Marvel’s acquisition by Disney means that it’s suddenly got a lot of money behind them – and that means the opportunity to start making films featuring characters that might otherwise be a rather hard sell. So, discounting the properties that we know are getting made – Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, et al – and those that have already been done, here’s what should be at the top of the script pile…
10. Silver SurferWhy? Well, for a start, people already expect a Silver Surfer movie to be made. The character was already a major part of Fantastic Four 2, to the point where his presence made the lead characters into bit parts in their own movie. A sequel/reboot could launch itself from that existing base of audience familiarity, if nothing else. Better yet, Marvel’s space-faring ‘cosmic’ characters have experienced a real renaissance recently with the ongoing Annihilation storyline – it’s unlikely that the core audience’s enthusiasm for the character will ever get much higher than it is now.
How? If any character could benefit from the new connection between Pixar and Marvel, surely the Silver Surfer could. Pixar has already shown that it can do sci-fi with the brilliant Wall-E – and if any company can translate Jack Kirby’s visuals into three dimensions, it’s them. Best of all, the real version of Galactus – a necessary accompaniment to the Surfer – would be much easier to bring to the screen in a purely CGI film than in a live action one. A galaxy-spanning Star Wars-style epic encompassing diverse locations and aliens, culminating in a final confrontation with the world-eater himself against a backdrop of the Surfer’s personal redemption – who wouldn’t want to see that film?
9. Marvel ZombiesWhy? Let me put it this way: Why NOT? The zombie trend is already on the downswing, and it’s on the verge of becoming passé, so if Marvel doesn’t make this movie soon then it might have to wait 30 years for the right moment to come back around. The stars are aligned right now, and if they made this film then even the announcement of Snakes On A Plane 2: Goats On A Boat starring Rick Astley and Chuck Norris wouldn’t be enough to curtail the Internet hype a Marvel Zombies film could generate.
How? That’s a better question. The idea of putting all of Marvel’s biggest characters in one film would make Hollywood lawyers choke on their California cheeseburgers, while it’s highly unlikely that Disney bosses (or shareholders) would be happy allowing a big-budget movie where decomposing versions of their newly-purchased characters go around tearing out one another’s throats. The appeal is purely in seeing the Marvel Zombies go at it, and the story could therefore be nothing but paper-thin exploitation – but sadly there’s about as much chance of this being made as there is of DC releasing a Superman-themed porno.
8. ThunderboltsWhy? The Thunderbolts concept – villains pretending to be heroes – might be fairly rooted in Marvel continuity, but that doesn’t mean that it defies translation to the screen. The idea is simple enough that it needn’t rely on years of back-story to work. Furthermore, the Thunderbolts are finally breaking out of the C-list ghetto – with their team members prominently appearing in the console game Ultimate Alliance 2, the time might be right to push for some wider recognition of the characters by featuring them in a movie.
How? Thunderbolts is already a comic with a strong theme at its core. The movie would need to do nothing more than appropriate this, telling a simple tale of redemption. Set the characters up as down-on-their-luck villains, and have them come up with the scam of pretending to be heroes – then watch how the façade of heroism quickly becomes the reality. As long as a character-driven take on the story can be found, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work, particularly when the morally ambiguous subject matter plays right into the ‘dark’ trend for superheroes that The Dark Knight has established.
7. Wolverine Vs. HulkWhy?It’s a classic team-up that every comics fan loves to see, and movie fans would probably get just as much of a kick out of it. But more importantly, the Wolverine film recently took a (completely justified) critical pounding, and the Hulk has already tucked two poorly-received big-screen outings under the belt on his stretchy purple trousers. If any characters could do with some hype, it’s these two A-list properties that have failed to deliver the goods solo.
How? Leaving aside the practical consideration that the characters are at different studios, the movie grounding has already been done by the comics. The reason Wolverine and the Hulk work well together is because they have common threads to their characters – military weaponisation, social ostracism and, of course, the uncontrollable inner-beast. Do it wrong and the results could make Alien Vs. Predator look like Citizen Kane – but do it right, and it’ll redeem both characters for future instalments of their own franchises.
6. CableWhy? The hilarious suckitude of Terminator Salvation and the cancellation of The Sarah Conner Chronicles has left the market wide open for features starring cyborg time-travellers who are handy with a gun. Cable’s current storyline sees him protecting a young girl, Hope, whom he believes will be the saviour of humanity. The villain is his former ally, Bishop, who thinks Hope will cause untold numbers of deaths. The two are racing through time, Bishop attempting to kill Hope, Cable trying to save her. That’s perfect material for a big-screen sci-fi action romp in itself.
How? Although an X-Men character, Cable’s back story is far too complicated to make any sense on screen. If it has to be dealt with it at all, then it’d probably be best to do it obliquely over the course of the film, playing up the similarities between Cable’s past and Hope’s. Alternatively, ignore the X-Men connection entirely and make it a Terminator 2-style fight between two part-cyborg men who are both more and less than human. Cable and Bishop are both soldiers, so concentrate on futuristic weaponry and you wouldn’t even have to use the word ‘mutant’ during the film.
5. HerculesWhy?Well, for a start,the Marvel version of Hercules has been given his own book for the first time in decades, and by pairing his dumb, good-natured brawn with child genius Armadeus Cho, Marvel have come up with a new spin on the idea of the kid sidekick that was so tainted over the years by the campy image of Batman and Robin. Since he’s Hercules’ intellectual better, Cho can act as the hero’s equal, not his ward – and that makes it the classic character mismatch buddy-movie formula – now they just need to put it in an actual buddy movie!
How?The mythological pantheon Hercules has access to means that the characters that could appear in the film are already fully formed. Utilise Hercules’ father Zeus and his half-siblings, Athena and Ares, and you’ve got an instantly recognisable family feud between the gods that Cho could find himself unwittingly made a pawn in, with Hercules as his only ally. All you need is a MacGuffin to drive the story forward and it practically writes itself.
4. DeadpoolWhy? Even though as a comics fan I don’t remotely get understand Deadpool’s popularity, I can’t deny that he’s broken into the mainstream consciousness more than plenty of other Marvel characters have managed to. Wade’s appearance in Wolverine may have been massively botched, but there’s still plenty of goodwill for the character, and that means there’s also room for him to come back and make a proper appearance, in-costume and with none of that sewn-up mouth nonsense.
How? Deadpool needs to be an ultra-ridiculous action film closer to Crank or Shoot ‘Em Up than any existing superhero movie – but the real key to any Deadpool movie is going to be the humour. Hire a comedy writer to write the script – and let’s make sure it’s a proper comedy writer, not something from whichever one of the Scary Movie writers needs a new car that month. Ryan Reynolds was certainly a fan pleasing casting choice, but retaining any vestige of Deadpool’s Wolverine persona is guaranteed to end in failure. A ground up re-imagining of the character would be unlikely to disappoint anyone besides Ryan Reynolds’ agent.
3. AliasWhy? Female leads in superhero movies have been depressingly lacking, ranging from Jessica Alba playing an unconvincing Invisible Woman in the Fantastic Four movies, to Halle Berry as a depressingly terrible Catwoman. So, if we want to do a superheroine movie properly, why not take inspiration from the first superheroine comic to do it properly? Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ series Alias tells the story of Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero turned private investigator who has managed to hit rock bottom, and her slow struggle back to feeling good about herself. It’s probably the best and most realistic female-fronted comic ever put out by Marvel, with no exaggeration.
How? Simple – treat it like an origin story. She already has her powers, but the story of her moving back towards heroism could still be an origin-style tale similar to Spider-Man or Batman Begins. Start by putting her on a case that will eventually lead her back towards a confrontation with the Purple Man, the villain who made her quit heroics in the first place, and end the movie with her eventual victory and the promise of a return to active duty. The story itself is good – all that gets in the way is Hollywood’s unwillingness to cast a female lead in a big-budget movie that isn’t a pithy rom-com.
2. VenomWhy? Another character that’s already had one chance on the big screen, Venom should really have been a lock for his own feature film, but those in charge are dawdling after a poor reaction to the character in Spider-Man 3. Even so, he’s got wide-ranging appeal – bosses shouldn’t forget that the reason he appeared in the movie at all was because people want to see him in a film – it’s not his fault the film was the worst Spidey film yet.
How? The pitch for Venom is that he’s basically the Anti-Spider-Man. He’s a young reporter who has all the powers of the wall-crawler, but none of the responsibility. A big screen outing should emphasise this, showing Eddie having fun with his powers but shying away from any overtly heroic impulses – until his actions inadvertently lead to the creation of a super-villain. When the insane serial killer Cletus Kasady acquires a portion of the symbiote, Brock would learn that his power does come with responsibility after all, and set out to stop him. That story is strong enough alone that a Spider-Man cameo wouldn’t even be necessary – though no-one would complain if he somehow showed up to deliver the pivotal power/responsibility lecture…
1. MarvelmanWhy? Well, you didn’t think I could make this list without mentioning Marvel’s most recent acquisition, did you? For those that don’t know, Marvelman – or if you like, Miracleman – is one of comicbook-genius Alan Moore’s most sought-after stories. That’s partly because copies are so hard to obtain, due to ongoing problems with the character’s legal status. Marvel’s acquisition of the character means that those obstacles are finally on the verge of being cleared up, and Marvel will no doubt want to adapt the story for the screen as soon as they can.
How? It’s not as easy at it looks. Marvelman, as a character, isn’t that interesting. Without Alan Moore’s stories, no one would want to know. Moore has already asked for his name to be taken off them if they get republished, in part because they’re so relentlessly bleak that he doesn’t want his name attached anymore! I won’t spoil the details, but suffice to say, you’d have a hard time turning something so deeply twisted into a summer blockbuster. But there’s little doubt that they’re going to try. My only suggestion is that if it has to be done at all, things should be as faithful as possible to the source material. Make the story for adults, focus on the way Micky Moran’s relationship with the Marvelman version of himself negatively affects his life, and embrace the fact that if anything can convince people that the appeal of superheroes can stretch beyond kids, this story can. Any attempt to do things by halves would be an insult to the character and the audiences.
Bonus: The 10 WORST Unmade Marvel Films
10. Moon Knight – A poorly named, Egyptian-themed Batman rip-off who stalks the shadows while dressed entirely in white and who gets around in a crescent-shaped helicopter? Good luck selling that film.
9. Cloak And Dagger – The characters aren’t bad, but the characters’ names sound like a hair metal band from the eighties, and that alone scuppers their chances of a movie.
8. Night Thrasher – A skateboarding superhero? Sorry, man, you’re 15 years too late, even at the most charitable estimate.
7. Exiles – Any story where alternate universe versions of X-Men characters visit alternate universe versions of Earth would really struggle in any medium other than comics.
6. Alpha Flight – Canada’s number 1 superhero team! A midget, an intelligent Sasquatch, a Native Canadian shaman and Northstar, the Quebecker half-man, half-elf. The best script in the world isn’t going to make that pitch sound like a moneymaker.
5. Captain Britain – I love the character, but a patriotic Brit Superhero would be hard to sell to the British, let alone the rest of the world.
4. Dazzler – I won’t lie, I would definitely go and see a film about Marvel’s mutant pop star-superhero. But only so I could laugh at it.
3. X-23 – A teenage, female clone of Wolverine with two claws in each hand and one in each foot. Somehow, the character manages to work in comics, but I wouldn’t bet on seeing a big screen version anytime soon.
2. Marvel Apes – Unlike Marvel Zombies, this joke was never funny. What next? Marvel Pirates? Marvel Ninjas? No. Just, no.
1. Ka-Zar – Aristocratic heir Kevin Plunder crashes in a dinosaur-infested wilderness hidden in the Antarctic, and becomes a prehistoric version of Tarzan who’s best friends with a sabre-toothed tiger. Wait! That sounds completely awesome!