With “Spider-Man 2” already
making cash registers overheat and Halle Berry’s “Catwoman” about
to scratch out a turnstile niche, July is looking like
comic-book movie heaven.
summer heats up any further and the pages of this magazine
start sticking together, we take a look at the
comic book movies slated to appear after this month (and
not necessarily incorporating animal-derived superpowers).
The last time this
magazine focused on funny-book cinema [February
the DC movie universe (at least the
one inhabited by the Man of Steel and Caped Crusader)
dormant, mired in developmental difficulties. There
was talk at the time of Ashley Judd starring in a “Catwoman” movie,
and of Keanu Reeves being sought to play Zatanna’s
DC sorcerer pal John Constantine, but nothing had yet
been greenlighted. What a difference 18 months makes.
of Gotham City’s feline menace marks
Warner Bros.’ first visit to the big-screen DC universe
since “Batman & Robin” and “Steel” stumbled
seven summers ago, and heralds a stampede of DC projects
finally headed our way.
Keanu Reeves definitely
has the title role in “Constantine,” based
on a DC-owned character created in the pages of “Swamp
Thing” by Alan
Moore (“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”).
The movie teams the titular occult investigator with a
female police officer as they pursue the fallen angel Gabriel.
Music video director Francis Lawrence (POD’s “Alive,” Shakira’s “Whenever
Wherever”) makes his feature directorial debut from
a screenplay by Kevin Brodbin (“The Glimmer Man”),
Mark Bomback and Frank Cappello. Rachel Weisz (“Envy”)
plays the cop, Tilda Swinton (“Young Adam”)
the angel. Bush vocalist Gavin Rossdale (“Zoolander”),
Shia LaBeeuf (“The Battle of Shaker Heights”),
Pruitt Taylor Vince (“Monster”) and Djimon
Hounsou (“In America”) also star. Warner Bros.
conjures it in February.
“Batman Begins” depicts the first time Bruce
Wayne donned the cape and cowl – as the billionaire
vigilante deals with a not-entirely-appreciative police
force and tangles with criminal mastermind Ra’s Al
Ghul. Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Insomnia”)
directs from a screenplay by Nolan and David Goyer (the “Blade” trilogy).
Christian Bale (“Reign of Fire,” “Laurel
Canyon”) stars as Wayne, Michael Caine (“Secondhand
Lions,” “The Statement”) puts on the
cutaway coat of Wayne’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Other co-stars include Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”)
as Ra’s, Katie Holmes (“Pieces of April”)
as a childhood friend of Wayne’s, Liam Neeson (“Love
Actually”) as mentor Henri Ducard, Morgan Freeman
(“The Big Bounce”) as former Wayne Enterprises
board member Lucius Fox, Rutger Hauer (“Confessions
of a Dangerous Mind”) as Mr. Earle, Tom Wilkinson
(“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) as
Carmine Falcone, Cillian Murphy (“Intermission”)
as Dr. Jonathan Crane, and Gary Oldman (“Harry Potter
and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) as police lieutenant
James Gordon. Warner Bros. runs it up the Bat pole June
And Superman ends? The death of Kryptonian
emigrant Kal-El was once the premise behind “Superman.” The
latest script by J.J. Abrams (“Armageddon,” TV’s “Alias”)
reportedly “re-imagines” the DC Comics legend,
and features a disgruntled CIA scientific investigator
named Lex Luthor and a planet Krypton that doesn’t
explode. McG (the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise)
was reportedly set to direct. Jake Gyllenhaal (“The
Day After Tomorrow”) was rumored to be in the running
for the title role. Those reportedly in contention to essay
Lois Lane include Keira Knightley (“Love Actually”),
Natalie Portman (“Cold Mountain”), Scarlett
Johansson (“The Perfect Score”), and Elisha
Cuthbert (“The Girl Next Door”). Ben Kingsley
(“House of Sand and Fog”) has been whispered
about for the role of Superman’s biological father,
Jor-El. 2006 looks like the earliest this feverishly developed
project might be released by Warner Bros.
And just because Time Warner has gotten
serious about exploiting its stable of DC superheroes
does not mean the
folks at Marvel Enterprises are resting on their laurels.
2004 is the company’s busiest movie year to date,
with “The Punisher” and “Spider-Man 2” already
in cinemas, and two others invading moviehouses this autumn.
Deep from the fetid swamps of Louisiana
and the imagination of “Howard the Duck” creator Steve Gerber comes “Man-Thing.” It’s
the story of a scientist who injects himself with an experimental
serum to keep it from being misused by others. The formula
changes him into a terrifying creature that is helplessly
attracted to human fear. Brett Leonard (“The Lawnmower
Man,” “Virtuosity”) directs from a screenplay
by Hans Rodionoff. It stars Matthew Le Nevez (“Garage
Days”), Jack Thompson (“Star Wars: Episode
II – Attack of the Clones”), Rawiri Paratene
(“Whale Rider”), Patrick Thompson (“The
Seventh Floor”), William Zappa (“Bootmen”)
and Imogen Bailey (Australian TV’s “Home and
Away”), and newcomer Rachel Taylor as Teri Richards.
The Lions Gate release oozes into theatres sometime in
“Blade: Trinity” is the third in the lucrative “Blade” franchise.
Written and directed by David S. Goyer (“Zigzag”),
who also scripted the first two “Blade” movies.
Other returnees include Wesley Snipes (“Undisputed”)
as the title character and Kris Kristofferson (“Planet
of the Apes”) as Whistler. Jessica Biel (“Texas
Chainsaw Massacre”) co-stars as, er, Whistler’s
daughter. Parker Posey (“The Event”) and Ryan
Reynolds (“The In-Laws”) have also joined the
cast. New Line expects it to make the cut Dec. 10.
“Elektra” is a sequel of sorts. The “Daredevil” spin-off
is based on two Marvel stories: “The Elektra Assassin” and “The
Elektra Saga.” Jennifer Garner (“13 Going on
30”) reprises her role as the beautiful and deadly
assassin trained by The Hand, a clan of mystical ninjas.
When she turns her back on them, they want her head. Terence
Stamp (“The Haunted Man-sion”) stars as her
blind mentor, Stick, with Goran Visnjic (“Close Your
Eyes”) as Mark Millar, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Planet
of the Apes”) as Roshi, Colin Cunning-ham (“Anti-Trust”)
as McCabe, Natassia Malthe (“A Guy Thing”)
as Typhoid Mary, Hiro Kanagawa (“Josie and the Pussycats”)
as Meizumi, and Will Yun Lee (“Torque”) as
the primary bad guy, Kirigi. Rob Bowman (“Reign of
Fire”) directs from a screenplay by Henry Bean (“The
Believer”) and Raven Metzner. Fox has wired in a
Feb. 18 release date.
“Fantastic Four,” due July 1 of next year,
follows a quartet of scientific adventurers who find themselves
transformed during an experiment into four super-powered
beings – the highly elastic Mr. Fantastic, the force-field-generating
Invisible Girl, the flying Human Torch, and the grotesque,
super-strong Thing. Tim Story (“Barbershop”)
was set to direct from a screenplay by Michael France (“The
Punisher”) and Mark Frost (“Storyville”).
No cast has been announced, but shooting is reportedly
set to commence in August or September.
Thomas Jane signed a contract for three “Punisher” features.
Number two, aptly named “The Punisher II,” is
planned for fall 2005 release by Lions Gate. Writer-director
Jonathan Hensleigh, who made his directorial debut on the “Punisher” released
earlier this year, is also on board. It remains to be seen
who else survives the carnage of part one.
“X-Men 3” is due May 5, 2006 from Fox. Presumably,
a script and solid casting information will be due sometime
earlier. Returnees from earlier installments are expected
to include director Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects,” “Apt
Pupil”) as well as Hugh Jackman (“Van Helsing”)
as Logan, Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: Nemesis”)
as Charles Xavier, Ian McKellen (the “Lord of the
Rings” series) as Erik Lensheer, Famke Janssen (“I
Spy”) as the late Dr. Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey,
James Marsden (“The Notebook”) as Scott “Cyclops” Summers,
Halle Berry (“Catwoman”) as Ororo “Storm” Munroe,
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (“The Punisher”) as Mystique,
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Anna
Paquin (“25th Hour”) as Marie “Rogue” D’Ancanto
and Alan Cumming (“Spy Kids 3D”) as Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner.
“Luke Cage,” is a science fiction adventure
about a young African-American prisoner who gains superhuman
powers after he volunteers for dangerous experiments in
exchange for his freedom. John Singleton (“Shaft,” “Baby
Boy,” “2 Fast 2 Furious”) was set to
direct from a screenplay by Ben Ramsey, (“Love and
a .45,” “The Big Hit”). “Baby Boy”-”2
Fast 2 Furious” star Tyrese was reportedly set to
star. Casting is reportedly already underway, so it may
not be unreasonable to expect the “hero for hire” to
migrate into cinemas by next year.
Even before Spidey shook off the cobwebs
and slung silk for the second time, Sony’s “box office sense” was
tingling, a sense which prompted the studio to greenlight
third installment of the record-breaking franchise for
release sometime in 2007. It would be reasonable to expect
the return of director Sam Raimi as well as actors Tobey
Maguire as Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, James
Franco as Harry Osborne, J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson,
Ted Raimi as Ted Hoffman, Rosemary Harris as Aunt May,
Elizabeth Banks as Betty Brandt, and perhaps even Bruce
Campbell as the snooty usher.
Finally, there are plans for two features based on Dark
Horse Comics properties.
“Son Of The Mask,” based on the Dark Horse
comic book and the realization that the services of Cameron
Diaz and Jim Carrey would be prohibitively expensive, is
a comedy fantasy about a man whose infant son gains superpowers
when the tot dons the mask of Loki. Lawrence Guterman (“Cats & Dogs”)
directed from a screenplay by Tom Gammill & Max Pross
(TV’s “Seinfeld”), Lance Khazei (“Romantic
Comedy”) and Rob McKittrick. Jamie Kennedy (“Malibu’s
Most Wanted”), Alan Cumming (“Spy Kids 3D:
Game Over”) and Bob Hoskins (“Maid in Manhattan”)
star. New Line gives us a peek Feb. 18.
Helmer Guillermo del Toro has signed
on for “Hellboy
2,” the sequel to Sony’s hit comic book feature.
The expected 2006 release is also expected to include the
original’s Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Selma Blair as
Liz Sherman, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, James Babson as
romantic rival Moss, and John Hurt.