2015年9月9日 星期三

Ongoing Superhero Movie Franchises (As of September 2015)

Now that we've all seen (or failed to see) this summer's Fantastic Four reboot, it feels like a good time to review how the various cinematic universes are progressing.  There are, at this point, a lot of superhero films to sort through, and in 2016 there will be even more added to the pile.

To begin, there are 3.5 cinematic universes at the time of writing.  These are the Marvel Cinematic Universe (most of the Marvel characters, with some exceptions), the Fox Cinematic Universe (the X-men and Fantastic Four), and the DC Extended Universe (all of the DC characters).  Those of you familiar with Sony's Spider-man drama can probably guess what the ".5" signifies.

1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel films are made by Marvel Studios, which is in turn owned by Disney.  As the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige is now reporting directly to Disney, and creative decisions with regard to films will no longer fall under the scrutiny of Marvel Entertainment's creative committee.  Whether this improves the overall quality of Marvel's films remains to be seen.

Last summer saw the release of Ant-Man, the movie which concludes Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Ant-Man was the 12th film in the MCU, and was better received (if less profitable) than May's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In case you are one of the five people worldwide who didn't see Avengers 2, it involved the creation of artificial intelligence by Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Banner (the Hulk).  This A.I., christened Ultron by Tony, attempts to destroy the Avengers, and as a means of defeating him they create the Vision, an android capable of flight and other wonders.  The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are also introduced in this movie, though they are less integral to the plot.

The key element here is distrust.  After discovering what Tony has done, several members of the team - chief among them Captain America - begin to question his judgment.  This leads to a schism within the Avengers which isn't entirely healed by the conclusion of that movie.  There are also the "visions" that several characters experience at the hands of the Scarlet Witch, leading each to believe that some kind of war or conflict lies beyond their struggles with Ultron.

And also there is Ant-Man, which introduces Ant-Man, who will appear again in Captain America: Civil War.  It is unknown at this time what role he'll play in that movie, but the conclusion of his film included a post-credits scene where Captain America and the Falcon have finally tracked down Bucky (the Winter Soldier).  Bucky seems to be in some kind of trouble, and presumably they require either Scott Lang or Hank Pym's help to rescue him.

Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron set the stage for Marvel's Phase 3 movies, which kick off in May with Civil War.  Civil War is one of Marvel's most successful comic book series, detailing a struggle between Captain America and Iron Man over the role of "enhanced" individuals in society.  Several elements of this story will need to be adapted to fit a two-hour movie, not least of which are the lack of secret identities in the MCU, the reduced number of characters, and the recent inclusion of Spider-man in the MCU. (more on this in a moment)

After Civil War, Marvel will release Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Marvel's Spider-man, and Thor: Ragnarok.  Next to nothing is known about these films, aside from certain announcements regarding cast members and directors.  Marvel's Spider-man will be introduced in Civil War, and his solo film will feature a Spider-man struggling with both high school and the recent acquisition of his powers.  Thor: Ragnarok likely features the clone Thor, and I'd imagine that elements of this third Thor are sprinkled throughout Civil War.

Then, in 2018, comes the first of Marvel's two-part Infinity War.  As everyone knows, the villain in this film will be Thanos, who was introduced way back in the first Avengers movie.  Thanos will assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, one of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel Universe, and the good guys will need to pull out all the stops to thwart him.  Believe it or not, this film will start filming next year.

Between Infinity War 1 and 2, Marvel will release both the Black Panther and Ms. Marvel movies.  Chadwick Boseman - a great actor, by the way - will appear as Black Panther in Civil War, and mention of his home country Wakanda was already made in Age of Ultron.  Nothing is known about Captain Marvel yet, though I agree that Emily Blunt would be awesome in the role.

Following both Black Panther and Captain Marvel will be the second part of Infinity War, and if this movie isn't over three hours long I'll be surprised.  It is the culmination of everything Marvel has been working toward since the first Thor (or maybe even the Incredible Hulk), and it will either be a stellar success or a crushing disappointment.

Finally, in 2019, there's the Inhumans.  Nothing is known about this film except the writers.  The TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been building up to this movie - to a small extent - but I find Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. unbearable and I can't bring myself to watch it.

And let's not forget about the Netflix shows, of which Daredevil's first season has already been released.  Jessica Jones is on the way soon, and will be followed by Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the Defenders, and another season of Daredevil.  All of these shows take place within the MCU, and it's possible that one or more of these characters will show up in future Marvel films.

It does indeed boggle the mind.

1.5. Spider-man/Sony

OK so now I can move on to Spider-man.  Since the disappointment that was the Amazing Spider-man 2, Sony and Marvel Studios have agreed to share the character.  This means that Spidey will be appearing in films by Marvel Studios, and Kevin Feige will be overseeing Sony's solo Spider-man films.  It's a win for everybody, except maybe Andrew Garfield.

As said above, Spider-man will make his first MCU appearance in Civil War, and his solo film will be released between Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok.  I would imagine that he's also going to pop up in the Infinity War movies, since he is Marvel Comics' most recognizable character. 

2. The Fox Cinematic Universe

Troubled waters here, and it remains to be seen how Fox moves past the abortion that was the Fantastic Four reboot.

Of all the upcoming films discussed here, Deadpool will be the first to hit theaters, in February of next year.  This will be followed by X-men: Apocalypse and Gambit - also in 2016 - and then a third (and final) Wolverine film with Hugh Jackman in 2017.

I think most people will agree that the FCU has been more of a mixed bag.  But then again it was also the first on the scene, with the first X-men film preceding the first Iron Man by eight years.  The years from 2000 to 2008 were a very different time for superhero films, with highlights being the Sam Raimi Spider-man, Blade, and the original Fantastic Four films.  Low points of that era include Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and Man-Thing.  Anyone else remember Man-Thing?

So in other words, it's probably not fair to judge the entirety of the X-men films against the entirety of the MCU.  Some of them came before our cgi Hulks and Spider-men, while others suffered by a continuity established by indifferent directors.  Yes, The Last Stand was terrible, and yes, X-men Origins: Wolverine was bad, but there were some gems in there, and X-men: Days of Future Past compares favorably to anything the MCU has to offer.

Leading me to Deadpool, wherein Ryan Reynolds attempts to do this character justice.  This could be a good movie.  I just hope they don't release too much of the footage in the trailers.  It looks funny, the action scenes appear well done, and it might just be great.  We'll see.

After Deadpool there's X-men: Apocalypse, which serves as the sequel to Days of Future Past.  In this installment, the X-men face the titular villain, and several new mutants join both younger cast members and the core members from X-men: First Class.  Given that most of the people involved in this movie were also involved in Days of Future Past, I think it will be solid.

I'm more skeptical about Gambit and the third Wolverine.  While Channing Tatum was great in Foxcatcher, I have trouble imagining him with a Cajun accent, and throwing kinetically charged playing cards around.  He's good at playing off his oafish/handsome demeanor, but can he do "cool"?

The third Wolverine will be based on the "Old Man Logan" series from the comic books.  At first glance this seems like a good idea, but what about all the characters Fox doesn't have the rights to?  Hawkeye, the Hulk, and several other characters retained by Marvel are inaccessible to Fox, and Wolverine's battle with the "Hulk family" was the best part of the comic book.

3. The DC Extended Universe

At the present time we are only one movie into the DCEU - 2013's Man of Steel.  I thought Man of Steel was half of a good movie, while the other half was a mind-numbing festival of cgi.  That second half reminded me a lot of The Matrix Revolutions - parts of it looked awesome, but the whole was rather unsatisfying.

Hopefully director Zack Snyder took down some notes after mixed reactions to Man of Steel, because next year we get two additions to the DCEU - one directed by Snyder and the other directed by David Ayer.  The former would be the much-anticipated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the latter would be Suicide Squad.

Batman v. Superman deals with the fallout of Superman's actions at the end of Man of Steel.  Now a public figure (and deity to some), Kal-el must contend with Gotham City's Batman, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman.  Other DC characters will likely make appearances in this movie, and it lays the groundwork for the DCEU in much the same way that Iron Man 2 laid the groundwork for the MCU.

Suicide Squad will feature several notable villains from DC's roster, the most famous being the Joker.  Jared Leto will play the clown prince of crime, and Margot Robbie will star as his (former?) minion Harley Quinn.  The trailer for this movie looks amazing, and I'm really looking forward to it.

On the heels of these two movies, extending from 2017 to 2020, will be Wonder Woman, Justice League Parts One and Two, the Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Cyborg, the Green Lantern Corps, and an untitled Batman film that Ben Affleck will probably direct.  Various actors have already been cast as some of these superheroes, but details are few and far between.

And that is most of what the general public knows as of now.  Placed in a chart, the upcoming schedule of superhero films looks like this:



Batman v. Superman
Wolverine 3
The Flash


X-men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1
Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 2


Wonder Woman

Justice League Pt. 2
Green Lantern Corps

Marvel’s Spider-man
Aquaman, Black Panther

Suicide Squad



Doctor Strange
Justice League Pt. 1, Thor: Ragnarok
Captain Marvel


Hope you like superheroes, because there's a lot of them on the way.