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Upcoming Comic Book Movies

posted by Mike on 8/11/03

It goes without saying that the last two summers have been a long time coming For Marvel Comics. While a definite spark was lit by Blade in 1997, and again with X-Men in 2000, the ball really got rolling when Spiderman hit last year and shattered just about every record there was, short of Titanic's overall worldwide draw. Since then we've had Blade II (more a horror film than a comic book actioner, mostly due to Del Toro's superior direction and style) Daredevil (call me crazy, but I actually liked the Daredevil from "Trial Of The Incredible Hulk" better) X2: X-Men United, (vastly superior to the first film, but still highly formulaic... can't they find anyone for Wolverine to fight who doesn't have essentially the same powers?) and now The Hulk, which has become a topic of hot debate all across the net, and is the best remake of King Kong I've seen since, well, the 1976 Jeff Bridges remake of King Kong. And this summer, we still have The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to look forward to.

It would appear that the super-hero flick is quickly morphing into a genre all its own. With each successive film grossing huge bank, it's no wonder that we have a plethora of new films rushing into production... but in their quest to milk the comics dry of every possible franchise cash cow, is it possible that we, the actual filmgoers, might be subjected to films that would make Roger Corman's direct-to-bootleg version of The Fantasic Four seem like Schindler's List by comparison? Why don't we take a look at what's on the production block for the next few years and find out... Consider this a WD public service announcement, designed to protect your wallet from future cinematic turds.

Dude, where's my fortress of solitude?

1) Superman V

This one's been tossed back and forth for years. One of the original scripts (I say "one of" because it's now almost impossible to trace the project back far enough to determine who actually got it going) was written by Kevin "Silent Bob" Smith, and was based on the "Death Of Superman" plotline. Unfortunately, that included the funeral scene, wherein just about every major DC character showed up to pay homage to the big guy in blue, so it would have been a licensing nightmare. Everyone from Batman to Hawkman was in the script, and would've made the pre-production cost of getting licensing for what was essentially 2 minutes of film more than the whole effects budget.

So Smith was out, and then came Tim Burton... who quickly left when he couldn't get a script going that Warner Bros would greenlight (you know, the guys who gave the go ahead to the Batman and Robin script.) Then after a script was finally greenlighted, which has Kal-El being "The Chosen One,"sent to earth to protect him from a civil war being waged on Krypton, a search for a new director got underway, and is still ongoing. Last rumor was that McG, the mastermind behind the Charlie's Angels films, was vying for the job.

Worse yet is that every actor trying for the main role has either been rejected or forced to leave because of delays. The first was Nicholas Cage. I can't think of any other big name actor who looks LESS like Superman than Nick, except for maybe Samuel L. Jackson. Nick left, but found a comic project of his own, which I'll get to in a bit. After him followed a laundry list of square-jawed leading men, every one from Collin Ferrall to Brendan Frasier. All have come and gone due to scheduling conflicts, pay, or delays.

The latest rumor, almost too comical to be true, is Ashton Kutcher, star of That 70's Show, The Jamie Kennedy Experience Reduex known as Punk'd, and numerous forgettable teeny bopper faire, such as the recently released no brainer Just Married, funny only because of its disctinction of being the first film to have a character scream "Son of a BYATCH!" after getting pelted in the forehead with a stone ash tray.

I shit you not, this film has been through so much development hell, it's becoming as much of a joke in the film industry as the new Guns N' Roses album is in the music business. It's like those urban legends you hear about the country being right on the verge of releasing cars that run on tap water and piss. There's just enough fact to know that such a thing has been conceived, but not enough actual work to make you think it'll ever really happen.

When all is said and done, it's the chin that matters

2) Batman 5, aka Batman: Year One, aka Batman: The Frightening

Yes, Warner Bros. really does want to make this film. Though after the abortion that was Batman and Robin, I can't imagine why. This franchise is about as dead as MC Hammer's career. Still, with costumed super-heroes making big bucks lately, you can't blame them for trying to revive what was once king of the box office hill. This new film, originally conceived as a rendition of Frank Miller's Year One story line, has now been re-done by Blade scriptwriter David S. Goyer to be just another sequel, this time pitting Batman against Scarecrow (this frightens me a bit, since Joel Schumacher stated before B&R bombed that he'd love to have Howard Stern play Scarecrow in the next flick.) Chris Nolan, the genius behind last year's Robin Williams/Al Pacino thriller Insomnia has been hired to direct.

But who will play the caped crusader? So far, the going rumor is Guy Pearce, known for playing edgy characters in films such as LA Confidential and Memento, and also more popcorn-flick offerings like The Time Machine and The Count Of Monte Crisco. He recently stated on the Daily Show that Chris Nolan wanted him for the part, and that he hadn't turned it down. And having such a prominent chin, I'm sure he'll do fine. After all, that's pretty much all you see in a Batman film. Based on that alone, you'd think Bruce Campbell would be the natural choice, but one can only dream. Imagine Batman taking out the Scarecrow with a chainsaw and snappy one-liner. By the way, Ashton has also been rumored to be trying for this one, in case he doesn't get the cape and tights in Superman. Either way, someone needs to take this man out before he does more damage.

If I were to suck out your SOUL... would you be grateful?

3) Ghost Rider

Well, Nick had to pass on Superman, so he went and found another comic project, this one combining his love of comics and motorbikes. Yep, after years of tossing out names like Johnny Depp and (heaven forbid) John Travolta, Cage has officially signed on to don the flaming skull of Johnny Blaze in the big screen offering, Ghost Rider. The script, once again, has been written by Blade scripter David S. Goyer, and will apparently mix the first Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze, possessed by the demon Zarathos) with the 2nd, and less popular, flaming undead zombie super hero (Danny Ketch, possessed by the Spirit of Vengeance.)

This one has me intrigued. Hell, who wouldn't want to see a guy zipping down the road on a Harley with his head on fire? Forget the movies, I'd pay admission to see that live! Add to this the fact that the wheel's on GR's bike are also made of flame, (which for some reason allows him to drive up the sides of buildings) a chain weapon that can detach and turn its links into dozens of sharp edged daggers, and the "Pennance Stare," a fatality move extra-ordinaire, wherein Ghosty stares into your eyes and subjects you to all the pain you've ever inflicted on others during your entire lifetime, but gives it to you all in one brain-frying dose, and what you have is a film with the potential to be the next Blade horror/comic action combo hit. Then again, I still remember the pain that was "Spawn." Anyone who ever again hires John Legeuizamo to play a comic book villain needs to be strapped into the chair from Clockwork Orange and forced to watch "The Pest" until their gray matter explodes from their ass.

Who's next, Black Vulcan?

4) Black Panther

In addition to the third film in the Blade series (the only movies that Snipes seems to make lately that actually earns back their budget,) old Willy Mayes Hayes has gone on record to say he'll be producing and starring in the big screen version of Black Panther, a Marvel Exploitation comic from the 70's that made about as big a mark on the comic industry as Lisa Marie Prestley has on the music scene. This book was equal parts Tarzan, Batman, and Blacula, having to do with an African Prince who rules over his country by day, and then dresses like Baghira from Disney's The Jungle book and fights crime with his complete lack of super powers by night. No shit. He looks somewhat menacing in his all black skintight jumpsuit, can climb trees, and hit people. That's about it. So of course, New Line is going to pour some bucks into this, hoping to have a cross-cultural hit on their hands like the Blade films. But Blade was interesting, a character torn by genetics and bad luck. This guy's just Batman in a cougar suit. When this one comes out, it needs to avoid the cineplex and go straight to Wal-mart's bargain bin, right next to Dolph Lundgren's shitass Punisher movie. Oh, and speaking of the Punisher...

I tore Cameron Diaz a new one... the Kingpin ain't shit

5) The Punisher

As stated, Dolph Lundgren and Lou Gosset JR starred in 1991's the Punisher, and absolutely ruined my love for that comic. The film is so bad that the first time I saw it, at around 3 am on TBS, I thought it was a TBS made TV flick.

Flash forward 13 years, and Artisan, those wonderful folks who gave us the Blair Witch Project and an endless supply of special edition Stargate re-re-re-re-releases, is going back to the white skull well, to tell the story of Frank Castle, a former cop who goes vigilante after his family is murdered. The character of the Punisher is interesting, to say the least. He has no powers, other than his super human knowledge of how many ways there are to kill a man with bullets. He just has anger, bloodlust, and enough guns' to arm half of south central Los Angeles. The script, from what I've read, is pretty good. And I'll get to see some of this one in the making, as several of its key scenes are being shot right here in Tampa, down in the club mecca known as Ybor City.

But I have to bring into question the acting talent that has been brought together for this mid-budget shoot 'em up. First off, Frank Castle has always been depicted as a towering, Terminatorish killing machine, a massive stone slab of a man who'd just as soon crush your skull with his eyebrows as to waste a bullet on you. So who did they hire? Why, Thomas Jane, of course! Haven't heard of him? Well, that's because short of playing the plaything of Cameron Diaz in The Sweetest Thing, Mr. Jane hasn't had a real hit on his hands, unless you count his stint as Pvt. Ash in The Thin Red Line, or the shark expert in the unbelievably horrendous Renny Harlin Jaws 3 remake known as Deep Blue Sea (see Mickey's take on this film by clicking here.)

Whereas Castle was tall and muscular with straight, gun-powder black hair, Jane is short, rather scrawny, with curly blonde hair. Hiring him to play the Punisher is no different than if Peter Jackson had hired Alf to play Golem in the Lord of the Rings films. And perhaps even worse is the fact that they've hired John Travolta to play Castle's arch nemesis, Howard Saint... Wait, you might ask, wasn't the Punisher's main villain the Kingpin? Well, yes. But the Kingpin was already portrayed in last spring's Daredevil by Michael Clarke Duncan, who already gets more per picture than this film's entire budget, so it's to the cutting floor with the Kingpin of Crime... I detect scenery-chewing the likes of which hasn't been seen since Travolta last played a maniacal ex-military man in Broken Arrow, or when he played a maniacal FBI Agent/super criminal in Face Off. Not exactly stretching his wings with this one, folks.

As you can see, there's a great deal of not-so-fantastic offerings on their way to AMC 24's everywhere, and will surely be films where the best parts are shown in the previews, only to assault us with the other 87 minutes of cinematic pre-cum once we pay our seven bucks. Oh sure, there's still some hope. Spiderman 2 is on the way, as is the third X-Men film, and a super hero comedy called The Incredibles, on its way fall 2004 from Pixar. Best of all, perhaps, is next summer's Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman of Wolverine fame, playing the famous vampire killer as a young man, travelling across Europe killing suckheads for the Catholic Church with a wide array of weaponry, full on Vampire Hunter D style... but for every one film like it, there will doubtlessly be a dozen Shadows, Phantoms, Meteor-Men, Blankmen, Mystery Men (well... the bowling ball was cool at least) and... I shudder to think of it... Puma Men... We can only watch and be cautious, with our shit detectors tuned to maximum sensitivity. After all, George Lucas himself thought there was a market for Howard The Duck...


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