Thursday, January 26, 2012

Comic book adaptations: What will be the biggest hit this year?

This year is a big one for comic book fans.

First, you have the return of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead.’ Actually, to be fair, only half the fans are excited about that. The other half want it to be exactly the same as the comic book on which it was based – which never actually works in real world practicality, but let’s move on.

Second, you have ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ – a superhero franchise that barely wrapped up a few years ago and is already getting a reboot with Andrew Garfield and the always fabulous Emma Stone in the lead roles.

Third, you have the final installment in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy with ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ After ‘The Dark Knight’ I think fans have high hopes this franchise will go out with a bang and not the whimper so many other comic book franchises have gone out with.

And, finally (and most importantly) you have ‘The Avengers’ – a film that not only has the capable Joss Whedon directing but features some of the best comic book movie characters in recent years, including Ironman, Thor and Captain America.

The question is, though, will these three things live up to the hype?

In the case of ‘The Walking Dead’ I’m one of the fans who didn’t have a problem with the slower pace of the second season. Personally, I don’t want some Ryan Murphy show that throws everything at the wall to see what sticks and then falls apart after two seasons because all the ideas have been exhausted.

‘The Walking Dead,’ which returns Feb. 12, excels in the quiet moments of the series. Yes, I want to see some zombie gore – but that’s not all I want to see. I don’t think that anyone can deny the emotional weight that accompanied the mid-season finale episode and the massacre at the barn.

If anyone thought this show was going to stick to the comic books, they were wrong. By breaking from the comic books they show runners made a smart move. I mean, honestly, if you stick to the comic books that would be pretty boring because everyone would know what would happen. Where’s the fun in that?

The atmosphere surrounding ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ is a little different.

It seems like just yesterday that Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were webslinging across the big screen.  Mostly because, well, it was practically yesterday.

I think the reason this franchise isn’t getting any mainstream buzz is because fans haven’t had enough time to miss it yet. Take Batman, there was a big gap between the previous franchise and the current franchise. That’s why fans got excited for it.

Granted, ‘The Dark Knight’ did get inflated buzz because of the death of Heath Ledger and his phenomenal performance as The Joker, but that movie was high quality, high drama and high octane. It even killed off a main character – which is gutsy in a superhero movie.

‘The Amazing Spiderman’ is just the opposite, though. Fans didn’t really embrace the third film in that trilogy because they were fatigued (and, let’s face it, that story pretty much sucked) so re-launching it so quickly could prove to be a big mistake.

While I have liked Garfield in ‘The Social Network’ and ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ I’m actually not sure this role is a good fit for him. And, while I think Stone can do practically anything, I’m a little worried she might be above this role. Only time – and a July 3 premiere -- will truly tell, though.

As for ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ I’m not sure what fans think. Most dislike lead actor Christian Bale as a person but admire his acting chops. Familiar faces like Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson are back to partake in the festivities, but there’s still something “off” about the aura surrounding the film.
There were rumors filming didn’t go as smoothly as previous installments. Given Bale’s track record, that’s not all that surprising. I guess we’ll just have to wait until July 20 to find out for sure.

That brings us to the ultimate summer movie, ‘The Avengers.’

This movie has a lot going for it – besides Whedon’s capable direction. It has the talented Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner and Scarlet Johannson anchoring the acting corps with what is anticipated to be strong turns from Chris Hemsworth, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson.

Actually, the sheer amount of talent being utilized in this film is off the charts (don’t worry, no one is counting Chris Evans in the talented department). Aside from the actors already mentioned, we also have Mark Ruffalo as the third big screen Bruce Banner, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tom Hiddleston as well.

So what’s the problem?
There’s a lot of pressure associated with a movie that boasts this much talent.

From what I’ve heard, ‘The Avengers’ should be the top grossing movie of the year. I guess there’s a chance that teenage girls might dethrone it for the final ‘Twilight’ movie – but I’m always hopeful people will wake up and realize just how bad those movies really are. I know, I’m deluding myself, but I don’t want to give up on that dream. Never underestimate the power of teenage girls and babysitting money, though. They truly do rule the world.

Actually, ‘The Avengers’ should be a good gauge for the summer movie season. Starting on May 4, we’ll see what the super hero corps will look like this summer. At least we don’t have anything green – like a lantern or a hornet – to worry about. Well, that is except for the Hulk, of course.

What do you think? Which comic book adaptation are you most looking forward to this season?


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