A Look Ahead @ 2015

In contrast to 2014 and just about every other year for the foreseeable future, 2015 is looking to be shockingly light in terms of new comic book movies released to theatres, with a scant four features being released between January and December, three of which are superhero films. Join us as we share our thoughts on each of these upcoming films, and be sure to let us know what films you’re most looking forward to this year. Write to us on Twitter @24panels.

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The Film: Kingsman: The Secret Service

The Comic: The Secret Service: Kingsman by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons

Release Date: February 13, 2015

Summary: This is just plumbed from Google – “A top-secret spy agency recruits an uncouth but promising street kid into its highly competitive training program, just as a twisted technological genius threatens the world.”

Prediction: Based on the trailer, Kingsman: The Secret Service looks like some kind of spy movie cross between Kick-Ass and Wanted, which makes perfect sense since it’s directed by the former’s Matthew Vaughn and the comic is from Mark Millar (who wrote the Kick-Ass and Wanted comics). Its February release date doesn’t bode well, despite being in the line-up at Sundance (what?!), so expectations are decidedly low. Sure the trailer has a fun snappy energy that’s basically an amped-up Roger Moore Bond movie (read: goofy, campy), but can that be sustained for 129 minutes? Hard to say, but I predict no. I’ll guess that just like Wanted and Kick-Ass,  Kingsman will have muddled themes, but a couple of stellar action scenes set to snappy, well-curated pop songs.

The cast – Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill – has me secretly pulling for this movie to exceed my expectations and the image of Samuel L. Jackson in a pink baseball cap intrigues me, this one doesn’t seem to scream “see me in the cinema” or even “check me out on VOD,” but rather “Oh, it’s on Netflix.” At least that’s how I see it.  (James Hrivnak)

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The Film: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Summary: In this long-awaited sequel to one of the biggest blockbusters of all time—not to mention a totally paradigm-shifting event for Hollywood franchise filmmaking—the Avengers must defend the Earth from Ultron, a robotic intelligence created by Tony Stark to take some of the superheroic burden off of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Naturally, the plan backlashes when Ultron realizes—quite rightly—that humans are the greatest threat to Earth and (here’s where he goes from moral philosopher to supervillain) decides they must be exterminated. Can Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Hawkeye (maybe even helping this time around, though given his weird Littlefinger-esque costume, I can’t imagine), and the Hulk stop him? The smart money is on “yes,” but at what cost?

Avengers director Joss Whedon is back, which means you should expect the same witty dialogue and unobtrusive filmmaking as last time. The trailer promises a darker vision—and The Vision!—and given Whedon’s predilection for killing off beloved characters suddenly, I’d say that no one is safe! Except, of course, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, who have all confirmed appearances in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Added to the cast this time around are Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch and What’s-His-Name from Godzilla and Kick-Ass as Quicksilver.

Prediction: We already know that Marvel isn’t afraid of mixing things up, tearing down what they’ve taken several films to build and moving on to something new; we also know that Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok will put our central heroes in darker places than we’ve seen them before, and Age of Ultron is likely the film that puts them on those paths. Expect an Empire Strikes Back-esque ending that resolves the main narrative but leaves the heroes’ in places of uncertainty.

Also, boffo box office! (Dru Jeffries)

Ant-Man_Poster

The Film: Ant-Man

Release Date: July 17, 2015

Summary: Thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) assumes the identity of the superheroic Ant-Man — who can shrink to bug-size while improving in strength — taking over from his mentor and previous Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Why should be care? Well, for the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a legacy character is being introduced with the second (and lesser known) incarnation first, which should give Ant-Man a deeper sense of history than most Marvel movies enjoy. Also, Ant-Man should rely on tried-and-trie genre conventions — not those of the superhero film, but rather of the heist film. Just as Captain America: The Winter Soldier payed homage to Three Days of the Condor, expect some Rififi-style thievery here!

Anybody who’s been following the production of Ant-Man at all knows that this was Edgar Wright’s pet project — it’s doubtful that Marvel Studios would have prioritized the character’s introduction into their cinematic universe if not for the enthusiasm of the Scott Pilgrim director. Unfortunately, Wright and Marvel parted ways shortly before production was slated to begin, leading to Peyton Reed’s (Down with Love) hiring. Reed’s a fine choice, though there’s nothing in his filmography that gets me particularly excited. Moreover, the film was conspicuously absent from Marvel’s announcement of the Phase Three slate, suggesting that this movie is effectively an afterthought for the studio. Iron Man Three followed up the first Avengers with panache; what relationship will Ant-Man have to Age of Ultron, especially given the fact that Pym’s main role in the Ultron storyline as established in decades of comics has been usurped by Tony Stark?

Prediction: While it may be a fool’s errand to bet against Marvel at this point, I’m laying my chips on the table: Ant-Man will be released in the afterglow of Age of Ultron and Marvel won’t be pushing it as hard as they do their other films, leading to an uncharacteristically low gross for the studio. Reed can probably excel given the right material, but it’s not every director that can thrive under the strict eye of Kevin Feige (let’s call that “Gunning” from now on, shall we?). All in all, we may have an Incredible Hulk situation on our hands here — while I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to keep Rudd as Lang around for future Avengers films (or even a Future Foundation-inspired team-up with Medusa and She-Hulk, to spite Fox’s ownership of the Fantastic Four film rights), I would be very surprised if we ever see another standalone Ant-Man film. (DJ)

FantasticFour

The Film: The Fantastic Four

Release Date: August 7, 2015

Summary: Eight years after the previous cinematic incarnation of the Fantastic Four petered out, Fox reboots the property with The Fantastic Four, a film which tells an origin story based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics. Transported to an alternate dimension during an experiment, four youngsters — Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) — are left with fantastic powers, which they must use to battle Doom (Toby Kebbell), a programmer with a bone to pick with the group.

When you consider all of the behind the scenes problems which have plagued Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man, it is rather remarkable just how positive fans have been towards that film compared to Twentieth Century Fox’s reboot/remake/rehash/repackaging of The Fantastic Four, a film of which little of substance is known for sure. At this point, all potential audiences really know about the film for sure is its cast, its inexperienced director (Chronicle‘s Josh Trank), and general premise. That cast selfie is literally the only image that has been officially released to date.

However, there are some darn good reasons as to why The Fantastic Four has failed to generate seemingly any good will or buzz compared to Ant-Man. For starters, there is the issue of the track records of each respective studio: Marvel has more often than not managed to turn out solid films based on their characters, while Fox has delivered the mixed bag that is the X-Men film series, as well as complete failures such as Daredevil and Elektra. Not helping matters is the open knowledge that this new Fantastic Four film was put into production as a way to hold onto the film rights to the characters, which is one of the most cynical of reasons for anyone to make a film.

However, the most significant reason as to why The Fantastic Four has such generated such negativity online compared to Ant-Man is the manner in which Fox has failed to engage its audience thus far. Whatever problems Ant-Man has had in its road to theatres thus far, Marvel has been fairly open about addressing them, be it the Edgar Wright issue or the supposed script problems. By contrast, Fox’s choice to withhold seemingly all information about The Fantastic Four has only resulted in allowing negative speculation and rumours to run wild. It is one thing to keep your cards close to your chest, but when the ultra-secretive J.J. Abrams has been more upfront about his upcoming Star Wars film than your Fantastic Four picture, it doesn’t look good.

Then again, whenever news does manage to make it out about this version of The Fantastic Four, it is not as if it has gone over well. The cast of the film have made repeated mention of the film having a more grounded approach than the preceding films, a choice which seems baffling given that the comics are known for their grandiose stories and embracing of wild science fiction ideas. More worrying has been the reinvention of the villain Dr. Doom, which suggests that the film may bare even less of a resemblance to the comics than fans have already feared thus far.

Prediction: While The Fantastic Four won’t tank at the box office, I don’t see a situation where this film actually succeeds in launching an ongoing franchise. Unless Fox can pull off one hell of an advertising campaign to turn the bad buzz around, The Fantastic Four may very well be one of the lowest grossing and biggest critical failures of the summer. Then again, given the rumours of behind the scenes trouble, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this film gets pushed back to an early 2015 release date. (David Babbitt)

Dru

Dru Jeffries is the co-host of 24 Panels Per Second. Follow him on Twitter @violetbooth.

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