The Week in Spandex – Batman vs. Superman (Wonder Woman, The Flash and Nightwing), Thor: The Dark World, Marvel’s The Defenders, Doctor Strange, The Wolverine and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Batman vs. Superman (The Flash, Wonder Woman and Nightwing), Man of Steel, Arrow, Hourman, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Phase Three, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, The Defenders, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Beware the Batman, Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Ultimate Spider-Man, Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 and more….

Over the past month or so the movie news headlines have been dominated by Marvel, and while that’s the case again this week, Warner Bros. has given DC Comics fans something to chew on, with casting talk on Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman picking up the pace as the film gears up to go into production early next year. And, from what we’ve heard this week, it seems the film could be shaping up to be Justice League in all but name… well, maybe not quite, but it seems we’re only going to be a couple of members short, with reports emerging that Wonder Woman and The Flash are “a lock” to appear in some form alongside Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman. Furthermore, it’s been revealed that Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 6), Elodie Yung (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) and Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion) are all due to test for the part of the Amazon Princess, while Girls star Adam Driver is also said to be the front runner to play Dick Grayson / Nightwing, although “at least two other actors may be in the mix.” So, it appears that Warner Bros. are intent on using Batman vs. Superman to launch a much wider DC universe, but let’s just hope they find the time to do everything jutsice…

…Before Batman vs. Superman, there’s the small matter of the Man of Steel home-entertainment release next week, and while we wait for the film to hit shelves, you can check out some new promotional material, including a sizzle reel for the Blu-ray Combo Pack [see here], a few snippets from the special features [see here, here and here], and a new viral site which teases both LexCorp and S.T.A.R. Labs [see here]…

…With Batman vs. Superman clearly building towards the formation of the Justice League, Arrow star Stephen Amell has hinted at (or lobbied for) Oliver Queen joining the DC superhero team with a not-so-subtle, Vin Diesel-esque post on Facebook. So, while we speculate whether Arrow is / will become connected to the DC Cinematic Universe (the safe bet is no), check out a couple of promos for this coming Wednesday’s episode here and here, along with 27 official stills here. The episode, entitled ‘Keep Your Enemies Closer’ will see the return of Deadshoot, as well as the introduction of Amanda Waller, played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus: War of the Damned). Here’s the official synopsis: “Amanda Waller sends A.R.G.U.S. agents to kidnap Diggle (David Ramsey). Waller informs Diggle that Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) has gone missing after following a lead on Deadshot (Michael Rowe) in Moscow. When Diggle tells the team he’s headed to Russia to rescue Lyla, Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) decide to join, but things get messy when Isabel (Summer Glau) shows up on the tarmac and insists on joining Oliver’s ‘work trip.’ Meanwhile, Moira’s (Susanna Thompson) lawyer, Jean (Teryl Rothery), tells Thea (Willa Holland) that dating Roy (Colton Haynes), a known criminal, is hurting her mother’s case…”

…The CW already has Arrow and its proposed spin-off The Flash (not to mention the on-hold Wonder Woman pilot Amazon), and it’s now added a couple more potential DC Comics series to its slate. In addition to an adaptation of iZombie from DC’s Vertigo imprint, the network has snapped up another superhero property, with Michael Caleo (The Sopranos), Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes) and Jennifer Gwartz (Veronica Mars) set to develop a pilot based around the Golden Age hero – and subsequent Justice Society of America and Justice League member – Hourman. The hourlong drama will centre on “a brilliant-yet-troubled pharmaceutical analyst who discovers that the visions that have plagued him since childhood are actually glimpses of tragic events occurring one hour in the future. Determined to win back his ex-wife and son, he heroically prevents these tragedies from unfolding, finding both purpose and redemption along the way…”

New footage in latest Thor: The Dark World TV spots…After rolling out in international markets from a week and a half ago (and pulling in a mighty $109.4 million international opening weekend, including an £8.67 million debut here in the UK), Thor: The Dark World finally hit the States with a midnight opening on Thursday, pulling in $7.1 million for what looks to be an $80 million plus domestic weekend. The Alan Taylor-directed sequel looks set to finish up the weekend north of $300 million globally, which would already place it above 2008′s The Incredible Hulk ($263.4 million) in terms of Marvel Cinematic Universe box office. For those of you yet to see The Dark World (or those who might want to see parts again), Marvel Studios has released a couple of action-packed clips this week featuring Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder going up against Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and Korg the Kronan, while Alan Taylor spoke to Collider about the film’s mid and post credits scenes and potential deleted scenes for the home-entertainment release, while Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings had a few thoughts for Total Film about where they’d like to see their respective characters going in the inevitable Thor 3. Oh, and before we move on from Asgard, it’s also worth checking out this story about a Shanghai cinema that tried to save a few quid by getting a poster off the internet, only to mistake the real thing for a rather hilarious Thor / Loki slash fiction-style Photoshop job…

…Moving on to the first of Marvel’s 2014 offerings and How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders has spoken about reprising the role of Maria Hill in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as discussing where the film fits into the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “I think we just haven’t seen much of [Maria Hill]. I think that’s why I was so excited to do Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I get to do like full talking walking scenes, this is so exciting!’ In these big Marvel movies, there’s so many more important people than me in this film that I even I want to see more than I want to see myself on screen. I think it was just fun to get a moment to sort of talk in character, especially to talk to Coulson. I think [Captain America: The Winter Soldier's] a little bit different. I think, because it is about S.H.I.E.L.D., they’re showcasing more of S.H.I.E.L.D., but there’s a lot of stuff that’s going down with it… It takes place right after The Avengers. The Battle of New York has just happened. It’s really about [working within] the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, which my character Maria Hill is a big part of. It’s showing the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how it’s very flawed at the moment…”

Cobie Smulders talks Captain America: The Winter Soldier

…Smulders has also confirmed that she’ll be back in the role of Maria Hill the following year, reuniting with director Joss Whedon and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for The Avengers: Age of Ultron: “I think I’m in Avengers 2, but it is very top secret. I hope I’m in Avengers 2. I didn’t get my invitation yet. Well, actually, they know I’m in it but they don’t know to what degree I’m in it… I am really excited to read the script because they are introducing Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch into the Avengers universe and the bad guy is going to be very interesting.” With filming due to begin early next year, the cast of the hotly-anticipated sequel seems to be falling into place now, with Marvel veterans Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson set to be joined by James Spader (The Blacklist) as Ultron, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2) as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) as the Scarlet Witch…

…Before The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios will further delve into the cosmic side of the MCU with next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy and this week has seen several members of the cast and crew discussing the upcoming superhero team-up; director James Gunn (Super) spoke to MTV about Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) voicing Rocket Raccoon and the mid-credits scene from Thor: The Dark World (which obviously contains spoilers), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) had a few words for Clevver Movies about her character Nebula and her relationship with Zoe Saldana’s (Star Trek Into Darkness) Gamora, Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) discussed Groot, and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) was full of praise for Vin Diesel’s (Fast & Furious 6) work as the tree-like creature. Looks like someone forgot to send Star-Lord the memo titled ‘Deny Vin Diesel Has Been Cast’…

Kevin Feige teases Marvel's Phase Three line-up

…We’re only two fifths of the way into Phase Two, but Marvel’s Kevin Feige has taken the opportunity to tease the studio’s Phase Three plans, seemingly confirming that the Sorcerer Supreme is set to debut in the MCU when the third round of movies get underway in a couple of year’s time: “Doctor Strange is definitely on there… We are developing it now and some of those other titles. I’d love to see an equal number of new story lines with existing characters, and brand new ones. Obviously we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier coming out… and then we have Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a whole new one… We plan on doing movies that people enjoy enough that they want to see another one, right… that’s the goal. And like I was saying, we have The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but then we have Ant-Man. So I like that becoming sort of the balance… with existing characters, and then new characters. And then as we go into Phase Three, certainly as you know from the comics, there are plenty of story lines for all of these characters that we can choose from. But I think someone, like a Doctor Strange, would be great to see, I just want to make sure we have a good story first. But it won’t be until middle of next year until we announce officially what the next stories will be…”

…Although Marvel Studios isn’t prepared to share details of its Phase Three plans quite yet, we can now scratch four contenders off the list for the time being, with Marvel and Netflix announcing this week that Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones will each be getting their own 13-episode miniseries starting in 2016, taking us “deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York” and building towards a fifth miniseries as the heroes team up for Marvel’s The Defenders. However, Disney’s Senior Executive VP and CFO Jay Rasulo revealed that there’s still the possibility of The Defenders joining the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen at some point, should they prove successful with the upcoming miniseries: “Marvel has thousands of characters…and it is not possible to mine them all with filmed entertainment. While these characters are attractive characters they are not among the most popular… it’s not likely we would have made feature films about them…though if they are popular on Netflix, they could become feature films.” And of course it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see them in The Avengers 3, given the direction the MCU seems to be heading… 

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continued to slip in the ratings in the States with its sixth episode ‘FZZT’ pulling in 7.2 million viewers, the fifth consecutive decline for the divisive series [read Anghus Houvouras' review of 'FZZT' here]. So, an in effort to curb the tide, Marvel is pulling out the big guns this week and turning to a star of Thor, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier for a guest appearance. Yes, I’m talking of course Maximiliano Hernandez, who’s set to reprise the role of Agent Jasper Sitwell in ‘The Hub’, which has the following episode description: “Dangerous secrets are being kept from Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) team, and he works the system to save Ward (Brett Dalton) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) when they are sent on a Level 8 classified mission that may end in tragedy.” Check out a promo and batch of preview images for ‘The Hub’, while we’ve also got out first look at Saffron Burrows (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), who is set to guest star as Victoria Hand in an upcoming episode of the show…

…Moving on to Fox’s Marvel Universe and with The Wolverine becoming the second-highest grossing instalment in the X-Men franchise, the studio is currently negotiating with director James Mangold to write a treatment for a sequel, will see Hugh Jackman returning to his signature role for an EIGHTH time. Meanwhile, two X-Men-related videos have arrived online, one of which sees an alternative ending to The Wolverine featuring Yukio (Rila Fukushima) providing Logan with his classic yellow costume, and the other features Bryan Singer giving us a guided tour around the set of X-Men: Days of Future Past [watch them both here]. And, sticking with X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’ve also got a batch of new images from the time-travelling mutant sequel, including a fresh look at Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and behind-the-scenes shots featuring the likes of Singer, Jackman, Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde) and Anna Paquin (Rogue)…

Three new stills from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 featuring Spidey, Electro and Gwen Stacy…Although we’ve already had trailers for two of 2014′s big superhero movies in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and  X-Men: Days of Future Past, we won’t get our first look at Sony’s upcoming sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 until the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on December 13th. Still, it hasn’t been a totally barren week for Spidey fans, with three new images from the Marc Webb-directed follow-up arriving online featuring Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), Electro (Jamie Foxx), and Fireman Spider-Man…

…Having been pushed back from its original April release date, the CG-animated Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is due to hit shelves next month, and judging by the first clip the straight-to-video feature could round out a pretty disappointing year for Marvel Animation after the utterly appalling Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. Heroes United sees Eric Radomski (Batman: The Animated Series) serving as Supervising Creative Director, with Adrian Pasdar (Heroes, Ultimate Spider-Man) voicing Iron Man and Fred Tatasciore (Wolverine and the X-Men, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) as The Hulk. Meanwhile, we’ve also got a couple of clips from this weekend’s new Marvel Universe offerings, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Ultimate Spider-Man

…Shifting to Warner’s animated offerings and while Beware the Batman is currently on hiatus on Cartoon Network, the studio has announced details of the first home entertainment release, which is due to arrive on February 18th 2014. Entitled Beware the Batman – Season One, Part One: Shadows of Gotham, the two-disc set includes the first 13 episodes of the CG-animated show, although there’s no word yet on any possible special features…

…And finally, this week saw a trailer for the upcoming animated trilogy Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 (a.k.a. SLAM 7), which is set to get underway early next year and features a voice cast that includes Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger), Christian Slater (True Romance), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), Darren Criss (Glee), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Jim Belushi (Underdog), Michael Ironside (Total Recall) and Flea (The Wild Thornberrys). Here’s the official synopsis: “Stan Lee is hired by Archie Comics to create a new group of superheroes. He finds himself stumped with writer’s block and heads to the desert to clear his mind. When seven aliens suddenly crash land near him and start demonstrating their various superpowers, he decides, ‘Perfect! They will be come my next superheroes!’ But almost instantly, he realizes they are being chased by the military and aliens from their own planet, and he needs to act quickly. He makes the decision to have them move into his house in Malibu where he will teach them everything they need to know about being superheroes. Comedy and adventure ensue as the aliens try to adapt to life on earth, and their new roles as superheroes, all the while running for their lives.” 

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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