Saturday, February 26, 2011

Upcoming Comic Book Movies, Part I

I actively collected comic books between the ages of 10 and 12. At the time, the idea that I would be seeing those same comic books depicted on the big screen would have been laughable. Then, the only mainstream modern comic book movies were based on characters owned by DC Comics, specifically the Superman movies (1978-1987) and Tim Burton's Batman movies (1989-1992). Given the special effects available at the time, it was prohibitively expensive to film most comic books. However, with the CGI effects pioneered by movies like Terminator 2 (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993), the door was open for effectively any comic character. In 2000, Marvel Comics got into the big-budget superhero movie business with X-Men. A couple years later they followed up that success with Spider-Man (2002). Not to be left behind, DC Comics rebooted both their Batman and Superman franchises with Batman Begins (2005) and Superman Returns (2006), respectively. Some of these comic book-based films (e.g., X2: X-Men United (2003), Spider-Man 2 (2004), The Dark Knight (2008)) have not only been financially successful, but critically successful, as well.

Since then, comic book movies have become a major part of each movie season, with many of the most highly anticipated films being based on comic book superheroes. This year and the next are no exception, as a relatively large number of comic book-based films are scheduled for release in 2011 and 2012. The following are a few upcoming movies that I'm looking forward to:

Thor (May 6, 2011)
I've never read an issue of the Thor comic books, although I do know that the character is based on the Norse god of the same name. In addition to having the expected god-like resilience, Thor is given a variety of powers and abilities by his mystical hammer. The character is one of the primary members of the superhero team known as the Avengers.

With the introduction of Nick Fury and the Avengers program during the post-credit sequence of Iron Man, I knew it would be only a matter of time before they released movies of the other Avengers. This upcoming movie was explicitly foreshadowed by the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2 when S.H.I.E.L.D. agents find Thor's hammer in a crater. The film will focus on the character's exile to Earth due to his reckless actions and his discovery of what it takes to be a true hero. I was relatively indifferent to Thor until I saw the first full trailers. Now I'm looking forward to it.

X-Men: First Class (June 3, 2011)
By the time I started collecting comics, Uncanny X-Men was already more than twenty years old. The hundreds of issues built upon one another, making it nearly impossible for me to understand what was going on when I tried to start reading the series. Between years of prior stories and the additional series based on the X-Men that were eventually started (X-Men; a.k.a. X-Men: Legacy, Astonishing X-Men, X-Treme X-Men, X-Men: First Class, etc.), I don't know who could possibly keep all those storylines straight. Fortunately, the X-Men movies have simplified and compressed the overall plot into a manageable form.

Up until recently, fans had been expecting the release of X-Men Origins: Magneto. This would have served as a prequel treatment of the primary villain in the X-Men films. If that film had been successful, an additional film based on the comic book series X-Men: First Class was to be produced. However, it was decided instead to roll Magneto's story into First Class, which would be a prequel to the three X-Men movies (four if you count X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

As explained in X-Men, Magneto and Charles Xavier had once been friends and allies back when the team of mutants that would be known as the X-Men was being formed. First Class will take place during the Cuban Missile Crisis and will show, appropriately enough, the "first class" of mutant superheroes. Early synopses of the plot suggest that it will also show the split between Magneto and Xavier and the founding of Magneto's own group: the Brotherhood of Mutants.

Green Lantern (June 17, 2011)
With the exception of Superman and Batman, I was never really a fan of the DC Comics characters. However, I was familiar with some of the more famous characters like Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern. Although I've never read an issue of Green Lantern, the trailer for the upcoming film is good enough that I'll give it a chance.

In the comics and in the movie, the Green Lantern is a member of the Green Lantern Corps; an intergalactic brotherhood of beings who are given superpowers by the use of special rings. They use these powers to protect peace and justice throughout the Universe. The movie follows a test pilot named Hal Jordan, who becomes the first human to possess a power ring.

Next time: super soldiers, demon-spawned heroes, and arachnids...

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