Welcome back to the Geek Beat, your one-stop for all things geek here at Movies.com. The news of the last week has been pretty big in some respects, with news of a continuing and beloved franchise for geeks taking an interesting direction, a polarizing comics personality will be taking the reins of a major studio’s comic book films, and an interesting quote coming from a man who we thought might be directing a large-scale comics film.
But first, here’s what I think are the three top geeky articles released on Movies.com over the last week:
1. 'Kick-Ass' Creator Discusses His New Gig Consulting on 20th Century Fox's Superhero Movies
2. Patrick Stewart Hints at a Return to the 'X-Men' Franchise
3. The Best and Worst Sci-fi at This Year's Fantastic Fest
There’s a couple of those that I really want to touch on this week, but first, I have a question for you. This was a pretty interesting weekend at the movies, I think largely due to the mind-bending sci-fi actioner that director Rian Johnson premiered this past Friday. So, I have to know…
What’d You Think of Looper?
I saw Looper this last Saturday, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. With the love it’s been getting from critics, I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes its way to a respectable and deserved box office haul at the end of its run, and it should provide a very interesting evening for anyone looking for imaginative filmmaking in addition to some pretty intense action sequences.
That being said, I don’t feel as enthusiastic about it as many other critics seem to. I really applaud Mr. Johnson’s writing, because it’s very coherent and the sequence of events (which spans numerous times and places) is very easy to follow, and his ability to craft such an immense threat of foreboding in the final thrust of the plot was very effective. I have to admit, though, that the ending left me a little cold. If you see the film or have already seen it, chime in below with your impressions of the ending, but don’t divulge any details in consideration for people that haven’t gotten to the theater for it yet.
Regardless of that misgiving, I thought it was very good and definitely worth watching, as its probably the most well thought-out and uniquely executed sci-fi film we’ve had this year. For those of you that have seen the film, be sure to check out Erik Davis’ great article explaining probably the most basic unanswered question of the film’s plot. Its good reading!
Mark Millar Becomes 20th Century Fox’s Own “Marvel Man”
This last week, we learned that 20th Century Fox has hired Mark Millar, the comic book scribe behind Kick-Ass, Civil War and the critically acclaimed Superman: Red Son (among a lot of others), to be its creative consultant on all of its Marvel film properties. This includes such characters as the X-Men, Wolverine (who, let’s face it, is his own franchise), and the Fantastic Four. Daredevil used to be included in that list, but the rights have since lapsed to Marvel Studios, and I think it’s likely that in the future that character may be established in the same universe as the Avengers.
When I heard this news, I was a little disappointed. To be clear, I believe that Millar is a very gifted writer in a lot of respects. Before hitting it big, he had some really interesting runs at 2000 A.D. and at DC along with fellow Scotsman Grant Morrison, until the two had a severe falling-out and went their separate ways. Since then, Millar’s largely made his home at Marvel, helping to establish its Ultimate universe with defining runs on The Ultimates, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four and others. He also made a rather big splash with the aforementioned Civil War, the story of a “Superhuman Registration Act” that divides the heroes of the mainline Marvel Universe and puts them in direct conflict with each other. Captain America led the anti-registration forces, while Iron Man led the pro-reg forces. That event determined the course of the main Marvel Universe for nearly five years after the initial event until Brian Michael Bendis’ Siege saw the law thrown out and the Avengers reunite.
Millar has also proved to be a rather polarizing figure for comics fans because of his tendency, as critics say, to skew beloved and original characters into hyperbolic caricatures. One often-cited example of this is in an early issue of The Ultimates, where Captain America is leading troops into battle when one of them suggests falling back instead of barreling forward. Cap gruffly yells at the man, asking if the “A” on his helmet stands for France. Interesting commentary from a foreigner about Americans’ belief in their own exceptionalism, or simplistic caricature of a celebrated character based simply on his garb? I’m not sure, but that didn’t exactly strike me as “pure Cap” (It should be noted, though, that the Ultimate version of Captain America has noted personality differences compared to the mainline universe version).
Millar has recently made a name for himself on creator-owned comics projects, like the aforementioned Kick-Ass with artist John Romita Jr., as well as Nemesis with Steve McNiven, and Superior with Leinil Yu. These books in particular are Mark Millar unleashed, with some events transpiring that feel twisted just for the sake of being twisted. Nemesis is a good example of this, because it depicts Nemesis (the main antagonist) kidnapping the cop protagonist’s children, a boy and a girl, and revealing their secrets to the Catholic policeman: his son is gay, and his daughter had secretly had an abortion. After this, Nemesis releases the children apparently harmless back to their father, only after it’s revealed that he artificially inseminates the daughter with material from the son. That created a big "double-u tee eff" moment from me.
Now, is there danger that Millar can influence things that far in the Marvel films? No. I do tend to think he’s a great concept man, as his superhero work in the past has evidenced. However, given his complete body of work, am I confident he can deliver himself? Not exactly. His position’s not exactly a dangerous one as the filmmakers themselves have a great deal of creative input (John Gholson wrote a great article trying to figure out what Millar’s role would be in a recent Marvel Studios Countdown). It’s probably too late for Millar to drastically influence James Mangold’s The Wolverine, so it’s likely his consulting will begin with the recently announced X-Men: Days of Future Past from Matthew Vaughn and continue with Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot. Millar and Vaughn already have a great working relationship as is evidenced by their collaboration on the Kick-Ass film. I just hope that Millar remembers his mindset surrounding his more celebrated works in the superhero genre (like Red Son, my personal favorite book of his) instead of pitching crazy, off-the-cuff ideas that have a better place in books like Nemesis than they do with books featuring the X-Men.
Oddly enough, that brings me to my next topic!
The Return of Patrick Stewart to the X-Men Franchise?
It was recently reported that at a convention appearance, Patrick Stewart let slip that there is a distinct possibility he could find himself back in the wheelchair of Professor Charles Xavier in a new installment of the X-Men franchise. It’d be pretty crazy, I think, to begrudge the 72-year-old knight for a return to anything, but it does beg the question: will he be returning in the sequel to First Class that we now know to be called Days of Future Past, or will this be a sequel to 2006’s The Last Stand with the “current” X-Men? Until it’s officially announced it’s hard to say for certain, but if I were a betting man, I would put some money on the latter.
For those unfamiliar with the original story, Days of Future Past appeared in two issues of Uncanny X-Men, #141-142, in 1981. It saw the X-Men in both the present and an alternate future dealing with the consequences of an assassination of a mutant-hating politician by Magneto’s brotherhood. The story of the film, if approached similarly, could definitely take advantage of different ages of main X-Men cast members. However, Stewart’s return would likely solidify the continuity problems present with the series post-First Class that seemed to rear their heads when the last film was released, and positively link the last film series with the new one in a bit of a baffling timeline of events.
I won’t do a blow-by-blow of all of the contradictions now present in the series, as John Gholson, again, wrote a fantastic and detailed piece on just that topic right after First Class was released in June of 2011. Days of Future Past could have the potential to fix a lot of the glaring errors that John points out in his article, but it seems likely that we’ll have to endure them and hope for the best out of the new X-Men film.
Ben Affleck Open to Superhero Films?
During the summer, a hot rumor was making the rounds on the Internet speculating that Warner Bros. may have approached actor-director Ben Affleck to helm the studio's response to The Avengers: the DC Comics superhero team the Justice League. Featuring the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman, it seems to be the only true countershot Warner Bros. could take at the successful Marvel Studios franchise team up.
We quickly learned thet Affleck, director of such films Gone Baby Gone, The Town and next week's Argo, would not be taking a Justice League project on. Did this mean that superhero films were completely out of the picture for the acclaimed director? Apparently not! In an interview with MTV News on that very topic, Affleck spoke a little about Daredevil souring his experience with superheroes for awhile, but how he's largely been fascinated with the way that comics films have been crafted in recent years, whether or not he'd be willing to direct one himself, along with some surprising anticipation from the Hollywoodland star for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. Give a look at the video below and hear it straight from the director's mouth in this interview during the press tour for Argo.
Geek Movies Out This Week
There aren’t really any great geek releases in theaters this week, but if you’re looking for good sci-fi and/or comics experiences in theaters, then you should be able to catch films like The Dark Knight Rises, Looper and Dredd. If you haven’t seen it yet, I have to say, PLEASE GO SEE DREDD. It can use all the help it can get, and it’s a good film that I really think many people will enjoy. As someone who’s not particularly a fan of 3D, I’ll even encourage you to see it in that format because it does seem to add a lot to the perspective of it.
Out today on Blu-ray is also an awesome collection of classic horror films in Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection. Since Halloween is right around the corner, this would be a perfect piece to pick up. Inside it are 1931’s Dracula and Frankenstein, 1932’s The Mummy, 1933’s The Invisible Man, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, 1941’s The Wolf Man, 1943’s Phantom of the Opera, and 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon. With a series containing such legendary names as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Claude Rains and Lon Chaney, this is probably the most definitive set that horror fans and classic monster enthusiasts could possibly pick up. It arrives in the year of Universal’s 100th anniversary, and to me is probably the best encapsulation of Universal’s major contributions to American cinema. I’d say it’s definitely worth picking up.
Geek Thing to Buy This Week
For the diehard Star Wars fan, the Gamorrean Guard Piggy Bank. Need I say more?
My Pick This Week at the Comic Shop
This week at comic shops everywhere, I have to give the nod to Grant Morrison (The Filth, We3, Batman) and guest artist Travel Foreman (Animal Man)’s Action Comics #13, a Halloween tale that begins in the Fortress of Solitude and looks to bring the return of a beloved supporting character in the Superman stable. Morrison is my favorite writer in comics, and his reimagining of Superman in DC’s “New 52” initiative over the past year has been, to me, some of the best narrative work that the comics publisher has put out in their new line of books. Morrison has been powering through Golden, Silver and modern-age conceptions of Superman’s character through the run ranging from the grounded capture of a corrupt businessman to a sprawling space battle with an alien menace.
It looks like this will be a “done in one,” meaning that the story will be localized just to this issue. Most of the done in ones I’ve read from Morrison have been very enjoyable, and with the theme of the Halloween season being a prime component of this story, I think this issue will be very enjoyable. Because of that, I have to make it my pick of the week!
This concludes this week’s Geek Beat...
Thanks for reading, be back next week where we take a look at what geeks are talking about in film news! Please, if you see anything amiss or have any ideas on how things can be improved, please feel free to leave a comment at the end of the page! Let me know how I’m doing, what you’d like to see, and what you think should go into this piece in the coming weeks! As Captain Kirk said, “this is not a democracy,” but that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to everything you have to say and do what I can to incorporate any ideas.
See you next week!
Chris Clow is a recent Western Washington University graduate, film history fan, and comic book expert and retailer, contributor, and overall geek to Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his comic book reviews for various monthly titles and his participated podcasts at BOF and MMM. You can find his regular pieceThe Geek Beat here at Movies.com every Tuesday. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.