Back To The
by Patrick Corcoran
The comic-book heroes could scarcely be busier!
Last year’s “Spider-Man 2” came within
webbing distance of its 2002 prequel’s $405 million
domestic theatrical gross. If “Elektra” garnered
less than electrifying revenues, its fellow pre-summer
comic-book releases, “Constantine” and “Sin
City,” have each already tallied north of $70 million.
(And don’t even get us started on faux superhero-comic
moves like “The Incredibles” and “Sky
DC Comics’ Batman makes on June 17
his first big-screen flight in eight years.
And industry analysts – all mindful of the super-piles
of cash amassed by “Spider-Man,” “X2” and “Spider-Man
2” over the last three summers – will on July
8 begin scrutinizing the box office fortunes of Marvel
Comics stablemate “Fantastic Four.”
But what lies beyond the Fantastic? What’s
the cape-and-cowl crowd wearing in the months to come?
Read on ...
History Of Violence” is
a drama about an ordinary family whose patriarch unwillingly
becomes a national spectacle after, before an audience
of diner customers, he kills a man in self-defense. It’s
based on the DC comic book series created by John Wagner
and Vince Locke. David Cronenberg (“eXistenZ,” “Spider”)
directs from a screenplay by Josh Olson. Viggo Mortensen
(“Hidalgo”), Maria Bello (“Assault on
Precinct 13”), William Hurt (“The Village”),
Ed Harris (“Radio”) and Ashton Holmes co-star.
The New Line release aims for Sept. 30.
“V For Vendetta” is a dramatic thriller, set
in a futuristic, post-war totalitarian Britain, about a
young woman who unexpectedly becomes the ally of a revolutionary
who relies on terrorist tactics to fight political oppressors.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore (“From Hell,” “The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), it features
the first-unit feature directorial debut of longtime second-unit
director James McTeigue (the “Matrix” series, “Star
Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”),
who works from a screenplay by “Matrix” masterminds
the Wachowski Brothers (the “Matrix” series).
Natalie Portman (“Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge
of the Sith”), James Purefoy (“Vanity Fair”),
Rupert Graves (“Extreme Ops”), Stephen Fry
(“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”)
and Stephen Rea (“Evelyn”) star. Warner Bros.
assures us the revolution will not be televised; rather
it will be in theatres Nov. 4.
To the surprise of no one familiar
with the X-Men comics, pretty telekinetic doctor Jean
Grey is resurrected as the
vastly more powerful Phoenix entity in Fox’s “X-Men
3.” The Marvel mutants are also expected in this
chapter to contend with Charles Xavier’s brawny-but-evil
stepbrother Cain Marko, also known as The Juggernaut. Bryan
Singer, who helmed “X-Men” and “X2,” is
now busy with the new “Superman” movie, so
Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) directs from
a screenplay by Simon Kinberg (“XXX: State of the
Union,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Fantastic
Four”) and Zak Penn (“Elektra”). Expected
to reprise their roles from the last two installments are
Patrick Stewart (“Racing Stripes”) as Xavier,
Famke Janssen (“Hide and Seek”) as Grey, Hugh
Jackman (“Van Helsing”) as Wolverine, Ian McKellen
(“Asylum”) as Magneto, James Marsden (“The
Notebook”) as Cyclops, Halle Berry (“Catwoman”)
as Storm, Anna Paquin (“25th Hour”) and Shawn
Ashmore (“Strike,” “Dot”) as Iceman.
Returnees from “X2” will likely include Daniel
Cudmore (“Alone in the Dark”) as Colossus,
Aaron Stanford (“Spartan”) as Pyro and Alan
Cumming (“Son of the Mask”) as Nightcrawler.
Former British footballer Vinnie Jones (“Eurotrip”)
was reportedly set to play Juggernaut. The Fox franchise
rises from the ashes May 26, 2006.
The “X2” team of director Bryan Singer, screenwriters
Michael Dogherty & Dan Harris and actors James Marsden
and Hugh Jackman, meanwhile, reteam for “Superman
Returns.” It’s about what happens when the
man of steel returns from what he thought was an outer
space adventure of only a few days, and discovers that
several years have elapsed on Earth – and that his
adopted planet has grown accustomed to a world without
a Superman. Brandon Routh (TV’s “One Life to
Live”) stars as Clark Kent, Kate Bosworth (“Beyond
the Sea”) as Lois Lane, Kevin Spacey (“Beyond
the Sea”) as Lex Luthor, Sam Huntington (“Sleepover”)
as Jimmy Olsen, Frank Langella (“House of D”)
as Perry White, Eva Marie Saint (“Because of Winn-Dixie”)
as Martha Kent, Jackman (“X-Men 3”) as young
Jonathan Kent, James Marsden (“The Notebook”)
as Richard White, Parker Posey (“Blade: Trinity”)
as Kitty Koslowski, James Karen (“Mulholland Dr.”)
as Ben Hubbard and Kal Penn (“Son of the Mask”)
as Stanford. Warner Bros. leaps tall summer tent-poles
in a single bound to a June 30, 2006 release.
“Ghost Rider,” based on the classic Marvel
character, is about a motorcycle stunt performer named
Johnny Blaze who is cursed to spend his nights as host
to a fiery spirit of vengeance. Mark Steven Johnson (“Daredevil”)
directs from a script by Johnson and Shane Salerno (“Shaft,” “Night
Train”). Comic book collector Nicolas Cage (“The
Weather Man”) stars with Wes Bentley (“The
Game of Their Lives”), Sam Elliott (“Hulk”),
Donal Logue (“American Splendor”) and Eva Mendes
(“Hitch”). Sony isn’t spooked by an Aug.
4, 2006 release.
“Zoom,” based on Jason Lethcoe’s 2001
indie comic “Zoom’s Academy For The Super Gifted,” is
about a retired superman who must team with a new generation
of superheroes to avert the Earth’s destruction.
Peter Hewitt (“Garfield”) directs from a screenplay
by Adam Rifkin (“Mousehunt,” “Small Soldiers”),
David Berenbaum (“Elf”), and Tim Allen & Matt
Carroll (the upcoming “Shaggy Dog” remake”).
Tim Allen (“Christmas With The Kranks”) and
Courtney Cox (“The Longest Yard”) star in the
Sony comedy, which goes into production in July for release
A formal announcement came in March
the Vampire Slayer” mastermind Joss Whedon, no stranger
to superpowered females, would write and direct the first
big-screen version of DC’s “Wonder Woman.” Whedon,
whose feature directorial debut is the Sept. 30 release “Serenity,” says
his version of the Amazon princess will be younger than
many might expect, and that Lynda Carter-style “star-spangled
panties” will not be a component of the superheroine’s
wardrobe. Warner Bros. hopes to lasso a 2006 release date.
Based on the seminal 1986-1987 graphic
novel written by Alan Moore (“V For Vendetta”), DC’s “Watchmen” is
the tale of a disturbed vigilante ex-superhero trying to
track down the mystery man who killed one of his fellow
former costumed crime fighters. Paul Greengrass (“The
Bourne Supremacy”) directs from a reportedly faithful
screenplay adaptation by David Hayter (“X-Men”).
The one-time Universal project is now on hold at Paramount
due to a the weakened dollar vs. the British pound, as
well as uncertainty over tax breaks that may not be forthcoming.
If alternative locations to the now too costly British
ones can be found soon, an expected 2006 release date may
still be make-able.
Lions Gate is targeting a 2006 release
Punisher 2,” a sequel to the modest 2004 hit about
Marvel’s peeved federal agent and bringer-of-mayhem
Frank Castle. Look for it to reunite the “Punisher” team
of writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh and star Thomas Jane
“Deathlok” is another Marvel title with a
director (Paul McGuigan of “Gangster No. 1” and “Wicker
Park” fame) and a script (by “Road to Perdition” scribe
David Self and “Elektra” vets Raven Metzner & Stu
Zicherman), but no cast. It’s about a man who discovers
he has been transformed into a cyborg with a brain that
is now part-computer. Paramount also has a grip on a 2006
“Hellboy 2” will see the title character continue
his pursuit of evildoers (and a certain young woman who
can start fires telekinetically – like a guy from
Hell needs that!). Returnees from the original include
writer-director Guillermo del Toro (“Mimic,” “Blade
II”) and actors Ron Perlman (“Looney Tunes:
Back in Action”) as Hellboy, Selma Blair (“A
Dirty Shame”) as fetching firestarter Liz Sherman
and Doug Jones as psychic gill-man Abe Sapien. Sony is
keeping a 2006 release date warm.
Marvel Enterprises announced April
28 that Paramount would soon distribute a number of movies
tied to some of its
most popular characters, including its superhero group
The Avengers. We’ll speculate that the Avengers movie,
to avoid being confused with the 1960s TV show and 1998
movie about John Steed and Emma Peel, may ultimately go
out to cinemas titled “The Ultimates.” (This
potential big-screen title conflict is likely why Marvel
adopted the “Ultimates” name for its revamped
Avengers title in 2001, not long after the release of the
first blockbuster “X-Men” feature.)
It’s unclear which heroes will comprise Paramount’s
version of The Ultimates, since many of its most well-known
members have deals at other studios. Hulk, for example,
makes his home at Universal. Another Ultimates member,
Iron Man, is docked at New Line. We do know that at least
two major players in the Ultimates comic-book saga, superspy
Nick Fury and supersoldier Captain America, are among the
characters Marvel intends to employ under its Paramount
deal. The first of the Paramount Marvels is currently expected
to see release in late 2006 or early 2007.
Regular Next! readers know that director Sam Raimi, screenwriter
Alvin Sargent, and actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst
and James Franco – “Spider-Man 2” vets
all – are aboard for “Spider-man 3.” The
Black Cat is said to serve as the installment’s supervillainess.
At press time, it seemed 99-percent certain that the supervillain
played by Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”)
is the shape-shifting Sandman. Our Sony-sense tells us
to expect a May 4, 2007 release.
Man” is based on a Marvel character
named Tony Stark, a gravely ill industrialist who designs
a high-tech suit of armor that allows him to fly and fight
evil. Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) is said
to still be in the running to direct from a screenplay
by Cassavetes, David Hayter (“Watchmen”) and
Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (“Shanghai Knights,” TV’s “Smallville”).
In April, New Line moved its release date from 2006 to
Word came down in December that another
high-profile director not known for comic-book films
would take the helm of Marvel’s “The
Sub-Mariner.” “Harry Potter” helmer Chris
Columbus directs this tale of Namor, a prince of Atlantis
who battles the surface-dwellers who threaten his undersea
empire. The screenplay is by David Self (“Deathlok”).
Universal expects it to surface sometime in 2007.
Multiple sources report that writer-director
Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “The Adventures of Shark
Boy and Lava Girl”) will begin shooting “Sin
City 2” and “Sin City 3” back-to-back,
beginning next February. They’ll be based on more
of the stories found in Frank Miller’s graphic novels.
Warner Bros. announced in December
that David Goyer – who
wrote “Batman Begins” and wrote and directed “Blade:
Trinity” – was signed to write and direct “The
Flash,” based on the DC property about a young man
transformed by a lab accident into the fastest man alive.
Goyer has hinted that he’s keen to cast Ryan Reynolds
(“The Amityville Horror”), who played Hannibal
King in “Blade: Trinity,” as Flash alter-ego