With the awards season now behind us and the temperature steadily rising, the latest crop of prestige films will soon be a distant memory, as multiplex cinemas prepare to lure the public with another round of Hollywood blockbusters. And this summer, as with many before it, the superhero will reign. With no fewer than four mega-budget comic book movies preparing to do battle (apart from last month’s Green Hornet), 2011 is set to become one of the busiest years for masked avengers since first they donned their capes. But how can you tell – in advance – the doozies from the duds? After all, for every Dark Knight, there is a Daredevil. Even sticking to the recognisable heroes and avoiding the esoteric can be dangerous, as anyone who watched Spider-Man 3 or missed Kick-Ass will tell you. Well, one way is to be guided by the following round-up of the forthcoming superhero season:
Thor (May 6)
Marvel Studios has high-hopes that its hammer-wielding Norse hero, whose first printed appearance was in 1962, will be a smash at box offices and kick off his own franchise. The story will see an angry and rebellious Thor banished from his mediaeval home, only to turn up in present-day America where he starts fighting bad guys in the name of justice. The little-known Australian actor Chris Hemsworth will play the beefcake of the title; the rest of the cast, however, is positively star-studded and includes the Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. The film will be directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is better known for his love of Shakespeare. The film is also likely to require a greater level of suspended disbelief than most superhero fare: men in tights leaping buildings in a single bound is one thing, but Vikings being reincarnated is surely another. Whether Thor conquers or crumbles, the character will return in 2012’s Marvel dream-team film, The Avengers, along with Iron Man, the Hulk and others.
For “Thor vs The Destroyer [his regular superhuman nemesis] has the potential to be one of the most epic battles in comic book movie history,” says Arafaat Ali Khan, the director of public relations for the Middle East Film and Comic Con, a convention to be held in Abu Dhabi this year.
Against “Thor is one of those characters that could so easily degenerate into absolute camp,” says Joe Gordon, blog editor at the comic retailer Forbidden Planet International. “You can get away with saying ‘by Odin’s beard’ in a 1970s comic, but not in a modern one and certainly not in a modern movie. We’d just all fall over laughing.”
Chance of success 2/5
X-Men: First Class (June 3)
Professor X and his conflicted bunch of mutant heroes have notched up three big-screen blockbusters in the past decade (plus a spin-off for Wolverine), but this latest outing will take the characters back to their origins. Set in the 1960s during the Cuban missile crisis, X-Men: First Class will look at how best buddies Charles Xavier/Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, played here by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, became mortal enemies. With Matthew Vaughn in the director’s chair and Jane Goldman writing the screenplay, Fox is hoping the creative team behind Kick-Ass can revive the series after 2006’s poorly received third outing, X-Men: The Last Stand. The trailer shows a host of exotic new mutants and breathtaking shots of Magneto using his mind-over-metal abilities to levitate a Soviet submarine over the ocean’s surface. Also look out for Mad Men’s January Jones as the wicked White Queen and About a Boy’s Nicholas Hoult as the blue-skinned Beast.
For “I’m looking forward to the development of the team dynamic and the story of how the brotherly relationship between Charles and Erik breaks down,” says Ali Khan. “This movie has the potential to have the most powerful drama element of all the 2011 superhero movies.”
Against “It’s funny that in the first X-Men movie they wore black leather and mocked the yellow jumpsuits of the comics, but in this… they’re bringing them back,” says Gordon. “I wonder how that’s going to look on the big screen? Spandex is fine in a comic, but not so good in live action.”
Chance of success 5/5
Captain America: The First Avenger (July 17)
While the idea of mediaeval fantasy colliding with the modern world could make Thor a hard sell, another Marvel offering, Captain America, will also have an image problem to overcome. After all, its squeaky-clean superhero was created during the Second World War to whip up patriotic fervour in the US. But rather than going for a complete overhaul, the movie will take place both in the present day and during the struggle against Hitler and will star Chris Evans as the weedy Steve Rogers, who is transformed into the eponymous super-soldier after a controversial medical procedure. The film will pit the Captain head to head against a Nazi superhuman known as the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), and will be directed by Joe Johnston, who has prior experience with period superhero tales, after 1991’s The Rocketeer. As the full title implies, the character will, like Thor, reappear in next year’s The Avengers.
For “Hugo Weaving should pull off the Red Skull masterfully, Chris Evans is going to have to put everything into his acting prowess to get Captain America right,” says Ali Khan. “He has a never-say-die attitude and is all business – no jokes and quips needed here.”
Against “Captain America’s signature move is when he throws his shield at the baddies. When he does it in the comics it looks great, but I’m a little worried that [in the film] it will just look like someone throwing a giant Frisbee,” says Gordon.
Chance of success 3/5
Green Lantern (June 17)
While the name Green Lantern may be unfamiliar to many moviegoers, the character has been one of DC Comics’ square-jawed staples since 1940. For the hero’s first solo big-screen outing, the Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds will play the wisecracking fighter pilot Hal Jordan, who becomes the first human inducted into the intergalactic police force, the Green Lantern Corps. With the ability to fly and manipulate the physical world with his thoughts, the Green Lantern is one of the most powerful superheroes in the history of comics. With the regular Bond director Martin Campbell on board and supporting performances from Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively and the ubiquitous villain Mark Strong, the movie is likely to tread a narrow line between action and comedy. But if you think the obscurity of the title character might hold the film back at the box office, remember, that’s what they said about Iron Man.
For “They’re doing something very interesting with the look of the movie,” says Gordon. “The Green Lantern outfit will be entirely computer-generated, so Ryan Reynolds acted with a motion capture suit on. If it works it will be revolutionary.”
Against “Hal Jordan is cocky, but he’s not a comedian,” says Ali Khan. “From what we’ve seen of the trailer, the character may be too much of a joker and that would be wrong. We know Ryan Reynolds is admired for his wit and humour in the roles he portrays, but that is not Green Lantern.”
Chance of success 4/5
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