The Week in Spandex – Wolverine and the X-Men universe, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Superman vs. Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Flash and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Force, The Fantastic Four, Kick-Ass 2, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Superman vs. Batman, Arrow, The Flash, Beware the Batman, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and more…

So, The Wolverine opened last weekend, and it seems audiences were still suffering an X-Men Origins: Wolverine headache, with Hugh Jackman’s sixth X-Men outing pulling in an opening weekend of $53.1 million in North America to take first place at the box office, albeit with a new franchise low (for comparison 2000’s X-Men debuted with $54.5 million, while X-Men: First Class opened with $55.1 million in 2011). Here in the UK, the film also topped the chart with a record low for the X-Men series and less than half the first weekend takes of rival superhero flicks Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel (which was to be expected in all honesty). This soft start led many to immediately write the James Mangold-directed solo sequel off as a box office failure, despite the fact that its global opening weekend clocked in at $139.6 million – that’s just under $20 million more than its production budget, and an improvement over the $116.1 million debut of X-Men: First Class (which cost $160 million to make). Nevertheless, The Wolverine looks to have given up top spot this weekend to the Denzel Washington / Mark Wahlberg comic book adaptation 2 Guns and with around $165 million in the bank by close of play Thursday, the film really needs a strong second weekend internationally if its to have much of a chance of overtaking X-Men’s $296.3 million haul to avoid becoming the lowest-grossing instalment in Fox’s mutant franchise…

The Wolverine has been receiving generally favourable reviews [see ours here and here], but celebrated X-Men comic book writer Chris Claremont (who happens to be behind the source material for both The Wolverine and next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past) seemed to hit the nail on the head when asked for his opinion on Fox’s adaptation of his and Frank Miller’s acclaimed 1982 miniseries (beware of spoilers): “The first two acts were kick-ass, and they set this up to be a really exceptional, different movie. It was like the film took this giant step forward. I liked that it focuses on the essence of who Wolverine is and what he does. Hugh Jackman is eloquent, and he owns the character at this point. It’s a surprisingly multidimensional performance. The third act wasn’t bad, per se, but it was a different tone. That moment he starts motorcycling up the 400 kilometers … he was almost riding into a different movie. The end sort of turned into stuff we’ve all seen before. It just started throwing superhero tropes against the wall: the Yakuza against Wolverine, the Viper imprisoning Wolverine, the Silver Samurai cutting off Wolverine’s claws. The point is not how many artful ways can he cut someone to shish kebab. There was no moment of emotional punch to match, say, Tony Stark watching what he thinks is Pepper Potts’s death in the third Iron Man… It’s a perfectly fine summer movie [but] I went into it hoping for a lot more…”

X-Men: Days of Future Past Sentinel

…While The Wolverine hasn’t quite set the box office on fire, next year’s mutant epic X-Men: Days of Future Past certainly has the potential to revive the franchise’s fortunes, especially if the early buzz is any indication. Fox and director Bryan Singer have been doing a fine job marketing the sequel, and after giving us a glimpse of the Sentinels during Comic-Con, the studio updated its Trask Industries website this week, revealing some new stills of the mutant killing machines (including an appearance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration), as well as providing us with our first look at Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) as the main antagonist, Bolivar Trask [see here]. Singer subsequently took to Twitter to drop another production still of him standing next to a full-size Sentinel model [see here], along with a new image of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) – or rather, Mystique’s leg, with her foot clasped against some poor guy’s throat [see here]. Meanwhile, Halle Berry and Lucas Till have been speaking about reprising the roles of Storm and Havok, while James Marsden has confirmed that Cyclops won’t be making an appearance in Days of Future Past, although he’s hopeful of returning at some point in the future, assuming they can find a way around him having been vapourised in X-Men: The Last Stand

…Jeff Wadlow is currently doing the press rounds to promote the release of Kick-Ass 2 (which we’ll come to in a moment), but naturally many of the questions he’s fielding concern Fox’s recently-announced X-Men spin-off X-Force, which Wadlow is currently scripting and likely to direct. As well as explaining to Collider how the project came about with assistance from Mark Millar (Kick-Ass co-creator, and Fox’s Marvel creative consultant), Wadlow has also teased several mutants who we might expect to see featuring in the X-Force roster: “What X-Force is – the way I talk about X-Force is… X-Men is about mutants, and not all the mutants get into the mansion. So I’m curious to tell a story about the mutants who don’t make it into the mansion… I’m a huge Deadpool fan, who doesn’t love Wolverine – but obviously Cable is an iconic character we haven’t seen onscreen yet. I love Psylocke, Domino is an amazing character – it’s a long list of characters that have appeared in X-Force – Colossus is in the current lineup… There’s a lot of really exciting characters that you can use in X-Force that have been in other movies, that haven’t shown up, or maybe there’s ways to re-imagine them, even though they might’ve shown up in other films.” So, does that mean a reunion for Hugh Jackman’s Logan and Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson could be on the cards..?”

Collider also caught up with Mark Millar at Comic-Con, who once again reiterated that Fox has big plans for its X-Men properties: “Marvel sold the X-Men franchises off to Fox back in the ’90s when they had the cash, but you have to remember that they were the crown jewels. The reason they got snapped up is because they were Marvel’s biggest selling books for twenty years. So you’re sitting on a gold mine there. I think there’s a good five to ten golden franchises in there.” Five to ten franchises certainly sounds ambitious, especially considering they’ve only explored two so far in X-Men and Wolverine, with X-Force a potential third (and seemingly replacing the New Mutants project that was previously mentioned as a possibility). There is of course the long-rumoured Deadpool movie, along with X-Factor and perhaps a solo Cable feature (assuming X-Force works out), but if Jackman’s Wolverine can’t set the box-office alight then you’d have to wonder how these would cope without anywhere near the same kind of name recognition…

…Fox does have another Marvel property with some strong name recognition in The Fantastic Four, which is being developed by Chronicle director Josh Trank, and it’s emerged this week that Miles Teller (21 & Over, The Spectacular Now) is being eyed for the role of the F4’s leader Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic. If true, it would seem that Fox are going young with their casting, with Teller just 26 years of age (and looking considerably younger). Teller is the second actor to be seriously linked to a part in the reboot after Trank’s Chronicle star Michael B. Jordan, who is said to be the director’s number one choice for Johnny Storm, and with the film currently scheduled for release in March 2015, you’d have to expect the cast to start coming together soon…

…In addition to his Marvel consulting duties at Fox, Mark Millar also has another project incoming in Kick-Ass 2, which is set to arrive in cinemas in just under two weeks (that’s August 14th in the UK, and August 16th in North America). Naturally this means there’s been plenty of promotional material arriving online this past week, including a new green band trailer [see here], another Justice Forever recruitment video and four new clips [see here], along with a couple of TV spots [see here and here] and a selection of video interviews with Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (The Mother F*cker), Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit-Girl), Morris Chestnut (Marcus Williams), John Leguizamo (Javier), Lindy Booth (Night Bitch), Donald Faison (Doctor Gravity), Clark Duke (Battle Guy), writer-director Jeff Wadlow, producers Matthew Vaughn, Tarquin Pack and executive producer Millar [see here]…

…It’s starting to look increasingly likely that Aaron Taylor-Johnson will become the second Kick-Ass star to appear as Quicksilver; during the press rounds for Kick-Ass 2, Taylor-Johnson has been bombarded with questions about his possible role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and took the opportunity to confirm that he has been in discussions with Marvel and Joss Whedon: “I feel really flattered and honored that [Marvel] came to me for that role. I think he’s an interesting character and we’re just gonna keep going into that. I sat down with Joss, I think he’s awesome, I sat down with the guys at Marvel and they’re also great; I think it’d be interesting.” He also went on to explain the appeal of the silver-haired speedster: “I think when it comes around and you’re asking about The Avengers 2 and Quicksilver and things like that, the thing is to think about that he’s an abandoned child. Him and his sister are abandoned, they live in Eastern Europe. And if that’s something that you can make work, then there’s always… you gotta have something that you can relate to. So when it comes to that, then it’s enjoyable. So I don’t really care what it is, you know. [Joss Whedon] is awesome! He’s a real dude and I love what he did with the first Avengers. He had a real though task to deal with and I think he put up brilliantly…”

…Joss Whedon has also been discussing the sequel, giving us an insight into his choice of villain in the malignant artificial intelligence Ultron: “I was pitching Ultron before I took the job on the first movie. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this, but for the second one, you should totally do Ultron… He’s been a thorn in their side as much as any other character over the years and particularly back in my history. He was great. He’s somebody who can juice things up and he’s a real problem for the Avengers. That’s not always easy to find. It’s not like the Vulture is really going to give them a hard time for 20 minutes…”

…Before we get to the Age of Ultron, there’s still several Phase Two films incoming, beginning with Chris Hemsworth’s second outing as the God of Thunder in Thor: The Dark World, and to build anticipation for a new trailer this coming Wednesday (August 7th), Marvel debuted a new poster featuring most of the main players, including Thor, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Fandral (Zachary Levi), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and new bad guy Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston). Meanwhile, in other bits and pieces from Phase Two, Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / Falcon) have been talking about their roles in next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser) also briefly touched upon their characters in Guardians of the Galaxy during a chat with AMC, explaining that both are employees of the Mad Titan Thanos…

…With just over seven weeks to go until the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel has released a new batch of images from the pilot episode of the studio’s first live-action TV venture, giving us new stills of regulars Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May), Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), Iain De Caestecker (Leo Fitz), Elizabeth Henstridge (Jemma Simmons) and Chloe Bennet (Skye) and pilot guest stars Cobie Smulders and J. August Richards [see here], along with three new clips from the series [see here]. Meanwhile, it’s also been announced that David Conrad (Ghost Whisperer, CSI: Miami) has landed a recurring role in the ABC show, although naturally his character is being kept under wraps for the time being…

…Shifting to The Amazing Spider-Man franchise now and this week saw Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 Comic-Con footage leaking onto the internet [if you've not seen it, you can watch it here], while Den of Geek caught up with producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, during which they discussed shooting in New York City, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) being forced to confront his fears, the scale of the sequel compared to last year’s original, the choice of Electro (Jamie Foxx) as the main villain, and this rather interesting answer from Arad about whether another Marvel superhero makes an appearance in the film: “Uh… I’d rather not answer that at this point. This is what the word ‘spoiler’ means. We want to always leave the audience with a couple of surprises. All of a sudden, you feel like, yeah, there’s a continuity. So if we say today how we go about it, we’d take away from the surprise of the movie.” Of course, with Sony only having the movie rights to Spider-Man, it doesn’t look too likely…

…It’s been “reported” this week that Man of Steel director Zack Snyder is set to meet with comic book creator Frank Miller to discuss his plans for the recently-announced sequel Superman vs. Batman (or whatever they’re calling it these days), suggesting that Miller’s seminal Batman: The Dark Knight Returns could serve as an inspiration for the showdown between DC’s two most iconic characters. Superman Homepage has apparently spoken to Snyder about the team-up, quoting the director as stating: “It’s too early for me to discuss the film. However, regardless of how I feel about Superman, ultimately I have to go along with the direction that Warner Bros. thinks is best.” Batman-on-Film is claiming to have the inside scoop on several actors being considered role the role of The Dark Knight, with the likes of Josh Duhamel (Transformers), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes), Gerard Butler (300), Josh Brolin (Oldboy), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Brad Pitt (World War Z), Ben Affleck (Argo) and Jim Caviezel (Person of Interest) all mentioned as possibilities. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter has thrown a few more names into the hat, suggesting that Josh Brolin tops a list that also includes Ryan Gosling (Only God Forgives), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), Max Martini (Pacific Rim) and Matthew Goode (Watchmen)….

…Having been cast as Batman back in the mid-2000s for the aborted Justice League: Mortal, Armie Hammer appears to have ruled himself out of contention for the Dark Knight this time around, with The Lone Ranger star telling Metro: “I’m not actually a big fan of superhero films. ‘If you have a guy who is supposed to be invulnerable, then what’s the point? I think if Henry Cavill and I did [their upcoming movie The Man From U.N.C.L.E.] and then a superhero film straight after, people might start to wonder about us…”

…With Warner Bros. seemingly reluctant to pull the trigger on a DC Cinematic Universe beyond Batman and Superman, DC fans may have to settle for a shared universe on the small screen, with The CW announcing this week that it plans to introduce Barry Allen / The Flash into the hit superhero series Arrow, before spinning the character off into his own TV series. The Flash TV show is set to be written by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and directed by David Nutter, the creative team from Arrow, and the plan is to have the character will make three appearances in the second season of Arrow, with episode 20 serving as a back-door pilot for the spin-off series. “[Barry] will be as grounded and realistic as possible. That’s how we’ll get to know him. Then his life will get a bit faster. It will be fun for the audience to see how we do our take on The Flash’s powers. Some will feel very familiar to those who know the comics, and other stuff will feel different yet fresh and exciting,” said Kreisberg at the Television Critics Assocation press tour, with Berlanti adding: “He does need powers to become The Flash. And he will be The Flash. He will wear a red costume, and he will go by that name…”

The Flash series comes at the expense of The CW’s proposed Wonder Woman origin series Amazon, with CW president Mark Pedowitz confirming that the project is now on hold for the time being: “Amazon is on pause right now. The script isn’t quite where we want it. It’s an iconic DC character, and we are not going to put it on unless it works. And now, having the DC universe expand, with the origins of Black Canary coming on this year, as well as potential origins of The Flash, it’s better to wait and get it right.” And speaking of Black Canary – if you want to avoid Arrow season 2 SPOILERS, skip to the next paragraph now – Pedowitz went on to unravel the mystery behind Caity Lotz’s (The Pact) casting as the Black Canary, revealing that her character is actually Sara Lance, Laurel’s sister who was believed to have drowned in the show’s pilot episode: “I hope it brings a certain amount of conflict since she’s playing the sister of Laurel Lance. It’s an origin story — don’t know if this character is the Black Canary or is not the Black Canary, but it is an origin story. Remember, Laurel Lance was the Black Canary in the DC Universe…”

…On the DC animated from, we’ve got a selection of clips and images from this weekend’s Cartoon Network offerings of Beware the Batman and the latest DC Nation short Tales of Metropolis starring Lois Lane, as well as a clip from Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox featuring Wonder Woman waging war against Aquaman, and video interviews with Nathan Fillion, who discusses his role as Green Lantern in the latest DC Universe Animated Original Movie…

…Marvel has released a clip from this weekend’s episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, which sees the wall-crawler teaming up with Stan the Janitor (a.k.a. the legendary Stan Lee) to take on The Lizard. Meanwhile it’s also been announced that a Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. live chat will take place on August 6th at 12.00 pm with executive producer Jeph Loeb, creative consultant Paul Dini, supervising producer Henry Gilroy and voice actor Fred Tatasciore (The Hulk) – if you’re interested in taking part, you can sign up here

…And finally, after producing the unofficial Thomas Jane-headlined Punisher short Dirty Laundry last year, producer Adi Shankar (Dredd) has now turned his attention to another popular Marvel character, teaming up with director Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom) and star Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) for the Man Bites Dog-inspired Venom short Truth in Journalism. You can see the poster for Truth in Journalism here, and if you haven’t seen the short itself, we’ve got it for you here.

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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