Saturday, March 1, 2008

Super? I Hardly ... Ah, Forget It!

Here at Pop Culture America with John and Dave, we loves us some superheroes. Last year's crop of super films were a little short of super (Spider-Man 3? Fantastic Four 2? Anyone?), but in the next 13 months or so, we're due a slew of superheroics at the multiplex with big name talent and promising sneak peeks. And one tragic loss. Let's see how all these upcoming projects are progressing. As always, I am not responsible for the reportage herein: credit for that belongs to the good people at the AP wire, zap2it.com, superherohype.com, the invaluable imdb.com and various other places around the World Wide Whatchamacallit who thus far have been kind enough not to sue me. Now THAT'S superheroic! Click the movie title to see the latest trailers or stills or whatever else I could find.

In more or less chronological order, we will be seeing the following soon:

Iron Man -- Due in theaters at the beginning of May, Jon Favreau's adaptation of Marvel's alcoholic metal man may be the most promising of the lot. Of course, we've seen more of it than any of the others, but that's not always a good thing. In this case, it is. Robert Downey Jr. seems perfectly cast as Tony Stark, the man inside the machine, and his co-stars are all pure A-list. Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges complete what could be the most prestigious cast ever in a funny book story. This is the first film released by the new film division of Marvel Entertainment and they undoubtedly have a lot invested in its success. My anticipation level: Panting!

The Incredible Hulk -- Another Marvel stalwart comes to theaters, this one a month after Tony Stark and co. The Powers That Be are adamant that this is NOT -- do you hear? NOT! -- a sequel to Ang Lee's film about the same character which everybody else hates, but which I kinda liked. With the great Edward Norton taking over the role of Bruce Banner, this reboot for Marvel's jade giant has one enormous asset. The director is Louis Leterrier of the Transporter films, so that bodes well on the action front. My anticipation level: Guarded.

Wanted -- Also in June, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov helms this adaptation of the comics mini-series of the same name. Created by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones, Wanted is the story of a cubicle slave who discovers he's the next in line for a supervillainous inheritance. James McAvoy (Atonement) stars with Angelina Jolie, who plays a Catwoman-esque character known (appropriately) as "Fox." This is described as a "loose" adaptation of the comic -- which is often a warning sign that they've thrown the source material out the window. I'm not overly familiar with the original miniseries, but the premise has possibilities. What little we've seen in trailers so far is stylish and intriguing. My anticipation level: Interested.

The Dark Knight -- Due in July, and forever marked as the last film Heath Ledger completed before his sad demise, Christopher Nolan's second go-round with the Batman mythos gives us a modern updating of the Joker and introduces District Attorney Harvey Dent -- played by Aaron Eckhart -- who is destined to become another Bat villain, Two-Face. From the brief trailer images, I'm not entirely sold on Heath Ledger's decayed, glowering take on the Joker, but I'm eager to see the full performance. Nolan did a very nice job on Batman Begins and it looks like his whole crew is back again for this sequel, with the notable exception of celebrity breeder Katie Holmes, replaced here by Maggie Gyllenhaal. My anticipation level: High and rising with (if I'm being honest, which I am) a dash of morbidity.

Watchmen -- Zack Snyder's film of the landmark Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece has just wrapped filming and is due in March of 2009. Only a few still images have been released to the public, but each has looked exactly like a panel of the comic (including the one you can see by clicking the title). Watchmen is an intricate, difficult story that takes a jaundiced look at superheroics and I wonder about the capability of any film to capture its essence. Film is a visceral medium and it's hard to resist the lure of the slam and the bang. But Snyder has said all encouraging things in the press and I'm rooting hard for him and this movie. My anticipation level: Eager with just a touch of dread.

The on-again, off-again Justice League film that George Miller is slated to direct looks like it is on again after nearly being scuttled by the writer's strike. It would be due in Summer 2009. And this Summer, we're also getting the new Indiana Jones movie and a Speed Racer film. Neither is technically a comics adaptation or a superhero picture, but both have a comic-book feel to them and have been featured in comics in the past. Call them Honorable Mentions. My anticipation level: Justice League -- High; Speed Racer -- Middling; Indiana Jones -- High with a splash of weariness.

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