The Week in Spandex – Batman vs. Superman, Arrow and The Flash, Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Amazing Spider-Man and Friends and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Batman vs. Superman, The Dark Knight Rises, Constantine, Arrow, The Flash, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Luke Cage, Ant-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Wolverine, Kick-Ass 2 and more…

While there’s been plenty of rumours surrounding the Man of Steel sequel since its announcement at Comic-Con, it’s rare that we’ve heard any comments on Batman vs. Superman from anyone involved with the project. However,  producer Charles Roven – whose DC credits include The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel – has given an update on the sequel’s status, revealing that principal photography is set to get underway in February, as well as discussing the casting of Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader: “On Batman vs. Superman, we started soft prep in June, and we’ll be shooting eight months later… We felt that we accomplished our goals with Man of Steel. Our intention was to bring Superman into the 21st century with a contemporary character and a different kind of superhero than what’s out there right now. We knew we had created a world and we had left Easter eggs in the movie that let people know that in the universe that Zack Snyder was creating, there was the possibility of other DC characters besides Clark Kent. We had a sketch of an idea, the beats of a story that David Goyer worked on with Zack. We have a first draft, and we’re continuing to work with it. Those scripts are never fully finished until the movie is in the theaters. We love the characters — we think that Ben is going to be a really great and interesting Batman… We wanted a guy who had a certain age and a certain gravitas to what he had done in terms of his recent work. If you take a look at The Town and Argo, he plays a couple of serious guys in those movies. He’s a big man. He’s also a mature man. As you see him and Henry Cavill [Superman] together, one definitely has much more experience just by looking at him. That’s what we wanted, particularly juxtaposed against our Superman…”

…As well as his role as Batman, Affleck is set to team up with Matt Damon on another DC Comics property, with the Good Will Hunting duo set to produce an adaptation of the Wildstorm title Sleeper from Ed Brubaker. The series centres on Holden Carver, a.k.a. The Conductor, a man who has the ability to store pain and pass it on to others, as he infiltrates a crime syndicate and begins to question where his allegiances really lie. Sleeper is being adapted by Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and David Wiener (Extraordinary Chambers), although there’s no word yet on a possible director, cast or release date…

…Although the Man of Steel sequel has been going by the title Batman vs. Superman these past few months, it’s generally believed that this is just a placeholder until Warner Bros. come up with something different, and this week has brought us several potential titles, with the studio registering domains for Man of Steel: Battle the Knight, Man of Steel: Beyond Darkness, Man of Steel: Black of Knight, Man of Steel: Darkness Falls, Man of Steel: Knight Falls, Man of Steel: Shadow of the Night, Man of Steel: The Blackest Hour and Man of Steel: The Darkness Within. Personally, I’d stick with Batman vs. Superman over any of those…

…There’s been plenty of casting rumours for Batman vs. Superman over the past month or so, not least the talk of Adam Driver (Girls) being the front runner for Batman’s former sidekick Nightwing; well, it seems its just another Bryan Cranston / Lex Luthor scenario, at least if Driver himself is to be believed: “No. Not that I know of, no,” he said, when asked if there was any truth to the reports. “That’s like intensely flattering as you can imagine. I mean, it’s Batman and Superman, who doesn’t want to be involved in something not only of that scale but of who those characters are. That’s an incredible world to be able to be in for a bit. Like who wouldn’t want to do that..?”

…Sticking with Batman and Christian Bale has been doing the press rounds to promote Out of the Furnace this week, and naturally the subject of his successor under the cape and cowl came up, with Bale offering Affleck a few words of advice: “[The voice] ain’t for everybody. Ben’s obviously going to have to do his own thing, but it was the only way that I could find how to get into that and to justify wearing the fricking Batsuit. Otherwise, he’s just loopy beyond belief. He’s loopy, but he’s loopy with a method to his madness. I wish [Affleck] the best. You look at this kid, Batkid…. That gives the whole point. It doesn’t matter which actor is playing him. He’s a symbol. He’s so much bigger than any actor. That’s all. This little kid, he doesn’t really care which actor’s playing him. It’s the symbol of the whole thing, and that’s what makes the character so fantastic. I look forward to seeing what Ben will do with it…”

…On the subject of Bale’s Batvoice, the Dark Knight Trilogy star also explained where it came from, as well as commenting on his audition for Batman Begins, which saw him donning the Batman Forever Batsuit: “I got there. They put me in Val Kilmer’s suit. It didn’t even fit properly, and I stood in it and I went ‘I feel like an idiot.’ What kind of guy walks around, dressed like a bat? And is then going to go ‘Hello, how are you? Just ignore that I’m dressed as a bat.’ Of course, he’s meant to be doing this. If you look at the history of the guy and the pain that he went through. I went ‘I can’t do this in a normal voice. I have to become a beast in order to sell this to myself.’” If you’re yet to see the footage of Bale testing for Batman, you can watch it here, while this week has also brought footage of Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway’s screen tests for Bane and Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, all of which is taken from the feature length documentary The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy, which is included on The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set…

Keanu Reeves would like to have played Constantine again…We know that John Constantine is a big part of Warner Bros.’ plans, with NBC developing a TV pilot and Guillermo del Toro intending on bringing the character back to the big screen with his proposed Justice League Dark movie, which probably rules out a return for Keanu Reeves’ version of Hellblazer, despite The Matrix star revealing this week that he’d been keen to reprise the role for a sequel to the 2005 movie: “I would like to have played John Constantine again. I liked playing that character and there seemed to be a way to continue that…”

…Turning to DC’s fledgling small screen universe and this coming week sees Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) making his debut in The CW’s Arrow in the first of a two-part midseason finale, which has impressed network executives enough to give The Flash its own traditional standalone pilot, as opposed to the backdoor pilot which was set for episode 20 of Arrow’s second season. Here’s two promos giving us our first look at Barry in upcoming episode ‘The Scientist’, which has the following episode description: “A seemingly impossible robbery at Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences Division brings Central City police scientist Barry Allen (guest star Grant Gustin) to town. Citing a similar case back home, Barry offers to help Oliver (Stephen Amell) and team with the investigation. Oliver senses there is more to Barry than meets the eye, but he’s distracted by the similarities between this current case and something that happened on the island. Meanwhile, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) takes a liking to Barry, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Oliver. Sin (guest star Bex Taylor-Klaus) asks Roy (Colton Haynes) for help when a friend of hers goes missing. Roy is surprised when Thea (Willa Holland) not only encourages him to help, but joins the search. Unfortunately, Sin’s friend is connected to Brother Blood (guest star Kevin Alejandro), and their search ultimately gets one of them seriously injured…”

…Elsewhere in the world of Arrow, it’s been revealed that another popular DC villain is set to make their debut in episode 9, with Graham Shiels (Thor: The Dark World) set to play Cyrus Gold, a.k.a. Solomon Grundy (although it is of course unlikely we’ll be seeing him in his zombie form, for the time being at least). Meanwhile, Katrina Law has become the latest Spartacus star to join the cast of Arrow, where she’ll enjoy a reunion of sorts with Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Amanda Waller) in the role of Nyssa Raatko, a.k.a. Nyssa al Ghul, the illegitimate daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, who is described in the show as “a powerful member of the League of Assassins who comes to Starling City in pursuit of The Canary (Caity Lotz).” Law is set to make her first appearance in the 13th episode of season two, appropriately entitled ‘Heir to the Demon’. And, in news that’s sure to please Green Arrow fans everywhere, it’s been confirmed that Oliver Queen is set to add his traditional domino mask to his costume, and you can see the first image of Amell sporting the mask here

…It’s a good time to be a DC fan, with Warner Bros. seemingly finally pulling the trigger on its roster of superheroes and announcing new projects virtually every week, but anyone hoping to see a cohesive shared universe between the various big and small screen offerings is out of luck, with Arrow executive producer Greg Berlanti confirming that things are being kept separate: “”We haven’t had any of those conversations other than to say, what characters are we allowed to use this year and advocate or request certain ones that are of interest to us. And every now and then, they’ll say, ‘You can’t have that guy.’ They don’t say why, and we figure out why later on.

Thor: The Dark World holds on to top spot at the North American box office

…Moving on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel’s latest Phase Two offering Thor: The Dark World managed to fend off competition from The Best Man Holiday to retain top spot at the North American box office last weekend, and while the Chris Hemsworth-headlined solo sequel will find itself cast aside this weekend with the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the film has still managed to reach half a billion at the global box office, becoming the thirteenth movie of the year to do so. By close of play on Thursday, the Thor sequel was sitting on $505.9 million globally, surpassing its predecessor’s $449.3 million haul to become the fifth highest grossing instalment of the MCU. At this rate, it looks like Thor: The Dark World could overtake 2008′s Iron Man ($585.2 million), but it remains to be seen whether the $623.9 million take of Iron Man 2 will prove a step too far for the God of Thunder…

…We know that Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) wasn’t the only director to contribute to Thor: The Dark World, with Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn shooting one of the two credits scenes, and now it’s also emerged that Tim Miller (who’s spent the past couple of years warming the director’s chair on Fox’s planned Deadpool movie) crafting the film’s opening prologue through his VFX company Blur Studio. “”This project hit on so many sweet spots for Blur, combining live action performance with photo-real CG action, actors and sets,” says Miller on the creation of the sequence, which sees the Asgardians battling Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), Algrim the Strong (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. “This was one of those projects where everything just lined up. Our vision for the prologue seemed to sync perfectly with what Marvel felt the film needed, and they were a great collaborator the whole way through… This scene was taking place 5,000 years before the rest of the film, so we had lot of latitude on how we could change what they had shot for present day Svartalfheim and how we could adapt it. Right now it’s a graveyard for the Dark Elves but in our sequence it’s a vital planet where the Elves live. We had to make it seem like the last battle in a long war and the Asgardians are about to overwhelm them before the secret weapon is unleashed. We worked out some elaborate fight scenes, not knowing exactly when we started what the running time had to be. We knew the goal was three to four minutes – they wanted us to make it huge and epic, big, really big…”

…A couple of cast members from Guardians of the Galaxy have been speaking about next year’s cosmic superhero ensemble, with Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) discussing the tone of the movie and his audition process for the role of Star-Lord, and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Into Darkness) offering a few thoughts on how Guardians is set to offer an innovative new take on the superhero genre…

…Edgar Wright has been doing the press rounds for the home-entertainment release of The World’s End, during which he spoke about his plans to blend action and humour into his long-awaited adaptation of Ant-Man, which will kick off Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in July 2015: ” I always liked that comic and I always thought it would be an interesting thing to see in live-action. That’s why I [showed] that Comic-Con test that we did for Marvel, to show this fight scene like a proof of concept, like this is what the action is going to look like. I think a lot of people who maybe don’t know the character sort of see that test and go, ‘Oh, right, I get it. It’s like an action film,’ so that’s the idea. I think people will be surprised by what kind of movie it is, and so in that respect it’s something that I know is going to stand out because it’s got a very different story and is a very different [film]… I think the Marvel movies are funny, you know? I think generally the Iron Man films and The Avengers are funny. They’re not ever in the comedy section, but they are funny and entertaining, so I think it’ll be something in a similar vein to that…”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. enjoyed its first (tenuous) movie tie-in this past week as Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the Agents cleaned up after the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World – be sure to read Anghus’ Houvouras’ review of ‘The Well’ here, and check out a promo for next week’s episode ‘Repairs’, which sees the team haunted by a mysterious force that threatens to destroy them all, and only a secret from May’s (Ming-Na Wen) past can save them. Meanwhile, producer Jed Whedon has hinted at another possible tie-in for next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, stating to TV Guide that: “Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is in that one, and S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an appearance, so we will definitely try to tee-up some stuff and probably play a little bit of the fallout from that film. We’re hoping to do some cool stuff…”

…A few weeks back Marvel announced that it is teaming up with Netflix for five miniseries, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage building to The Defenders, and now Idris Elba (Thor: The Dark World, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) has revealed that he’d previously spoke to Marvel about the role of Power Man: “There was talk about Luke Cage at one time – I thought Luke Cage was pretty interesting character. They were going to do it, but I don’t know what happened…”

…Shifting to Sony and while it’s been pretty quiet on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 front (barring rumours of a Rise of Electro subtitle and three high-res images of Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan – only one of which is new), this week has brought confirmation that the studio intends on maximising its Spidey universe. We already know that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 are set for release in 2016 and 2018 respectively, but now Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal has revealed that “we are going to access Marvel’s full world of Spider-Man characters, so be on the lookout for new heroes and villains” with Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Michael Lynton adding, “we do very much have the ambition about creating a bigger universe around Spider-Man. There are a number of scripts in the works [and we are] working closely with Marvel and Disney.” So, that means we can expect spin-offs as well as sequels, while the comment about working closely with Disney is sure to reignite speculation over a possibler coming together of the brands between Spider-Man and The Avengers…

…And on the 20th Century Fox / Marvel front, The Wolverine director James Mangold has discussed the inclusion of Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) iconic yellow costume in the deleted ending from this year’s solo sequel: “I made it up on set. Honestly, first of all, I kept hearing and seeing from fans who were just begging to see this wardrobe, and I kept thinking as we were shooting, ‘How can I do this? How could I ever service this desire for people to see it?’ And there was a point where I just asked the prop department to make me a gift box. So when I did that scene on the plane with Yukio, with Rila and Hugh, I had no costume. The studio hadn’t approved of making one or doing anything, but I thought, ‘Let’s just shoot a couple takes where he opens the box and reacts to it, and I can figure out what to put inside the box later.’ There was just a point later in the cutting room where I put it together, and I thought, ‘It’s kinda sweet.’” Mangold then went on to discuss the recently announced follow-up, which could see Jackman reprising the role of Wolverine for an eighth time after next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past: “I think the thing I’d love to make sure we do is that we find a way to not to turn it into a “Will the world survive?” movie — I think that that worked for us here — but also not to make the same picture again. I think the key thing for me, you heard me talking about how I construct scripts, is just figuring out the key relationships and just what it’s about, what theme the whole thing is going to be about. I’ve got a good angle on it but I’m not ready to talk about it yet!”

…And finally, despite rumours suggesting that Nicolas Cage would cameo in this year’s Kick-Ass 2, Big Daddy was ultimately absent from the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel, but now a selection of storyboards have arrived online showing how he would have figured into the plot, popping up as a hallucination to offer some advice to Chloe Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl as she recovers from the explosion during the funeral scene. You can check out the storyboards here, along with sneak peek at one of the special features from the forthcoming Blu-ray and DVD release, which looks at the creation of the Hit-Girl van attack sequence.

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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