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…

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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:

5 Star

Comic-Con 2012 Film Round-Up

Comic-Con… An event that used to be regarded as the time of year when pale, socially awkward creatures would gown up as their favourite science fiction character, brave the Californian sun, and make their pilgrimage to meet the stars of thatshowyou’veneverheardof and itwasbiginthe80’s. You need look no further than that barometer of public opinion, The Simpsons, to see how these events were seen… Remember the baying hordes asking Lucy “Xena” Lawless the most absurd and nerdy questions in a scene from 1999’s Treehouse of Horror X? Or for those less familiar with the intricacies of the series, you’re surely aware of Comic Book Guy, the rotund, sarcastic and single comic book shop owner? Well, fill a hall with people of this calibre and that’s how this event was rightly or wrongly seen back in yesteryear. No more.

Jump forward a decade and Comic-Con is firmly marked on every film enthusiast’s, entertainment magazine’s and large film studio’s calender next to the award ceremonies. Why? Well, it’s not to catch a glimpse of some of the phenomenal Cosplay costumes, but to hear about the latest announcements on the current darlings of Hollywood: the comic book movie… and this year was exceptional.

Ant-Man: Coming soon to a cereal bowl near you!

The  “House of M” (Marvel), coupled with the “House of Mouse” (Disney) really brought the goods this year; probably their best outing since the entire cast of Avengers Assemble was erm… assembled on-stage at the 2010 expo. It really is telling of how far Comic-Con has come in recent years that Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle – two of Hollywood’s leading men – were in attendance. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take this sequentially as opposed to tackling this with the reckless chronological abandonment of Quentin Tarantino.

Proceedings were kicked off with the confirmation that Edgar Wright‘s Ant-Man will indeed see the light of day. Yes, that’s right – that little punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids has harnessed Rick Moranis’ awesome shrink gun powers and become a superhero. Ok, I jest… in fact, that little kid grew up and became, well, no-one. Last film? 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up The Kid. Not all film roles are kind to you. Funny that these two films perfectly encompass Ant-Man‘s eventual powers: the ability to shrink to the size of ants (and control them) and become gigantic. Though if Wright puts him in a bowl of Cheerio’s at some point we’ll know where the inspiration came from. Kidding aside, every comic fan worth his/her salt knows that the introduction of this hero into Marvel‘s cinematic Universe could spark some very exciting film plots down the line… Tickle this Phage excited.

Next up, we’ve got Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. – a man who needs no introduction, but this doesn’t stop him giving himself one courtesy of Luther Vandross. If this man wasn’t so damn charismatic, talented and infectious you’d want to tell him to come off the pompous juice every now and again. Downey (himself / Iron Man), Cheadle (James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine), Shane Black (director) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan / exec. producer) of course were on hand to show off footage from the Iron Man 3 film. As The Phage is a bit wet behind the ears and not based in California, we weren’t there to explain the footage to you, but needless to say it sounds fantastic. Notably, it was confirmed that Ben Kingsley will indeed be the Mandarin, although I think the only people unaware of this casting are those that are holed up in bunkers awaiting the nuclear fallout caused by the Millennium Bug to clear in 2023, or you know, they have a life that’s not based on the internet… It’ll be nice to see Kingsley flexing his serious acting chops again after whatever The Dictator was. Due in May 2013 (April for the UK), this is sure to be one to mark on the calender.

In a back-to-back onslaught, the final announcements from the Marvel stable caught some off-guard for polarising reasons. Firstly, the good. We find that the uniquely named Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have been morphed into Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although the Thor title has left some room for ambiguity in what’s to come in November 2013, ol’ Cap’ doesn’t. Expect the return of Bucky Barnes, who was last seen falling off a train in an Arctic looking Germany, in 2014.

Oops, there goes the neighbourhood! That, or Marvel’s current run of form.

Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a comic book fan (see The Amazing Spider-Man review), but the confirmation that Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t just some ludicrous rumour was… well, imagine the feeling you’d get if you’d just woken up in an alternate reality where Keanu Reeves doesn’t act like a soulless robot from the planet “Woody Woody Wood Wood” and Justin Bieber now fronts Napalm Death… Sure, it might seem like a pleasant surprise on the surface, but it’s just odd. So with Marvel soon introducing an intergalactic Peace Corps led by a talking raccoon, we can expect the “grounded” take on superheroes to evaporate quicker than that punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids‘ career. Here at the Phage, we can see the connection clarifying the *Avengers spoiler* Thanos appearance in Avengers Assemble, but do we really crave these heroes…? “They may be the ones the Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves, but not the ones it needs right now…  Because they’re not known heroes. They’re unknown guardians, watchful protectors… a difficult sell to the public.” Speaking of which…   

Ok, DC didn’t launch in with a Batman quote, nor clips from the imminent The Dark Knight Rises… Nor does it need them as that particular hype machine is in danger of exploding amid reports it could topple  Avengers Assemble‘s opening weekend take and that negative reviewers are being cyber-lynched left, right and centre.

Man of Steel. Not shown practising Blue Steel. Just moody.

No, DC had but one film to show for what is arguably their poster boy: Superman, with Man of Steel. Both Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman) and director Zack Snyder (thankfully at a normal frame rate) were on hand to show off some footage and answer fans’ questions. Once again, The Phage was overlooked for a press pass, so no in-person viewing (this will have to wait for The Dark Knight Rises trailers), but the main thing we learn is that yes, General Zod is the villain. Yes, that’s right – the same villain from Superman II back in 1980. Hopefully they’ve updated the General’s fashion sense since then; although they say the 80’s are back in fashion again so maybe he’ll still be sporting some high rise black trousers. Reports on the frames-per-second of Snyder‘s Superman are still pending. Expect to see the return of the other guy who sports red and blue in June 2013. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be an origin story…

I wish there was more to balance out the weighting of Marvel vs. DC Comics in this report, but DC doesn’t have that many burning franchises, aside from Superman and Batman, who’s soon to be retired and rebooted following Chris Nolan‘s trilogy. Rumours abound about a Justice League movie (like the Avengers’ ensemble cast), as well as a Green Lantern reboot (yes, just 2 years after the original), but nothing concrete has been announced.

There really was something for every comic book movie fan at Comic-Con this year. The Phage won’t dip into the reams of other announcements regarding non-film franchises such as The Walking Dead, but needless to say it stood out in so many areas.

So whether you’re a fan of men flying around wearing a cape, Norse Gods with washboard-like ab’s, or talking racoons from space, there was something to get excited about.

And there’s always next year for “that punk” from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids to make his unexpected and unneeded return to the silver screen…

“Bring back Nick!” Campaign 2012