24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Marvel

Why Jon Favreau is moving away from 'Iron Man' (and how it will affect the franchise)

December 14, 2010 |  6:57 pm

My colleague Geoff Boucher at Hero Complex catches up with Jon Favreau to get the lowdown on his move away from the "Iron Man" franchise and toward Disney's "Magic Kingdom."

The main impulse, Favreau tells HC in a revealing interview, is to "find something that lights a fire" inside him and "blow[s] people away, which is easier to do with a project that isn't loaded with built-in expectations."

And "Iron Man?" Marvel could well commence a search for a new director (the lack of a developed script at once both helps and hurts this cause), and convince Favreau loyalist Robert Downey Jr. to go along with it. But the truth is that as large a property as "Iron Man" is, it's not at all clear that the franchise can or needs to go on anytime soon.

There is, first, the storytelling aspect -- where does a third "Iron Man" go with no cliffhanger wrapping up the second film? -- but also the issue of the larger Marvel universe. The first two Iron Man films (along with "Thor" and "Captain America") have been about building the mythology for "Avengers." Now that it's done that (the supergroup of superhero movies will shoot in 2011 and hits in 2012), the Marvel movies could really splinter into whatever direction they need to (likely in the direction of the most lucrative characters).

Throw in the fact that third movies often fall off in popularity after the second film (especially a second film with a mixed reception) and there's not only a lack of narrative urgency but an absence of financial urgency as well.

Of course, studios rarely walk away from a money-minting franchise without a fight. Marvel may yet find a way and a reason to continue. And if not, well, there's always a reboot.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Iron Man 2.' Credit: Paramount Pictures.


Jon Favreau trades 'Iron Man' for a trip to Disneyland


A new entrant into the 'Deadpool'

October 26, 2010 |  7:17 pm

EXCLUSIVE: The story that's unfolded around who will direct "Deadpool," the Ryan Reynolds movie based on the Marvel antihero, has been almost as colorful as anything that appeared in the comic book itself. Robert Rodriguez was going to helm it, then he wasn't, then he was, and now he's not.

But sources familiar with the project say a new name has emerged for the director's chair, and it's an unconventional one: Adam Berg, a heretofore little-known Swedish commercial and video director.

Berg has never directed a feature before, but he gained plenty of acclaim with  "Carousel," a stylish short (you can check it out below) made for Philips Electronics that won the prestigious Cannes Lions International Advertising prize.  In a one-take freeze-frame, the short tells of a bank heist in a manner that evokes both "The Town" and "The Dark Knight." (Incidentally, it was a Philips-funded film, "The Gift," that provided the springboard for a different up-and-comer, "47 Ronin" director Carl Rinsch.)

Berg's work is admired both by those making "Deadpool" as well as by Reynolds, making him a top contender to land the job, say sources. The movie still has to overcome obstacles before it moves forward. But if it does, it will feature one big star — and a director who may well find himself on the way to becoming one.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Deadpool cover art. Credit: Marvel Comics.


Deadpool shows signs of life

Swimming in a murky deadpool

'Deadpool' shows signs of life

July 30, 2010 |  4:18 pm

It's been dizzying to follow the will-he-or-won't-he reports about Robert Rodriguez directing "Deadpool," the Ryan Reynolds X-Men spinoff.

Reports last month that Rodriguez had been offered the director's chair on "Deadpool" met with a swirl of speculation and/or denials from the filmmaker's camp as well as studio Fox. (The most anyone would agree to is that Rodriguez had been sent Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's script.)

But we're hearing that after a few weeks of dancing, Rodriguez and studio Fox are negotiating. There's no deal yet, and the sides need to agree on a number of key points, but it's moved beyond the casual discussion stage and into the more substantive realm of deal points.

Rodriguez is making "Spy Kids 4," which itself comes after he finished the exploitation action picture "Machete," but would be looking for a big movie and one that can be marketed into a hit. As for the picture itself, the mouthy Marvel mercenary would entail violence and comedy in equal measure, and Rodriguez has been adept at combining the two. We'd pull for a Danny Trejo cameo, though.

— Steven Zeitchik



Swimming in a murky Deadpool

The unlikely politics of Robert Rodriguez's Machete

Marvel replaces Ed Norton as the Hulk in 'The Avengers,' but will it matter?

July 11, 2010 |  9:35 pm


Our colleague Geoff Boucher at sister blog Hero Complex delves into Marvel's pointed decision to drop Edward Norton from the company's upcoming "Avengers" movie.

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in 'The Avengers.' Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members," the company rebuked in a statement made to Hit Fix, which  broke the Norton story. It marks the second time that Marvel has gone "Bewitched' and replaced a well-known actor, previously swapping out Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle as War Machine after the former might have gotten a little too precious with his demands ahead of "Iron Man 2."

The Hero Complex post takes the tack that this is an understandable move for the studio given Norton's reputation as a strong personality on set and in the development process (a reputation executives came to be acquainted with firsthand after working with him, rockily, on 2008's "The Incredible Hulk.") That take stands in contrast to Hit Fix's point of view, which basically is that it could look mighty odd, both in promotional moments and on the screen, to see an unknown or lesser-name actor alongside the film's mostly A-list group.

But the truth is that it's exactly that group that probably makes this a move of less consequence than it might first appear. The entire point of the "Avengers" movie (and, to a lesser extent, Marvel's studio operation in general) is to make the ensemble greater than the individual. That's a creative and marketing rationale, since it means the studio can mix and match characters with ease, as it's already begun to do with "Iron Man 2" and other movies and which will culminate with Joss Whedon's "Avengers" in two years. But maybe just as important, it's a production and deal-making strategy, since when you're creating a slate based on ensembles, that means no single character gets too big, which means no single actor can hold a slate hostage.

Marvel might find some initial resistance to the presence of a new Hulk. But it's not like Norton, for all his acting skills, was that deeply associated with the character anyway.  And as important to the canon as the Hulk is, a lot of film-goers probably be caught up in seeing the character on screen in this context as much as they'll be scrutinizing who's playing him, especially if they're already being feted with the reassuring sight of an iconic fixture like Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man. We're more concerned, frankly, that the Whedon film could wind up being a mythology mash-up than we are worried about any individual casting choice.

After initially absorbing the backlash that it would hire an unknown for the part, Marvel course-corrected  today, saying it would hire a "name actor" to play the Hulk. That's fine to calm the initial fan reaction, but it's probably not essential for the movie. When you're building a super-group, you can afford to replace the drummer.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Credit: Marvel Studios


Marvel drops Ed Norton -- maybe they don't like him when he's angry

Can Iron Man stop the 3-D conversion menace?

X-Men: First Class gets on a supersonic jet

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Swimming in a murky (Dead)pool

June 14, 2010 |  7:02 pm


Although his "Machete" has been generating some hot buzz, Robert Rodriguez has been riding a little bit of a cold streak lately. The "Sin City" auteur didn't set the world afire with his suburban fantasy "Shorts." And "Grindhouse," the exploitation experiment on which he collaborated with Quentin Tarantino (Rodriguez directed the "Planet Terror" half of the bill), fared worse.

But Rodriguez's stock remains high at Fox, which is distributing "Machete," as well as the Rodriguez-produced "Predators." High enough, in fact, that the studio is interested in hearing what Rodriguez would do with a big new property, its comic book movie "Deadpool," in which Ryan Reynolds plays the mouthy Marvel mercenary.

Some development-board rumors over the weekend that had Rodriguez "offered" the job led to numerous Web outlets running with the story Monday -- using euphemisms such as "approached" and the more concrete "offered" -- to describe Rodriguez's involvement with the Rob Liefeld adaptation. Sources say the director has indeed been sent the script (penned by the writers of "Zombieland") but has not been extended an offer.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine why Fox would put pen to paper on a deal this far ahead of the release of "Machete": Rodriguez has some options but he's not that hugely in demand.

Would the filmmaker make a good "Deadpoool" movie? Certainly the fan sites that have breathlessly been reporting the Rodriguez news are intrigued. And any time a quirky auteur with an accomplished movie under his belt is given both a dark character and mula to play with, it's worth paying attention.

But there are also reasons to pause at all this. As a character, the dark superhero is becoming a little less interesting by the movie; a dark superhero movie increasingly turns on what you do with that character as opposed to the novelty of the premise itself. And Rodriguez's best film had the benefit of drawing off far richer source material in "Sin City."

Don't get us wrong. Rodriguez would be an interesting choice. But there are other directors who show as much vision and versatility. Producers know this, and the Rodriguez-inclined Fox probably knows this. And Rodriguez himself may, judging by some of what he's taken on lately, move away from the comic book adaptations. We'll believe a Rodriguez "Deadpool" -- and a strong Rodriguez "Deadpool" -- when it's in front of us on the screen.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Image: Deadpool. Credit: Marvel Comics

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Can 'Iron Man' stop the 3-D conversion menace?

May 10, 2010 |  6:32 pm

Expectations are a funny thing in the movie business. Generate too few and your film comes and goes quietly. Generate too many and you're in an even tougher spot --  basking in the limelight but also fielding the hard questions and the second-guessing.

It's impossible to call the $128.1 million that "Iron Man 2" raked in this weekend anything less than a smashing success. That number is enviable for any sequel, let alone a movie that was handcrafted on set by its director and lead star, as so many of the reports had Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. doing.

But the movie fell notably short of the opening-weekend numbers yielded by several other superhero sequels, including of course "The Dark Knight" and "Spider-Man 3." That inevitably has raised the Monday-morning quarterback question of whether "Iron Man 2" might have gone the "Dark Knight" distance if it had gotten a "Clash of the Titans"-style 3-D conversion, boosting grosses with higher ticket prices. At a time when every movie's gross is being vaulted by a surf in the 3-D world, the argument goes, "Iron Man 2" could have ridden the wave and met those (admittedly very high) box-office expectations.

In an interview with Ben Fritz on The Times' Hero Complex blog, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said that the company had considered a conversion but, among other things, didn't feel it had enough time before the May 7 release date to do that conversion justice.

Like all studios, Marvel is at the center of some strong cross-currents, with so many competitors rushing headlong into 3-D. So it's understandable that Feige and his company would have explored the option. But the point Feige's own movie makes is that if studios are rushing forward, audiences aren't rushing with them, While it's impossible to know exactly how fans would have felt about a 3-D version of "Iron Man 2," they certainly embraced this version, giving it an A on the all-important word-of-mouth measurement tool CinemaScore. Certainly showing the movie in 2-D didn't hurt. One could even make the case that it might have helped, with audiences liking it as much as they could because they didn't feel a new technology was being waved in their face (literally).

The argument from the top of studios' corporate ladders has been that their business needs 3-D to to eliminate risk and stay solidly profitable. But "Iron Man 2" did all that, earning not just an eye-popping amount -- a 30% gain over the first picture, up there with the best of the second installments -- but doing it in the most generous way possible. The movie's distribution plan, and revenue splits, allowed it to spread the love to distributor Paramount, to its own coffers and to new owner Disney, who all will come out well in the black. And that's not even getting into the international numbers.

Marvel is looking at 3-D for its other films -- "We will be doing it at some point," Feige said -- and we have a nagging feeling that "Iron Man 3" will add a third dimension as well. Let's hope that any 3-D treatment at least applies only to movies that haven't begun shooting, like said "Iron Man" sequel and "Captain America," not "Thor," which has (and which Marvel would be forced to convert).

And here's hoping that maybe the studio chooses to avoid the whole craze and opts to rake in the cash the old-fashioned way, or at least the old-fashioned tentpole way: with a movie people want to see. A $128.1-million weekend has a way of making a strong case, in any dimension.

--Steven Zeitchik (follow me on Twitter at @ZeitchikLAT)

Photo: Mickey Rourke as Vanko in "Iron Man 2." Credit: Marvel.com

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

'X-Men: First Class' gets on a supersonic jet

May 4, 2010 |  4:56 pm

After all the back and forth between Matthew Vaughn and "X-Men: First Class," the director is not only in, but Fox is moving quickly on the project. So quickly, in fact, that the movie will be in theaters in just over a year.

Fox confirmed Vaughn's attachment today and said that the film will begin shooting this summer (!) in time for a June 3, 2011, release. The movie basically hits reset on the franchise by going back to the twentysomethings who became the superheroes we later knew, "Star Trek" for the spandex set. So casting for said twentysomethings is likely to go into overdrive; if you're a fan of an up-and-comer (or represent one) these will be good and busy times.

All that is positive news for fans, but it really fills up the late spring release calendar for next year. "Mission: Impossible IV" comes out just one week prior to the "X-Men" release date, and the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" is set for release just two weeks before.

As for the Hollywood back story, apparently all of Vaughn's hesitations and the studio's gyrations are resolved; no quote from Vaughn in the statement, but Bryan Singer, who is one of the producers, says  that Vaughn has "a deft hand with multiple characters and storylines, and a great love of the X-Men universe."

From not having a director to starting production on a big-budget action movie in a matter of months-- it's almost like the anti-"Moneyball."

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: "X-Men." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Buy the “X-Men” trilogy on DVD for under $20
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

With 'Batman 3' release date, 2012 will see a superhero summer showdown

April 30, 2010 |  4:29 pm

Chris Nolan is staying on a biannual schedule. With the director's "The Dark Knight"

Warner Bros. confirmed today that "Batman 3" (not its final title, obviously) will come out in the summer of 2012, on July 20. In addition to making fanboys the world over salivate with eager anticipation, that also sets up a box-office rematch of sorts between Nolan's Batman franchise, a DC creation, and the movies from Marvel's stable of characters, as "The Avengers," the supergroup of superhero Marvel movies, comes out a few months earlier (in May).

When the first round of that slugfest went down, in the summer of 2008, "The Dark Knight" trumped "Iron Man" handily, grossing $215 million more in the U.S. But "Iron Man" wasn't yet a cultural juggernaut back then. In 2012 the landscape could look a little different, as Marvel characters have continued to gain traction.

"Avengers" will also have the benefit of Thor, Captain America and other characters from its film appearing in their own movies the summer before.  And all this after "Iron Man 2" looks to break the opening-weekend record of "The Dark Knight" next week. The high-tech weaponry, she is flying.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "The Dark Knight." Credit: Warner Bros.

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

'Iron Man 2' premieres in Hollywood, and expectations slip on a shiny suit

April 27, 2010 |  3:00 am

"Figure out what the audience wants and give it to them," Robert Downey, Jr., said from the podium outside the El Capitan Theatre at the "Iron Man 2" premiere Monday night.

Downey may have been kidding, in that knowing, smirking, I'm-in-on-the-joke-too way of his that defies you not to like him. But the statement may also have well captioned the evening, summing up how the presentation of the franchise has neutralized many criticisms of its popcorn charms. Downey and Marvel know the commercial juggernaut they have here, and as they've done since they started rolling out the movie at Comic-con last summer (and as Tony Stark himself might do), they not only flashed that confidence but turned it into a selling point.

Downeyjr Indeed, the premiere of the Marvel-produced, Paramount-distributed, Justin Theroux-penned sequel delivered the pleasing to the crowd, as director and co-star Jon Favreau, standing on a makeshift podium on Hollywood Boulevard, introduced the litany of stars, from Mickey Rourke to Gwyneth Paltrow to Samuel Jackson to Downey himself. (Check out the red-carpet video from sister blog Ministry of Gossip, as well as the ongoing pre-release countdown from our sister blog, Hero Complex.)

Then out came "The Ironettes" (like the Rockettes, only with a superhero motif) who did a heels-up, devil-may-care number to parallel an on-screen performance from one of the film's first sequences. (The El Capitan setting of the premiere, incidentally, showed just how entwined Disney is with studio/producer Marvel, which it acquired last year, which also meant the premiere was the first known superhero movie to begin with a live organist performance, as nearly all screenings at the El Cap do.)

We'll of course wait for the Los Angeles Times' critics and other reviewers to offer their assessments of the movie, but our own quick reaction was of a film rich in flash, generous in wit (never before has such a fast-talking, confidence-brimming wiseacre donned a superhero costume) and thin on meaningful storytelling (but thick with the false-start kind). Several colleagues we spoke to afterward similarly did not find themselves in a pose of jaw-dropping awe but, like us, they felt the film has a sense of confidence in its own mission that almost wills you into liking it (or distracts you from its convolutions).

Palt What this movie will offer its broad quilt-work of fans is of course the key question. For a film that will be one the biggest of the summer and possibly the biggest three-day opener of all time, "Iron Man 2" has a tricky job, commercially speaking. It needs to satisfy those who crave more of the mythology introduced by the first film, but it also needs to stand alone as it aims to bring in even more people than the first (and squash that movie's $98-million opening and $318-million total).

And as it does all of this, it needs to set up future movies in the Marvel canon, particularly the ensemble-oriented "Avengers," which it devotes a fair amount of time to doing, at the risk of complicating the storytelling (we'll stay away from major spoilers, but here's a small one; skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it -- Downey's Tony Stark offers to come in as a "consultant" to the Avengers group being organized by Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury. That doughnut scene from the early footage is only the beginning.)

If the wisdom based on some of the early tracking has it that "Iron Man 2" has the potential to be a blockbuster of epic proportions, Monday night did little to tamp down those expectations. When you have the flashy goods, you may as well show them off. Both Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. could tell you that.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Upper photo: Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Lower photo: Gwyneth Paltrow at the "Iron Man 2" premiere. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Peter Sollett will run away; Zac Efron snags the 'Cash'

April 14, 2010 |  7:19 pm

Two juicy pending deals moved forward in Hollywood in the past few days.Well, a few other deals did too, but we'll tell you about these -- one involving Zac Efron, which we'd previously told you about, and another involving director Peter Sollett, which we hadn't.

Runaw The first concerns Sollett coming on to direct "Runaways" for Marvel Studios. Deadline.com first broke the news that the director of "Raising Victor Vargas" had been negotiating to take the gig. That deal is now closed, we've learned, and Sollett (who also sat behind the camera for "Nick 'n Norah's Infinite Playlist") will take the reins for the story about a group of teenage superheroes who run away from home when they learn their parents are using their own power for evil.

The news is a heartwarming indie tale of sorts, showing that Sollett can grow into the big tentpole jobs in the same way that Chris Nolan and others have in recent years.

The second piece of news involves "Snabba Cash," the hot Swedish crime movie that we first reported a couple weeks back was set to go to Warner Bros. for Zac Efron to produce as a starring vehicle. That one's closed now as well, and Efron will take on the story about a taxi driver who becomes a runner for a coke dealer. Troy Bolton's all grown up too.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo credit: Marvel Comics


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: