This was another slow week in Hollywood movie development news for two reasons. Many people are still on summer vacation the week after Independence Day, and we’re still before next week’s San Diego Comic Con, which is usually a huge “news dump” each year. Marvel got several stories ahead of the pack (including news of an X-Force movie), and there are also new projects for Ben Affleck and Johnny Depp.
This Week’s Top Story
THIS WEEK IN MARVEL MOVIES NEWS PART 1: X-FORCE TO BE NEXT FOR FOX’S MUTANT MOVIE SERIES?
It’s difficult to guage exactly why it felt like there was so much Marvel news this week. Was it just another typical week (ie, there’s always tons of Marvel news nowadays), or was it because San Diego Comic Con is next week? Anyway, there was enough that the several stories will be bundled together as just two headlines in the Weekly Ketchup, starting with what’s going on at 20th Century Fox. To recap, the Marvel comic book adaptations these days are basically at three studios: Sony has Spider-Man (and related characters like Venom), Fox has Fantastic Four and X-Men, and Marvel and Disney themselves have The Avengers and any other character not included within the rights of Fox or Sony. The big Marvel news came out in drips and dribbles this week, but we might as well skip to the punchline which just came out this afternoon. Kick-Ass 2 screenwriter and director Jeff Wadlow has been assigned by 20th Century Fox to start work on an X-Force script. For the unfamiliar, an explanation of X-Force is definitely a good idea, except they’re not really that easy to explain. Simply put, X-Force is a team that has existed in various forms since 1991, and they represent a more “extreme” approach to fighting threats to mutant peace and livelihood. There have been three major versions of X-Force in the comics: 1) the original version that featured young mutant heroes led by Cable (who was from the future); 2) a satirical early 2000s version that was a commentary on reality TV and pop culture; and 3) the team since 2008 which is a “black ops” team that does the dirty work that the X-Men can’t (and shouldn’t). The smart money would probably be on the X-Force movie being more like the modern comics, but with some of the characters from the 1990s like Cable, and maybe Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds had some things to say this week about the still-in-the-works Deadpool movie. Finally, Hugh Jackman got quite a bit of news exposure this week for his comments about wishing that Fox, Sony and Marvel could come together and make deals that would allow all of the Marvel characters to be in the same movies together. Not that it’s ever going to happen, but it’s nice to hear someone like Jackman say it.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 BEN AFFLECK TO STAR IN GONE GIRL FOR DIRECTOR DAVID FINCHER
When Ben Affleck appeared recently in the trailer for Runner Runner (with Justin Timberlake), a natural reaction might have been, “Oh yeah, I guess he does still star in movies as well as direct.” That’s just how positive the reaction has been to Ben Affleck’s films as director, the most recent being of course last year’s big Oscar winner Argo. But yes, Affleck is still an actor too. This week, he started negotiations with 20th Century Fox to star in the drama Gone Girl, which will be directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac). Gone Girl will be an adaptation of a novel by Gillian Flynn about a man who is suspected of murder after the disappearance of his wife of five years. The deal for Ben Affleck to appear in Gone Girl is being timed around Affleck’s next gig as director, which will be the adaptation of the novel Live by Night by Dennis Lehane, whose novel Gone Baby Gone was Affleck’s directorial debut.
#2 LEGENDARY PICTURES LEAVES WARNER BROS FOR NBC-UNIVERSAL
This news story can perhaps read a bit like “inside baseball” because it seems like it’s mostly about business deals and such, but as much as it impacts what movies will get produced in the coming years, this might be one of the bigger recent stories (even if it lacks big stars or titles in the headline). After a few weeks of negotiations, the Legendary Pictures production company has made a deal that moves it from Warner Bros to NBC-Universal. It’s important to note that the deal is with NBC-Universal, and not just Universal Pictures, because the allure of all that is under the umbrella of NBC-Universal was reportedly quite important to the deal (theme park, TV and cable production and distribution, notably). Legendary Pictures had a pretty great run at Warner Bros (which will continue until 2014), which included several movies with Christopher Nolan (including the Batman movies and Inception), Zack Snyder (including 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel), and Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy). This weekend also sees the release of Legendary and WB’s Pacific Rim, and their upcoming slate also includes The Seventh Son, 300: Rise of an Empire, the Godzilla reboot, and the Tom Cruise sci-fi action movie All You Need is Kill. What is less clear is what projects Legendary Pictures will be bringing with them to Universal, and which ones will stay at Warner Bros. The DC Comics adaptations will surely stay at Warner Bros, but one that might go with Legendary to Universal is the Warcraft video game adaptation to be directed by Duncan Jones (Moon).
#3 THIS WEEK IN MARVEL NEWS PART 2: VIN DIESEL, AGENT CARTER, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Following up on something that made the news last month, Vin Diesel finally had that meeting with Marvel Studios. And after, he posted on his Facebook an image of himself standing next to a poster of the classic comic book #2 of The Avengers. The cover includes an arrow pointing at Giant-Man (AKA Ant-Man), but Vin Diesel also uses the word “vision” in his post. So, we still don’t really know what the talks were about. Could Vin Diesel star in the 2015 movie Ant-Man (probably the furthest stretch), join the Avengers as the android Vision, or play the villain Thanos (what’s always seemed most likely, given Diesel’s resemblance to Thanos)? Speaking of Thanos, there was also a report online this week that purported to tell us all what villains will be played in Guardians of the Galaxy by Benicio Del Toro, Lee Pace, and Karen Gillan. If it’s true, those three will be playing, respectively, the Collector, Ronan the Accuser, and Nebula. Those three characters are either unrelated or related to various other cosmic Marvel characters depending upon which comics you’re reading (or as Iron Man 3 showed us, the movie might just be its own beast entirely). And finally, this week, we got our first images of the next Marvel One Shot short film, Agent Carter, which will premiere next week at Comic Con in San Diego, and then appear on the Iron Man 3 Blu Ray. Hayley Atwell will reprise her character from Captain America: The First Avenger, one year later, as she’s on the trail of “Zodiac” (which likewise, in the comics, has meant different things at different times).
#4 KEVIN COSTNER TO STAR IN (ANOTHER) SPORTS MOVIE, MCFARLAND
Kevin Costner has made quite a career out of sports movies (American Flyers, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, For Love of the Game). Now 58, Kevin Costner’s career in sports movies is continuing, but this time, he will play a coach in Disney’s drama McFarland. Directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country), McFarland will tell the true story of a track and field team in a small mostly-Latino town in California in the 1980s that must overcome social and physical “hurdles.” See what they (Variety, probably) did there?
#5 JOHNNY DEPP VEERS SMALLER WITH THE CHARACTER COMEDY MORTDECAI
Besides being pre-Comic-Con, this week was also notable for following the disappointing box office of The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp’s response appears to have been a decision to sign on for a smaller “character study” comedy called Mortedecai. The project is a long-in-development adaptation of the comedic crime novel The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery by author Kyril Bonfiglioli. Mortdecai was previously in development at Warner Bros (where Johnny Depp was also attached to star in the project), and now it’s at Lionsgate. Mortdecai will be directed by David Koepp, who previously worked with Depp on the Stephen King adaptation Secret Window. Koepp’s other films as director include The Trigger Effect, Stir of Echoes, Ghost Town, and Premium Rush.
#6 X-MEN WRITER DAVID HAYTER TO ADAPT FEMALE EMPOWERMENT COMIC BOOK THE SWORD
This story is a pretty great example of exactly how slow of a week this was. It’s also a story that was probably announced this week to get ahead of Comic Con, because once that news cycle really kicks in, a project like The Sword would truly get completely buried. Anyway, the gist is this: Lakeshore Entertainment (Aeon Flux, Crank, Underworld) has hired screenwriter David Hayter to adapt the comic book title The Sword for a project which they hope will start filming in early 2014. David Hayter is best known for two things: as one of the writers of the first two X-Men movies, and (less relevantly here) for being the voice of Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games. Anyway, The Sword is about a paraplegic young woman who discovers an ancient sword that allows her to walk, and perform amazing swordplay feats, allowing her to wreak vengeance on those responsible for the slaughter of her family. Lakeshore Entertainment is hoping The Sword might be successful enough to lead to a franchise of at least four movies.
#7 CHLOE MORETZ TO STAR IN TEEN COMA DRAMA IF I STAY
After starring in the upcoming remake of Carrie for MGM, Chloe Moretz signed a deal recently to stick with the studio for another movie. Chloe Moretz will star in If I Stay, as a teenage girl who has an out-of-body experience after a disastrous car accident, then tries to decide whether to continue what will be a difficult life or just give up on life altogether. If I Stay will be directed by TV series producer R.J. Cutler, whose series include Flip That House, Greatest American Dog, and ABC’s Nashville. If I Stay lands just on this side of “Fresh” because it’s a new Chloe Moretz movie, honestly.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 AFTER THE LONE RANGER, DISNEY NEXT TARGETS REMAKE OF THE JUNGLE BOOK
After a big movie like The Lone Ranger lands with a thud both critically and commercially, it’s fairly common for a studio to next announce movie projects that can be seen as “corrections” and acknowledgements of what went wrong. That, at least, is one way to interpret the news this week that Walt Disney Pictures is developing a new live action remake of Rudyard Kipling’s short story anthology The Jungle Book. Disney’s 1967 animated film The Jungle Book remains the most famous movie based on Kipling’s stories, but there were also live action adaptations in 1942 and 1994. That more recent version was also from Disney, and was an early film from director Stephen Sommers, five years before his first major hit with The Mummy. This second attempt by Disney at a live action The Jungle Book has competition in the form of another adaptation by Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves (because the rights to The Jungle Book are now in the public domain). As for why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas? The screenwriter that Disney has hired for this project, Justin Marks, currently has one feature film to his credit: 2009’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
#1 TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D PRODUCERS TARGET ZOMBIES NEXT WITH DAY OF THE DEAD REMAKE
It was only six months ago, but it already feels like years since the January rerelease of Texas Chainsaw 3D. Like many January releases, the movie came out in that dead zone between Oscar season and the better promoted movies of the spring season. We’re right in the middle of summer blockbuster season now, so it might be difficult to imagine the reasoning, but times of the year like January can actually be fairly profitable for less ambitiously budgeted genre projects. Anyway, the next horror remake for the producing team behind Texas Chainsaw 3D appears likely to be a remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. That 1985 release was the finishing film of Romero’s original zombie trilogy (before he returned to them starting with Land of the Dead in 2005). Night of the Living Dead itself has been remade a few times now, and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead was the movie that launched the directing career of Zack Snyder, who most recently gave us this summer’s Man of Steel. We don’t yet know how faithful the remake will be to Romero’s tale of soldiers and scientists hiding out in the days following a zombie apocalypse, but the producers do promise to stick with “slow” zombies rather than the more recently popular “fast” zombies… like those in, say, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead (or last month’s World War Z). This is the week’s Most Rotten Idea based on the RT Tomatometer score for Texas Chainsaw 3D.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.