The Week in Spandex – Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Batman vs. Superman, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, Marvel’s Phase Three 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, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Punisher, Black Panther, The Avengers 3, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Batman vs. Superman, Man of Steel, Arrow, Beware the Batman, Justice League: War, Marvel Disk Wars and more…

Chris Hemsworth has three movies left on his Marvel contractThere’s just four days to go before UK moviegoers get to head back to Asgard courtesy of Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor with the release of Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World, and this past week saw Taylor and cast members Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Christopher Eccleston and Marvel chief Kevin Feige heading to these shores for the UK press conference, which Luke Owen covered for the latest Flickering Myth Podcast. Luke was also fortunate enough to catch an early screening of the Phase Two solo sequel; here’s an excerpt from his review:

Exciting, brilliant, fun, energetic with well-written humour and some outstanding performances let down slightly by a stupid plot that makes no sense, Thor: The Dark World has everything a comic book movie fan could want and so much more. It’s Avengers levels of fun and the final third will have you on the edge of your seat, even if you’re scratching your head while doing so. Thor may have been the surprise entry of Phase One, but Thor: The Dark World could end up the best solo outing of Phase Two.

Be sure to check out Luke’s full spoiler free ★★★★ here.

Naturally, with Thor: The Dark World almost upon us, there’s been a steady stream of promotional material this week, including clips of Thor and Loki [see here], and Jane, Darcy and ‘Richard’, played by The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids star Chris O’Dowd [see here], in addition to a featurette focussing on the relationship between Thor and Jane [see here]…

…During the multitude of press interviews he’s taken part in this week, the subject of Chris Hemsworth’s contract with Marvel Studios inevitably came around, with Hemsworth revealing he’s signed up for three further movies as the God of Thunder: “I’ve got three left in my contract – from here on, I have two more Avengers and one more Thor and if people wanted to see more, I’d be happy to keep going. I love these stories and I love this character. The opportunity has opened up everything for me.” The star then went on to tease storyline possibilities for Thor 3, teasing an adaptation of The Surtur Saga: “I think that in the comic book the sort of end of days, Armageddon aspect is probably the direction in which it will all head in. Where it’s sort of the end of all things and there’s obviously no script or anything but when I read the comic books I thought it was an interesting way to go…”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie poster…Of course promoting one big release isn’t enough for Marvel Studios these days, and this week we got our first look at another upcoming solo sequel, the Chris Evans-headlined Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Tuesday saw the arrival of a new poster, with two images and a brief teaser following the next day before Thursday’s big trailer reveal [if for some bizarre reason you're yet to see it, you can watch it here]. Running at just under two and a half minutes, the trailer gave us a look at most of the main players, including Cap (obviously) along with the returning Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Bucky Barnes The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and MCU newcomers Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and Frank Grillo (Crossbones). Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in the UK on March 28th 2014 and in North America on April 4th 2014, with Anthony and Joe Russo (Community) directing a cast that also includes Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter), George St-Pierre (Batroc the Leaper) and Maximiliano Hernandez (Agent Jasper Sitwell)…

…Next year will also see Marvel taking the Cinematic Universe into deep space for Guardians of the Galaxy, and director James Gunn has spoken about his take on the cosmic superhero team, as well as the casting of Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) as the leader of the Guardians, Star-Lord: “I had to do research because I’m very stupid. I don’t have a very good memory. I had read, I think, most of the Guardians books,” states Gunn. “I was more up to speed on the [comics writers Dan] Abnett [and Andy] Lanning stuff. I had to go back and remind myself. I read a lot of the ’90s stuff when it was out, but I had forgotten it by the time this came along. At the risk of sounding pompous, because it’s going to be filtered through me, it’s going to be its own thing no matter what. But I think it was a chance to do something that really could make people feel like I felt when I was a young kid and saw these big spectacular space epics and give them something of that. And that was an exciting thing to be able to do… I was not willing to settle for second best [with Star-Lord]. We auditioned many, many actors, and a lot of big actors who came in and tried to get the role of Peter Quill, and we tested over two dozen people. And none of them were right. It just didn’t feel right in my gut, and I always follow my gut. And Chris came in. He was pretty heavy at the time, and he read. But within about 30 seconds of him reading, I looked back at the casting director and I was like, ‘What the–? This is the greatest thing ever!’ I mean, I knew he was it… I want to lay down the rules, I want to start it – I would love to be able to see it grow into other things. I love talking about all the other filmmakers, sitting around with the producer pitching ideas for other filmmakers to take on future Marvel projects. It’s a great thing to be a part of. And I don’t think it’s for everybody, but the truth is for me being able to sort of create this movie is a dream come true and just been a great experience…”

…Looking slightly further ahead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and if rumours are to be believed, Paul Rudd (This Is Forty, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) and Rashida Jones (I Love You Man, Parks and Recreation) have emerged as the two front-runners for the roles of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne in Edgar Wright’s long-awaited Ant-Man. Both names have previously been linked to the parts, and while it’s still a rumour at present, Marvel’s Kevin Feige has said to expect casting announcements “probably before the end of the year…”

Ant-Man wasn’t the only future Marvel project that Feige discussed during the promotional interviews for Thor: The Dark World this week, with the studio head also fielding questing about Black Panther, stating that “it’s absolutely in development. And when you have something as rich as Wakanda and his back story… and clearly vibranium’s been introduced in the universe already… I don’t know when it will be exactly, but it’s certainly…we have plans to bring it to life someday.” Meanwhile, he also offered up a few thoughts on his contract with Marvel Studios [see here], along with the casting of James Spader as Ultron in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the chances of Doctor Strange appearing as part of Phase Three, the liklihood of The Punisher and Daredevil making their Cinematic Universe debuts, and whether there are any plans to diversify the MCU with a female superhero [see here]. And if that’s not enough, ComicBookMovie also has a translation of an interview between Feige and the French website Reviewer, during which he covers virtually everything Marvel Studios, including the possibility of recasting the likes of Robert Downey Jr. for a possible Iron Man 4, avoiding having to reboot any of their franchises, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) introduction in Age of Ultron, Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as The Incredible Hulk on The Avengers and the chances of another solo movie for the Green Goliath…

…One other big question that Feige tackled this week: Will Joss Whedon return to the director’s chair for The Avengers 3? “It’s still being determined,” said Feige. “All of his efforts right now are in what he’s doing for us primarily, obviously, writing and prepping Age of Ultron but also in reading the drafts of the films in Phase Two, watching early cuts and a) to inform him where the characters are going to end up in the beginning of Age of Ultron and also to get his input and his wisdom into all of these. But right now it’s all about leading up to Age of Ultron…”

…Everything Marvel Studios touches on the big screen may turn to gold, but they seem to be struggling to replicate that success on the small screen, with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. losing 600,000 viewers in the States as the fifth episode ‘Girl in the Flower Dress’ pulling in a 2.6 rating / 7.1 million viewers [be sure to read Anghus Houvouras' review of the fifth episode here]. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now on a two week hiatus and will return on November 5th with the sixth episode ‘FZZT’ and you can watch a promo for the new episode here. It’s also been revealed that Maximiliano Hernandez is set to reprise the role of Agent Jasper Sitwell from The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier for an upcoming episode entitled ‘The Hub’, while Latino-Review is reporting that Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) has signed on for a guest role as Victoria Hand, who in comic book continuity is an associate of Norman Osborn who becomes Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and helps transform the organisation into H.A.M.M.E.R….

…And just before we move on from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man 3 star Ben Kingsley has revealed that he’s working on something super top secret with the studio, which will presumably see him reprising the role of The Mandarin / Trevor Slattery for what’s likely to be a Marvel One-Shot for the Thor: The Dark World home-entertainment release: “It’s a secret Marvel project. I’m not allowed to say any more, you’re going to have to wait and see. I was with many members of the crew that were involved in Iron Man 3. It was lovely to see them again. It was great to be with this wonderful family…”

…Turning to 20th Century Fox’s Marvel Universe and The Wolverine opened in China this past weekend with an impressive $18.7 million haul, meaning that the James Mangold-directed sequel has now overtaken Hugh Jackman’s previous solo outing X-Men Origins: Wolverine at the global box office and is closing in on the $400 million mark worldwide, leaving it just shy of X2: X-Men United’s $407.7 million haul from back in 2003. Meanwhile, during a promotional interview with IGN about his next film Ender’s Game, director Gavin Hood touched upon X-Men Origins: Wolverine, blaming scripting issues for the absolute failure of the film: “I was making a film that- frankly- was still be worked on by scriptwriters back in L.A. while I was in Australia. I learned a great deal in that movie. Baptism by fire. For me it was, ‘Wow. This is weird. I’m getting pages the night before and trying to make it work on the day…’”

…Shifting to next year’s X-Men offering and Fox has given us our first look at next year’s mutant epic X-Men: Days of Future Past thanks to a brief seven-second sneak peek at the first trailer featuring quick shots of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and old Professor X (Patrick Stewart), as well as twelve official images, including Magnetos young (Michael Fassbender) and old (Ian McKellen), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Bryan Singer will be hosting a live Twitter chat this coming Monday (October 28th) at 5.30pm GMT ahead of the release of the first trailer on Tuesday (October 29th), while the director has also taken to Twitter to drop a new and rather unrevealing behind-the-scenes image from post-production on the time-travelling X-sequel, which begins to roll out around the world from May 21st, 2014…

…During a promotional interview for his new movie Turbo, Ryan Reynolds took the opportunity to provide another update on the long-rumoured Deadpool spin-off, claiming that the project is still alive and very slowly inching forward: “In its current iteration the movie’s actually very small. There’s minimal impact to the studio, which is the way we’re kind of presenting it to them. We’re saying ‘Look, the budget is minimal. Therefore, can we do this the way it should be done?’ Which unfortunately needs a Rated-R or it needs those elements. The script is probably available online, it leaked… It’s very meta, I mean the character knows he’s in a movie, he knows he’s in a comic book. He names studio executives in the script. So, it’s kind of a risky property. But, you know, we’ll see. It’s actually, within the last couple of weeks, taken a few very, very small tiptoes forward. In our lifetime? Yeah, I think so. I think if I were a betting man it’ll get made, eventually. I mean it’s just been developed to high heaven. It has great people around it, so we’ll see.” Expect a similar update when his next movie is due out…

…On The Amazing Spider-Man 2 front, the Daily Bugle viral site has updated with a new article, which again teases a couple of villains from the Spider-Man rogues gallery in Ned Leeds (Hobgoblin) and Anne Weying (She-Venom). Now, with Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) already confirmed and the likes of Black Cat, The Vulture and Carnage rumoured to appear, you’d have to imagine this is little more than fan service during the promotional campaign for the Andrew Garfield-headlined sequel, but at any rate it seems that Sony is intent on incorporating as much of the Spider-Man mythos as possible in its rebooted Spidey universe…

…Moving on from Marvel and Ben Affleck has offered a few more words on his upcoming role as The Dark Knight in Warner Bros.’ hotly-anticipated Batman vs. Superman, stating that it was director Zack Snyder who convinced him to don the cape and cowl for the 2015 Man of Steel sequel: “Initially I was reluctant as I felt I didn’t fit the traditional mold. But once Zack showed me the concept, and that it would be both different from the great movies that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale made but still in keeping with tradition I was excited. Doing something different and new is always tricky and part of the thrill and the risk is that initially it confounds expectations. The truth is, it’s the movie and the execution of it is what all the actors depend on and I believe in Zack’s vision.” Affleck then went on to discuss the previous comments from Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, where he described this latest take on the Dark Knight as a “tired, weary and seasoned” crimefighter: “Kevin described it aptly. I don’t want to go further because I want to be able to capitalize on what is new about this iteration by having it be a surprise to the audience…”

…Over the past few months there’s been plenty of speculation that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel won’t be the only big DC superheroes to show up in Batman vs. Superman, and Warner Bros. president of creative development and worldwide production Greg Silverman has refused to rule out the possibility of an appearance from the Amazon Princess: “We have been doing a lot of thinking for years about how to best use all those characters and we love them. Wonder Woman is an amazing character. I think it’s a great opportunity both for box office success, but also to have an amazingly powerful female superhero. We are taking it all very seriously and are trying to do a plan that’s respectful to those characters and maximizes the stories as best they can. So everything that has been speculated are things that we’ve thought about.” Meanwhile, in other BvsS news, it’s been rumoured that Batfleck could be driving a Cadillac Batmobile in the 2015 sequel, while Marvel legend Stan Lee has also thrown his hat in the ring for a cameo, joking to the audience at last weekend’s Wizard World Nashville Comic Con that: “I’ll show you why DC isn’t so smart. If I were the head of DC, I would contact me and say, ‘How about doing a cameo in the next Superman movie?’ Can you imagine? Nobody would believe it. Everybody would go see it…”

…With Man of Steel gearing up for its home-entertainment release in November, Warner Bros. has given us a sneak peek at some of the bonus content set to accompany the Zack Snyder-directed reboot, with Digital Spy posting a behind-the-scenes clip on the visual effects used to make us believe Henry Cavill’s Superman could fly…

…The documentary Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics was released on DVD and Blu-ray this past week and we have a clip featuring director Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim), DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns and writers James Robinson and Paul Dini discussing the mirroring of a hero’s characteristics in his fiercest villains, which you can watch right here. The documentary itself also features interviews with the likes of Zack Snyder and Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie), and focusses on a range of iconic villains including The Joker, Lex Luthor, Bane, Black Adam, Black Manta, Catwoman, Darkseid, Deathstroke, Doomsday, General Zod, Sinestro, the Suicide Squad, and more…

…The CW’s Arrow stepped up its campaign to expand the DC Television Universe in its second season this past Wednesday by giving a proper introduction to the Black Canary, as well as name-dropping the Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul, who will presumably make his debut at some point in the series once the League of Assassins arrive in Starling City. Meanwhile, it’s also been announced that Serenity star Sean Maher will join Summer Glau by guest starring on the series, with Maher set to play Mark Scheffer, a.k.a.  the DC villain Shrapnel, who THR describes as a “serial bomber who places Starling City in a grip of terror and threatens the life of Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro). Arrow returns to The CW this Wednesday with another Black Canary-centric episode ‘Crucible’; be sure to check out an extended promo and clip

Beware the Batman…This week has brought a sense of deja vu for DC Nation fans, with Cartoon Network deciding to pull new episodes of Beware the Batman from its schedule, echoing the situation which eventually led to the cancellation of Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series last year. Although Batman voice actor Anthony Ruivivar has since confirmed that Beware the Batman will return to DC Nation in January, it seems that the CG-animated show could be on borrowed time, and there’s certainly question marks about whether it will be picked up for a second season. If not, then Teen Titans Go! will become the sole DC property on Cartoon Network, although there are rumours of a new Justice League show on the horizon…

…And speaking of the World’s Greatest Heroes, director Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) has spoken to Toonzone about the upcoming animated movie Justice League: War: “[It's] kind of a loose adaptation of the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee comic book…I think issues #1-6 of the new 52 Justice League. It’s loosely based on events in that book. We didn’t adhere to it the way we did with The Dark Knight Returns, but we ended up translating that first graphic novel. This is the first true “New 52″ DCU that we’ve done. Flashpoint kind of was the old universe, and at the end we hinted at the New 52 universe. I’m hoping that somewhere down the line, we can do some other films that will hopefully connect the events from Flashpoint into Justice League: War and any other films we do in the New 52 universe, which would be kind of cool. We haven’t done that yet, but I’m hoping we can do that eventually. I’m trying to put Easter eggs throughout all the films. If you watch carefully, you’ll see them there… I would say it’s that the New 52 is very different universe. I wasn’t too familiar with it. I had followed a few of the books, but with my schedule, I don’t really get a chance to read the many comics, unless someone recommends it. When we started this film, I had to wrap my mind around, ‘What’s this version of Green Lantern? What’s this version of Wonder Woman?’ We can’t just do the Justice League Unlimited version, because that’s the Bruce Timm universe. We’ve got to do something different. How do we set ourselves separate from that? That, to me, was hard because I’m used to doing Bruce’s stuff. Whenever I work with Bruce, I’m always diving into a Justice League Unlimited episode. For this stuff, James Tucker really wanted to try to set these movies different than what Bruce had done. So it will have a different feel. That’s what we try to do….”

Toonzone also managed to grab a few words from Warner’s DC animation supervising producer James Tucker, who spoke a little about the future of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line: “We’re going to focus on the newer material, and basically setting up our own version of the New 52. We’re films, so the New 52 doesn’t really make sense for us, because we’re not doing 52 movies a year, or a month (laughs). Basically, we connected with the New 52 to do more contemporary stories, because the earlier line of DVD movies were classics. Some things adapt well, some things don’t. We had to do something to give ourselves more creative freedom. We’re using the New 52 world as a launching point where we can kind of tell our own stories, kind of like we did on Justice League Unlimited. Not necessarily what the comics were doing at that specific time, but it allowed us to do our own version of specific characters. So that’s what we’re doing with the New 52 world. We’re using it as a jumping off point, and an excuse to do a new take on the characters, and then we’ll kind of diverge into their own world and create their own universe off of that. That’s the idea. There will be adaptations of stories, but they’ll be more recent stories…”

…And finally, fans of Marvel Anime (of which I’m not one, after the travesty that is Iron Man: Rise of Technovore) will be pleased to learn that Walt Disney Japan has teamed up with Toei Animation, the company behind the likes of The Transformers and Dragon Ball Z, to develop a new anime series entitled Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, which is set to premiere in 2014. Here’s the official series description: “In an all-out battle instigated by Loki, most of Earth’s super heroes and villains have been trapped inside disks—a new technology originally developed as portable security devices for capturing and securing villains around the world. The Avengers team up with a group of teens to reclaim the scattered disk, and using their special abilities and techniques (waza), thwart Loki’s evil schemes to save the Earth from ultimate destruction.”

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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