When we last left our heroes
Everyone knows that, in the world of comic books, there’s no better way to end an adventure than with a cliffhanger. Well, okay, maybe that’s not entirely true; after all, there have been many a last panel that annoyed me to the point of wanting to rip the comic I was reading to shreds…but, y’know, then I get concerned about ruining the issue’s Mint Condition, and I usually rethink my plan of action. My point, however, is that when it comes to comics, no saga ever truly ends, and in the case of some comic book movies finally making it to the big screen, that’s never been more true. Last year, we put together a list of upcoming comic book flicks, and seven of them still haven’t made it to theaters. Here's where those seven stand now, and we've included a few more projects to keep an eye out for.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis
Director: Tim Story
Writer: Don Payne
When We Last Left Our Heroes: “Were we the only ones who were underwhelmed by the first ‘Fantastic Four’ movie? It wasn’t what you’d call legitimately awful or anything, but it certainly didn’t blow our skirt up in any significant fashion. But, apparently, it did sufficient business to warrant consideration for a sequel, which is on a relatively fast track to get made. You’d like to think that the fact that the script for the new flick is written by Mark Frost, who was the co-creator of ‘Twin Peaks,’ bodes well…except that he helped write the first one, too. No concrete details have emerged about the second movie, except that the original Four actors will return. (They signed contracts committing them to a trilogy.) Despite earlier claims from director Tim Story that Dr. Doom would be back (a comment seconded by producer Ralph Williams, who also noted that the script wasn’t even done yet), Jessica Alba recently indicated that there would be a new villain, but that she couldn’t say who it was. So who do we believe? Well, there have been a lot of rumblings that we might see the planet-eating scourge known as Galactus, as well as his herald, the Silver Surfer…but with so many conflicting reports, it seems that only TIME WILL TELL.”
Current Status: There have been lots of bits and pieces leaking out about the film since pretty much the moment we went to press with our last piece, including confirmation that we’d get not only the Surfer but also Galactus and the return of Dr. Doom and, more recently, a photo of the Fantasticar…but, honestly, we were still skeptical about this flick up until we saw the TV spot which featured the Human Torch chasing the Silver Surfer. Dude, that looked awesome. It’s official: our HOPES ARE HIGH.
Scheduled Release Date: June 15, 2007
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb and Bill Smitrovich
Director: John Favreau
Writers: Arthur Marcum, Matthew Hollaway, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby
Secret Origin: Investor and businessman Tony Stark traveled to Vietnam to assist in the American war effort; while there, he was caught in a booby trap, wounded badly by a piece of shrapnel that was lodged in his heart, and captured by the Vietnamese warlord Wong Chu, who demanded that Stark build weapons for him. Instead, Stark teamed with a fellow prisoner, physicist Yin Sen (who had been captured for the same reason), to secretly build a suit of armor to both keep his heart beating and allow both of them escape from their captor. Yin Sen is slain in the process, but Stark takes the armor, streamlines it, and creates a secret identity as the superhero known as Iron Man.
Current Status: The rights to make an Iron Man movie have bounced from Universal to 20th Century Fox to New Line, but in 2005, they bounced back to Marvel, who teamed with Paramount to finally make the film a reality. Both Nicholas Cage and Tom Cruise had expressed their interest in playing Tony Stark, but when director Jon Favreau became attached to the picture (after years of names like Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon, and Nick Cassavetes being bounced around), he originally claimed that he wanted to hire a newcomer. Instead, however, he went with the bold choice of Robert Downey, Jr., filling out the cast with plenty of other big names to boot. Additionally, after at least four different drafts of the script from four different writers, the decision was made to go with a script…which, coincidentally, took four people to write. The more writers a screenplay has, the more ominous a film’s fate seems, but we have high hopes, given Favreau’s track record as well as his passion for this flick. (He’s got a MySpace page specifically dedicated to the film’s progress.) In short, we have HIGH HOPES.
Scheduled Release Date: May 2, 2008
The Incredible Hulk
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Zak Penn
Secret Origin: Ah, you already know this one, but to make it short and sweet, scientist Bruce Banner is exposed to a high level of gamma radiation, which brings out his inner behemoth, who’s a lovely shade of green.
Current Status: Frankly, we didn’t really expect to see this one so quickly; we figured it’d be more like a decade before Marvel got over the sting of the first “Hulk” movie’s disappointing box office. Instead, it’ll be around the 5-year mark when we see a new “Hulk” flick…but, tellingly, no one involved with the first film will be around for this one. (For what it’s worth, though, Edward Norton – who’s playing Banner this time – was actually in talks to play the character in Ang Lee’s version.) This time, we’re getting a proper superhero movie rather than a drama, with the Hulk’s longtime nemesis, The Abomination, finally making it to the screen…well, except that he won’t actually be called that, because screenwriter Zak Penn said it sounded too silly. What, sillier than a guy turning into a big green monster? Anyway, Penn wrote the last two “X-Men” films, so he’s got a solid resume in the field, while director Louis Leterrier helmed both of the “Transporter” flicks, so you can expect that it’ll look pretty great, too. Throw in a cast that also includes Tim Roth and Liv Tyler, and we have us some HIGH HOPES.
Scheduled Release Date: June 13, 2008
Batman: The Dark Knight
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Eric Roberts
Director: Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins,” “Memento”)
Writer: Jonathan Nolan
When We Last Left Our Hero: “The last flick…well, let’s be blunt and just say that it kicked total and utter ass. If the same crew comes back on board this time, there’s no reason to suspect that the follow-up won’t do the same. ‘Batman Begins’ ended by blatantly setting up for the Joker to be the villain in the next film, but casting ideas have bounced everywhere from Robin Williams to Mark Hamill, who did the definitive Joker voice in the late ‘90s animated ‘Batman’ series. There’s also talk of having a secondary villain, reportedly Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin (let’s dare to dream, shall we?), with the character of Harvey Dent being introduced in the film so that Two-Face can appear in the following ‘Batman’ film. (It never hurts to plan ahead, you know.) Oh, it hardly matters. If Nolan keeps the same tone again, where the goings-on in Gotham seem almost like they could happen in the real world, it’ll be a MUST SEE.”
Current Status: Hail, hail, the gang’s all here…well, the ones we really cared about, anyway. The same folks as last time will be filling the shoes of Batman (Bale), Alfred (Caine), Commissioner Gordon (Oldman), and Lucius Fox (Freeman); alas, Tom Cruise apparently wouldn’t let Katie Holmes out to play, so Bruce Wayne gets a new love interest this go-round…but since Maggie Gyllenhaal is a better actress, anyway, it’s win-win, really. Despite Williams’ tremendous desire to score the role of the Joker, cooler heads prevailed, and Heath Ledger was offered the part instead; the idea of bringing in the Penguin was mooted, however, in favor of reintroducing Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) into the mythos. (He’s the attorney who becomes Two-Face, you know.) Given all of this talent, our position remains that the film will indeed be a MUST SEE.
Scheduled Release Date: July 18, 2008
Writers: Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland
When We Last Left Our Hero: “There’s never been a theatrical ‘Wonder Woman’ movie, if you can believe it. The TV series in the ‘70s was somewhere between serious and camp (generally the latter), and no one went out of their way to do anything with Diana after the show went off the air. In the early 2000s, there was talk of Sandra Bullock playing the character, but that didn’t amount to anything. Since Joss Whedon declared his intentions to write a script and direct the film, however, everyone’s been really, really excited about the film’s possibilities. Naturally, only people affiliated with Whedon’s previous projects – Sarah Michelle Gellar, Charisma Carpenter, and Eliza Duskhu being the big three – are rumored as being under consideration to play Diana, but Whedon remains mum. In fact, things have been quiet in the ‘Wonder Woman’ camp for several months now. Whedon’s name is generally a mark of quality, but with absolutely nothing in hand, at the moment, we have to give it a HOPES ARE HIGH.”
Current Status: We almost cried when Joss Whedon announced that he was officially off “Wonder Woman.” In his words, “I had a take on the film that, well, nobody liked,” but you can guarantee that it would’ve been an absolutely brilliant script. As such, let us officially begin the pity party for these two poor bastards, Matthew Jennison and Brent Strickland, two relative newcomers who’ve been hired by Warner Brothers to produce a script. Unfortunately, although we feel for these dudes, we have to drop our position on this film down to TIME WILL TELL.
Scheduled Release Date: TBD
Luke Cage a.k.a. Power Man
Director: John Singleton
Writer: Bill Ramsey and John Singleton
When We Last Left Our Hero: “John Singleton has wanted to get his hands on this flick for years, and he’s never let go of trying to get it made. The fact that he succeeded with the ‘Shaft’ remake is major points in his favor, and his desire to do right by the source material helps immeasurably as well. Singleton also informed Tyrese Gibson that if he wanted the part, he was gonna have to work out and get pumped up, which Gibson said he’d most assuredly do if that’s what it took. Marvel CEO Avi Arad anticipates the film to pick up an R-rating, which is what ‘The Punisher’ had. Let’s just hope this one turns out a little better. Even in this very early stage, we’re going out on a limb and saying that, as long as Singleton maintains his hold on the picture, it’ll be a MUST SEE.”
Current Status: Depressingly, it remains utterly unchanged. We’re still rooting for Singleton, but, after all, if it was that good a flick, wouldn’t you think some studio would’ve gone out of their way to see it made by now? As a result, we feel obligated to drop our position down to TIME WILL TELL.
Scheduled Release Date: TBD
Captain Marvel (the one who says “Shazam!”)
Director: Peter Segal
Writer: John August
When We Last Left Our Hero: “The buzz on the 2003 script by William Goldman (‘The Princess Bride’) was tremendous; unfortunately, the studio – New Line – decided to go another way, so they hired Joel Cohen and Alec Sokelow, whose credits include such top-notch flicks as ‘Garfield’ and ‘Cheaper by the Dozen.’ Oh, alright, fine, they were also co-writers on “Toy Story.” Still, if the Goldman script makes it before the cameras, the odds of critical success jump up tenfold; somehow, one imagines that the Cohen / Sokelow version will be Hollywood’s version of ‘family friendly’...which rarely meshes with what critics (and comic fans) appreciate. Plus, Peter Segal is known far more for his work on comedies than dramas. If this story is told straight, tackling the inherent coolness of a kid being able to turn into a superhero, it’ll be awesome; if they try to make into slapstick, mark our words, it will suck. We say TIME WILL TELL.”
Current Status: Well, Segal’s still attached, but New Line doesn’t seem to know what the hell it wants to do about the script. Cohen and Sokelow didn’t work out, apparently, so they moved on to Bryan Goluboff (“The Basketball Diaries”), who met with the same fate. Now, it’s John August’s turn…and, actually, we’re a little bit uplifted by this decision, given that he handled the screenplays for three Tim Burton flicks – “Corpse Bride,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Big Fish” – as well as Doug Liman’s underrated “Go.” Mind you, he also wrote both the “Charlie’s Angels” flicks, but we’re gonna go out on a limb and raise our expectations to HOPES ARE HIGH.
Scheduled Release Date: TBD
Starring: Hugh Jackman
Writer: David Benioff
When We Last Left Our Hero: “Hugh Jackman has been the single best part of each ‘X-Men’ film to date, so it’s exciting that he enjoys playing the character of Wolverine enough to want to spin him off into his own movie. There’s no director firmed up yet, but Jackman’s enthusiasm about the project seems consistent from interview to interview, so it seems likely that it will be made…and probably as soon after ‘X-Men 3’ as his schedule allows. It’s really early stages, and if it was any other member of the X-Men, we’d say that time will tell…but with Wolverine, we gotta say that, already, HOPES ARE HIGH.”
Current Status: We really don’t know a whole lot more now than we did then, except that the script is a prequel to the “X-Men” flicks which clarifies the origins of Wolverine, and that it’s the work of David Benioff, who penned the screenplays for “The 25th Hour,” “Troy,” and the Ewan McGregor / Naomi Watts thriller, “Stay.” Since we didn’t exactly love any of those flicks, we’re dropping our position down to TIME WILL TELL, but we’re really, really keeping our fingers crossed that we can move it back up soon.
Scheduled Release Date: TBD
Director: Zach Snyder
Writer: Alex Tse
When We Last Left Our Heroes: “This is arguably the most troubled film in the history of superhero movies, as evidenced in a fantastic piece in Entertainment Weekly. Alan Moore described Hayter’s screenplay as ‘as close as I could imagine anyone getting to “Watchmen,”’ but everyone seems to have a different vision of how the film should be adapted. Should it be a single epic-yet-ultimately-diluted flick, a la ‘Lord of the Rings,’ or should it be a multi-episode, $100 million miniseries on HBO that includes all of the comic’s bells and whistles…? The only people currently attached to “Watchmen” are producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin (‘Hellboy,’ the ‘Tomb Raider’ movies), but things still remain in limbo…and, given that talks about a film began back in 1989, there’s every reason to believe that they’ll stay that way. What else can you possible say about a film with virtually nothing finalized? TIME WILL TELL…maybe.”
Current Status: What a difference a year makes...and, in this case, what a different one film makes. That film, of course, was “300,” the phenomenal success of which gave its director, Zach Snyder, the power in Hollywood to make his dream project: “Watchmen.” Okay, actually, he was signed to “Watchmen” long before “300” kick box office ass…but once it did, you know Snyder’s eyes lit up, knowing that he was much more likely to get his way with his desires for “Watchmen.” The fact that he’s been quoted as envisioning the flick as being “more like ‘Taxi Driver’ or ‘Dr. Strangelove’ than it is ‘Fantastic Four’” means that he’s got the right idea. No casting confirmation yet, but both Gerard Butler and Tom Cruise have been bandied about for possible consideration, the latter as Ozymandias. Okay, we enjoy a good Cruise joke as much as the next guy, but the dude would be perfect for the role. There’s no real buzz on the script by the virtually untested Alex Tse, but given what Snyder did for Frank Miller, we think he can do the same for Alan Moore. As such, our HOPES ARE HIGH.
Scheduled Release Date: TBD
Other films to possibly keep an eye out for:
Ant-Man: Edward Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) badly wants to direct a film version of this miniature Marvel character, but it’s currently in a holding pattern while the script’s being revised.
The Avengers: Marvel’s greatest super-team (sorry, X-Men, it’s true) is currently getting a script treatment from the aforementioned Zak Penn.
Black Panther: I don’t think any self-respecting “Black Panther” fan believes they’re ever going to see a film where Wesley Snipes plays the title role. Snipes has been promising to make the flick since 1992, but it never got off the ground, and now he’s too well known as a different Marvel comic book character: Blade. (Also, he’s too old for the part now. Sorry, Wes.) The project still remains on Marvel’s development slate, but here’s what we want to know: when is Reginald Hudlin gonna step up with a script? He might not have the greatest theatrical track record – say hello to the director of “Serving Sara,” everyone – but he’s been writing the Panther’s comic since 2005. Surely he can succeed where Snipes has failed and, God willing, finally get this film off the ground!
Captain America: Screw G.I. Joe, here’s your real American hero! After earlier, highly shameful attempts to bring Cap (right) to the screen, David Self (“Road to Perdition”) is taking a stab at a screenplay, but talks of a 2008 release seem rather optimistic.
Deadman: Oh, man, this’ll be sweet if it happens. Guillermo Del Toro wants to direct the story of circus acrobat Boston Brand, who is murdered while performing his act and is granted the ability to possess the living in order to find his killer.
Deathlok: His profile is only slightly higher than Blade’s, but the story of Deathlok – a cyborg assassin – is one that Mikael Hafstrom (“1408”) has shown interest in. Coincidentally, David Self has chipped in on the script.
The Flash: After a well-intentioned TV series that couldn’t figure out if it wanted to be true to the comic book or not, Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”) is attached to direct a film version of The Fastest Man Alive. God, please, don’t cast Ben Stiller….
Green Arrow: You saw him on a few episodes of “Smallville,” and now, there are rumblings that ace archer Oliver Queen may finally make it to the movies. David Goyer and Justin Marks have written a script that reportedly finds Green Arrow in prison (for a crime he didn’t commit, naturally) and, basically, he has to escape before the prison’s population of super villains can get their hands on him and seek retribution. It’s a very different sounding concept for a superhero flick, and those ever-trustworthy internet rumor-mongers are suggesting that Matt Damon is interested. Yeah, we’ll believe it when we see the contract.
Magneto: No, it’s not an “X-Men” sequel. Like “Wolverine,” this is being pitched as a prequel, where we look at Magneto’s (right) early years. Remember that opening scene in the first “X-Men” flick, where you saw young Magnus in the concentration camp? Expect it start somewhere around that time period and work its way forward to the first meeting of Magneto and Professor X. The ever-busy David Goyer is attached to direct and Sheldon Turner (“The Longest Yard”) is reportedly working on a script. Then again, Turner’s pretty busy, too; he’s got, like, a dozen projects in development…and, frankly, if we had to choose one of those for him to finish, it wouldn’t be “Magneto.” It’d be “Super Freak: The Rick James Story,” because, dude, that sounds awesome!
Sub Mariner: David Self can’t possibly have a free moment to his name; he worked on this as well. Namor, the prince of Atlantis who’s half-human, has been around since 1939; it’s about time he got his own movie. Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3”) is attached to direct and, just as we were going to press, a rumor began to circulate that David Boreanaz was being considered for the role. Y’know, as “Angel” fans, we can totally get behind that casting.
The Spirit: Coming in just under the wire, we received the official press release to trumpet the news that Frank Miller will be writing and directing the film adaptation of the classic Will Eisner hero for Lionsgate. It’s extremely uplifting that Miller’s earned enough of Hollywood’s respect to be able to move into working on films beyond those based on his own creations (like, say, “Sin City”), and we can’t imagine Eisner’s baby being in better, more trustworthy hands. Now comes the hard part: who can fill the shoes of the title character?
Thor: The Norse God of Thunder (right) got a major P.R. boost via “Adventures in Babysitting,” but his profile’s been pretty low since. Here’s hoping screenwriter Mark Protosevich (“Poseidon”) can change that.
Y: The Last Man: Right, so, the good news is that the creator of the original comic, Bryan K. Vaughan, completed a screenplay and submitted it to New Line Cinema. The bad news is that there’s absolutely no other news to be had, which leads us to wonder if anyone in Hollywood has actually read the script. If they’re just reading a synopsis of the plot (a virus kills every male mammal on Earth…not just humans, you understand, but every male mammal…except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand), we can understand their skepticism, but, come on, crack open the cover, wouldja? There’s enough thought-provoking material within that series to provide fodder for a film franchise! Oh, well: to keep our spirits high about seeing this epic story played out in a live-action medium, let’s not forget that HBO came knocking on DC’s door to obtain the rights to make a “Preacher” series. Say, has anyone got Showtime’s number…?
Lastly, we’ve heard rumors about a ton of other flicks being on the slate for 2008 – “Doom Patrol,” “Iron Fist,” and “Nick Fury,” among them – but, unfortunately, we’ve got nothing even remotely concrete to offer about them. But if you hear anything about DC’s planned “Metal Men” movie, drop us a line. We’re really, really psyched about that one.
In closing, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer our thanks to the sites ComicBookMovie.com and E. Favata’s Comic Book Movies, both of whom tirelessly work to compile any and all comic book film rumors and newsflashes from around the internet and beyond. Both sites were responsible for collecting much of the info that you’ve read within this piece and, as the old line goes, we couldn’t have done it without them.