The Week in Spandex – Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., X-Men: Days of Future Past, Arrow, The Flash and more

Our weekly round up of all the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Big Hero 6, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four, Kindergarten Heroes, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Arrow, The Flash, Justice League: War, Beware the Batman, Teen Titans Go!, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Avengers Assemble and more…

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor: The Dark World

With Thor: The Dark World set to open in the UK in just over three weeks, Disney and Marvel Studios have stepped up the promotional campaign for the second Phase Two offering, with this week bringing us a couple of new character posters for Fandral (Zachary Levi) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and a behind-the-scenes featurette [see here], the first clip and two TV spots [see here], another couple of TV spots [see here] and some Asgard concept art [see here], along with ten new images featuring Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) [see here]. Thor: The Dark World is set for release here in the UK on October 30th, before heading across the Pond on November 8th…

…Moving ahead to first of Marvel’s 2014 offerings and Scarlett Johansson has spoken about returning to the role of Black Widow for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as discussing her character’s growing relationship with Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers: “This film is in real time. It’s been two years since [Captain America and Black Widow] appeared, and now both are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fighting in the streets. We are not superheroes flying side by side. They help each other because we are fighting in a similar way. It’s a working relationship. By a series of unfortunate encounters, they will be in a situation in which their friendship becomes more intimate. They share many similarities because they live on the defensive without relying on anyone. Also, the two have been working for the government throughout their professional careers. With their friendship they begin to question what they want and what is their true identity…”

Anthony Mackie as Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

…Scarlett Johansson wasn’t the only cast member to discuss their role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier this week, with Anthony Mackie (Runner Runner) talking to MTV about the dynamic between himself and Steve Rogers: “It’s interesting because a lot of people equate it to Batman and Robin, but the reality of it is it’s more of a working relationship, a respect relationship as opposed to a leader and follower.The three of us [Cap, Falcon and Black Widow] work really well together and we support each other. All of us are really different in our abilities and powers, so when we come together we make an awesome tandem…”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier will mark Scarlett Johansson’s third outing as the Black Widow after Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, and she’ll be back for a fourth time in 2015 alongside the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. This week, Johansson confirmed that filming is set to get underway on the hotly-anticipated sequel this coming January [although other reports seem to indicate March – see next paragraph], while new cast addition James Spader (The Blacklist) also gave a few words on his upcoming role as the AI villain Ultron: “I have spoken to Joss Whedon about it and yes, actually just this weekend I went in for them to take very extensive photographs, head scans, body scans, and all kinds of things in preparation for figuring out how the hell I’m gonna fit in this Ultron character..!”

…In other Avengers: Age of Ultron news, it appears that Samuel L. Jackson has confirmed the casting of Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Scarlet Witch, with the actor stating that: “I don’t think we begin shooting before March of next year. I know we’re shooting in London, that James Spader is Ultron and going to be the bad guy, and that we added Ms. [Elizabeth] Olsen [who will play the Scarlet Witch], but I don’t know what she’s doing, if she’s on the inside or the outside. I haven’t seen a script.” And, mere hours after Jackson confirmed Elizabeth Olsen’s involvement came “exclusive” and “official” confirmation from Latrino-Review that Olsen’s Godzilla co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2) will play Wanda’s brother Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver. Yes, that’s the same Aaron Taylor-Johnson who’s been rumoured as Marvel’s number one pick for months, and even spoke himself about meeting with Marvel and Joss Whedon about the role, stating that “I feel really flattered and honored that [Marvel] came to me for that role.” So, almost certainly true, but certainly not exclusive nor officially confirmed just yet…

…Looking beyond Phase Two and British filmmaker Edgar Wright (The World’s End) has offered up a tease for his long-gestating Ant-Man movie by releasing a behind-the-scenes image of an unspecified actor in the Ant-Man costume, which was taken from the proof of concept video he shot back in June 2012 (which you can watch here, if you haven’t already seen it, or just fancy casting your eye over it again)…

…While Marvel’s dominance of the live-action superhero movie looks set to continue until 2015 at the earliest with the arrival of Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman, Disney is also set to release its first animated Marvel movie next year in Big Hero 6, and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada has offered up a few words on its development under Winnie the Pooh director Don Hall and his team: “Big Hero 6 is really looking great. Don Hall, Kristina Reed and the entire crew are such amazingly talented people and have such a love for all things Marvel that it’s been an absolute blast working with them. They’ve really taken the BH6 property, which at the end of the day doesn’t have a lot of publishing history behind it, and built an entire world and mythology around it. Being there from the very beginning, the process has been amazing to watch. The amount of research Don and his crew have done is exhaustive and beyond thorough, and I don’t just mean with respect to reading the comics. From the design of the characters and their tech to the look of the world, no stone has been left unturned and a lot of frequent flyer miles have been tallied up to get where they are at this juncture. These guys have traveled the globe to make BH6 the very best it can be. It’s a tribute to how John Lasseter runs the animation division. He encourages this kind of thorough research, and you’ll undoubtedly see the results in the story and on the screen and I’m sure in the making of DVD. [Laughs] At the end of the day, the hope is that the audience won’t be consciously aware of it because it’ll be seamless. And really, that’s what you want. You just want people to accept this incredibly fantastical world as the reality they’re living in for the next 90 minutes…”

…Meanwhile, Quesada also spoke about Marvel’s first live-action TV offering Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., touching on comparisons between the show and The CW’s own DC superhero series Arrow, along with fan expectations for the series: “Marc Guggenheim and those guys have done a great job with Arrow. It’s a great show. I wouldn’t say there are any hard and fast rules, though we do try to keep to a certain feel and tone. Obviously, the Marvel Universe takes place in the real world, and there’s a tonality to the things that we produce that have a distinct, bigger than life Marvel feel. But overall it’s about great story and great performances and great characters, and most importantly fun with a sense of humor… We always make everything we do — whether it’s our comics, movies, animated shows or now our live TV episodes — to the best of our abilities with the best intent and with all our heart and souls. And then, at the end of the day, it’s out of our hands. It’s up to the audience to let us know if we’ve succeeded in some small fashion. We’ve been very, very lucky up to this point — very blessed — that we’ve had a decent success rate, and hopefully that’ll continue. But you can’t take it for granted. There will be more projects that come down the road, and you’ve got to make sure you’re vigilant and at your best for those, and you can never lose sight of the fact that the audience has great expectations…”

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

…If Marvel’s audience has great expectations, it seems the pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t quite meet them for many viewers, with the second episode of the show pulling in 8.4 million viewers – a drop of 34% from the first episode, despite the inclusion of a cameo appearance from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Those are still strong numbers, but with episode two hardly setting the world alight [read Anghus Houvouras’ review here], you’d have to expect another drop when episode three rolls around this coming Tuesday. On the subject of episode three, be sure to check out a promo here, along with the official episode description: “When the brilliant scientist, Dr. Franklin Hall [Ian Hart], is kidnapped, Agent Coulson [Clark Gregg] and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must race against the clock to locate him. Skye [Chloe Bennet] is their only way in, pushing the team to their limits when the entire plan turns upside-down.” And if that’s not enough to get you excited / put you off entirely, then you might want to take a look at / completely avoid a batch of images from episode four, which you can see here

…Last month it was rumoured that ABC and Marvel were looking to capitalise on the recent Iron Man 3 Marvel One-Shot Agent Carter by developing a TV series based around the World War II heroine and the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hayley Atwell has now revealed that she’d be happy to reprise the role for the small screen: “I read about [the TV series]. The one-shot was so successful, the fanbase were like, ‘We want more of Peggy!’. I think Marvel probably take that very seriously, and it’s certainly something I would be a part of doing. I’d be interested to show different sides of Peggy. Although she’s kick-ass, and she can be aggressive and she can be just as competent as the men, it’d be nice to show that she’s a feminist in a way. It’s not just about her being aggressive and as aggressive as the men in those action sequences, but being able to be a little bit more rounded as a person. I think she could be a great role model and a great member of the Marvel Universe. I love the Marvel lot, they’re really great people to work with, so it would be nice to go back and work with them again. I’d definitely do it…”

The Wolverine 3D Blu-ray

X-Men fans who were hoping to see Hugh Jackman’s Logan unleashing a little more of his beserker rage in this year’s solo sequel The Wolverine will no doubt be interested to learn that an ‘Unleashed’ extended and unrated cut of the film is set to arrive on Blu-ray, although you’ll have to pick up the 3D version, as the standard Blu-ray and DVD releases will only feature the theatrical cut. Click here for details on the home-entertainment release, along with a rundown of the special features…

…Moving ahead to next year’s hotly-anticipated mutant epic X-Men: Days of Future Past, and James McAvoy has spoken about reprising the role of Professor Charles Xavier in the Bryan Singer-directed sequel, as well as working with the likes of Jackman, Patrick Stewart (Old Professor X), Nicholas Hoult (Beast) and Michael Fassbender (Young Magneto): “Potentially it’s going to be the biggest, most epic X-Men they’ve ever had. I think it’s the second biggest production Fox have ever embarked upon, behind Avatar. So they’re definitely going for it. Bryan’s very protective of the series. He did create it. He did help form that environment that allowed subsequent superhero movies to exist and thrive like they have done for the last however many years… [Patrick Stewart’s] last day was my first day and that was it. Then we were done. But we did crossover and we do get a scene together. Getting to work with Hugh Jackman – who I christened Hugo Boss – was great. What he’s like on camera when he’s getting interviewed and you think he’s the nicest man in show business – he is. He’s amazing. The guy’s got grace coming out of every single pore. If we could all be a bit more like Hugh it would be a very happy planet. Getting to work with Michael [Fassbender] again was great. I spent a hell of a lot of time with Nick [Nicholas Hoult]. Weirdly the people that I spent the most time with acting-wise was not Michael this time, it was Hugh and Nick. And whilst I bemoaned the loss of my buddy Michael, it was more than made up for by the fact that Hugh and Nick are such amazing people…”

…In addition to McAvoy, a couple of new additions to the X-Men universe have also discussed their roles, beginning with Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who is set to portray the antagonist Bolivar Trask: “I didn’t want to play the villain. He’s a man of science. He’s a man of invention. He actually sees what he’s doing as a good thing — [his ambition is] definitely blind and he’s quite arrogant. He’s strove all his life for a certain respect and attention.” Meanwhile, Evan Peters (American Horror Story) spoke briefly about his character Quicksilver, and how Singer has realised his powers of super speed: “I don’t know what I can say about it and not get in trouble, I really don’t. But they shot a lot of slow motion. They brought in an amazing camera, the Phantom — it’s, like, 3600 frames per second. They brought in these huge, bright lights and did some amazing, amazing stuff with it. I’m excited to see it all cut together and check all that out. It’s going to be really cool…”

…Despite having a release date set for March 6th, 2015, it seems that Fox’s The Fantastic Four is having difficulties script-wise, with the studio turning to X-Men veteran Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past) for what has been described as a substantial overhaul of the screenplay for the Josh Trank-directed reboot. Kinberg becomes the latest in a long line of screenwriters to work on the latest adaptation of Marvel’s First Family, which includes Michael Green (Green Lantern), Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows) and up-and-coming scribe Jeremy Slater (Reawakening). At this point, you’d have to imagine it’s only a matter of time before Fox bump The Fantastic Four from the packed 2015 schedule…

…20th Century Fox has also moved to expand its superhero output beyond X-Men and The Fantastic Four by turning to its Marvel creative consultant Mark Millar for one of his creator-owned properties, snapping up the rights to the as-yet-unpublished Kindergarten Heroes with a view to turning the picture book into a potential “family-friendly film franchise”. Simon Kinberg is set to produce, with Carter Blanchard (Gangster Squad, Spy Hunter) tackling scriptwriting duties… 

…Things seem to have fallen pretty quiet on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 front as of late, but this week we got some news on the next instalment of Sony’s rebooted Spidey franchise with the announcement that TASM2 screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinker are to pen the script for The Amazing Spider-Man 3 while, Paul Giamatti has confirmed that he’ll be back as Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 3, further adding to the speculation that Andrew Garfield’s wall-crawler will find himself going up against the Sinister Six in the 2016 threequel (which also happens to be Sony’s sixth Spider-Man movie)…

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will have some competition in the small screen superhero arena this week as The CW’s Arrow returns for its second season, and ahead of the premiere on October 9th, the network has released a clip from the season two opener [see here], a new TV spot [see here] new batch of cast images featuring Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen), Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance), Colton Haynes (Roy Harper), Willa Holland (Thea Queen, Oliver’s sister), David Ramsey (John Diggle), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak), Susanna Thompson (Moria Queen), Paul Blackthorne (Quentin Lance) and Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson) [see here]. Meanwhile, ComicBookResources has also revealed that Jimmy Jean-Louis (Heroes) has joined the season two cast as ‘The Captain’, who is described as a mysterious and deadly associate of Anthony Ivo [Dylan Neal] and has a connection to a mystery of Season 2 called the ‘Amazo’..”

…As I’m sure you’re no doubt aware by now, Barry Allen is heading to Starling City in episode eight of Arrow season 2 with a view to spinning The Flash off into his own series, and executive producer Andrew Kreisberg has spoken about the casting of Glee’s Grant Gustin as the Scarlett Speedster, as well as the development of the character: “With Arrow, we wrote [Barry] without anybody in mind. This time, as we were writing these episodes, we cast Grant in the middle of it. We met with a lot of other really talented people. Not just talented, but good guys, and it was funny, because as each of us – Geoff [Johns] and Greg [Berlanti] and I — were working on individual scenes, we all sort of came together and said ‘we’re all writing Grant.’ It was just him. That was different, because now when we go into writing the actual pilot in Episode 20, we already have our guy, and we’ve already seen him on the screen, so hopefully we’ll actually literally be able to look at things and learn. Barry’s a fanboy. He comes to Starling City and he says to Felicity, ‘so I heard the vigilante saved you. What’s he like?’ So I think for Barry, it’s one of those things where it’s sort of like ‘be careful what you wish for. If you look at the Justice League, you have Superman and Aquaman and Wonder Woman. You have all these gods. And then you’ve got Barry Allen, who’s just a guy. That’s, I think, why the character appeals so much to Greg and to Geoff and to me, and it’s also why he’s a really good fit to the world of Arrow, because while we’re obviously introducing some fantastical concepts to things, we want to still keep the show as grounded and realistic as possible. So I think that the events that happen to The Flash, and what’s going on in Central City… I think some people will be like ‘that’s not happening. There must be an explanation for it.’ Barry’s a good guy, and he’s seen that it’s possible to put on a mask and change the world…”

…On the animation front, Warner Bros. has released the first image of Desaad from next year’s animated feature Justice League: War (adding to the previously released stills of Darkseid, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman), while ComicBookMovie has posted clips and images from the next round of DC Nation offerings in Beware the Batman, Teen Titans Go! and Metal Men

…And lastly, Marvel fans might want to check out a clip from this weekend’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., as well as two clips from the Halloween special of Ultimate Spider-Man, which sees Spidey teaming up with Blade, Frankenstein, The Living Mummy and Werewolf by Night to take on the dreaded Count Dracula and is set to air on The Disney Channel this evening before being repeated on Disney XD’s Marvel Universe block on October 13th. Meanwhile, Man Of Action’s Joe Kelly has also revealed that Avengers Assemble has been renewed for a second season, while he also said he expects Ultimate Spider-Man to continue beyond the typical 65 episode animation run.

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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