The Week in Spandex – Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Marvel Phase Two, Wonder Woman, Misfits: The Movie and more

Our weekly round up of all the latest news stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Man of Steel, Justice League, The Dark Knight Rises, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Kick-Ass 2, Misfits, S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, Amazon, Booster Gold and more…

We’ll start things off this week with Warner Bros. and its proposed ‘DC Universe’, with director Zack Snyder dropping the first hint that his upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel will tie in to a cohesive cinematic universe, which will naturally include the studio’s planned Justice League team-up: “I don’t know how Justice League is going to be handled. Honestly, I don’t. But ‘The Man of Steel’ exists, and Superman is in it. I don’t know how you’d move forward without acknowledging that… I can’t really say anything to that, because that’s a big spoiler. I will say, yeah, [WB] trust me to keep them on course.” So, with Man of Steel seemingly serving as the ‘big bang’ to Warner’s DC Movie Universe, it wasn’t long before a rumour emerged that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in negotiations to pick up the torch from Christian Bale’s Batman and don the cape and cowl as John Blake / Batman in Justice League. JGL’s reps immediately denied the report, and – like Martin Deer stated in his column this week – it’s almost unimaginable that anyone but Bruce Wayne will be lining up as The Dark Knight alongside Henry Cavill’s Superman when (and if) the Justice League arrive on screen in 2015…

…As it happens, Christopher Nolan also took the opportunity to comment on the ending to The Dark Knight Rises this week, playing down any speculation about it being intended as a set-up to any kind of John Blake-headlined spin-off series: “For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on…”

…The epic conclusion to Nolan’s Dark Knight saga arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this coming week, and to further build excitement for the home-entertainment release Warner Bros. has delivered a new behind-the-scenes featurette via Entertainment Weekly which features comments from Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman, while Movies.com posted a gallery of concept art that includes images of Bane (Tom Hardy), The Bat, and the destruction of the Gotham Rogues stadium…

…Warner Bros. isn’t the only studio looking to follow Marvel Studios’ lead in developing a shared superhero universe and this past week brought confirmation that 20th Century Fox will bring its various X-Men properties together with 2014′s X-Men: Days of Future Past as director Bryan Singer revealed that Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) will reprise their roles from the original X-Men trilogy in the upcoming adaptation. Stewart and McKellen will join their younger counterparts from X-Men: First Class – James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender – while Nicholas Hoult (Beast) is also confirmed as returning alongside Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique). And of course (it seems that) no X-Men film would be complete without Hugh Jackman, with reports suggesting that the actor is in negotiations to don the adamantium claws once again for what would be his seventh outing as Wolverine after next summer’s solo sequel The Wolverine

…Moving on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Empire has released four high quality stills from Iron Man 3 featuring Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), along with a shot of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) holding Iron Man’s battered face plate. Meanwhile, actor James Badge Dale – who will portray the villain Eric Savin / Coldblood – has described the heirarchy of the film’s bad guys – “Ben Kingsley is the mouthpiece. Guy Pearce [Aldrich Killian] is the brain. I’m the muscle” – while Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has also discussed the upcoming solo sequel, commenting on Tony’s mindset post-The Avengers and the inclusion of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) as the villain, as well as warning fans not to expect any cameos from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or S.H.I.E.L.D. when Phase Two of the MCU gets underway this coming spring…

…While none of The Avengers will appear in Iron Man 3, the God of Thunder will be back on screens late next year in Thor: The Dark World, and both Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) have been talking about their impending return to Asgard, as well as their thoughts on what Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor has brought to the sequel. Elsewhere in the MCU, Marvel are offering fans the chance to appear in 2014′s Captain America: The Winter Soldier by bidding on a charity auction for one of two walk-on roles in Chris Evans’ second solo outing, while a shortlist of candidates has emerged for the part of Peter Quill / Star-Lord in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), James Marsden (X-Men), Lee Pace (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables), Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom) and Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas) all said to be in contention for the role of the Guardians’ leader…

…According to Bleeding Cool, the upcoming Sony sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be heading to London for some location filming when cameras begin rolling next year, which naturally leads us to assume Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy will be following in the footsteps of her comic book counterpart and heading to the U.K. capital for a period of mourning following the events of this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, that would also provide the perfect excuse for Andrew Garfield’s web-slinger to cosy up to Gwen’s new love-rival Mary Jane Watson, who is set to be portrayed by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)…

…Filming has now wrapped on the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel Kick-Ass 2, with ComicBookMovie gathering together a bunch of Twitter reactions from Wadlow, co-creator Mark Millar, and cast members Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist) and Claudia Lee (Brooke), along with a selection of behind-the-scenes videos showing Olga Kurkulina rehearsing for the epic showdown between Mother Russia and Hit Girl… 

Misfits creator Howard Overman has spoken about the possibility of bringing the group of superpowered teens to the big screen, revealing on the Panel Borders podcast (via CBM) that he’s been working on a screenplay for a feature adaptation of the BATFA Award-winning E4 TV show: “I’ve written the first draft of the script and we’ll see what happens. If it happens, it will involve past and present characters, I’m not allowed to give away anything more than that… Whether or not you’ve completely seen the end of Simon [Iwan Rheon] and Alisha [Antonia Thomas], if our movie has its way, is another issue…”

…Joss Whedon’s upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series has found another new recruit, with Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln) joining the cast of the pilot as Agent Grant Ward, who is described as “Quite the physical specimen and ‘cool under fire,’ he sometimes botches interpersonal relations. He’s a quiet one with a bit of a temper, but he’s the kind of guy that grows on you.” Dalton will appear alongside the already confirmed Iain De Caestecker (The Little Vampire), Elizabeth Henstridge (The Thompsons) and Ming-Na Wen (Street Fighter), with Marvel Universe regular Clark Gregg leading the cast as fan favourite Agent Phil Coulson. Meanwhile, ABC president Paul Lee had a few words for TV Line about the network’s hopes for the forthcoming show: “It’s very Joss Whedon. We’re optimistic, because Joss is a genius and we love the idea and we love what we’ve seen. But it’s early days, and it’s a long way to go between now and a successful series. But we are very excited about it…”

…The CW’s Arrow has also gained a couple of cast additions, with Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night; Spartacus: Blood and Sand) securing the role of Slade Wilson / Deathstroke (previously portrayed by a masked Jeffrey C. Robinson) and David Anders (Heroes; Once Upon a Time) set to appear in episode 13 as the original character Cyrus Vanch, who is described by TV Line as “a ruthless career criminal who is released from prison after a long stint [who is] looking to take control of Starling City’s criminal underworld, and in order to prove himself to the lowlifes, he’s got to a mind to eliminate the man criminals fear most.” In other Arrow news, a promo has been released for next week’s episode (which again guest stars Jessica De Gouw as The Huntress), while GreenArrowTV got its hands on an episode description for December 12th’s mid-season finale Year’s End, along with some images that tease the introduction of Merlyn the Dark Archer…

…With Arrow proving a ratings hit for The CW, the network has plans to expand its superhero output with a new Wonder Woman series from Allan Heinberg (Gilmore Girls), which is tentatively entitled Amazon. Thanks to a casting call for the superheroine, we now have an idea of what kind of approach the proposed TV series is looking to adopt [see here]. Oh, and if you’re wondering why they’re referring to Diana as ‘Iris’, according to DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, it’s nothing more than a ‘codename’…

…Green Arrow and Wonder Woman could potentially find themselves joined on the TV schedules by another DC superhero, with Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg providing an update on Syfy’s proposed Booster Gold adaptation during an interview with IGN: “I got a little waylaid by Arrow. Booster Gold is going in the next couple weeks before Christmas. We’ll see what happens from there. It’s such a different project even though they’re both DC Comics properties. Booster is much more candy and popcorn, being about time travel and changing the future and being a superhero who can fly. But they’re both super-fun projects. As a lifelong DC Comics fan, I am beyond blessed to be working on these projects with all these amazing characters…” 

…And finally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a shortlist of 10 films for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, with this year’s three big comic book hitters The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers featuring alongside Cloud Atlas, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, John Carter, Life of Pi, Prometheus, Skyfall and Snow White and the Huntsman. The shortlist will be whittled down to five, and with three candidates among the contenders, there’s a good chance the superhero genre will be represented when the final nominations are announced on January 10th. Which film would get your vote? 

Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Gary Collinson