5 Marvel Comics Movies Waiting To Happen

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Action Movies, comic books, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
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Now that the next slate of Summer Superhero Movies are getting their early media attention (the Captain America cover story in Entertainment Weekly; Green Lantern‘s trailer popping up the same day Ryan Reynolds was announced as People’s Sexiest Man, and why don’t I just throw the link to that Thor sizzle-reel in here too), the time has come to turn back to an obvious question:

Who the hell else is there to make into a movie?

This may be an irrelevant question in the near future, what with talk of David E. Kelley taking the reigns of a Wonder Woman series and Guillermo del Toro working on a Hulk show. The future of the superhero in other media may well be TV. 

Which makes sense – superhero stories are traditionally serialized, just like television. And I think the stigma that TV is a step down from movies – both from a production and storytelling standpoint – has largely gone out the window.

And if you don’t think that, please watch the 80 excruciating minutes of Jonah Hex and compare it to the so-far pretty great season of “The Walking Dead,” and tell me TV doesn’t have the capability to adapt a comic properly.

(Of course, if NBC’s upcoming “The Cape” absolutely flops, this too may be a completely irrelevant question. Trends come, trends go. )

Anyway, whatever the medium, the big question is what characters are left to adapt for a new audience, and the best way to sell them, considering the relative lack of name recognition.

While it’s intellectually more challenging to figure out pitches for DC comics characters, the Marvel stable is mostly tailor-made to movie pitches. (Maybe it’s the less hefty continuity, or the more high-concept style storytelling engines.)

Going down the list of Marvel characters who are card-carrying members of the Avengers (since why NOT use a soon-to-be recognizable franchise to launch some new properties), let’s start with:

BLACK PANTHER
THE HOOK: He’s Batman if Batman was the leader of a small, technologically advanced African nation.
THE PLOT: King T’Challa, who holds the title of Black Panther Chief of Wakanda, catches wind of a coup within his government (which, it should be noted, has never been conquered by outside forces). He uses a UN summit in New York as a cover to investigate the coup, aided in part by a nebbishy white State Department attaché.
THE SOURCE: Chris Priest’s awesome opening arc on the 2000 Black Panther series.
THE CAST: Chiwetel Ejiofor as T’Challa. Matthew Perry as Everett K. Ross, State Department attaché and self-proclaimed king of the white boys.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Budget.

DR. STRANGE
THE HOOK: Magic is real – and the only one who can save us from our own nightmares is a narcissistic surgeon.  Or, more simply: Tony Stark, Magician.
THE PLOT: Dr. Stephen Strange, arrogant surgeon, suffers severe nerve damage to his hands and searches for a cure, ultimately becoming the apprentice of a Tibetan wise man – who’s secretly the mystical protector of the Earth realm. He must shed his self-absorption if he is to save the world from Dormammu, a magical warrior-king, and his servant, Mordo – Strange’s rival for the title of Master of the Mystic Arts.
THE SOURCE: Stan Lee’s origin story, Steve Ditko’s tripped-out artistic vision, and the characterization of Brian K. Vaughan and Mark Waid.
THE CAST: Pie-in-the-sky? George Clooney, graying hair and charming “Yes I KNOW I’m this awesome, but thanks for mentioning it” swagger. More realistically: Johnny Depp or Jeff Goldblum, or really, any actor who can pull off confident assholery. Open to suggestions on this one.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Harry Potter aside, magic is a tough sell – if it wasn’t, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice would be filming a sequel already.

MOON KNIGHT
THE HOOK: Batman if he actually WAS as crazy as people assumed. OR: Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” dressed up in superhero clothes.
THE PLOT: Marc Spector is a mercenary who’s gunned down in Egypt, and awakened by a force he believes to be Konshu, the Egyptian god of vengeance. Spector uses the power of Konshu when he returns to the states, utilizing multiple identities to hunt down the people who tried to kill him and find out what they were searching for in Egypt – but his splintering sense of self may prove his undoing.
THE SOURCE: Doug Moench’s original stories.
THE CAST: I kinda feel like Jenson Ackles of “Supernatural” has a strong mix of barely-restrained violence and surface-confidence masking a deep concern that maybe he’s not quite right in the head that’s required of the role.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Moon Knight’s always been viewed as a Batman-wannabe, which is why Marvel tends to press the “no, but he’s actually pretty nuts” part. Which…might not be what people want to go see.

LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE
THE HOOK: Well…I’m not sure what the most sensitive way of saying this is, but basically, Black Dynamite. But, y’know. Modern. And it stars a convict who volunteers for experiments and becomes superstrong and bulletproof. And then, uhm…look, Black Dynamite was fricking awesome and there should totally be a non-parody version of that movie. That is totally not a blaxploitation movie, but is, also, a bulletproof black superhero who can’t be killed, who cleans up his neighborhood. A theme song extolling Luke Cage’s virtues may be required. (And yes, down-on-her-luck competing detective Jessica Jones would be the prickly love interest.)
THE PLOT: Oh, that part’s easy.

OR, it could just be a really great modern blaxploitation movie – which, considering Shaft was pretty damn near a superhero himself, wouldn’t be a huge stretch.
THE SOURCE: You saw the picture, right? OK, OK, maybe it doesn’t need to be Dr. Doom EXACTLY, but a subplot involving some Slavic dictator who stiffs Cage on a bill, who Cage then travels around the world just to COLLECT that bill would be a great post-credits sequence. But it being Dr. Doom would make it all a lot better.
THE CAST: All joking aside, considering rapper/actor Common gets mentioned every time there’s a black superhero role out there (I think he actually got cast as Green Lantern during the aborted Justice League movie), and considering he was pretty fricking cool in Smoking Aces, I’d get on board with him pretty easily. Bald. Goateed. Built. Charismatic. Yeah. Common gets my vote.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Like Jonah Hex, Cage is a character that’s novel and interesting within comics, but outside, he’s just another streetwise tough guy. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it would need a fairly singular vision to make it something more than “Marvel Comics Presents:  Bulletproof Shaft.”

IRON FIST
THE HOOK: Kung-fu superhero. I don’t know how to put it any more plainly than that, other than to quote Wikipedia’s entry on Danny Rand’s origin: “Daniel is given the chance to attain the power of the Iron Fist by fighting and defeating the dragon known as Shou-Lao the Undying, which guarded the molten heart that had been torn from its body. During the battle, Daniel throws himself against the scar of Shou-Lao, which burns a dragon tattoo into his chest. Having killed Shou-Lao, he enters its cave and plunges his fists into a brazier containing the creature’s molten heart, emerging with the power of the Iron Fist.”
If you wouldn’t pay money to see that on screen, I’m not sure I want to know you.
THE PLOT: …I may have to get back to you on that one. I’m still reeling from the whole FIGHTING A DRAGON thing. ALSO! You put an Iron Fist movie out a few months after a Luke Cage movie? You got yourself an automatic HEROES FOR HIRE franchise. And that’s when you get to bring in Misty Knight. Bad-ass lady detective with a cybernetic arm. Tell me you don’t want to see that. I am 90% certain Rosario Dawson would punch you in the throat if it meant getting that part.
THE CAST: I know Ray Park wanted to do this like a decade ago, and back then I would’ve been on board, but…is he still, like, prime? And, for that matter – can he actually act? X-Men doesn’t count, he got like two lines. Like Dr. Strange, alternative ideas are welcome.
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Seriously did you not read the part about the dragon?

OK, so who am I missing? And as for those potential problems: help me solve them!

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Comments
  1. braak says:

    Holland, were you even paying attention when we made Hand of Danger? Despite the fact that Iron Fist is a master of kung fu, kung fu is actually the least important part of the movie. Ray Park is a terrible actor! Why would you make a movie with him as the lead?

    You can’t make an Iron Fist movie that’s just, “Oh, he’s the kung fu guy, right? Get Jet Li or someone in there, have him do some kung fu up in that. BLAM. Blockbuster.”

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    See, that’s why I asked, “Can he act?” and tended to focus a lot more on the whole “fighting a dragon” part.

  3. braak says:

    I know everyone likes origin stories and things, but I don’t think that Iron Fist should fight a dragon in the first movie.

    Although, when you consider that he had to fight the dragon using only his kung fu, that does mean he beats a dragon by literally KICKING IT INTO SUBMISSION.

    So, that’s kind of cool.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I knew you’d come around.

    I also sort of wish Dr. Strange didn’t have to start with the origin but it’s SUCH A GREAT ORIGIN. The trick is just to keep it to the first half-hour.

  5. Cloak and Dagger in the vein of their Runaways appearances.

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    In my zeal for Avengers-related properties, I sadly ignored them. Yeah, Cloak and Dagger is just sitting there, waiting to be used. I think the issue isn’t the good origin or the great visual or the characterization – it’s, who would they fight?

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