Tag Archive: Thor

Avengers-1Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has been a bit of a mixed bag. Proceedings kicked off well enough with some trademark subversive Shane Black wit with Iron Man 3 (which doesn’t quite hold up on repeat viewing), but that was quickly followed by Thor: The Dark World, which proved to be (for me, anyway) the weakest Marvel entry to date. Those woes were soon put to rest with the one-two release of Captain America: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy, two of the studio’s smarter and more unique entries. Of course, all of this was working up to yet another end game, an Avengers 2.0. While there has been a great degree of anticipation, it would be far to say that the mood surrounding this one hasn’t been quite as giddy as it was back in 2012. Would writer/director Joss Whedon be able to pull off such an intimidating project yet again? It would seem he has struggled. What we have here is a film in which its director seems to be struggling to reconcile his own creative desires with the desires of the powers that be in the MCU, a tension which is more prevalent than you may expect.

With the HYDRA clean-up going smoothly following the disintegration of SHIELD, the members of The Avengers seem to be facing a time in which they may not have to be called upon quite as much. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) seems adamant to fast-forward this process, and feels he may have found the answer hidden within Loki’s Sceptre, which conceals the secret to unlocking Artificial Intelligence. However, Tony’s meddling soon presents The Avengers with their biggest threat yet, as he unwittingly creates Ultron (James Spader) a malevolent A.I. who soon comes to the conclusion that the human race would be better served if they were all extinct. Teaming with two super power twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) Maximoff, Ultron leads The Avengers in to a fight that puts the fate of the world, and their friendships, on the line.Avengers-2

Maintaining a Cinematic Universe can hardly be an easy task. With a number of different filmmakers being involved in both directing and writing capacities, it is the producer who holds the most significant creative power when it comes to what each individual feature should and should not contain. That figure for Marvel is Kevin Feige, a man who has done very well in regards to selecting his film-making talents, pleasing many fanboys when he managed to sign Whedon on for the first movie. But Age of Ultron marks the first time in which it is clearly noticeable that a creative voice as unique as Whedon’s has struggled against the weight of serving the movie universe as a whole.

Whedon has many plates to spin, even more so than last time, as he has to introduce his new antagonist, as well as firmly establish three new super-powered beings, all the while keeping the focus on the team that audiences fell in love with to the tune of $1.5 billion three years ago. Whedon’s strength, as was the case in the first one, lies within the quieter moments between the bombastic action scenes, moments which allow him to have the characters interact and test each other. These strengths are demonstrated in the early party scene in the Avengers Tower (I would quite happily have a whole movie of these characters mingling at a party) and in the scenes in which our heroes are forced to confront or reveal fears and facts about their lives (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye benefits greatly from this). The visions invoked by Olsen’s Scarlett Witch also provide the film with strong character-driven moments, as well as allowing for a much more sinister tone.Not all of it pays off; the romance between Mark Ruffalo’s Banner and Scarlett Johannson’s Natasha is unconvincing, while more could be made of the friction between Stark and Captain America (Chris Evans). However, the Whedon wit remains, with most (if not all) of the one-liners landing very well, delivered by probably the most charismatic cast that Hollywood has to offer.

Avengers-3While Whedon clearly relishes the chance to write for these characters again, he demonstrates a great deal of affection for Ultron, giving James Spader plenty of opportunities to purr with charming malice. However, despite some brilliant lines of villainous dialogue and impressive performance capture, Ultron himself feels a little inconsequential, coming to stand as more a means of introducing Paul Bettany’s Vision than with providing The Avengers with an iconic antagonist. Bettany as Vision, though, is another success, exuding wisdom and grace, as well as delivering some of the best Whedon-isms that the script has to offer.

The action sequences on display benefit from the best effects that money can buy, but Whedon seems to have revealed all of his action tricks in the first instalment, as he once again relies on an unchained camera and whip pans to follow the action. Some of it becomes a bit incoherent as we become over-whelmed in rubble, and it does all just yet again amount to fighting a hoards of disposable henchmen sent out by the main villain, which our heroes have to contend with whilst ensuring the safety of a city. It does remain a joy, however, to see these characters fighting together in a much more fluid style, now that they have had time to coordinate each others strengths in to a strategy. It is also very refreshing to see these moments of spectacle taking place on a more international stage rather than on the avenues and corners of New York City.

I enjoyed Age of Ultron a great deal, it is a fun blockbuster which does hold character work in high regard, but there was something just a little off about the whole proceedings that can’t allow me to praise the film as highly as I would like to. The problem lies in the inconsistencies both within itself and in regards to its position within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whedon does very little to convey much of an awareness of the preceding films which make up Phase Two of the MCU, the biggest issue being the fact that there is no acknowledgement of Tony’s apparent Avengers-4retirement at the end of Iron Man 3. It is also very clear that Whedon becomes frustrated when he has to sew in seeds for the future. A sub-plot involving Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and a search of a pool of visions feels rushed and tailored only to tease Thor: Ragnorok, while there seems to be a great deal of reluctance to address the upcoming Civil War. Whedon also doesn’t seem all that concerned about the future he is sending his characters into, and this may be because he doesn’t like the future that Marvel has planned for them (think about it, he does seem to be wanting to run away from MCU as soon as the Press Junket is complete).

What this all means for the future of these heroes remains to be seen, but Age of Ultron ultimately fails where the first film succeeded, and that was in creating a sense of palpable excitement for the future adventures of these characters. We are introduced to a new roaster of Avengers come the final moments, but the abrupt cut of the ending (as well as the lazy post-credits scene) seems to suggest that Whedon doesn’t care as much as he did at the beginning. He has made a perfectly enjoyable film, but it only stands as a fairly middling Marvel entry, a step back from the studio heights of Winter Soldier and Guardians. Thank you, though, Joss, it was fun while it lasted.

3/5- While perfectly enjoyable, Age of Ultron represents the work of a creative voice fighting against a pre-determined Cinematic Universe, something which invades the tone despite moments of excellent character work and comic-book excitement.


Thor-1Thor was by far the hardest Avenger to establish. A cosmic, God, alien, immortal being was always going a hard one to make relate-able to audience’s. Despite some weak points concerning style, Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 outing for the Asgardian Avenger proved successful, with a spot-on Chris Hemsworth and a eye-catching Tom Hiddleston proving to be chief amongst the films’ strengths. Since the release of that first outing, a huge fandom has formed around both Hemsworth and Hiddleston, down to their charm, good looks, and genuine talent. It’s amazing the amount that that fandom has grown to, over the course of only two movies. Now the time has come for the opportunity to focus more on this pairing, and truly have fun within this world that has already been established. Why then, does The Dark World seem to stumble at nearly every turn?

With the nine realms in chaos following the actions of Loki (Hiddleston) on Earth, Thor (Hemsworth) has been kept busy restoring order to the world’s he protects. All the while, physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been searching for the means to reconnect with the Asgardian following their romantic encounter in New Mexico. However, her investigation leads her to unwittingly awaken a dark evil long thought gone in the form of Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and his army of Dark Elves. Malekith, fueled with revenge from defeat thousands of years ago, will stop at nothing to throw all of the realms into darkness through the power of an ancient force known as the Aether. With destruction inevitable, Thor turns to help in the most unlikely of forms, his incarcerated and embittered step-brother Loki. Thor-2

The problem with The Dark World is its inability to carry through with narrative promise, or to build a significant amount of tension towards a satisfying finale. There is great potential here, yet most of the interesting developments that could take place are never fully exploited. A love triangle between Thor, Jane, and Sif is drifted over as quickly as it is suggested, while Malekith never feels like a true threat due to so little time dedicated to clarifying his motives and letting the extremely talented Eccleston craft a character. Too much time is given to characters who are undeserving of it, such as Kat Denning’s Darcy and her intern Ian. Designed as ‘comic relief’ the pair are responsible for some of the most cringe-worthy moments in the movie, and simply aggravate whenever they are on the screen.

Director Alan Taylor, a regular on the likes of Game of Thrones and Mad Men, clearly revels in the darker corners of the material, relishing in the design of Malekith and his forces, as well as establishing a much more gritty and Earthy aesthetic to what Kenneth Branagh delivered back in 2011. The action feels much more real, while the weaponry design is much more organic and less sci-fi than one would expect. Yet, he seems to struggle in making everything seem cinematic. This film feels like the work of a TV director. There is an air of cheapness to the proceedings, from the rushed visual effects to the general tone, particularly in the first half hour (which feels more like an episode of Doctor Who than it does a multi-million dollar Marvel movie).

Taylor does manage to impress in a number of sequences around the middle section of the movie when the action does kick into gear and the pacing begins to charge full gallop. Basically when shit goes down. An aerial assault on Asgard hits the action beats with efficiency, and the resulting memorial scene is handled with delicacy and is Thor-3surprisingly very moving, in large part thanks to Brina Taylor’s spine-chilling score. The film also grows in strength once Thor and Loki eventually team up. The script is up to par in these moments, as the verbal sparring between the two Gods remains witty, sharp, and wholly entertaining. It is a shame then that these moments don’t last longer, as the climax stumbles over its own feet and replaces the opportunity to establish credible threat with the chance to throw in a gag or a cheesy one-liner. The horribly convenient plot developments, goofy tone and gaping plot holes destroy all sense of tension and completely negates the work done by Eccleston in at least trying to make his villain memorable.

The performances range from confident to lazy. Hemsworth proves himself worthy once again, ably carrying the film on his well formed charismatic shoulders. Likewise, Hiddleston earns his paycheck with another trickster performance, managing to captivate even when he spends most of his screen-time stuck in a prison cell. Natalie Portman seems frustrated within her role as Jane Foster, who is reverted to a mere damsel in distress. But she’s intelligent. So that makes it ok? Elsewhere, Anthony Hopkins seems incredibly bored as Odin, while it’s great to see Rene Russo given much more to do this time around as Thor’s mother, and a good does of gravitas is supplied by the man mountain that is Idris Elba.

This is the first time since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel that a film from under the Marvel Studio’s banner has been felt like it has been significantly tampered with. It is no secret that this film had a troubled production, with Thor-4re-shoots taking place as late as August, the ending in particularly feels incredibly slapped on at the last minute. Hopefully this will not be the case when The Avengers: Age of Ultron comes around in 2015. This film was directed by a man that the studio very much felt they could over-rule at any turn, Joss Whedon is the man who just made them $1.4 billion, he is in a position of power. Likewise, Iron Man 3 felt like a Shane Black movie because he is a film-maker with a distinct talent and voice, and one who would not let anyone compromise his vision. Stubbornness works wonders in the film industry. Taylor unfortunately is a director yet to establish a voice, and this film lacks a creative personality. Simply because there was no one vision. Thor: The Dark World marks the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has felt like a brand and nothing more. And it also marks the first time that I have been genuinely worried about the future of this franchise.

2/5- Inconsistent and only occasionally exciting, The Dark World is a worrying disappointment that lacks the personality and screenwriting smarts of previous Marvel outings. Unworthy to say the least.

It is no secret that I absolutely love this movie. Granted I haven’t given you a lot of justification to continue to read this review by basically projecting my opinion straight out, but I do promise that this will be a fun read. I saw Avengers Assemble when it was first released back in April on opening night, wearing a Captain America T-Shirt (of course) and then I saw it again a week later (as you do). Now here I am, having just seen the film for a third time following its first screening at The Alderney Cinema (once again donning a Captain America T-Shirt), and the effect has not waned. Therefore, why not finally write a full review? It is no annoying fluke (like any Michael Bay movie) that this movie has collected over a billion dollars and become the third highest grossing movie of all-time, it more than earned that position, being quite literally the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It was no safe bet; a large ensemble superhero movie has never been tried on this scale before, what with the numerous build-up movies that came before it. Marvel were taking quite a big risk. So, how did something that could have gone so wrong, go so fantastically right?

The answer to that is rather easy, to be honest. The success of this film can be attributed to one man; Joss Whedon. Whedon, the man behind such cult fan favourite’s as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co-writer of this year’s exceptional meta-horror The Cabin In The Woods, is the scribe and the director of these proceedings. What he keeps things very simple, plot-wise, to allow the character’s to flourish within the 2 hour and 45 minute time frame. Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has gotten hold of the powerful Tesseract, and intends on using it to bring an alien army, known as the Chitari, to Earth to conquer all of mankind. This leaves Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with no other choice but to initiate the Avengers Initiative; a plan to bring together the world’s most powerful heroes as Earth’s last line of defense. However, that doesn’t prove to be an easy task, what with the conflicting personalities of the team. We have Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), a man out of his time; Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.) an egotistical self-centered narcissist; the demi-God Thor, and then there’s Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a brilliant scientist with some rather troublesome anger issues. Together, with two highly trained assassins (Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner), they will form The Avengers, if they can learn to work together that is.

Whedon’s script lays down a very simple framework for the action to take place in; bad guy bent on world domination, must stop him. But, as with anything that Whedon puts his name to, it is within the dialogue and relationships between the characters that the movie truly shines. That’s not to say the action is not exciting; there are some incredible sequences that are happily exciting and coherent, it is merely that the movie is that much more entertaining when all the heroes are together and are fighting against each other, both physically or verbally. It is truly to Whedon’s credit that he manages to juggle all these massive personalities and still find a way to make the humanity in each of these characters shine, allowing all of them to have a personal arc among-st all the comic-book action. Some characters have a much better arc within this ensemble movie than they did in their own solo outings.

Whedon has a firm grasp on who these characters are and how they should be presented, and its an energy the cast share. Mark Ruffalo is easily the best Bruce Banner we’ve seen to date, and Whedon is the first director to let The Hulk simply be The Hulk, through an impressive employment of motion-capture animation. Ruffalo injects Banner with a modest charm, funny yet filled with nervous tics, never allowing us to forget that a beast lies within him. He had the most to prove out of all the actors in this ensemble, and he is the one that shines. Tom Hiddleston also benefits from Whedon’s script, as Whedon clearly had a great deal of fun writing Loki as a deceptively evil bastard. After the moody, mis-understood Loki we were given in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, it is refreshing to see Loki finally embrace his Godly title; the God of Mischief. He gets some of the best dialogue over the course of the movie (‘mewling quim’ anyone?). Evans is brilliantly earnest and good-natured as Cap, and proves his worth as the leader of The Avengers, getting a much better chance to display his strategic military mind. Robert Downey Jnr. is, well, Robert Downey Jnr. Once again, his screen charisma is strong, undeniably arrogant, but also in his own way as earnest as Cap. Stark is who he is and embraces it, much to the irritation of Cap. But he is a character who not only surprises us, but also himself, with his actions. Hemsworth once again revels in the fish-out-of-water aspect of his character; his old English dialogue once again being subject of many of the jokes within the film. He is also perhaps the most personally conflicted hero out of the bunch, as he knows he must fight Loki to put a stop to his madness, yet never gives up hope that Loki may see reason and once again become the brother that he used to know (do I sense potential for an Avengers-themed Goyte parody here?). Johansson and Renner do not get quite as much time to shine, but both of their characters, Natasha Romanov and Clint Barton impress with their respective skills and are a welcome addition to the ranks of The Avengers. And just check out her ass.

I am now going to make a rather bold statement. I think that Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is the best comic-book movie that I have seen. What about The Dark Knight, I hear you cry? Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies (I am at this point still yet to see The Dark Knight Rises) have always aspired to be more than just comic-book movies; they portray their hero with a strong sense of realism, The Dark Knight particularly delves into the psyche of its tortured hero as well as developing itself as an engrossing crime epic. And they are rather dark (not that I am complaining). Avengers Assemble feels much more like a comic-book movie. Whedon constructs an infectious kinetic energy into the proceedings, allowing the action scenes (the Helicarrier and final battle sequences are thoroughly exhilarating) to feel as if they have been taken straight out of the pages of a comic-book. And the sheer joy that you feel seeing all of these characters working together against an evil alien force is just un-paralleled. Be it the first time round or the third time round, the hairs of the back of my neck have always raised on cue, turning me into such a giddy mess that it may be impossible for me to effectively critique this film. God bless my fan-boy spirit.  The carefully placed humour, the surprising plot developments, Alan Silvestri’s stirring score and the majesty of Whedon’s dialogue and creativeness as director (the fluid long shot through the streets of New York showing all our heroes’ fighting alongside each other is simply perfect comic-book nirvana) makes Avengers Assemble one of the best Hollywood blockbusters in recent years. Once again, a film that could have gone so wrong, went so brilliantly right. Bring on Phase Two! 

5/5- I’m sure that there are faults to be had, but the sheer entertainment value of this movie over-rides them all. It is funny, action-packed, yet also effectively emotional, as Whedon never allows the action to over-shadow the characters. A near-perfect comic-book movie; thank you Mr. Whedon.

The San Diego Comic-Con took place over the course of this weekend, and of course, like every year, it was rich for film news! Comic-Con has become an important marketing event for big Hollywood movies, not only catering for Comic-Book movies, but any major Hollywood picture on the horizon. this year was no different, featuring the first footage from the likes of next year’s Man of Steel and the upcoming The Expendables 2. Rather than report on every little detail, I thought I would take a blog post to focus on some of the highlights of the Convention this year, which does pretty much cover every major aspect and highlights seen this year. One day, I hope to be reporting live to you from San Diego, as the Comic-Con is definitely on my lift of things to do before I die. Some people have ‘visit the Great Wall of China’, I have the Comic-Con. Well, it makes sense to me. So, without further ado, what news is there from the land of San Diego (a Whale’s Vagina to some)?

1. The Return to Oz with Sam Raimi looks to be a colourful affair…

One of the first panels at the Con was for Sam Raimi’s much-anticipated prequel to the 1939 classic, The Wizard Of Oz, which is entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. The upcoming Spring release has been rather scarce in terms of promotional material, with the Poster having been released a week ago, and the trailer (more on that in a sec) being unveiled at the Con. But, truthfully, there isn’t a much better place in which to kick-off your film’s marketing than the San Diego Comic-Con. Raimi was reportedly in high spirits, enthusiastically talking about his next Blockbuster project. Points he stressed were that this is not a prequel in the traditional sense(mostly due to the fact that Disney do not have the rights to certain specific imagery from the 1939 original), it instead draws most of it inspiration from the original series of books by L. Frank Baum, a series that is still rich in un-mined imagery and imagination. Raimi simply stressed how this is very much a self-contained story, with elements that will be recognizable, as we follow James Franco’s Oscar Diggs, a small-town Magician, who wishes for something more. After a certain incident involving a tornado, Oscar finds himself in the magical land of Oz. There he embarks on an epic, Technicolor adventure in which he finally finds a chance to prove himself. Raimi then treated the convention patrons to the first footage from the movie, in the form of its first trailer, which you may have seen over the weekend (if not, you can find it below, aren’t I good to you?). It looks as you might come to expect, a bit too similar to the production design of Alice In Wonderland (granted, they share the same production designer), but thankfully it does seem to have much more vibrancy and visual flair, more than likely due to the fact that it is Raimi in the director’s chair. And a film with Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis in it can’t be too bad to look at. Raimi also confirmed that his regular collaborator Bruce Campbell shall indeed have a trademark cameo, as will his famous recognizable car, although not in the way that you might expect. And now, as promised, here is that trailer once again:

2. We can expect some more politically infused Sci-Fi from Neill Blomkamp with Elysium… 

Neill Blomkamp, the man behind the fantastic Sci-Fi action drama District 9, has been busy at work on his follow-up picture, Elysium, and aside from this image of a gun-wielding bald Matt Damon, we have seen or know next to nothing about the promising director’s next directorial effort. Well, if you were at Comic-Con, you certainly will have seen a lot more now. Blomkamp, along with his cast members, Damon, Jodie Foster and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley, screened some exclusive footage. The film is set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) in which Earth is a wasteland, and the rich and the wealthy live on board a giant luxurious space-station, where all medical concerns are a thing of the past, including cancer. Damon plays Max, a working man who is one of the many less-privileged folk who continue to live on Earth. However, Max’s depressing life becomes even worse after he is exposed to radiation poisoning following an incident at work. With five days to live, Max must do all he can to make it to Elysium in order to cure himself of his poisoning. Although, that is a task which is easier said then done. The crowds were reportedly very impressed with the footage, which demonstrated the world and style of Blomkamp’s film. Not a stone throw away from District 9, the film is said to gritty, tough and featuring some quite literal bone-crunching violence, all infused with another political allegory, in this case representing the struggle of the 99-ers; albeit in a ultra-violent sci-fi action fashion.  I am a huge fan of District 9, and I simply cannot wait to see someone of this footage, as the prospect of Blomkamp working with a big budget and a big star is a very tantalizing prospect. Here’s hoping we’ll see a trailer sometime in the near future.

3. Dredd impressed

Preview screenings are not a rare occurance at Comic-Con, but you are never too sure what movies shall grace the fans with their advance screening presence. This year, it was the reboot of the 2000Ad character, Dredd. Judge Dredd was last seen on-screen in the 1995 Sly Stallone picture, and that film was not very well received. Panned by critics, despised by fans, Danny Cannon’s adaptation may have had the style, but it certainly did not have the story, and it was not the Dredd that fans of the British comics had grown to love (mainly because Stallone took the helmet off). It was a complete waste of promising potential, and now screenwriter Alex Garland and director Pete Travis are having a shot. And from the sounds of it, they have fully delivered. The buzz around Dredd has been pleasingly positive and everything that I had hoped. It has been described as an inventive, gritty, insanely violent and highly stylish affair with a commanding lead performance from Karl Urban. I did read somewhere (for the life of me I cannot remember where) that it evoked the spirit of a hardcore 80’s action-er, and that fills me with fan-boy joy. Dredd is mean. Brutal and unforgiving. And so is the world of Mega-City. A film of this world should be violent and nasty, and from the sounds of it, Travis and Garland have not skimped out on the ultra-violent goodness (as a clip below shall demonstrate). Concerns with the film have been aimed towards the premise, which has some rather unfortunate similarities to this year’s The Raid, and there have been some grumblings concerning the scale of the picture, although that can easily be attributed to its rather small independently funded budget. But the buzz coming out from this film is certainly enough to get me excited, and it certainly pleased the 2000AD fan’s who were present at Comic-Con. Now, feast your eye’s on this glorious violent clip:

4. Iron Man’s got a new foe, and a new suit in which to face him with… 

Marvel made their presence known well and truly at the Con this year, as they do every year really, with Iron Man 3 representing merely the tip of the iceberg concerning what Marvel had to announce this year. But that is a bloody big tip. The Shane Black written and directed movie has only been filming for a good month, but that didn’t stop Marvel from presenting a few sequences from the movie, involving some banter between Robert Downey Jnr.’s Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. But the real money shots came from seeing the destruction of Stark’s Malibu home and the reveal of the main villain of the movie. And after months of internet rumors, I can happily announce that Ben Kingsley shall indeed be playing The Mandarin; arguably Iron Man’s most famous and formidable foe. Marvel’s Phase 2 has certainly begun. The prospect of The Mandarin is something incredibly promising. He is a villain with great intelligence to match his highly tuned martial arts skills, and the power of his 10 mysterious rings. I’m sure they will try to ground The Mandarin much more in reality, but the threat he possesses should take Stark down a peg or two and give one hell of a reality check. The next big piece of Iron Man related news was the reveal of his new suit for the movie, as pictured. Ditching the Red and Gold combo, this suit is much more in keeping with the Extremis design of the suit, the Extremis being  recent arc in the comic books that saw Stark developing the means of having the suit appear out of his skin (there is a lot more to this arc, it is very complicated, I recommend researching it if you’re interested). It has been rumored that the Extremis arc would be featured in this sequel, however I would not take this suit as confirmation, as I will only believe it when I see it, as I think the Extremis arc would be far too hard to develop in the course of one film. I guess we shall discover soon enough, come May of next year!

5. Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have new titles…

Another piece of Marvel news (there are still two more to go) concerned other elements of Marvel’s Phase 2, namely the follow-ups to Thor and Captain America. Unlike the Iron Man franchise, these two heroes are dropping the numerical label, and are instead given subtitles. Not only does it create a much better sense of a continuing world, filled with episodes (much like a comic book universe), it also offers some intriguing speculation as to what these certain sequels may focus on. First up is the sequel to Thor, out on November 8th 2013, which is now titled Thor: The Dark World. Now this seems to have confirmed the early notions that the Thor sequel shall explore the darker under-belly of the pristine Asgard. Which would also seem to suggest a rather drastic change of tone from the first movie. Kenneth Branagh’s first installment was a grand and highly daft affair; fun, slightly camp, an all out romp. Branagh is not directing this installment, that role is now being filled by Alan Taylor, a regular director on the rather dark fantasy series, Game of Thrones. His employment alone suggest a much darker take on the character, and this title certainly confirms that we are going to see a much darker take on the God of Thunder. Now onto the Star-Spangled Man with a plan. Captain America 2, out on April 4th 2014, shall now be called Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if you’re familiar with the comic-books, then that title needs no elaboration. But if you aren’t well versed in the Marvel Universe, allow me to enlighten you. The Winter Soldier was the name given to Cap’s supposedly dead best friend Bucky, who in the comics, returned as a Brainwashed Russian Assassin, out to kill Captain America. First things first, yes, Bucky did appear to die, however, we never saw a body, and as soon as his death occurred, I for one certainly thought that we could easily see Bucky return in future installments. And that certainly seems to be the case. Yet, the idea of a Russian Assassin  is certainly out-dated, so it remains to be seen if the directing pair of the Russo Brothers will develop the Winter Soldier in any way. Either way, it is a title which has certainly got me excited.

6. It’s time to meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy…  

Possibly the worst kept secret concerning a Marvel movie, as internet rumors have been around for quite some time concerning their ‘mysterious’ August 2014 release. The Guardians Of The Galaxy is not a well-known Marvel title, in fact it was cancelled after 25-issues. It is a huge risk in terms of both money investment and in further expanding the Marvel Universe. I do believe that this is not in the same Universe as The Avengers (don’t quote me on that) as last I heard the intention was to produce this as an animated movie. It would make, considering the characters that make up the Guardians Of The Galaxy; a powerful alien by the name of Drax The Destroyer, a super-smart living plant named Groot, a space Raccoon called Rocket Raccoon and Star Lord who is a Galactic Super Cop. Yeah. Rather diverse characters. The concept art of the characters is certainly interesting and the scope of the film could be something that we have never seen before in a comic-book movie. There is still no director attached, but I shall keep a curious eye on this movie, as the choice of director should say a lot in terms of what the tone of the movie shall turn out to be. Now, here’s that concept art for you to gaze upon. Pretty bad-ass Raccoon, right?

7. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man may finally happen…

The last bit of Marvel related goodness from the Con comes in the form of news concerning Edgar Wright’s long-gestating movie of Ant-Man, the superhero who can change his size at will. Ant-Man was one of the original members of The Avengers, yet Marvel decided to focus on the more popular heroes for the first big-screen outing of the assembled team, and rightly so. But now that Phase One was so successful, Marvel are prepared to take more risks, and an Ant-Man movie could be such a way of doing so. It must be said that this film is still not yet officially confirmed, but this is an indication that things are happening to see an Ant-Man movie. Edgar Wright, the maestro behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, surprised everyone in San Diego when he turned up to present the test-footage that he shot about two weeks ago. The footage was not finished at all, and the man playing the title character was merely a stuntman, but in terms of showcasing what Wright intends to do in terms of the action, it apparently did not disappoint. What the fans were treated to was trademark Wright; zippy, brilliantly paced and inventive action with a great sense of humor to boot as Ant-Man used his powers to take out a couple of guards guarding an elevator. And the costume is supposedly very much in keeping with the look of the Kirby artwork. Which is bound to please fans. So, still no release date, but I’m sure we can expect Ant-Man to become a reality in the very near future.

8. We can expect to see a very different kind of Superman…

Probably one of the most anticipated movies at the Con this year, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie Man Of Steel certainly has provoked intrigue following a screening of a teaser trailer at this years convention, a teaser trailer said to be in front of The Dark Knight Rises come Friday. Warner Bros. certainly has a lot riding on this movie, considering Batman shall be done and dusted, at least for now, come the end of the summer, and I’d imagine that they were rather happy with how the footage was received. The footage firmly established this Superman as a much more dramatic, somber and of course darker origins tale, with Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent finding it somewhat hard to find his place in the modern world. A shot that got many people talking was of Super being escorted down a corridor by a league of armed guards. Do the Earthlings not take too kindly to the last son of Krypton? The audience was also pleased to see that Man of Steel may feature a more reserved and mature film-making style from Snyder, following his adolescent, video-game of a movie Sucker Punch. I’m all for a more mature approach from Snyder, but I do hope Supes isn’t all gloomy drama, he needs to have a sense of glee and good-will spirit that the Superman image embodies. Either way, I am more than excited for a new Superman movie, being a big fan of the character’s cinematic past. Man of Steel hits cinemas on June 14th, but be sure to track down the trailer when The Dark Knight Rises is released on Friday.

9. Might we be seeing THREE Hobbit movies?

Peter Jackson is somewhat royalty at Comic-Con, and he certainly didn’t disappoint his many fans this year, bringing with him plenty of footage from his upcoming Lord of The Rings prequels The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again. The footage he displayed showed a very humorous scene at Bag-End during Bilbo’s first encounter with the Dwarves, Gandalf being attacked by some feral looking creature, Gollum playing riddles with Bilbo as part of the Riddles in the Dark sequence, along with some snippets of Evangeline Lilly kicking some Goblin ass, and Legolas preparing to fire his bow at an unseen antagonist.  But what perhaps got people talking was Jackson’s speculation at the possibility of a third Hobbit movie. Jackson has said how much material they could still mine, in light of the appendices that Tolkien wrote, filling in certain plot points and bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; “There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. I’ve been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting.” Personally, I think that The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings are very different books, they tell very different stories, therefore the films should reflect that as well, rather than squeeze everything that they can out of the material available to them. Not that any more time spent in Middle Earth is a bad thing, it is just I would rather see a focused adaptation rather than a sprawling trilogy trying to make more of a connection with LOTR. That’s not what I want, and I’m sure fans don’t necessarily want to see an over-loaded trilogy expanded far too much for its own good. Two films are more than enough P.J.

10. Skyfall looks to be a classic, kick-ass Bond movie…

Bond made an appearance at the Con this year, not something a Bond movie usually does, but I’m sure the fans didn’t complain. The Bond Brigade charged at the Con with a brand new exclusive I-MAX trailer, displaying how this Bond is going to be bigger than the rest, quite literally. The trailer also filled in more details as to what the plot may be. It seems that Judi Dench’s M loses possession of a data drive, which contains the identities of every British Intelligence Agent – and soon enough they begin to get assassinated one by one. Therefore, Bond must act fast, to stay one step ahead and find out who is killing the Country’s spies. It sounds similar to the ‘Smert Spionam’ (Death to Spies) plot of The Living Daylights, but much more personal as Bond’s loyalties to M are truly tested. Fans cheered at the inclusion of Craig uttering ‘Bond, James Bond’ and they were also treated to the world’s first look at Ben Whishaw’s Q, a casting decision that I think is truly excellent. Hopefully we’ll all set our eyes upon this new I-MAX trailer in the near future, as a new Bond movie is always something to get excited about. Now, here is that first image of Whishaw looking all geeky, and Q-like.

11. Guillermo Del Toro aim to inspire awe with Pacific Rim…  

Del Toro hasn’t made movie since Hellboy 2 way back in 2008, so it is about time that he should be getting back behind the camera’s to present us with his unique vision once again. Pacific Rim marks his return as a director after producing many a mediocre horror (here’s looking at you Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark) but the reaction he got from the footage screened at Comic-Con certainly seems to suggest that has been worth the wait. The basic premise of Pacific Rim is fairly simple. Set in the distant future, Earth has been over-run by Giant Monsters who have awoken from a rift within the Pacific Rim (so, that’s why it’s called that). This prompts the human race to build giant Robots, known as Jaegers, to battle these destructive Beasties who are laying waste to mankind. These Jaegers are piloted human operators, who bond telepathically with their respective Robot, to face monsters head on in battle. The footage screened aimed to give an impression of the scale of the movie, and one word seems to describe it rather fittingly; epic. The Robots and Monsters are on a huge scale, with impressive FX works and practical effects. It’s as high concept as you can get, and Del Toro’s visual flair and creativity should be fantastic in this kind of arena. And it has Idris Elba screaming such lines as “Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!” Epic indeed. Pacific Rim hits cinemas on July 15th 2013, but Del Toro has said a trailer won’t hit for at least 6 months. The tease.

12. Godzilla shall rampage once again…

My last highlight from the con comes in the form of another Monster movie, this time it is Legendary Pictures new take on the iconic Giant Lizard, Godzilla. It has been a while since we heard any news come out concerning this movie, Gareth Edwards (behind the small indie pic Monsters) was announced as director quite a while ago, and after that it went rather quiet. But now, the big fiery beast has let his presence be known, with a new poster and some teaser footage, screened exclusively in San Diego. The teaser stunned unsuspecting audiences, with no one knowing what it was that was being screened, as the camera panned over a brutally destroyed city, smoke bellowing among-st the destruction. As the camera continues along, the audience catches a glimpse of a monster, a dead monster, but not Mr. Zilla. All of a sudden the iconic roar is heard and the title graces the screen. But that’s not all. They were then given the big hero shot, as Godzilla himself turning side on and roaring in all his glory. He reportedly matched the classic look, albeit with a modern makeover. Supposedly nothing like the Roland Emmerich version from 1998. Reports called it intense, spine-tingling and incredibly convincing. Still no release date, but I think we can expect to see this version of Godzilla around 2014.