Fantastic Four trailer debuts

One of my favourite superhero franchises is the Fantastic Four. I love how the story embodies the ideas of friendship, family, power and responsibility all in one. It offers one of the most interesting dynamics of superheros interacting with the real world that any series can offer. As far as I’m concerned, Fox has the best groups of heroes, Sony has the best single hero and Marvel is doing the best with what properties it has left.

Despite not even images from on set having been released until last week, there is a new film out in August this year. I liked the previous series, fun and light as it was, but I’m quite excited about the idea of starting again with one of Marvel’s original set of characters.

The footage looks a lot more serious and grounded than before, but I like that. The effects look modern, the characters real and the scale looks large. This looks less like it was made for the MTV generation, but one that it is struggling to find its place in the world, or possibly out of it. This is definitely my most anticipated superhero film of 2015.


Superheroes 2014

With Thor: the Dark World now out in cinemas,  there are now no more superhero films left to be released this year. It is therefore time to look forward to 2014.

There are four major releases to consider, but only two of these have released any footage.

First up, due out in April, is Captain America The Winter Soldier.

Cap is definitely my favourite of the Avengers, and this seems like it will test his moral courage (a term I heard on a recent training course and have become fond of). I’m slightly worried that the rest of film will be a bit by the numbers and that the Marvel formula is becoming tired. The scene with Black Widow is all too similar to the one between Tony and Pepper in the Iron Man 2 teaser, though this was later cut.

In August, their reputation could be saved by the bonkers Guardians of the Galaxy. This is Marvel’s riskiest film to date and the one I am most excited about. One of it’s main character is a gun-toting raccoon while another is a tree voiced by Vin Diesel. The footage shown at Comic Con was very humorous and I think this has potential to be as fun a ride as the original Iron Man.

Guardians of the Galaxy concept art

Before that the seventh film in the X-men series is due out in May.

This I’m also very excited about, as X-men is one of my favourite franchises. Sure there have been duds (Wolverine, I’m looking at you) but this film intends to unite them all. This is why the original director, Bryan Singer, is back and has promised to address some of the things in the films following his departure. You can see in the video that Wolverine has his bone claws as introduced in Wolverine origins, something I think will rile the purists.

The trailer however is frustrating. it has the makings of an awesome teaser with some well chosen dialogue which makes me eager to see these guys in action. The polish is missing though; I felt the music change and Wolverine’s scream were particularly clunky. I am hoping this is a symptom of the trailer being rushed out for excited fans and not due to studio pressure.

Also out in May is the Amazing Spider-man 2. A trailer is due to come out in front of the Hobbit Desolation of Smaug, so it will be a while yet before we see Spidey in action. There have been plenty of stills released though, including some showing Jamie Fox’s original take on Electro.
First Look: Electro in Amazing Spider-man 2
He’s not the only villain though, as Rhino and Norman Osborne are also to be introduced.  Whether this ends up going a bit Spider-man 3 remains to be seen, but I’m going to reserve judgement until I see it.

DC are only noticeable by their absence. Though with Batman Vs Superman (current working title) coming in 2015, I imagine that will dominate the year.

One Avenger, Two Avenger, Three Avenger, Four!

The other day I went to say Captain America: The First Avenger, the final film from Marvel Studios before the Avengers comes out next year. The film was one of the best comic book films I’ve seen with a well written story, good characters being well played and a perfect tone. A villain like the Red Skull could always be too camp and the story could easily have just been played for laughs, but the patriotic tone of it all made it a joy. It’s American all over, and all the better because of it.

One of the things it did exceedingly well though, much better than any previous effort from Marvel, is that of referencing the other films. Iron Man 2 was criticised for being more about the upcoming Avengers film than about Iron Man, but here I feel they got the balance right. The references are much more subtle and all of them are worked into the plot of this movie. Tony Stark’s dad is a key character, a Macguffin from Thor gives the villain his power and the ending leaves you wanting the Avengers to come out tomorrow.

I think now is a good moment to stop and consider what Marvel have actually achieved here, as I believe it is very impressive.

They began filming their first independent production, Iron Man, in 2007. At the same time, they had regained the rights to the Hulk film, after Ang Lee’s cerebral version was unsuccessful. They began to produce this and both were scheduled for a 2008 release date.

This meant that Marvel could do something that no other superhero property could and that was do crossovers. Iron Man came out in cinemas in May and at the end, the studio revealed that they were planning on making an Avengers film. They were so determined to do this, that they cast Samuel L Jackson in a two minute post credit role, that tied him into another nine films. By June, Iron Man had a cameo appearance in the Incredible Hulk.

This was the big advantage of the comic books making the films themselves. They had complete control of their characters and could insert as many references as they wanted. They could even choose to adjust the comics to fit their film casting if they wanted to. Only this week did they announce that after they recently killed Peter Parker, his replacement in the Spider-man costume is Miles Morales, a half black, half Latino teenager from Brooklyn. They say this is a reflection of the diverse world we live in, but it seems to me like an attack on Sony to give up the film rights.

Comics have a great following and are known for establishing characters over many issues. They are designed as a series and never as a standalone feature. They were intended to be disposable media and now the films can be treated the same. We can see Marvel isn’t afraid of rebooting, as they’ve already done it for the Hulk, and will do so again for the Avengers.

As a new studio, their record is impressive. In four years they have made five box office hits that have all been well received. By comparison, DC has only released four films (The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Jonah Hex and Green Lantern) of which two have been critically panned and failed to get back their production costs at the box office. These films are all very distinct, whereas Marvel is offering one series.

I think this is what sets them apart. You know what you’re getting with a Marvel film and while they’re all different in terms of tone and style, there is complete continuity there.  They are no longer merely selling a character, but a world. They have very successfully packaged their brand into a film medium.

Their strategy was clearly realised in Iron Man 2, when they put Nick Fury in as a main character. They also put in a lot of back story for Tony Stark that would then come in useful for the Captain America story, but we didn’t know this at the time. Thor also set that up, and I think that was my overwhelming impression of Captain America; a capstone in the series that assembled the Avengers’ origin stories.

After all this preparation, I for one am keen to see the Avengers. It will be the first film that Marvel Studios release with Walt Disney logo in front of it after being bought in September 2009. In my opinion, Marvel is now the jewel in Disney’s crown after Pixar have resorted to sequels (there are even rumours of another Toy Story film being in the works).

I think this video, made after the release of Iron Man 2, best sums up the success of Marvel.