Monday, June 16, 2014

Paul Bettany cast as Martian Manhu-- wait, what?

So... yeah... Martian Manhunter cinema "news." Noose? Feels more like a noose. But it's Monday, it's easy, let's chat about ephemera.

Notorious Tinseltown journalist Nikki Finke celebrated the end of her non-compete from Deadline Hollywood with her new website and a report that Warner Brothers will (finally) be aggressively exploiting their DC properties for movies. Her list claims the following release dates:

May 2016 – Batman v Superman
July 2016 – Shazam
Xmas 2016 – Sandman
May 2017 – Justice League
July 2017 – Wonder Woman
Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up
May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2

Finke also claimed that movies for the Metal Men and Suicide Squad (Supermax?) had gone to production hell, and that the true reason for the delay on (snicker) Dawn o' Justice was to lock down all their actors into extensive multi-picture contracts for Marvel-style cameos to fully construct a shared cinematic universe of their own. A lot of that makes sense, because the casting list on that first flick was already stuffed to the gills, and we've now received news of Aquaman being cast. What I expect to see is WB/DC tweaking the formula a tad to be diff'rent, so instead of stingers, maybe we get a scene of Dick Grayson leaving the Batcave to do his own thing in a later movie as Nightwing, motivating Batman to vent by getting all judgy on Superman. Do a scene at S.T.A.R. Labs where Vic Stone visits his parents, then his origin can be the Justice League movie's equivalent to the boring first twenty minutes of Marvel's The Avengers with all the S.H.I.E.L.D. crap.

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Another thing worth noting is that if you have a Wonder Woman movie, that's where her origin gets told, not in B v. S or JL. Ditto the Flash/GL flick, which will hopefully be wise enough to skip a lengthy origin element ala The Incredible Hulk and take some advantage of the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern and the new TV show Flash. Batman v Superman can reintroduce the tweaked Batman, and offer an initially adversarial relationship with the Man of Steel, which will help distract from this being another dang Lex Luthor as ultimate villain film. Maybe we'll get a Lexcorp brewed Bizarro or something to spice up that old standard. Liberally sprinkle cameos and lead into first JLA film, which could be heavy on character interaction and light on exposition. Allow the other movies to stand alone. The current Superman has already been kind of ruined for kids, so maybe offer them Captain Marvel, a character who's been in some stage of preproduction since, like, the '90s. Got to be enough material lying around to push something out. The Rock is supposed to be attached to a DC movie, his busy schedule means he'd work best as a stunt villain, and he's been associated with Black Adam for the better part of a decade. Maybe Shazam stands alone, or maybe an awareness of his movie being far along in the pipeline was why he was used in the animated film War to prime him for League movie membership?

Then another rumor, this time from for Variety and current TheWrap writer Jeff Sneider, claiming J'Onn J'Onzz was up for casting in Justice League. Like virtually every other character confirmed as appearing in the movie, J'Onzz was introduced in live action to a wide audience via Smallville, and was used extensively there, because it makes friggin' sense. Man of Steel turned Superman into a hot mess of poor decision making skills, and Batman is so not the right choice to play mentor to a Kryptonian. The Manhunter is also a space guy and extremely stealthy, a more obviously useful combination to offer information about Max Lord or Darkseid than, say Cyborg. There was also an interesting follow-up tweet from Umberto Gonzalez, reporter from occasional scoopers/often B.S.ers Latino-Review...

Hopefully, if this is remotely accurate, Cumberbatch would be playing Darkseid or Maxwell Lord, since I think he'd be a terrible choice to play Martian Manhunter. This reopens the door to discuss the movies' casting issues. To date, Gal Gadot has never carried a movie or impressed anyone as Wonder Woman, but she's expected to play the Amazing Amazon in her own feature. Most recently, we are near confirmation on Jason Momoa playing Namor, the tall dark and handsome half-breed avenging son of the seven seas, with his arched eyebrows, barbaric intensity, and hot temper. No wait, he's playing the most famous ripoff of the Sub-Mariner, Aquaman, who spent his first thirty years in comics as the more mild-mannered, helpful, distinctly Aryan DC answer to one of proto-Marvel's most popular anti-heroes. Momoa has done fine work playing variations on Namor, but he's no Aquaman. Throwing Cumberbatch at the Manhunter would be another huge misstep, because a not dissimilar actor will be playing a not dissimilar character in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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Throughout the Silver & Bronze Ages, Martian Manhunter was an amiable alien detective who was super-strong, could fly, created string winds with his powerful lungs, and could spin up a mean drill. The Vision was always a grim robot who fired an energy beam from his brow and "flew" by becoming immaterial, and his control of personal density also allowed him to pass through objects or become diamond hard, often in conjunction as a vicious offensive attack. A lot of J'Onn J'Onzz's personality and m.o. in the modern era can be traced directly back to "Victor Shade," who will be played by Paul Bettany next summer. This would inspire some rather unfavorable comparison for a johnny-come-lately Benedict Cumberbatch. No wonder David Goyer wanted to turn the Manhunter into Sil.

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Speaking of Goyer, BatFleck's writer/director buddy Kevin Smith had some words to say about the contempt expressed by the man providing the story to Batman v Superman. On the Hollywood Babble-On podcast, Smith said, "...You’re going to make comments like that, and you’re the person who is responsible for introducing Wonder Woman. That’s why there’s a lot of cats upset online. And then beyond just the icky girl stuff or whatever, the like ‘oh nerd stuff,’ the thing that I found really troubling too was the Martian Manhunter thing as well... that idea could never work, because it’s only existed for what like forty or fifty years, tried and true. These things are all make pretend anyway. It’s a comic book. Why couldn’t there be a Martian Manhunter? ...I don’t think David Goyer reads comic books whatsoever man."

Here's one of the things that gives me hope. The story to Batman v Superman is credited to David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder, but the screenplay is being written by Argo's Chris Terrio, and I don't think we know who's writing Justice League. Further, Kevin Tsujihara took over Warner Brothers in early 2013, too late to "save" Man of Steel, but not the successive films. Tsujihara used to work with Paul Levitz, and has a noted consideration for the DC super-heroes. I'm not excited about this line-up of films yet, but at least there's some potential for quality there. If noting else though, the Vision is one of my favorite Avengers, and might end up being enough of a parallel to the Martian Manhunter I know that I can take solace there if he's mishandled by Warners.


LissBirds said...

Nice overview of recent development, Frank. I've been catching snippets here and there, but haven't had it all pieced together like this.

I'm surprised a Metal Men movie was even IN development.

Cumberbatch? I do find that rumor highly suspect. He has a history of playing cold, unhuman characters, so maybe that's where that rumor came from. I don't think he's right for J'onn at all. And on a person (and irrational) note, I hear about Benedict Cumberbatch in real life and online ad nauseam to the point where I'm so sick of hearing about him. I haven't even seen him in anything and I know all about Sherlock because people won't stop talking about it. But cast him in a Justice League movie, and every girl aged 15 to 30 will become a rabid Martian Manhunter fan overnight, I guarantee it. It happened with Star Trek. And if that happens, I want to be on the record that I was a Martian Manhunter fan before Benedict Cumberbatch was ever mentioned in the same sentence. And is J'onn ready for that kind of attention? I don't know. But he could be more popular than Superman with that kind of casting. He'd be a household name. It would be strange.

I agree with you 100% about Momoa.

So Jarvis is The Vision? I think Marvel's various studio's casting is great, but I think it's amusing when actors start pulling double duty.

Well, it's a rare day when I have to agree with Kevin Smith about something. I didn't see that coming.

I'm not inspired by any of these movies, except the Flash/GL one. Only because in my mind, it would make an awesome "buddy cop" team-up movie with ribbing and hijinks and that kind of stuff, and I would love to see that. But I don't think that's going to happen... But it will only work if Ryan Reynolds is not Hal Jordan.

You're right about Shazam needing to be there for the kids. I think there needs to be something lighter and more all-ages, for sure. I'm happy to see a Shazam movie on the list. But puzzled as to why it's before a Wonder Woman one?

Also, if DC were smart, they'd tie these movies in to their new TV shows. (Since there's a Flash show...) but knowing them, they'll create two different continuities/universes.

Who is Marion Cottilard rumored to be playing?

Diabolu Frank said...

No idea on Cotillard. She did her DC duty already, anyway.

In the absence of Hank Pym and Simon Williams, I assume J.A.R.V.I.S. will be the Vision's "operating system," possibly constructed under Tony Stark's supervision.

LissBirds said...

Oh, okay. I could see some kind of connection between JARVIS.

I just saw the Avengers cartoon episode that introduced The Vision. (Which is a really good series, BTW.) Now I finally understand the parallels with J'onn, at least powers-wise. And costume-wise, right down to the popped collar.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'll need to do a more proper write-up on the similarities in the future.