Thor: From Norse God to Comic Book (and Big Screen) Superhero

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People have always needed heroes and gods to look up to. Every peoples’ mythology is crawling with these – no matter if they are spiritual beings, or figures of amazing power born out of mortals thanks to divine intervention. Some of them are great warriors, others are simply gods, walking among humans, helping or punishing as any of them deserve. And one of them has made a surprising comeback in the early 1960s, and has stayed in our attention to this day: the ancient Norse god of thunder, Thor.

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Reboot of the Fantastic Four

One of the biggest dates in the 2015 sci-fi calendar is nearly upon us! The launch of the new Fantastic Four film takes place on August 6th and it looks to be bigger and better than ever. With a brand new cast and director, the reboot looks to push the boundaries of the previous films in the franchise. Whilst offering the usual action that comes with a sci-fi film, the new installment is a refreshing take on an old classic.

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What kind of director is best for a comic book movie?

I was reading a profile of Jon Favreau in the May issue of Maxim — I know, I don’t have a subscription anymore, it just keeps showing up in my mailbox — and I ran across an interesting bit where the head of Marvel Studios discusses why he tabbed Favreau (whose biggest directing credit to that point was Elf) to lead the way on Iron Man:

For years Marvel had been making left-field directing choices, tabbing Evil Dead‘s Sam Raimi to do Spider-Man and The Usual Suspects‘ Bryan Singer to lead the X-Men franchise. But Favreau still seemed like an odd selection to head the studio’s first tent-pole picture for its new alliance with Paramount. “We have the technicians who know how to blow up the cars,” says Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “What you want in a director isn’t necessarily technical expertise. It’s taste, and it’s tone, and Elf is a triumph of taste and tone. There’s a reason everyone watches it every Christmas.”

This strikes me as a great way to approach that decision. At the time, it was a little strange that they’d hire Favreau to direct Iron Man, but funny is funny, and a sense of humor is typically what makes a comic book adaptation great. Of course they can find someone to blow things up — why does the director need to be an expert in demolition?

Then I thought about a couple of comic book adaptations that were critically panned, and Daredevil and Ghost Rider immediately sprung to mind. It turns out they were both directed by Mark Steven Johnson, whose first directing credit was Simon Birch (45% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes). (He also wrote Electra, by the way.)

Fantastic Four director Tim Story got the gig after finishing Barbershop and the Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon-vehicle Taxi. Joel Schumacher had a series of good dramatic credits (including St. Elmo’s Fire and Falling Down) before helming Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, though The Lost Boys did have a sense of humor, albeit eight years earlier.

On the flip side, Christopher Nolan got the keys to the Batman reboot after two good thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, while Guillermo del Toro got to direct the very funny Hellboy on the heels of Mimic and Blade 2.

The bottom line is that it’s probably better to hire someone who has proven that they can coax good performances and humor out of their actors on a smaller scale than hiring a director just because he knows how to blow stuff up.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

  

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The epic epicness of “Scott Pilgrim”

For those of you who haven’t read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” comic series — about a twentysomething slacker who must defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his new girlfriend, Ramona V. Flowers — well, there’s a good chance you’ll want to pick them up after seeing the first trailer for Edgar Wright’s big-screen adaptation. There has been a lot of buzz around the Twitterverse about “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” with directors like Jason Reitman calling it a “game changer for the genre” and Kevin Smith saying that “nobody is going to know WTF just hit them.”

I’ve been excited about this project for quite a while. The source material is wildly original, Wright is one of the most creative directors working today, and the cast is absolutely perfect — from Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead roles, to Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman as the evil exes. The movie doesn’t come out until August, so to help whet your appetite until then, check out the trailer below.






  

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SXSW 2010: Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn hasn’t had the greatest luck with comic book movies – first, he walked away from “X-Men: The Last Stand” mere weeks before filming began, and more recently, he was replaced by Kenneth Branagh as director of Marvel’s big screen adaptation of “Thor” – so it’s nice to finally see him find a little success in the genre. Of course, “Kick-Ass” has had its share of problems as well, most notably in the lack of studio interest when the project was first being shopped around. And considering just how much graphic violence and language courses through Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s eight-issue miniseries, you can sort of understand why. Thankfully, that didn’t deter Vaughn from just securing the financing himself, because in doing so, he was provided the freedom needed to create the kind of balls-to-the-wall comic book movie that its bold source material deserved.

For teenage geek Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), comic books aren’t just an escape from the social hierarchy of high school, but a lesson in morals as well. When he wonders why no one has tried to do the superhero thing in real life, he throws on an old wet suit and heads into the city to fight crime. It doesn’t go quite as well as he imagined, but his random act of bravery is recorded and uploaded to YouTube where he becomes an overnight sensation as the masked crusader, Kick-Ass, spawning an entire subculture of costumed heroes in the process. Meanwhile, father-daughter duo Damon and Mindy Macready (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz) really are living the secret lives of superheroes, and when they catch wind of Kick-Ass’ clumsy heroics, they decide to team up with the kid to take down the local crime boss, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

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There’s more to the story that would be considered a spoiler to first-time readers of the comic – namely, the reveal that Kick-Ass’ new superhero pal, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), is actually Frank’s son, Chris, in disguise – but it’s announced so early on in the film version that you’re not surprised when he turns out to be working for the bad guys. In fact, there are plenty of differences between the book and the movie, but with the exception of Dave’s relationship with high school crush Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonesca) – which follows the same general path until it veers off into a decidedly more Hollywood-friendly direction – it’s mostly just additional material meant to flesh out characters that didn’t have as much of a presence in the comic book.

And even when the movie isn’t using the comic as a blueprint, it still feels like it belongs in “Kick-Ass.” Director Matthew Vaughn clearly understands the world that Millar and Romita Jr. have created, and that familiarity resonates throughout, from the high-energy action scenes to the colorful performances from its cast. Aaron Johnson is a real find as the title character – a Peter Parker type who can play both dorky and cool – but it’s his pint-sized co-star who walks away with the film. Chloe Moretz has already proven that she’s mature beyond her years (see: “500 Days of Summer”), but she easily trumps that performance with an instantly iconic role that places her in the middle of some of the coolest, most wildly violent fight sequences since “Kill Bill.” Even Nicolas Cage is at the top of his game as his character’s alter ego, Big Daddy – a vigilante so conceptually similar to Batman that Cage speaks with an Adam West-like cadence.

That’s exactly the kind of detail that might drive some fans crazy, but it complements Vaughn’s vision nicely, because his “Kick-Ass” is more of a satire of the superhero genre than a straight-up action flick. And when you have an 11-year-old girl running around town chopping up gangsters, how could you not acknowledge the absurdity of the situation? Millar’s book had its moments, but Vaughn mines the material for even more laughs, especially in the relationships between Aaron and his friends (Clark Duke and Evan Peters), Kick-Ass and Red Mist, and Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. The end result is an entertaining blend of action and comedy that, despite falling short of its ridiculously high expectations, delivers everything that was awesome about the comic and more.

  

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