Comic-Con 2013: Film Round-Up

Comic-Con 2013

Ah, Comic-Con… it’s that time of year again to get excited about being nerdy. What is this time of year you ask? Okay, I guess Comic-Con isn’t quite as well known as something like the Oscars, but it’s becoming increasingly known as the place where some of the world’s biggest movies are launched / previewed to the world. What type of movies? Well, look at the title of the convention will you? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out. Yes, Comic-Con is dedicated to the world of comics, which thanks to films such as Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers actually now dominates the world of movies.

A year ago from now, we put together a preview of what went down at Comic-Con 2012 and highlighted the big films coming out of Marvel and DC’s stables… well, this year we’re doing exactly the same! We’ve collated all the information that was released into one handy little page for y’all to view. We’ll also be offering a bit of depth to these announcements, as we know that you’re not as all nerdy / informed as The Phage. Failing that, look at this YouTube video for some girls in costumes… it’s also pretty funny to boot…

First up, it’s my boys and girls at Marvel. As regulars will no doubt know, this is my favourite publishing house and consequently produces the movies I get most excited about. Sure, we all wish that Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and The Avengers were all held by the same studio and not this fractured mess we have between Sony, Fox and Disney, but hey… the movies look pretty damn sweet! So, let’s have a closer look shall we?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Comic-Con 2013

I’m picking up with arguably the biggest franchise under the Marvel monicker… The Avengers. You know, the second highest grossing movie of all time? Yeah, that one. Well, its sequel isn’t due until 2015 (I know… an age), but we now have a title. And a title can tell you a lot of things! But I know what you’re thinking… who the hell is Ultron? Well, in the comics, Ultron is a robot engineered by Dr. Hank Pym (he’s Ant-Man by the by… a film scheduled for 2015 too). But the machine goes a bit sentient and decides that it must rid the world of humankind. Through this, we see the machine make its own humanoid machine: The Vision, in order to destroy The Avengers. Basically… lots of robot action.

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision... surely all three can't fit?!

Ant-Man, Ultron and The Vision… surely all three can’t fit?!

What are our thoughts on this? It’s interesting, if a little odd considering the chronology of Marvel’s films. There’s going to have to be some serious story deviations considering that Hank Pym / Ant-Man won’t be introduced until AFTER The Avengers: Rise of Ultron in the Edgar Wright-helmed film. Whether they totally retool the story, or bring in Pym in the sequel itself and expand post-Avengers, we’re not sure at the minute. Well, as I was writing this, it’s actually come up in conversation with Joss Whedon! This story arc will not follow the comics… so no Hank Pym in the new Avengers film. We’re getting hints that it’s going to come out of the pre-existing story… So… Tony Stark / Robert Downey Jr. creates Ultron then? I can already hear the fan-boys seething at the deviation, especially following the “events” of Iron Man 3… Maybe he makes Ultron to compensate for his lack of suits? Who knows, but time will tell…

What rumours do we have on this film? Well, Vin Diesel‘s been kicking up a fuss recently, as he does have a role in “a” Marvel film, apparently (although there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on here)… could it be in this film? Could he be The Vision? We also have Aaron Taylor-Johnson practically saying he’s Quicksilver in the Joss Whedon-helmed sequel (to go along with another new addition: The Scarlet Witch). Whatever happens, expect Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America to return with some new buddies to bring down a robot… and not Thanos…

Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, Thanos was the guy teased at the end of The Avengers in the credits scene. Which scene? This one:

Now, many believed that was a hint to the direction of The Avengers 2… but that’s now totally wrong. Thanos is clearly too big a bad guy to launch into straight away. So… like Ultron… who is Thanos? Thanos is a cosmic entity from the moon of Titan, who’s constantly trying to court Death: his love. He’s a formidable character and is essentially a God, like Thor… but different. In the comics he eradicates all of the Marvel Universe of heroes. He’s pretty aggressive. But it seems Marvel are saving him for a future Avengers sequel. BUT… we know he’s confirmed to appear in James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy

Comic-Con 2013

Yes, this is what I was a little nervous of last year when it was announced. Now though, we have some casting and plotting at the very least. Starring Chris Pratt (Star Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax The Destroyer), plus the CGI-ed Groot (big tree… no-one named yet) and Rocket Raccoon (little raccoon with big gun… again, no-one named yet), it’ll see this team of intergalactic renegades teaming up against a cohort of other intergalactic entities including Lee Pace (Ronan The Accuser), Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Benicio Del Toro (The Collector). God knows how this is all going to play out, as I have zero familiarity with this particular title. Regardless, this is going to Marvel’s most “out there” franchise to date… it’s a space opera with raccoons, trees and super-powerful beings. I’m very keen to see how this plays out… my initial scepticism is fast turning into excitement as August 2014 draws closer…

Thor: The Dark World

Comic-Con 2013

Well, this is a little closer to release than 2014! Yes, Thor will return to our screens in October (for the UK) and November (never mind, USA). Comic-Con showed off some new footage, but we already know essentially what’s going on here with Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor facing off against Christopher Eccleston‘s Malekith – a Dark Elf, who’s a pretty nasty character. We’re also seeing the chance of a team up between Thor and Loki to take down Malekith… will it hold? Will it hell. But this should be another top drawer movie now we’ve got rid of the “origins” story of Thor. Straight into the action? Yes please.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Comic-Con 2013

Similarly, we’ve dispensed with Captain America’s (Chris Evans) origin story now, so we can plod on with his narrative in Captain America: The Winter Solider in April 2014. What’s the story here? The titular Winter Soldier is a big clue. Remember the train scene from Captain America: The First Avenger? Where Bucky falls out of the train into oblivion somewhere in the frozen waste? Yeah… he’s not dead. He’s back with a metallic arm and a grudge against Captain America. Comic-Con got a first glimpse of the action here with a reveal of Bucky’s Winter Solider garb. Once again, we’re excited for it… although as with Thor, there’s not that much to explain here. We’re all familiar with the main characters. And these two? They’re hardly new announcements!

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Comic-Con 2013

Now we jump away from Marvel Studios / Disney to Fox’s Marvel movies… yeah, it’s going to get confusing. X-Men: Days of Future Past will pick up chronologically after this week’s The Wolverine, which itself comes after X-Men: The Last Stand. However, we’re going to see a melding of time lines to bring in the cast of X-Men: First Class. Yeah… we’re getting trippy here. The original storyline in the comics revolves around a future where mutants are hunted down relentlessly by Sentinels (large, anti-mutant robots at the behest of humankind). So, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page in X-Men: The Last Stand, and here) sends her consciousness back in time to alert her former-self to the threat that’s coming to try and stop the future. In the animated series, we saw Bishop head back in time (rugged black guy from the future, M scar on his face, loved wearing a red bandanna around his neck) to stop an assassination… and Bishop is cast in this movie…

The surprise of the day... all X-Men in attendance!

The surprise of the day… all X-Men in attendance!

But what did we find out this weekend? Well, who do you think’s getting sent back? Yes, it’s Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine… the poster boy for Fox’s X-Men franchise. So, we’ll see the old cast of the X-Men (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry etc.) and the new cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence etc.) in the same film. This could either be a very special movie, or a very flawed one. We’re optimistic here. It’s ambitious… but if it works? Wow… it’ll be good!

X-Force

Comic-Con 2013

A quick mention of this here… as it wasn’t officially announced, but we got confirmation that a script was being put together for X-Force. Now, who the HELL are these guys? They’re an X-Men off-shoot of mutants who’re a bit more cavalier in their attitude and fighting. We couldn’t possibly guess who’ll feature in this team though, as it’s a constant revolving door, much like The Avengers. We could see Wolverine, Cable (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s son… from the future), X-23 (Wolverine’s female clone), Deadpool (not the abomination from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Archangel and a whole host of others. Although a load of those need their own backstories setting up. Especially Archangel… who was last seen with big fluffy angel wings as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand, instead of the blue-skinned, metallic-winged guy known as Archangel… we’ll see how this develops. IF it develops…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Comic-Con 2013

I wish Sony had gone with a more inspirational title for this movie instead of just bolting a “2” to the end of it! But this is what we get I guess. Here, we’re following up from the original The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield as the titular hero. But this time, instead of Rhys Ifans‘ Lizard, we see him up against Jamie Foxx‘s Electro, Paul Giamatti‘s Rhino and potentially Chris Cooper‘s Norman Osborn / Green Goblin… well, it’s certainly a busy time for Spidey! Whether it suffers from villain overload, we’re going to find out, but again… I’m optimistic. I was underwhelmed with the original Amazing Spider-Man, as I thought it was too soon for a reboot. But the teasers released for Foxx‘s Electro? And the footage aired at Comic-Con? We could be in for a treat. Electro could be a great villain, unlike the ones we’ve seen before… Check the clip for the reveal…

Man of Steel 2 / Superman vs. Batman / World’s Finest

Comic-Con 2013

This was perhaps the biggest shock of Comic-Con that no-one really saw coming, and for once… it wasn’t from Marvel. We knew a sequel to the recently released Man of Steel would be inevitable… but few could have predicted this. Zack Snyder waltzed onto the stage to announce that the next instalment would feature both Superman AND Batman… a rebooted Batman, free of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. Want something else? They’re going to be at each other’s throats. Wow. And again… Wow. I’m not even a DC fan, but this is impressive news. No-one has any specifics yet, except for the fact we’re going to see the return of Henry Cavill and the cast of Man of Steel and that it’s going to drop in 2015… It seems that year’s hotting up now… with The Avengers: Age of Ultron and now Man of Steel 2 hitting in the same summer… ALONG with Ant-Man at some point too. Sheesh… it’s going to be a busy one!

And we can’t wait…

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Metals… there seems to be a lot of emphasis on them in films nowadays. Not that there are films out there about smelting and how steel alloys are crafted, but you can’t help but notice how the combination of metals and humans has made some serious money in the past few years. OK, this is a really odd and tenuous link / introduction to the review, but you get my point surely? Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man and all of his related films have been a major earner in Hollywood. A major earner. They’ve taken comic book movies to the next level and showed the immense drawing power of these films. So what happens when you upgrade your iron? How about we put some steel into the mix? And switch from Marvel to DC? And add Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder into the mix? Let’s see how Man of Steel stacks up shall we?

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel is of course the story of Superman. The superhero that flies, shoots heat lasers, has x-ray vision, is super strong, is near invincible etc. etc. This is one of the main reasons I’ve never had any affection towards him from a comic book fan’s perspective. He’s just got too many damn powers. And his weakness? Kryptonite… an asset that everyone seems to have in his world. I won’t lie; I’ve never read a single page or panel of a Superman comic, so this review isn’t coming at you from a fanboy perspective. What do you think this is? A Marvel film review!? Nor can I attest to being a fan of Christopher Reeve‘s outings as Superman. If I’m honest, the closest I’ve got to this franchise was Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. Yeah, I admitted it. What of it?!

Regardless, this movie has been touted as gritty and grounded; due in no small part to the success of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman franchise. This also explains his involvement as an Executive Producer on this movie. Couple that with Zack Snyder and you should have something to marvel at. I must admit, I was dubious of Snyder being given the gig, as I’ve been less than impressed with him since 300. Watchmen was okay, and Sucker Punch? Well, let’s not speak of it. But I’ll hand it to him… Man of Steel is good. Very good…

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel is the reboot the series has been yelling out for. It tells the obligatory origin story, but in a refreshing way. We see little Kal-El (Henry Cavill) on Krypton being sent away by his parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) as they aim to let him thrive off on Earth before Krypton implodes / he’s taken by the marauding General Zod (Michael Shannon). We skip a load of years and see his life with Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent. What’s refreshing is that his life is filled in through flashbacks throughout the film, which allows the central plot to progress (him coming to terms with his powers, discovering the hero inside, yadda yadda) whilst also colouring in the background. I liked it.

The story is quite straight forward in many ways, and is probably a bit cliché / has been done before. But what really sold Man of Steel to me was the sheer calibre of the acting on show. Everyone is pulling their weight and then some. Let’s, naturally, focus on Clark / Kal-El / Superman himself: Henry Cavill. This guy is perfect for the role – from his astoundingly broad-chested physique to his mannerisms and relatability. I was totally sold on Cavill‘s performance and can’t wait to see him return. My next favourites in the movie? Easily Costner and Crowe. I’m a big Russell Crowe fan, and once again he showed his acting chops off really well, as did Costner; giving one of his best performances in years. There wasn’t a single weak link in the line-up of main actors here. That’s hard to achieve!

Man of Steel (2013)

As I mentioned earlier, the flaws with the film – for me – were the plotting (fairly obvious) and sometimes very dry tone. I’m not expecting Iron Man-esque laugh out loud moments, but it was the inclusion of two or three obvious spoken jokes that had me cringing. They fell so flat and left me feeling awkward. Some have bemoaned the lengthy running time, but I’ll disagree with them; I thought it worked well at its current length. Sure, there was probably one fight too many in the middle section, but I was entertained and that’s what matters with comic book movies isn’t it? On that note, I also felt the climax of the movie – the “big bad event” was fitting and felt suitably menacing. I’d argue it was a far bigger threat than The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers could muster. It’s nice to feel a true threat… even if you had no doubt about the ultimate outcome!

Man of Steel (2013)

Also, I need to mention just how it looked… fantastic. Snyder does have a flair for filming beautiful looking scenes and Man of Steel doesn’t disappoint. I felt the sheer scale of his universe and felt drawn into it entirely. As I say, I can’t wait for the already announced Man of Steel 2… although I hope it’s not called that!

Man of Steel is the Superman movie fans have been roaring out for for years since the weak Superman Returns. Finally, arguably the most famous superhero of all time has a film to be proud of. The reason this film works so well is the way in which it’s an origin story, but told in a nicely succinct way, and the sheer calibre of acting talent on show. Cavill is the perfect Superman and his supporting cast are all firing on all cylinders. Although the film’s not perfect, and arguably not as fun as Marvel’s current stable of characters, it bodes well for the future of the franchise.

So who wins out of steel and iron? Although steel is actually the superior metal, there’s no competition here in the fact that Iron Man is superior to Man of Steel. But it’s close. And you could argue that they’re incomparable owing to radically different tonality. Whilst one is stern, one is jokey. Can you imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Superman though? Can you? Now that’s something to think about…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

The Reboot Redemption

The Reboot Redemption

Reboots: much maligned and much deplored by many a movie-goer. Here at Film Phage, we’re continuing to act as both the prosecution and defence on behalf of D.A. Reboot, who is accused of besmirching Hollywood’s good name. We now follow on from our first entry in The Reboot Zone saga: The Reboot Rebuke, and re-join proceedings, where I believe the council for the defence is about to make its gambit. Will we see more surprise guest appearances, or any more mention of Rob Schneider? Read on to find out.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here today to show you why I respectfully disagree with myself with regards to the innocence of my client, D.A. Reboot. I am here to show you that retelling and re-adapting a concept is not a new premise; indeed without such practice one would not have stories passed from generation to generation. To borrow from the London 2012 Olympics, these new interpretations are needed to “inspire a generation” – maybe not your generation, but those after you. I will present evidence that is our own selfish desires to oppose change that makes us so vehemently opposed to the mere concept of a reboot and that reboots are not necessarily bad. If you agree with me, I urge you to vote to acquit D.A. Reboot of all charges.

We all have our favourite memories, and some of those will undoubtedly tie themselves to films. My honourable friend likened a reboot to a first date: one where you don’t get that first kiss and end up being brandished a pervert, somehow. To use the same analogy: do you remember those dates that didn’t work so well? Ones filled with regrets? Perhaps you moved too soon, or didn’t move at all. An opportunity wasted. An opportunity squandered. An opportunity to never be had again. What if you could go back and alter things; tinkering with the very basis of the experience. Would you? I’m willing to bet you would. A bit like 50 First Dates, but with less Rob Schneider.

This is a lot like the entire concept of a reboot. It goes back and undoes and alters what went before. Let’s take an example: Batman. The Batman movies have been commonplace since the 1980’s, but have been picked up and played with by numerous directors. The character’s origin story was explored in 1989’s Batman. Several questionable sequels followed. As I’m sure you’re all well aware, the character was reborn, or rebooted, in 2005 courtesy of Chris Nolan. I think you’ll agree that this reboot was regarded as something of a success. It takes nothing away from the 1989 original; that too is still a great movie in its own right. Some would argue the original isn’t even dated, and I would agree, yet I’m sure some decried some upstart director (Nolan) retelling the origin story of Batman again. If you preferred the original, then great. If you preferred Nolan’s take, then also: great.

“There can only be one.” Not always.

Another example of such “rebooting” with beloved franchise involves a group almost as vocal as comic book fans: Star Trek fans. Everyone’s aware of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek from 1966. This was rebooted in 2009, with new Kirk’s, Spock’s and Scotty’s. People were at first a little hesitant, but the film was a hit; with a sequel currently in the works that may itself be a remake of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Reboots clearly can work.

To summarise my first point: reboots aren’t always a failure, and if you don’t like the remake, so what? You still have the original. It’s not like the reboot has erased the originals from existence is it? Some will like the new, some will like the old.

Still scary by today’s horror standards? Probably not. Is it therefore “dated”?

This leads me to my final point on the matter: who these reboots are aimed at. You’d be naive if you thought that a remake of something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was for the same audience that saw it back in 1974. Of course it isn’t. It’s for a new generation: new youngsters to the genre. By anyone’s admission, the horror movies of the 1960’s-1980’s are tame by today’s standards. The Exorcist was once banned and deemed too terrifying for public consumption. Nowadays? Well… we have The Human Centipede. Whether you like it or not, a film’s appearance holds a lot of sway in whether a newcomer will watch the movie.

Not the bleeding edge of cool.

Let’s put it in the context of technology. I grew up playing video game consoles: the Sega Mega Drive and original brick-like Game Boy. These were cutting edge in the early 1990’s. Can you imagine giving Tetris to your average 12 year old nowadays? They’d be disgusted at how “retro”, “boring” and dated it is. Technology isn’t like the fashion industry: it’s not cyclical. It will not come back. Movies are the same. If something was filmed in analogue and just looks dated, then regardless of plot, it will be rejected by many. Stick a teenager in front of Teen Wolf, and they’ll just scoff. Hell – look at adult entertainment. Do you still like the chica-chica-wow-wow wah-pedal driven, moustachioed, all around “dodgy” take of the 1970’s, where all the male “actors” look like Super Mario? Well, some of you might – but you’re unique. In general, people aren’t always interested in “classics”. You want something relatable and immersive? You need to re-do it. Shallow? Maybe. But does it make business sense? Totally.

To outline my case, reboots can falter, but it’s not always pre-determined. Some are fantastic re-inventions, and if it is bad then you still have the original. What have you lost? If you’re that desperate to not sully a film’s memory, then don’t see the new version, as it’s probably not even for you. Do you think the new Total Recall is for you if you saw the original? How about the in-the-works new The Running Man? Both Arnie juggernauts back in the day, but many teens and 20-somethings will find it hard to relate to these movies. That’s just the culture we live in.

Although my tone is more solemn than that of me, I hope I have convinced you that reboots are not the Antichrist reincarnate. Nor are they Rob Schneider. I urge you to forgive and exonerate the outcast of the movie industry, the leper of films, the blight of Hollywood. We are here to redeem the reboot.

A Superhero Movie Too Far?

Batman slaps Robin

If we don’t talk about it, we won’t jinx it!!

Batman 1999 v 2012

Batman ’99 vs Batman ’12: Pretty accurate portrayal of the public’s view of a comic book movie. From frumpy to bad ass.

If you mentioned that you liked comics back in 2000, people would assume one of two things: a) you’re a small child, or b) you’re probably a bit of a social pariah and that you should probably avoid a). Then a movie came along that changed everything: X-Men. It featured a relatively unknown cast of actors, spare a couple of big names such as Captain Picard and Gandalf (before he was Gandalf), and told the tale of a group of genetic mutants who had fantastic powers. And boy did it resonate with audiences. Sure, there was the brilliant Blade in 1998, which could be argued as the “first” big movie, but it wasn’t that much of a hit! The success of X-Men and Spider-Man two years later opened the floodgates to a slew of superhero movies from major and minor characters alike, culminating this year in the juggernauts of the box office that are Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. But now the question is: what next? And more importantly, how much longer can Hollywood’s latest fetish survive before it implodes? Too big to fail you say? Now where have we heard that before…?

Humble Beginnings

Undoubtedly, we’re right now riding the wave that is the Golden Age of comic book adaptations. Marvel Studios’ success with their tales of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor, and Warner / DC’s success with Nolan‘s Batman universe have cumulatively brought in over $5,400,000,000 (you need the noughts just to realise how many McDonald’s cheeseburgers that could buy you), with the split being $3.7 billion to Marvel and $1.7 billion to Warner (so far; the Bat is still flying). But crikey Batman, how the golly did we get to such jeeperiffic figures? They’re just comics!

The secret to their success, I believe, is two-fold. On one hand you have a collection of stories that are on-the-whole believable, or at least plausible for the most part, which is something I’ll come to later. And on the other hand you can’t help but notice that they’re somewhat a symptom of the times: gloom. It’s the same perfect storm that results in fast food sales soaring during times of economic hardship; this manifests in the need for escapism and heroes at the box office. Sure, some of the first big hits came pre-2008 meltdown, but all the gargantuan films: the Dark Knights and Iron Man(s) came post-2008. Hell, if you were being really analytical, you could even say the threat of global terrorism following 2001 also fed the public’s need for heroes. That’s a controversial point, but I think it’s valid. So… so long as the world is still at risk of going bankrupt or blowing itself up, the superhero can do no wrong right? I mean, the public tolerated Nic Cage‘s antics as Ghost Rider (twice!), Superman‘s lacklustre return and watched the Blade, Spider-Man and X-Men franchises tie themselves in knots; yet all was forgiven when the latter two returned recently. Not sure we’re going to see Wesley Snipes stopping people “ice skating up a hill” any time soon though. Unless the IRS lets him… Or Twilight takes a hard left turn in its final bow later this year.

Blade: Breaking Twilight

But can the studios sustain this enormous momentum, or is something looming on the horizon that could bring the whole house of cards crashing down?

There’s a Storm Coming…

The Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy: The Four Horsemen (and a Tree) of the Comic Book Apocalypse?

As I mentioned in my round-up of Comic-Con 2012, Marvel made some peculiar announcements this year, namely by choosing The Guardians of the Galaxy as a flagship film franchise. For those unfamiliar with this group, they’re essentially a cosmic group of heroes who fly around in space, preventing intergalactic tyranny. Sounds like a typical sci-fi film right? And there-in lies the problem. The most successful comic book movies have more-or-less had some semblance of reality, whether its being bitten by a spider, having genetic mutations, or building a high-tech suit of armour. Thor, who for all intents and purposes is classed as a “God” was explained through comparing magic and science and saying they’re the same thing (hokey, but it worked). So he’s essentially just a scientific freak who wears chainmail. And is ripped. But I haven’t got to the outworldy part yet… is the public willing to accept a living tree, some aliens and a talking raccoon (cumulatively known as The Guardians of the Galaxy) as superheroes? I know Disney are involved nowadays, but a talking raccoon and tree? Last I remember, the TV series The Raccoons ended in 1991… maybe that’ll have a resurgence? God I hope not.

And in the non-Marvel Studios stable, we hear rumblings that Warner is looking to open Pandora’s box and unleash all manner of oddities on the cinema-going public, now that their baby bat has flown the nest. The Metal Men? Lobo? Really? It’s a case of a studio reaching the “terrible 2’s”, seeing what Marvel has and saying “I want, I want”. Add this to the in-production reboots of failed franchises such as Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Green Lantern and you’re risking meltdown with the public, being the fickle beings they are, not caring any more.

What’s my opinion? Hell, I love the comic book genre, and was one of those little kids that read about Spider-Man and X-Men and religiously watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I’ll no doubt watch every movie that comes out, even the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‘s, Elektra‘s and The Punisher‘s of this world. The only fear I have is that we’ll return to that pre-2000 mindset, where only us nostalgic fans remain… in our rooms… talking of the now mythical Golden Age of comic book movies. But then again, people have been predicting this bubble will burst for years now, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Possibly a tree that isn’t a superhero.

Sound off in our Comments section below…

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises… and Soars.

No-one can question the monstrous popularity of Chris Nolan‘s take on the wealthy guy with the gruff voice, cape and penchant for telling women his secret identity. So with the final entry in Nolan’s trilogy rolling into town, can the film live up to its hype to surpass the success of its predecessors and the other tentpole superhero movies of the summer?

Let’s just skip the formalities and foreplay and bare all – this is a stunning film and a fitting climax for the current iteration of “The Batman”. Without explaining anything substantial about the plot, this essentially picks up the story some years after the events of The Dark Knight and follows Bruce Wayne / Batman (Christian Bale) as he contends with Bane (Tom Hardy) – the new bad boy on the scene, who’s got a number of plans for the city of Gotham. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, so safely read on…

Casting was once again spot on. Just as with Heath Ledger‘s casting announcement in The Dark Knight, Anne Hathaway‘s selection as Catwoman was a bit peculiar for some, myself included. But it worked. It really worked. But for me, it’s the role of Bane that held the movie together, with Tom Hardy proving a great choice.  His role in last year’s criminally overlooked Warrior showed his physical capabilities and he’s clearly trained hard to achieve the juggernaut-esque build of Bane, much like he did with Bronson. Thankfully the ‘roid raging, grunting imbecile in a luciador’s mask from 1997’s Batman & Robin is no-where to be seen; this one is far smarter, more devious and more sinister. Kudos to Nolan and his wardrobe team as the costumes, especially Hardy‘s, just worked so well. The only real under-used element is actually Bale himself for reasons that will become apparent when you watch the film. For a guy with such fantastic acting skills (The Machinist, The Fighter) it’s a shame, but that’s the nature of the beast that is Batman. A further honourable mention has to go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who continues his run of form from Inception and 50/50 and really rounds out the lead cast despite his lack of cowl, mask or “I’m in disguise”-voice.

Batman and Bane tussle over which is more fashionable: cowl with ears or ventilator.

Sure, the film had its flaws and plot-holes, such as a teleporting Bruce Wayne and a seemingly unclimbable rope (like the one from your gym class when you were 12), but it’s called the ‘suspension of disbelief’. Maybe it’s a compliment to Nolan‘s world that we pick up on these inconsistencies as you almost forget that this is a comic book tale. It’s not a documentary, don’t treat it like one – the guy’s dressed as a bat gallivanting around New York (Gotham) afterall…

People will inevitably ask “Ok Phage, who is the better villain? Ledger‘s Joker or Hardy‘s Bane?” and “Oi, Phage, which is the better comic book movie of the summer? Avengers Assemble or The Dark Knight Rises?” And if you weren’t, you probably are now. Or you’re at least mildly curious. Well, I’ll ask you – what do you prefer: breathing or eating? Unless you have a grudge against staying alive, you’ll say both because they’re things you can’t choose between or compare, and the same is true here. The two villains are stylistically and ideologically distinct and both Ledger and Hardy do those characters real justice. You’ve also got to take into account that Hardy’s Bane wears a huge piece of breathing apparatus on his face – you’re not going to get nuanced facial ticks – it’s all based off of physical presence, dialogue and manner of delivery (I truly loved the King of the Gypsies-inspired accent). Similarly, Marvel and DC’s summer blockbusters are worlds apart in tone, with Avengers Assemble arguably sticking more to the ‘comic book’ template than Nolan‘s grounded take on the Bat. Both are great examples of adapting comics for the silver screen.

Attentions will now turn to Nolan‘s next turn at being (partially) involved with a superhero: Man of Steel, due in June 2013 (check out the trailer here). Will lightning strike twice and it now be the turn of Superman to get his moment in the sun? Or will Zack Snyder oversaturate the screen, add some little skirts and put the whole film in slow-mo? Time will tell. Until then, we have the hero we need right now up on our screens.

Nolan‘s Batman began, became a knight and has risen to unassailable heights at the cinema, but you can’t help but have mixed feelings about his final entry in the Batman franchise. On one hand it’s a fantastic slice of cinema and is what summers were made for, but on the other… what can we next expect from the world of Batman, which the public has clearly taken to heart? Hopefully Warner make some good decisions before we see the inevitable reboot in 5 years time.

And in a summer choc-full of superhero shenanigans, people will argue over which was the “hit” of the year, regardless of box office figures. Ultimately, the only winner is the general public getting two great, must-see movies in a summer (and Spider-Man…); unless you’re a Marvel (Avengers etc) or DC (Batman etc) fan-boy then you’ll blindly argue that ‘your’ film was best and the other was ‘bloated and predictable’… A bit like your comments.

Enjoy the comic book adaptation Golden Age!

Phage Factor:

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