Posts Tagged ‘Marvel movies’

              One of the features that led to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that its various branches covered different genres. Hulk was the Fugitive/man on the run, Captain America was James Bond style espionage, Guardians of the Galaxy was Star Wars lite, and so forth. Not resting on their laurels after becoming the most successful film franchise of all time, Marvel swung high with their latest entry. The Eternals brings the MCU into Clash of the Titans territory with their own mythology and millennia spanning arc.

              The first MCU film with an opening crawl, The Eternals starts with “In the beginning,” establishing its vast backstory. The titular group of superpowered beings serve the god like giants known as Celestials and protect mankind against a group of monsters called the Deviants. Their absence from past MCU stories such as Thanos and the Infinity Gems is explained by their oath to not interfere with the human race unless they are threatened by the Deviants.

              Deviants make their return in the modern era, a time when the Eternals have gone their separate ways. Slowly the Eternals regroup, during which we get various flashbacks explaining their backstories, their relationships with each other, and their role, and lack thereof, throughout human history.

              With a cast of ten Deviants, it is difficult for any one character to stand out, but each of them are given moments to shine. Sprite has the body of a young girl and is frustrated that she never seems to age. Kingo became a rich Bollywood star who passes himself off as his son every generation (He also owns Captain America’s original shield).  Angelina Jolie plays Thena, a skilled warrior who suffers from a mental illness that results from a brain holding thousands of years of memories, and so forth. Also, of interesting note, Superman is referenced as a fictional character. I guess this means we won’t have a MCU/DC film.

           The Deviants take a smaller role in the narrative than expected. As the plot advances, we learn the true nature of both the Eternals and the Celestials, and it is this truth that drives the conflict. It’s almost just as well as the Deviants don’t bring a sense of fear and foreboding that is expected of a movie monster. More obviously CGI than other creatures of the MCU, the Deviants look as though they were lifted from a video game and are not as scary as they needed to be.

              Having said that, the Eternals mostly delivers on its high ambitions of telling a vast world sweeping time spanning epic tale, adding a major piece of mythology to the lore of the MCU. Completely unconnected to the Infinity saga that had dominated most of the Marvel films, Eternals feels like a breath of fresh air to the franchise. It is the first Marvel film in quite a while that feels like it just could have been its own separate unique property.

Eternals is currently streaming on Disney Plus.

Deadpool is an R rated film about the Marvel Comics character from their X-men line of comics. The basic plot is a pretty standard revenge story, but the selling point is it’s over the top style and humor. Right from the opening credits (mocking the standard casting of hot chic, British villain, etc) it’s subversive, witty, and openly mocks the superhero genre. Immediately it provides a gag referring to the Ryan Reynolds failed Green Lantern film, as well as the poorly received version of Deadpool from the also dis-liked Wolverine: Origins film (They actually show an action figure of that version of the character). There’s even jokes about actor Ryan Reynolds himself, as well as a few name drops to Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld.

This film does take place in the same universe as the other X-men films (The Days of Future Past apparently retconned the timeline apparently (and thankfully) erasing Wolverine Origins). However there are little to no references to those films. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead appear offering assistance to Deadpool, which leads to more hilarious moments, like when Deadpool breaks his hands punching Colossus.

Again the basic plot is nothing special, but the story is broken up between flashbacks to keep it from feeling redundant. Deadpool blatantly breaks the fourth wall talking directly to the audience explaining the flashbacks, joking about Wolverine, referencing other films, and commenting that the films budget could only afford two other X-men. There’s a few gags I’ve never seen before on film. In the beginning Deadpool gets shot right in his rectum. He also gets his hand cut off, and we later see him with a baby hand as it slowly regenerates, this gag of course is accompanied by a masturbation joke. It probably has one of the best Stan Lee cameos as well.

With it’s subversive nature, 4th wall breaking and general mockery of the superhero genre, Deadpool was quite a chance for a Marvel movie, but it works. It’s easily one of the best of the X-men series, and one of the best Marvel movies in general.

By the way, there is a post credit scene, but naturally it totally mocks the concept of post credit scenes. It’s purely for laughs, and also reminds people to have good theater etiquette when leaving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wolverine is a direct sequel to X-men 3, and ignores the previous Wolverine movie that focused on his origins and was not as critically received.

The Wolverine focuses on the emotional fallout of the events of X-men 3 without completely relying on the knowledge of that film. Logan is in self imposed exile in Canada, wishes to no longer kill, and is haunted by dreams of the now dead Jean Grey.

He is then taken to Japan where he meets someone from his past, and is offered a chance to lose his immortality. A series of events unfolds where he comes in conflict with the Japanese underworld, another mutant, and a giant adamantium samauri. For a while I was wondering what the giant robot was doing here, but involves a twist so obvious that you miss it.

Fox Studios took a lot of heat for X-men 3 and Wolverine Origins. However it has bounced back very strong with X-men First Class and The Wolverine. When First Class came out I said it was the best X-men movie, but Wolverine is even better. The Wolverine is a shining example that a franchise movie can also be a strong character piece.

There is a mid credit scene which presumable leads to events of next years Days of Future Past film.

Also one thing I never liked about the first 3 X-men movies is it’s future setting. I didn’t see why it had to be set in the future. The Wolverine makes no mention of this. For all we know it is set in present day, but definitely after the first three films. Hopefully this future angle is ignored in future films.

Fan Fiction, stories about licensed characters written by fans, have exploded since the internet. What I’m about to write is what I call consumer fiction, not stories necessarily, but what if scenarios imagining certain products coming out.

I’ve written a lot about the Marvel movie universe and DC’s lack thereof. What if DC had started a film universe that went head to head with Marvel’s. It’d be the comic book equivalent to wrestling’s Monday Night Wars.

Year One

Superman

This would basically be Superman Begins. Rebooting the Superman franchise for a new generation, but like the 1978 movie, show lots of Krypton, young Clark, and then have him fight Lex Luthor.

Captain America.

World War II period piece, maybe hinting at, if not showing other heroes of the era. Fights Nazi baddies, Red Skull, ends with his apparent death.

I picked Cap for the first Marvel movie so this year we’d see with the beginning of the Marvel and DC universes.

Year Two

Batman Begins

This could almost be the same movie as what we have. Post credit scene where Superman flies to Wayne Manor, saying they need to talk.

Iron Man

Again could be just about the same movie.

Aquaman.

This could be a good underwater fantasy flick. Post credit scene, a cruise ship rides by, turns out to be Bruce Wayne’s. He makes contact with Aquaman, hints about team.

Year Three

Wonder Woman.

Maybe no WWII references. I’m thinking it all takes place on Paradise island, but perhaps no. Superman appears post credit.

Thor

Continuing the fantasy theme.  Takes place mostly on Asgard.

Green Lantern. Post credit scene with a few heroes.

Year Four

Superman 2. Leads into JLA movie.

Hulk

Justice League,  starring all previous DC characters of course. I’d love to see Darkseid as the big baddie, with hints of him dropped in previous movies.

Avengers.

I’ve always been a Marvel fan, but I think if you look at the core Avengers characters vs JLA, not as many Avengers characters could carry their own movies. That could definitely give DC a box office edge as they’d have more movies to work from. DC COULD HAVE gone toe to toe with Marvel on this, and just might have come out on top. DC Entertainment was announced last month, in an attempt to further capitalize on DC properties,  but is it too late? We’re talking about a company that almost had Jack Black play Green Lantern, so who knows.

Anyway, what do you think?

Wolverine Origins makes 2009 the 8th year in the last ten to see a Marvel Comics movie. (Exceptions were 99 and 01). In fact, this year is also only the third of those 8 years that we’ve only with only one Marvel movie. 2002 had two, and the rest had three. So far there have been three successful film trilogies about Marvel characters, Blade, X-men, and Spiderman. The Spidey trilogy alone made literally over 2 and a half billion dollars. In addition to those trilogies we’ve already had 2 Hulk movies, 2 Fantastic Four movies, 2 Punishers, Iron Man, Daredevil, Elektra, and Ghost Rider. That’s a total of 20 movies, all of which, except the last Punisher, turned a profit at the global box office. (There’s also Man-Thing, which was  intended to have a theatrical release but instead was shown on the Sci-fi channel.).

What a difference a decade makes. 10-15 years ago, Marvel was the poster child of bad movies, with low budget versions of The Punisher, Captain America, and a Roger Corman directed Fantastic Four film that was so bad it was never released. In the late 90s Marvel went bankrupt, and the comic industry itself was in a downward spiral.  Meanwhile DC was rolling with the Batman film franchise, until that was run into the ground with the infamously hated Batman and Robin.

Flash forward to today. How many DC movies have been released in the last 10 years? (Meaning DC Universe Characters, not counting Watchmen and The Spirit) There’s been 5. One of them was Superman Returns, starring Superman as a deadbeat dad. (????) Another was Catwoman. Catwoman, sounds cool right, except it was not at all based on the comic character, was completely unrecognizable to comic fans, and left non-fans with absolutely no bridge to get to the comics. Then there was Constantine, which wasn’t bad. Although the hardcore fans didn’t like it, it was a moderate success. Last is the new Batman series, including the juggernaut that is The Dark Knight. Batman seems to be the one thing DC does right. One would think that being owned by a major movie studio would be to DC’s advantage, but Warner Brothers has to make other kinds of movies besides superheroes. Sometimes, as Marvel has shown us, smaller is better. (In fact, a lot of average/non-geeky folk think Marvel publishes Batman and Superman.)

What Marvel was able to do in the last ten years, is license out different properties to different studios, allowing multiple franchises to be developed at once. This is why many years had not one but three Marvel movies. Fox did X-men and Fantastic Four, Sony did Spiderman, Lionsgate did Punisher, Universal did Hulk, New Line did Blade (Interestingly enough, New Line is owned by Warner Brothers, which in turn owns Marvel’s rival DC comics) and so forth. This gave great mainstream exposure to Marvel characters and helped revitalize the company. (Someone needs to write a book about the transition from a bankrupt Marvel to the powerhouse it is today) The problem for Marvel though, was they only saw a small portion of these movie profits, most of which went to the studios, who in turn take the financial risk of producing said movies.

The whole game changed last year with Iron Man and the Hulk, both produced and made by Marvel Comics themselves. In 2005 Marvel took a $525 million dollar loan from Merrill Lynch to produce a series of films, the rights to those films being collateral. The plus side to this is if the films are successful, it will create a huge new revenue stream for Marvel, plus Marvel will build it’s own film library for later distribution to TV, digital, and other channels. Most films have about a six year window of generating revenue, from box office, to DVD, pay per view options, airing on premium channels like HBO, and finally airing on cable and network TV.

The down side of this is that along with potential profits, they are also taking on potential risks. If the movies are not successful, Marvel will lose money, and either way they still have to pay back their loan to Merrill Lynch. In addition a lot of the big name Marvel characters are already movie franchises, namely Spidey, and the X-men. There aren’t too many big name characters left to film, exceptions being Captain America and Thor, which are in development now.

The counter side to that argument however, is that while there aren’t a lot of big names left, there are literally thousands of minor characters that are potential big screen franchises. The Blade film franchise, for example, was based around a third string character no one outside comics ever heard of, but was re-imagined, made cool, and starred Wesley Snipes, so presto, success. Again there are endless numbers of would be franchises waiting in Marvel’s library, surely all of them won’t hit the mark, but undoubtedly some of them will.

The final benefit of what Marvel is doing is that fans will finally get to see the first comic crossover film. Last years Iron Man and the Hulk are set in the same universe, with Tony Stark appearing at the end of Hulk. The upcoming Captain America and Thor movies will also be set in the same world, culminating in 2012 with the Avengers. That movie will show us the super heroic team of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and probably a few others, like Nick Fury. Fury (played by Samuel Jackson) of course appeared in the post credit Iron Man scene, talking to Tony about the “Avengers Initiative.” Geek moment of the year for Marvel fans.

So I beg the question, why isn’t DC doing this? Furthermore why haven’t they started years ago? Given they’ve all been under the WB roof for decades, it shouldn’t have been too hard. Looking back, Superman Returns should have been Superman Begins. Instead of a love letter to the old movies, it should have restarted the franchise, and established a shared universe with Batman. More movies could have followed like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern, building up to a Justice League movie starring all of the above, and maybe a few more like Martian Manhunter. As much excitement people have now over an Avengers movie, imagine the excitement building up to JLA.

Then imagine if Marvel and DC were going head to head with these movies, each summer both companies releasing an entry or two. Truth be told DC could probably outgun Marvel as far as JLA vs Avenger characters are concerned. In my opinion, there are more JLA characters that could carry their own movies than core Avengers characters. Either way, imagine the debates, the fandom, the hype, two entertainment juggernauts dueling it out for 5 summers straight. It’d be the comic book equivalent of wrestling’s Monday Night Wars.

But enough about comic movies, let’s talk about comics! Marvel hasn’t forgotten that it publishes comic books, and in the last few years published mainstream headline grabbing events. First was Civil War, the premise, due to a tragic accident the US government now requires super-humans to register with the government, or else be jailed. The result is a divided superhero community with some heroes now fugitives, and some villains chasing them for Uncle Sam. Next was World War Hulk, where the Hulkster returns to earth after being exiled into space by his fellow heroes, and boy is he pissed! Next was Secret Invasion, where shape shifting aliens (Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers) are not about to invade earth, but already have, replacing heroes and normal citizens alike. The tagline was, “Who do you Trust?” Currently running is the Dark Reign story, where Norman Osborne leads a band of villains disguised as heroes to protect the United States.

What do all these events have in common? They’re all simple to explain to a non comics fan, and all sound at least somewhat interesting. DC has also done big events recently, but if I were to try to explain them to you, it would take me 20 minutes, and you probably still wouldn’t understand anyway. Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada is on mainstream TV shows like the Colbert Report NPR radio, and online at Myspace, hyping Marvel projects. Can you imagine the head of DC comics trying to explain Infinite Crisis to a television audience?

Into the digital realm, Marvel started a digital online comics experience where, for a subscription, you can read Marvel comic books online. This again got much mainstream attention, and almost crashed Marvel’s website upon initial release due to high volume traffic. DC has done.., some sort of talent search which sounds cool, but the conditions were initially confusing, and online Batman books are nowhere to legally be found. Little things like this are why Marvel has ruled the comics market for 30 plus years.

To be fair, DC’s Vertigo line publishes titles that may be more creative than much of Marvel’s output, it’s just that they don’t sell as well. The DC animated universe, a.k.a. their series of interconnected cartoons in the 90s and 2000s, put Marvel cartoons to shame. Comic’s first mega-crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, has never been topped. Kingdom Come is great, New Frontier is great, and finally Watchmen is simply the best comic book ever. When DC gets it right, they do it better than anyone else, but those moments are few and far between. Marvel seems to get it right more often, and has done more in recent years to get their characters in the public eye. If their own movies continue to hit big, Marvel will be rolling in dough. For this and many other reasons, even in this economic downturn, Marvel stock looks like a good purchase.

So until we see Superman punching out Darkseid on the big screen, make mine Marvel!

(Originally published on myspace on 5/3/08