Monday Morning Critic – 3.21.2011 – The Wolverine and Iron Man 2

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the biggest stories of last week was Darren Aronofsky dropping out of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine sequel The Wolverine, placing the whole project in a bit of limbo. Fox is soldiering on and Hugh Jackman hasn’t dropped out, which are two good signs the project is still active. There’s too much money to be made, obviously, as the first film was kind of crappy and still made its production budget back in theatrical grosses alone. Between DVD and VOD, et al, they made money hand over fist with this film.

Considering the mess that Japan is right now I can see why Aronofsky would want to stay way. No one wants to be remembered for helming a modern day version of The Conqueror, obviously, and my guess is that they’ll find a place to stand in for Japan when all is said and done. But even then it’s still a year of working overseas and I can see why Aronofsky would bail at the prospect; he is a family man, through and through. He couldn’t really back that claim up if he spent a year away from his wife and young child on a film and I can’t say as I blame him. But one question remains:

Who replaces him?

That’s going to be a tough one and one without an easy answer. With Fox trying to get this into production for a 2012 release the candidates to step on in are going to be limited. They aren’t in an enviable situation at this point because anyone high profile will be expensive and probably already involved in another project. So it’s not like they get to choose between Scorsese, Spielberg, Michael Bay and M. Night Shyamalan for the film. They’re going into the genre directors and second/third tier directors that’ll be free about now to properly make a film.

Aronofsky was a bit of a coup for Fox because normally he doesn’t make blockbusters for the studio; it was the equivalent of Woody Allen taking on Transformers 3 as far as I was concerned. So trying to find a new director who’ll have some buzz and isn’t a desperation pick will be tough but there are plenty of good choices around. They really need only a handful of criterion, really:

1. Be able to get to work on the picture in a short time frame
2. On the same status level, or slightly above or below, Darren Aronofsky
3. Not demand a much bigger payday than they were going to pay Aronofsky

We’re not talking much, oddly enough, because it’s not like you’re replacing Michael Bay mid-franchise. There’s lots of room for something new and different because the first sucked but has a character intriguing enough to warrant another look. Plus Fox has $1-200 million to play with for the film so it’s not as if there doing this cheaply. One has to know going in that with this amount of money and work already done that at a bare minimum you’ll have another critical failure but commercial success.

Comic books are still in vogue in the box office and Wolverine with Hugh Jackman behind it still should have some pull. It’s intriguing for a director who needs a hit to do something else and studios are thinking outside the box for comic book films. John Favreau paid off for Iron Man and Kenneth Branagh is going to pay off for Thor.

Experienced directors know how to tell stories regardless of what the hero is wearing; the language of story-telling is universal no matter what genre you’re doing. Whomever they bring in is in a bad spot as an auteur because they’re going to be using a massive chunk of someone else’s script and story idea if they want to bring it in to theatres by the end of next year. That’s the other problem: there isn’t enough time for a massive rewrite and the requisite approvals from all involved.

You can’t pull a Tim Burton on Superman and not have a delay that’ll cost you significant theatre time. There are some minor rewrites that’ll end up being allowed with a film this size, one imagines, and the film’s tone will probably change based on who comes aboard but there’s no getting around one thing. This is a project nearly ready to go so significant changes aren’t happening. It’s almost a gun for hire role now and who becomes their director with no name will be one that’ll be interesting to see. Since this column is always home to rabid speculation, I thusly bring to you:

The Top 10 Most Interesting Picks To Replace Darren Aronofsky on The Wolverine

10. Tyler Perry
Notable Works – Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Meet the Browns

Why he’d do it – Well, he hasn’t done anything besides melodrama for an urban audience. So maybe a genre film guaranteed to be a hit could be something that would be …. Crap. Can’t finish that one with a straight face. It’s 3am as I’m writing this and I’m exhausted. That’s the worst idea. Ever.

It’s either that or I was going to make another crack about Rick Fox in some starring role (followed by a joke about Tyler Perry in drag) but let’s face it. Who could imagine Fox would be a worse actor than he was a small forward in the NBA? I think if he made a deal with the Devil to be a famous basketball player and then star in movies he should have at least attached a caveat to his contract with Satan to be good in at least one of those vocations.

9. Kevin Smith
Notable Works – Clerks, Clerks II, Cop Out, Red State

Why He’d Do It – Smith has vowed that Hit Somebody will be his next (and last) film, and he’s currently four-walling Red State in anticipation of a self-distributed run later this year, but I can imagine Fox offering to finance Hit Somebody in exchange for him coming aboard ala Cop Out. With a chunk of his schedule free after the tour ends later this spring, one can imagine Fox making the equivalent to a Godfather offer to him in exchange for his final project. Smith has disavowed the studio system and how it markets films, et al, but if you put a big enough paycheck in front of him something my grandmother told me on her death bed comes to mind: “money talks and bull [poop] walks.”

How he’d film it – There’s an easy joke to make here about Wolverine being two hours of Hugh Jackman making sex jokes with Jason Mewes but Smith has a history of building great characters. You don’t last making character-centric comedies if you can’t pull that off and Smith would give us a Wolverine character that might be worth a damn as opposed to a generic comic book hero in a modern action film. Jackman needs an actors’ director to pull out his best performance and Smith is one of the best at getting nuanced genre performances. The first film suffered from not having a director who could craft a character and Smith does that really well. It would be something to see what Smith could do with the character and the film.

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8. Kathryn Bigelow
Notable Works – The Hurt Locker, Point Break

Why she’d do it – She has an Oscar and acclaim as one of the more visceral film-makers of her generation. But the one thing she really hasn’t done is work with a huge budget for a blockbuster. So why not Kathryn Bigelow, I say, if only to see what she could do with an actual budget as opposed to the smaller budgeted films that have made up her cinematic resume.

There has yet to be a female director of a comic book movie in the modern age of comic book cinema, either, and I think the genre is missing out on that. Bigelow brings a lot more to the table than just her gender but a woman’s touch might not be the worst thing out there.

How she’d film it – I think we’d see this as a more visceral style film, showcasing how being invincible can give one a certain thrill-seeking attitude. I can imagine the Wolverine we’d be seeing would be wandering through Japan picking fights with martial arts masters and trying to find a peace inside, perhaps.

7. John Woo
Notable Works – Hard Boiled, The Killer, A Better Tomorrow

Why he’d do it – David Frost in Frost/Nixon talked about success in America, how it’s like nothing else. John Woo has always wanted that sort of success, which is why he left Hong Kong for the Hollywood studio system in the first place. If you can be a successful American director you will be remembered throughout the world. He wants success in America, which is why he’s come back multiple times to make films over here.

How he’d film it – I can totally see Wolverine as a Ronin type, the badass warrior without a master wandering the countryside of Japan looking for a fight and guidance. Much like how the Western is uniquely American, the Samurai picture is uniquely Japanese. A Samurai film within the confines of the comic book genre would be cool and something Woo would be able to pull off. He’s already done the historical epic in his own country; Why not tackle one of the staples of Asian cinema through the eyes of a gaijin looking for his path in the world.


6. Ben Affleck
Notable Works The Town, Gone Baby Gone

Why he’d do it – He’s had two hits as a director, seemingly out of nowhere, after flaming out as a leading man. So why not take a film that is almost guaranteed to be a hit so he can do something more personal? It also prevents him from being typecast as a crime film director, thus giving him some leeway to take on other films instead of doing another crime film in Boston.

How he’d film it – This would feel like a smaller, character-oriented piece picture that turns into a big action film. I can see Affleck wanting to delve into the man, not the warrior, with big action pieces to keep it fun.

5. Harold Ramis
Notable works – Caddyshack, Groundhog Day

Why he’d do it – He’s had a number of flops since the beginning of the century and Bedazzled and needs a hit to turn his fortunes around. He’s mainly a director that has most of his major work has become staples of ‘80s film nights as opposed to anything else. While he’s known for comedies he has one film of note that could make him a great pick: The Ice Harvest.

A genre flick that came and went to little fanfare, Ramis showed he does have some chops when it comes to a genre outside of comedy.

How he’d film it – – I have the feeling this would be a strong genre tale but with some room for improvisation. Probably some dark humor in it, too.

4. Brett Ratner
Notable Works Rush Hour trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand

Why he’d do it – Ratner is the ultimate mercenary in Hollywood. Give him a paycheck big enough and he’d probably make a film about gorillas having graphic, rough sex for two hours and rave about how he’s doing something new and different with the genre. Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if he had heard the news and got an erection because he would be the next logical candidate to call based on the success of his past couple films. It’s either that or he’s staring at the phone to ring with an offer sheet, covered in barbeque sauce and empty crates of boneless chicken wings surrounding his pony keg of Milwaukee’s Best. Throw in some expensive hookers, too, and you’re probably not far off from Ratner away from the cameras.

How he’d film it – He’d make it look like Rush Hour and every other film he’s done, which is to say indistinguishable. It’ll be another X-Men: The Last Stand.

3. Clint Eastwood
Notable Works – Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven, Play Misty for Me

Why he’d do it – Clint’s an inspired choice, especially because he’s getting pre-production on his Hoover biopic, but there’s one thing that puts him on this list: efficiency. Eastwood is known for getting films in under budget and on time, using tight schedules to get every film in early. He’s put out two films in a year enough that he could do be finished with Hoover and be on this one by the fall.

How he’d film it – If there ever was a character out of a comic book who could be the “Man with No Name” in spandex it’d be Wolverine. The sequel has the clawed Canadian on the move in Japan. Eastwood has done enough westerns on both sides of the camera to know that this films reeks of a westernized samurai film waiting to happen. The Wolverine would be a meditation on the nature of honor in a world that has long since stopped revolving around it; plus some cool sword fights and explosions to keep it from being a 1970s European art house film.


2. Edgar Wright
Notable Works – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead

Why he’d do it – He’s currently looking to get Ant-Man into production and what better way to get experience than to make a kick-ass version of Wolverine? Wright has nothing but greatness so far on his resume and would bring a high quality level to a franchise sorely lacking. That and he hasn’t had a huge hit … Scott Pilgrim didn’t do the sort of box office business it was supposed to and the rest of his works haven’t quite popped at the box office.

How he’d film it – Wright always does interesting things with character development I think would make this film into something that gives us a different look at Wolverine. He made some interesting choices, stylistically, for Scott Pilgrim that might be modified for this film that could turn it into more of a visual film that an intellectual one.


1. Robert Zemeckis
Notable Works – Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Beowulf

Why he’d do it – Zemeckis has been the man behind motion-capture’s attempts at becoming the next big style of film-making and hasn’t been as successful as studios have wanted them to be. Mars Needs Moms just flopped and it was the final straw in The Yellow Submarine 3D remake being pulled. So what’s an Oscar winner down on his luck to do?

Revitalize his career with a live-action blockbuster.

Submarine will eventually get made if he throws out a blockbuster film; there’s too much money involved. If a bunch of no-names doing a karaoke contest version of Beatles songs can be successful with Across the Universe then using actual songs in an awesome looking version of their film would be a license to print money. It’s just now Zemeckis needs some deposits to go against the withdrawals he’s taken so far and this is a great way to do it.

Plus you have the added angle of Zemeckis returning to live action, which’ll give a boost in box office revenues. Zemeckis would have an instant buzz coming off this film and with the massive deposit coming from big grosses on this film he’d have studios falling all over themselves to live with him on a Yellow Submarine (Hey!).

How he’d film it – The one thing Zemeckis has is a knowledge of is tone, or how a film should feel. Every film he’s done (regardless of quality) has always been on the right page as what it ought to be. And his version of The Wolverine would probably be a completely over the top action picture that does it a bit tongue in cheek. I could see this being a big, fun action film that’s a definite crowd pleaser.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Iron Man 2

One of the more anticipated sequels in recent memory was last year’s Iron Man 2 and with it came insanely high expectations. It made a boatload of cash, cemented Robert Downey Jr. as a massive star and a fun-filled movie made money and satisfied fans and viewers. But something was missing: there was a feeling of a letdown because the first one had word of mouth catch like wildfire and made it one of the biggest hits of 2008.

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) has become the world’s super-cop, to the celebration of most but not everyone. Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) wants the suit so he can make something better. Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) wants it to be in the hands of the military since it’s a weapon. And finally Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) wants Stark dead for deeds done by Stark’s father against his own. It all leads to an explosive finale and I reviewed the film way back when, as well as the original.

With DVD you get the option to revisit film as often as you like and as such this had been one burning a place in my “DVDs to watch” rack for some time. Thus I watched this and Iron Man back to back, to get the whole experience. And one thing stood out to me: they’re both about equal in quality. It’s not that Iron Man 2 is necessarily not a good film but it’s not a great one. Neither was the original. They’re both quite good and rewatchable but there was a clear line between that film and the top portion of the genre.

Recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 – Another year in the life of that little kid from the first.

See It – The first was shockingly good, for a kid’s film, and I can’t see this one being significantly worse.

Sucker Punch – A girl dresses up like Sailor Moon and breaks out of an insane asylum with her buddies in tight clothes. Crazy stuff happens.

See It – You can’t go wrong with a director who uses “When the levee breaks” by Led Zeppelin in his trailer. Just can’t.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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