Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!

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Bits-n-Pieces II

To be honest, I wasn’t able to focus on a regular post this week. So, as I’ve done on a couple past occasions, I’m going to make relatively brief comments on a handful of recent genre announcements & developments….

Small Screen

star-trek-discovery-1920Item #1: A few things have developed re the upcoming ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ series since I last blogged about it in August, but even then I didn’t comment on everything we knew. For example, producer Bryan Fuller had said that the show’s primary protagonist will be a female Lt. Commander (a la Majel Barrett’s “Number One” in the original TOS pilot). There will be more “diversity” in the ship’s crew, particularly in terms of one or more LGBT characters. I’m not thrilled about this, though I’m not surprised for a number of reasons — e.g., the “progressive” nature of the franchise, Hollywood’s push for LGBT characters, Fuller is a part of that community, etc. He also indicated that they will push the Star Trek boundaries by possibly having a bit of nudity and more profanity. I’m not thrilled with this, either. I guess they can get away with it, since it won’t be on network TV; but, it also flies in the face of one “rule” Paramount/CBS has always had about keeping all Star Trek productions — including fan-made — “family friendly”. If they do proceed with this, I hope it is quite limited. Fortunately, Fuller did say,

“Star Trek’s not necessarily a universe where I want to hear a lot of profanity, either.”

In September, it was announced that STDisc’s debut was being pushed from January to May 2017. I had mixed feelings about this, but I’m not mad; if they need the extra time to make a great show, they should take it. Then Variety broke the story that Fuller had stepped down as showrunner, due to scheduling conflicts. Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (and Alex Kurtzman?) stepped up as co-showrunners, while Fuller remained as executive producer. This caused a lot of hubbub re the show’s direction, but Fuller remains the chief architect.

“Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm.” — Variety

Given his intentions, I obviously have mixed feelings about this. (I like his idea of making it less episodic and having a multi-episode story arc, and I’m intrigued with the concept of making the ship’s captain merely a supporting player.) It was also indicated that Romulans may be the primary villains in the series, and that would seem to work for the era in which it will be taking place (i.e., 10 years prior to ST:TOS).

Item #2: Just a couple days ago, Marvel announced that it is teaming up with Disney|ABC Television Group and IMAX to develop a “Marvel’s The Inhumans” TV series. It will actually debut the first two episodes in IMAX theaters in September 2017. (That’s fast!) Not only is IMAX co-financing the project, but the IMAX cameras/tech will provide enhanced imagery and visual effects. Cool! Oh,… after the debut in theaters, the full 8 episodes will show on ABC starting in the Fall, “with additional exclusive content that can only be seen on the network.” Very cool!

1173129-inhumansThis show will not be connected to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (This likely also means there will not be an Inhumans movie connected to the MCU.) So, the “inhuman” characters we have seen in the S.H.I.E.L.D. series will not be involved in this one. In fact, the new show will be centered on the Inhumans’ Royal Family that fans know from the comics and animated series (see pic).

I was always a fan of the Inhumans, with their unique society and ties to the Fantastic Four and X-Men (and the Kree race, of course). I look forward to seeing the city of Attilan and its odd denizens. If they do this right, I will be a very happy camper! (I feel a multi-part fan-casting coming on….)

Item #3: Another very recent announcement came from HBO — namely, there are official talks with author/creator George R.R. Martin about a “Game of Thrones” prequel show to follow the fan-favorite series. No details, as yet. As per HBO programming president Casey Bloys,

“[I]t’s still kind of preliminary ongoing talks. There are [time periods within GoT history] we are exploring, but I wouldn’t point to any one and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

Big Screen

Item #4: OK, part of this has been known for a few months, but stick with me…. For quite awhile, there was some question about whether or not we would see a new Batman solo movie or a proper sequel to Man of Steel. Now, the answer to both is “Yes!” Actually, it was back in Spring of this year (2016) that we found out Ben Affleck would be co-writing (with DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns) and starring in a Batman solo movie. Affleck was determined to complete a script he was happy with before he would begin filming. He also said he wanted to create an original story, borrowing familiar things from the comics, and that he wants to showcase Batman’s detective skills. (Amen to that!)

In the Summer it was confirmed that Affleck would be directing, and the tentative title is “The Batman”. More recently, Joe Manganiello signed on to play Deathstroke — presumably the main villain. The film is currently scheduled for release in Oct. 2018.

As for the Man of Steel 2, in August 2015 we got conflicting reports that George Miller would be directing and that the film was on “permanent hold”. But, a year later TheWrap announced that a Man of Steel sequel was finally in active development at Warner Bros. and “a top priority for the studio”. Henry Cavill’s agent, Dany Garcia, confirmed this in an interview with Newsweek in September, saying:

“[Cavill and I have] been in a five-month period of time where he’s re-strategizing, acquiring property [for his production company Promethean], he’s filming [Justice League] now, he’s in development for the Superman standalone… he’s beginning to expand that world.”

Man of Steel 2 likely won’t arrive in theaters until late 2019.

I have to say, I am psyched for both of these. Yes, I know: “It’s Batfleck!”… “Man of Steel and DvJ were too dark!”… “They changed too much stuff.”… yada, yada. I have already explained in previous posts that I share some of these concerns and also why I’m OK with other aspects. My hope is that the respective creative teams will respect the fans’ input and address those “problems” in the new films. For example, I am fine with a darker, more violent and cynical Batman at this stage in his career. But, I want the Superman film to have a more positive, brighter tone, both visually and thematically speaking.

negasonic-teenage-warhead-ego-the-living-planetItem #5: Only a couple days ago, it was reported that Marvel and Fox had worked out a “backroom deal” to trade characters. Well, not “trade” exactly, and this actually happened a couple years ago….

You may or may not remember — I always get this stuff confused — that 20th Century Fox owns the cinematic rights to all things X-Men related (including Deadpool), among other things, while Marvel Studios owns the cinematic rights to Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers. While developing Deadpool, the writers decided they really wanted the Negasonic Teenage Warhead character — or, at least, a differently-powered character with that name — but Marvel owned it. Marvel agreed to it but on the condition that they get to use Ego, the Living Planet, (owned by Fox) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Thus, the deal was struck.

This is big, because it shows that these two studios, who don’t always get along, can negotiate agreements to trade/loan characters to each other. All it takes is a mutually beneficial trade, and (hopefully) everybody — including the fans — wins. I hope this is a sign of things to come, so that other beloved characters can show up cross-studios, as it were.

Item #6: Finally, speaking of Deadpool… You probably already know that a sequel is already in pre-production and scheduled for a March 2, 2018, release. (Of course, first they need to replace the now-departed director, Tim Miller.) It is rumored to co-star Rich Sands as Nathan Summers / Cable. But, the studio is so confident in the franchise that it has already greenlit Deadpool 3. This one is rumored to include some version of the mutant team known as X-Force. (No idea what this means for Jeff Wadlow’s planned X-Force movie. Could be a jumping off point, I suppose.) Could be great news for Deadpool and X-Force fans!

Fin.

Notes on Fantastic Four (2015)

Yes, I finally got around to watching last year’s disappointing reboot of the Fantastic Four. So, I put together a brief review in the form of a few notes, much like I’ve done in the past. I’ll try not to give away any major plot points or character-specific stuff….

As with its 2005 predecessor, the acting was fine (though not great) for what they had to work with, which was a so-so (definitely not great) story & script. Unfortunately, that meant that the characters were relatively dull, too.

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster1) Reed Richards — I don’t know. Miles Tellar is a good enough actor, but he didn’t quite look the part. He played “science nerd” OK, I guess. On the other hand, Reed seemed to be just a tad bit too socially well-adjusted. I always thought he was more socially awkward, especially in his earlier years, often distracted by scientific problems/projects. My guess is he would likely be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. (Just my take on it, of course.) Even without that consideration, some of his behavior was a little different than I think it should have been. Nothing major, though.

2) Susan Storm — Given that they were going with the brainier, scientist version of Sue (a la “Ultimate” universe), she was fine. I would have preferred a different look for her, though — like, maybe, Julianne Hough. I am guessing she was supposed to be roughly the same age as Reed (~18-20yo?), though she may have been a little older. The romantic interest between Sue and Reed was just barely hinted at, though mostly one-sided by him. Same goes for Doom’s interest in Sue. Sue’s relationship with her adoptive brother didn’t seem very close; or, maybe they just aren’t an emotionally demonstrative family.

3) Johnny Storm — Would have liked to see Johnny involved in more “adrenaline rush” activities and exhibiting more playfulness, which are essential parts of his personality. (This was a detail that the 2005/2007 films got right.) It was also a little odd to see him working with the team on the final teleportation device. (I think this may have been the case in the Ultimate version, too. Can’t remember for sure.) Given his interest in fast cars, I guess it does make sense that he had some skills in mechanics and/or engineering. To stay in keeping with the comics, it should have been made clear that he was a few years younger than Sue.

4) Ben Grimm — He may have been athletic, but he was way too small. Why couldn’t they get someone who was about 6′ or so and looked more like a stereotypical, beefy jock? His childhood/family life fits the character, though it would have been nice to hear a reference to Yancey Street and the gang. As for his “Thing” form, I liked it OK, though I prefer the classic, more “rounded” and heavy-browed version (as in the previous big-screen incarnation). This one reminded me of the Stone Men (aka Kronans) of the planet Ria. Also, his voice needed to be deeper — rumbly, even — to go along with the massive form.

5) Victor von Doom — They got this character all wrong, yet again. In appearance (pre- and post-transformation) and sound (no accent) and attitude (cocky, but not imperious) and abilities (some sort of freaky psychokinesis?), he still was not the iconic figure from the comics. Why?! Why is this so hard to do? Or, alternatively, why do the powers-that-be shy away from portraying him on screen the way he has always been written? Surely, there must be some 30-or-younger actor from Eastern Europe who could pull this off. Say,… Dawid Ogrodnik. On the plus side, at least he wasn’t some disillusioned computer hacker named Vic Domashev, as had been the rumor.

6) Dr. Franklin Storm — The comics don’t give him a lot of characterization, other than being a brilliant scientist who cares immensely for his children. He doesn’t often spend time with them or show affection in other ways, being very focused on administering the scientific think-tank at the Baxter Building. From what we saw and heard, this version of Storm is pretty much on target with that, though perhaps a little more attentive.

OK, now for a few more general comments about the film…

Fantastic_Four_(2015_film)_poster_0071) Given that Reed seemed to join the Baxter Foundation after high school, I am guessing he was about 17-18 years old. (Though, you’d think a brain like him would’ve skipped a couple grades.) Possibly more like 19-20yo, if he took some college in between times. Ben and Sue would’ve been roughly the same, Johnny even younger (16?), though Victor was probably a couple years older. However, all of the actors looked to be a few years older than those ages,… which they actually are, of course.

2) I recognized a couple early scenes adapted from Ultimate Fantastic Four, but they didn’t feel quite right. Lighting too dark; Baxter Institute looked/felt too “normal”.

3) Without giving anything away,… I’m not sure how I feel about the events that followed the accident. They didn’t follow either the original or Ultimate versions. The antagonism against Reed just felt… wrong.

4) There was no mention of “unstable molecules” (that I recall) in the post-accident uniforms’ composition. Plus, Reed was wearing something else, yet it stretched when he did. What’s up with that? If there is a sequel, will they reveal that he discovered something that allows uniforms to “cooperate” with their powers.

5) The fact that Dr. Storm and Johnny were not Caucasian was fine, of course, and the brief mention of Sue being adopted resolved that question.

6) I thought the special F/X were pretty good, despite that being one of the facets the film got criticized for. Maybe I would change my mind upon a second viewing, when I had time to see them again?

7) The fights were rather lacking. I assume the original, one-by-one attacks on Doom in the finale were meant to show they couldn’t beat him on their own — which Reed stated explicitly a couple minutes later. (A bit on-the-nose, if you ask me.) But, then the coordinated effort, especially Ben’s haymaker, was telegraphed so obviously that Doom deserves to get beat for still falling for it.

Overall, a fairly interesting variation on the FF origin story, but not quite satisfying. Too dark, for one thing, both visually and in tone. (Might’ve worked a little better as a graphic novel.) Familiar characters weren’t left familiar enough to feel like the “friends” fans were expecting. Or, at least, not this fan. Still,… it didn’t suck as much as some of the reviews (when it came out) led me to believe.

736784-namor3What can we expect going forward? Well, at one point, it looked like Fox and Marvel had worked out an agreement that put the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Dr. Doom, and Galactus back under control of The House of Ideas (i.e., in this case, Marvel Studios). But, more recent reporting indicates that Fox still has the rights and may try for a FF sequel or reboot around 2020. Of course, that could be inaccurate or could change in the future. One interesting piece of related news is that the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner, are back with Marvel Studios. (Yet another imperious foreigner with a thing for Sue!) If Marvel also regained control of the FF, they could introduce Namor and the Atlanteans as the villain. He/they could return as an ally in a sequel down the road. This could be really cool, if done right and, of course, faithful to the source material. Keepin’ my fingers crossed….

P.S.  I really need to fan-cast the FF!

Evaluating Marvel’s Cinematic Avengers

By all reports, Avengers: Age of Ultron is already kickin’ butt in Europe. Assuming this post goes to press on time (i.e., the night I’m on the road to Baltimore), the film will have its North American premiere in just two days from now (May 1, 2015)! Woo-hoo! Circumstances will, unfortunately, prevent me from seeing it anytime soon, but I am still stoked to see the latest installment of Marvel’s cinematic Avengers. In fact, just the other day I re-watched the first Avengers film to get in the mood. (LOVE the Hulk scenes!) That, and to help put me in the right mindset for writing this post.

I’m not going to get into a whole lot of detail, but I have been thinking about it for awhile and wanted to comment on two aspects of the on-screen Avengers (both as a team and in solo adventures): casting, naturally, and characterization. Overall, I like the actors and think they (and the directors) are doing a terrific job. Individually, nobody’s “perfect” (except maybe Fury), but they all range from good to great. Of course, I also have a few nits to pick. So, without further ado, and in alphabetical order….

The-Avengers-Movie-1-Team-Pose-570x332Black Widow / Natalia “Natasha” Romanova: Scarlett Johansson has the curves and is certainly pretty enough to play the Russian femme fatale, though I don’t think her face is quite right for the character. (Not in my mind, anyway.) Neither is her voice, which I think should be less husky and with at least a trace of a Russian accent to remind us she was a Soviet spy. (Yeah. She’s older than she looks — at least, in the comics.) Also, at 5’3″, she is several inches shorter than the comic version, who is listed at 5’7″. (Her stunt double, Heidi Moneymaker, is the same height, so at least they’re consistent.)

Since she hasn’t had a solo movie, we haven’t learned a whole lot about her past or how she began working for S.H.I.E.L.D. We do know she’s worked with Barton before and they have a strong mutual respect and close working relationship. (Romantic, too?) We have seen some of Natasha’s fighting and gymnastic skills, acting ability, marksmanship, and electric “widow’s bite”. She has also displayed a stereotypical Russian cynicism and wry humor. Johansson has handled it all quite capably and believably. In the end, while she would not have been my choice to cast, I think ScarJo does a great job with the character.

Captain America / Steve Rogers: Chris Evans has been doing a wonderful job as the old-fashioned, patriotic super-soldier. He is almost as tall (6′) as the comics Cap (6’2″), and his bulked-up physique is almost big enough. They did a decent job with his origins, including many details from the comics re Dr. Erskine, the Super-Soldier Serum, vita-rays, etc. After that, though, his WWII career seemed a bit rushed. (As cool as the Winter Soldier is in the movies, I wish they had handled Bucky more faithfully.) In a recent post, I expressed my annoyance that Cap seemingly became both an expert hand-to-hand combatant and a master strategist/tactician practically overnight. The audience really should have seen vignettes or gotten other visual clues of him studying and training. Also, maybe it’s too early in his present-day career, but Cap doesn’t seem to come across as having the gravitas that he does (and should) in the comics, as a war (super)hero and leader of men.

Going back to his behavior and relationships for a moment, I like that the filmmakers have made a point to remind us here & there that Rogers is a “man out of time”. He really does come from a simpler (in many ways), more “innocent” era. Yet, he is adapting admirably. I appreciate, as well, that he is still working out what he thinks and feels about his teammates, while maintaining a great deal of respect for their abilities and accomplishments, even when he might disagree with them. (I think this will come more into play in Captain America: Civil War.) I could nitpick a bit, but overall I enjoy Evans as Rogers/Cap.

Hawkeye / Clint Barton: I like Jeremy Renner — really, I do — and he has done a decent job with the Barton/Hawkeye character, as it has been written for him. But, I have a few issues with both casting and characterization for the movies. Let’s begin with his size — Renner’s 5’10”, ~175lbs. vs. the comic version’s 6’3″, 230 lbs. (see Marvel’s wikia). That’s slightly bigger than Cap! Honestly, given Barton’s primary skillset, the size difference isn’t that big a deal, as long as he is sufficiently bulked up in the arms and upper body, which Renner seems to be. But, I would have liked a closer match. In fact, if he wasn’t playing Cap, Chris Evans might’ve been a good casting pick for ol’ Hawkeye!

As with Black Widow, the lack of solo film means we have a minimum of info on the cinematic version’s past. I hope they reveal more about his history with Black Widow. (Note: In the early comics, they were lovers in their spy/criminal days.) If this Hawkeye is based on the “Earth-616” comic Hawkeye, they should eventually at least mention his circus upbringing and early life of crime. (Note 2: This version of Barton eventually dates & marries Bobbi Morse, aka the Avenger called Mockingbird, so that could be a fun crossover someday.) If he is based more on the Ultimate version, I hope they reference his competing in the Olympics, being on death row, maybe participating in the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. We really do need to see him interact more with the rest of the Avengers team, too. By the way, in the comics (original version, at least), Barton is much more vocal — loud-mouthed, even, and sometimes belligerent — with a sarcastic wit. Why such a change? (Probably because they already altered Tony Stark to be the comic relief. (see below)) When I can look past all of these differences, though, I do like Renner’s Hawkeye and the slight air of mystery about him.

The-Avengers-movie-review-from-BrusimmHulk / Bruce Banner: When not hulked-out, Bruce Banner is supposed to be 5’10” (or thereabouts) and a 128 lb. weakling. In other words, a scrawny scientist guy who probably never set foot in a gym outside of high school Phys. Ed. class. On the big screen so far, Banner has been portrayed by hunky Eric Bana (Banner?) (6’2.5″,b.1968), Edward Norton (6′,b.1969) (also quite physically fit), and now Mark Ruffalo (5’8″,b.1967). Ruffalo seems to be the favorite among Hulk fans, and I would agree with them. He is certainly the best yet in terms of height and build. But, he is also the oldest of the three. If/when the Hulk character is able to have solo films again, I do hope they cast someone younger and slimmer. (I have a few ideas….)

As for Banner’s current cinematic characterization, I think it is pretty good. In the comics, Banner has varied in his level of self-confidence, assertiveness, depression, self-control, etc., as he copes with the burden of being the Hulk. Since Ruffalo’s Banner is a few years into that journey, I have no problem with him pulling from any of those periods in Banner’s life. As long as his struggle is palpable and he remains a sympathetic character — e.g., not becoming apathetic, arrogant, or a sarcastic jerk (except when Mr. Fixit) — I’ll be happy. (Even happier if his pants are purple, as they were meant to be.) I’d also like to see Rick Jones thrown into the mix.

Iron Man / Tony Stark: I know Robert Downey, Jr. is very popular and well-loved in his portrayal of this character. Personally, though, I’m not so impressed. Yes, he sort of looks the part, he’s handsome and charismatic. And, of course, he’s a wonderful actor, and I appreciate his enthusiasm and everything he has done to promote and give superhero movies more… legitimacy. But, he is 5’8.5″, maybe 160 lbs, and just hit 50 years old. (He was 43 when the first Iron Man came out.) Tony Stark is supposed to be 6’1″, a beefy 225 lbs., and probably under 30 when he first built and donned a certain armored suit. When they re-cast the part — as they inevitably must –, I seriously hope they get someone closer to the comic version in age and size. (Btw, even assuming continuity with earlier films, I can think of at least 3 ways to easily explain a younger, bigger Stark.)

Stark’s on-screen personality has always bugged me, too. Essentially, he *is* RDJ. Sure, he is a brilliant inventor and billionaire playboy. He should also be closer to the comics version of Tony Stark, which is suave and debonair, a bit more serious, businesslike, and much less free with the jokes and witty/snarky remarks. Not that Stark doesn’t have a good sense of humor; the movie version just overdoes it. (Note: They did the same thing with by-the-book Hal Jordan in the 2011 Green Lantern.) As I have mentioned before, it is almost as if Stark and Barton switched half their personalities in the transition from comic page to silver screen.

Nick Fury: While I would love to see the original version of Nick Fury on-screen (and not played by David Hasselhoff!), I like the Ultimate version just as much. So, since the producers went with the Ultimate version, how could they cast him any better than with the guy he was intentionally modeled after in the first place? He looks and acts just like him! 😉 As I understand it, Samuel L. Jackson was flattered by writer Mark Millar’s use of him as the basis for Ultimate Nick Fury, plus he is a huge Avengers fan to begin with, so it’s no surprise that he is having fun playing in that sandbox on screen.

Thor Odinson: Next to Fury, Thor is probably the next most perfectly cast. The 6’2.75″ Chris Hemsworth is tall, blonde, handsome, quite muscular, can pass for Germanic/Scandinavian, has a deep voice and confident swagger — all necessary for a faithful portrayal of Marvel’s arrogant-but-noble god of thunder. I would prefer even more height and muscle, since Thor is supposed to be 6’6″ and built like a bodybuilder. But, it’s pretty hard to find decent actors with such a physique, so… I’m very satisfied with Hemsworth.

Thor’s relationships with fellow-Avengers (what we’ve seen, so far) and other Asgardians — in particular, Odin, the Warriors Three, Loki — seem mostly on point. (Though, I don’t consider myself an expert on Thor and Asgard.) Jane Foster is another story… quite literally. She is a nurse, then physician, in the comics, not some sort of astrophysicist. Of course, the comics version of Thor started out having a human alter ego of the lame Dr. Donald Blake. While it might not change their attraction to one another, these changes do greatly alter their personal & professional dynamic. I am actually glad that the movie writers/producers opted to not have the Blake persona involved, though it might make for an interesting development later — especially if Thor reverts to being Blake when out of contact with Mjolnir for more than a minute, as in the earlier comics.

On a final note, I have been generally satisfied with the various costumes but would like to see them be even closer to the classic comics versions. I think Cap’s various uniforms are supposed to be reminiscent of what he wears in the Ultimate universe, but I prefer the original — complete with fishscale-looking, chain-mail shirt. Sigh! Hawkeye’s outfit looks closer to the Ultimate version, but I would love to see some purple added in in homage to the original. (I think I saw some in ads for Avengers: Age of Ultron!) I have to say that the Iron Man armors have been the coolest!

OK. I’m done. Can’t wait to see what they throw at us next….

Avengers Assemble!

Fan-Cast: Captain Marvel IV (Marvel)

Alright, sports fa… er, comics fans! Time for a fan-casting exercise, and our honoree this time is Carol Danvers, aka Marvel’s current Captain Marvel. (The original was a Kree warrior who I’ll say more about in a minute. The second was Monica Rambeau (aka Photon, Pulsar, Spectrum). The third was the first guy’s son. Thus, the “IV” for Danvers.) She has been garnering a lot of speculation, lately, what with her being the star of Marvel’s first female-led movie (scheduled release: Nov. 2, 2018). Naturally, I wanted to throw my two cents — or, maybe four cents? — into the discussion for who should be cast in the role. So,…

Captain Marvel IV

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

For those who need a brief rundown of Carol Danvers’ life, here ya go. Danvers was a top-performing Air Force cadet, who was recruited into Special Operations and trained as an intelligence operative (i.e., a “spy”). She even crossed the Black Widow on at least one occasion. Danvers’ stellar performance and reputation resulted in her getting a position with NASA as their youngest ever head of security, which also came with a promotion to Colonel. She met and befriended the Kree soldier, Captain Mar-Vell, who would later become known on Earth as the superheroic adventurer Captain Marvel. During a battle between Mar-Vell and his former commander, Yon-Rogg, Danvers was knocked into a damaged Kree Psyche-Magnitron. Her genetic structure was altered, effectively making her a half-Kree superhuman.

For various reasons, Danvers was demoted… twice… and finally resigned from NASA. She briefly worked as a writer and magazine editor. When her new powers (e.g., superstrength, speed, flight, concussive energy blasts from her hands, etc.) manifested themselves, Danvers adopted the name Ms. Marvel and a costume patterned after Mar-Vell’s. Over the years, Danvers joined the Avengers, lost her powers, survived a murder attempt by Rogue (who was still an “evil” mutant, at the time) and temporarily lost her memories, became the cosmically powered mutate called Binary, joined the space-faring band of adventurers known as the Starjammers, exhausted her cosmic energies to save the Sun, regained her Marvel-like powers and called herself Warbird, rejoined the Avengers, battled alcoholism, regained her confidence and some emotional stability, worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, led at least one version of the Avengers, and was dubbed “Captain Marvel” by the dying Mar-Vell (though she didn’t adopt the title for some time).

Captain Marvel w/ optional Kree-style headgear

Captain Marvel w/ optional Kree-style headgear

Danvers is an extremely capable — if headstrong — warrior and leader. She is very devoted to her friends (and her Flerkan cat) and considers Captain America a mentor and father-figure, probably partially due to their shared military backgrounds and partially due to his giving her the support and encouragement that her real father never did. Though not always drawn as such, Marvel’s wiki lists Danvers as 5’11”, so I think any actress that takes the part should be above average height — say, at least 5’9″. She is an attractive blonde, very physically fit, athletic, and trained in martial arts. Her age in a movie, of course, is dependent upon how closely it follows the comics version and when in her life she is introduced to the audience. If the story begins with her as a captain in the Air Force, she should be in her late-20s, I think. If she is already in her head-of-security position at NASA or later, then late-20s to early-30s seems appropriate. We might have to go with an actress who is actually in her mid-30s, but as long as she can pass for a few years younger, it should be fine.

When I first began thinking about fan-casting for Carol Danvers, I seriously considered Jennifer Morrison (5’5.25″,b.1979) of “Once Upon a Time” — that is, until I realized how short she is. I considered “Battlestar Galactica”‘s Katee Sackhoff (5’6″,b.1980), who is a fan-favorite, but she is also too short and, imho, doesn’t seem quite right for the part. When looking about for very physically fit candidates, MMA-fighter Ronda Rousey (5’6”,b.1987) came to mind. But, in addition to being on the short side and just barely old enough, I don’t think she has the acting chops to play a major character. Eventually, I started noticing fans of “Vikings” (which I haven’t watched) claiming Kathryn Winnick (5’6″,b.1977) would be perfect. She is an accomplished martial artist, with black belts in Karate and Tae Kwon Do. Well, she looks great and can handle the action, but she’s also on the short side and a tad older than we’d prefer. Ellen Hollman (5’7″,b.1983) of “Spartacus: War of the Damned” has the right look and is quite athletic, but she is also under our height parameter. With “Camelot”‘s Tamsin Egerton (5’10.5”,b.1988), I finally found someone who was tall enough, but she is actually a little too young (at the moment, anyway).

Never fear, though, for I did indeed find four statuesque beauties, all with the physical attributes, age requirements, and acting experience required to faithfully portray Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. They are…

Yvonne Strahovski

Yvonne Strahovski

Yvonne Strahovski (5’9.25″,b.1982) is both the youngest and the shortest of these candidates, and she is one of the top five (along with Winnick, Sackhoff, Emily Blunt, and Natalie Dormer) who I see others suggesting for this part. Everyone loved her as the gorgeous spy/girlfriend on “Chuck”, the mysterious murderess(?) on “Dexter”, and/or the federal agent pursuing-then-assisting Jack Bauer in “24: Live Another Day”. She has also starred in movies like Killer Elite and I, Frankenstein. She’s beautiful, smart, and can play a pretty convincing “action hero”. In essence, Strahovski seems a natural to portray the military officer-turned-superhero, Carol Danvers.

Nicole Steinwedell

Nicole Steinwedell

I think the first thing I saw Nicole Steinwedell (5’11”,b.1981) in was the late, lamented “The Unit”. She played a sergeant in the U.S. Army, attached to the Department of Defense’s Intelligence section. This was probably not much of a stretch, since Wikipedia tells us “Her grandfather was a colonel in the Army and her parents were both marines.” She has also appeared in shows like “White Collar”, “Breakout Kings”, and “NCIS”. But, it is Steinwedell’s personal background, not to mention her physical attributes, that make her a great candidate to play Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel.

 

Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols (5’10”,b.1980) should be very familiar to genre fans. She first came to my attention playing a federal agent in the short-lived “The Inside”, then co-starring in the final season of “Alias”. She was in season 6 of “Criminal Minds”, and, of course, recently starred in “Continuum”. Meanwhile, she has appeared in several movies, including very minor roles (e.g., Star Trek) and starring roles (e.g., G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra). (She also co-starred(?) with Steinwedell in Raze.) Nichols fits the look we need, often plays strong female characters, and could definitely nail this role.

 

Kristanna Loken

Kristanna Loken

Genre fans probably remember Kristanna Loken (5’11”,b.1979) as the “evil”, sexy T-X Terminator in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Before that, Loken appeared in such genre fare as “Aliens in the Family”, “Lois & Clark”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, and co-starred in “Mortal Kombat: Conquest”. After T3, she showed up in BloodRayne, In the Name of the King, “Painkiller Jane”, “Burn Notice”, Hunting the Phantom, and the recent Mercenaries. Though well into her mid-30s, Loken can easily pass for younger, and I think she has the physique and the action cred to pull off Danvers/Marvel.

 

Those are my picks for Marvel’s Captain Marvel, and I’d be thrilled with any of them, though I’m leaning toward Loken at the moment. Of course, they will all be 3 years older when the movie comes out, so that might knock a couple out of the running. Maybe Tamsin Egerton would work, after all. Or,…

What about you folks? Thoughts? Comments? Write ’em below….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.

Proposed Guidelines for Superhero Movie Franchises

I’ve never been a movie producer, nor do I play one on TV. But, I do watch a lot of movies (and TV shows), especially in the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. (Big surprise, right?) I am also a huge comic book fan. (Another non-revelation.) The superhero (sub)genre in particular is a great amalgam of the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. I feel very fortunate to be around when the technology has finally advanced enough to give us superhero-based movies where the audience can truly “believe that a man can fly”… or throw a Buick… or stick to walls… or shoot concussive blasts from his eyes… or shrug off bullets as mere annoyances.

hulk13But, as excited and appreciative as I have been of the efforts expended in creating the many superhero films of the last 15 years (and, yes, even a few before that), I can’t help but also be somewhat disappointed — to varying degrees — with certain aspects of those films. As I have said before, I realize that some things “need” to be tweaked to bring the setting and dialogue up to date or to make the pacing more conducive to the medium or some such thing. On the other hand, those who make these movies — even those who are huge fans themselves — make a lot of changes, big and small, that don’t really seem completely necessary. They also squeeze a whole lotta stuff into a 2 hour movie (give or take) that doesn’t need to be there, while other things get left out that really need more explanation. (For example, when & how did Captain America become a master strategist/tactician? When & how did he learn to fight so skillfully? Those things don’t automatically come with big muscles. We should have seen him studying masters like Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and learning military history both before and after his transformation. Between his appearances on stage, we should have seen him in intense martial arts training with a sensei or sifu.)

Sure, the studio, producers, and directors probably all feel pressured to put out the next “action-packed blockbuster” film-of-the-year. And, that’s fine. But, it shouldn’t be at the expense of a coherent story or believable characters, particularly when it comes to respecting the source material. So, here is what I would tell a studio exec who (for some odd reason) asked my advice about what elements — besides good acting, directing, etc. — would make a successful superhero movie franchise:

1) Be faithful to the source material. This includes origins, physical appearances, and personalities. In what we have seen so far, this has been hit-or-miss. Non-comic fans probably don’t care much, but most loyal comic fans do. And we are why you are making these movies, so you need to please us first! Yes, we understand that the film versions aren’t going to be exact replicas, especially the further back in time the original stories were. But, that’s no excuse for throwing out the bulk of the original content. For example, if another Hulk origin story is ever filmed, I can definitely see a “new type of gamma bomb” being developed and tested, so that the original scene (including Rick Jones) can be replicated, even if the bomb itself doesn’t look quite like what Jack Kirby drew. But, please, cast people who actually look similar to the characters. For example, part of what makes Bruce Banner who he is is being a slightly-built science nerd. None of the actors who have played him in movies, so far, fits the bill. (Eric Bana in particular was too tall and buff to play the wimpy scientist (see image above).) And don’t totally change their personalities, either! (Did I miss a Freaky Friday remake where Clint Barton and Tony Stark’s minds switched bodies?!)

Also, if any producer, writer, or director starts talking about “re-imagining” a particular character or team (e.g., making Dr. Doom a hacker anarchist, or Felicia Hardy becoming “The Vulturess” instead of Black Cat), show ’em the door! We don’t want their “awesome ideas”. We want the characters we’ve been reading about for years (decades, even) to come to life!

2) Stick to the classic costume(s) without much variation — at least, to start. This is really a part of #1, but I thought it needed to be singled out. Sure, most heroes and villains go through an evolution in their costumes and gear. But, there is usually a specific costume (or, at least, a style and color-scheme) that stands out, probably from the 1980s to early 2000s. That is what the die-hard fans want to see! Unless it looks totally hokey in “live action” — I mean, we are talking costumed crimefighters & supervillains, here –, please stick as close as possible to the most common, most recognized version of each character’s costume. And don’t change it for every sequel just for the sake of changing it. (*CoughBatmanCough!*) Let there be a good reason for certain modifications that come organically out of the character’s experiences. (For example, almost dying because your cape keeps getting caught on stuff or used to trip or strangle you? It might be time to phase it out.) You can have fun with it and still be faithful to the comics.

3) Don’t try to cram too much in! It seems to be the tendency of the writers of these movies to want to include characters and relationships and plots from several decades’ worth of material all in one movie! I know there is a lot of great material to draw from, but please control yourselves. Some of that material really needs to be developed and phased in over time. Be patient and don’t rush it. If the writing is good and the franchise continues, there will be time later on to explore that stuff. Yeah, I know. You might not be working on the later movies and might not get to tell it the way you want to. Well, tough! It’s not about you, Mr. Screenwriter. It’s about telling good stories about established characters and allowing them to grow naturally.

Batman Forever poster4) Don’t overdo the villains! This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. There are a lot of great supervillains out there to pull from. We all have our favorites that we want to see on-screen. But, there is no need to put three major villains in one movie! Worse, by having so many colorful characters, each with their own motivations and eccentricities, it’s difficult to let any of them really shine. Schumacher’s Batman films suffered from this (among other things), with Riddler & Two-Face (and Sugar & Spice) in one and Mr. Freeze & Poison Ivy (and an out-of-character, dim-witted Bane) in the second. Spider-Man 3 (2007) is infamous for this, as well, what with Sandman, Venom, and the new Goblin competing for attention. So, please, try to stick to one major supervillain, supplemented by henchmen and other non-powered/armored criminals. The exception would be something like Sinister Six or Suicide Squad, where the team of baddies is the focus — even better if some or all of them have already been introduced in other films.

5) Don’t make every movie about a doomsday plot of some sort, where a city, nation, or the planet are about to be destroyed! Really. Cut it out. When you keep doing this, you have to keep topping yourself (and the other studios) to have more and more devastation. It gets old. But, if you’d just ease up a bit, you can have great stories — whether adapted from the comics or, here’s a thought, totally original — that involve heists, serial killers, rogue intelligence operatives, mob wars, etc. That brings me to my last suggestion….

6) Give us a solid story & script. This might seem obvious, or maybe not. We fanboys/girls are not stupid. Don’t rely too much on action scenes and special F/X. Those are really cool, but anyone over 12 — and most of us are, remember — needs more than that. We want good stories about real people, not just one-dimensional cutouts. (I’m sure the actors appreciate this, too.) A nice dose of humor when and where appropriate to the characters and story is also appreciated. If you don’t let the action and F/X overshadow the story and acting, you might get more respect at the Oscars, too. Just sayin’….

‘Nuff said!

Fan-Cast: Daredevil, part 2: Foggy & Karen

Continuing on from last week’s post (not the Leonard Nimoy tribute), I’ve come up with some potential candidates to portray Foggy Nelson and Karen Page in a live-action adaptation of “Daredevil”. (What? There’s already one coming out next month on Netflix? Dang it!) I don’t know if any of them are “perfect”, but I think they’re pretty darn good!

Franklin “Foggy” Nelson

Foggy NelsonFoggy Nelson is Matt Murdock’s best friend from law school, confidante, law partner, boss (when Nelson briefly became District Attorney of New York City), and law partner again. They have been through thick and thin together (no pun intended), including many personal and professional ups & downs. Loyal friend that he is, Nelson also plays the serious “straight man” to Matt’s sometimes impulsive and/or irresponsible side and (once he was in the know) helps to keep Murdock’s secret identity safe. Physically, Nelson has been drawn as ranging from slightly to very “chunky”, though never (to my knowledge) obese. Marvel’s wiki lists him as 5’10”, 220 lbs, so that’s a pretty good place to start. I would broaden the height requirement to between 5’7″ and 6′ (or so).

It’s not enough to just cast a chunky guy for comic relief, else we could get someone like Patton Oswalt (5’3.5″,b.1969) or Jack Black (5’6″,b.1969). (Although, they are also too old for the part and below our height parameter.) Some have suggested Jonah Hill (5’7″,b.1983), but I’m not sure he’s believable in a serious role, especially as a competent attorney. As indicated above, the character goes through a lot, so the actor must be able to do comedy and drama, portraying a range of emotions believably. I considered Sean Murray (6’1.5″,b.1977) from “NCIS”, assuming he would put back on some of that extra weight he had in the early seasons. But, he is just a mite too tall and maybe too old. A pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt might have been a good choice, though I don’t know how much serious drama he has done. (He’s rather buff now, of course, and has his hands full with GotG and possibly an Indiana Jones reboot, among other things.) If we were casting this 10 years ago, I would consider Sean Astin (5’7″,b.1971), whom others have suggested, too. Since we aren’t, I’ve come up with these three, instead:

Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen

That’s right — Seth Rogen (5’11”,b.1982) of Superbad, Pineapple Express, and The Interview fame. I know he usually does comedic stuff, but I think he might actually be able to pull this off, too. He has also been in “Freaks and Geeks”, Donnie Darko, The Green Hornet, and did voice work on things like Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens. I’m not exactly a fan (except for that last movie), but at least he looks the part….

 

 

James Corden

James Corden

I admit, I wasn’t actually aware of James Corden (5’8″,b.1978) until I saw the ads and trailer for Into the Woods a few weeks ago. (Looks like a younger Andy Richter, no?) He’s older than I’d prefer but young-looking. He is a Brit, who has appeared in Heroes and Villains (actually a rom-com), Vampire Killers, Gulliver’s Travels, and “Doctor Who”. Even did a little voice work on Planet 51. I think he’d make a great Foggy Nelson.

 

Josh McDermitt

Josh McDermitt

If you are trying to place Josh McDermitt‘s (6’0.5″,b.1978) face, you are probably a fan of “The Walking Dead”. McDermitt has been playing the “odd” Dr. Eugene Porter — the man who knows the cure — since season 4. He is a stand-up comedian who only started acting a few years ago, but he has been in “Retired at 35” and a comedic video short called “Iron Man 2 Table Read”. Though the same age as Corden, he has also retained his youthful appearance, and I think he could be just right for ol’ Foggy.

Karen Page

Karen Page

Karen Page

Karen Page - daydreamingKaren Page, of course, has a complicated and tragic role in the “Daredevil” mythos. She begins as a sweet, young secretary with a crush on one of her bosses, Matt Murdock. (Of course, Nelson also falls for her.) Often the damsel in distress who gets saved by Daredevil and/or another hero, Page does eventually become romantically involved with Murdock for a while. She later pursues an acting career, but, thanks to bad decisions and bad luck, she falls into prostitution, drug addiction, and pornography. Though she betrays Matt/DD, Murdock reconciles with her. Unfortunately, she is killed by the supervillain Bullseye. Depending on how closely the writers/producers stick to the comics version and how far/quickly into that life-arc the character progresses, there could be plenty of opportunity for an actor to portray (as with Nelson) a great range of emotional situations.

In the issue where Karen is originally introduced by Nelson to Murdock, the latter thinks to himself that she is 5’4″. But, Marvel’s wiki page lists her as 5’7″. That’s a pretty good height range for her, though I considered actors that are shorter (Elisha Cuthbert (5’2.5″,b.1982)) and a couple inches taller (Maggie Grace (5’9″,b.1983)). As for her age, she might be the same age as Murdock and Nelson, but she could also be in her early- to mid-20s when they all meet. One I considered on the younger end of the age range, then, is Margot Robbie (5’6″,b.1990), who recently nabbed the plum role of “Harley Quinn” in the Suicide Squad feature film. One actor who would be great for the role, except that she is already in her early-40s, is Melissa Sagemiller (5’6″,b.1974). (Could easily pass for 5 years younger, though.) So, I would like to present these three for your consideration:

Gillian Jacobs

Gillian Jacobs

Anyone who watches the sitcom “Community” knows the lovely Gillian Jacobs (5’4″,b.1982). As for her genre work, she has appeared in (or done voice work for) “Fringe”, The Box, “Robot Chicken”, “Tiny Commando”, and the “Monsters vs. Aliens” TV series. Though a little on the short side, I think Jacobs could probably handle all aspects of the Karen Page character very well.

 

 

 

Rachael Taylor

Rachael Taylor

Rachael Taylor (5’7.75″,b.1984) first came to my attention in last year’s TV drama “Crisis”, where she played a federal agent. The role of Karen Page would obviously be quite different. But, she has done plenty of other types of roles, including in Transformers, Ghost Machine, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Charlie’s Angels”. And, ironically, Taylor has been cast as Trish Walker (aka Hellcat) in the “A.K.A. Jessica Jones” series that will follow “Daredevil” on Netflix.

 

 

Abbie Cornish

Abbie Cornish

I brought up Abbie Cornish (5’8″,b.1982) before, back when I was fan-casting for Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman. She has appeared in Stop-Loss, Limitless, Sucker Punch, the recent Robocop remake, as well as a number of movies and TV series in her native Australia. Cornish has a pretty good range of work and would likely enjoy delving into the many facets of Karen Page’s life.

 

 

 

What do you think of my choices? Not bad? Suck? One o’ these days, I’ll get around to fan-casting Daredevil’s main villains (e.g., Bullseye, Kingpin, Typhoid Mary) and other supporting characters (e.g., Elektra, Rosalind Sharpe), though many of them cross over with the Spider-Man “universe”. But, at least I got the central players done.

See ya next week!

New Page of Upcoming Movie Release Dates

Doctor Who - Series 7

Hey, folks!

Announcing a new “resource” for you! If you look at the top of the blog, you should now see a link for an “Upcoming Movie Release Dates” page. For several months, now, I have been trying to keep up with all of the announced dates for upcoming movies that fit the general theme of “Heroes and Aliens”. I finally decided to make it accessible as a quick reference for my readers, too. It’s not fancy, but you may find it helpful.

I get my dates from several genre-related sources. But, I’m bound to miss one here and there. So, if you see a date for a release that sounds wrong — maybe you read another date elsewhere — or a movie I haven’t listed, yet, then please let me know in the comments on that page. I’ll look into it and update if necessary.

Thanks a lot!

Brief Notes on Incredible Hulk (2008)

Last week, I posted some commentary I’d made a few years ago about the Fantastic Four movies of 2005 & 2007. As a loyal Marvel fan since way back (though, no longer a “zombie”), I was just as much a Hulk fan as I was a Fantastic Four fan. Still am. Gotta love ol’ Jade Jaws! So, of course, I am also anxious to see him (and his supporting cast) portrayed faithfully on the big screen.

It was great to seem him in all his rampaging, CGI glory in the 2003 Hulk film, but it was disappointing in many ways, especially the ending battle. (I haven’t seen it in years and didn’t take notes then, else I’d post them here, too.) The best part was the near-perfectly-cast Sam Elliott as General “Thunderbolt” Ross. (I say “near-perfect” because he didn’t bluster as much as the comic version.) Anyway, I was really hoping that the re-cast 2008 sequel would be better. And it was! But, me being me, it wasn’t quite good enough. So,… for what they’re worth, here are a few notes on that one:

Very enjoyable!

Incredible Hulk movie poster1) Hulk and Abomination both looked great. The Abomination’s look is closer to the recently further-mutated version, which was fine, though I prefer the original.

2) Great FX, though you could still tell at times that it was CGI, of course.

3) Gen. Ross was OK, but he should have been more “gruff” looking & sounding. He actually looked like Sam Elliott in a couple shots.

4) Nitpicks:

a) Physics sometimes didn’t operate as it should have. Specifically, when Hulk & Abom. leaped onto the helicopter pontoon, it barely lurched. That’s 1-2 tons of dead-weight yanking on one side, and nothing bent or broke?!! Second, when Hulk (1000+ lbs) was leaping away from building to building, each footfall on the top of a building should have resulted in a large hole, if not collapsing.

b) Why didn’t Hulk have leaping ability he has in comics (and even in 2003 Hulk film)?

c) Ending fight was much better than that in 2003 Hulk. But, he should have killed Abomination. Of course, the bleeding-heart lefties in Hollywood wouldn’t tolerate that. At the very least, he should have made sure Abom. was unconscious, so the army guys had time to tranq him before he recovered.

5) Remember how Dr. Stern’s head started to throb when some of Banner’s blood dripped onto his open wound?  That’s the set up for the sequel. One of the producers has already said that, assuming they do a sequel, the villain will probably be The Leader (i.e., guy with really big brain). Thing is, the comic version has Stern as a janitor of average-or-below IQ who is gamma-mutated into the big-brainy guy. They could have done that in this movie, too.

6) I’m not impressed with the guy who played Leonard, the “head shrink” dating Betty. I am assuming that he is supposed to be Leonard Samson (from the comics). If they have him gamma-irradiated in a sequel, they will have to CGI his body, too. (Roughly 6’7″, built like a wrestler, long green hair.)

Not sure why I thought they would have to use CGI for Samson, when there are actors of Samson’s height and build (or close to it). Not great ones, mind you. The actor would have to be believable as both brainy and brawny, so I suppose they might opt to do CGI & motion capture for Samson, too. To find out who I would cast for Samson, you’ll have to wait until I get around to a full fan-casting post-series for the “Hulk family”….

Meanwhile, I hear rumors about yet another Hulk solo film (using the Mark Ruffalo version from The Avengers) and/or a new TV series. Here’s hopin’ that, whatever they do, they make us loyal-thru-the-years fans happy!

Notes on Fantastic Four Movies

Sometimes, after watching an action-packed movie — especially one that is sci-fi/superhero-oriented — my head is just swirling with the whole experience. (You probably know the feeling.) So, over the next few hours, or maybe a day or two at most, I jot down impressions about what I liked and didn’t like. You know how I like superhero movies to be true to the source material, right? I try to be charitable with my criticisms….

So, here are the notes I made after watching the Fantastic Four (2005), lo, those many years ago. Nothing profound, but you may find them somewhat interesting, and maybe you had similar feelings or observations. Or, maybe you totally disagree, and that’s fine, too.

FF movie posterThe effects were FANTASTIC!!

The acting was fine for what they had to work with, but the characters (both casting & characterization) left something to be desired.

1) Johnny/Torch — the overall personality and love for extreme sports was great, but he was a little too old; having him as a NASA washout who Victor then hires is not believable (though, I suppose, Vic may have hired him as a favor to Susan); would have been better as an extreme sports-loving, pranksterish undergrad who sneaks onboard the rocket (to the station) on a dare or as the “ultimate thrill-ride”.

2) Susan/Invisible Woman — I love Jessica Alba, but her look was all wrong for the part. I would not have made her a geneticist, especially not a head of research — not at her age and lack of experience. (Is she supposed to be a genius, too? She already had a PhD by 24?) The part calls for a smart woman (but not a scientist) with more Western European looks (e.g., British, German, Scandinavian, or French). Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant from Spider-Man movies) would have been good.

3) Reed/Mr. Fantastic — A slightly different look would have been better. Plus, the gray temples should have been more noticeable. It should have been explained better why the effects of the radiation chamber were only temporary, too.

4) Ben/Thing — Probably the only casting I really agree with, though they should have made him slightly taller and definitely bigger/bulkier (as Thing). Or, maybe this is just “stage 1”?

5) Victor von Doom — McMahon looks the part, but they should have dubbed a deeper, more menacing voice with Eastern European (i.e., “Latverian”) accent. Also, he should have been more elitist and condescending, like an arrogant nobleman who expects butt-kissing servitude. He should NOT have mutated into a poor-man’s Colossus, let alone one with electrical powers. He shouldn’t have even gone on the mission; but, if they “had” to have him there, he should have been the only one properly shielded from the radiation storm. Then, when it came time for his revenge, he could have built the signature Dr. Doom armor (with electrical blasts, I suppose).

6) Alicia — I liked her characterization (minimal though her screentime was) and don’t mind TOO much that she wasn’t a white woman with orangey-red hair.

There were certain plot elements that didn’t make sense or could have been done better. For example:

1) When Ben escaped the medical/research facility, why couldn’t the others have caught up to him? He only had a few seconds’ head start, and he must have left a pretty noticeable trail….

2) It would have made MUCH more sense for them to go back to that facility, perhaps even kept quarantined and studied by others (though Reed & Sue would likely have insisted on helping).

3) Why did Sue’s force-blast have so little effect on Doom?

4) Since it was established that Ben had no understanding of genetics, how did he know how to set the machines to change him BACK into the Thing? Could it have been as easy as flipping a switch, turning a dial, or pushing a couple buttons?

As you can see, I did like some stuff, but there was plenty to be annoyed with, too. Non-comics fans may not understand, but for long-time, loyal readers/fans like me, these “details” can be important and irksome when they are messed with. Notice how my questions/comments lean toward the negative…?

The sequel, of course, came out a couple years later. Here’s what I jotted down about that one….

FF sequel movie posterAdditional comments re Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007):

1) Surfer’s general look and effects were great! Also, Fishburne’s voice (sufficiently altered) fit nicely, though it would have been nice if a) there was some sort of accent and b) there was a moment or two showing him learning/assimilating one or more Earth languages. (Question: Why bother learning any, if the plan was to “consume” the planet anyway?!)

2) Can’t remember how much of a link there is between Surfer’s power and the board in the comics, but I know he is far from powerless without it.

3) Not sure I like the added power of “phasing” through solid matter. His powers are supposed to be “cosmic-energy” based and have nothing to do with matter manipulation. On the other hand, just throwing energy blasts around could get boring quickly.

4) I would not have brought Doom back so soon, but at least his scheming was in character.

5) I liked how Surfer (re-)learned compassion from the FF’s selfless acts and caring for one another, which was, if not identical, in keeping with the general story from the comics.

6) The ending was slightly anti-climactic. I guess I understand the keeping-Galactus-shrouded-in-mystery bit, but I would have liked to have gotten just a glimpse of the guy, even if he wasn’t nearly so human-looking or dressed in the usual purple-n-blue garb.

Overall, still a fun superhero flick with cool effects!

As you can see, I didn’t pick too much at the plot. I guess I am more willing to overlook a weak plot or plot holes — in an effort to just “go with it” and enjoy the movie — than I am willing to overlook changes and inconsistencies with the characters when compared to their comic-book counterparts. While I won’t tolerate too much campiness or outright stupidity, neither do I expect sophisticated writing in an action movie.

In case you’re wondering, I never saw the low-budget, never-officially-released FF movie that Roger Corman produced back in 1994. Probably just as well. I was thrilled that the team got a big budget intro to moviegoers in the 2000s but was still disappointed that they didn’t do a better job at casting or sticking to the source material. Now, a new Fantastic Four movie is set to reboot the franchise sometime next year (2015), and I have very mixed feelings about what I’ve heard, so far. (For example, some unusual casting choices and comments about altered origins and possibly different powers, etc.)

Let’s keep our metaphorical fingers crossed that the new version of the Fantastic Four is faithful enough to satisfy the core, comic-reading fans, yet different enough to intrigue the general sci-fi/action fans. Don’t screw it up, guys!