In Part I, I outlined the stakes of superhero movie making. Computer technology has finally come of age and allowed filmmakers and the two big comic book houses to have their characters and stories to be portrayed on the silver screen. Plus, in the last 10 years under the tutelage of folks like Joe Quesada and others, the stories have matured and the ideas for heroes are far more fertile than once before. Simultaneously, our perception of superheroes has matured.
Now, let’s focus on what’s being made and what could be made. It’s the ultimate fanboy conversation that usually starts with, “What if … ?” So, here are a few “what if …” suggestions on films that will be made, some that should be made and others that producers should keep their distance from. For instance, we know we’ll never see “Howard the Duck” again, but maybe a Hawkeye film is in our futures.
And with that said, here are some realities and suggestions.
Five Marvel characters that will (eventually or really) have their own films
Thor. Norwegian mythology’s toe-headed hammer wielder comes to the silver screen. Wait, what? First, if someone is going to resurrect movies about mythology, then bring back Clash of the Titans, including the mechanical owl. Among the titles Disney/Marvel will churn out between now and 2012, Thor stands as the one that raises the most eyebrows. To quote one credible blogger, “I never was a big fan of Thor and I’m just not into the whole God thing.” All righty. Just some quick facts about the superhero Thor: Thor is, well, a God. He fights Loki most of the time. And the summation of the remainder of the comic book line looks a lot like this: “When the timeline is reset, Loki revives Surtur, who forges new uru hammers for Loki’s Storm Giant followers and begins Ragnarök, “the twilight of the gods”. Thor learns that the Ragnarok cycle is the result of self-styled “gods to the gods” known as Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, who feed on the cycle. Thor confronts the Norns (Fates), breaking the Ragnarok cycle, and then enters a stasis, sleeping “the sleep of the gods.” With his fate unknown to the Avengers, he is believed to be missing in action.” Popcorn munching, edge-of-your-seat fun… activate! There’s no way something like this translates into film well, so expect something much more boiled down like: ” Thor smashes his hammer a lot, makes lightning bolts and thunder a lot, and lots of CG shots of Asgard. Think matrix with less dialogue and no sci-fi, bulging muscles and Burger King toy tie-in. Let’s greenlight it!”
Captain America. In short, weakly Steve Rogers uses performance-enhancing drugs to become a superhero. The performance-enhancing drug gets downplayed in favor of the fact that he’s doing it for the U.S. of A. Sort of like what Roger Clemens for the New York Yankees. So, in a culture already stoning baseball players abusing drugs, the studio is going to trot out a guy whose very super powers emulate from drug use — a “super serum”? Marvel will need to repackage how Steve Rogers injects himself. Also, World War II is 60 years past. So, I’m guessing the plot will need freshening to include the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which aren’t popular subjects in the first place. Cap has been done before, in 1990, in fact. It included an appearance by Red Skull, a motorcycle and Ned Beatty (“Yes, Mistuh LOOOOTHOR!”). Said film ends as the credits roll with a comic book image of Captain America in the background and a plea to support the United States Environmental Protection Act of 1990. Wha? There’s fertile ground here for a “reimagining” of Captain America. Let’s hope they hit the mark.
Deadpool. The new Wolverine. Rob Liefeld’s creation came to life in the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” film and now gets his own treatment. Why? All the same things we like about Wolverine we like in Deadpool. Plus Deadpool has guns, swords, knives and breaks the Fourth Wall a lot. Deadpool enjoys the same sort of fans as Wolverine. Should be a winner. Or, could be the next Hudson Hawk. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Doctor Strange. Not on the docket, but one I think should be made. Magic, Manhattan and all sorts of weird counter culture. Lots of opportunity for great CG and if you cast Burt Reynolds as the Doc, *BAM*, the Hooper and Cannonball Run sequels are back on the board! One danger, as Jerry Seinfeld said in one famous epsiode of Seinfeld, “I don’t want to become one of those guys with all the lotions and robes and incense, like Hugh Hefner.” Doc Strange is one of those guys.
Punisher. Sure, there have already been two stinker films done. However, now that Hollywood studios are starting to understand superhero culture, the same studios can better understand Punisher. But who cares? Punisher is about brutality and bullets. A great film for the MMA crowd, Punisher will get remade again. And again.
Five Marvel characters that should have their own films
Gambit. It’s just a matter of when. Gambit’s another underground favorite who can appeal to a broad audience. Tie in Texas Hold ‘Em Poker to his throwing card thing plus the Bayou bad boy. A Hurricane Katrina tie in wouldn’t hurt. Some music by Mystikal when he gets out of the joint … let the good times roll!
Vision. All right. I stand alone in lobbying for a Vision film. Great back story. Green with red face. Maybe better made as a well-funded independent film. He could be the next Wall-e with the right crew. Or the next Futureworld.
Silver Surfer. Such a no brainer.
Daredevil. I said in Part I that Matt Murdoch’s big-screen debut suffered because of too much leather. Producers tried to squeeze every bit of cool out of those Frank Miller-era Daredevil issues, including the “But me I’m magic” line. However, the film looked and felt too much like a Michael Ninn adult venture. Treat Daredevil like the “Bourne” film series and this line takes off full speed. And, no, I did NOT mention the Elektra film that followed. It must not be mentioned. Ever.
Cable. A badass military character with mysterious origins and fantastic abilities? Instant box office. Comic writers have loved having Cable to write about and the recent Messiah War epic served to only bolster his standing in fans’ minds. It’s an easy sell to producers, what with Cable’s penchant for guns and his leadership role with the New Mutants (which means you can create the High School Musical version of X-Men, should Marvel wanna).
Teams of note:
Defenders. Lots of quirky weird characters including Doc Strange and Gargoyle. Could be given a Watchmen like realism with a quirky Juno like fun.
Alpha Flight. Guardian! Northstar! Sasquatch! Puck! Aurora! CANADA! Mix in a Captain Canuck appearance and this thing sells out in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and most of Nova Scotia, baby!
Three Marvel Characters Prodcuers Should Run The Other Direction From
Namor. Suffers from the same plight as Aquaman (See below). A lot of swimsuit time. Commands the undersea army of gilled friends. Erm, stay away.
Fantastic Four. I know. Two films. Both made money. Jessica Alba. However, FF can be summed up like this: Rich guy goes into space. In his carelessness, rich guys inflicts radiation poisoning on his four friends (including Victor Von Doom). Friends lives completely changed. They form a team of superheroes with absolutely no counseling. Von Doom hates all of them. There’s nothing for audiences to grab onto here. No pathos. No identity. Maybe the New York connection? Tough sell. Remember, Ghost Rider closely followed the Silver Surfer FF sequel, and we all know how THAT ended up.
Ant Man. And yes, still batted around in Hollywood in the same way that new Eddie Murphy movies get consideration.
Five DC characters that will (eventually or really) have their own films
Superman. Oh. He’ll be back again. The question is this: Into what niche does Superman fit? There’ve been so many iterations on television and in film. The first Christopher Reeve film stands triumphantly above all the others. And I spoke in depth about Superman Returns in Part I of this column. In short, when Superman is treated like a comic book in movies, it works. When it’s turned into an episode of “Desperate Housewives” meets “Cloverfield,” it fails. Or, maybe Superman’s time has past. Even DC has tried to kill Superman off in comics. He keeps coming back — as android, alien and more. Meh. Writing Superman off is crazy talk. If Richard Pryor can make a Superman film, then Chris Tucker cannot be far behind! Besides, Warner has made an oil tanker of cash from Superman films. The Man of Tomorrow will be back again.
Green Lantern. Speaking of the guy who played Deadpool … Green Lantern finally gets a live action big screen treatment. This could either be very very well done and or this could be incredibly dumb. The difference between one and the other? First, how filmmakers treat the Lantern’s aversion to the color yellow. Second, limiting the number of dumb things Hal Jordan can create with his ring as weapons or shields. If the wrong people get hold of the ring idea, this film will end up looking like Jim Carrey and “The Mask” rather than a superhero film. I see Big Bird, Pac Man and SpongeBob Squarepants having integral roles as villains, or I may have just taken a crazy pill. Moving on.
Lobo. DC’s Wolverine is coming to film. Same ilk. Same audience draw with some WWE Undertaker, undead and crazy biker guy add ins. Easy to want this guy to siphon off some of the Wolverine hype. Apparently Madonna’s ex-husband is attached. Could be interesting.
Flash. So many possibilities. My favorite comic book character’s had a television series, but never film. This will to get done because speed never gets old. I’ve seen a pair of Web blurbs saying this one is coming. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Shazam. Apparently, Shazam returns to film in the next five years. Shazam suffers from some of the same problems that Wonder Woman has coming to screen (more on that in a second). So, this will be solely a children’s property, right? I’m a sucker for characters with lightning bolts (Shazam, Flash, Mage) in their costume.
Five DC characters that should have their own films
Vigilante. Guns and Vengeance. What more does a theater-going boy need?
Green Arrow. Already on the docket from what I understand. Producers, please use Kevin Smith’s stuff and add that little bit that Frank Miller gave us in “The Dark Knight Returns.” (More on TDKR in a moment)
Firestorm. Fire! Fire! Fire! More fire! High school kid AND nuclear scientist fuse together to form one guy. It’s Freaky Friday all over again!
Martian Manhunter. My affinity for John Ostrander never ends. Plus, martians, outer space and hunting, all good for movies.
Dr. Fate. It’s superhero meets The Mummy (God, I really should be a Hollywood pitchman). How can this go wrong? Oh. Wait.
Teams of note:
Teen Titans. So easy. Already been done in animation. My High School Musical analogy still fits here.
Justice League. If only to resurrect the Ted Knight soundbite for, “Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice!”
Three DC Characters Producers Should Run The Other Direction From
Supergirl. Anything other than Superman fails. Supergirl is forced, regardless of the treatment.
Aquaman. Where do I start? King of the deep? Sure. Useless on land. Worst costume. Without some sort of oceanic environmental message, empty. Worst costume. Anything tied to Aquaman SCREAMS “Waterworld.”
Wonder Woman. To quote the creator, Wonder Woman was created in a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to ‘a world torn by the hatred of men.” Right. That should be an easy sell to producers. Unless Lynda Carter’s been injected with Steve Rogers’ serum (Hey, now …) and a barrel of stem cells, Wonder Woman is best left on the pages. Too much mysticism and godly lore again (e.g. Thor, Shazam), but the invisible jet gag — maybe.
Finally, a note to anyone with a hair’s breadth of sanity: MAKE THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS AS ITS OWN FILM. It’s a fantastic idea. Batman, old, wishes he was back to being Batman. A hip chick Robin. The best depiction of the Joker ever. Bondage and S&M. Fast cars. David Letterman. Just, umm … don’t let Frank Miller direct it.
But that’s got about as much chance as me seeing Howard the Duck II: the Attack of the Circular Italian Food Objects.
(Jason Tudor is an author and illustrator who contributes to the Furnace. His website has a candy bowl and hand sanitizer.)