Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: Part Eighteen (2014)


The Marvel Studios money making machine was going strong this year with 2 huge films. The first one up was solo film number two for Captain America. It was a clear improvement over the original, and turned out to be easily one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Marvel Studios did not bring back Joe Johnston as director but instead went with a unexpected choice in the Russo Brothers. Unexpected because their only previous major theatrical credit as directors was the mediocre comedy You, Me, and Dupree. However, they have worked much more extensively in TV.

They directed several episodes of Arrested Development and then served as Executive Producers and directors on Community

The gamble paid off. The box office gross for The Winter Solider ended up reaching $714 million, dwarfing the $170 million dollar budget. Scoring a 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, it was a critical hit as well. Comic book fans were also pleased for the most part.

The origin was out of the way and audiences were familiar with Captain America through two films. So in this we just get to see him being a badass.

Not only that, the film has the guts to drastically change the status quo in the MCU. It is revealed that SHIELD had been infiltrated by HYDRA since its inception and the organization is completely disbanded. This also tied in strongly with the plot of the TV series Agents of SHIELD

Furthermore, the film gave focus to multiple supporting characters. Black Widow was given a very significant role. so much that when asked about a potential Black Widow solo movie, Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige remarked  that audiences already got that in this film.

Nick Fury gets his most significant role yet and is a big part of the plot. We are also treated to the introduction of "The Falcon", played by Anthony Mackie. Unlike his mainstream comic incarnation, he does not have a bright red suit or the ability to communicate with birds. His costume is closer to the "Ultimate" version and the character sports mechanical wings.

This movie related to the greater MCU in many ways. It ties in to the Iron Man films by stating that Tony Stark's parents were killed by HYDRA. In addition, Gary Shandling's character Senator Stern from Iron Man 2 appears and is revealed to be part of HYDRA. It's cool because things like these work even if you haven't seen those films.

The Winter Soldier is also strongly connected to The Avengers, to the extent that some have labeled it The Avengers 1.5. This is partially because of the aforementioned large roles for SHIELD, Black Widow and Nick Fury. They also considered having a small role for Hawkeye but this ended up not happening. Also, the events of The Avengers are used as justification for SHIELD taking a more proactive stance against potential threats.

Then there's the after credit scene that connects to the first and yet to be released second Avengers films. It introduces one of Captain America's most well-known villains, Baron von Strucker. He has possession of Loki's scepter from The Avengers. He is also holding captive Quicksilver and his sister Scarlet Witch, two famous Avengers that will be introduced The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Quicksilver also appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past but was played by a different actor and will likely have a totally different backstory.

A third Captain America film has been confirmed and will be directed by the Russo Brothers again. The release date is currently scheduled at May 6, 2016. It was originally supposed to go against Batman v. Superman, but WB moved that up to March.

Not much about the plot of the third movie is known. It might include some fallout from Age of Ultron. Judging by the after credit scene and ending to The Winter Soldier, the search for and redemption of Bucky will likely be a plot point.


Marvel Studios continued their hot streak with their best film yet, Guardians of the Galaxy. This was the first new franchise in Phase Two of the MCU and their most obscure property to be adapted so far. Iron Man, Captain America, and the others were all heavyweights in the comic book world, but the Guardians of the Galaxy had more of a niche audience. The team was originally created in the 1960s but the version seen in the film is based on the revamped team from 2008.

This team included Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and the lovable duo of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Marvel made some interesting casting choices, most notably Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon. James Gunn (Slither, Super) was chosen to be the director.

GOTG is pure entertainment from start to finish. It doesn't take itself too seriously and there are plenty of jokes. But there are also some genuinely dramatic scenes and moving moments for each member of the team, plus a generous helping of action. The special effects are amazing and the film is a visual treat.

One of the coolest parts is that we finally a  real introduction to Thanos. Created by Jim Starlin in 1973, Thanos has been one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe. He was teased in an after credit scene in The Avengers, but didn't have any dialogue. Here is he brilliantly portrayed by Josh Brolin in two scenes.

The movie stays pretty close to the source material, but a few things are changed. One of these is Drax's backstory. As in the comics he is trying to avenge the death of his family. However, the comics portray him as a human named Arthur Douglas who was transformed into Drax after his family was killed by Thanos. There is no mention of this in the film and Drax seems not to be familiar with Earth.

There are also a few references to various Marvel characters. Cosmo the Space Dog is shown in the after credits scene. In the comics, he is capable of speaking and is a member of the Guardians. There is also an easter egg referencing Adam Warlock, who is crucial to the story of Thanos.

And most important of all, the after credits scene shockingly introduces an all-CGI version of Howard the Duck to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, for those of you scoring at home, Howard the Duck has appeared in two theatrical films before DC heavyweights like Wonder Woman or The Flash have even been in one.

Guardians of the Galaxy had a production budget of $170 million. As of September 21, 2014, it has made over $313 million domestically (the most of any superhero film in 2014) and over $632 million worldwide.  The Rotten Tomatoes score is a robust 92 percent.

There is currently a sequel scheduled for 2017. Little is known about it at this time, besides the fact that James Gunn will again write and direct.


Marvel's hits this year weren't just limited to its own studio. FOX also had a clear success with the seventh movie in the X-Men series. They sort of followed in the footsteps of The Avengers by combining the casts from the original trilogy and First Class. This ended up giving the film an incredibly star-studded cast, including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence (given a bigger role due to her rise in popularity), Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Ellen Page. Plus newcomer Peter Dinklage, who has become hugely popular for his role on Game of Thrones.

Another key piece of the puzzle was Bryan Singer. He directed the first two X-Men films and was supposed to direct the third. However, he left to direct Superman Returns instead. This marks his return to the franchise.

The result was an unqualified hit for FOX. Costing about $200 million to produce, the box office take ended up being over $745 million! Notably the film is also (as of September 22) at number 138 on the IMDB top 250 and has a robust 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is currently the highest RT score for any X-Men film. In my opinion this is warranted; it is most likely the best in the series.

The story takes its title from "Days of Future Past", a two issue storyline in Uncanny X-Men #141-142, published in 1981. It was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. This story was previously adapted for the 1990s animated X-Men series.

The source material was only 2 issues, so obviously it had to be expanded quite a bit for a feature film. The most significant alteration was changing the time traveler from Kitty Pride to Wolverine.

Many fans saw this a continuation of the trend where Hugh Jackman's character was given all the attention at the expense of others. This was Hugh Jackman's 7th appearance as the Wolverine character, and he has at least one more scheduled in the sequel to The Wolverine.

As a result of time travel, what we once knew about  the X-Men film universe has changed. Wolverine wakes up at the end back in the future and everything is different. Not only is the world not a post apocalyptic wasteland, but character such as Cyclops and Jean Grey have come back to life. Interestingly, James Marsden and Famke Janssen, along with Bryan Singer, all lied about their characters being in the film, presumably to preserve the twist.

As is almost expected now for Marvel based films, there was an after credit scene and set it up the next entry in the series. It was set in Egypt and featured a crowd chanting "En Sabah Nur" the alternate name of Apocalypse, a popular X-Men villain.

X-Men: Apocalypse is scheduled to come out on May 27, 2016. It competition that weekend looks to be Disney's Alice in Wonderland 2.

It will be written by Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer just signed a deal to return as director. Many of the cast will return, including McAvoy, Lawrence, Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Jackman, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Kinberg has confirmed that the film will take place 10 years after DOFP in 1983. There are rumors that this will allow them to cast younger versions of Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey.


The most disappointing film at the box office for Marvel this year was the second entry in the rebooted Spider-Man series. It still made over $700 million, but Sony was expecting more.

Director Marc Webb returned as did the main cast.

Several new characters were introduced as well, mainly villains. Jamie Foxx joins the series as Electro and gives a decent performance as well. Chris Cooper appears as Norman Osborne, who dies before long. However, it is worth noting that we never see a body.

His son, Harry Osborne, is played by Dane DeHaan. He becomes the Green Goblin by the end of the film and teams up with Electro. The Green Goblin here seems to be a mix of 616 and Ultimate versions.

Another minor villain is the Rhino, played by Paul Giamatti. He has little screen time in this film but is presumably being set up for future films. We also meet a character named Felicia Hardy. the alter ego of Black Cat.

Mary Jane Watson was supposed to be appear, played by Shailene Woodley. Her scenes were filmed but her character was cut from the final film, which was probably for the best. There were already enough characters.

We also see hints of The Vulture and Doctor Octopus. These characters are likely to appear in the upcoming Sinister Six film that is going to come out in 2016. After that, we won't see the third Amazing Spider-Man entry until 2018.


A TMNT flick produced by Michael Bay... what could go wrong? This was the first live action movie in this franchise since 1993.

Unfortunately the film ended up being predictably terrible and devoid of soul. It's bad, but not in the "so bad, it's good" kind of way, just bad.

The all-CGI turtles ended up extremely creepy looking in my opinion. And the voice acting doesn't help much in making the audience relate.

It's also kind of weird that movie called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles makes the main character April and expects Megan Fox to give  us the human persepective. Oddly, the character of Casey Jones is completely absent.

Interestingly, the film almost wasn't called that, but instead simply "Ninja Turtles". Back in 2012, Bay claimed that the Turtles weren't mutants in his movie. They would be from an alien race. This caused somewhat of an uproar in the fan community and the filmmakers gave in.

There's a bit of a sly reference to this situation in the movie when Will Arnett's character asks if the Turtles are aliens. April replies, "That would be stupid."

This film did not do well with critics, hence it's paltry score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and 31 on Metacritic.


The long awaited sequel to the 2005 original with a cult following, this one didn't quite have the impact on audience as the first.

A Dame to Kill For offers more of the same and should please fans of the original. But it doesn't really tread any new ground and feels slightly anticlimactic given the 9 year wait.

In the first film, all of the main stories were taken directly from the comics. However in this one, a decent amount of material has been created just for the movie.

The title story was taken from the comics, as was a short section about Marv adapted from a part of "Booze, Broads, and Bullets". The two other main chunks of the movie were written by Miller for the film.


Another Frank Miller sequel came out this year, this time expanding on the story of 300. Unfortunately, this ended up being an unnecessary and disappointing film.

The director of the first film, Zack Snyder, was busy with the DC universe, so he only served as producer this time. Instead, Noam Murro directed, whose only previous credit was the comedy/drama Smart People.

Rise of an Empire takes place before and during the events of original. It is reportedly based on a Frank Miller graphic novel that has yet to be released.


I, Frankenstein is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Kevin Grevioux. The movie was directed by Stuart Beattie, who wrote Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and  the comic adaptation 30 Days of Night. Aaron Eckhart played by the title character.


Marvel is not quite done for 2014. There is still one film based on their comics to be released, and that's the Disney film Big Hero 6. It's actually going to be the first mainstream animated adaptation of a superhero comic.

Big Hero 6 is a relatively recent creation, first appearing in Alpha Flight #17 in 1998. They were created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau. Two important members of the team, Sunfire and Silver Samurai, are mutants and therefore owned by FOX. They cannot appear in the animated version.

The members of the team that were chosen to be the main characters in the movie are Hiro Takachiho (named Hiro Hamada in the film) and the robot Baymax. Other team members appearing include Honey Lemon and GoGo Tamago.

While the film is made by Disney, who own Marvel Studios, it won't be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can view the trailer below. It comes out November 7.

I've reached the end of my 18 part series on the history of comic book movies... for now. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the future of comic adaptations.


  1. "So, for those of you scoring at home, Howard the Duck has appeared in two theatrical films before DC heavyweights like Wonder Woman or The Flash have even been in one."

    Below the belt, Kino... Below the belt.

    When you said that Gotg was MC's most obscure comic book adaptation to date, it made me wonder what else do they have that can possibly be as strange and surprising as Gotg? Do you know about any of their other properties that they could be planning to adapt? I think at this point they have the magic touch and could adapt pretty much anything without any flack (except Howard the Duck).

    1. Haha, I couldn't resist.

      I think they do have some properties that could be as surprising at GOTG. As for other properties they are planning to adapt, I don't think it has been officially announced but it's basically a foregone conclusion that 2016 will see the release of Dr. Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe.

      A lot of his comics have some trippy stuff going on and I think they could make for a visually awesome movie.

      Black Panther is more down to earth but he has been strongly rumored as well. A movie about him could be cool as well. Ms. Marvel has also been hinted at. She is not as wacky as Rocket Raccoon and Groot but does relate to more the more cosmic side of Marvel.

      Same for the Inhumans, who have also been mentioned by Kevin Feige.

      As far a character that could compete with Rocket and Groot? Two words... Squirrel Girl.