Marvel’s Deals with the Devil

Blame, blame is such an easy game. Why, with such an incredible universe to draw from, is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. such a bore? There is quite a lot of blame to go around but it lies rooted in Marvel’s financial woes in the 90s. There is a great article on Marvel’s trip from bankruptcy to billions here so I won’t go into too much depth.

The Incredible Hulk

Marvel had a big television hit with The Incredible Hulk. It was a wonderful formula: take a well liked actor (Bill Bixby), add a champion body builder (Lou Ferrigno), and simply retell The Fugitive, a popular television series from fifteen years earlier. It worked great. They then attempted to repeat this success with Captain America (painfully bad), Dr. Strange, and others. They didn’t pan out so Marvel tried to launch a few more from within The Incredible Hulk. The Incredible Hulk Returns featured Thor and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk featured Daredevil.

As part of the recovery from bankruptcy in the 90s, numerous licensing deals were made.  It is great that Marvel was able to climb back out of the hole but many of the terms on the deals were ridiculous.

X-Men

Twentieth Century Fox made a fantastic version of X-Men (2000) and the even better X-Men 2 (2003). Unfortunately, the deal allowed X-Men movies to be owned by Fox in perpetuity as long as the movies kept being made. That would be bad enough but the deal included all of the standard X-Men, their standard villains, and even extended to the term mutant.

Attempts had been made during the 90s to bring Spider-Man, Marvel’s most iconic character, to the big screen and while that failed, the rights were tied up for quite some time. Once the rights were untangled, Columbia (Sony) locked them up again, including a rogue’s gallery of Marvel’s best villains. Once again, a really good blockbuster was made, Spider-Man (2002) followed by an even better sequel, Spider-Man 2 (2004).

Daredevil

Apparently, it took a long time for Marvel to catch on that they were selling the cow instead of the milk. Essentially the same deal was made, again with Twentieth Century Fox, for Daredevil. Daredevil, Elektra, The Kingpin, and even Ben Urich were tied up. Ditto Lionsgate with The Punisher (2004) and The Punisher: War Zone (2008).

Finally, the Fantastic Four rights were locked up, again by Twentieth Century Fox. This wouldn’t be so bad as they were usually self-contained but it also included Doctor Doom and the Silver Surfer. Not just that but Fantastic Four (2005), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and the reboot Fantastic Four (2015) have all been pretty dire.

Not only did Marvel practically give away their entire roster of characters but many others such as Iron Man were locked up in deals where the movie simply never came to fruition.

 

Friday This ‘n’ That – RCC, FF, The Mart of Walls

Just a few notes while I have a brief respite.

Regal Crown Club

I have always aspired to the near mythical Elite status of Regal Crown Club. Supposedly sometime after you reach the 10,000 point mark (a serious milestone given that, in general, a point equals a dollar spent), Regal extends you an invitation to their secret reward club with lots of goodies.

Sadly I have to mourn now as a reader who was in the club said that it was summarily ended last year. /sigh well between two Regal cards (one each for my wife and I since they have caps on points per day) and cards to Carolina Cinemas and Epic Theaters, I was not going to reach 10k points any time soon. Say, those grapes over there look nice.

Fantastic Four

Wal-Mart has a lot of DVDs and Blu-Rays that have various movie moneys on them (Fantastic Four, Man from Uncle, etc.). They also have some $5 DVDs and Blu-Rays that have $8 in concession cash on them. Yes, that’s right, Wal-Mart will actually PAY you to buy their movies. The Blu-Rays that were $5 included Last Stand and Empire State.

I’ve heard from others that they also have $8 Fantastic Four movie money on $5 DVDs. Unfortunately, some Grimm reviews seem to indicate that you will be doomed to a poor experience should you choose to see this movie.

X-Men Apocalypse

I am not of the camp that Marvel can do no wrong (Thor: Dark World, I’m looking at you!) but the first two Fantastic Four films were dreadful and this one does not look better. I sure would love to see these rights revert to Marvel like Daredevil and Punisher. I think it is neat that Marvel reached an agreement to have a Spider-Man cameo in Captain America.

I have really enjoyed the X-Men films (the Wolverine movies less so) though I do wonder what would happen if Marvel had those rights. It certainly seems odd that none of the Marvel Universe movies can use the word mutant.

I am really looking forward to X-Men Apocalypse and Deadpool looks promising. I love that we get all these superhero movies now that would not have been possible when I was growing up (Christopher Reeve on a wire was my experience) but it also seems to choke the big budget movie calendar so we get fewer non-superhero blockbusters.

X-Men Days of Future Past

I was lucky enough to slip away and catch X-Men Days of Future Past the other day.

X-Men Days of Future Past

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Rated PG-13

The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.”

Finally! I was beginning to give up hope for the summer season. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t, Godzilla was barely in his own movie, and Neighbors was just plain boring. X-Men Days of Future Past is a wonderful start to the summer.

Bryan Singer returns to direct this, having left after the first two installments (i.e. the good ones). I would rate this one as between the first and second one in quality, with X-Men 2 being the adamantium standard for the franchise.

Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was exactly what you don’t want. As with Spider-Man 3, the powers that be decided that more was better (and I don’t mean more quality). Sure, comic book fans got their first looks at The Beast, Angel, Juggernaut, and Ratner’s version of the Dark Phoenix saga but it was all amped up to 11. They threw in more characters, more battles, more explosions and somewhere along the way story, character development, dialogue, and sense flew out the window.

X-Men: The Last Stand was at least better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) which was basically The Last Stand with a single X-Man and a quarter of the budget. The Wolverine (2013) overcorrected by making it all about the story and turned the Frank Miller comic into a snoozefest. The best scene in The Wolverine is the post-credits sequence alluding to Days of Future Past.

Matthew Vaughn, a writer on Days of Future Past, was handed the directorial reigns for X-Men: First Class (2011), an interesting reboot of the franchise. The story is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, necessitating younger versions of the X-Men. I am sure this allowed them to save enormously as instead of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, etc., we got a talented cast of newcomers.

Michael Fassbender is amazing as younger Magneto. James McAvoy is quite good as young Professor X, in spite of the magnetic Fassbender. A pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence is also excellently cast as Mystique. First Class has a few problems but is overall quite solid.

Days of Future Past is wonderful though not without its flaws. It assumes that you have at least seen X-Men 1, 2, and First Class. If you have not, you’ll have some catching up to do. Even with that knowledge, there are a large number of new mutants whose stories we are not given. We just see them in action periodically.

The movie belongs to Magneto, Wolverine, Professor X, and Mystique and the story keeps the focus squarely on them. Other mutants are in various supporting roles, with good roles for Beast, Kitty Pryde, and several surprises along the way.

While there are plenty of action sequences in the film, Singer underplays them. The focus is always kept on the story and the action sequences often develop the storyline. I did not find any of the fights to be showstoppers but all are good.

The reason Days of Future Past is so good is the overall story and the interactions between the main characters. Many of the post-modern mutants are not developed at all, just shown in combat. Many of the surviving First Class are not present here at all. Yet the story is full and rich and once again we are treated to multiple characters who see the same problems but have vastly different approaches to resolving them.

The acting is exactly what you would expect from accomplished veterans Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, and relative newcomers Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, and James McAvoy.

There is a single post-credit scene at the very end of the credits. It apparently sets up the next movie without featuring any of the known characters. In my opinion, it isn’t worth staying through the credits. Still this is far better than Amazing Spider-Man 2’s coda which was a scene from this movie.

Best Buy $5 X-Men Blu-Rays and FREE Wolverine Tickets

I took advantage of Best Buy’s upgrade and save program recently. Turn in your old DVDs and receive a $5 coupon towards any Blu-Ray $9.99 and up. Normally I use this to pick up Blu-Rays for $5 and I try to stick to ones that have FREE movie cash on them. This week Best Buy has the X-Men films on sale for $5 (with the coupon) and they will have $10 towards the new Wolverine movie.

The WolverineI also picked up the limited edition steelbook of Scarface for $5. Not only did I get a Blu-Ray of Brian DePalma’s masterpiece of excess, with wonderful footage of my hometown of Miami but I also got a steelbook case, collector cards, and a DVD of the original Scarface (1932). I also got a bonus with one of my other movies.

Groundhog's Day

Groundhog Day came with a security sticker applied directly to the disc itself. Yikes! Now I have to make an extra trip to Best Buy this weekend. Groundhog Day is a comfort movie, one of those films I put in when my wife has had a particularly trying day. This will join Princess Bride, Grease, And Chicago in her cheer up box (once I get a replacement).