THE 2011 COMIC BOOK MOVIE PREVIEW -
What’s the most important Comic Book Movie of 2011?
I have the 19th of July 2012 marked in my diary. Not in a Mayan way – it’s a date I am looking forward to more than my own birthday. The 19th of July 2012 is when Christopher Nolan will unleash “The Dark Knight Rises” on a suspecting public. After “The Dark Knight” took comic book movies to commercial and critical apex, hype will be huge for the follow up. But the road to the Promised Land is a hazardous journey – and 2011 is journey over the stormiest of seas. The year is filled with untried concepts, hard sells and no-name stars. So as we pass through this gauntlet of uncertainty – which of these films is the most important to the future of the comic book movie industry? We’ll find out…
THE GREEN HORNET:
So, I’ve got this idea for a big studio movie. Let’s bring back a not particularly well known radio serial from the 1930’s, cast the guy from Knocked Up as the action hero and have it directed by the director of “Be Kind Rewind.” The person who gave the green light to “The Green Hornet” is crazy-brave. The parts all look like great decisions - Michel Gondry as director? Yes. Best Supporting Actor 2010 Christophe Waltz in his first big movie after an Oscar win? Good. Jay Chou showing off his action chops, Seth Rogen as a comedy lead, Cameron Diaz as a hot girl… nothing wrong with any of the parts. It's the whole that remains the biggest question surrounding the Green Hornet. The trailer was fun enough; showing so little and keeping the exposition so basic (One of Seth Rogen’s lines is essentially the synopsis of the film) that I can only imagine the makers aren’t showing their full hand. If that’s the case, it’s a great move–(Are you listening, marketers of Scott Pilgrim?) - but ONLY if that’s not the sum total of the film.
I think we can count on funny moments from Rogen, cool action moments from Chou and directorial flourishes from Gondry. What I really want, given the presence of Waltz, is the movie to have a real sense of danger and drama as it approaches its conclusion. This film doesn’t have a brand, so it needs to do something different. Everything I’ve seen so far points to a fairly by-the-numbers action adventure with a few laughs. If the director can harness his creativity, the leading man can find his dramatic acting chops and the 3-D is well used, we could have a winner. Maybe I’m just an optimist.
There’s a lot of green around this year. Someone once described Green Lantern to me as the Star Wars of the comic book universe. Having never been much of a one for space movies (the scope is too big – I can’t explain it) Green Lantern never really interested me all that much. So to prime myself for the upcoming film and find a bit more out about the character, I watched the two DC animated films concerning the character – ‘Justice League – The New Frontier” and “Green Lantern: First Flight.” After watching these*, colour me interested.
*If you haven’t seen any of the DC Animated films and you’re interested in that stuff, do yourself a favour. They do a terrific job of adapting the material to animation, the voice casting is second to none (Andrea Romano, the voice casting director behind Batman: The Animated Series is the key to that) and the action and animation are outstanding.
I’m optimistic and pessimistic about ‘The Green Lantern’. On one hand, this is DC’s big chance. If this movie is a hit, it opens up the entire DC Universe into a big, Star Wars sized movie factory. If it dies, we’re back to Batman, one more crack at Superman and the slight possibility of the Flash.
Pessimistically, I think Green Lantern has more chance of failing than succeeding. Ryan Reynolds as an action star hasn’t proven to be a box office draw yet, Martin Campbell as director has produced as much dross (Vertical Limit) as hits (The Mask Of Zorro, Casino Royale) and the sci-fi might be a bit too hard-edged for your average moviegoer. But if Green Lantern can deliver critically and commercially, or hell, even just commercially, we could be in for a Justice League movie. Imagine a world where an Avengers movie and a Justice league movie could exist. That alone, my friends, is reason enough to go see Green Lantern.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
I’m most intrigued by The Green Hornet, most hopeful for the Green Lantern and most relaxed about Thor – but I’m the most excited about Captain America. A star I’ve been a big fan of for a very long time in Chris Evans (ever since Not Another Teen Movie – yeah, you heard right) matched with my favourite non-Batman superhero in Cap himself. Even better, it’s a war movie predominantly set in World War II, bad guy par excellence Hugo Weaving is the Red Skull, it’s a lead in to the Avengers, what could possibly go wrong?
Joe Johnston, that’s what.
Let’s take a brief look at Mr Johnston’s filmography, shall we?
2010: The Wolfman
2001: Jurassic Park III
1991: The Rocketeer
…and as curious as I am to see Young Indiana Jones: Spring Break Adventure, which he made in 1995, that list reads like a cavalcade of deeply flawed action movies with the odd redeeming quality. That’s not what we want here, folks. This is Captain America, and to do well at all outside the United States it needs to have fantastic word of mouth. This is the leader of the Avengers, the guy with the coolest shield since Link from the Legend of Zelda! I can say without the slightest doubt that for Captain America to be the movie-going experience we hope it will be, it has to be easily Joe Johnston’s best film. I don’t like those odds.
I’m worried about the director of ‘Captain America’, but ‘Thor’ doesn’t have that problem. ‘Thor’ has Kenneth Branagh. While he hasn’t always made the best acting choices in the world, and his take on Frankenstein was polarizing, I’ve always like his Shakespearean adaptations and he seems an inspire choice as director of this film. Having assembled a probable Oscar winner in Natalie Portman, an Australian with charisma to burn (see: Star Trek) in Chris Hemsworth and a couple of fantastic British actors in Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston, Branagh has a great opportunity to bring moments of high drama and an epic feel to the comic book movie.
I have confidence that Thor will be entertaining, perhaps even a critical success – but its commercial prospects remain its biggest concern. As Marvel’s sixth or seventh biggest property (Spider-man, X-Men, Iron Man, Daredevil, Captain America are ahead of him in my book) the studio is really counting on somehow winning more that the comic book nerd dollar. They need middle America to come out and see Thor, and they’re trying to do that with plenty of shirtless Hemsworth and spectacular action. Weirdly enough, I hope they succeed.
There’s more, of course – Cowboys and Aliens for one – and I hope they’re all rousing successes but one has to fall by the wayside, you would think. Here’s to the continuation of the comic book movie though – you can’t go past a good old spectacle!