CA’s Summer Comic Book Movie Preview
Summertime is upon is once again and it's time for this year's blockbusters to start hitting theaters. Over the past few years, there have been a ton of comic book movies, but this summer, it looks like things are about to hit critical mass. Even with Marvel's Thor already on screens across the world, there are seven more movies either based on or closely tied to comics coming out this summer -- and yes, I'm including The Smurfs in that tally.
So with that much entertainment staring you down, your friends at ComicsAlliance have your back. Today, I'm not just offering up a rundown of this summer's upcoming comic book movies, I'm ranking how exciting each one is using a unit of measurement I call "The Statham," which represents how excited I was to see Crank 2: High Voltage. Keep in mind, however: Other, lesser movies can only approach 1.0 Stathams, but never actually exceed it. Now let's get to it!
The Story: Marvel takes a bit of a risk here by making a movie out of one of their more obscure properties, a little-known franchise about a group of super-powered "mutants" who vow in their hilarious accents to protect a world that hates and fears them. Only this time, they're doing it in the sixties!
The Rundown: As the second of Marvel's three movies this summer, X-Men: First Class has also felt like the one that's been promoted the least, suffering a little for not tying into next year's gigantic Avengers movie. It's really strange, not just because we've actually gotten to a point where Thor and Captain America are getting pushed more than the X-Men, but because there are so many interesting hooks for this one.
For one thing, there's the fact that it's playing on a pretty successful film franchise while simultaneously divorcing itself from almost completely from the three movies that came before. There are very few characters that are carrying over from the previous films, and none of the actual X-Men from those movies, which means this is the first X-Men movie that isn't going to be about Wolverine stabbing dudes. As a result, they're going with an entire movie full of second-stringers, and although there are some obvious fill-in roles -- Havok is a pretty clear tie back to Cyclops -- it's also led to some interesting choices like going for Angel from Morrison and Quitely's New X-Men. I guess they really wanted to ditch anything that could tie them to X-Men 3, but the end result is that they're doing the same thing that made the Blade movies Marvel's first big cinema success: They're going for the deep cuts.
Then there's the big gimmick to it: It's set in the sixties, because... well, because everyone loves Mad Men. They even got Don Draper's wife in this thing, for cryin' out loud.
It makes a lot of sense, though. There's a reason the X-Men were called "The Children of the Atom"; The entire franchise is based on a fear that comes directly from the Cold War era, with the omnipresent threat of atomic destruction transferred to actual people rather than just a bomb. Plus, it'll be fun to see the Professor X/Magneto split first-hand rather than in flashbacks, and Sebastian Shaw being the villain means we get to see Kevin Bacon in a velvet tuxedo.
Seriously, look at this dude.
Dude is swank. Those sideburns alone are worth half a Statham.
Either way, I'm really fascinated by the idea of a super-hero period piece, and I hope First Class succeeds, if only to pave the way for other takes like that. I'd love to see a Doom Patrol movie set in the '60s or even a straight up '70s Power Man & Iron Fist flick. Just so long as they stop before they get to the '90s version of the X-Men, I think we'll be okay.
The Story: Test pilot Hal Jordan is recruited by a dying alien to join the Green Lantern Corps, a team of intergalactic alien policemen. He's given a ring that can create anything he can imagine, and he uses it to make a gun. Then he fights a giant yellow space bug made of fear, or something? I don't even know anymore.
The Rundown: Congratulations! If you were looking for the one guy on the comics Internet who could not possibly care less about the Green Lantern movie, you have found him. Maybe it's the fact that all the posters I've seen for this thing have used the tagline "In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night," as though these are lines that aren't just a fancy way of saying "at various times." Seriously, the next line is "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight," guys. It's right there.
Green Lantern has always had a lot of appeal beyond just the regular Wednesday comic shop crowd, since it's a really easy concept to grasp (magic space ring!) that lends itself perfectly to great visuals of ring constructs and planets full of uniformed aliens that allow for a ton of fan-service. But at the same time, the movie seems to be working in a lot of pretty esoteric elements of the franchise, including the roots of the "Emotional Spectrum" and the Parallax entity. It also seems like they're front-loading the villains, too: Parallax, Hector Hammond and Sinestro are in this thing, and while Sinestro starts out as a good guy in this one, that's a lot of arcane stuff to drop on an audience in one movie.
But then again, if you told me ten years ago that there was going to be a Batman movie with the Joker and Two-Face and a cameo by the Scarecrow and that it was going to be one of my favorite movies ever, I would've thought you were crazy. And yet, here we are. So maybe Green Lantern'll be great! I just don't really have much of a desire to find out.
The Story: Robots from space who for some reason look like cars made by Earth corporations that have a lot of money to burn on product placement fight each other, presumably on the moon with Shia LeBeouf. Meanwhile, grown men try to pretend that Shia LaBeouf is the dumbest thing about that sentence.
The Rundown: There was a brief moment where I misread the title of this movie as Transformers: Bark at the Moon, and had a wonderful vision of a cast of robots singing Ozzy Osbourne's third album in its entirety. Sadly, this is not the case.
Instead, we're looking at yet another Michael Bay Transformers movie, which is to say a movie that will be dumber than a sack of hammers, but that will also make Bay so much money that he'll be able to afford a life-size sculpture of Sonny Chiba made entirely out of cocaine.
There is one thing worth noting, however: After the (rightful) outcry from viewers over their super-racist appearance in the last movie, Skids and Mudflap will not be returning for the sequel. Instead, as Topless Robot points out, they're going with NASCAR robots with mullets.
Seriously, if you thought I was trolling in the last few paragraphs, Michael Bay has me beat by a long shot.
The Story: Steve Rogers hates Nazis so much that when he's deemed unfit for service during World War II, he volunteers for an experimental treatment of Vita Rays that turn him into super-buff Chris Evans. Then he stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis.
The Rundown: I'm just going to come right out and say that ending a movie summary with the phrase "and then he stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis" automatically makes everything about your movie better. Seriously, try it on a few of your own.
"After being confused with a rich man with the same name, a slacker called The Dude gets involved in a mysterious kidnapping. And then he stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis."
"In order to win the love of the beautiful Ramnoa Flowers, Scott Pilgrim must fight her seven evil exes. And then he stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis."
"A ruthless team of Jewish soldiers stomp the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis. And then they stomp the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis."
See? Works every time.
As for the rest of it, I like that they're devoting an entire movie to Cap's World War II adventures rather than just shoehorning it into the first ten minutes of one set in modern day, and while that plays into what I talked about earlier with the idea of a super-hero period piece, I'm not quite as excited about the possibility here. For one, it just can't shake the feeling that it's a whole big setup for the Avengers movie, right down to putting the words "The First Avenger" right there in the title. Throw in Tony Stark's dad being the dude who throws the Vita Ray switch and the fact that the stinger at the end of Thor already sort of establishes what needs to happen in Cap, and it starts to feel less like a movie about Captain America than an Avengers prequel that just has Captain America in it, buried somewhere underneath a ton of continuity-heavy world-building.
But at the same time, I've liked everything from Marvel's new wave of Avengers movies and I'm genuinely curious as to whether they can pull off that kind of larger saga on film. Plus: Nazi-stomping.
The Story: See title.
The Rundown: If you go to the website for the Cowboys & Aliens comic, you'll see the bold announcement that it was the #1 Graphic Novel in America when it was released. What you won't see is the story of how it got to that position through some crazy wizardry that gamed the Diamond Comic Distribution system by overshipping it to stores that didn't actually order it, with every shipment counted as a "sale." You'll also see a lot of references to creator Scott Rosenberg, while Fred Van Lente -- who actually wrote the graphic novel -- doesn't get mentioned at all.
Even with mind-boggling shadiness of the comic, though, I've got to admit that I'm actually interested in this one. Theres a ton of incredibly talented people working on this thing: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell and Clancy Brown, helmed by Jon Favreau, who directed one of my favorites, Elf. And also some movie about some drunk dude in armor. That one was pretty good too.
And then there's the fact that it's based on the high concept of cowboys fighting aliens. You would have to actively work to screw that one up. If it wasn't being squeezed out of such a sketchy piece of source material, it'd be a slam dunk.
The Story: Finally, we have Conan the Barbarian, which hits theaters just in time to give kids their recommended allowance of decapitations before they go back to school for the fall. One imagines that there will be several scenes of the title character stabbing people and things with a sword, and -- if time permits -- possibly attempting to act.
The Rundown: I'm the sort of person who is very interested in cinematic barbarianing and I'm also a pretty big fan of Robert E. Howard's most famous creation -- who appears to have traded in his loincloth for a fashionable skirt -- but here's the thing about a Conan movie.
Is this an adaptation of Rogues in the House, the story where Conan fights a gorilla that thinks it's a wizard? No?
Then why are we even talking about it.