Assessing Nine Comic-Book Movies in 2011
Nearly every comic-book movie has either been great fun (The Dark Knight, Spiderman, X-Men, Iron Man) or so awful as to elicit anger (Batman and Robin, Spiderman 3, Fantastic Four, Catwoman). A middling comic-book movie is something of a rarity. So it’s with a bit of both excitement and trepidation that we look at 2011’s line-up of comic-book movies.
1. The Green Hornet
Release Date: Jan. 14
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christopher Waltz
The origin: A serialized radio drama in the 1930s that became a comic book series in the ’40s and TV series in the ’60s (with Bruce Lee!) about a vigilante newspaper baron and his sidekick Kato.
Why it might kick ass: Gondry is one of the most whimsical directors to come along since Terry Gilliam. Seth Rogen can be hilarious, Chou is a martial-arts bad-ass and Waltz was brilliant in Inglorious Basterds.
Why it might suck: Like Gilliam, Gondry has been better at creating amazing worlds than populating them with engaging stories without a Charlie Kaufman script in front of him. And Rogen might take the whole slacker super hero thing to crotch-scratching lows.
Release Date: May 6
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
The origin: The character based on Norse mythology first appeared in a 1962 Stan Lee Marvel comic Journey Into Mystery and was part of The Avengers.
Why it might kick ass: The dialogue and drama should be well done with Kenneth Branagh at the helm. Natalie Portman usually picks good scripts.
Why it might suck: Thor’s not the most likable superhero. And while I love Branagh, I do like my comic-book movies to have jaw-dropping action scenes in addition to Shakespearean twists.
Release Date: May 13
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Stars: Cory Goodman, Min-Woo Hyung
The origin: A graphic novel series about a a warrior priest who hunts down vampires during a holy war.
Why it might kick ass: Stewart is an effects specialist who worked on visual feasts like Sin City, Iron Man and Red Cliff, and the trailer looks great.
Why it might suck: Stewart’s only other directorial feature was Legion.
4. X-Men: First Class
Release Date: June 3
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
The origin: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the team of mutant superheroes in 1963. This film looks back at young Xavier and Magneto before their war began.
Why it might kick ass: In addition to directing Kick Ass, Vaughn helped produce Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Plus, the first two X-Men movies were great.
Why it might suck: X-Men Origins: Woverine.
5. Green Lantern
Release Date: June 17
Director: Martin Campbell
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard
The origin: The first Green Lantern appeared in DC Comics in 1940 as the possessor of a powerful ring used to keep the universe safe.
Why it might kick ass: Campbell saved James Bond with Casino Royale and the Warner Brothers seems to think it has a hit on its hands.
Why it might suck: The dialogue in the trailer is dripping with cheese, and I’m not yet sold on Reynolds as super-hero (though he’ll get to try again in next year’s Deadpool).
6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Release Date: July 22
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Tyrese Gibson
The origin: A Hasbro toy.
Why it might kick ass: [crickets]
Why it might suck: Michael Bay’s over-the-top Michael Bay-ness.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger
Release Date: July 22
Director: Joe Johnston
Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson
The origin: A Marvel Comics creation from 1941, Captain America was a sickly young man injected with an experimental serum to help the U.S.A. during World War II.
Why it might kick ass: Joss Whedon co-wrote the script. The cast also includes Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones.
Why it might suck: Evans is most famous for portraying Human Torch in the worst comic-book movies of all time, Fantastic Four and 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
8. Cowboys & Aliens
Release Date: July 29
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde
The origin: This 2006 graphic novel imagines an alien invasion in the mid-1800s Wild West.
Why it might kick ass: Iron Man director Favreau has assembled a top-notch cast that also includes Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano. Despite the campy premise, it looks to be executed without an ounce of camp.
Why it might suck: It’s a campy premise that looks to be executed without an ounce of camp.
9. Conan the Barbarian
Release Date: Aug. 19
Director: Marcus Nispel
Stars: Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan
The origin: The 1930s comic books became the launching pad for the Governator’s career.
Why it might kick ass: Um…searching here… I do like Ron Perlman.
Why it might suck: Nispel (who’s made a career out of remaking Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Frankenstein) will re-do what was a middling b-movie to begin with.