Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Disney's First Marvel...
With over 5000 new characters for the Mouse to play with, I got to wondering who would could be the first...
Now granted, of those 5000 or 7000 characters, depending on whose numbers you want to believe, maybe 200 to 300 are worth translating to some platform for making money. I don't think we're going to see a big screen adaption of Squirrel Girl anytime soon.
But I felt it'd be interesting to examine what characters I think might make it out of the starting gate and which one might be the first one we see after a Walt Disney Pictures logo.
We'll again do a little recap to whittle away at what they can't do. Naturally, with regards to film, the primary properties Marvel owns are all taken. The Big Kahuna, "Spider-Man" is loaned out to Sony and as long as they continue to pay money to Marvel, they'll continue to make films for the foreseeable future. At least a decade will pass before there is even an outside chance of Disney using ole' Web Head. The only hope for an out from this situation would be a contract violation or somehow being able to get more money from Sony than the franchise is worth. Considering how much money "Spider-Man 3" made, it makes the character worth a whole lot of licensing money. Despite the fall back into mediocrity, Spider-Man is going to spend a lot of quality time on the Sony Lot. Fox also retains the rights to "Ghost Rider," which was handled sooooo well also. I don't know if they have any plans for a reboot/sequel to this, but I would hope they just let the rights expire and Marvel does their own projects with the character a few years later.
Same goes with properties such as "X-Men," "Fantastic Four" and "Daredevil" over at Fox. This also includes several characters that appeared in the X-Men films that aren't part of that group. The character of Deadpool was directly put into "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" to legally hold that character hostage, not to advance the story. Yet another reason why I hated that film. But those characters in that spin-off are in Fox's own corporate form of Stockholm Syndrome, sadly.
New Line Cinema has the rights to "Blade," the vampire slayer. After the stinking chapter that was the third film, hopefully there won't be anymore films made by New Line. Marvel could go ahead and reboot this as well. I really enjoyed Wesley Snipes as the bad-ass Daywalker, but perhaps it's time for a new actor to play the character. Will Smith perhaps? Hehe... no. Really, no.
Lionsgate has or had the rights to "The Punisher," but judging by the box office of the last two films it's not likely to pursue another one. A shame, because I actually liked "Punisher: Warzone" much more than the early film staring Thomas Jane and a badly miscast John Travolta. And I won't even mention the Dolph Lundgren film which was just an entire can of cheese whiz all by itself. The character of Frank Castle is an awesome archetype that could create some great cinema and despite the last film not doing well at theaters, I hope Marvel hasn't given up on bringing him back to the big screen.
The deal with Paramount Pictures is simply a distribution agreement. They don't own these characters, the studio just gets a flat fee to distribute the films that Marvel Studios makes. Now that they're owned by Disney, they have the best distribution company in the world. The deal with Paramount is for five films, four of which have already been announced. My feeling is the last film will most likely be "Iron Man 3," which means that Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark will almost certainly not be in Disney's future. By then, he'll likely be through with the Iron Man character. But "Iron Man 4" or any other sequel to "The First Avenger: Captain America," "Thor," "Avengers" or "The Hulk" will be under a Disney or Touchstone moniker.
So now that we've said all that, we're up to speed. Now, the question is where do we go from here? Because all those deals with Paramount won't end before 2012. So what film will be seen before then. Possibly 2011? There's not much chance that next year will see a major release of a Disney-Marvel film. I could be wrong, though it's not very likely. But imagine that it's late 2010 and you're sitting in a darkened theater watching previews for next summer. What might we see?
Just my opinions here, but the first choice...
Ant-Man. Edgar Wright ("Hott Fuzz," "Shaun of the Dead," and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") is known to have been developing a project based on the character for some time. It's my opinion that this would be a great character to platform out across the Disney empire. And I know people have talked about this being a Pixar film and even a Pixar live-action film, but I don't see that happening. The Lamp has since its creation been a film studio that develops things internally. They don't really take other ideas and use them. That could change, but I have a feeling that Pixar, like WDAS will focus on things it's developed on it's own. I know with Disney, people can mention "King of the Elves," which is a licensed property or "The Black Cauldron," but those projects are the rare exception, not the rule. It's far more likely the Disney Pictures and Marvel logos will be all you see and there will be no inclusion of little Luxo Jr. between them.
And as for this being a Pixar live-action film? Not going to happen. Remember that "John Carter of Mars" was moved over to the Walt Disney Pictures brand because the film wasn't going to be "Pixar" material. I believe Lasseter and Cook want to protect the image of the little Emeryville Wonder. This is in contrast to what I was thinking when I heard Andrew Stanton was directing this a year or so ago. I thought Pixar might go into live-action, but the "Finding Nemo" director has made it clear in interviews that John Carter's story would be a better fit with the Disney label. Now that doesn't mean we won't get "Pixar" quality. Lasseter will have influence over this project, but more as a friend and confidant of Stanton, not a studio head. Not that that is a bad thing... I'm sure he'll offer great advice. Which is what I think would happen on any Ant-Man film. Lasseter would most likely give advice and suggestions and nothing else. Still, it sounds like a project Dick Cook and Co. will hopefully have the business sense to greenlight. And if Pixar is a guide, then they'll leave Marvel to take care of the film and Disney to market the heck out of it.
Another project that would be great is perhaps the Guillermo del Toro and Neil Gaiman adaption of "Dr. Strange" which has been mentioned from time to time over the past year or so. A faithful film of this character would be something akin to elevating a secondary character with great potential to a higher prominence. Just as "Blade" wound up being a very popular character most people had never hear of, so too could the mystic Doctor become.
Then there's Iron Fist. Daniel "Danny" Rand would make a great martial arts character to bring to the screen. I know it's wishing, but maybe the Wachowski Brothers or their minion, James McTeigue could handle this property. This could easily be the adolescent-male project that Disney was looking for when they bought Marvel in order to appeal to the boys demographic.
Or the Black Panther could another character that makes it to the big screen in the next few years. The story of T'Challa, heir to the dynasty of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, leader of its famous Panther Clan. Again, Will Smith has been mentioned for this film. Is there any role this guy is not up for?
There have been a couple attempts to bring Namor, the Sub-Mariner to the screen as well. This project has languished in development hell for years, with by David Self most recently taking a crack at the Atlantian Prince. Could this be a property Disney winds up bringing to audiences anytime soon?
And lastly, we come to my favorite property that I'd like to see them develop. I've been a fan of this comic since I was in high school. Iron Fist would be a fun character to have an exciting karate action-adventure film. But... I'd prefer a Kung Fu film. As in Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. It would be an amazing cinematic experience, imho. He's got the mythos, the drama and narrative that would make for an awesome adaption into the world of film. For those that don't know, Shang Chi is a Chinese Kung Fu expert who happens to be the son of the evil, mastermind, Fu Manchu. This would be an awesome story if they followed the issues written and drawn by Doug Moench and Gene Day, respectively. If you've never seen those issues or the ones Moench did with Paul Gulacy, I highly recommend them. Totally cinematic, totally coolage.
And for those that talk about Disney not wanting to touch R rated material, I have another suggestion. The Mouse has several imprints for films. From Walt Disney Picture to Touchstone Pictures to Miramax Pictures. But you know one that's missing? Hollywood Pictures. They've sort of let this shingle wither on the vine, with nothing more than a few low budget horror releases over the past five or six years. How about they take that production company and release all of Marvels mature, R rated films there? So if they ever made another film like Punisher: Warzone, it could go in that imprint. It's all about branding and the Hollywood Pictures moniker is just lying there dormant, waiting to be used. So with all these characters you now have a home you can give them, Iger. Open up the doors on the studio that gave us "The Sixth Sense" and "The Rock" and welcome in Stan Lee's family.
Well, that's some of my suggestions as to what would make for great adaptions for Disney to start their relationship with the Marvel masses. I doubt that they're listening to me, but then again, look what happened after I wrote that "Without Tights" post.
Here's to dreaming...