About That Marvel Studios Small Films Deal …

— by CAM SMITH —

Just when I think that Marvel Studios have reached its apex in regards to risky and exciting approaches to the movie biz, they pull out another stunning move from out of nowhere and once again raise the bar.

First they made the unprecedented leap towards establishing a shared cinematic universe, where disparate characters like Thor and Ant-Man could play in the same sandbox. Then they paired up with Disney and began slyly hinting that collaborations with Pixar could possibly be on the not-too-distant horizon. Now they’ve gone and once again outdone themselves.

In a fascinating exclusive posted up at CHUD, head writer Devin Faraci reveals that the studio – renowned for their mega-super-blockbusters – is beginning to think a little, well, smaller:

“Marvel Studios is currently taking meetings with writers and directors to work on small scale movies based on some of their third tier characters. The movies would cost in the range of 20 to 40 million dollars (very small when we’re talking studio films) and would allow them to take risks with less obvious characters and with interesting talent.”

Essentially this would mean that although its unlikely fans would ever see a large-scale summer-time Darkhawk, Alpha Flight or Werewolf by Night vehicle, the studio is now open to offering promising or innovative filmmakers the chance to make modestly-priced pictures centered on obscure characters of their ilk. Just think about what an unproven Neill Blomkamp-type could do with a promising Marvel property and limited restrictions! The results could be amazing.

Now, I realize that, for many, diminished budgets don’t exactly ring with promise. But consider what Stephen Norrington was able to do with the first “Blade,” or also take into account how far Matthew Vaughn was able to stretch 40-million with his enjoyable punk-rock superhero actioner “Kick-Ass.” These types of films would require prospective directors and producers to find creative ways of realizing their heroes, without lazily depending on a bloated effects-budget to move tickets. I don’t know about the rest of you, but at this point I’m pretty much CG-ed out in regards to expensive tent-poles, and this new avenue offers the potential for some new approaches to comic-book-style action and adventure. Money doesn’t make a movie fun, the film-making skill behind it does.

So, just for kicks, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight a few characters that could benefit from this thrilling break Marvel is offering:

Imagine what a stylish visionary auteur could do with this oddball creation, an alien-like crime-fighter who physically emerges from the mind of his human host during slumber-time. The stunning potential of Sleepwalker’s dreamscape home alone could be used to conjure up some seriously surrealistic, vivid images (think of what Scorsese accomplished in “Shutter Island,” or David Lynch in “Mulholland Drive” and “Lost Highway”), not to mention the inherent comedy and wonder of an extraordinary inhuman creature learning to comprehend the intricacies of humankind. The results could be both insanely geek-friendly and, if done right, appealing to cinema-goers eager for something a little offbeat and different.

Luke Cage and Iron Fist:
Marvel has struggled with adapting both of these characters — super-powered brawlers who typically use their special abilities to clean up street crime — individually in the past (John Singleton was long-attached to direct the former, while Ray Park was marked to portray the latter for almost a decade), so why not combine them and make a proper “Heroes for Hire” film? Plus, since there wouldn’t be much need for CG or elaborate effects (Minus Fist’s magical hand, of course), the project’s resources could be utilized in crafting some eye-poppingly choreographed real-life martial arts fight-scenes. With the right combination of cheerful grit and attitude, this could be something special.

Black Panther:
Wesley Snipes was all-but signed to this character around the time of “Blade,” as was later Djimon Hounsou, but the whole endeavour conked out, only to be momentarily resurrected as a possible “Fantastic Four 3” plotline (No dice again). Following T’Challa, the ruler of the African Nation of Wakanda, and mystical mortal connection to the Panther God Bast, a film translation offers plenty of chances for seriously kinetic hand-to-hand mêlées and gorgeous scenery. Find the right charismatic and commanding actor – say, Chiwetel Ejiofor – to star, and nail down the character’s awesomely iconic suit, and any filmmaker would be off and running.

Moon Knight:
Long considered Marvel’s semi-weak answer to Batman, Moon Knight actually runs a little more into cuckoo county than the Dark Knight, with his nagging multiple personality disorder and penchant for leaving his foes in pieces. Originally an American soldier named Marc Spector killed in duty, only to be resurrected by the Egyptian God Khonshu, Moon Knight is especially appealing due to his tendency to shift between tackling real-life criminals and supernatural evil-doers. Although R-rated superhero movies are quickly going the way of the western (Thanks to the lacklustre box-office of “Watchmen,” “Kick-Ass” and “Punisher: Warzone”) I’d love to see a resourceful talent try his or her hand at adapting Charlie Huston’s recent take on the character as a tormented, often delusional, warrior plagued by ghastly, taunting demonic hallucinations.

Formerly tapped to be the chief villain in “Blade: Trinity,” Dr. Michael Morbius is a distinguished Nobel Prize-winning biochemist who accidentally infects himself with vampiric powers and urges during an experiment gone awry while attempting to cure his rare blood disease. Torn between two worlds, the Living Vampire – as he’s known – struggles to hold onto his ever-tenuous grasp of humanity while searching for food and clashing with otherworldly forces. Although there are undeniable similarities to Blade, a “Morbius” film would revolve around a more romantic and tragic protagonist and hopefully feature more pronounced horror-movie visuals. Plus, vampires are hotter than hell right now, so it’s tough to imagine the character being too tough to market.

So those are my suggestions. Which lower-tier Marvel characters would you guys like to see tackled in an unorthodox manner on the silver screen? Suit up and soar on over to our forums and spell out your own choices!

. . .

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    some cool moves there. i cant wait to see what lesser known characters get a shot on the silver screen. i hope they all turn out to be good films and they get solid writers and directors on board. Count me in as a fan to see where this goes.

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