Welcome to Marvelous Da7e, issue #31!
Ant-Man has moved into the July 31st 2015 spot vacated by Man of Steel 2, bringing it right at the edge of a 2015 Summer of Marvel Phase transition. We know Edgar Wright has some sort of comedic heist-like movie with Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, adding to the Cinematic Universe’s Heroic (Modern) and … Silver Age?
Captain America knew Howard Stark before he solved his unborn-child’s future arc reactor poisoning problem by building a World’s Fair in the design of an atom, and the announced Agent Carter TV series (and the One Shot it’s spinning off from) take place in Post-WWII America when S.H.I.E.L.D. is formed. Hank Pym, if he’s Douglas’ age, would have been born around the time Agent Carter takes place which strangely would make him active around Hank Pym’s 1962 debut in the real world.
In honor of Ant-Man’s time-travelling forward toward us, Scott Collura of IGN made a video that does a quick retrospective of Hank Pym and Scott Lang as they appear in the comic books. It’s cool to have a video, because there’s panels from the 1960s up to Age of Ultron (the comics) in the video, plus some stuff from Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes just so it isn’t all stills.
I could watch videos like this all day.
DOUBTS OF FUTURE PAST
It’s a roller-coaster of emotions caring about X-Men: Days of Future Past. The way the film is presenting itself is puzzling, because it’s embracing a part of the fandom, but hugging us too hard and now it’s getting weird.
The announcement of X-Men: Days of Future Past was exciting for two reasons: 1) The X-Men: First Class sequel was going to include the original X-Men cast and bring the franchise films together and 2) Bryan Singer was returning to the franchise direct.
Now, both of those things are rotting under the hot lights of constant media attention. On #1, the saga of Anna Paquin’s Rogue tells an unsettling story. She was on set to cameo in the future segments of the movie, but her entire sequence and therefore her character were cut from the film, yet - this week she was on one of the covers of Empire Magazine. How essential was Oscar-winning Anna Paquin to the movie if she could be cut and if this is going to be the Oceans 12 of X-Men movies, is this just going to be a bunch of cameos?
Marvel comics made a name for themselves letting their heroes overlap in the same world and letting those character dynamics play out, letting readers find new characters that you can follow off into their own comics. The comics industry in general is used to reboots and retroactive continuity from back in the days comics were considered a kid’s medium and once a boy grew into a young man, efforts were re-focused towards drawing in the new generation of boys. But when fanaticism met superheroes, continuity became an issue. Letters columns would ask questions about old storylines that seemed to contradict current character developments. Once, in the 70s, an editor changed a line of dialogue in a Jack Kirby Captain America comic that described a spaceship as “the first alien craft” to breach Earth’s atmosphere, almost accidentally retconning over a decade of Marvel stories (Kirby stories, even!) and characters out of existence.
All of that is to say that the history of the creators of these beloved superheroes are generally trying to make one story work more than they are concerned about how that story changes a single universe. So, the promise that the old cast and the new cast are going to merge into one big movie, after enough time thinking about it, is just about that moment where they’re all at the premiere, it doesn’t guarantee any sort of character fidelity. As a fan of the attempts to use time travel to fix plot problems, I think I misinterpreted what Fox wanted me to get excited about. They want me to be excited about how many big name stars are in this superhero movie, I was excited that all the X-Men movies took place in the same universe and maybe there was a way to explain how multiple origin stories for all the popular characters have already made it to screen. Now I realize they’re not worried about that. And maybe they shouldn’t be and I was just over-reacting.
2) Bryan Singer might not be up to the task of directing a Heroic Age superhero blockbuster. His superhero movies are his only movies that gross over $100 million dollars and outside of that, with the exception of Usual Suspects, are forgettable efforts. He has clout with the superhero fan community because he’s braved the X-Men waters since the beginning. He sold us all on a Hugh Jackman Wolverine when we all knew he was too tall and made those suits work. He brought the team to life in X2 in a way that made everyone realize what a multi-star effects movie could do.
The thing is that those movies don’t hold up in a post-Avengers universe where superhero blockbuster movies are more about distilling the character and planting it in a recognizable genre. Marvel’s Phase One didn’t blow away Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy because Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk didn’t know well enough to diversify their genre (Thor had it’s Shakespearean drama angle, Captain America was basically The Rocketeer) while Nolan was making a meditation on crime in a major metropolitan city. Iron Man 3 had a noir twist and managed to elevate that character, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is supposed to be a political thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy is a whacked-out Star Wars and Avengers 2 is the sequel to the highest grossing comic book movie of all time. And even with that knowledge, Joss Whedon is name-dropping The Godfather Part II as his inspiration because he knows the movie’s plot has to be self-interesting while serving as a build for his characters. We can recognize superheroes now. It’s no longer interesting to just be Batman, you have to be Batman in a giant allegory. And those allegories can go a lot of places as long as there’s a recognizable Bat-Core.
I just don’t think anything I’ve seen from Bryan Singer makes me feel like he understands this. The designs of the X-Men are horrible once again. Everything that was fun about the snappy feel of X-Men: First Class has been greyed out. We’re finally getting to Sentinels through some sort of retcon, but the Sentinels of the future - the ones we’ll see first - are unrecognizable as Sentinels, and I don’t think they’re even Sentinel-sized at most times. Production designer John Myhre describes them like so:
“They're biomechanical weapons. We had to come up with what would be the ultimate version that could actually, in principle, stop the X-Men. We started with this idea that they were almost made up of magnetic plates slapped over one another, imagining that the plates could contract or grow, so the Sentinel can be skinny to get through a small space or the plates can open up to become a bigger shape. So they have become virtually unstoppable.”
There’s precedent for this. Remember the other giant purple guy who was made into a swarming consciousness cloud? That’d be Galactus from horrid Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
This is what it looks like when design and a single movie overtakes the fidelity to the character that is what has lead to successful blockbuster superhero movies. There’s a reason Hugh Jackman has been in a ton of movies as Wolverine, most not that good, but we keep coming back to see him do it again: Jackman is owning his portrayal of the character. I just get the feeling that Bryan Singer thinks it’s cool to have two Magnetos in his movie because one is Ian McKellen and one is Michael Fassbender.
I’d love to be proved wrong by this, to have Wolverine time-travelled to his pre-Origins timeline, messing with it and allowing the over-designed future where Quicksilver wears a walkman to go the way of Vulcan in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. I can let go of everything about the X-Men Universe that isn’t Hugh Jackman as long as there’s a commitment to the story we’re telling (in this case, I’m also worried we’re just shaking the etch-a-sketch again so Apocalypse can bridge the First Class Cast with the new Fantastic Four cast in 4 years, but I digress…).
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