The Week in Spandex – Ghost Rider, X-Men, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Arrow and more

Presenting our weekly round-up of all the biggest news stories from the world of movie superheroes…

Despite being less than two months into the year, 2012’s superhero slate got underway yesterday with the arrival of the Mark Neveldine / Brian Taylor-directed sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth and Fergus Riordan. To promote the release, Sony delivered an electronic press kit featuring brief interviews with Cage, Elba and Whitworth [take a look over at ComicBookMovie], while a short behind-the-scenes featurette also popped up online courtesy of Apple. So far Spirit of Vengeance has been attracting ‘mixed’ reviews [if you’re interested, you can take a look at my mostly-negative reaction here], but that hasn’t done much to prevent rumours of a third outing, with co-director Mark Neveldine telling The Playlist: “There’s been talk about [a sequel]… I know Nic wants to do it, he’s very pumped about it. We’ll just see how well this does.”

While we’re on the subject of Cage, the star got onto the subject of Batman during a promotional interview with MTV, recalling how director Joel Schumacher approached him with regards to the part of the Scarecrow for a follow-up to Batman & Robin, which was presumably the ultimately cancelled Batman Triumphant: “[Schumacher] came to visit me when I was on the set of Con Air. I was in my camper and he said he was going to do another installment of Batman and that he would like me to play The Scarecrow, which would have been a lot of fun I must admit, especially with Joel, because he and I share a similar sense of humour. It was literally and hour lunch. That was as far as it went.” George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone and Nicolas Cage… even if they’d managed to bring back Jack Nicholson as planned, this one could have been an even bigger stinker than the fourth…

During the premiere of his latest film This Means War, screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg spoke to MTV about the recently announced X-Men: First Class sequel: “I don’t know what the title is going to be but certainly I’m working on it now. I’m going to be writing and producing it and I’m starting now, with Matthew Vaughn directing,” said Kinberg, whose previous credits include the screenplays for X-Men: The Last Stand, Sherlock Holmes and the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. “I’m a huge X-Men fan. I grew up loving the comic books and It was really exciting to be able to do the origin story of Xavier and Magneto [in First Class], and getting those two actors, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, was really amazing. So being able to explore those characters with actors of that quality will be exciting a second time around, and doing some things unexpected with those characters, which is the plan.”

Sticking with the First Class sequel for the moment and although there’s no word yet as to whether screenwriter Jane Goldman will get to continue her long-running association with director Matthew Vaughn, The Woman in Black scribe did have a few words about the project in an interview with Film School Rejects – specifically, whether she could see the inclusion of original X-Men team members Cyclops and Jean Grey: “In a comic sense, I still think there’s room for an X-Men film with the original X-Men. In terms of how they fit in this new universe that First Class kicked off, I don’t know. I mean, yes, I think there’s room for that. All sorts of ideas have been talked about and Matthew has some particular ideas, and, in this case, all of those decisions will be done through Matthew… I think there were moments [in First Class] where there was continuity with the other X-Men movie universe, and there were moments it was apart from that. I think it was the right way to go, for Matthew to make it a separate entity.” So, in other words, they’ll stick to continuity when it suits, and ignore continuity when it suits… kind of sums up the whole X-Men movie franchise really.

Wrapping up the best of the rest…

…In addition to concept artist Tully Summers (Avatar, Thor, Men in Black III) describing The Dark Knight Rises as ‘a war film’, producer and Mrs. Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, spoke to Total Film about the hugely-anticipated sequel, dropping a few brief thoughts on stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway…

…Following rumours that the first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel will be attached to The Dark Knight Rises this July, ComicBookMovie posted an alleged description of the trailer and yes, it does include plenty of Snyder’s slow-motion, rock music-enhanced signature style, not to mention a young Clark Kent demonstrating telekinetic abilities. Oh please let this be fake…

Starburst caught up with visual effects supervisor Chris Wells (Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger) to discuss his work on Joss Whedon’s upcoming Marvel team-up The Avengers: “For people who enjoy the comics and haven’t really liked the way some of the characters were treated in other movies, I think they’re going to be a little more appeased by this one. Especially the Hulk. They let the Hulk be Hulk and that’s great. He acts more like the comic book Hulk. It’s fun. My biggest problem with every single superhero movie is I don’t think the payoff ever matches the build up. This one definitely does…”

…The Toy Fair took place in New York City last weekend, giving us a look at some of the superhero movie tie-ins that will be hitting shelves over the next few months. Collider got their hands on a wealth of images from Hasbro’s Avengers toy line, while MarvelousNews followed suit with a selection of Amazing Spider-Man action figures and ToyNewsInternational provided a glimpse of The Dark Knight Rises line-up…

…Speaking to The Playlist, Chronicle director Josh Trank touched upon the possibility of a sequel to his hit found footage flick and also distanced himself from reports that Fox have targeted him to tackle their Fantastic Four reboot: “I have not met about Fantastic Four reboots… Fantastic Four is at Fox, and I guess someone theorized about it, someone heard it, and Variety was like, that’s happening! I can’t really speak on that, because I don’t know what to say. I do have a deal with Fox, but right now I’m trying to work on original ideas…”

…If you’re still clamouring for more of Andrew Garfield’s web-crawler after the release of the second theatrical trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, a new international trailer arrived online during the week which contains a few snippets of new footage (and by snippets, I really mean snippets)…

…In other Spidey-related news, Marvel Animation Age posted some production artwork for the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, which will premiere in North America on Disney XD on April 1st and features a voice cast that includes Drake Bell (Drake & Josh) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies) as Nick Fury and Steven Weber (Wings) as Norman Osborn, along with Marvel veterans JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Stan Lee as Stan the Janitor and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson…

…Following its premiere in New York this past week, a new clip has emerged from Warner Premiere’s upcoming animated movie Justice League: Doom featuring the Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) battling the Royal Flush Gang, while MetalMachine grabbed some quick interviews with voice actors Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Phil Morris (Vandal Savage) and casting and voice director Andrea Romano…

…Warner Animation are also hard at work at the next installment in their series of DC Animated Universe Original Movies, Superman vs. The Elite, which is to be based upon the comic book story arc ‘What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?’ and sees Justice League and The Batman voice actor George Newbern reprising his role as the Man of Steel alongside Pauley Perrette (NCIS) as Lois Lane. Check out TVGuide for a first look at the animation style, along with a few comments from Perrette…

…The Teen Titans will return to the small screen as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation animated programming block and two new clips from the New Teen Titans shorts have popped up online, which you can check out here

…And finally, casting on CW’s proposed Arrow television series continues to pick up steam, with the latest names to join the previously announced Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen / Green Arrow) and David Ramsey (John Diggle) including Willa Holland (The O.C., Straw Dogs) as Thea Queen, Susanna Thompson (Dragonfly, Kings) as Moira Queen and Katie Cassidy (Taken, Gossip Girl) as Laurel Lance, better known to fans of DC Comics as the Black Canary. Meanwhile a script review for the pilot episode – which is based on a story by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim and scripted by Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg – has popped up on the television blog Travis Yanan Watches TV; apart from highlighting the lack of a strong villain, it’s a fairly positive review which describes the script as “solid, broad-audience popcorn entertainment.” We shall see…

Gary Collinson

Holy Franchise, Batman! – Arriving this June.