It seems like the last few weeks have had more news than usual from the geekier side of Hollywood. Not only have there been multiple comic book movies arriving in theaters in short order, but we've had studios announce some far-reaching plans for their cinematic universes, a few high-profile project and casting announcements, and even a few peeks behind the curtain – both official and unofficial – at one of the most anticipated movies on the horizon.
In short, if you're the sort who enjoys – or is professionally obligated to be – keeping up with all of this stuff, it's been a pretty crazy time to be a geek.
With that in mind, it seemed like a good opportunity to run through some of the recent news and offer up some of my own thoughts about the stories that everyone seems to be talking about lately. In the fast-moving, get-there-first world of entertainment news, time to sit back, take a deep breath, and think about what some of these stories might actually mean for the projects involved and the greater, geeky implications – so let's devote this week's column to doing exactly that.
Turtles, Raccoons and Talking Trees... Oh My!
Even though Marvel's widely praised Guardians of the Galaxy and the equally widely panned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot are on opposite sides of the critical spectrum, Paramount's heroes in half-shells have dominated the box office the last few weeks and relegated Rocket Raccoon and his pal Groot to second place at the box office. A lot of people are pointing to this as proof of civilization's inexorable decay and the degradation of all that we hold dear, but I can't help seeing a silver lining here.
I attended a Sunday matinee of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during opening weekend for the film, and the theater was jam-packed with a mix of kids and adults chowing down on popcorn and generally getting their Turtle Power on in one form or another. At the risk of sounding like a creepy eavesdropper, I couldn't help overhearing more than a few conversations that involved talk of not only the live-action movie we were about to see, but also the current Nickelodeon cartoon series, the original cartoon from the '90s, the previous live-action and CGI movies, and even lots of talk about the various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books published over the years.
Basically, that oft-repeated rationale that “reimagining” a classic property will generate interest in the original was being proven all around me, and from what I could tell, it was actually working. At one point, I even heard a pair of kids ask their parents on the way out of the theater whether they could watch the “old” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie when they got home.
So, well played, Paramount. I just can't seem to hate any film that makes it possible for a family to sit down and bask in the magic of Vanilla Ice's “Ninja Rap” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
As for Guardians of the Galaxy finishing second to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in consecutive weeks, that might seem like a bummer to quite a few people, sure – but the more important thing to realize here is that Guardians is a movie about a bunch of characters most people had never heard of a few months ago, and it's currently on pace to become the highest grossing movie of the year.
Not only is Guardians keeping up with one of the most popular franchises of the '90s, but it's showing no signs of experiencing the steep drop-off that generally happens after all of the hard-core fans of a niche property buy tickets in the first week or two. Somehow, this film about a bunch of obscure comic book characters having a wacky outer space adventure is holding its own against the reboot of a $480 million worldwide franchise produced by Michael Bay, a filmmaker whose movies have raked in more than $5.7 billion globally.
And yet, there's Rocket Raccoon and Groot, keeping right up with the ol' Turtles. Not too bad for a ragtag bunch of a-holes, eh?
On a related note, the decision to release an official clip of the dancing Groot scene from Guardians of the Galaxy is a nice reminder that Marvel Studios just understands the online world a little better than everyone else. Not only did the studio decision makers see that the scene was being obsessively talked about on Twitter and Facebook and referenced over and over again in coverage of the film, but they actually reacted to all that word of mouth in a very direct way. It shouldn't be as surprising as it is to see that sort of thing happen, but here's hoping more studios follow their lead.
A Twisted Web of Spider Speculation
As for other leads that should be followed, Sony's announcement that it has a female-led superhero movie in the works set in the Spider-Man universe has a lot of people pondering who could lead such a film. Popular opinion seems to point to characters like Black Cat or Silver Sable, two of the more popular leading ladies from Spidey's rogues gallery, but a look at the studio's film slate might suggest another possibility.
The studio currently has its Sinister Six supervillain team-up movie scheduled to hit theaters in 2016, followed by a solo movie featuring symbiote antihero Venom (possibly titled Venom Carnage) in 2017, along with the aforementioned female-led superhero movie also premiering that same year. So what if that lineup is more than just marketing? What if... (gasp)... it all means something?
In the 2011 Marvel Comics miniseries Carnage, the publisher introduced psychiatrist Tanis Nieves, a doctor working to rehabilitate the human hosts of Venom, Carnage and various other alien symbiotes. When Carnage inevitably breaks free and carves a bloody path through the country, a series of events leads to Tanis bonding with a less-dominant version of the symbiote to become Scorn (pictured right), a superpowered symbiote hero with all of the abilities of Venom and Carnage, as well as Tanis' brilliant scientific mind, and without all of the crazy, psychotic mass-murdering impulses that make the other symbiotes no fun at parties
Is it crazy to think that The Sinister Six and Venom's solo adventure might be setting the stage for Scorn to join Sony's Spider-verse? Heck, let's just take the next logic leap and ponder the likelihood that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2018 might bring Scorn and Spidey together to take on the Sinister Six and (possibly) Venom.
It's a crazy web we're spinning here, but it could be one heck of a fun story arc.
A Few Leaks Ago in a Movie Far, Far Away...
Last, but certainly not least, am I the only one who wants to be a fly on the wall when Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams is told about the latest leaks from the set of his top-secret sequel?
So far, Abrams has handled the leaks remarkably well, but with some new piece of concept art, script detail, or photo from Episode VII popping up online nearly every other day, that's got to test even the most calm director's patience.
The silver lining here, though, is that just about everything that's found its way online so far has been positively received by fans. The updated Stormtrooper helmets (see below; no confirmation on whether these are official) somehow manage to combine old-school, Ralph McQuarrie sensibility with the natural evolution of technology from a galaxy far, far away, and all of the set photos and concept art evoke all the right kinds of nostalgia.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, Disney's plans for the Star Wars universe have already gone a long way toward making me fall back in love with this universe of Jedis, Sith and scruffy, nerf-herding smugglers. And now, even the elements that Disney isn't controlling (assuming all of these leaks aren't part of a grand, diabolical marketing campaign) seem to be adding to the positive vibes surrounding the project.
Given how obsessed the online world can be with finding things to hate about sequels, reboots and all of the other modern riffs on the movies, music and television of days gone by, it's nice to see that the unofficial Episode VII material finding its way online seems to be the product of a search for things to love about the new film instead of things to burn at the virtual stake.
Question of the Week: What are your thoughts on some of the recent news I discussed in this week's column?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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