THE STATE OF SUPERHERO CINEMA (AND TV): With so much superheroic media out there right now, and with Marvel, DC, and Fox swinging wildly on both the large and small screens, Andrew and D. Bethel take a look at how things are sorting out, how they’ve changed over the last year or so, and where things might go.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew gets through the first episode of season 2 of Netflix’s Stranger Things and has LOTS of opinions––not about the show, but about streaming in general. Dan succumbs to weakness and plays the Deadpool video game (while simultaneously playing the much better––but much more intense––Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus).
An article filed by The Hollywood Reporter revealed that 20th Century Fox has slated three movies set in its own X-centric (no pun intended) universe for 2018. While not the biggest of surprises, it at the very least hints at a big push by the Marvel Studios competitor for a larger share of superhero cinema profits. Hot on the heels of an announcement regarding Fox’s other major franchise investment––James Cameron’s Avatar series––revealing their release dates for the next three sequels, Fox confirmed that their blockbuster season will start with the newest entry into Fox’s X-world, and one that is a bit of a gamble at that.
The New Mutants
Announced to open on April 13, 2018, The New Mutants is in pre-production at the moment with Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) directing. The spring release date is a safe one as it allows it to miss much of the summer and winter blockbuster melodrama. This movie has had a lot of speculative casting in the news over the last few months, no doubt gearing up some excitement for a series of characters relatively unknown to the greater populace. The New Mutants were introduced in 1983 as the first major spinoff to theX-Men, bringing back the original conceit: a team of teenaged mutant heroes lead by Professor X. The movie is based on the early issues, specifically on a storyline called “The Demon Bear Saga,” that are well-regarded by fans and critics. The New Mutants eventually became a fertile playground for the notorious Rob Liefeld, who introduced characters like Cable, Deadpool, Domino, and Shatterstar, among others, in its pages. The series ended with issue #100 at which point the series was renamed X-Force. With an X-Force movie desired by the Fox bigwigs, they may be viewing The New Mutants as a stepping stone for that eventual film.
The hotly anticipated Deadpool 2 will follow with an early summer release on June 1, 2018. Summer is big business for blockbuster movies and Fox is clearly betting on the hope that Deadpool will be a contender (which it will very likely be). More importantly, it will be released just under a month after Avengers: Infinity War opens and a little over a month before Ant-Man and the Wasp debuts, placing it firmly in the middle of what Marvel is guaranteeing to be their summer (DC/Warner Bros.’s Jason Momoa-led Aquaman will be opening in July as well, making it a very busy season indeed). In contrast, the first movie was such an underdog contender, it was released at one of the slowest box office points of the year––February––so the new release date definitely shows the confidence the studio has in the character and its creative team. Deadpool 2 recently made the news rounds with the rather surprising casting news that the MCU’s own Josh “Thanos” Brolin will be playing Deadpool’s time hopping straight-man, Cable, which paved the way nicely for this scheduling announcement. As mentioned on the site previously, even though Deadpool 2 has had its share of hiccups during pre-production with the exit of original director, Tim Miller, and taking with him original composer, Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL, the studio filled the open seat with John Wick director, David Leitch, and things are moving full steam ahead.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Finally, the next ensemble X-Men film, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, has been given an opening date of November 2nd, 2018. This is perhaps the most surprising film in the announcement. With the critical and financial wobble that X-Men: Apocalypse had last summer, the future of the franchise was in question among critics and fans while the studio was also being rather quiet. Secondly, while both long-time X-Men director, Bryan Singer, and long time X-Men writer/producer, Simon Kinberg, have hinted at different directions to go with the next film, the reveal of the title in this announcement solidified their direction and ended much speculation since “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is likely the most famous X-Men storyline in its history. One can assume that Game of Thrones star, Sophie Turner, will reprise her role as Jean Grey, but it leaves fans to wonder how much of the other cast will return considering the slapback X-Men: Apocalypse received. While winter is not nearly as fiscally important a season as summer, it is the second largest period for income-generation with, in the past, large franchises like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter opening in November or December. Given the current slate of Marvel Studios and DC/Warner Bros. movies, it looks like, for now at least, X-Men: Dark Phoenix may have fairly light competition. Currently, Simon Kinberg is the favorite to direct, which would mark his feature directing debut, taking the helm from Bryan Singer. This film stands to be the most interesting of the three, as we wait to see how the success of experimental films like Deadpool and Logan influence the overall tone and approach to the now 17 year-old franchise.
While such an X-heavy year may point at a renewed interest in creating a shared universe between the films––that is a natural response to this type of schedule since it is basically what Marvel has done to establish its own––that is probably more speculation than likelihood. If we can pull anything from this schedule it is that despite the public lashing X-Men: Apocalypse took, and with the success of Deadpool and Logan, Fox is willing to put more faith and muscle behind their Marvel franchise in the face of Marvel Studios’ general dominance in the last decade. This is important because, in the wake of that cinematic giant, Fox seems to be finding its own path and voice and is making a different animal rather than just playing in the shadow of what’s been done before, and the new ideas that Fox has recently brought to the table are things that people seem to enjoy. With hope they keep experimenting and help keep the superhero movie genre on its toes in general.
Though it garnered some attention at the end of October when Deadpool director, Tim Miller, left the sequel’s pre-production over “creative differences” with star and the character’s champion, Ryan Reynolds, it seemed to get a bit buried under other high drama news, such as the 2016 election. While this seems to be a trend in the world of comic book movies extending as far back as Edgar Wright’s notable exit from Ant-Man to the constant issues that The Flash movie is having, the Deadpool situation marks an interesting departure from the more traditional artist vs. studio clash; instead, it seems to be artist vs. artist.
An interesting discussion could be had about what made Deadpool the sensation that it was: Ryan Reynolds’ infectious charm and tireless cheerleading for the film or Tim Miller’s unique vision, style, and story (he was developing the script for the sequel at the time of his departure). Arguably, that conversation is a bit irrelevant because, with as large as movie-making teams are and how many pieces that need to come together to get a movie to happen at all, the reality stands in contrast to the binary nature of the argument. If superhero movies are anything, they are not really the place for auteurs. Despite that, this debate seems to be churning forward as the news hit.
This has been bolstered by the mostrecentnews that returning composer, Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, has also left production as a gesture of solidarity toward Tim Miller. Holkenborg posted the news to his official Facebook page and Twitter feed in a fairly revealing look at his decision-making process. He noted that Miller’s exit caused personal “soul-searching” for his own place within the project, which lead to his ultimate decision:
Tim [Miller] was the driving force behind Deadpool and me getting involved in this amazing project. Deadpool without Tim at the helm just does not sit right with me and that is why I have decided not to be involved in the second chapter.
Apparently, Ryan Reynolds wants the sequel to focus more on the R-rated humor and ground-level aesthetic that the first movie captured, while Miller wanted to increase the budget and emphasize the style and visual creativity of the original film, as well as casting decisions with regard to Cable and X-Force teammate, Domino.
More than the debate as to who has the more valid approach to the sequel, this strife (pardon the X-Force pun) points more to the likelihood that Deadpool was a confluence of luck, earnestness, and creative zeal and was not necessarily a considered and focused creative vision akin to that which Marvel Studios has cultivated under the guidance of Kevin Feige.
Where this leaves Deadpool 2 is not clear. Variety reports that a deal is closing with John Wick director, David Leitch. Casting is still nebulous around Cable, though with Miller’s exit so too goes his top pick of Friday Night Lights star, Kyle Chandler. With Reynolds still on board, Deadpool 2 will no doubt retain much of its initial charm and personality; whether that’s enough will be for the audience to decide.
We’re a little under the weather this week, but we do our best to provide with the most premium content we can offer.
Week in Geek: Andrew plays the indie prison-escape simulator, The Escapists, while Dan sees Deadpool and definitely has “feelings.”
Silenced Hills: At the recent DICE Summit, a keynote was held that reunited Metal Gear Solid‘s Hideo Kojima with Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Guillermo Del Toro to talk about how much they like each other. We talk about how much they like each other.
First Person Theater: A trailer for the film, Hardcore Henry, landed in theaters and on the internet, and Andrew and Dan are wondering both “What the hell?” and “Why the hell not?”
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For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio -“The Man Who Sold the World” by Midge Ure -“Hardcore” by Dee Snider -“Infected” by Bad Religion
The Merc With a Mouth as a Gamble by a Studio: Marvel mutant Deadpool hits cinema this week and Dan and Andrew discuss the implications of this faithful arrival into the superhero movie discourse.
Whose [sic] Tim Cosing? Greater Than Games promotes their Kickstarter for the final expansion for the popular card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, with a well-planned, quickly foiled, very intricate ARG focused around a fictional game tester “Tim Cosing.” Andrew and Dan unravel the sleuthing fans of the game did to figure out the mystery.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long” by “Weird Al” Yankovic
-“The Sentinels of the Multiverse (Main Theme)” by Jean-Marc Griffin