This Week, the Weekly Ketchup was split into two columns in order to best cover all of the news from San Diego Comic-Con. The first column covered the news that came out before SDCC started, and now here is the column covering the news that came out this weekend. As would be expected, most of the news is about comic book movies, including news for Marvel’s next three movies (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger), a Superman rumor, the Judge Dredd reboot, movies based on Garth Ennis’ The Boys and Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and the revelation of what project Guillermo del Toro signed on for after dropping out of directing the two The Hobbit movies.
A few weeks ago, there was news that what Guillermo del Toro might be doing instead of directing the two The Hobbit movies was writing and producing a new Van Helsing movie for Universal. However, Del Toro was quick to say that he wanted to wait until Comic-Con to make an announcement about what his Hobbit replacement might be. This week, we found out why. Universal apparently wasn’t the only studio Del Toro has been talking to, because his big San Diego Comic-Con announcement was instead a deal with Walt Disney Pictures. Guillermo del Toro has signed to write and produce a new movie based on Disney’s popular Haunted Mansion theme park attraction. Back in 2003, Disney attempted to repeat their success with Pirates of the Caribbean with a Haunted Mansion kids movie starring Eddie Murphy, but that movie was a critical flop (though it did pretty good box office with $182 million in international numbers). The Haunted Mansion is, of course, the Disney attraction about a haunted house filled with 999 ghosts that scare thousands of tourists each day at various Disney theme parks. Here’s part of what Guillermo del Toro had to say about the project, “I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of my own adaptation of the original theme park attraction Walt envisioned and that remains- for me- the most desirable piece of real estate in the whole world!” In addition to writing or cowriting most of the films that he has directed, Guillermo del Toro’s writing credits also include the upcoming Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark remake and his work on the Hobbit movies (if they ever really get made). Last fall, Guillermo del Toro also made a deal with Disney to create a new family friendly scary movie label called Disney Double Dare You, but it is not yet known if this new Haunted Mansion movie will be part of that deal.
Although Warner Bros and DC Comics did have a big event for Green Lantern, it was undoubtedly Marvel Studios that won the weekend at San Diego Comic Con this year. Versus that one movie, Marvel had three projects to promote: Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. Those first two movies were shown off with both new trailers and scenes from the movies, and the third was promoted by the announcement of who would be on the team, and the entire cast showing up on stage. First up, for Thor, a new detail that was revealed that the Infinity Gauntlet, the cosmic weapon worn by the Deviant villain Thanos will show up in Thor, hinting at Thanos’ possible appearance in either that film or an upcoming Marvel project. The Infinity Gauntlet isn’t the only object of immense power to show up in an upcoming Marvel movie, however, as the scene shown at SDCC was of the Red Skull searching for the Cosmic Cube, which has long been important to both Captain America stories and those of other Marvel characters. It’s also curious that another character who was after the Cosmic Cube was the aforementioned Thanos. Also in that scene, there was a glimpse of a carving of Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life, which ties Captain America to Thor. As for The Avengers, Joss Whedon was officially announced as the film’s director (although we’ve known about that for several weeks now), along with the team’s lineup. The team members of The Avengers was more newsworthy, however, not for who will be in the team, but for who will not be in the team in this first movie, such as original team founders Ant-Man and the Wasp. The Avengers will be: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), with SHIELD Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) providing support. This team roster is closest to The Ultimates, which was also where the idea of Nick Fury looking a lot like Samuel L. Jackson first appeared. Finally, an extra little bit of Marvel Studios news came in the form of the revelation that one of the characters formerly seen in movies not made by Marvel is now available to Marvel to use in future movies: The Punisher. Lionsgate made two Punisher movies (starring Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson), but Lionsgate’s deal was apparently only for those two movies. Having said that, there are no known plans for Marvel Studios to make another Punisher movie, but it’s nice to know that the Marvel Universe is slowly coming back together under Marvel’s control. The Marvel characters that are still out there under other studios’ control include X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Ghost Rider. All of those characters have movies in development, but if their next movies ever don’t get made (Daredevil and Fantastic Four being the most likely candidates), Marvel Studios may just yet be able to re-acquire them.
First off, it should be noted that this story falls in the “rumor” category, especially since the mentioned San Diego Comic-Con announcement didn’t actually happen. It also might not be a coincidence that this rumor comes the week after Christopher Nolan’s Inception opened to big numbers and continues to have box office “legs” based on good reviews and word of mouth. And now, here’s what this big rumor is actually about: who might be directing Superman: Man of Steel, the project that Christopher Nolan is helping guide at Warner Bros (in addition to directing the third of his Batman movies for 2012). If the rumor is to be believed, the two top contenders for the job are either Jonah Nolan (Christopher’s brother and cowriter of The Dark Night and The Prestige) or David S. Goyer, who also wrote the Superman: Man of Steel script. If Jonah Nolan gets the job, this would be his directorial debut. If David S. Goyer gets the job, this would mark his highest profile film as director, having also directed four previous movies, including Blade: Trinity and The Unborn. However, as noted, since there was no promised announcement at Comic-Con, this news should be taken with some skepticism.
Movie fans may be skeptical about the plans for a new Judge Dredd movie, based only their knowledge of the craptacular 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. However, fans of the original British comics (debuting in 2000 AD in 1977) have a much higher opinion of the futuristic character who served as a one man cop, judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd was an influential character that helped popularize the “grim and gritty” approach of the 1980s that led to titles like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Wolverine. And now, we know who has been offered the role of Judge Dredd in the reboot movie: Karl Urban, AKA Bones McCoy in Star Trek and costar of the upcoming genre movies Red and Priest. Urban hasn’t officially signed yet, but comments he made this week suggest that he probably will. If Urban does take the role, it’s worth noting that the only part of his face that we will see will be Urban’s chin, as like the comics, this movie version of Judge Dredd will never take off his foreboding helmet. The Judge Dredd remake will be directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point). The adaptation of Judge Dredd was written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), and the main writer of the Judge Dredd comics has said that (unlike the Stallone movie), he is very optimistic about it.
A few months ago, there was a rumor that Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) might be in talks to star in a movie version of Dan Dare, and this week, that news was confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con. Perhaps the most immediate question for most of the readers of this column, however, is probably “who the &#%@ is Dan Dare?” Introduced in 1950, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future is a British science fiction character who has appeared in British comic books, radio and televison. Dan Dare is an amazing pilot, a member of the Interplanet Space Fleet, and is often compared to Buck Rogers (who also has a movie in development). Dan Dare’s original adventures also took place in the far flung future of the 1990s. Dan Dare is just one of the projects that Sam Worthington is attached to star in following the success of Avatar, along with the lead roles in Dracula Year Zero and the Quatermain movie which re-imagines 19th century adventurer Allan Quatermain as a futuristic interplanetary explorer. There is no announced writer or director for Dan Dare yet, but the project is being produced by Basil Iwanyk (Clash of the Titans, The Expendables).
The action comedy The Other Guys doesn’t open in theaters for another couple of weeks yet, but the film’s director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) has already lined up a new project. McKay will direct Sony’s adaptation of Garth Ennis’ violent and humorous comic book series The Boys about a CIA Black Ops team assigned to take down rogue superheroes who get out of control. The Boys was adapted by the writing team of Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (Aeon Flux, crazy/beautiful; cowriters of Clash of the Titans). Although McKay wasn’t confirmed until this week, his name has been rumored for a while, and the director recently confirmed that he hopes to cast Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as Scottish conspiracy theorist Wee Hughie, whose comic book image was also clearly inspired by Simon Pegg’s likeness.
The term “graphic novel” has become nearly synonymous among some people for comic books. One of the first books to call itself a graphic novel was A Contract with God, a four story anthology about the lives of Jewish immigrants living in New York City tenements in the 1930s. A Contract with God was written and drawn by Will Eisner (1917-2005), creator of The Spirit and an award winning leader in the comic book industry whose name was adopted in 1988 as the Eisners, the awards given out each year at San Diego Comic Con. This year, on the eve of the Eisner Awards, an independent film producer announced plans to adapt A Contract with God. The film will have four different independent film directors, each adapting one of the short stories that makes up the book. The directors will be: Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), Tze Chun (Children of Invention), Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) and Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway).
Since breaking out with the 2003 horror import High Tension, French director Alexandre Aja’s three English language films have been two remakes (The Hills Have Eyes and the upcoming Piranha 3D) and one original film (Mirrors). This week, doing early publicity for Piranha 3D, Aja revealed that he hopes to be able to also remake the gory 1980 slash film Maniac. In Maniac, a serial killer stalks and kills women each night, scalping them to use their hair to adorn his apartment full of mannequins. Maniac was directed by William Lustig, who went on to direct the first three movies in the similarly-titled Maniac Cop franchise. Aja would not be directing the Maniac remake himself, however, but would produce the film, with his frequent writing partner Gregory Lavasseur making his directorial debut. It’s worth noting however that Aja has not yet secured the rights or made a deal yet to direct a Maniac remake. It’s possible that in the weeks leading up to the release of Piranha 3D, we might hear more about plans for this remake.
In addition to the movie deals based on comic books that have been running for years/decades and have fan bases, there are also a lot of deals for comics that aren’t even out yet. At San Diego Comic-Con, Dark Horse Comics unveiled the upcoming title The Strange Case of Hyde, written by screenwriter Cole Haddon. Haddon doesn’t yet have any produced titles to his credits, but his development slate includes Thieves of Baghdad, a family adventure based on One Thousand and One Nights. The Strange Case of Hyde will not be a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, despite the very similar title. Instead, Jekyll/Hyde will be the “center of a Victorian-era action adventure that sees him go head-to-head against a historical villain.” At one time, Guillermo del Toro was considering producing and possibly directing his own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie, but it appears that those plans are now on hold. There is also a modern retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story in development at Universal Pictures that Keanu Reeves is attached to star in.
The big box office news right now concerns the success of two movies: Inception and Despicable Me. What people aren’t really talking about is how well the Angelina Jolie-starring Salt and the sci-fi action reboot Predators are being received. And yet, sequels for both of those movies are already being discussed. Reacting to the $36.5 million opening of Salt (which earned it the #2 spot after the second week of Inception took the first spot again), producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura discussed this weekend the possibility of a Salt 2. The producer said, “This is certainly a good indicator… it’s got to have this kind of success worldwide. If it does, we’ll have a sequel.” Even a movie that opened to $10 million less than Salt is getting sequel talk. Robert Rodriguez revealed this week that the domestic and international box office for the Predators reboot has been strong enough for 20th Century Fox to start talking to him about a sequel. Rodriguez says he has an idea for Predators 2 that sets up “a new storyline, new location and world.” The next step is to get pitches from writers working off his basic idea. As for whether or not Rodriguez will direct the sequel (he didn’t direct Predators), he said, “I don’t know… I think I have too many people wanting me to do Sin City 2 first!” This story is this column’s Rotten Idea more for Salt 2, but both sequels are part of an ongoing problem in Hollywood. 2010 has shown that audiences may be tired of sequels (as well as remakes and movies based on existing properties). To be sure, a few did very well, like Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland, but they are outnumbered by movies like Sex and the City 2, The A-Team, MacGruber and many others that did not live up to studio expectations. Inception and Despicable Me have shown that audiences do want original ideas when they are done very well. And thankfully, Christopher Nolan has not (yet) been talking about an Inception 2.