The Week in Spandex – The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel and… Sabrina?

Our weekly round-up of all the big news stories from the world of movie superheroes…

Well, with The Avengers receiving its world premiere this past Wednesday, Marvel has pretty much dominated the superhero headlines once again, but before we get on to that we’ll start things out this week with The Dark Knight Rises. First up came the rather expected news that – as with Christopher Nolan’s two previous Batman movies – the hugely-anticipated sequel will be rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language”. For us folk here in the UK, expect a 12A rating (and put your hands together and pray that the BBFC don’t impose any cuts on Warner Bros. to avoid a 15 certificate). While that in itself wasn’t overly exciting, Entertainment Weekly went on to bring some joy to Batman fans later in the week with their latest issue…

…In addition to quotes from director Christopher Nolan and stars Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy, six official images made their way online, delivering new shots of Batman (Christian Bale), Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and their alter-egos, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, along with Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and – in the pick of the bunch – Bane (Hardy), who is shown in a new costume having taken control of the Gotham Stock Exchange. Meanwhile Christopher Nolan also took part in a lengthy interview with DGA Quarterly, during which he discussed his love for IMAX, and resisting the urge to shoot The Dark Knight Rises in 3D. Exciting stuff, especially when we’ve been feeding on scraps for so long…

…In other Bat-related news, Flickering Myth’s own Trevor Hogg caught up with Gotham City veteran writer-producer Alan Burnett for an exclusive interview about the landmark television show Batman: The Animated Series, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Take a look here

…And so, we come to Marvel’s The Avengers, which received its world premiere in Hollywood mid-week, before screening for UK critics last night (we’ll have more on that in a minute). You can check out highlights from the red carpet here, while ComicBookMovie have done a pretty good job of gathering together the reactions of those lucky enough to attend Wednesday’s star-studded premiere. Meanwhile, in a rather unexpected turn of events, Robert Downey Jr. revealed that director Joss Whedon and company were to reconvene on Thursday night to film an extra scene, which was later confirmed by Mark Ruffalo and is thought to take place post-credits, presumably leading in to one of Marvel’s upcoming sequels (and we’ll have more on those too momentarily)…

…Along with the world premiere, the flood of Avengers promotional material continued, with recent goodies including a whole host of stills [see here, here and here], a few new TV spots [see here, here and here], three clips – one featuring Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), another featuring Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and a third featuring Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battling Loki’s alien army – and a behind-the-scenes video from Total Film that features contributions from all of the key players, including Whedon, RDJ and Scarlett Johansson. On the interview front, Joss Whedon spoke with The New York Times, during which he explained that he’d originally written a scene that would have reunited Steve Rogers with (a surely ancient-by-now) Peggy Carter, while Mark Ruffalo had a few words about the Hulk for IGN and Chris Evans covered everything from The Avengers to Captain America 2 and Fantastic Four in a roundtable interview that you can watch here

…Meanwhile Joss Whedon has also confirmed the identity of the Avengers’ alien adversaries [and if you don't want to know, skip ahead to the next paragraph now], stating in a press conference that: “The alien race are the Chitauri — or a version of them — because they are not one of the key races and they don’t have a storied history…”

…Shifting back to yesterday’s UK press screening, our man Luke Owen was in attendance and while a full review is embargoed until the 20th of this month, be sure to join Luke on Flickering Myth this week for our special ‘Road to the Avengers’ countdown, which kicks off today and will see him revisiting Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger before his review of The Avengers hits on Friday…

…Turning to Marvel’s post-Avengers projects now and earlier in the week it was reported that Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) is in negotiations to appear as a villain in the Shane Black-directed Iron Man 3, although there seemed to be some disagreement between Variety and Heat Vision over the chances of him being cast as the Mandarin. While Variety initially claimed “Kingsley’s character is involved in the spread of a virus through nanobots”, a subsequent casting call citing “a special need for those of Chinese as well as Middle Eastern descents” seemed to support Heat Vision’s claim that Tony Stark’s archenemy could make an appearance in the sequel, and if so, who better to play him than Kingsley? Meanwhile, Deadline have also stated that the shortlist for directing duties on Captain America 2 is now down to Joe and Anthony Russo (Community) and George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau), with former candidate F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen) said to be negotiating with New Line Cinema to helm the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

…For more on Marvel’s plans for Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2, be sure to check out a fantastic in-depth interview with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige over at Collider; in addition to the aforementioned projects, Feige goes into some detail on the likes of Doctor Strange (denying that Zak Penn has written a script), Ant-Man (teasing us to pay attention to Edgar Wright’s tweets “in the coming months”), The Avengers 2 (confirming there’s an option on Joss Whedon to return) and Thor 2 (revealing that “Loki has a part, but there will be a different villain, another big villain”). If that’s not enough, Feige also touched upon the possibility of a Disney / Marvel animated offering, although sadly he shot down any chance of Pixar being involved…

…Moving on to Marvel’s small screen endeavours briefly and Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb took part in an interview with Superhero Tooniverse, during which he discussed the genesis of Disney XD’s Marvel Universe programming block, along with the current animated series Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

…With the CW network’s currently-in-production Arrow pilot and Marvel’s AKA Jessica Jones, The Hulk and The Punisher all in development, there could be quite a heavy live-action superhero presence on the small screen in the next few years. However, one show that doesn’t look like it will be making it to the airwaves any time soon is FX’s proposed adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Micheal Oeming’s Powers, with actor Khary Payton (Young Justice) revealing that the cast for the pilot episode – which included Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand), Jason Patric (The Lost Boys), Titus Welliver (Lost), Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher), Alona Tal (Supernatural) and Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3) – have all been released from their contracts. According to reports, FX are still keen to press ahead with the series and are considering reshoots on the pilot, although “there is currently no timetable on when to move forward…”

…Those of you who didn’t catch Nicolas Cage’s second outing as the Devil’s bounty hunter in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (and let’s face it, with a global haul of just $127m, there’s probably quite a few of you) will have a chance to do so with the film’s upcoming home-entertainment release, and if you’re interested, you can check out the Blu-ray cover art and a list of the special features over at ComicBookMovie. The Mark Neveldine / Brian Taylor-directed sequel hits DVD and Blu-ray on June 12th (North America) and June 25th (UK)…

…In the wake of John Carter’s hugely disappointing box-office performance, star Taylor Kitsch (Battleship) appears to have backtracked from his earlier comments that he’d never reprise to the role of Gambit from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When asked by Den of Geek whether he’d be up for returning to the character for The Wolverine, Kitsch stated: “I would, man. I know Hugh Jackman’s doing Wolverine soon, so I’m not planting a seed in any way, but if he called me and wanted me to do a cameo in it or something, I’d do it. It’s that simple. But I haven’t been approached by anyone.” I guess a $250m flop really can change your perspective on things…

…When I first started this column, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Sabrina, the Teenage Witch would fall under its remit, but Hollywood works in mysterious ways. While it’s wouldn’t be much of a surprise for the 90s TV series starring Melissa Joan Hart (ak.a. Clarissa) to get big screen revamp, Deadline are reporting that Sony intend to reimagine the Archie Comics character as a superhero, for “an origin story in the vein of Spider-Man, about a young girl coming to terms with her remarkable powers.” So, we have Peter Parker as a metaphor for puberty, and now Sabrina, the Teenage Witch as a metaphor for menstruation. The project will be produced by Don Murphy & Susan Montford (Real Steel), with Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari (Die in a Gunfight) tackling the screenplay. I wonder if they’ll take this one down the ‘gritty, dark and realistic’ superhero route? Something tells me no…

…One film that does appear to be going down the ‘gritty, dark and realistic’ route is Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Speaking to ClevverTV, teenage Clark Kent actor Dylan Sprayberry (Spooky Buddies) explained that “when Zack [Snyder] and I were talking about it the first time, he was saying how Superman, they want to give it a more edgy feel like The Dark Knight but also make it more realistic and emotional so it’s not just the all-American superhero that saves everyone. He has dilemmas and love and struggles throughout the whole movie, especially when he’s a kid.” Needless to say, Superman will still have plenty of dilemmas to deal with by the time he reaches Henry Cavill-age and some of those could revolve around “a poisoning of the Metropolis area by an unknown contamination”, if the latest plot rumours are to be believed, that is…

And finally, The Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb took part in an interview with MTV Splash Page, where he discussed some of the changes in store for Marvel’s friendly neighborhood web-crawler in Sony’s upcoming reboot: “I wanted to give the audience something new, so that started off with getting underneath the parents’ story, which will unfold over probably a few movies… We don’t totally wrap up that story in this first movie. It’s sort of an ongoing mystery. That was something that was interesting to me.” So far so good, but then Webb goes into a little more detail about Peter Parker’s [Andrew Garfield] ‘untold origin’, some of which may prove distressing for hardcore Spidey fans: “This is probably a reveal but there is no wrestling match in this movie. The character is evolving in a different way. It’s about finding a balance between iconic elements of the Spider-Man mythology—like how Uncle Ben’s death transforms him emotionally—but it happens in a different way… He’s bitten by a spider, but maybe it’s not a radioactive spider. Or maybe it is! You’ll have to see. There are elements that we were very conscious of but it all emanated from [the idea of] this kid who got left behind by his parents many, many years before. I thought that was interesting enough for me to explore.” Let’s hope it proves interesting enough for audiences to explore, too.

Gary Collinson

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