Beleaguered "Ant-Man" begins filming & adds to its' cast!
To say that the production of Marvel Studios' "Ant-Man" has been troubled may seem like an understatement. Work on it began in 2006 when Edgar Wright worked on a script and established the desire to direct a film about Marvel's tiniest and most controversial superhero. From then it became a waiting game until Wright was free of projects and Marvel Studios could form and establish itself. Originally intended as an oddball super spy comedy, one imagines that that tone had to change once Marvel Studios established their "brand" from 2008-2013. Citing differences of vision, Wright left and aside for stars Paul Rudd (Scott Lang), Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyne) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), several key actors left with him. Eventually, Peyton Reed was recruited to direct the film instead, and the script has been rewritten at least twice. Now, Marvel Studios has announced that principal photography has begun on the film, which aims for a release date of July 17th, 2015. This gives the production team less than 11 months to shoot, edit, and add no end of special effects for a late summer superhero blockbuster - a tight schedule, at best.
In addition to this announcement, more actors were added to the cast. They are Judy Greer ("Arrested Development"), Wood Harris ("The Wire") and "Mad Men"'s John Slattery, who is presumably reprising his role as Howard Stark from "Iron Man 2". Additional cast members in unknown roles are Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Bobby Carnavale, Abby Ryder Fortson, Gregg Turkington, David Dastmalchian and "T.I.". The official synopsis for the film was also released, but it confirms what has long been known; that this film will follow the adventures of the second, 1980's era Ant-Man rather than that of the original (or his better half, Janet Van Dyne/Wasp). Essenially, Rudd's Lang is a con man who has gained access to the Ant-Man suit and powers as invented by Douglas' Pym, but the pair must pool resources to pull off a heist and save themselves.
It is fascinating to compare the treatment of this film by Marvel Studios in general and president Kevin Feige in particular with the treatment or potential development of any superhero film starring a female hero. For nearly eight years, Marvel brass have kept this production as a priority, and have weaved around any obstacle in its' path to the big screen with all the skill of a NASCAR driver. Director bails? New one is hired. Script isn't perfect? It's rewritten almost by the week. Cast members drop out? Recasting is done. Compared to the production of many of the previous Marvel Studios productions, "Ant-Man" has been very much a work in progress. No added expense seems to be too much if that is what it takes to get a film starring Ant-Man (and not even the one everyone knows, but the second Ant-Man) into theaters by next summer. One gets the feeling Kevin Feige would sacrifice a goat on a pyre to the Supreme Intelligence itself if that was what it took. Yet when sporadically asked by an increasingly impatient and eager media about the possibility of any Marvel Studios film starring a woman, there is none of the eager tenacity of a NASCAR driver, weaving around every obstacle by heck or high water. Instead there is a lot of double speak on how the timing has to be right, the script perfect, the vision immaculate, and likely at least three planets in alignment. It is bad enough that there will soon be two "Avengers" films without the team's founding female member who literally named the team in the original comics; when the boss of Marvel Studios himself speaks like someone not in the loop when it comes to a lady led superhero film on a month where their film about a band of no-name space heroes have dominated the summer box office, the comparison becomes very transparent. It may be true that Disney purchased Marvel to appeal to boys, as the parent company often appeals to women very well; however, the demand for a super-heroine film is so high that even the desperate Sony studio senses it. It would be nice if Marvel Studios were willing to offer anywhere near the same level of tenacity with producing a film starring a heroine many have heard of (such as Black Widow or Ms. Marvel) as they are of a hero who is at best unknown or at worst infamous for a spousal abuse story.
Will the "Doctor Strange" film forgo an origin route?
One of the biggest ill kept secrets at Marvel Studios is the desire by Disney to ape the cash that "Warner Brothers" earned with "Harry Potter" with a successful sorcerer franchise of their own. Since purchasing Marvel Comics in 2009-2010, that means the most likely way to do that is an adapting Marvel's "sorcerer supreme", Dr. Stephen Strange, to the big screen. Rumors of there being a star in mind and scripts being passed around, and an official release date being revealed, seem to become more inevitable every week.
However, the latest rumor is quite interesting. "Badass Digest" states that while Marvel Studio is working on a "Doctor Strange" film, its' script is being rewritten to not be an origin story. The studio senses a weariness within the audience for superhero films which focus too heavily on one, and so "Doctor Strange" may begin with the sorcerer already established and taking on the supernatural. This may sound like a strange (pun intended) move, but in a way it may be a strategy that has been seen before. It should be noted that 2008's "Incredible Hulk" was not an "origin film" and instead the jade giant's beginnings were glimpsed briefly in the title sequence and alluded to in dialogue rather than bog down the film. More to the point, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Dr. Strange in 1963's "Strange Tales #110" and set him up as an established sorcerer combating strange and unusual things for four issues before finally tackling his origin as a former surgeon trained by "the Ancient One" in issue #115. While audiences may be used to spending an hour or more going over a comic hero's origin in film, it is wise to recall that characters such as Dr. Strange have appeared in some TV cartoons before, where their origins are wrapped up within 22 minutes, tops.
The film is still being directed by Scott Derrickson, with Jon Spaihts working on that aforementioned new script. Considering how little known Dr. Strange is, compared to "Iron Man" or "Captain America", this may be an odd choice of hero to skip the origin treatment with. On the other hand, spending half of a two hour film on an origin is a very new thing for superhero movies, emerging mostly from 2002's "Spider-Man" and there is no need to mindlessly repeat it for every franchise.
Marvel moving ahead with "Inhumans" film!
Another franchise which has been on the bubble of Marvel Studios' interest since its' formation has been "The Inhumans". This week, actor Vin Diesel teased involvement in it, and Collider hears that Joe Robert Cole is reportedly working on a screenplay for it. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in "Fantastic Four #45" from 1965, the characters have since gone on to star in their own series over the years and feature characters such as Black Bolt, Madame Medusa, Gorgon, and Karnak. While Collider states that Marvel's interest is to build them up as part of their "cosmic" line of films, one can also see how they would fill in the slot normally filled by mutants, which Fox retains the film rights for. The Inhumans are a subset of humanity who were genetically experimented on by Kree aliens in Earth's prehistoric age and can gain super powers after going through the "Terrigenesis" process.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" continues to rule the summer!
In its' third week in release, "Guardians of the Galaxy" has taken in $24.7 million domestically (and has held into second place at the box office for two weeks) and $33.1 million overseas. It has since gone on to take in $222.3 million in the U.S. and has earned $418.7 million worldwide within three weeks. It is projected to outdo both "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" and "Thor: the Dark World", which is the perfect thing for this new film franchise to establish itself with.