Movie News: Shane Black to direct Iron Man 3?

Iron Man 3 News

I have to admit – I’m slightly perplexed by exactly how much love the movie version of Iron Man got. Make no mistake, it’s a fun and frothy blockbuster, but I was surprised by exactly how bowled over people were, when Jon Favreau has never struck me as the most dynamic or exciting director (although I am currently keen to see how his upcoming movie Cowboys and Aliens turns out), and the original Iron Man was very much one of those superhero blockbusters that’s an effective origin story with an extra act of clunky action awkwardly welded on to the end.

I wasn’t entirely surprised when Iron Man 2 turned out to be a damp squib more concerned with trailing the upcoming 2012 Avengers project than actually telling a good story, giving us a rather lazy version of ‘more of the same’ instead of trying to deliver something new. However, there have been various behind-the-scenes rumblings that the Iron Man films have not exactly been smooth productions, with Marvel being rather hands-on and also being in the habit of starting to shoot without a fixed script. As a result, Jon Favreau has headed off to pastures new, and Marvel are looking at new directors to step into the chair for the obviously-going-to-happen Iron Man 3.

Shane Black Possible Iron Man 3 DirectorAmazingly, according to Deadline, we’re actually getting very close to Shane Black signing to direct the third Iron Man film. Black was one of the biggest screenwriters in Hollywood in the late Eighties, netting massive amounts of money for scripts like Lethal Weapon (and also achieving the rather bizarre notoriety of being the first soldier to be killed by the titular alien in John McTiernan’s macho classic Predator). His whip-smart style fell out of favour in the late Nineties, but he’s been making a slow but steady comeback for the last few years. His directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a flawed but wonderful noir comedy that features some dazzlingly brilliant dialogue, a hilarious turn from Val Kilmer as a gay private eye, and also – in a nice piece of synchronicity – gave Robert Downey Jr one of his best roles prior to embarking on major stardom in iron Man.

Iron Man 3 News Update Robert Downey JrThe fact that Black may be getting a gig this major is excellent news – the only thing that’s concerning is that, according to the Deadline article, there’s a question mark over whether or not Black is going to write the script. It’s interesting that Marvel are going for someone like Black, but he strikes me as the kind of writer who’s best when he’s let off the leash – it’d be extremely weird to hire him, and then impose the kind of creative control that throttled the life out of Iron Man 2. Marvel are still riding on the success of Iron Man, and the anticipation for The Avengers, but that isn’t going to last forever, and both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger are going to have to be extremely good if the plan’s going to work. I hope Black gets the chance to make Iron Man 3 – but I also hope that Marvel are sensible enough to let him subvert and change the formula, rather than forcing him to make yet another tale of Tony Stark being a bit of an arse, realising the error of his ways, and then fighting another bloke in a big metal suit…

TV News: How Do You Solve a Problem like Wonder Woman? (Pilot Episode Details…)

Wonder Woman Terry Dodson

Wonder Woman Lynda CarterAh, Wonder Woman – the Amazon princess of Themyscira who’s sent to Man’s world as an emissary of Peace, a job that seems to involve a remarkable amount of beating people up, battling evil and repelling bullets with her magical arm gauntlets. She’s massively recognisable. She’s one of the most long-running superheroes around. She’s a female icon, a wish-fulfilment figure and a role model… and yet she hasn’t managed a non-animated onscreen appearance since the fabulously campy Seventies TV series starring Lynda Carter. It’s not for want of trying – there’s been a whole series of attempts to bring Wonder Woman back to the screen (most notably in 2005, when Buffy creator Joss Whedon was hired to do a reboot) but all of them have either failed or stalled.

Now, however, Wonder Woman may be on her way back to TV screens, thanks to a rather unlikely benefactor. If you were going to make a list of potential producers for a TV version of Wonder Woman, it’s very unlikely that David E. Kelly – the king of kooky courtroom drama and creator of shows like Ally McBeal and Boston Legal – would have made the cut. However, proving that you can never predict exactly how weird Hollywood can get, a Wonder Woman TV project is looking very likely, a pilot episode is being put together at US network NBC, and David E. Kelly is the man in charge. Details of the pilot script have filtered out via film/tv/comics site Bleeding Cool, and it’s certainly sounding a very David E. Kelly show – by the sounds of it, it’ll be a frothy relationship-driven superhero comedy drama with a fair selection of continuity from the original comics, but aiming more at the mainstream network audience, and certainly in no way trying to do the straight, mythic and serious take that plenty of fans seem to want.

(A quick summary of most of the details we’ve got – essentially, the setup is that Wonder Woman is Diana Themyscira, head of the Themyscira Corporation, and publicly moonlights as a superhero (think Tony Stark and Iron Man), but also uses the mild-mannered alter ego of Diana Prince from time to time. The general mood seems to be goofy female-oriented superhero drama, with a slightly worrying number of pop songs listed in the script (there’s apparently going to be a fight scene scored by ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce, which doesn’t exactly fill me with hope), and from most of what I’ve read in the Bleeding Cool article, it does feel like the closest reference point is going to be that fabulously Nineties TV take on Superman, Lois and Clark (also known over here as The New Adventures of Superman) – or, at least, the earlier episodes of Lois and Clark where the relationship-driven comedy worked, and the whole concept hadn’t been run into the ground yet).

Wonder Woman Brian BollandAt this stage, I’m neither loving nor hating what I’m hearing. A lot will depend on execution, and Wonder Woman isn’t a character I’m especially invested in – it does read like the kind of thing that’s more likely to fail than succeed, but pilot episodes can be notoriously clunky anyway, and I’m willing to at least give it a little benefit of the doubt (until I’ve actually seen the episode in question) as this could go either way. Kelly’s take might be a smash success or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it failure (like the TV adaptation of female-centric Batman universe comic Birds of Prey, which was cancelled so quickly, hardly anyone even noticed that it existed), but it’s interesting in that it shows exactly how much uncertainty there is over how to do Wonder Woman onscreen, a lot more than there ever was with a character like Batman and Superman.

A little of it is simply to do with the fact that superhero tales tend to be pretty big budget (especially if we’re talking movies), and female-driven superhero movies don’t exactly have a fantastic strike rate of success (evidence for the prosecution: Supergirl, Elektra, and the stunningly awful Catwoman). Much of this is down to bad luck and rotten creative decisions, but there’s also the problem that big budget superhero films need to be pitched as wide as possible, and I don’t think anyone has yet to crack how to sell the kind of major-league, female-oriented superhero blockbuster that they’d need if they were going to give Wonder Woman the cinematic outing her following and history deserves.

Wonder WomanOn top of that, Wonder Woman is a tricky character whose origin story has been tweaked, rebooted and remixed a surprising number of times over the years. For example, while there have been wildly different interpretations of Batman, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever suggesting “Hey, you know what? What if Bruce Wayne gave up all the dressing up as a bat, and instead we had him travelling the world as a daring spy who poses as an international playboy? Maybe his codename could still be ‘The Bat’!” And yet, that’s exactly what happened to Wonder Woman for several years, from the late sixties to the mid seventies, when she was de-powered and transformed into a fab and groovy secret agent. There have been other massive changes over the years, and Wonder Woman’s origin isn’t the kind of clear-cut tale that you can sum up as easily and succinctly as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely managed in the first page of their magnum opus, All-Star Superman:


Even now, DC are struggling with the character – she’s in the middle of an ‘alternate history’ revamp, a ‘bold new direction’ that was thought up by writer J. Michael Straczynski before he jumped ship from writing monthly comics, and which seems to have turned her into a cross between Xena: Warrior Princess and the DC Comics beserker warrior equivalent of Wolverine. It’s not as much of a car-crash as Straczynski’s god-awful “Superman walks across America” tale Grounded, but after about six issues, it really doesn’t feel like it’s working (even with a mild upswing in quality thanks to Chris Roberson taking over scripting duties). They’ve also, as part of the remix, given her a much-heralded new costume:

wonder woman new costume jim lee

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t actually have a problem with this, and as superhero costumes go, it’s pretty good. The jacket is still ridiculously Nineties, but the ensemble works, and it doesn’t say “armoured swimming costume” in the same way that the classic WW costume does. Yes, it does take away a certain degree of Wonder Woman’s mythic nature but it also, frankly, is a more practical costume that would very probably be much easier to realise onscreen without drifting into the kind of campness that Xena or, to be honest, the Seventies TV show survived on.

wonder woman alex rossAnother problem with Wonder Woman is her mythic nature. She was created in the Nineteen Forties as a female adventurer to battle the Nazis, a long time before the Sixties Marvel revolution made street-level, ordinary-joe superheroes the done thing. As a result, she’s a character of pure myth (plenty of versions of the origin have her actually sculpted from clay by the Gods), and there’s a sense of distance from all the DC ‘Big Three’ – the feeling that they’re Olympian ideals to aspire to. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, especially in the post-Eighties/Nineties era when superhero comics are at least attempting a bit more psychological depth (even if they don’t always manage it), and I really don’t feel like anyone’s ever entirely cracked how to handle this.

There’s also the lack of a single definitive Wonder Woman story. As I’ve said, I haven’t read a heap of Wonder Woman comics, so I’m coming at this as an outsider, but especially in the last twenty five years, in the post Dark Knight and Watchmen comics landscape, there hasn’t been a comic that has truly defined Wonder Woman as a character in the same way that, say, The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke have for Batman. I’m sure there have been some great runs of stories and some impressive creators have worked on the title (including writers like Greg Rucka and Gail Simone), but it feels like what’s needed is someone to take Wonder Woman and do something attention-grabbing and truly different with her (which I suspect was what Straczynski was trying to do with his rather ill-fated concept, unfortunately).

Wonder Woman Lasso of TruthOn top of all that, there’s the question of how close a screen version should stick to the comic, especially when there are aspects of the comic which (to put it mildly) might be tricky to transfer? The 2009 animated Wonder Woman direct-to-DVD film is a good example of this – it’s fine when it’s sticking to pure myth (featuring a 300-style flashback opening sequence), but comes unstuck when it has to do tackle some of the trickier aspects – and yes, we’re talking about the Lasso of Truth. Back in the Forties, there was a deliberate layer of kink to many Wonder Woman stories (with the mighty Amazon coming up against a wide variety of villains who seemed very fond of tying her up time after time), and the Lasso of Truth – the magical rope which, when tied around someone’s neck, compels them to tell the truth – is a direct descendant of this kind of storytelling.

It’s the kind of thing that’s much easier to play in a comic book than in reality, and that’s the main problem with Wonder Woman – you’ve got a character who’s a mass of challenging aspects, many of which could be breathtakingly silly if done wrong, and which doesn’t even have a clear, definitive set of stories which you can look to as an obvious blueprint for a screen adaptation. If anyone wants to set me straight and say “Well, of course there’s issues XXX to XXX”, then I’ll be extremely grateful, but considering these inherent problems, I’m really not surprised that nobody’s been able to get a full-on live action version of Wonder Woman out of development. In pop culture terms, she’s kind of where Batman was before the Tim Burton-directed 1989 blockbuster – the Seventies Lynda Carter show is still, despite its nuclear levels of camp, the main touchstone for what people (at least of a certain age) think when they think ‘Wonder Woman’. What she really needs is someone like Burton to come along and do something incredibly distinctive with her – knock the origin into a coherent shape, choose what they want and leave the rest on the comic page, and craft something which will be distinctive and attention-grabbing.

Now, for the record – I don’t think from what I’ve heard that Kelly’s TV adaptation is going to be that. It’s definitely going to earn a lot of fan hatred even before a second of it has been broadcast, and I don’t know that if my favourite comic book character was going to be changed that radically, I’d be particularly happy. But, I suspect that if Wonder Woman is ever going to succeed onscreen, she’s going to have to be changed – she’s going to have to be a specific interpretation. Until then, she’s going to remain an icon that everybody knows, but which remains frustratingly difficult to adapt…

Movie News: Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No… it’s that bloke from ‘The Tudors’ (A Superman Casting Update)

Superman Logo Alex Ross

Zack Snyder’s new cinematic reboot of the Man of Steel just took a big step closer to actually happening, as he’s cast the title role. And who’s the actor stepping into the legendary blue-and-red spandex?

Henry Cavill portrait Superman News

It’s Henry Cavill. And if your first thought is “Who’s that?” then you’re not exactly alone. Yet again, and fairly sensibly, they’ve gone for another fairly unknown actor (although nowhere near as unknown as Brandon Routh was when he was cast in Superman Returns) – British actor Cavill certainly can’t be described as a star, although he’s actually worked pretty consistently for the past ten years, and is currently best known for regularly getting his kit off in the luridly OTT historical drama The Tudors as nobleman Charles Brandon.

And my first thoughts? Well, only having seen one episode of The Tudors (I have what could be described as a ‘problem’ with anything that involves giving Jonathan Rhys Meyers the chance to either yell or pout), I can’t say that Cavill made a massive impression, and certainly isn’t as interesting as casting Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man. From the photos, Cavill’s certainly got the chin for the role, and he’s got that handsome if slightly anonymous thing down pat. Despite my dislike of Superman Returns, I thought Brandon Routh was the best thing in it and it’s a shame he’ll never get the chance to play the part again, but it does rather feel as if they’ve gone here for a safe relative unknown, rather than a risky out-of-nowhere blind-sider, which isn’t that surprising as Warner Bros really, really, really need this to work. There’s always the chance that Cavill may turn out to be really good , but to be honest, getting excited about this casting would involve getting excited about this movie in general, and I’m finding it rather difficult. The moment Snyder was signed, my interest in a new Superman film (even one being ‘shepherded’ by Christopher Nolan) plummeted – he’s a director who’ll certainly make something flashy and eye-catching, and I’m sure that his Superman film will, whatever the flaws, be better than the deeply misconceived Superman Returns (I admire Bryan Singer for attempting it, but good golly, that film didn’t work in a whole variety of ways), but ever since 300, he’s shown no sign of doing anything other than eye candy and visual bluster (even in Watchmen, which managed some good sequences, but fell flat as a piece of cinema). The new Superman will be slick and good-looking, but if it manages to capture a tenth of the spirit that the original two Richard Donner (and part-Richard Lester) films managed, I will be seriously surprised…

(Of course, it doesn’t help that one of the main reasons Snyder got Superman in the first place is that he’s good at doing projects quickly – Warner Bros not only need this film to be succesful, they need it to go into production pretty damn soon, otherwise their legal battle with the family of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gets even more complicated than before, and they risk losing the rights to one of the best-known superheroes in the world. It’d be nice to be optimistic, but I can think of very few examples of films pushed into production to meet a precise release date that have actually turned out well. But – I guess we’ll have to wait and see…)

UPDATE: It’s just been pointed out (by someone else) on Twitter that we now have a situation where three of the biggest superheroes are all played by British actors (the others being Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man, and Christian Bale in Batman). Not sure exactly what that signifies, but felt it was worth sharing…

UPDATE: Via, it’s been revealed that the other contenders on the shortlist were Matthew Goode (best known as Ozymandias in Watchmen), Matthew Bomer (from TV shows Chuck and Tru Calling), Arnie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network), Joe Manganiello (Alcide in S3 of True Blood) and Colin O’Donaghue (now in daft-looking religious horror The Rite). While Arnie Hammer might have been interesting after his work in The Social Network, I think Cavill is actually the most potentially interesting of the bunch, and it certainly says what they were looking for – a late twentysomething absurdly handsome actor with the right kind of chin. And while Matthew Goode can be a good actor, after his oddball turn as Ozymandias in Watchmen, I’d rather not see him near any superhero characters for a while…

Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat

Yes, I’m still here – I still exist, and fairly soon I will be doing some updates that aren’t simply an excuse for me to go on about TV shows. For now, at least, here’s some important news for your edification on the current advances in Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs, plus the recent report on Prague’s Franz Kafka International Airport being voted ‘World’s Most Alienating Airport’. Enjoy…

Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat

Prague’s Franz Kafka International Named World’s Most Alienating Airport