Well true-believers, by now we’ve seen footage for all of 2011’s major comic book movies. Teasers, trailers, an extra four-minutes designed to win-back despondent naysayers, at this point we have a rough idea how each of the four big-hitters is shaping up. Expectations are starting to form, appetites are beginning to whet and reservations are being made. As such, I did what I do each year with regards to upcoming superhero flicks as a fully-functioning kidult: ranked them in order of my excitement.
But what’s that you say dear reader? Trailers can be misleading? I agree. That they don’t have any definitive bearing on the final result? Right again. That the end product could be a different kettle of mutated fish? I hear you. But yet, even though all we’ve seen so far are marketing-flavoured snapshots designed to get bums on seats, what I’m ranking is how I’m looking forward to seeing them, comparatively. Comparitively being the key word. Plus, it’s fun to speculate.
4) The Green Lantern
The Green Lantern might be fourth in my chart, but it’s not as ‘fourth’ as it once was. Whilst the first trailer left my whelm well and truly under, the brilliantly-scored extra four minutes recently released online has definitely upgraded my anticipation from ‘meh’ to ‘hmmm…could be something here’. Sure, the alien planet Oa and its CGI non-human inhabitants lie somewhere between Avatar and that water world from Attack Of The Clones, but the scope is certainly ambitious. And, whilst remaining unconvinced about the computer-generated costume, I understand it from an internal-logic, storytelling point of view (the ring turns “thought into reality”). As for concerns that Ryan Reynolds will be playing another variation on his usual glib staple, let’s give him a chance as he’s due a successful comic movie after Blade Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Plus, his defence of the CG outfit was priceless. “It’s not The Dark Knight – I don’t put the suit on and my voice drops several octaves,”
By now you’re probably wondering why it’s still fourth on my list. Good question. Simply put, it comes down to individual preference, as my tastes lean towards the grounded, what-if? types. Combining what we’ve seen so far with my own graphic novel-wielding knowledge, DC’s latest will exist at the opposite end of the spectrum to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns or Chris Nolan’s bat-movies. Bizarre, non-human aliens, heroes flying to the far-reaches of the universe, a ring that can create anything (the ultimate deus ex machina?)… this clearly isn’t one for those who prefer their worlds only slightly removed from reality. As you did with Casino Royale Martin Campbell, please prove me wrong.
Even though Thor lies third on my anticipation-chart, I’m surprisingly enthused about the prospect. Why surprisingly? Well because at first I couldn’t picture this one working. At all. Would it be an all-out fantasy like Lord Of The Rings? What the hell was Shakespearean specialist Kenneth Branagh doing anywhere near it? And the bloke from Home And Away in the lead? This isn’t Yabbie Creek you know. If nothing else though, it was at least guaranteed to be an improvement on the beer-swilling, biker bar-loving buffoon version from eighties TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns.
But since footage has leaked, my fears have dissipated like symbiote goo round a church bell. The duel settings of Asgard and Earth could play out like Krypton and Kansas in Donner’s Superman (sweeping fantasy vistas briefly first, then down to Earth), Branagh appears to have nailed the right tone and Hemsworth looks nothing short of a casting perfection. Though Anthony Hopkins is almost-literally chomping the scenery as all-powerful, bearded-father Odin, there’s potential for him to deliver some super Dad gravitas along the lines of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El. I remain sceptical that the finale won’t unravel into CGI creature-packed silliness, but for the moment the blend of Hellboy, Iron Man and – wait for it – Masters Of The Universe is exciting.
2) X-Men: First Class
Wow, talk about a comeback. From the initial pitch idea (mutant high school) to the studio releasing some of the worst photo-shopped posters this side of Takers, my excitement was hardly palpable. And that’s speaking as a firm fan of director Matthew Vaughn. However, the dark and stylish trailer has got me raring for another slice of mutation-drama, which is especially impressive after X-Men: The Last Stand and the aforementioned Wolverine. Like Captain America: The First Avenger (seriously, what’s with the names?), the retro-setting fits perfectly, not least because the swinging sixties means Mad Men’s January Jones gets to sport some seriously saucy gear.
Okay, so the series’ most popular character isn’t here, but he packed up those retractable claws and went to play in his own adamantium pit. The choice to focus on the friendship between a pre-Professor X Charles and a pre-Magneto Eric is spot-on though, since their dynamic has never been fleshed out bar the odd game of glass-chess. Whilst Michael Fassbender looks predictably impressive as the latter, James McAvoy thankfully calmed my fears that he was totally miscast as the former. Well, a little. A lot of the CG still looks iffy (Beast, this means you), but I’m hopeful. And hope, is definitely an option.
1) Captain America: The First Avenger
Honestly, given that the class of 2011 doesn’t include any obvious contenders for greatness, this was a tough one. But, when it comes to this year’s super-trailers, I reckon Marvel big kahuna Kevin Feige and his capos have, to quote Vanessa Williams, saved the best for last. Objectively, Joe Johnston’s name doesn’t fill me with rock-solid assurance, but the more I see of his take, the more any scepticism dissolves. At first, I couldn’t see the star-spangled suit fitting in with the modern world. Still can’t. But since it was revealed as an origin story set in the 1940’s with Nazi’s, the pieces have fallen into place nicely. There’s just something about the World War II-era that works. It’s a pleasant departure from the normal, modern day-set comic movies and offers a similar flavour to The Rockateer (which Johnston also directed), and that’s more than alright with me.
When first announced, I also had strong reservations about Chris Evans playing the lead. Not because he also portrayed another Marvel hero as The Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm (which he rocked), but because the role wouldn’t require his strengths as an actor. Captain America is not a cocky playboy. Nor is he a sarcastic quipper. Regardless, even though there’s still doubts about the pre-serum Steve Rogers CGI (I’m sure it’ll be all good come game time), there’s something in Evan’s eyes that suggests a brave soul who won’t give up. And, after that of course, he’s so unfeasibly-pumped that even Hugh Jackman would be impressed. Plus, since we already know that our shield-chucker is found frozen years later, there’s an opportunity for a dark, Han-Solo-in-carbonite Empire Strikes Back-type ending. As for Hugo Wieving, he couldn’t be any more ideal unless he actually had a red skull.
So what about you? How do these four sit with you? Will The Green Lantern prove doubters wrong? Will Vaughn re-popularise the X-franchise to it’s Singer-days glory? And will Marvel continue to add sub-titles at such an alarming rate? We’ll see at the end of the summer, when class is dismissed.