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Superhero Cinema 2008
WordSlinger   |  

WordSlinger's Superhero Cinema 2008If 2007 was the year of the sequel, 2008 is the year of the superhero movie. With the obvious money to be made in the genre, production companies are buying up and churning out as many big-screen adaptations as they can, some with skill and respect for the source material, some with hasty disregard for anything than can be remotely described as quality. There have been some phenoms (Spider-Man) and some stinkers (Catwoman), but there’s no shortage in new material. Here’s my best attempt at a rundown of what you can expect to see (or avoid) in 2008, bypassing the fanboy BS and campy (Marvel vs. DC) loyalties.

Superhero! Movie poster

Superhero!

Superhero!
Release Date: March 28
The Gist: A parody of superhero movies, in the same spirit as Epic Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie, etc.
Why it might be great: Not much is going well for this one, but there have been enough superhero movies in the last few years (both good and bad) to provide ample material ripe for parody.
Why it might be terrible: Nearly all of Craig Mazin’s “parody” films are terribly received, but due to a low production costs, these movies don’t need mass appeal to turn a profit. Mazin’s last film, Epic Movie, is still listed as one of the worst movies of all time on IMDB and RottenTomatoes. Superhero! has been plagued by production problems since 2004, and rumors originally suggested it may be shut down completely. Now that it’s officially going to make it to the big screen, what plot and casting information that has been made public seems to be a lot of the same old material. The film stars Leslie Nielsen, whose comedic career has come crashing down since the days of The Naked Gun and who has become the official poster-boy for bad parody films.
Why I will never see it: Parody is not as easy as Mazin seems to think it is. Like every “Movie” movie to come out since the original Scary Movie, this one will have the same pitfalls. Instead of clever parody, it will probably be full of simple references to other films with poop jokes thrown in.

Iron Man movie poster

Iron Man

Release Date: May 2
The Gist: Billionaire Tony Stark is injured, kidnapped, and forced to build a weapon for extremists in Afghanistan, but instead builds a powerful suit of armor that both gives him super abilities and keeps him alive. Upon returning home to America, he becomes “Iron Man,” while his political and business connections foster more threats to deal with.
Why it might be great: Stark is not a typical good-natured superhero. In fact, he’s not even a good person at first. There’s strong potential to see a deeper origin story that most comic movies present. Downey’s personal life has hurt his career at times, but may actually help add credibility to the character of Stark, who battles similar personal demons. Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury, so we already know who is in charge of the comic relief. The single image of Iron Monger leaked online shows promise for a kick-ass climatic battle.
Why it might be terrible: Jon Favereau has limited experience as a director, and even then his focus has mostly been on comedy and family-friendly action (Zathura). The screenwriters don’t have any major films to their credit. Despite massive budgets and big names in starring roles, most Marvel adaptations have missed the mark in recent years.
Why I’ll see it in theaters: Iron Man’s story is more complex and has more real world attachments both to politics and corporate America, which, when coupled with power based on creativity and intelligence rather than being simply “super,” may give the genre a much needed entry that is both grounded and believable.

The Incredible Hulk movie poster

The Incredible Hulk

Release Date: June 13
The Gist: After the poor reception Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) received, Marvel has decided to reboot the series in a new direction. It says a lot about the film when the series is given a reboot in half the time it took DC to recover from Batman and Robin. Lee’s attempt to give emotional depth to a character that did not need it came off as pretentious and artsy, a bad combination for the superhero film genre. Somewhere along the line, Lee forgot people who were fans of the character wanted to see “Hulk smash,” not “Hulk has unresolved issues with his father and is struggling to understand himself as well as his powers.” To stop the eyes rolling from critics and fans alike, Marvel quickly hit the reset button. The new film disregards the first film (and its cast) entirely and follows Dr. David Banner (Ed Norton) as he searches for a cure for his condition. Banner must simultaneously battle his own condition while facing the threat of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a former KGB agent who transforms himself into The Abomination via the same gamma radiation that created The Hulk.
Why it might be great: Marvel’s quick decision to reboot the series shows they (hopefully) learned from their mistakes and are looking to cater to their fans this time around. The casting choices, particularly replacing Eric Bana with Ed Norton, shows promise for strong performances, and Roth rarely disappoints. Pitting the Hulk against an arch-rival also promises to improve the action quality. The effort Marvel is putting into this one to show they can get the story right may pay off in the end.
Why it might be terrible: The first one suffered from too much effort going into creating a false sense of depth for character who didn’t need it, and the reboot may suffer from too much effort going in the opposite direction. In an effort to separate themselves from the original, the filmmakers may go too far and make a film that is so cheesy that it insults the intelligence of their fans (see Daredevil, Elektra, Catwoman.) Like the first one, this film is shaping to be highly dependent on CGI for action sequences, and the cartoon-like Hulk (and possibly Abomination) may not look anywhere as cool as people hope they do.
Why I’ll wait for the DVD: Though this film will undoubtedly be better than its predecessor, the Hulk has never had the same appeal as more complicated superheros. Lee’s failed attempt to force complications upon the character showed how unnatural it seemed, and though Norton will certainly do better than Bana as Banner, the story is still shaping up to be a CGI-slugfest and not much more (we all know there’s no way Marvel is going to “cure” the Hulk.)

Will Smith in Hancock

Hancock

Release Date: July 2
The Gist: Will Smith is Hancock, a superhero who has seen better days. He’s not the public superstar he once was, and has turned to booze and womanizing to dull the pain. While trying to regain some of his prior glory, Hancock must deal with his personal demons, which include having an affair with a married woman (Charlize Theron).
Why it might be great: Peter Berg is writing/directing. Previous works like Friday Night Lights prove he’s capable of taking a unique look on a common topic with great results. The story of Hancock is not based on any comic or previous story, though the idea of a superhero dealing with realistic personal demons rings of Watchmen. Whether or not the film is heavily dramatic or comedic, Will Smith has shown enough range in the past to cover both. The unique story could provide a refreshing look at the life of superheroes that is missing from most other movies in the genre. Just because someone has a heroic job doesn’t mean they are a good person, and like with Iron Man, a serious look at the differential could be a nice change.
Why it might be terrible: This could very easily be the next My Super Ex-Girlfriend with the genders reversed. Smith can have his funny moments, but an over-reliance on it could turn this into an amalgamation of Men in Black and Hitch. The original story could also hurt the film, as there’s no major fan base to guarantee opening weekend numbers or word-of-mouth buzz. These things won’t affect the quality of the film of course, but could still hinder its success.
Why I’ll wait for the first reviews to come in: Despite a relatively original story, Hancock doesn’t seem that interesting. Hancock‘s issues might be uncommon for superheros, but not for movies in general.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army movie poster

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Release Date: July 11
The Gist: Hellboy, the demon raised by humans who works for a secret government organization to combat the supernatural, is back for more. This time, the Earth is threatened by the old gods and supernatural creatures of the old world, the world we have long forgotten. But in order to take back the world they once controlled, they’ll have to get through Hellboy and his friends.
Why it might be great: Guillermo del Toro is once again writing and directing the film. After the success of Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro seems at the top of his game, and will likely bring the same look and feel the original film had to the sequel. Everyone is back, including John Hurt despite his character being killed in the first film, keeping the superb cast intact. Perlman is perfectly cast, and we’re likely to be treated once again to the costume design and makeup work that made the original look so incredible. It’s amazing what good costumes can do to set a film apart in the age of CGI, and Doug Jones has proven he knows how to bring the bizarre character of Abe Sapien to life with striking realism.
Why it might be terrible: Not much is going against this film. Even changing production companies due to Sony’s lack of faith in the series hasn’t significantly hindered production. The only real risk the film might be taking is the same one all sequels take, that it may try to do too much (with a whole army of creatures this time) and the plot may become convoluted. However, with del Toro at the helm, this seems unlikely.
Why I will see it: The first one was amazing, and all signs point to the sequel offering more of the same quality.

The Dark Knight movie poster

The Dark Knight

Release Date: July 18
The Gist: The sequel to Batman Begins (2005), the immensely successful reboot to the Batman series. Picking up where the first film ends, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) battles the world of organized crime in an effort to save Gotham City. The mob is in disarray after Batman’s efforts to take down mob boss Carmine Falcone. The ensuing underworld chaos gives rise to the Joker (Heath Ledger), who looks to seize control of the city’s crime syndicates. Meanwhile, Batman works with Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to maintain order and take down the criminal mastermind.
Why it might be great: This film has a lot going for it. All of the major players have returned for the sequel, both behind and in front of the camera. Most importantly, Christopher Nolan is once again writing and directing, and as one of the best young English directors working today, he is likely to bring the same dark, yet realistic and very human quality to The Dark Knight that made the original as powerful as it was. All his prior films have shown that Nolan cares more about his overall vision for film than its marketability, so there’s little to fear that this is simply a hasty and haphazard attempt to cash-in on a sequel. David S. Goyer was brought back to pen outlines for both The Dark Knight and a planned third film, hopefully preserving the continuity the original series lacked throughout. Bale is arguably the best Batman ever, and Gary Oldman has shown to be a fantastic choice as Gordon. The only change up in the cast (Katie Holmes being replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes) will likely prove to be an upgrade. The Batman mythos has been invigorated by the most realistic approach ever taken, and seeing the origins of both The Joker and Two-Face may prove the best yet. Reports speculate that Nolan gave Ledger a copy of Alan Moore’s immensely popular one-shot The Killing Joke as source material for his character study.
Why it might be terrible: A lot of pressure is already mounting on Ledger for portraying one of the most famous comic book villains in history and doing so in the shadow of Jack Nicholson. Talk has begun already that Ledger sounds like he is trying to imitate Nicholson’s performance. It’s likely some fans will not like his performance regardless of how original it may be. Even if the remaining aspects of the film are strong, it’s likely this film’s reception will be based mostly on Ledger.
Why I will see it immediately: There’s no good reason not to. Nolan and Bale alone are almost guaranteed to make this film amazing. What has been shown already promises this one will be darker than Tim Burton’s original film.

The Punisher: War Zone promotional image

The Punisher: War Zone

Release Date: Sept. 12
The Gist: Even though this film is officially a sequel to the 2004 film, none of the original cast members are returning, including Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/The Punisher. This time around, Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) is at war with organized crime in New York City, pitting him against disfigured mafia assassin Jigsaw (Dominic West). Plans for a sequel were announced before the original hit theaters, and Jane was attached to the project until early 2007, when he left citing creative differences. Jane originally turned down the role as well a part in the X-Men series, reportedly because he doesn’t feel he fits the superhero archetype.
Why it might be great: Even with the loss of Jane as Castle, Stevenson’s talents have been showcased before in Rome and he definitely looks the part. The inclusion of Jigsaw will likely give the the series a boost with two arch-enemies combating one another.
Why it might be terrible: Barring reboots or sequels that are made decades apart, changing stars between films is usually a bad sign of things to come. Val Kilmer and George Clooney can vouch for this. Jane had originally expressed enthusiasm over the sequel, but left the project after nearly four years of script problems.
Why I’ll wait for the DVD: Even the best efforts to adapt the Punisher character can barely raise him above the typical shoot-em-up movie cliches. There’s still some entertainment value there, but it’s unlikely to match the quality of the comics.

So there you have it. Rumors abound about other superheros who may grace the silver screen in 2008, but without solid news of production, there’s no certainty of when, if ever, we may see them. One thing’s for sure, even if every film on this list is poorly received, there’s likely to be more behind them in 2009.

  • http://www.myspace.com/damnhestheman BJT

    Some I’m looking forward to, and some not so much. Great information! Thanks.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/liquidsmyspace Liquid

    Great blog! Thanks My fellow Geeks!

  • http://www.comicspace.com/neverwanderer NeverWanderer

    Great insights, ‘Slinger!

    But, I have to say, I disagree on the points you make regarding the Hulk. The Hulk has always been a psychologically complex character, even in the show from the 70′s, so to see the studio going from a director who maybe put too much thought into that aspect, to a director who is obviously more interested in perfecting the action rather than the story or performances (just look at The Transporter & Unleashed)… it scares me.

    I’d rather have a flawed movie that tries too hard than one that doesn’t try hard enough. Ed Norton’s involvement is the only thing that’s making me feeling confident in this movie.

  • Jerry

    Awesome article. It will be an intense year.

  • devopunk

    just so you know, two of the Iron Man writers wrote First Snow with Guy Pearce. They also hand a big hand in the script for a little film called Children of Men.

  • batfan

    Christopher Nolan is British, not American

  • dave

    How can you not mention Watchmen?

  • http://dave3.com Dave3

    @dave

    That would be because WATCHMEN isn’t set to be released in theaters until March 6, 2009. And as I’m sure you’re aware, this article concerned only superhero movies for 2008.

  • http://geeksofdoom.com Empress Eve

    @dave
    WATCHMEN is 2009, this is a look at what’s coming out in 2008.

  • ErkTrek

    Uh, I thought the depth part of the incredible hulk was the good part. The story line was fsckd up and CGI was completely fake looking. It was like watching a sad version of Roger Rabbit – very hard to suspend disbelief or take seriously. I hope they make the characters (esp creatures) MORE real. Human angst is a good thing – didn’t we learn that in Spiderman?

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  • Paul

    Loving the list, my eye was instantly drawn to The Dark Knight but I must say since when has Chris Nolan been American, damn right he’s one of the best young directors today but he’s British! Everything else is spot on and I can’t wait for (nearly) all of them.

  • peter p.

    cuz watchmen is not being released in 2008….idiot

  • R1000

    I disagree with the comments about Heath Ledger not being a good joker…Dare I say he be very good if not better than J Nicholson, and that is “NOT” on knock on Nicholson’s portrayal.

    Nicholson gets a pass, he seemed to have played the more cornier Joker that was just more of a goofy trickster-thief. With some moments of being a real threat.

    Heath ledger’s joker on the other hand(which in this article mentions that Heath’s inspiration is coming from the graphic novel “The Killing Joke”) is more a straight sociopath and murders for the fun of it.

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  • http://arlof.com Aaron

    The Ang Lee Hulk movie wasn’t that bad, well, up until the last 15 minutes. Though, overall, the movie was so-so, my favorite part of the movie was, by far, the beautiful, arty, comic panel styled transitions between scenes. Unfortunately for Lee, the artistic beauty of films like Crouching Tiger don’t translate well to other fantastical stories, such as the Hulk. I do look forward to the new Hulk movie. I would like to see more done (visual, visceral eye candy) with the idea that as the Hulk gets angrier, his strength grows exponentially.

    I saw a trailer for The Dark Knight recently and feel that Ledger will do an excellent job as The Joker. He doesn’t seem to be disfigured but hopefully this time The Joker’s character will be shown for what he really is, a totally psychotic, murdering bastard who loathes Batman and people in general.

    Also recently saw a trailer for Iron Man. This took me up then brought me down again. GREAT scene clips of the classic Iron Man suit only to be watered down with an overly CG-looking modern suit, flying around, for about 1 solid minute. I HOPE that part of the trailer was filler and not part of the actual film.

    I will probably see many of these films on the big screen because, bad or not, big, visual movies like this need to be seen on a giant screen.

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  • bobarobes

    You did forget about ‘Wanted’ or are we ignoring that because they completely missed the point and went with assassins instead of super-villans?

  • Allen

    I hate to burst your bubble, but Craig Mazin had nothing to do with Epic Movie, that was Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Worst directors ever.). While I don’t think Superhero! will be great by any means, I highly doubt that it will sink as low as Epic Movie and Date Movie, or at least I would hope not. Mazin did write for Scary Movie 3&4, and while those movies weren’t great, they beat the hell out of the first two Wayans brothers movies.

    I just hope that it actually has a plot that stands on its own to some degree. That’s what I think the difference is between the good parody movies of yesterday and the steaming piles of crap of today. Movies like The Naked Gun and Jane Austen’s Mafia! parodied the movies they loved, but also had semi-original characters that you almost cared about. Epic Movie and Date Movie both seem more like a collection of bad sketches that try to completely remake what they are are parodying only give it a grossout twist, loosely held together by some bad plot and characters that you hope die in the end.

    On another note, Leslie Nielsen is still funny as hell, he just hasn’t been given any good writing lately.

  • Slayve

    I don’t get why so many people are down on the CGI in Hulk. That was some of the most technologically sophisticated yet subtle CGI animation I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. No one does CGI better than ILM (except perhaps WETA), and the facial animation in particular was exceptional. I guess if you just don’t like CGI in general you wouldn’t like it, but would you rather see a guy in a rubber suit against a green-screen background? I kinda doubt it.

  • http://myspace.com/ajdupont WordSlinger

    @ Allen

    You’re right. My mistake, but even if he had nothing to do with Epic Movie, his previous work isn’t exactly stellar and parody movies in general have gone downhill in recent years.

    I’m sure Nielsen can still deliver with good material, but he hasn’t had any recently.

    @R1000

    I disagree with them too and agree more with your sentiment. I just want to make sure people realize the opinions in the “Why it might” sections aren’t necessarily mine.

  • http://ecommerce.objectwareinc.com ecommerce-solution

    Can’t wait to see Ed Norton in the new Hulk!

  • http://www.myspace.com/dawolf_81 Fred [The Wolf]

    I’m definitely paying my money on mostly all of these. Especially HELLBOY II and THE DARK KNIGHT. I know Ledger is gonna be the wild card in the film as The Joker, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt because he’s a good actor and I think he can pull it off. Great job, Wordslinger!

  • JR

    Judging from the trailer, it sounds more like Ledger is doing an insane impression of Richard Dreyfus than of Jack Nicholson.

  • John Wayne

    The Hulk is posssibly one of the worst films i have ever had the misfortune to see, anybody who thinks it is even slightly good is a freakin moron and deserves 2 die a slow and painful death involving red hot pokers and a range of small possums, anywho…… nice page n good info.

  • http://www.comicspace.com/neverwanderer NeverWanderer

    …awww, what a cute little fella.

  • Diego

    Jack Nicholson was a terrible choice for the Joker. Jim Carrey’s riddler was more Joker-like than Nicholson’s version. After Seeing the photos, hearing the laugh and watching the new trailer I have no doubt Ledger will be the best Joker yet.

  • Jay

    Great article – must say i have big doubts about a new Hulk movie flying- Norton’s brave for taking on that role, i guess if you figure ” well, it can’t get any worse” there may be something to it. i hope i’m wrong and it kicks because i like Norton & the Hulk !
    Batman Begins was excellent and can’t wait to see The Dark Knight – i have to say the clips in the trailer have me won over already also- i think Ledger is an excellent choice for The Joker.
    too bad Oldman never got cast as a Batman villain though –
    he plays a wicked bad guy!

  • http://www.heroesofsciencefictionandfantasy.com doc

    When i first found out that Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark in the upcoming Iron Man movie, i was disappointed. I then viewed the trailer and it quickly made me reverse that opinion. I think they have a blockbuster on their hands.–In regards to Conan which was a “pulling of pieces of different stories” I think the original was a great movie for its time. In those days (I saw this in the theatre) we did not have a lot of fantasy movies to pick from. I enjoyed the movie and Arnold as Conan (face it he looks like the guy on the cover of the books) was an easy and good pick. I am looking forward to the new movie, being a Conan fan, and will take what is given. Did a review of a Conan short story in episode 17 and a review of the first Conan movie in episode 8 of Heroes of Science Fiction and Fantasy (an iTunes podcast). http://www.heroesofsciencefictionandfantasy.com for a quicklink or to listen at your computer.

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  • Yup.

    This was great info. Thx for writing it.
    I excited to see The Dark Knight. Batman begins has restored my hope that it is possible to make the Bat into someone more complex and more kickass than the original movies, which by the by was just as corny than the first tv series. Bu i do agree that its success will play a lot on Leagers preformance. But now that hes died i think people may be more willing to accept it even if its not up to par.

    Im also praying that the new Hulk is more “smash buildings” than “brude on past.” Bana is almost to good of an emotional actor to play the Hulk.

    Hellboy i know wont be a total disapointment but i can see how it could go overboard.

    Lastly, i am depressed that they changed the cast of the Punisher. Whats-his-face did a great job. Its so sad. o well, as long as there is about the same amount of explostions i will go see it.

    Thx again. this was very helpfull.

  • http://NONE JOHN

    I AM A LONGTIME CAPT. MARVEL (SHAZAM) FAN. SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE ROCK AS BLACK ADAM I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY OTHER CASTING NEWS. CERTAINLY I HOPE TO SEE BRANDON MOLALE AS CAPTAIN MARVEL BUT IS THERE ANY WORD ABOUT BILLY BATSON AND THE REST OF THE CAST?

  • bathulk

    All the skeptism is unfounded. If batman started afresh and good, why not the hulk. I’m worried that they will dumb down the Hulk and Banner charactert on the basis of the first. Many thought the first to be to intelligent, what a load of crap. the reason it failed was because of its stupidity. generally good acting in Ang Lees version, but everything else was nonsence. I’m not sure Ang Lee had ever read a Hulk comic or seen the tv series. The TV movies created a Banner and Hulk one could relate to much more than the 2003 film. Hulk relates and is flawed in a way that batman does, I think he and batman play the opposite psychological and mythic roles than supes and spidey, where as the former draw on the primordial rage, angst and innerdemons manifest in all of us, the latter rel;ate as archetypal heroes to aspire to. thats why people related to Banner, he expressed the suppressed rage in us all. the irony that banner and hulk ultimates goals are to find peace, and yet it is because of the very existence of the other that neither can do so, is one of the most interesting and subtle psychologiocal dilemas explored in superhero mythology. The sense of lonilinesss and pathos in both is really interesting, especially because we know ultimately they are both good guys, and like ying and yang, the soul of hulk and why he is so heroic is banner, but it is also actually banners rage that fuels the hulk, not the obstacles that Hulk faces. By Ang Lee making banner enjoy becoming the Hulk, the story was comprimised and subsequently immediately lost the depth and humanity of the original character. which is why nobody related to him. it was awful, stupid, and it will be unfortunate if they dumb down Hulk again because the first film was to clever, apparently.

    That’s all I have to say.

  • bathulk

    Why is AngLee seen as a great director anyway, Ang Lee compared to most Asian cinema is crap. Old boy vs Flying dragon hidden tigers or what ever that shit was called. Or I’m a gay cow boy and conflicted (perhaps get another job and move san fran or new york, maybe) vs Yellow Earth. He makes a film with a few visually stunning scenes and is hailed a genius. Really.

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