Happy New Year! We've crossed the year-end threshold and have reached the year 2014, and there are several comics-based film offerings hitting later this year that should have fans the whole world over pretty excited. With the creation of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series in full swing, as well as coming off the box office successes of both Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, Marvel Studios is poised to dole out some more experimental, but no less interesting fair.
Two other superhero films hitting this year are also derived from the pages of Marvel Comics, but they are outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both of these offerings are also sequels to proven franchises, though one is likely a bit more anticipated than the other. And rounding out this top five for the new year in comics films is a long-awaited sequel to a strong, but somewhat esoteric comic book movie. So, without further ado, let's take a look at 2014's most anticipated comic book films!
5) Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Dropping in 2005, the original Sin City film was an exercise in a different kind of comic book moviemaking. Director Robert Rodriguez famously called his first effort on the harsh streets of Basin City a "translation, not an adaptation," and the final effort still proves to be one of the most faithful book-to-screen re-creations of recent years. The whole team is back, but quite a few things have changed in nine years: the principal cast from the original film is older, one of them tragically died, and new faces have come aboard (like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin). Once again, series creator Frank Miller has joined Rodriguez as codirector.
While Miller's directorial debut in the dreadful adaptation of The Spirit may not strike the most confident chord with most, this effort looks to be just as truthful, just as harsh, and just as ambitious as the original. If nothing else, it should prove to be an interesting diversion when it opens at the end of the summer.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hits theaters on August 22.
4) X-Men: Days of Future Past
On concept alone, there's a lot to like about the forthcoming X-Men film that aims to correct some of the mistakes made from its later entries. The original cast and director are returning, and they'll be playing alongside the stellar cast from First Class. There's going to be a lot of mutants in it, though, but Wolverine is back with the team that made him famous (played, no less, by the actor who has embodied him perfectly for nearly 15 years). The film also shares the title with one of the most beloved X-Men comic book stories ever told, and looks like it's shaping up to be a very unique entry in the entire franchise.
There are a few concerns, though: is the cast too bloated? Can Bryan Singer re-create the magic of the original 2000 film and its stellar sequel X2? Or, is he still firmly in Jack the Giant Slayer territory? Comics fans have had a fair amount of beef with Singer for the last several years, from a perceived (though not exactly correct) mishandling of Superman in 2006, to a public snafu surrounding the writing credits of X-Men: First Class, to an odd snub on Twitter of Joss Whedon and the next Avengers film over the use of the same character in both films played by different actors. It's hard to dispute the director's ability, though, and Days of Future Past inherently has a great chance of recapturing the magic that created the X-Men film series, as well as the current "golden age" of comic book films we all enjoy.
X-Men: Days of Future Past opens on May 23.
3) The Amazing Spider-Man 2
When the Spider-Man franchise was given a hard reboot in the summer of 2012, sects of both fans and general audiences alike questioned the necessity of going over the origin story for the second time within 10 years. It was likely the fastest turnaround for a comic book character's cinematic translations, and when the original Amazing Spider-Man was released you had some people who didn't know what to make of it. Most critics and audiences liked it, and it had a very healthy box office run that year. Spidey, though, is no longer the heavy hitter at the box office on Marvel's side; his place in that role has been usurped by Tony Stark and the Avengers.
Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is proceeding with a largely blank canvas, and is interestingly and courageously bringing back characters that we've seen before and introducing new villains into the mix. The new iterations of Harry and Norman Osborn look promising, and we've yet to meet someone who wasn't at least intrigued or excited about the visuals presented by Jamie Foxx's Electro. Everybody pretty much loves Spider-Man, and the forthcoming film looks like it will remind us why. There's always a chance it could misfire, but with three good entries out of four previous films, Spidey's record is still a positive one.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens on May 2.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy
Likely the most experimental of Marvel Studios' film slate will hit theaters this August, and one look at the motley crew that assemble in the image above should give you an idea of just how interesting this movie proves to be. With the release of The Avengers in 2012, Marvel Studios successfully expanded its cinematic universe exponentially with the introduction of alien species and the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D.--and specifically its director Nick Fury--was scrambling to try to keep Earth safe from an invasion. The end of The Avengers introduced a wide audience to the villainous Thanos in its closing moments, and the true follow-up to that extreme Marvel Universe antagonist will be in this year's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Although Warner Bros. tried and failed to create a quasi-cosmic superhero experience with 2011's Green Lantern, this year's Guardians of the Galaxy will truly take the action and adventure into the depths of space. With an expanded cast of largely unfamiliar characters for an audience that can't seem to get enough of Marvel right now, this film has several things going for it: a stellar cast (including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Benicio Del Toro), a great tease for anyone who saw The Avengers, a strong director (James Gunn), and an incredibly rich comic book mythology. As a grand experiment in comic book film, Guardians of the Galaxy should be quite the ride for anyone willing to open themselves to it.
Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters on August 1.
1) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Before The Avengers came out, my favorite Marvel Studios film was unequivocally Captain America: The First Avenger. After The Avengers and the likes of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, it still stands as a personal number two. So, when it was announced that the title of the second solo Cap film would be The Winter Soldier, mirroring perhaps my most favorite Captain America comic book story arc, there seemed to be a lot to get excited about. When the first images and footage from the film was released, it became clear that this will not be a straight adaptation of the original story: in fact, it seems to be more ambitious.
Captain America: The Winter Solider takes some lessons in action and adventure from The Avengers, but also throws in a flavor of espionage and political intrigue that only a character like Cap can permit in a place like the Marvel Universe. When Loki called Steve Rogers a man out of time when they crossed paths in the team-up film, the current political climate and permeation of fear on the airwaves should make that abundantly clear to a man like Rogers, who comes from a far different era in both American politics and the collective national mood when it comes to war. Throw in a shocking and resonant antagonist, and you have a comic book film that has some great omens attached to it.
Captain America: The Winter Solider opens on April 4, 2014.
What are your most anticipated comics films of 2014? Are you really looking forward to 300: Rise of an Empire? Leave a comment below, and I hope you all have a happy New Year!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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