DC Comics Brings The Ruckus
It landed on Comic Con like a bomb: in the follow-up to "Man of Steel," which not many of us really liked, Superman would come face to face with Batman. A quote was read onstage sourced from the seminal graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns," suggesting conflict between the last son of Krypton and an older, more bitter Caped Crusader. That description stuck as the WB shook the internet with news that former "Daredevil" Ben Affleck was going to don the cape and cowl, in a deal that likely joined Affleck with Warner Bros. for life after the staggering success of his “Argo” Best Picture win. We took a shot at guessing what this all meant.
That wasn’t all, however. What seemed like a teaming of two heroes started to look a bit more ambitious. The return of “Man of Steel” stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Harry Lennix, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne was already guaranteed, as well as a big name likely popping up as villain Lex Luthor. But the rumors about Nightwing and Doomsday surfaced, and it became clear this was not the superhero two-hander people were expecting. By the time Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, fans were excited about a coming superhero mash-up that would make “The Avengers” look like “The Avengers,” and by that we mean the 1998 film with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. As filming gears up to start in Michigan, casting rumors continue to pop up, suggesting we’re in for a long year of speculation before the film’s release in 2015.
The Others Follows Suit
Marvel had a relatively quiet year as far as industry-shaping news. “Iron Man 3,” the year’s biggest film, became their second straight billion dollar hit, and the mostly-alright “Thor: The Dark World” handily outgrossed its predecessor, while Comic Con fans got to experience a first-look at this year’s ambitious “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and the new title for "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron." They have untitled releases set for 2016 and 2017, but remain quiet about what those might be, instead opting to subtly, but aggressively, push “Ant-Man” to a prime summer release date and launch a development deal with Netflix. In comparison, Sony, who owns “Spider-Man,” was a relative romper room of activity, and it’s their actions that may be the most influential as far as how blockbuster filmmaking happens in the next few years.
Before the 2012 release of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Sony announced a
release date for this year’s sequel. But they topped that in ’13 by selecting
release dates for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” (2016) and “The Amazing Spider-Man
4” (2018) a year before the release of the second film. Then, in a
strategy nakedly similar to Marvel, they announced a “Venom” film for writer/director
Alex Kurtzman (“People Like Us”) and a “Sinister Six” spinoff written by and
likely helmed by Drew Goddard (“Cabin In The Woods”). But crediting these films
to a single director might get dicey: Sony announced these films as part of a
franchise “brain trust,” one that involved Goddard and Kurtzman collaborating
with Roberto Orci, Ed Solomon and Jeff Pinkner to ensure that these films all
informed each other as far as stories, themes, and ideas, basically working on
a series of films like a television staff would for a show. Comparatively, Fox’s
announcement of 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” felt like small fries. None of this seems good for the industry.
You Will Be Missed
It was a difficult year for the passing of acting legends, none bigger than Peter O’Toole. The “Lawrence Of Arabia” icon passed on in December at the age of 81. O’Toole lived a full life, and leaves behind an endless collection of great roles. More surprising was the loss of James Gandolfini, the beloved “Sopranos” actor who is posthumously earning Oscar talk for “Enough Said,” where audiences got to witness his sweet, bearish charisma one more time. Gandolfini will also be seen in 2014’s “Animal Rescue,” the final role of a prolific character acting career. Other losses this year include Joan Fontaine, Michael Winner, Ray Harryhausen, , Karen Black, and, most painfully to some of us, the great Roger Ebert.
The unlikeliest passing of the year might be 40 year-old Paul Walker, an established leading man who made his name on the back of the “Fast And Furious” series. Sadly, his death created a massive obstacle for his final project, the seventh feature in the “Fast And Furious” franchise. With only half of his role completed, debates circulated internally as to whether they should eliminate the Walker footage already shot and write his Brian O'Connor out of the series, or if they had enough usable material to shoot around his absence. Ultimately, Universal pushed the film’s release back a full year in order to accommodate a retooled film, allowing O'Connor, an integral part of the beloved series, to drive off into the sunset unharmed.
A Disturbance In The Force
After the 2012 snatching of Lucasfilms by Disney, most assumed that the studio’s bold plans for a new “Star Wars” would come together quickly. Not so fast: it took months to reveal that the man offered the keys to the kingdom would be “Star Trek” re-inventor J.J. Abrams (we have some thoughts on this). But what followed were twelve months of nothing but endless rumors and conjecture, and we had to wait until November to actually get a release date for the film. It still has no title, and there are still no concrete plans for the alleged spinoff films that Disney will spread around their annual schedule (though we have some ideas). Instead, the project switched a writer, while literally every major actor in Hollywood (we mean literally) was linked to a part in the new series. There's a lot of time between now and December 18, 2015, but we know almost nothing about this movie. Well, at least we know John Williams is back.