Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is finally future-proof. The Amazing Spider-Man’s two film haul of $1.5 billion was stopped in its tracks with the wintry news of Sony Pictures’ deal with Marvel Studios. Having looked at those two films, now destined to be written out of history, Jokerside looks to the future of Sony’s top superhero franchise… In the bold new ‘world’ of Marvel Cinematic universe. Spider-Man’s not alone anymore.
FOR EVERYTHING THAT CAN CLAIM TO BE PURE MARVEL COMICS, SPIDER-MAN’S AT THE TOP. Until the Dark Knight and the Avengers leaped the billion barrier he was the dominant force in superhero flicks during the formative days of their 21st century cinematic takeover.
The background web
Bucking the rule of diminishing returns
Let’s jump the 1970s TV movies as affecting as they were. The 80s and 90s saw Spidey film rights jump around Hollywood studios like Cannon and Carolco while Tinseltown Alphas like James Cameron and Tobe Hooper circled. The end result was Sam Raimi effective Spider-Man in 2002, a film that served up an eye-watering $821million to prove that the comic movie was ready to seize the heart of the blockbuster season and that the web crawler was top of the pile. By the time Spider-Man 3 was released to lack-lustre reviews five years later, that trilogy had amassed nearly $2.5 billion. By contrast, Fox’s X-Men trilogy, which concluded a year earlier, grossed just over $1.1 billion. Almost inevitably it was Spider-Man’s weaker final entry that took the top spot in his franchise with nearly £900 million. But despite bucking the rule of diminishing returns, the critical stock of the property had fallen sharply as ‘creative pressures’ between director, producers and the studio were clear to see in the finished product.
After some prevarication over a fourth Raimi instalment, Sony’s decision to reboot the franchise five years later, complete with a fresh origin, raised plenty of eyebrows. Just how would the public take to yet another version of that well known Spider-Man origin?
The answer wasn’t too clean cut. 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man got a lot right. Praised but blockbuster-rookie Marc Webb swung into the director’s seat and produced a confident and stylish film, ably backed by the late James Horner on scoring duties and a fine cast; in particular Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in central roles that conjured up better chemistry than the Raimi films managed. In all, that was just about enough to power past those unsettling re-origin problems. But it seemed strangely unsure of how it should react to those Raimi films. It set a course closer to the comics but hastily established a great deal of baggage on the way. And the CGI-overload and bland villain’s plot brought to mind some unsettling comparisons with the dark and icy days of the mid 1990’s Batman films.
Continue reading “Marvel: Back in the Fold… Where can it all go right for the new Spider-Man?”
From a comic universe ice-packed with cold foes, and a franchise often shovelling snow and ice, Batman Returns sits at the top of the tree as the most festive of the Batman films. One of Tim Burton’s finest hours, and the one that pissed off McDonalds.
BATMAN RETURNS PUTS ANOTHER TYPE OF BIRD INTO THE CHRISTMAS STUFFING MIX. THE “YULETIDE CONTEXT” AS CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S MAX SHRECK CALLS IT, IS UNAVOIDABLE IN A FILM WITH MANY A CHRISTMAS TREE POPPING UP, BUT IT’S HARDLY AN OVERRIDING MESSAGE. The Penguin may have been born on Christmas Day (unconfirmed, but he’s certainly a Capricorn), he may be ascending at the meaningful age of 33, but most of the Biblical strands woven through Returns are stridently Old Testament. The Book of Exodus is the most prominent. The Penguins origin echoes Moses’ – exchanging cyperaceae for sphenisciformes – And it’s the feathery fiend who later enacts his own variation of the Plague of the Firstborn in vengeance.
Packed alongside are more Christmas elements than you could shake a cute umbrella at. There are the pantomime villains, Dickensian grotesques (much to Alfred’s constant disdain) and even a morally flawed business man with the shock of white hair who obviously has little time for festivities beyond his annual Maxquerade ball. “Hard and sharp as flint” especially when protesting that he’s no monster. There’s also time for the type of remote controlled car that the Penguin might place under your tree (“I don’t like surprises”) and the anthropomorphic animals that still grace many a Disney film. And then there’s the omnipresent snow. Amid a high murder rate and constant explosions, there’s perpetual snow.
All of these elements and more combine to create an irresistibly stylised fairy tale tone and picture that could comfortably, and lazily, be termed Burtonesque. Even 22 years later.
Continue reading “Batman at 75: The Ultimate Festive Favourite – Batman Returns”
The scarlet speedster has made it to live action television for the second time. And it looks as though he has legs in the new brave world of small screen super heroics.
FLASH. THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE. WHEN IT COMES TO NOT SO SECRET ORIGINS, IT WAS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA THAT ALLOWED THE FLASH TO CREEP UP ON ME. In particular, as part of Grant Morrison’s sublime roster of the retooled Justice League of America almost two decades ago. But earlier in the ‘90s I probably claimed, and probably still have, a record for the most Blockbuster rentals of the 1990 Flash TV series.
That wasn’t all of its first and only season of course – it was well before the ‘Time of the Box Set’. That single VHS may well have been a TV movie pulled from multiple episodes, probably a pilot, but I distinctly remember Mark Hamill’s Trickster appearing which would place it in the latter half of costumed campery.
“A particular highlight was the incredible Flash suit“
The Flash was in many ways a ridiculous show, costing $1.6million an episode, riding on the coat-tails of Batman’s big screen breakthrough the year before and like that film nicking Danny Elfman for the score. History has been unkind. For all the missteps in its superhero antics and struggles with the special effects of the time (really, not that bad), it was an important rung on the ladder that’s brought us the complex string of comic book movies on the small and big screens today. A particular highlight was the incredible Flash suit designed by Stan Winston Studios. Sculpted and deep scarlet, it certainly looked the part – in fact remains the best representation on screen, if a little impractical and perhaps in hindsight, a little The Tick. Continue reading “The Flash: The Fastest Show on TV Returns”
Vanquisher of demons, careless of friends, it’s the irresistible pull of film and television that’s posed John Constantine’s biggest challenge. Three episodes into his televisions series, a look at the celluloid past, present and future.
CONSTANTINE. JOHN CONSTANTINE. IT’S BEEN WELL DOCUMENTED ON JOKERSIDE THAT HE’S ONE OF THE GREATEST FICTIONAL CREATIONS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. FACT. Inspired by Sting, hailing from Liverpool. So compelling, so real, that he appeared to his creator twice, seized the crown as Vertigo comic’s greatest son before making a fully formed attack on the House of Batman and Superman…
As he nears his 30th birthday, Constantine’s profile is stronger than ever. Now a cornerstone of the main DC Comic universe, he’s a major reason that Justice League Dark is one of the publisher’s New 52 revelations, let alone his own title Constantine. Hellblazer was the cost, an incredible 300 issue run over 25 years, from an incredible roster of writers. But while the age-rating may have dropped as he literally hit the mainstream, that’s surely an indication that it’s time he made a successful leap to new media. Like uttering a spell with a demon’s fingers around your neck: Easier said than done. He’s already been there before of course. And now, following the moderately successful 2005 film, could the mage’s brightest future lie with the NBC’s new Constantine series or Guillermo del Toro’s long gestating Justice League Dark adaptation?
Hellblazer stakes a claim
Director Francis Lawrence is currently enjoying the glow of ending the Hunger Games saga on the big screen. But in 2005, following a string of high-profile music videos, his film debut was the much anticipated adaptation of Constantine’s comic adventures. And who was that Constantine? Well to quote Jokerside, “John Constantine, the Liverpudlian wizard, working class chain smoker and all round sarcastic bastard”.
Continue reading “Constantine: The Original Sins of Adaptation”