There are many many comics movies in our future. How many of them will moviegoers be able to ingest? How many will turn out to be any good? Will fatigue set in, as Matthew Vaughn, the director of X-Men: First Class, predicts?
“It’s been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it’s supposed to be. People are just going to get bored of it.”
So far Marvel has done well, delivering movies that are true to the spirit of the comic originals, and function as entertaining movies for comics geeks and non-devotees alike. (Here’s an interview with Marvel creative chief Kevin Feige.)
DC Comics has been less consistent with their comics-into-movies, which is why Warner Bros. has appointed two new execs to run the division, vet Harry Potter supervisor Diane Nelson and comics writer Geoff Johns. They are charged with doing better with the upcoming The Green Lantern and Chris Nolan’s reinvention of Superman than the studio did with Jonah Hex, among other things. (Every time I saw Brandon Routh at Comic-Con, I was reminded of how much I liked him as the Man of Steel. I’m not the only one.)
Coming up in the next year are big-budget productions of The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. I was wowed by some of the footage I saw at Comic-Con, but not all of it. While USA Today writes about how concepts, not movie stars, are driving movies these days, I’d argue that it comes down to characters and stories. That’s what comics have in abundance–plus built-in fan loyalty to these enduring characters, many of whom have lasted for decades.
Thus WB/DC and Ryan Reynolds’ earnest approach to The Green Lantern felt right to me, as well as the World War II setting of Captain America, with Chris Evans and Rocketeer‘s Joe Johnston on board. But the more contemporary Thor looked all wrong, from the color palette to Thor Chris Hemsworth’s Hells Angels look. (In the footage I didn’t see any of the brilliance Hemsworth displayed in the opening of Star Trek as the heroic father of James T. Kirk.) I remember reading a brightly-colored comic book starring a flowing-blond-maned Norse God you could believe in. This movie, while the halls of Valhalla look sumptuous and Anthony Hopkins makes a powerful Odin–looks like another Hulk that doesn’t quite know where it’s going.
Marvel’s success in establishing its next round of comics heroes will partly determine how well its super hero assemblage, The Avengers goes over. While I trust Joss Whedon as a writer, I am not convinced that he is an adept commercial big-studio director. He knows the characters though, and that is presumably what Marvel is counting on (with Jon Favreau advising). Interestingly, the Hall H crowd was not happy that Edward Norton had been replaced as The Hulk. But Mark Ruffalo will do just fine.
If anything, strong storytelling and lack of repetition will spell the difference between success and failure with these movies. At Comic-Con, I was more dismayed by the plethora of genre movies with aliens–from Paul, Transformers 3, Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens to the virtually identical VFX run-amuck movies Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles. Some will turn out better than others. But that’s something you could get tired of real fast.
The Avengers, Hall H.
The Avengers teaser:
Trailer for Skyline: