With San Diego Comic Con 2012 in our rear-view mirror, it’s pretty clear that Marvel Studios has the strongest slate of upcoming superhero flicks. They made formal announcements for Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy (which you can hear all about here) and gave titles to some of the upcoming sequels. Captain America 2 has become Captain America: The Winter Soldier (based on Ed Brubaker’s popular storyline from the comics) and Thor 2 is now called Thor: The Dark World. Fans even got to see the first footage from Iron Man 3.
20th Century Fox, perhaps in anticipation of Marvel’s SDCC news, was waving their arms and saying, “We have Marvel characters too!” just a few days before Marvel Studios’ big panel. Under the Fox deal, they maintain cinematic control of the X-Men universe as well as Daredevil and Fantastic Four. They’ve been gearing up with a slew of casting announcements for The Wolverine, and last week announced that they were pursuing a new director for Daredevil (letting David Slade go) and hiring Josh Trank (Chronicle) as director for a Fantastic Four reboot.
Now, typically, this column is reserved for Marvel Studios’ films (hence the title), but Fox’s assets are still Marvel characters, and since it’s obvious they see the value in the Marvel brand, I’m going to include them in this week’s post for conversation’s sake. Fantastic Four in particular is a comic that is near and dear to my heart, and though the previous Tim Story-directed films were a let-down for me, I’ll be watching production on the reboot closely.
Since the SDCC news has been reported thoroughly, I thought I’d take a more opinionated route this week and share one of my hopes for each of the upcoming films, including Fox’s slate. Even if none of my wishes for these franchises come true, the bottom line is that I want to be entertained. I’m open to many interpretations of these characters and their worlds, and I’m not so stubborn in my fandom that the films have to be exactly what I want to win my favor. With that in mind, let’s get started...
Iron Man 3 (coming May 3, 2013) - I hope the finale delivers.
Let’s be honest: All of the Iron Man films blow the ending. Most agree that the first film is better than its sequel, but the one thing that both have in common is a noisy final battle that doesn’t come close to delivering the thrills that can be found earlier in the movie. If there’s a lesson to be learned from The Avengers, it’s “send ‘em home happy,” and my hope is that Shane Black really kicks the third act into gear. It doesn’t even have to be bombastic -- just be satisfying.
The Wolverine (coming July 26, 2013) - I hope the screenplay is solid.
I’d count X-Men Origins: Wolverine among the worst superhero comic book movies ever made. Now, your opinion may differ on that, but I hope we can agree that the film’s problems stem from the muddled script. Cramming in a dozen mutants without rhyme or reason, ignoring logic and continuity, all of it devoid of dramatic tension. The screenplay (by David Benioff and Skip Woods) is largely to blame for making Wolverine’s first solo outing so disappointing. Here’s a chance to get it right, and it looks like they’re going in a good direction. They’ve got Chris McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) working on the script alongside Mark Bomback, based on the definitive Wolverine comics storyline from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. I trust director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line), and I hope he has a good foundation with which to create a perfect Wolverine film.
Thor: The Dark World (coming November 8, 2013) - I hope they expand Thor’s world.
My favorite thing about Thor is not the character himself, but the world in which he inhabits. While most fans rankle when they hear a superhero film will have multiple villains, I get excited knowing that Thor’s sequel might have Enchantress, Executioner, and maybe even Loki (and Marvel’s hinted at an even bigger villain as well -- Surtur, perhaps?). I want the Warriors Three and Sif to return; I can’t wait to see Idris Elba as Heimdall once more. Most fans, including Chris Hemsworth, are crossing their fingers that Beta Ray Bill, the heroic horse-faced alien, will join the fray on film someday. I want Thor’s cinematic universe to keep expanding. It’s a significant corner of the Marvel Universe and the little taste we got in the first Thor just wasn’t enough for me.
Captain America: The Winter Solider (coming April 4, 2014) - I hope the directors know what they’re doing.
When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker and fans cried out, I was hopeful. It was a key role in a blockbuster film; I figured if he impressed them enough to get the part, he must’ve been doing something right. I wish I could maintain that logic for Winter Soldier, but I must admit I have very little faith in directors Anthony and Joe Russo. Their background is in comedy (You, Me, and Dupree) and television (Community, Happy Endings), and they seem like a complete mis-match for the Winter Soldier storyline. Can they do action? Can they maintain Cap’s heroic appeal and gravitas as established in the two films in which he has appeared? I have no idea what to expect.
X-Men: First Class 2 (coming July 18, 2014) - I hope they go to alternate futures.
One area which the X-Men films have never touched, and which are a huge part of the comics, are visits to alternate timelines and dimensions. I think, after five X-Men films, we’re comfortable enough in this world for something a little different, a little more out-there and sci-fi. It would be nice to see some of the iconic X-Men threats brought to life, like the mutant-hunting Sentinel robots or Apocalypse, arguably the second-most popular villain in the X-Men’s history.
Ant-Man (unscheduled, 2014) - I hope they make Hank Pym a genius.
Yes, he talks to ants, but let’s not forget -- Hank Pym is a genius. Casting on the Edgar Wright film will be the trickiest component. They need someone with broad movie star appeal who can play both a brilliant scientist and a man of action. He also needs to have good chemistry with the Avengers, so that by the time Avengers 2 rolls around, Pym fits right in. Any suggestions?
Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014) - I hope the audience has an “in.”
Since this is Marvel’s first foray into space opera adventure, and since they’re dealing with a team that’s not already established (unlike Avengers, where each key member got a solo film in advance), I worry a little that the audience might need an a more grounded character that can ease them into the broader story of the Guardians (many of which have convoluted back-stories). In my Guardians character guide, I nominated Richard Rider (aka Nova) for that role. I don’t really care who does the job; I just want someone to relate to.
Fantastic Four (probably 2015) - I hope they cast correctly.
Let’s face facts: Julian McMahon is a terrible Dr. Doom; Ioan Gruffud does not come across as the smartest man in the world; Jessica Alba was too young and too, um, Maxim-ready for Sue Storm; and The Thing should’ve been CG. Only Chris Evans gets my thumbs-up, and he’s the bright spot in a couple of lame Fantastic Four films. First of all, Doom should be Eastern European and scary as hell. Secondly, the team should have chemistry as a unit. The four of them should function like a well-oiled machine (look at how successful Avengers was in making their team look like a team), and the cast should be an air-tight ensemble. Each one should be cool on their own; together they should feel unstoppable.
Daredevil (probably 2015) - I hope they’re not scared to go a little more adult.
A recent revisit to Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil revealed a film steeped up to its neck in early millennial angry-young-man posturing. That’s to say, it hasn’t aged well. Daredevil, the comic character, has often been compared to Batman, and there’s really no reason why a Daredevil film shouldn’t also be compared to the best Batman films. More than any other character on this list, Daredevil should feel like it takes place in a more realistic world, with the meat of the drama coming from the complications of lawyer Matt Murdock’s secret life as a costumed adventurer. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they went R-rated, or pushed that PG-13 more than they usually do, to deliver a superhero film that’s grittier and more realistic than most.
Share with us! What are your hopes for Marvel’s upcoming films?
John Gholson is a life-long comic book fanboy who has previously covered all manner of superhero news at AOL. After dabbling with comic book self-publishing in the '90s, John moved on to study sequential art at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and currently produces a regular web comic, ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ for Tapsauce.com. You can read his Marvel Studios Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.