Casting Friday: Giamatti Rhino, Olsen Avengers

Each Friday, I will summarize the important casting news or rumors from the preceding week, giving you a preview of who’ll be playing who in the future!

Giamatti Rhino

While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is yet to come out (it is scheduled for May 2nd, 2014), actor Paul Giamatti, who plays the villain Rhino in the film, already confirmed his appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. The film is currently slated to be released on June 10th, 2016. Whatever else could be said about this news, it is definitely a spoiler for the second film.

In the same interview, Giamatti said he does not know whether he will be appearing in the 4th film of the franchise, also already greenlit. He did not reveal anything further about the rumors of a Sinister Six team-up in upcoming films.

Olsen Avengers

I’ve previously talked about the rumor of Olsen playing Scarlet Witch in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, but there has been no confirmation of it until now. Granted, the quote does not specifically mention the role, but Samuel L. Jackson, who of course is playing Nick Fury in the film, confirmed that she is involved:

“I don’t think we begin shooting before March of next year. I know we’re shooting in London, that James Spader is Ultron and going to be the bad guy, and that we added Ms. [Elizabeth] Olsen, but I don’t know what she’s doing, if she’s on the inside or the outside. I haven’t seen a script.”

Not many more casting news this week. I, for one, am waiting for news on who’s playing Constantine in the upcoming tv pilot!

Week of Superhero Television – In-Development Series

The second episode to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (AoS) is airing tonight, and like most superhero enthusiasts, I’m fairly excited to see it. While the series’ successful is definitely a big headline of the past week, possibly far more intriguing are the news of in-development television series based on comic book properties.

Initially, a week before AoS debuted, rumors started circulating about a potential deal in the making for an upcoming Agent Carter television series. To those unfamiliar to the character, she was portrayed by Hayley Atwell in 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger as the female lead/love interest, and was the focus of a Agent Carter, short for the Iron Man 3 DVD, which I have not seen, but heard great things about. Considering the series would likely pick up after Captain America’s “accident”, and before the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D., one can see why Marvel would look to the property as a valuable connective property. This would allow the rather exciting opportunity of having a prequel to AoS airing at the same time as the Clark Gregg-lead show.

There has been no indication, as of yet, what network would pick up the series, or if Holly Atwell is involved in any capacity, but ABC would be the logical choice, considering it is already the home for AoS.

I won’t gloss over the most important aspect of these news, however, as the series would represent a major comic-based television property headed by a woman. Neither Marvel nor DC have had a major female-lead film since 2005’s Elektra, and 2004’s Catwoman, both of which proved to be major box office and critical flops and seemed to scare producers away from superheroines. This series being aired could be a major push in the right direction.

Not to be forgotten, DC also announced a new television series. They are already preparing a back-door pilot for a Flash television series in the form of Arrow‘s season 2 finale, but they are evidently determined to not be out-done in a week where Marvel is dominating television news. Originally, early last week the buzz on the internet spoke of a long-talked-about Gotham Central series, based on the comic by Ed Brubaker. The actual news is that a show based around a young Jim Gordon, as a Gotham city detective, currently entitled Gotham is currently in production. There are very few details available at this time, but the most interesting piece is that the series commitment is at Fox. This is puzzling, as Arrow and The Flash are both airing on CW, owned by DC’s parent company Time Warner. Before this announcement, it appeared that DC was setting up a separate continuity for their CW shows, but it is difficult to imagine any sort of tie-in with the Fox-based Gotham series.

The surprise was doubled when yet another network made a deal for a DC character last week – namely, NBC bought, under penalty if the pilot doesn’t air, the rights to a John Constantine television series (currently titled Constantine). It is difficult to speculate what direction the television series will take, but considering the timing, it is reasonable to expect that it will take its tone from the currently running comic by the same name. John Constantine is my all-time favorite comic book character, but it’s the older Hellblazer incarnation that I’m a huge fan of. The newer version regularly has disproportionately powerful magical abilities, which I suppose is the major complaint I have about the currently running series. As a consequence, the character is lazier, brashly rushing into situations with little preparation. Where he does prepare, it’s used by writer as nothing more than deus ex machina: “I was prepared for this! I totally was! I cast a spell before I showed up!” Somewhere along the line, it was forgotten that John is absolutely not a superhero, but a supernatural conman. He doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, and certainly doesn’t have any D&D wizard-type spells, he deals in trickery and forethought. I was heartbroken when Hellblazer, at that time the longest-running comic for either Marvel or DC, was cancelled after issue 300. Few things would make me happier than a good Constantine television series, but I’m cautious to say the least.

The television series is not the only Constantine project currently in the works – Guillermo del Toro is reportedly working on a Justice League Dark film, in which the chain-smoking magical conman is set to appear. Del Toro said that “Constantine is our lead… the guy who leads us in and out of the plot.” He also said in a different interview that “Constantine is such a great character, so dry.” Once again, those quotes give me hope. Maybe del Toro does get the character, and maybe he’ll do a fantastic job! The series he’s basing the movie on, however, Justice League Dark, is sadly not great. It’s one of those series I keep returning to because of the characters, only to be disappointed every time with stories I fail to find even remotely compelling. Guillermo is notorious for juggling numerous projects at once.

The proposed television series is, once again, at NBC, which is yet another network that is set to air a DC-based show. It seems very unlikely that any sort of continuity would ever be established between these competing companies’ offerings, but maybe that’s not a terrible thing. I believe Arrow and The Flash could benefit from the shared continuity. In fact, I’m almost always in favor of continuity. Constantine, however, along with Gotham, may actually work better as stand-alones. AoS and Agent Carter presumably will share a world, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unless DC has some as of yet unrevealed plan for an overarching universe, it seems they are content with simply using their characters as before, while placing all of their hopes into the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Which, I won’t argue, is looking cool.

The Wolverine Is Surprisingly Effective


Poster for The Wolverine, Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Poster for The Wolverine,
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The superhero movies so far this summer have not wowed me, at best meeting expectations without exceeding them. My expectation was not high, however, for the new Wolverine movie, considering the sheer awfulness of the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, which was the only other solo Wolverine movie to date. This one, however, really captures the mutant’s essence, and was a genuinely pleasant surprise, making the film my favorite of the summer so far.

Because the Wolverine is effectively indestructible, the temptation might be to ramp up the power of his foes, effectively engaging in a cinematic arms’ race. One of the first of several right moves this film makes is de-powering Logan early on, making him susceptible to physical harm which he would have previously been easily able to shrug off. This means the fights with even regular human opponents to carry weight in the film, whereas one could reasonably said that, considering his power set, they would otherwise be meaningless unless a third party is in danger.

This also allows the filmmakers to scale down the plot as a whole, placing the titular mutant in what is essentially a Japanese gangster drama with superhero elements thrown in. The majority of the plot circles around a beautiful woman inheriting a large fortune, elements which would keep her from receiving it at any cost, and a rugged, dejected outsider who strives to defend her from those forces. Described that way, it sounds more like a film noir detective movie than a summer action blockbuster.

To be clear, there is no lack of action, or over-the-top superheroics here. The fight scene which has been talked about more than any other is a confrontation with gangsters on top of a speeding bullet train. Even faced with possible mortality, Wolverine seemingly sometimes has no regard for his own physical well-being, possibly out of sheer habit or simple dumb bravery, hurling himself around in combat with wild-eyed rage. Us comics fans, we like to see this. The berserker rage is, after all, an essential part of the character.

The film was shot in Japan, with a largely Japanese cast, which is definitely a change of pace. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper, as well as Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey who haunts the hero in his dreams, are the only outsiders in this film. For the most part I am happy to see a film of this scope where all of the supporting characters are not immediately recognizable. It allows oneself to submerge in the story to a greater degree, which is welcome in an age where each project has to be stacked with stars in order to be produced. Tao Okamoto as the woman in distress does a great job, considering she is tasked with providing the emotional heart of the story. A failure on her part would have meant that we do not care what Logan is fighting for. The other stand-out performance here is by Rila Fukushima, who provides not only much of the humor of the film, but also looks seriously intense when she wants to. The character sets herself up to follow Wolverine around for at least a while, and I for one would be disappointed to not see her at Logan’s side if there is another Wolverine film made. She does not seem to be cast in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, at least officially, but that is at the very least fully understandable given the cast in the film is already bursting at the seams.

The Japanese setting itself provides much of the visual excitement of the film. It is nice to, for once, see a superhero movie not set in New York. More than that, however, the moody weather and landscape, as well as the beautiful architecture, means that sometimes the location downright steals the show, though not in a negative way where it would distract from the impact of a scene. Simply put, the set design and locations chosen for this film are all top-notch, allowing the film to combine the fun of an action story with the thrill of watching something that is exciting aesthetically speaking.

This is not to suggest that everything in the film is pure gold. The climax of the film unfortunately succumbs somewhat to the generic action film confrontation in a villainous lair we have come to expect from every superhero movie (the alternative being a fight which knocks down half a city). The before-mentioned Viper character, too, has the general effect of simply not fitting in. Why her inclusion was necessary, frankly boggles the mind, as she appears simply to be a refuge from the much more garish X-Men movies Wolverine comes from originally.

These, however, are mere squabbles. The first two acts of the movie are so enjoyable, and the setup for the final confrontation is simply so satisfying, that nothing short of a complete fail in the climax could derail the momentum of the film. And it isn’t like any of the elements that I described as downsides are really bad, either. They merely don’t fit in as well as the other elements. Those slightly schizophrenic tendencies aside, the movie really does a fine job, and I suspect will serve as the quintessential Wolverine film for the foreseeable future.