A Very Comical 2013

Until recently, comic books had always gotten the short end of the stick in mass entertainment. Why? Stigma. Juvenile reputation. Generally speaking, people did not seem to care to look closer at the various stories, characters and themes that the medium had been working on for a long time (and the artwork still tends to go overlooked). Comic book superheroes got the worst bashing of all as the majority of them were seen as juvenile fantasies, and nothing more (to be fair, some of the great comic book writers like Alan Moore and Garth Ennis still partly share that same view of American superheroes). And yet, in recent years, mass audiences have at least managed to warm up to comic book adaptations and are slowly realizing that the term “comic book” is not a genre, but in fact, a medium, within which all genres can be explored.

2012 has seen a few of such adaptations: Neveldine/Taylor’s Critically panned and tasteless Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Joss Whedon’s brilliant The Avengers, Marc Webb’s (in my opinion) disappointing The Amazing Spider-man, Barry Sonnenfeld’s passable MIB 3, and of course, the much hyped, eagerly anticipated and final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises, which for my money, is the finest comic book adaptation of the year. With Dredd 3-D coming very soon to theatres, I have been thinking about 2013’s roster regarding cinematic comic book adaptations, and realized that there actually are quite a few films coming up. With that said, I, FJ, will now countdown 2013’s upcoming comic book adaptations.

1. Bullet to the Head (February 1, 2013)

Yeah, I don’t really care either. Give Stallone some credit though; he can still kick a lot of ass, considering his age. Based on a French comic book by Alexis Nolent, the story consists of a hitman (Stallone) teaming up with a young NYPD detective (Sung Kang) to exact revenge on some New Orleans underworld figures who murdered two people. I still don’t care all that much, but I may give it a watch upon release. Directed by Walter Hill, who I still think has a very unique filmography, and released by Warner Bros., this may just turn out to be a “by the numbers”, neo-noir, buddy actioner that will probably disappoint more than entertain. However, if The Expendables series is any indication, this film may do well financially with the help of Stallone’s loyal fanbase. Did I mention that Christian Slater is going to be in this one?

2. Iron Man 3 (May 3, 2013)

From what information we have been given, this film may actually turn out to be the darkest of the series so far. Directed and co-written by Shane Black, a man who has specialized in writing films such as Lethal Weapon (1987) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), this film finally pits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) against the powerful, Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). While little is known of the plot at this particular point in time, the story will apparently be based off of the “Extremis” storyline from the comics, written by Warren Ellis. I grew to really like Iron Man himself, and I call Robert Downey Jr. his alter ego, because frankly, that’s exactly who Downey really is. He wasn’t supposed to get an Oscar nomination for his turn as an Australian actor in Blackface in 2008’s Tropic Thunder. No, it should have been for the critically acclaimed Iron Man. That film was what The Wrestler was to Mickey Rourke: the ultimate comeback after a long period of time in which both actors experienced a great deal of personal issues and stress. They later both appeared together in Iron Man 2, where Rourke played Russian baddie Whiplash. While the film had some very interesting stuff to say about Stark and his father, and where he and his company stand in the grand scheme of things, the film was not as well received as its predecessor, and Rourke’s performance was not greeted with very favorable reviews. With The Avengers, however, it was clear that people are still very happy with Iron Man. My beef with the Iron Man films and all those films that are a part of “The Avengers Initiative” project, was that they did, for the most part, feel like a project. It seemed like they were more interested in getting all the characters on to the screen and made sacrifices to the stories here and there. This complaint mainly registers to Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. After all that was out of the way, I’m glad that The Avengers pulled no punches, and told a properly fleshed out story, and I hope that future movies of this initiative will be well handled.
Fans finally get to see the Mandarin on film in Iron Man 3. While I remember having the action figure as a kid, I do not know that much about him. If he is that big of a player, then I have confidence that someone like Shane Black can make him just as important as his comic book counterpart. I also think Black could portray the rise and fall of Tony Stark in this film (based on what the footage screened at San Diego Comic Con 2012 suggests) just as well as Jon Favreau did in the first one (with his imprisonment in Afghanistan). Other actors joining the mix include the great Guy Pearce (whose character strongly implies the involvement of the “Extremis” story), Rebecca Hall, William Sadler and James Badge Dale, in addition to returning players Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau and Paul Bettany. Here’s hoping the movie impresses fans and non-fans alike.

3. The Man of Steel (June 14, 2013)

Originally supposed to be released in December 2012, but then moved all the way up to June 2013, because of the long awaited release of New Line Cinema’s The Hobbit (the first of a trilogy), Man of Steel is looking very much like the Superman film that I have long been waiting for! This film will tell the origin of Clark Kent, and how he came to discover that he was from a dead planet, Krypton, and sent to Earth to live among the people as suggested by his father. We will see how he becomes Superman, and why he chooses to use his powers for good. I have a feeling that we will also see the infamous Phantom Zone, a Kryptonian prison which transports prisoners into another dimension, where they are immobile, and cannot be harmed, nor can they harm anyone else.
I was initially skeptical about the film, mainly because of Zack Snyder’s involvement. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Zack Snyder. I grew to really appreciate his take on Watchmen (2009) and I am a fan of Dawn of the Dead (2004). However, I fear that Man of Steel may go the route Snyder took with 300 (2007), which to me at least, was style over substance. I honestly didn’t like the Spartans or the Persians in that film, and I felt like they were all undeveloped, highly exaggerated characters in the end (even though there were some genuinely nice heartfelt moments in the movie).

After I saw the brilliant teasers (there are two), I decided to give the movie a chance. Snyder is a very ambitious filmmaker, and that is putting it lightly. With Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas as producers, and screenwriter David Goyer, whose scripts are usually hit and miss for me, on board this project, I think Snyder may actually find the right balance to tell the Superman story everyone wants to see. I have grown an appreciation for Superman and other super powered characters over the years, mainly because of Bruce Timm’s brilliant Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, where the shows explored the themes, ideas, stories, characters and mythologies of these characters from the comics. These shows and various comic books gave me a new realization about superheroes, which was that they were not just people with colourful costumes, ridiculous powers and ego-trips, but that they are all characters – people with different ideas and philosophies, that happen to have powers that could be looked at as gifts or curses, and they could choose to be soldiers, regular Samaritans, criminals and our enemies. What would happen if people like them co-existed with us? How would we feel if the Gods walked among us? These are only a couple of the many questions and ideas that I hope Man of Steel will answer for me at least. I really am digging the cast: Henry Cavill as the title character, Michael Shannon as General Zod, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent (trust me, he suits this character), Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Laurence Fishbourne as Perry White. I hope this is every bit as good as I’m hoping it will be, and I do believe that the movie is in good hands. I hope this will be Snyder’s masterpiece.

4. Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall

Hell yes! Kick-Ass was a surprise hit when it came out in 2010. Based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita jr., the movie explores the superhero phenomenon in a regular big city, where costumed vigilantes do exist, and focuses one in particular, who makes headlines after stopping a gang assault. He quickly grows a fanbase and gets the attention of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, who were already cleaning up the scum who work for crime boss Frank D’Amico. The film grew on me, and is a great addition to superhero lore. This sequel may prove to be even more insane (hence the title), and will up the violence and cussing. With Aaron Johnston, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, returning as Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and Red Mist respectively, the movie will feature a larger cast of colourful characters with actors like Donald Faison, John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey in the mix. This time the film will have Red Mist get revenge for the murder of his father, and in the meantime, a group of citizens, inspired by Kick-Ass, team up to form their own team. The names of some of these characters include The Tumor, Colonel Stars, Insect Man, Night Bitch and Doctor Gravity (am I the only one reminded of “The Tick” comics?). I have a feeling that I am going to love this movie, even if Mathew Vaughn is not helming the film himself. I also wish that there would be an animated series based on Kick-Ass, and possibly in the same vein as The Tick.

5. R.I.P.D. (July 19, 2013)

It’s funny, I almost completely forgot that this film was even coming out at all. The lack of hype for this film may actually prove to be its best weapon, provided of course that it is already an all around good movie. Based on the Dark Horse Comics (finally, some variety in the source material), the R.I.P.D. is the department of undead police officers. Ryan Reynolds plays a slain cop, who teams up with the R.I.P.D., who help him hunt down his killer. At this point, I’m glad that this is a comedy, because Hollywood could easily screw this up big time if it were to be played too straight. I never read the comic books, so really any knowledge I have will have to come from the film’s trailer. It does have an intriguing premise, but could has equal chance of being a hit or a miss at this point. Along with Reynolds, you’ve got a cast that consists of “The Dude” Jeff Bridges, Mary Louise Parker, Robert Knepper (T-Bag from Prison Break) and Kevin Bacon. Besides the screenplay, I am concerned that the film may not succeed as well because of the director, Robert Schwentke. He is not bad, but he has yet to wow me with his directing. His previous film, RED, was a good film, but not as fun as it should have been. I think this movie could really work in theory, and I am looking forward to an undead police force out to track down a living criminal. For my final analysis, though, I will need to see a trailer.

6. The Wolverine (July 26, 2013)

The wandering Wolverine travels to Japan, and there he goes into training, falls in love with a woman, and finds himself face to face with the Silver Samurai. I did not like X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009) very much. It was not well thought out, it was not well written, it was not well directed and it failed to be even in the same league as X-men: The Last Stand (Oh yes, I went THERE). It just made Wolverine a generic superhero, but not one with weakness or character. There was no edge to him, really, and that was not the case in the first three X-Men films. To my understanding, X-men Origins: Wolverine and X-men: First Class are neither in continuity with one another nor are they in direct continuity with the aforementioned trilogy, but they do co-exist within the same realm. To make it slightly more confusing, The Wolverine is not going to function as a direct sequel to the last Wolverine film. That works out very well for me, because if this is a standalone film, then I will not have to worry about it being a sequel to something so abysmal.
I will say this, I am really looking forward to this film, and not just because it’s Wolverine, but because it looks like he will take some serious damage. The Silver Samurai always intrigued me as a character. I’m not sure if it was just the way he was drawn, but something about him feels like there is a lot of mystery to the character that we are not supposed to uncover so easily. This is based on Frank Miller’s storyline from the 1980s, and knowing his work, you can expect something really noirish and gritty with this story. I trust James Mangold as a director, after really enjoying his work on 3:10 to Yuma (2007), knowing he can do action, drama and suspense. Obviously Hugh Jackman will do a good job, because he IS Wolverine. All it really comes down to is how good the writing is (the script was originally written by Christopher McQuarrie but has since been revised). I do expect that this will be a well-choreographed action film, and I think we will get proper focus on Wolverine’s past, and not have something as cheap as the last movie. Fingers crossed, we can all hope that it doesn’t disappoint.

7. RED 2 (August 2, 2013)

I thought RED was a solid film, if not an entirely remarkable one, and one of 2010’s best sleeper hits. Based on Warren Ellis’s DC Comics mini-series, the film was about retired and extremely dangerous CIA Black Ops Agents, trying to find out who is out to kill them. It was a well-written story and well acted too, but as I mentioned earlier, it was missing a lot of energy needed to make this film much more different than the usual stories of “out of retirement” gangs who go back on a mission. I have a feeling that the sequel will have that energy, but might possibly lose some of the good writing from the first one. In the end, I am expecting for a fun film, and with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Mary Louise Parker back in the movie, along with Anthony Hopkins, David Thewlis and Catherine Zeta Jones, we might actually have a great time. I really enjoyed Malkovich’s hyper-paranoid character from the first film, and Willis is solid as Frank Moses, and because of his career, you really do feel that this was the proper fit for him. I have a feeling, however, that despite how the film may turn out to be, it will probably not do that well financially.

8. 300: Rise of an Empire (August 2, 2013)

So yeah, with The Wolverine already taking tons of money at this point in year, I sincerely doubt RED 2 has much of a chance of getting a good box office intake, unless the sequel to the hit war film, 300, changes its release date. Apparently, this film will serve as both a prequel and a sequel to 300, going into Xerxes’s backstory and how he came to be the King that he is in 300, and will also re-enact the Battles of Artemisium and Salamis. Its funny how some of the films on this list do not have as many plot spoilers, descriptions or even early teasers as most other films have. This is a good thing, because I feel that the less you know long before the film is released, the better.
Zack Snyder will not be returning for directorial duties, and I do not know if that is a good or a bad thing. There are very devoted fans of 300, and probably large enough to make this film a smash hit, but this director, Noam Murro, may probably do a very bad job. You know why? Because he failed to make Smart People the least bit interesting! What a piece of crap. How do people trust him enough to give handle 300? I will never know how this system works, and with that said, I am not even expecting this film to impress me as much as it’s predecessor did on even a visual level.

9. Sin City 2 (October 4, 2013)

A very long time in the making, the sequel to the hit Sin City (2005) is finally coming out! The first movie grew on me the more times I watched it. There is a narrative, but it is a narrative of chaos, full of surrealism, highly exaggerated action, expressionistic locations, hardboiled characters, dangerous dames and of course, a dark city. All of that (and then some) is thrown at you, not making you feel the least bit comfortable in this town. Sin City 2 is based off of Frank Miller’s second book in the series, and will serve as both a prequel and a sequel to the first film. This sounds awesome, and since Mickey Rourke will be back, and you know what that means? More of Marv. He was easily my favorite character in the first film, and Mickey Rourke really brought him to life. The being said, the movie had so many memorable characters that its hard to choose from. Another worthy mention would be Rosario Dawson as Gale, the sexy yet dangerous dominatrix who happens to be Dwight’s girlfriend. I guess being a lover of film noir makes this film a must-see for me. I only hope Frank Miller’s cameo (Stan Lee probably inspired him to consider doing another one) will be just as good as the last time.

10. Thor 2: The Dark World (November 8, 2013)

Thor (2011) was, at the very least, a crowd-pleasing film. Much like Captain America that year, it was a film that succeeded in quite a few aspects, like having likeable leads, but failed in others. This was all rectified after The Avengers came out, and since this film is going to be a sequel to The Avengers just as much as it is to Thor, you can bet that the stakes will be high. The things I never liked about the first film were these:

1. I hated Jane Foster. I thought she was a stupid character, and the forced romance between her and Thor was plain ridiculous. It easily brought down the film for me by quite a bit. My fear is that she will play a big part in this film, and god knows how that is going to turn out.

2. I never got why Loki did not have Heimdall killed. It doesn’t make sense. Heimdall was a liability, and to keep him frozen, and not even have one of the frost giants kill him, was a dumb movie. It really seemed like plot contrivance to get Thor back up to Asgard.

3. We really didn’t see much of Asgard and didn’t really get to know Thor and his people all that well. Going to earth should have been set up for later, after establishing Asgard as a place in the movie. Furthermore, Thor’s character development was too rapid for his own good. I don’t know why he became so tame after hanging out with Jane Foster.

Loki was easily the most interesting character of the movie, and he stayed that way in The Avengers. As long as the relationship between Thor, Odin, Loki and all the other primary members of Asgard is firmly established, the film should not suffer much. I really feel like this film could do much better than the last one did, and it hurts to say this because I really like the ambitious Kenneth Branagh. Then again, the ambitious do tend to go overboard sometimes, don’t they? Expect to see killer elves and all sorts of creatures from Norse Mythology, as told by Marvel Comics, and hopefully, you will have a hell of a good time!

In the comments below, give your thoughts on any of these upcoming films or others I may have forgotten to mention.

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