantom
  4. Matthew Goode, Ozymandias, Watchmen 
  5. Nicolas Cage, Ghost Rider & Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  6. Julian McMahon, Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four & Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 
  7. Seth Rogen, The Green Hornet, The Green Hornet 
  8. Tobey Maguire, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3
  9. Christopher Reeve/Brandon Routh, Clark Kent/Superman, Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Superman Returns 
  10. January Jones, Emma Frost, X-Men: First Class

I have serious problems with these lists, problems that go way beyond differences of opinion (although I’ll have to comment on one glaring disagreement because if I don’t, my head will explode). The problems cause me to question the validity of the lists and Newsarama’s intentions. I’ll create my own list of where Newsarama’s logic went wrong, perhaps deliberately.

The lists are “best comic book-based performances” not “Best SUPERHERO comic book-based performances”: Granted, Newsarama focuses mostly on the mainstream superhero genre, and adding another word to the already gangly title would have made it even ganglier, but we have to take the titles of these articles to heart. That means, this should be the definitive list of ALL performances from ALL movies based an ALL kinds of comic books. Yet, there is no Paul Giamatti from American Splendor on this list. Nor is there Thora Birch or Steve Buscemi from Ghost World or Tom Hanks, Paul Newman or anyone else from Road to Perdition. 

I could go on. But what these titles are doing is advertising one thing and selling us another. And that is a recipe that is custom made to generate the kind of “you left XXX of the list” controversy that builds up links.

The Green Hornet? The Phantom? Comic Book-Based?: You’d think a news website with 10 years of independent coverage of the world of comic books would be able to tell what films were made from comic books and which ones weren’t. Baring that, you’d think they’d be able hire writers with an active connection to the Internet and the ability to access Google from it. Newsarama apparently is able to do neither.

The Green Hornet was based on a radio program that began in January1936. The Phantom was based on a comic strip that began in newspapers a few weeks after the Hornet made his first broadcast. . While both were adapted into comic books, neither originated there nor were their comics their most remembered incarnations. Calling The Green Hornet and The Phantom “comic book-based” would be like calling Star Wars and Star Trek comic book-based. And you can find far worse actors than Seth Rogen and Billy Zane in those franchises.

This might seem to be just a matter of semantics. But I believe it is indicative of the hap-hazard way these lists were constructed. Because you don’t have to look too hard to find two more bad performances in a film that was actually based on a comic book.

To Newsarama, “all time” means “within the last 12 years”: With the exception of The Phantom, the Schumacher Batman films, and the early Superman movies, all the films on the list were made after 2000. That means out of over 70 years of comic books being made into films, only a little over a decade of films were being seriously considered.

Yes, there have been a whole lot more comic book films to chose from in the last 12 years. But, as I realized doing my History of the Comic Book Film feature, the comic book film did not begin with X-Men. What? Newsarama couldn’t find a top ten worthy bad performance in SheenaRed Sonja, Howard the Duck or in Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher? And on the good side, what about Brandon Lee’s Crow, Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Wesley Snipes’ Blade? The fact that there wasn’t one performance from the above that made either list is a disservice to what Newsarama was trying to create. It shows tunnel vision, something that handicaps any attempt at creating a comprehensive list.

Their selection process is dubious and abitrary at best:  They pay lip service to the quality work Chris Evans has done in a number of comic book films, yet make a point of telling us that they can pick only one performance of his for the list (and the pick his least well-known role at that). Yet, Hallie Berry gets slammed for playing both Storm and Catwoman. They lump the combined casts of two films as one entry, and two actors who had played the same role almost 20 years apart as another selection.

You get the feeling they were making up the rules as they went along. Or, rather, constructing the rules of selection so that it suited them best.

Take, for instance, this “ground rule” from the introduction to the worst list.

…it would be way too easy and frankly not all that much fun to pick-on a lower class of Hollywood actor in barely feature-quality train wrecks like Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four or the 1980s Captain America. So yes, Shaquille O’Neal, you get immunity this day.

Okay, I’m no fan of Shaquille O’Neal, and I’m sure he would want his being left off a list of bad actors argued, but the reason Newsarama left him of the list just doesn’t make sense. When Shaq made Steel, he had already made two feature films (Blue Chips and Kazaam). And Steel was a $16 million dollar film made by Warner Brothers, not some film made for $200 and a bag of potato chips in someone’s basement. Could Shaq be considered a “lower class of actor”? Probably. But so could Billy Zane, king of the B-movie. Maybe if Shaq had a small part in Titanic, then Newsarama would have considered him worthy of inclusion.

This is how they defend their position:

Well, Tobey’s Peter Parker was naive and earnest enough, but he just didn’t have Parker’s inner beauty.

Yes. Really.

Putting Christopher Reeve on the list of worst actors might have been done just to anger people: I’m trying not to believe that they’d do something so wrong just to generate site hits, but Newsarama is not making it easy by how they open their defense of their opinion:

Yes, we’re going there, and in advance, we’re genuinely sorry you’re upset.

Yes, they went there, but did they go there thinking their opinion would be controversial, or knowing it would be controversial and get a lot of reaction?

Listen, whenever you have a list like this, there will be items on it that butt up against conventional wisdom. But seldom has there ever been a case where something flew in the face of overwhelming public opinion like Newsarama is is doing here.

If you are going to “go there,” then you’d better have an incredibly strong argument to back up your position. Unfortunately, Newsarama doesn’t.

…Reeve just wasn’t that accomplished a film actor.

In defense of this position we could point to his lack of much of a post-Superman resume, but the truth is now 30-plus years later with a more critical eye we simply don’t find his portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent very much like any Superman or Clark Kent we know… or like, for that matter.

His Clark wasn’t mild-mannered, he was a cartoonish buffoon. His Superman far too earnest and eager-to-please for someone with the power of a god. In short, he was a mild-mannered Superman, frankly lacking in the charisma you’d expect from an actor playing a cultural icon. A more theatrical rather than natural actor, Reeve’s Superman was a caricature of a comic book Boy Scout superhero and not a fully developed character.

Where to begin. Hmmm.

I wonder who this editorial “we” is? Perhaps it is someone who  is 12 and has only known the John Byrne interpretation of Superman. But, the character was around for 50 years before Byrne revamped him. Back when the film was made, the comic book Superman was a more staid version of the one found in the film. The mental image the editorial “we” has of Superman is so contrary to what the character’s image really is that it makes it seem that this entry came from a website that wouldn’t know a comic book if it fell in their lap, not a “respected” comic book news site.

I’m so glad they didn’t use Reeve’s lack of a post-Superman career as their only defense for their position, because is a defense that could be swatted away with one word–typecasting. Typecasting is the reason why Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had less than stellar careers after Star Wars, and why Harrison Ford’s post-Star Wars career is so extraordinary. It is what the cast of the Harry Potter films are struggling with now, and what the cast of Twilight is working hard to avoid. Once you become so associated with such an iconic character, it’s hard for Hollywood to see you in any other role. This was the reason for Reeve’s lackluster post-Superman career, not lack of talent.

But Reeve’s performance was pitch perfect as Superman. I don’t know what the editorial “we” was thinking, but Superman doesn’t stand “Sarcasm, Bullying and Badassery”, he stands for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Yes, Reeve’s Superman was earnest–and honest and forthright–but that IS Superman. And Reeve played him in such a way that he never was hokey or corny.

As for Clark Kent, Reeve played Kent as a role Superman was himself playing. Superman portrayed Kent as an awkward and bumbling fool so no one would see through the flimsy disguise and put two and two together. It’s a brilliant piece of acting, and if you aren’t able to pick that up, then you have no business talking about acting performances whatsoever.

I have to laugh at the  “30-plus years later with a more critical eye” part. Like that is supposed to win us over, that they’re looking at the performance in a serious manner as an adult, and therefore, he is right. That might have held more water if Chris Sims and David Uzumeri didn’t take a similar look back on the first Superman back in March for rival comic book news site Comics Alliance.  They ripped the film to shreds, but still called Reeve’s performance, and these are direct quotes, “amazing” and “darn near perfect.” So much for that argument.

Taking this into consideration, it’s hard to not believe the trashing of Reeve was done purely to garner controversy. If so, at least it worked. Not only am I talking about it, but also many comic book professionals, the people Newsarama make a living covering, took umbrage with the list as well.

Creators like Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott:

Marvel Comics editor Steve Wacker:

And legendary comic writer Mark Waid:

That tweet set off a Twitter war between Waid and Newsarama editor Lucas Siegel,which is not the behavior you expect from an editor who should be keeping a journalistic distance from one of people he would be covering, but it is the kind of behavior you’d expect if you want add more controversy to the already controversial matter.

Another sign that this whole thing might be hit bait is that they spun of the controversy to another article on the site, an OP/ED piece by frequent Newsarama contributor Vaneta Rogers , glorifying Reeve’s performance and giving yet another page full of ads for Newsarama from the controversial list.

I hope this isn’t the case, that Newsarama is manipulating the popularity of lists to gain hits for itself. Presenting honest, well-formed and well-thought out opinions is always something that should be striven for. But putting out incendiary opinions in a clumsy and hap hazard manner isn’t. And it looks like Newsarama did the latter and is trying to pass it off as the former.

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X-MEN: FIRST CLASS 2 Is Now Confirmed To Be X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Posted on 02 August 2012 by William Gatevackes

In an interview with IGN.com, producer Bryan Singer confirmed a rumor that was floating around about the X-Men: First Class sequel. The sequel will be titled X-Men: Days of Future Past and will borrow plot elements from that legendary X-Men comic book story arc.

“Days of Future Past” is arguably, second only to “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” the best storyline in X-Men history. Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne in Uncanny X-Men #141 & 142, the arc tells of a middle-aged Kitty Pryde from a dystopian future who is living under martial law overseen by mutant hunting robots called Sentinels. The Sentinels were built after an influential anti-mutant Senator by the name of Robert Kelly was assassinated by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Sentinels eventually turned on their creators, slaughtered all superhuman opposition (including non-mutants such as Captain America), and round up all the surviving mutants, putting them in concentration camps.  Pryde was sent back in time and possessed her younger self in an effort to foil the assassination and avoid her horrible future.

Obviously, there will have to be some changes in the story to bring it to the screen. Senator Robert Kelly was a character in the first X-Men film (played by Bruce Davidson) and met his untimely death there. Kitty Pryde was also featured in that X-Men trilogy, most recently by Ellen Page. Neither character was old enough to be around in the 1960s, the era X-Men: First Class is set.

There have been numerous hints about bring characters from the original trilogy into this film to create a stronger link between the two franchises, and the plot of Days of the Future Past would provide an excellent opportunity to bring Storm, Iceman, Angel and Colossus back to the big screen. As for the time travelling X-Man, well, Wolverine has already been established as being alive and kicking in X-Men: First Class, and the character is quite popular with moviegoers. As for the assassination, well, hints also were dropped about the Kennedy assassination playing a role in the sequel. Could JFK replace Robert Kelly as the mutant’s target?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. X-Men: Days of Future Past is scheduled to arrive on July 18, 2014.

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Fox To Fast Track FANTASTIC FOUR, May Lose DAREDEVIL

Posted on 12 July 2012 by William Gatevackes

Marvel Comics, in its haste to get its properties on the big screen, made a lot of “use them or lose them” deals regarding the rights, meaning that the film studios would keep the rights as long as they kept making films featuring the Marvel characters. This was good at first because it resulted in a lot of great films by top name directors. But now that Marvel is owned by Disney, a company that knows a thing or two about films, you get the sense that the powers that be wish that some of these properties will come back into the fold.

Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and just about all of Marvel’s mutants, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil. The studio is keeping a stranglehold on the lucrative X-Men rights, always having at least one X-film in development at all times. However, Deadline reports that there has been some action on the Daredevil and Fantastic Four fronts, news that might result in one of the properties reverting back to Marvel.

Deadline states that Chronicle director Josh Trank has been officially named by Fox as helming the Fantastic Four reboot. The FF reboot is on the fast track, meaning that it is expected to be the next Marvel film to come from the studio after The Wolverine and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class sequel and it will be the much in demand Trank’s next film. It has been five years since 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and while the FF were a financial success for Fox, it was far from a success with the critics. Hopefully, this reboot will address that.

2003’s Daredevil was a similar box-office success yet a critical disappointment, and Fox has been looking to reboot that franchise as well. Since we are approaching ten years since that film came out (time flies, doesn’t it?), if Fox doesn’t act soon, the rights to Ol’ Hornhead will revert back to Marvel. And a recent development might mean that we could see Daredevil’s lawyer alter ego Matt Murdock representing Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner or Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark in the near future.

David Slade has dropped out of the reboot over time constraints. Fox needs the new Daredevil film to start production in the fall to avoid the rights going back to Marvel and Slade, who is directing the pilot for NBC’s Hannibal series, cannot find time in his schedule to work within Fox’s. There is a script that the studio likes and is ready to go, but Fox needs to find a new director that is ready to get started quickly and get a project up and running by the times the leaves turn. It could happen, but considering that Fox chose Brett Ratner as a last-minute replacement for Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn on X-Men: The Last Stand, I don’t trust Fox’s judgement on finding replacement directors who can get a project up and running quickly. It might be better to just let Marvel take over.

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