The Week in Spandex – Batman vs. Superman, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Marvel’s Phase Three, TMNT and more

Our weekly round up of the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Batman vs. Superman, Arrow, Constantine, Justice League: War, Son of Batman, Batman & Robin, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America 3, Thor 3, Ant-Man, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and more…

So, Henry Cavill in Michigan and production reportedly set to get underway, we’ve finally found out who’ll be playing Kal-El’s nemesis Lex Luthor in Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman. No, it’s not Bryan Cranston, Mark Strong, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, David Ramsey or any of the other names plucked out of thin air these past few months, but rather The Social Network and Now You See Me star Jesse Eisenberg. “Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman’s rivals, his unsavoury reputation preceding him since 1940,” said director Zack Snyder on Eisenberg’s casting. “What’s great about Lex is that he exists beyond the confines of the stereotypical nefarious villain. He’s a complicated and sophisticated character whose intellect, wealth and prominence position him as one of the few mortals able to challenge the incredible might of Superman. Having Jesse in the role allows us to explore that interesting dynamic, and also take the character in some new and unexpected directions.” You can read the thoughts of our writing team on Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor in the latest Flickering Myth Reaction here

…Eisenberg wasn’t the only addition to the cast of Batman vs. Superman yesterday, with Snyder also announcing that Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Borgias) will play Alfred Pennyworth, trusty butlerto Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne: “As everyone knows, Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s most trusted friend, ally and mentor, a noble guardian and father figure. He is an absolutely critical element in the intricate infrastructure that allows Bruce Wayne to transform himself into Batman. It is an honor to have such an amazingly seasoned and gifted actor as Jeremy taking on the important role of the man who mentors and guides the guarded and nearly impervious façade that encapsulates Bruce Wayne…”

…Sticking with Batman vs. Superman and costume designer Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle) has spoken briefly about his work designing the iconic costumes for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot): “I’m not really at liberty to talk about the details of everything, but suffice to say we really respect the histories of all of these characters. We’re all very reverent about the iconic graphic nature of these characters and their costumes. We see ourselves as part of the natural lineage of how these characters are being portrayed through out the ages and our goal is to create something relevant and exciting for today’s audiences and something that works for this thrilling cinematic universe that our director Zack Snyder is creating. You really dive into the source material. We’re looking at all of the different ways these characters have been portrayed over the ages. We’re looking hard into Zack’s script and working out what makes sense as far as telling the story — who these people really are and what they represent, how to make sense of them in today’s world. It’s an interesting, multilayered design challenge…”

…There’s been an awful lot of speculation passed off as genuine “insider info” on Batman vs. Superman since the film was announced at last year’s Comic-Con, but this week saw a new “scoop” climbing to the top of the bullshit pile, and unless Cosmic Book News excels itself during the production, this one could remain king of the hill when it comes to hilariously false reporting on the Man of Steel sequel. Anyway, the award for BS “rumour” of the week goes to Brazilian entertainment reporter Ana Maria Bahiana who claimed on Twitter that Affleck is out as Batman due to the crazy fan reaction, the announcement will be made in a couple of months due to “creative differences”, and potential replacements include Josh Brolin and Michael Keaton. Sadly, several websites (gotta love Yahoo! Movies) decided to run with this “story” as having even the remotest chance of being true – much like the broken leg / threatening to quit “scoops” we’ve suffered these last few week – despite the fact that only days before it surfaced, Ben Affleck pulled out of directing the pilot for Fox’s The Middle Man so he’d be free for production of Batman vs. Superman. Nothing like taking advantage of a controversial casting. Next week’s scoop – “Jesse Eisenberg is out as Lex Luthor due to [insert first thing that comes to mind]“…

Batman vs. Superman may have been pushed back to 2016, but we’ll see several DC Comics superheroes on the big screen this year – in brick form at least – as Channing Tatum (Superman), Will Arnett (Batman), Jonah Hill (Green Lantern) and Cobie Smulders (Wonder Woman) lend their voices to The LEGO Movie, and this week saw Warner Bros. debuting a new trailer that parodies last year’s Man of Steel trailer, complete with Hans Zimmer score; check it out here

…Shifting to the small screen and the next episode of Arrow will see Nyssa al Ghul – the illegitimate daughter of Ra’s al Ghul – heading to Starling City and you can check out the first look images of Katrina Law (Spartacus) as Nyssa alongside Caity Lotz (The Canary) and Stephen Amell (Arrow) here, as well as two promos – the second of which reveals that The Canary has been sharing more than membership of the League of Assassins with the daughter of the Demon. Meanwhile, it’s also been announced that Jessica De Gouw’s Huntress is set to return to the show in March for two-thirds of a Birds of Prey reunion…

…Over at NBC and the pilot episode for Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist) and David S. Goyer’s (The Dark Knight Trilogy) proposed Constantine TV series has secured a director in Neil Marshall, whose credits include Dog Soldiers, The Descent and the acclaimed Game of Thrones episode ‘Blackwater’. There’s no word yet on casting, but we shouldn’t have too long to wait before we find out who’ll be stepping into Keanu Reeves’ shoes as the supernatural detective returns to the screen…

…Ahead of its arrival next week, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has debuted three new stills from the direct-to-video animated movie Justice League: War, featuring Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash. Justice League: War hits shelves this coming Tuesday, with Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) directing a voice cast that includes Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars) as Batman, Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as Superman, Michelle Monaghan (Source Code) as Wonder Woman, Justin Kirk (Weeds) as Green Lantern, Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) as The Flash, Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) as Cyborg, Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings) as Shazam, Steve Blum (Young Justice) as Darkseid, Bruce Thomas (Birds of Prey) as Desaad, and Rocky Carroll (NCIS) as Silas Stone…

…After debuting the the trailer and cover art for Son of Batman last week, Warner Bros. has now unveiled the special features set to accompany the adaptation of Grant Morrison’s ‘Batman and Son’, which includes a look at Warner’s third DC Universe Animated Original Movie of the year, Batman: Assualt on Arkham. Head here for a rundown of all the features for the May release, which sees Jason O’Mara continuing to voice the Dark Knight alongside Stuart Allan (Rise of the Guardians) as Damian Wayne / Robin, Morena Baccarin (Homeland) as Talia, Giancarlo Esposito (Once Upon a Time) as Ra’s Al Ghul, David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Alfred Pennyworth, Xander Berkeley (24) as Kirk Langstrom / Man-Bat and Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds) as Deathstroke / Slade Wilson…

…Before we move on from DC’s movie universe, George Clooney has been reminiscing about his time as the Caped Crusader in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 travesty Batman & Robin: “I wasn’t thrilled with the nipples on the Batsuit. You know that’s not something you really think about when you’re putting it on. You figure all Batsuits have nipples and then you realize yours was really the first. Batman was just constantly cold I guess. But I have plenty of other things that I’m really obviously embarrassed about too. Oftentimes it’ll be stumbling out of a bar drunk or something dumb like that but as you get older a major goal in life is try to do less and less embarrassing things. You know, try not to face plant publicly as often as possible… I don’t think my Batman could have even walked across the stage. If Batman actually had to wear the suit that I wore, which was like 40 pounds of rubber, he literally physically wouldn’t be able to lift his arms. They put you on a flat board, lie you on the ground and bolt you into this thing, and then they just pull the board out and leave you standing. Joel Schumacher goes action, I say ‘I’m Batman’ and then, cut, they drop me back down on the board and leave me on my back. Everitt McGill could kick Batman’s ass…”

…Shifting to the Marvel Cinematic Universe now and Marvel Studios has stepped up the publicity for its upcoming Phase Two offering Captain America: The Winter Soldier by releasing a batch of character posters for Cap (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as a sprinkling of behind the scenes images which includes our first look at George St-Pierre (Death Warrior) as Georges Batroc / Batroc the Leaper [see here], in addition to two new-one sheets that adds The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) into the mix, and a brief teaser for this Sunday’s Super Bowl TV spot comprised of new footage from the upcoming solo sequel [see here]…

…Chris Evans has also been speaking about his second solo outing, giving us an insight into how Steve Rogers is adapting to his life in the 21st century when we catch up with him post-The Avengers: “He feels comfortable within the structure that he’s given He likes to serve. He likes to take orders. He’s like a herding dog. He needs a task. And I think the issue in the first two, Captain America and The Avengers – well, Captain America – was about giving him the opportunity. Then he got the opportunity, and then he was thrust into a different world. And in Avengers, there were so many characters, it’s tough to kind of spend too much with any one. And on this one, it’s about him trying to not just acclimate to the modern world, but it’s always been Cap’s goal to do what’s right and to be of service, to help where he can. In this movie, I think the question is, well, what is right? I think it was a lot easier in the ’40s to know who the evil was. There’s no disputing Nazis are bad. And now, it becomes a little bit more of a difficult answers. There’s a lot more of a grey area. What is the right thing? And are you of service to that cause? That’s where it becomes a tricky dispute for Cap because things were just done differently in the 40s. Threats are different now, and precautionary measures are taken now, can be questionable and somewhat suspect in his eyes. So it’s a tough hurdle for him to jump…”

…At this point, it seems likely that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Robert Redford’s S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Alexander Pierce – especially as Redford has previously said he was drawn to playing a villain – and the screen legend has also been chatting more about the upcoming film this week, explaining the attraction of a Marvel movie: “One of the reasons that I did it was I wanted to experience this new form of filmmaking that’s taken over where you have kind of cartoon characters brought to life through high technology. The Avengers series is a product of high technology playing a major role in the new order of filmmaking so I wanted to experience that — I just wanted to know what that was like and I had that opportunity, so for me it was like stepping into new terrain just to experience what it was like…”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier may still be a couple of months away from release, but Marvel Studios have apparently seen enough to bring back the directing duo of Anthony and Joe Russo for Cap’s third outing, with the pair said to have put together an outline for Captain America 3, which they’re currently developing with a view to directing. So, it seems the Sentinel of Liberty will be back for Marvel’s Phase Three, and it also looks like he’ll be joined by another Avenger in the God of Thunder, with Marvel also revealing this week that Thor: The Dark World screenwriter Christopher Yost will co-write Thor 3 with Marvel producer Craig Kyle. Between them, the pair have extensive Marvel experience, including the animated offerings X-Men: Evolution, Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, Ultimate Avengers, Ultimate Avengers 2, The Invincible Iron Man, Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Wolverine and the X-Men, Hulk Vs., Iron Man: Armored Adventures, and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

…In other Phase Three news, Paul Rudd (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) has briefly spoken about his upcoming role in Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, stating that “I’m very excited about it. I’ve read some comics and seen some [Marvel] movies and I knew Edgar Wright for many years. The whole thing that it’s actually happened, that I got the part, is still kind of surreal. It’s still sinking in over these last several months.” Rudd went on to state that “it’s a thrill” to work with Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra), before swerving a question about the possibility of his I Love You, Man co-star Rashida Jones joining the cast as the female lead: “I follow what comes out online and even then I don’t quite follow. I let those powers at be announce what they want to announce when they announce it. A lot of that stuff you hear is not true.” Meanwhile, Edgar Wright has hinted that Rudd’s Scott Lang won’t be the only Ant-Man suiting up in the film, posting an image of a miniature to his blog which seems to indicate we’ll also get to see Douglas’ Hank Pym sporting the hero’s classic 60s costume…

…Although it’s unconfirmed by Marvel Studios, it’s been reported that South Korean supermodel and actress Kim Soo Hyun (a.k.a. Yoo Ri El) has bagged a role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, where she’ll apparently play a doctor working for Ultron (James Spader) before shifting sides and end up assisting Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark…

…With Thor: The Dark World set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray this month, we’ve caught a few early glimpses at the bonus material for last year’s Phase Two sequel over the past seven days, including a deleted scene featuring Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Frigga (Rene Russo) [see here], Tom Hiddleston’s original screen test for the role of The Mighty Avenger [see here], behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of Chris Evans’ surprise cameo, featuring Hiddleston dressed in Cap’s Avengers costume [see here], and a peek at the gag reel from the film [see here]. Thor: The Dark World is released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 24th in the UK and February 25th in North America…

…ABC has released the first action-packed clip from the next episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., entitled ‘T.R.A.C.K.S.’, which you can see here, while leading man Clark Gregg has spat his dummy out over fans who’ve abandoned the show in their droves: “Those aren’t geeks. Those are losers. You start to have people like Deathlok showing up; You start to understand that a bunch of these different episodes were connected. A lot of the geeks that I respect most… are very excited about where we’re going. So I’m going to choose to work for them.” Perhaps sensing that criticising six million Marvel fans isn’t the best way to convince them to tune back in, Gregg then went on to backtrack, stating that that, “I guess I don’t mean to say that people who have been frustrated by that discovery period are necessarily losers. I just think they should be, perhaps, a little more patient.” As it happens, Marvel does seem to be pulling out a few stops to try and get fans back on board, with Stan Lee set to cameo, J. August Richards’ Mike Peterson due to undergo a transformation into the cyborg Deathlok, and Jaimie Alexander reprising the role of Lady Sif for a trip to Midgard in search of The Enchantress’ sister Lorelei, played by Elena Satine (Smallville). Will that be enough to boost the ratings, or ensure the show gets picked up for a second season? Only time will tell…

…20th Century Fox teamed up with Empire Magazine this week to preview the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past by releasing 25 special edition covers featuring most of the cast, including director Bryan Singer, ‘past’ and ‘future’ versions of the Sentinels, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor X (James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart), Magento (Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen), Stryker (Josh Helman), Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), Toad (Evan Jonigkeit), Havok (Lucas Till), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Bishop (Omar Sy) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) [see them all here]. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also had two batches of new images which you can see here and here – the latter seemingly indicating that Fox has gazumped Joss Whedon not only with Quicksilver but also the Scarlet Witch…

…One surprise from the Empire covers was the inclusion of Anna Paquin’s Rogue, with Singer previously revealing that he’d cut the character from the film, but it seems there’s a chance that she could be back, with the director clarifying his comments to state that it was only an action sequence that he’d decided to remove: “It was one real sequence in the movie. It does not mean that we won’t see her in the film. Also, I hope to make the sequence available on the DVD as she was quite wonderful in it. She is an important part of the X-Men family.” Meanwhile, Singer is also turning his attention towards 2016 and the next X-Men movie X-Men: Apocalypse, offering a brief insight into his plans for the film and confirming that it will revolve around the X-Men: First Class cast / timeline: “[X-Men: Apocalypse] is more of a First Class sequel [and] it will take place some time after [Days of Future Past]. What happens in this movie brings about what’ll happen in that movie… One thing that interests me is the notion of ancient mutants. What would people thousands of years ago, without the benefit of science, think mutants were? And more importantly, what would mutants thousands of years ago think they were? Gods? Titans? Angels? Demons? And if such mutants did exist thousands of years ago, what became of them? Did one survive..?”

…Last year Channing Tatum expressed his interest in taken on the role of the Cajun card-throwing mutant Gambit in an X-Men movie, and according to producer Lauren Shuler Donner, there’s a chance that the project could become a reality: “I’m dying to do a Gambit movie with Channing Tatum. “That doesn’t have to be a great big movie. It’s a thief in New Orleans, it’s a whole different story. He’s on board, and I have to get the studio on board. How can anyone resist Channing? He’s such a sweetheart…”

…While Fox seems intent on expanding its X-Men universe, the studio’s next Marvel offering after X-Men: Days of Future Past is a reboot of The Fantastic Four, and while we’ve heard plenty of names linked to Mister Fantastic, Susan Storm and of course The Human Torch, this week gave us our first possibility for the role of Ben Grimm, a.k.a. The Thing, although reports that Josh Gad (Frozen) was up for the role were quickly shot down by director Josh Trank and Gad himself. Production is set to get underway on The Fantastic Four in two months time, so the studio is presumably waiting until its secured all four leads before announcing who’s set to join Michael B. Jordan’s Johnny Storm as Marvel’s First Family…

…Sony is set to give us another look at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this Sunday with a Super Bowl TV spot for the upcoming Spidey sequel, and we’ve already had a peek at what’s to come with a 40-second promo designed to tease the death of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), while Stone has further added to the speculation that we’ll get to see a version of the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #121 playing out on the big screen, stating that “the intention the whole time has been to tell Gwen’s story has closely to the comic as possible.” Meanwhile, Marc Webb has also offered up a few words on the scope of the sequel, describing it as “the most ambitious” Spider-Man movie to date: “It’s huge. We’re pushing the levels of effects, the level of action and the emotional capacity of this kid. It’s an aggressive step forward. We throw around the term ‘operatic’ because of the spectacle and the theatre involved, which is pretty epic. There are enormous sets and great set-pieces. But really it’s a very intimate song – this relationship between Peter and Gwen is very delicate and beautiful…”

…And finally, it’s not often we cover the Heroes in a Half-Shell here in The Week in Spandex, but we’ll make an exception this week seeing as we’ve now had our first look at the updated designs for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in this summer’s live-action reboot from director Jonathan Leibesman (Wrath of the Titans) and producer Michael Bay (Transformers: Age of Extinction). If you’ve somehow missed them this week, head here to see how Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Michaelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Raphael (Alan Ritchson) shape up at the TMNT, and head here for our first look at William Fichtner (The Dark Knight) as The Shredder.

Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Gary Collinson