The Week in Spandex – Marvel Phase Two and Phase Three, Man of Steel, Batman’s Return, Justice League, X-Men and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, S.H.I.EL.D., Man of Steel, Batman, Justice League, Kick-Ass 2, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Arrow, DC Nation, LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, Superman: Unbound, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and more

Ben Kingsley Mandarin Iron Man 3

It’s been another hectic week of happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so we’ll take things chronologically, starting of course with 2013’s first superhero movie – and the first installment in Marvel’s Phase Two – Iron Man 3. The Shane Black-directed sequel finally wrapped filming this past week with an explosive stunt sequence at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood [check out some set videos here], while Disney announced that Robert Downey Jr.’s Armored Avenger will follow Iron Man 2, Thor and The Avengers by receiving an IMAX 3D makeover for its release this spring. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige (who we’ll be hearing a lot from this week) also spoke to MTV News about The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), as well as touching upon the future of Tony Stark: “Characters like James Bond and Batman, whose stories go on and on and on — I think Tony is one of those characters. Where we go directly after Iron Man 3 … I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m looking to finish Iron Man 3, getting into The Avengers 2, and then seeing where we go from there. But I do think we have more Tony Stark tales to tell, and we’ll take it one movie — or maybe two movies — at a time…”

…On the subject of future Marvel solo sequels, Jaimie Alexander spoke to Total Film about the possibility of reprising the role of Lady Sif for another Thor movie after the release of this year’s Thor: The Dark World: “I think they keep it secret mostly because they know that we might slip and accidentally say something. I think it’s no secret that Marvel tries to make as many films as they can, so that possibility of there being a third installment of Thor is a strong possibility – I mean, we’ve seen it over and over again – but, we still don’t know. And like with this one, I was told for certain that it was happening about a month before I flew here. I mean, it’s like you know it’s happening, but they won’t really confirm it until the last possible minute…”

…Looking ahead to Marvel’s 2014 output and Toby Jones has revealed that he’s set to reprise the role of Arnim Zola for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is set to begin filming in Cleveland in March. Jones joins a cast that includes Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, alongside MCU newcomers Anthony Mackie (Gangster Squad) as Sam Wilson / Falcon and Frank Grillo (Zero Dark Thirty) as Crossbones. A host of actresses have been linked to the female lead, thought to be that of Peggy Carter’s niece Sharon Carter, although Hayley Atwell has confirmed that she won’t be back as Peggy this time around…

Guardians of the Galaxy

…Jim Carrey (Kick-Ass 2) and Adam Sandler (That’s My Boy) have become the latest names to be linked to roles in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with reports suggesting the actors could be in the frame to voice either Rocket Raccoon and / or Groot. It’s also claimed that Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games), Chris Lowell (The Help) and Cam Gigandet (Priest) will be testing for Star-Lord, joining the likes of Zachary Levi (Thor: The Dark World), Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas), Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), Lee Pace (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) and John Krasinski (The Office), all of whom are said to have previously tried out for the part. With Guardians due to begin filming this summer ahead of its release in August 2014, expect some official casting announcements soon…

…Marvel will of course wrap up Phase Two of the MCU as Joss Whedon reassembles Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for The Avengers 2, and Kevin Feige provided MTV with a brief update as to the current status of the sequel: “It’s still early days but I told [Whedon] after reading the first sketch outline he delivered — and there’s a lot of work still to do, he has to sit down and turn this into a movie — but there are already seven things in there that are worth the price of admission alone… It’s pretty exciting to be this early out and already have things that I could pitch you on in a room — if you weren’t a journalist who was going to print all of this — and you would go, ‘Oh my god, that’s going to be awesome…'”

…Feige has also opened up about what’s in store for Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, revealing that Edgar Wright’s previously-announced Ant-Man will be joined by the long-rumoured Doctor Strange movie: “Ant-Man is definitely part of Phase Three. Like Iron Man 3, it’s certainly set in the Marvel Universe, but it’s also through the lens of Edgar Wright — which is the only reason we’re making the movie. I’ve known Edgar since our first lunch together at Comic-Con in 2004. He asked me what Marvel was doing with Ant-Man — we weren’t even a studio then; what a difference eight years makes! It’s very much an Ant-Man origin movie from the perspective of Edgar Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish [Attack the Block, The Adventures of Tintin]. It will of course be firmly planted in the MCU, but a different corner than we’ve seen before… So much of the stories we’re telling [right now] is about the core Avengers characters we’ve now met, and they’ll be evolving in big, surprising ways, in Cap’s next movie and Thor’s next movie and of course in Iron Man 3, as we get them all into the next Avengers film. Beyond that… Ant-Man is the only one officially announced, but you probably don’t have to look too far to guess at the next list of characters we’re toying with and beginning to develop. Doctor Strange, which I’ve been talking about for years, is definitely one of them. He’s a great, original character, and he checks the box off this criteria that I have: he’s totally different from anything else we have, just like Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s totally different from anything we’ve done before, as is Ant-Man, which keeps us excited…”

…Not content with taking over the big screen, Marvel has also commenced production on its first television project, with filming getting underway on the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot this past week; check out a couple of unrevealing behind-the-scenes images featuring vehicles from the pilot, along with the first official on-set image courtesy of the official S.H.I.E.L.D. Facebook page. Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot is directed by Joss Whedon, with a cast that includes Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe) as Agent Melinda May, Elizabeth Henstridge (The Thompsons) as Agent Gemma Simmons, Iain De Caestecker (Coronation Street) as Agent Leo Fitz, Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln) as Agent Grant Ward and Chloe Bennet (Nashville) as Skye…

…While it’s becoming difficult to keep track of all the projects Disney and Marvel Studios have in development, that’s not the case over at Warner Bros., where the studio’s officially announced DC Comics output is currently limited to this year’s Man of Steel. The Zack Snyder-directed Superman reboot has now received a rating from the MPAA, who granted the film a PG-13 certificate “for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language”. So, it looks like there’s going to be plenty of action on offer when Henry Cavill’s Superman goes up against General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Faora (Antje Traue) and if reports are to be believed, the film is also set to include another couple of Kryptonian bad-guys, with ComicBook claiming that Richard Cetrone (Underworld) will appear as Tor-An and Revard Dufresne (Sucker Punch) will portray Dev-Em. Meanwhile, according to Digital Spy, Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen has undergone a sex change for the reboot, which stems from an IMDb listing for newcomer Rebecca Buller as ‘Jenny Olsen’…

…So, with all these Kryptonian villains floating about in Man of Steel, Henry Cavill’s Superman is certainly going to have his hands full, but don’t expect to see a certain Dark Knight popping up to offer assistance, with The Dark Knight Rises star Joseph Gordon-Levitt moving to squash rumours that John Blake will don the cape and cowl for a cameo appearance in the film: “I hadn’t heard that one. It just goes to show how much you can believe rumors. I don’t think you should believe in any of them. If there’s something I’m going to be in, I’m going to tell you about it. I put it on my Twitter that I was in Sin City 2, so TRUST me, I’ll tell you…”

…And on the subject of Batman, it seems we could have a long time until The Dark Knight returns to cinemas, with reports this week suggesting that the next solo Batman movie won’t arrive until 2017 “at the earliest.” However, assuming Warner Bros. gets the Justice League movie off the ground, we’ll get our first look at the rebooted Batman as part of the DC ensemble in 2015, which has apparently decided upon a five-person line-up, with Batman and Superman (Cavill) joined by Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern. So, no surprises there then…

Clint Eastwood as Batman in The Dark Knight Returns

…During a Q&A at the premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, producer Michael Uslan (who has been involved with every Batman movie from Tim Burton’s 1989 effort through to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) responded to a question about where he’d like to see the series go next: “Who knows what the future may bring. I have to say, NOT speaking as a producer – understand that? I’m just wearing my fanboy hat right now – One day it dawned on me there are two actors out there who are absolutely the right age right now to do The Dark Knight Returns in live-action – Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson… Now, if I could put my fanboy hat back on, not the producer hat, how cool would it be to see a Batman Beyond movie? With Bruce Wayne in his 80s training a young Batman, and how cool would it be to see Clint Eastwood as Bruce Wayne in his 80s…”

…We’ve already seen quite a few characters from Kick-Ass 2 thanks to a series of spy photos from the set of the upcoming superhero sequel, but now Universal Pictures has released the first official image from the film, which shows Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass alongside Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes and his masked guard dog Sofia. Kick-Ass 2 sees Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) taking over directing duties from Matthew Vaughn, while Chloe Grace Moret (Hit Girl), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist / The Mother F*cker), Clark Duke (Marty / Battle Guy), Lyndsy Fonseca (Katie Deuxma) and Yancy Butler (Angie D’Amico) all return to the cast alongside Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity, Lindy Booth as Night Bitch, John Leguizamo as Javier, Robert Emms as Insect Man, Andy Nyman as The Tumour, Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia, Daniel Kaluuya as Black Death, Morris Chestnut as Marcus Williams and Claudia Lee as Brooke…

…Moving on to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise and director James Mangold (Knight and Day) has been speaking about Hugh Jackman’s latest outing The Wolverine, which is due to arrive in cinemas in July: “There is a significant amount of Japanese spoken in the movie, and the cast is almost entirely Japanese. So there is this wonderful sense of cross-pollination between a very Western character and a far Eastern culture, and I think it’s very cool and something we haven’t seen so far… The wonderful opportunity for me with this film is that 90 percent of it takes place in Japan, and even though other elements remain constant from the other pictures, namely Hugh Jackman, we kind of got our chance to reboot the tone and go a little darker and a little deeper than they’ve gone before with this character. That was exciting for me. The whole point is not about violence or rating; it’s about intensity. I wanted to make a film that in a way captures the intensity of his character. One of the things that has always been a feature of Wolverine in the comics is that he has a berserker rage, that he has anger and some of his abilities are driven by something more primal…”

Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine…Despite being just six months from release, the marketing campaign for The Wolverine is yet to really get underway, but Mangold did go on to promise that fans will get to see a trailer in the very near future: “I think you always want to put your best foot forward. For me, I’m not the marketing department of Fox, but for my own tastes, less is more. You have a character that’s a bit of a given, you know this guy. Hugh is so good in this role. My point of view is ‘save as much as you can,’ but we will be lifting our skirt and offering a peek or two, certainly in the months to come…”

…Hugh Jackman will be donning the adamantium claws again this year as cameras begin rolling on 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and while it’s previously been confirmed that original X-Men trilogy stars Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen will be joining X-Men: First Class stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult, it doesn’t seem that Singer intends on bringing back all of the cast of Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 prequel. “I don’t know that I’m in it,” said January Jones, who portrayed the character of Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class. “I don’t think Emma’s in this one. Well they haven’t told me if I am. I wouldn’t put it past them though, I got the script for the first one on the airplane on the way there. It’s called Days of Future Past I think, and I think it’s more about James [McAvoy] and Michael [Fassbender] and then Patrick [Stewart] and Ian [McKellan], and I think it’s gonna go back and forth with those so I don’t think Emma’s in those bits. I don’t know, I really don’t know…”

…Having allegedly shot a cameo alongside Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, Famke Janssen has also confirmed that she’s also yet to be approached about returning to the role of Jean Grey for X-Men: Days of Future Past: “If you run into Bryan Singer, just tell him I’ve been sitting by the phone, I’ve been hearing rumors of all these people getting cast; what about me? I’m waiting.” Meanwhile, HeyUGuys caught up with Rose Byrne at the premiere of I Give it a Year, with the actress also revealing she’s yet to receive a call from Singer about returning to the role of Moira MacTaggert in the forthcoming First Class sequel…

Manu Bennett Deathstroke Stephen Amell Oliver Queen Arrow

…Having returned from its midseason break a couple of weeks back, Arrow continues to deliver strong ratings for The CW and it would seem at this point in time that the DC Comics’ adaptation is a dead cert to be renewed for a second season. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to see several familiar DC characters popping up for guest appearances alongside Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, including the return of Deadshot (Michael Rowe), China White (Kelly Hu) and The Huntress (Jessica De Gouw), along with Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson [check out a first-look image of the unmasked Deathstroke over at The Huffington Post] and Seth Gable (Fringe) as ‘The Count’, Arrow’s incarnation of Count Vertigo, who makes his debut this Wednesday [watch a promo for the upcoming episode here]. Meanwhile, it’s also been revealed that actress Alex Kingston (Doctor Who, ER) is set to guest star as Dinah Lance, the mother of Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance, and DC’s original Black Canary…

…Shifting to DC’s animated output and The World’s Finest has posted images, video clips and descriptions for this weekend’s DC Nation programming, including Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice: Invasion and the latest DC Nation shorts…

…After last year’s hugely successful video game, Warner Home Video has announced that LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite will be released on May 21st, 2013. Here’s the official synopsis, which should be familiar to anyone who’s played the game: “When Bruce Wayne receives the man of the year award, fellow billionaire Lex Luthor becomes jealous and decides to run for President. To create the atmosphere for his type of fear-based politics Lex recruits the Joker to perfect a Black LEGO Destructor Ray which wreaks havoc on Gotham. As Lex destroys Batman’s tech, Batman reluctantly turns to Superman for help…”

…Another animated DC movie is set to arrive next week as Warner Bros. releases Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 on Blu-ray, DVD and Download; to whet you appetite, be sure to check out a new clip featuring The Joker (Michael Emerson; Lost) making a guest appearance on The Dave Endochrine Show [see here], along with some video interview clips featuring Peter Weller (RoboCop) talking about his role as Batman [see here] and Michael Emerson discussing The Joker [see here, here and here]…

…WB has also revealed that Superman: Unbound, the next entry in the popular DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, will receive its world premiere at WonderCon in March. Based on the Superman/Brainiac comic book by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Superman: Unbound sees Matt Bomer (White Collar) lending his voice to the Man of Steel alongside John Noble (Fringe) as Brainiac, Stana Katic (Castle) as Lois Lane and Molly Quinn (Castle) as Supergirl. The animated movie has been written by Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and is directed by James Tucker (Justice League, Batman: The Brace and the Bold). The film is due for release in North America in Spring 2013…

…After a special primetime premiere this past Monday, Ultimate Spider-Man returns to its usual Sunday slot on Disney XD this weekend and you can check out a clip from the next episode featuring Spidey and Luke Cage going up against Rhino [see here], as well as first look images of Rhino and Kraven the Hunter [see here]… 

…And finally, this year will see Marvel Animation debuting two new shows on Disney XD in Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and producer Cort Lane had a few words about the upcoming series during a chat with Newsarama: “They’re only months away. I’m really thrilled. I’m a lifelong Avengers fan, so getting to work on an Avengers series is a dream job for me. At the same time, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. has really surpassed my expectations of what a series like that could be. It’s a great story about a great group of characters who have a really interesting family-style dynamic. It’s very funny, with just the most amazing voice cast…”

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

Gary Collinson


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