Tag Archives: Marvel Films

iFeature | MARVEL STUDIOS 10 Years… Not Just a Phase (Part 1)

In the beginning, 10 years ago, it would have hardly been imaginable that a cinematic universe was in the making, now Marvel Studios has redefined the “blockbuster” and it all began something invincible, incredible and mighty!

The summer movie landscape was always the playground for Hollywood’s big-budget bonanzas! The studios figured it was the most operative and lucrative of opportunities to roll-out the popcorn fair, and it gave them the funds to drop big money into their prestigious Fall Movie releases, which were often star-power draws and dramas ready for awards season. It all started to drastically change when the studios started to see big box office returns from genre-faves like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men.

Warner Bros. always had itself a cash cow with the Batman franchise, but when the studio decided to reboot the franchise and handed it over to visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan Batman Begins jumpstarted a whole new way to envision the superhero film. Marvel was starting to pick up on this as well, and although it saw an interesting swing handing Ang Lee Hulk in 2003, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films were really the path of least resistance for Marvel to take, especially if its plans to control how their properties got adapted to screen was to materialize.

When Kevin Feige the president of Marvel Studios inherited the reigns, Feige imagined something not unlike the popular pulp series books that Marvel Comics introduced and had been publishing for 80 years. He saw a universe of interconnected stories, stand-alone film franchise with characters that inhabited the same linear narrative and would potentially interact with one another, and when the time was right — the people, their stories and worlds would intersect into one — just like the superheroes that Stan Lee brought to life in the Marvel Universe of comics.

Marvel Studios IRON MAN

In 2008 Marvel Studios took its biggest gamble, and it paid off when it handed the reigns of Iron Man to director Jon Favreau. The largely untested filmmaker had certainly carved a niche for himself in comedies and starred in several of his own features, but Favreau had a very deep understanding of the technological wonder that is the character and was a natural fit to bring The Invincible Iron Man to the big screen. The story goes that Favreau called in several favors, including reaching out to Academy Award Winner Gwyneth Paltrow to appear in the film.

The director’s greatest advantage came from landing Robert Downey, Jr. to star as billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who after getting kidnapped by terrorists who want him to build them super weapons instead constructs for himself a life-saving armor. Stark becomes the Iron Man and heralds in a new hit at the box office. Iron Man took in a gross of 585.2 million and inspires a new movement with the post-credits “stinger”. At the conclusion of his epic battle with Iron-Monger (Jeff Bridges), Stark is approached by a mysterious secret agent with a proposal.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury suggests to Stark that it’s the beginning of a New Age and that he’s recruiting a team to tackle the threats that will require some “avenging”. This stinger sent a seismic shift through Hollywood introducing the idea of “The Avengers Initiative” — and the Marvel Studio cinematic universe was born! Favreau and Feige had a plan, a bigger picture in mind, a narrative that would run a thread through several big-screen franchises, but lead to a larger scale adventure the realm of which audiences couldn’t imagine would ever make it to the big screen.

Marvel Studios THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Perhaps the unlikeliest follow-up to the success of Iron Man was the release of The Incredible Hulk especially given how recently the big Green Goliath had been adapted for the big screen. Ang Lee took a stab at the monster’s story five-years earlier with his near art house adaptation starring Eric Bana. Credits were not amused and that movies ending left a lot to be desired, but Marvel Studios plowed forward with a “reboot” with Louis Leterrier in the director’s chair and Edward Norton now filling the role of the gamma radiated Dr. Bruce Banner.

The film almost feels like a sequel to its predecessor, although it recasts all the major roles including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and William Hurt as General Ross, who has made it his mission to hunt down the fugitive Banner who has proven most elusive. Banner has taken to moving all over the world in an endless and tireless quest to contain the beast within him; that proves precarious when Banner gets wind of a possible cure and resurfaces. Ross has also recruited the bloodthirsty Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) — who becomes an Abomination!

The film was received with mixed reviews, but still made a dent with a take of 263.4 million in box-office; not Iron Man numbers but still proving lucrative by studio expectations. The film, in fact, did exactly perform as anticipated and served to set the ball rolling. The inclusion of a particularly important moment, at the end of the flick established Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) in this world with an interest in Banner’s extra angry alter ego. This may not have set well with the movie’s star. It had been reported that Edward Norton clashed often with the film’s director and producers.

Norton had his own ideas about how the story should have progressed and was very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the final edit. The actor had been approached about continuing with the role, and it was also rumored that Robert Downey, Jr. was brought in to persuade the actor to stay on with the studio. It appeared that Marvel Studios would have other plans and the next time that the Hulk would appear on screen he would be embodied by a new actor that would make his mark and a smashing addition to the ensemble.

Marvel Studios Iron Man (2008) directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

Marvel Studios The Incredible Hulk (2008) directed by Louis Letterrier and starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William hurt is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

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ICYMI | SONY Pulls SPIDER-MAN Out of the MCU

Sony and Disney can’t come to an agreement! Keeping Spider-Man far from home and out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least for the immediate future! 

Oh what a tangled web indeed! After years of back and forth, Sony and Disney had finally come to an agreement that allowed the studio to share custody of one of Marvel Studios biggest brands Spider-Man. After a series of very successful box office hits in the early 2000s starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst directed by Sam Raimi, Sony sat comfortably with its winning piece of the Marvel Comic icon grabbing big-ticket sales and breaking records — before the summer movie landscape would appear littered with the competition.

It wasn’t long before the franchise would suffer from fatigue and with an underwhelming performance with its third installment, Sony found itself in the peculiar predicament as Marvel Studios started spinning out its “Expanded Cinematic Universe” with hit after hit starting with 2008’s Iron Man and followed by Thor and Captain America. Marvel waited patiently for the ownership rights of its titular web-slinger to drop our of Sony’s hands, especially after the critically panned Spider-Man 3. In an effort to stay on top Sony went to work on a “reboot”!

The 2012 effort The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield didn’t hit the mark as had been anticipated, and with it running counter to the eventual blockbuster Avengers fans began to speculate whether Peter Parker’s friendly neighbor superhero would ever find himself in the same league as his Marvel Studio headliners. The answer to that question would have to wait, and in 2016 Disney which had since purchased the Marvel brand and all of its properties (including the film projects) introduced Spider-Man into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War.

SPIDER-MAN: ™ FAR FROM HOME

Homecoming

By the 2017 release of Spider-Man: Homecoming which spotlighted Tom Holland the latest actor to wear the fancy red and blue suit, the latest reboot joyfully indoctrinated Peter Parker into the MCU with none other than Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) as the aspiring hero’s benefactor. The film was also released as a studio cooperative between Sony and Disney, granting Sony co-partnership in the distribution of the feature film, while giving Disney ownership over the placement of the character throughout its franchises. Spider-Man would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War.

And although it appeared that the web-slingers fate was sealed at the conclusion of that epic battle, the follow-up feature Avengers: Endgame reconstituted Spider-Man just in time for the hero to headline his next big theatrical outing. Spider-Man: Far From Home the fourth film to feature Holland as Spider-Man also proved box office gold for Sony giving it the largest opening for the franchise, with a worldwide hovering over 1 billion, making it the studio’s biggest grossing release ever. With that record set, it’s curious that the studios would through a kink into the works.

This week Sony and Disney announced that effective immediately, Spider-Man would be exiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe! That doesn’t mean the future of the character is hanging from a thin web strand, it means that Spider-Man will not be part of the shared expanded cinematic universe that Disney reigns over, and going forward Spidey can’t Marvel Team-Up with any captain or doctor he may have saddled up to recently, and as for that special relationship between Peter and Tony Stark — yeah, that’s gone too!

Spider-Man (Tom Holland) takes MJ (Zendaya) out for a spin in New York City at the conclusion of “Spider-Man: Far From Home”.

A Multiverse of Possibilities

[Warning: SPOILER ALERT] Could the filmmakers have foreseen this descent into disillusion? Given the subplot context of the Marvel Multiplex in Spider-Man: Far From Home with the villainous Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) duping Peter and SHIELD into thinking he was the last survivor from an alternate-earth in the multiverse and the success of the animated full-length feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could Sony had suspected that its partnership with Disney would become tarnished so quickly?

Inevitably this opens the way for Tom Holland (who apparently is locked in for 2 more pictures as is the franchise’s current director Jon Watts) to interact with Venom and expand on the much talked about inhabitants of the Spider-Verse. A film focused on the femme fatale Black Cat and one-time love interest of the web-slinger has been brandished about, so has another feature meant to capitalize on the hero’s rogues gallery. For a hot minute Sony had everyone waiting with bated breath on the arrival of The Sinister Six — it never happened.

With so many ideas to mine, perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea after all. With out the distraction of having to find a way to place mild-mannered high school student, turned Avenger, Peter Parker into a more elaborate storyline to service a grander theme, the future of the Spider-Man features could be far more incapsulated and center on the hero’s own trials and tribulations. With more than 6 decades of comic book stories to draw inspiration from, it could turn out far more profitable for Sony to hold onto the character.

Fans biggest fear though may be that away from the creative lead of Marvel’s chief creative mind Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, the Spider-Man brand will suffer without the proper amount of coddling and support from the bigger cast of characters. Certainly the upcoming slate of films on Marvel’s slate may not have to worry about it; without a “next” Avengers on the horizon, it may not even matter. In the meantime we’ll have to accept that Spidey may inevitably remain far from home and has reached his own endgame.

Spider-Man: Far From Home has gone on to become the top-grossing film in Sony Pictures entire history, taking its predecessor Skyfall down a notch with a worldwide gross of $1.1 billion.

iReview | VENOM

Street journalist Eddie Brock has just stumbled upon an alien invasion of epic proportions in Sony Pictures VENOM based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero, though don’t expect an ever-loving web-slinger to make any appearances!

The year was 2007 and although there weren’t very many superhero franchise films saturating the summer blockbuster season, genre-films were starting to make significant strides winning audiences and luring fans into the multiplex. Though clearly there were signs that fatigue was starting to set in — no where was that more evident than in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise and especially when it entered into its third installment. Spider-Man 3 didn’t enjoy the same critical appeal as its predecessors, neither did it ooze with charm.

In fact it oozed into obscurity and the critics pretty much tore it to shreds, inspiring Sony to immediately demand a “reboot”. Many cited that the film was particularly dense, having added too many extraneous characters — one in particular came at the demand of the studio. Hoping to send a more contemporary message, Sony requested that a modern villain be added to the line-up; particularly the studio requested that Venom be added into the mix. The black-clad alter-ego of Eddie Brock represented the antithesis of everything our hero stood for.

Unfortunately the character was largely lost in the melee that climaxed the film, but Sony held on to the property hopeful that one day they could resurrect the villain; holding most of the Spider-Man properties even as the web-slinger slipped through their grip (even after a pair of largely unpopular reboot attempts with a new Spidey under the hood). Now making good on their promise to steal some of Marvel Studio thunder, Sony unleashes Venon starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, and the unwitting host of the titular anti-hero.

Enough Superheroes

The idea of Venom as a stand-alone franchise is obscure enough, and the fact that Sony plowed ahead with the feature without incorporating Spider-Man into the origin story is simply arrogant. The studio, of course, is banking on the conceit that audiences are willing to accept “alternate facts” when it comes to their genre fandom and comic book favorites. It’s worked for HBO and their hit series Game Of Thrones which has gotten tired of waiting for fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin to complete his saga and decidedly spun the narrative in its own direction.

The entire CW primetime line-up has been switching up, enhancing and taking major liberties with its adaptation of DC Comics properties for upwards of a decade now, so theater goers shouldn’t be too traumatized with the creative directions that screenwriters have taken with director Ruben Fleischer’s vision of the slick black insidiously predatory goo from space that instead of piggy-banking on Peter Parker ends up latching onto Brock (Hardy) who is still a street reporter chasing down political scandals and civil injustices on the streets of San Fransisco.

When Brock gets assigned to profile visionary industrialist Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed at his hyper-secret lab complex, he takes the opportunity to grill Drake on the accusations surrounding his firm — accusations that Drake’s team of scientist are exposing innocent people to dangerously unstable antigenes and using them as lab rats. Drake doesn’t take it kindly to the possible exposure and instead goes about shattering Brock’s credibility and firing his lawyer girlfriend, Anne Weying played by Michelle Williams, effectively ending his relationship!

Two Is Company!

Down and out, Brock has become a mere reflection of himself until another opportunity to expose Carlton Drake as a threat presents itself. Sneaking into his lab, Brock is exposed to an alien symbiote that attaches itself to him; most of Drake’s attempts to merge with the alien have proven unsuccessful, but in Brock’s case “Venom” takes to Brock very easily. The two soon form an uneasy alliance, as Venom begins to comfortably set into his new surroundings (Brock) and reveals to Eddie that Drake intends on bringing a symbiote invasion force to Earth!

Drake bonds with the murderously fowl “Riot” and exerts a plan to launch a shuttle into space to intercept that asteroid home of the symbiotes. If Riot is successful, the human race will effectively be wiped out and replaced by the predatorily merciless creatures. It’s up to Brock and Venom, with the help of Anne, to thwart Drake/Riot’s plan and save the planet! Venom nearly sacrifices itself to save his human host, and Eddie returns the favor. The two enter into a bargain to protect the innocent and only eat the bad guys, but only the really, really bad guys.

For most of Venom the audience gets to know Eddie Brock. The largely unlikable character from the comic has been reimagined to suit the star quality of Tom Hardy, who is largely charming in the role. It’s unfortunate though that Venom is anything but charming. The creature is crude and unappealing to look at; a CGI monstrosity that once it takes over the film becomes a monster movie, and that’s perhaps where it loses its thrust. With a new superhero adaptation taking to the big screen almost every season, these films have had to evolve to meet audience expectations.

An example of which is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy which is a modern space opera, and a complete flip to the more grounded world of the Avengers. When Marvel continued to expand its brand it introduced the multiverses of the Marvel Comics with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man both features dramatically different in tone, one skewed toward the metaphysical, the other more science-fiction, but each providing a different tone and pushing the boundaries of the genre into all-new, all-different arenas — thereby bringing in new audiences.

With Venom Sony had an opportunity to make a significant departure and deliver something that would have been completely unexpected — taking advantage of the anti-hero’s darker tone and violent nature to make a genuine horror-monster movie. Venom eats most of his victims when it isn’t impaling them on its prehensile spikes, but most of that happens off screen during the action scenes. Drake’s ultra-secret science lab where he conducts his experiments of the symbiotes had most of the trappings of a chamber of horrors, but just suggest how lethal his intentions are.

Venom instead sticks to the tropes of its genre, doesn’t really change the beats established by its predecessors and ends with the CGI slugfest that has permeated most of the other superhero movies of late. With the exception of the credit stinger (which leaves some glimmer hope), Venom doesn’t really get as dangerous as you’d hoped it would be, and is simply as adaptive as the symbiote it portrays. Perhaps if Fleischer is inspired by the recent comments Tom Hardy made while promoting the film, he’ll re-edit a “director’s cut” and put some R-Rated content in!

Venom starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams; directed by Ruben Fleischer | Rated PG-13

Trailer | Marvel’s DARK PHOENIX

Reborn from the ashes! The next film in the X-Men franchise will be revisiting one of the most popular arcs in the mythology while reigniting the series. Here is X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX…

The good news this week came when Disney Studios finally announced it had won its long-running bid to absorb 20th Century Fox which would reunite the Marvel Comics properties that have long been a box office boon for the studio. This will bring the various X-Men film franchises including Deadpool (starring Ryan Reynolds) and Fantastic Four back into the fold and into the realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which after the reacquisition of Spider-Man from Sony helped to bring the web-slinger into the Avengers: Infinity War.

When director Bryan Singer introduced the mighty mutants onto the big screen X-Men released in 2000 was practically unchallenged in the blockbuster arena and quickly helped to ramp up the interest in the superhero genre as a viable effort. The film also made overnight stars of its cast including Hugh Jackman who would immediately spin-off his portrayal of Wolverine into a separate franchise that recently concluded with the critically acclaimed Logan. Since 2000 there have been 2 additional sequel films and three “prequel” films expanding on the mythology.

The X-Men franchise has proven a money-maker for FOX and expanded the franchise narrative beyond the theatrical realm to television with the hit FX series Legion and the family drama The Gifted which are also suggested to take place within the “X-Men” cinematic experience. Although the last big-screen venture 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse did not draw in audiences as eagerly as its predecessors (though the films returned Singer to the director’s seat), FOX immediately recommended that a follow-up be green-lit.

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in the last feature film “X-Men: Apocalypse” exhibits all new abilities foreshadowing the events to come in “Dark Phoenix”.

Reborn

The next installment in the film series will be X-Men: Dark Phoenix and is promising to realize one of the comic book’s more enduring and popular storylines that is centered on Jean Grey (played by Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner) and her ascent to near-omnipotence! The film will reunite the “reboot” cast which includes Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and will also co-star Jessica Chastain. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” written for the comics by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and published in 1980 was a best-seller for Marvel.

In the last feature, Turner’s Jean Grey exhibited an astonishing new level of power when the heroes faced the long-lived tyrannical Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) and his four horsemen. The “Dark Phoenix” story was also touched upon as a supplemental narrative of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Directed by Brett Ratner it proved the most unpopular of the first series of films, and an unlikely conclusion to the trilogy. Most of the events from that film appeared to have been retcon at the conclusion of 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Here is the trailer to X-Men: Dark Phoenix:

Poster Art Reveals an “Infinity” of AVENGERS

Fans anxiously await the arrival of AVENGERS: Infinity War and with these newest theatrical posters just released, the enormity of this blockbuster is beginning to assemble!

When the announcement was made that Avengers: Infinity War was getting moved up and its release date would be an internationally simultaneous event on April 27 to prevent the blog-world from delivering spoilers, fans sighed in relief, no longer concerned that anyone, anywhere would spoil the most anticipated blockbuster of the season. After a decade Infinity War is the culmination of nearly 20 Marvel Films, and will feature one of the largest casts ever!

Iron Man teams up with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange.

A cast so big in fact, it’s taken five distinct movie posters to get every Avenger, Guardian, web-slinger, panther and sorcerer supreme into the action! Every big screen Marvel character is represented and will be part of the story narrative of this two-part epic that promises to end this particular “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and take audiences into the next 10 years. It’s no small feat for sure, as the film will follow the arrival of Thanos in search of the Infinity Stones!

Many are already speculating just how much the cinematic universe will be changed; though some of the characters like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man are largely new initiates to the Marvel Films universe, and the Black Panther has only just been featured in his first solo film, Infinity War will begin right where Captain America: Civil War ended with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in a state of disarray and Thor lost in space!

The countdown has begun! Avengers: Infinity War makes planetfall on April 27.

Trailer | Marvel’s AVENGERS: Infinity War

So exactly how many superheroes does it take to make a blockbuster in today’s overly saturated genre market? Well, it appears that it takes all of them at least every one that’s ever appeared in a Marvel movie in the last decade. Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has been promised all along and it is the culmination of a well marketed, ambitious and well strategized campaign by Marvel Films who set out to create a cinematic universe that began with Iron Man (2008) and has come to this; every hero coming together to bring down a mad god, the Titan Thanos!

Infinity War is based on one of the most celebrated arcs in the Marvel Comics and has been teased since the very first Avengers film when Loki bargains with an alien army to wage an invasion of the planet that results in the mighty Avengers, the world’s greatest heroes coming together to repel the threat. Thanos has been on a quest to gather the Infinity Stones a series of precious gems older than the cosmos that grant whomever possesses them ultimate power. Now the mad Titan has come to Earth, and the Avengers are our first and last defense against his tyranny.

From the scope of the latest trailer, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War will culminate in at least one sacrifice and when the film ends, audiences will have to hold their breaths. Infinity War is the first part in a two part feature film that will reshape the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.

Check out the trailer here: 

 

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War will be released in theaters this April.