Tag Archive: X-Men


Review by C.J. Bunce

As in any creative industry, as much as Hollywood is rife with successes, far more projects barely make it past the idea stage.  Others make it through preliminary steps only to get left behind, most never heard of again.  Decisions are made, offers are given, and you move forward.  The fact that Tom Selleck rejected the role of Indiana Jones is a famous footnote to movie history.  Most recently Amanda Seyfried recounted rejecting the role of Gamora in the Marvel films.  A Mouse Guard movie made it through pre-production before getting stalled.  For every successful project, how many others are left behind?  If you’re as iconic as filmmaker Ray Harryhausen, you might have even more projects left in the discard pile than others.  Those might-have-been projects, rejected ideas, and even scenes that made it beyond mere idea to concept art come together in John Walsh’s new look at the auteur and father of stop-motion creatures, Harryhausen: The Lost Movies

Ray Harryhausen’s creations were cutting edge for the first century of cinema, their creator a special effects visionary who found his niche in fantasy worlds, via films like One Million Years B.C., Clash of the Titans, and Jason and the Argonauts.  Documentarian John Walsh met with Harryhausen, who died in 2013, to film a documentary about the filmmaker, and along the way he chronicled 70 projects Harryhausen considered but did not go through with, including script and concept art material.  Some of these are projects he was asked to participate in and couldn’t find a fit, or films he passed up for other projects, including films anyone could see translated by Harryhausen, like Conan, Tarzan, King Kong, Moby Dick, John Carter of Mars, and Beowulf.  Then there are those surprises fans could only dream about, like Harryhausen’s take on The Empire Strikes Back, The Princess Bride, Dune, or X-Men.  Harryhausen: The Lost Movies provides fans with a glimpse into Harryhausen’s involvement in these projects, some with photographic clues of how his input might have resulted in very different films.

Pulling together some never-been-seen-before artwork, sketches, photos, and screencaps of test footage from the Harryhausen Foundation archives, Walsh creates a scrapbook of sorts, an artist’s sketchbook.  Harryhausen considered every other major classic fantasy and fairy tale to utilize his brand of special effects storytelling.  He created test footage for H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, but his letter to Orson Welles was not answered.  His alien designs from that footage are in this book.

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Instead of what has been done at past panels at San Diego Comic-Con–having a panel for each or just a few major projects–Marvel Studios exec Kevin Feige was on-hand to get several announcements out the door and as many key cast members in and out of his single panel as possible.  For the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase IV, that means tying in Disney’s (pay) streaming service with the movies.  The big takeaway?  New logos are pretty much all there is so far to share, plus key casting and timing announcements.  And although the last Phase had some changes along the way, it looks as if these ten projects will round out the entirety of Marvel over the next few years.  The biggest frustration for fans of the X-Men and Fantastic Four is why nobody at Marvel has been getting a head start on these two massively popular teams of characters–money is definitely going to be left on the table for the duration of Phase IV by pushing out these projects.  Why aren’t these Priority #1 with someone at Disney in light of the long lead-time the corporation had for the Fox acquisition?

The new time table is straightforward: Black Widow movie (May 1, 2020), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier TV series (Fall 2020), Eternals movie (November 6, 2020), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie (February 12, 2021), WandaVision TV series (Spring 2021), Loki TV series (Spring 2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie (May 7, 2021), What If…? animated series (Summer 2021), Hawkeye TV series (Fall 2021), and Thor: Love and Thunder movie (November 5, 2021).  The most eagerly awaited film after this year’s Avengers: Endgame was the hinted-at Guardians of the Galaxy/Thor or Asgardians of the Galaxy team-up movie, but Marvel still has not confirmed that project, unless it’s tied into the 2021 film.  Also relegated to “in development” status: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the next Tom Holland Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man is Iron Man’s replacement, right?).  Silence seems to confirm the death of the Marvel Netflix universe of Luke Cage, The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, and maybe even Disney+ projects Runaways, Ghost Rider, and Helstrom.  FX’s Legion was already announced as canceled, and we lost track of how many times The New Mutants movie has been pushed back.  Even bigger unknowns are the next Ant-Man and The Wasp, which had Hank Pym actor Michael Douglas already discussing it as a prequel, and if anyone is thinking about Prince Namor the Submariner, nobody is talking.  It begs the question:  Does Disney have too much to handle now?

As a beginning Disney’s Marvel side seems to be taking a lead from its Star Wars division, with its offerings targeting a mix of fans old, new, and in-between.  For the fans of the MCU so far you have plenty, a Black Widow (presumably prequel) and Thor movie as bookends for Phase IV, and TV series to keep alive Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Doctor Strange, and Hawkeye.  For new audiences (and possibly much older comic book readers) there is Shang-Chi and the Eternals to get to know, along with the announcement that Luke Cage’s Mahershala Ali will be playing Blade in a reboot movie at the beginning of Phase V, the vampire hunter who, like Spider-Man, has already seen an entire series of movies outside of the MCU.

The details are an eclectic mix of things you might want, things you didn’t know you want, and things you won’t know what to make of:

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Does every hero have a dark side?  It’s impossible Quicksilver has a dark side.  But we’ll find out in five weeks as the 12th film in the longest running superhero movie series sees its second-to-last film with the theatrical premiere of Dark PhoenixThe series that started with X-Men in 2000 began as a knockout with the stellar casting of Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ultimately interweaving two separate casts that would include the likes of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as a younger Magneto, and James McElvoy as a younger Professor X.  With eleven films across 19 years we’d meet our favorite (or second favorite) Marvel superheroes and supervillains shine in X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Every hero has a dark side.

This week post-merger Fox released ten new character posters for the new film spreading that message.

 

Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix will be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga than seen in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Here are all ten posters:

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Dark Phoenix represents one of X-Men fans’ favorite classic X-Men stories.  We have already seen one take on the Dark Phoenix story, as Famke Janssen’s Jane Grey destroyed everyone she cares about in X-Men: The Last Stand, but after the timeline manipulation in X-Men Days of Future Past we learned again the lesson of the Terminator movies: The future’s not setThere’s no fate but what we make for ourselves–A common theme of comics, too, as characters are killed and reborn again and again.  Dark Phoenix was written and directed by Simon Kinberg, and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, and Jessica Chastain.  Kinberg has promised Dark Phoenix to be a more faithful adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga.

For those of us who loved the X-Men movies, this is the winding down of a great era, highlighted by the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Ian McKellen as Magneto.  Who will ever forget one of the finest adaptations to film of any superhero from any comic book as Evan Peters became Quicksilver, defending his fellow mutants in the Pentagon?  And the high point of any superhero movie (from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or anyone else) must be the Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Logan last year.  Like the competing films in the Avengers films, there were as many high as low points, but some greatness happened throughout X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

For Fox’s long string of connected X-Men films, this is the end.  Check out this final trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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Ever wonder how the studios make the determination to release one version of a trailer in the U.S. and a different version simultaneously elsewhere?  So do we.  Language differences aside, a few cultural distinctions would make sense sometimes, but infrequently.  But how do you explain it with a straightforward superhero movie?  We previewed the U.S. trailer last week here at borg for this summer’s X-Men movie Dark Phoenix.  It looked great.  Then we saw the international version.

The international version leaves out the introduction with a weepy superheroine Jean Grey, but instead offers a developing, linear short film summary that builds and teases like a good trailer should, reflecting the power and excitement the character Dark Phoenix is known for.  And it teases an incredible space shuttle scene.  This is the right trailer to get people into theaters.  Yet it’s not the trailer most Americans will see.

Take a look and see what you think.  Here’s the new international trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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In less than four weeks pop culture convention Planet Comicon Kansas City returns, this time to celebrate its 20th year.  Even more than before the event is hosting a pantheon of nationally recognized comic book writers and artists for its seventh year in the downtown Kansas City, Missouri, venue at the giant Bartle Hall facility at the Kansas City Convention Center.  The show runs Friday, March 29 through Sunday, March 31.  Bring your stacks of comics for autographs from your favorite creators–we’ve included here only a few important and familiar books by creators scheduled to be at the event.  Attendees will see some of the biggest names and most popular character creators spanning fives decades of comics, including:

Chris Claremont, writer and creator of dozens of characters including Rogue, Mystique, Phoenix, Emma Frost, Legion, Gambit, and Captain Britain.  His classic books include a long run on Uncanny X-Men, including the popular story arcs The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past, adapted into X-Men: Days of Future Past, multiple X-Men movies, and this summer’s coming film Dark Phoenix.

Jim Starlin, writer/artist and creator of Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, the Master of Kung Fu, and the first graphic novel published by Marvel Comics, The Death of Captain Marvel.  His classic books include Batman: The Cult, Batman: A Death in the Family, and Cosmic Odyssey.

Jim Steranko, writer/artist known for his unique 1960s style, his work on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., plus memorable runs on Captain America and X-Men.  He was also a creator of concept art designs for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Fabian Nicieza, writer known for creating Deadpool in the pages of The New Mutants, and working on dozens of key superhero titles.  His classic books include New Warriors and Psi-Force.

Keith Giffen, artist and creator of Rocket the Raccoon and Lobo.  His classic books include several issues of Legion of Super-Heroes.

Kevin Eastman, writer and creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Steve McNiven, artist and creator of Marvel Comics’ Civil WarMcNiven is known for his cover art on dozens of Marvel titles.

Bob McLeod, artist and creator of The New Mutants.  (A concept that is the subject of 20th Century Fox’s last slated Marvel project, the coming late summer big-screen release The New Mutants).

And that’s not all…

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It’s hard to believe the reboot cast of the X-Men franchise is at its fourth film with this summer’s 20th Century Fox release, Dark Phoenix Despite delays caused by studio mergers, this last film before who-knows-what will happen couldn’t look better, an exciting topper on the X-Men movie franchise.  With eleven of thirteen films released so far since the first film, X-Men, arrived with Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen in 2000, it’s become the seventh highest grossing film franchise ever.  With a pretty stuffed superhero film market only getting bigger this year (the last of the Fox Marvel films, The New Mutants, follows in August), Dark Phoenix could be the film that dodges the hype, bringing a classic film story and legion of familiar characters into what will hopefully be a solid comic book story adaptation.  Since X-Men: First Class, James McAvoy‘s Professor X, Michael Fassbender‘s Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence‘s Raven, Nicholas Hoult‘s Beast, and (with X-Men: Days of Future Past) Evan Peters‘ Quicksilver are among the best actor/character combinations of all the superhero films.

One of the best parts of X-Men: Apocalypse was the re-introduction of Jean Grey, with Sophie Turner providing an engaging take of the character, along with what might be the best incarnation in any medium of the normally bland Scott Summers, improved upon by actor Tye Sheridan.  Argue it how you want, Marvel Comics has long established the most powerful superhero to be Jean Grey as Phoenix.  And yet among the weakest of the eleven films was X-Men: The Last Stand, the first attempt at revealing her power.  With Dark Phoenix, fans get to see another attempt.  Were the X-Men movies to be transferred a few years earlier into the Marvel Cinematic Universe of Disney, would we be seeing some version of Jean Grey in the position of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, poised to eliminate Thanos in Avengers: Endgame?  Or Deadpool, also, for that matter, who has similarly been nestled in the Fox version of Marvel and written to destroy Thanos before)?

Whatever the climax of Avengers: Endgame, it’s good to know another superhero movie awaits this summer.  Check out the new poster and this stellar new trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel Contest of Champions is a 2014 mobile fighting game from Kabam, released four years ago on iOS and Android, boasting more than 100 million players.  Based on ideas generated from the 1982 three-issue Marvel Comics series Contest of Champions by Mark Gruenwald, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton, players select superheroes from across the history of the Marvel universe to battle each other.  Both the original comic and the game key in on the scheming machinations of Grandmaster and the Collector, and if the idea sounds familiar, it may be because it was also featured in Marvel’s big screen Thor: Ragnarok, with Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster pitting Chris Hemsworth’s Thor against Mark Ruffalo’s Planet Hulk-inspired gladiator Hulk.

Initially intended to be based on Marvel’s Super Heroes Secret Wars comics, the Contest of Champions video game features more than 100 playable characters, and includes dozens of others.  The characters as realized for the game and the game environments is the focus of a new book from author Paul Davies, Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm The book represents one of the rare assemblages of so many characters from all segments of the Marvel universe.  Showcasing the story by Sam Humphries and artwork by Gabriel Frizzera, Luke Ross, and others, the book is full of great character designs, concepts, and final selections.  It even takes readers beyond the events of Infinity War, although the game does not adhere to the movies.

Readers and game players will find it difficult coming up with characters from Marvel Comics not incorporated into Contest of Champions.  In the book they’ll find updated versions of all the superheroes (and many villains) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus the X-Men, Deadpool, Old Man Logan, X-23, Spider-Gwen, Ghost Rider, Howard the Duck, Hyperion, Jane Foster’s Thor, Miles Morales’s Spidey, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, Spawn, Dark Phoenix, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Cable, Gwenpool, Mephisto, Blade, Carnage, and the Inhumans.  Plus there’s the Netflix Marvel series characters, lesser used characters like the future evil Hulk called Maestro, Magik, M.O.D.O.K., Sentry, Sentinel, Sabretooth, Agent Venom, Morningstar, Guillotine, Karnak, Kang, Doctor Voodoo, Black Bolt, and Venompool.  Both Angela, grand-daughter of Odin, and King Groot are brilliantly realized in the game and the book (shown above).

Here are some preview pages from Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm:

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It must be going forward if 20th Century Fox releases an actual trailer for the movie, right?  After the last contract is inked it may very well be that only thirteen “X-Men movies” were ever made, before Disney steps in and recombines the Marvel X-Men adaptations into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For those of us that loved the X-Men movies, this is the winding down of a great era of movies, highlighted by the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Ian McKellen as Magneto.  Who will ever forget one of the finest adaptations to film of any superhero from any comic book as Evan Peters became Quicksilver, defending his fellow mutants in the Pentagon?  And the high point of any superhero movie (from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or anyone else) must be the Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for Logan this year.  Like the competing films in the Avengers films, there were as many high as low points, but some greatness happened throughout X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan, and Deadpool 2.

Only two more films were in the works when negotiations for control of 20th Century Fox’s film group got closer to a deal this year: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants.  We previewed The New Mutants trailer way back last October here at borg, announcing an expected release date in April 2018, which came and went (the release date currently reflects a long overdue August 2019 premiere in theaters).  At last, 20th Century Fox has released a trailer for Dark Phoenix.

Dark Phoenix represents one of X-Men fans’ favorite classic X-Men stories.  We have already seen one take on the Dark Phoenix story, as Famke Janssen’s Jane Grey destroyed everyone she cares about in X-Men: The Last Stand, but after the timeline manipulation in X-Men Days of Future Past we learned again the lesson of the Terminator movies: The future’s not set–There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.  

Along with the new official poster, check out this first trailer for Dark Phoenix:

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If you’re curious why a recent news story surfaced about Marvel Comics seeking to get John Byrne to return for some new projects, you need only turn to a new retrospective book arriving at comic book shops today to see why Marvel wants him back.  It’s yet another in IDW Publishing’s award-winning series of “Artifact Editions”–giant-sized 12″x17″ books printed at the same dimensions as original comic book art pages, with quality scanned reprints that appear nearly identical to the originals.  Today’s release features the art of John Byrne, focusing on his classic X-Men pages.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition includes reprints of 169 pages of Byrne art in all–a rare opportunity to view images where the original set of these pages would fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.  Beginning with X-Men Issue #108 in December 1977, Byrne, along with long-time creative partner Chris Claremont, would gain popularity for their story arcs “Proteus,” “Dark Phoenix Saga,” and “Days of Future Past.”  According to Byrne, “Even after all these years, it’s the X-Men work I did with Chris and Terry (Austin) that still resonates the most with fans.  Hopefully when you all see the pages in this format you’ll still feel the same way!”  So what’s inside?  A few pages each from X-Men Issues #108-143 (except no pages were included for Issue #117).  No full issues, but you’ll find 11 Byrne covers (for Issues #114, 116, 127, 129, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, and an unpublished cover to #142), 148 interior pages, 23 splash pages (including Wolverine, Phoenix, Spider-Man, and full teams), 8 pages from the first appearance of Alpha Flight in Issues #120 and 121, 10 pages from Issue #137, “The Death of Jean Grey,” 15 pages from the Issue #141 and 142 story, “Days of Future Past.”  All-in that’s 35 original pages to marvel at from the “Dark Phoenix Saga” alone.  Plus 10 bonus art pages, including original Marvel corner box art.  The original covers to #114, 133, and 136 are pages you’re going to look at again and again.

Byrne stopped creating for Marvel in 2000 after a falling-out with editor Joe Quesada.  Byrne has continued with other publishers and personal projects since his Marvel days, going on to being named to the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2015.  Byrne co-created some major characters for Marvel, including the Scott Lang Ant-Man, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Sabretooth, and Shadow King.

Take a look at this preview from today’s release, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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