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BTB Investigates: Avengers / Guardians of the Galaxy Crossover Movie?

There are times when something really different finds it’s way into popular culture. A fringe idea, never really intended to be anything particularly outstanding has an unlikely run of luck. Somehow, the guardians of the galaxy, a relatively new team consisting of a universal magician, a cosmic warrior, two master assassins, a former paraplegic, a wise cracking ex-galactic hero, a psychic dog, a transcendental psychokinetic, a walking tree king and a talking raccoon with a penchant for heavy weaponry look like they’ve found their way to the big screen alongside iron man, Thor, cap and the rest of the avengers.

Rumours spreading like wildfire across the internet is that Marvel is about to announce a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. If, as we expect it to, it turns out to be true, then Marvel are really intending to take risks and reap the benefits in the coming years. With a stall of literally hundreds of characters to reveal, from Nova to Namor they could’ve kept thing’s earth bound.

However, we here at beyond the bunker anticipate an Avengers / Guardians crossover for what would’ve been the next Avengers movie. The reasons behind this are numerous.

In terms of available content, Marvel still haven’t got control of many of their greatest and most famous creations. Spider-man still remains under contract with Sony and 20th Century Fox show no signs of releasing the now well established X-men franchise with separate Origins and First Class arcs remaining potential money spinners. Strangely, this means that while Marvel can’t present all of it’s most successful characters together (Wolverine and Spider-man unable to join the current Avengers) these things still mean that Marvel associated projects rule Hollywood. In the next three years we’re likely to see Spider-man, X-men, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Avengers and now Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s barely enough space in the movie calendar to sustain them and some Marvel projects will inevitably crossover. However, with the success of all of the Avengers movie and the fact that every adaptation has more than made it’s money back there is absolutely no sign of the marvel juggernaut stopping (even if he was played badly by Vinnie Jones).

However, this spread between film companies with Marvel franchises (of which Marvel is only one) leaves Marvel with a dearth of possible projects to bring to the big screen. Even the Avengers movie had to concede the use of Skrull warriors ( later to appear as the Chitauri in the film) – most likely because the Skrull copyright went over when the Fantastic Four were sold.

Blade’s been done beautifully (excluding part three) and will be hard to follow, Ghost Rider has met with considerable negative press but has made enough money to remain viably locked where it is, the Punisher never seems to work on the big screen after a couple of botched attempts but is unlikely to fall back into Marvel’s hands. Ant man remains in development and no one wants to try Howard the Duck again. The new warriors are a little too passé, X-factor, X-force, Excalibur, Cable and mystique belong to 20th Century Fox. So where do you turn…?

Marvel went cosmic immediately with Avengers. Natural plot devices that connected the characters inevitably led that way – cosmic cube in Captain America, pretty much every aspect of Thor, it was clear where they were going with it. The Ultimates (Marvel’s cinematic reinterpretation of the Avengers, central to the alternate Ultimate Universe) acknowledged the conscious plan to bring their one remaining credible franchise to the big screen, as X-men and Spider-man tore up the multiplexes elsewhere. The higher ups in Marvel would’ve known that the combined funds from licensing the Ultimate names was building coffers that would allow them to go alone as Marvel entertainment. The most amazing thing is the 20 year plan Marvel have demonstrated here. Mark Millar’s Ultimates revealed the Skrulls present in Nazi forces, crossing Cap’s timeline before presenting a big enough threat to justify the avengers 60 odd years later. This was the precursor to the films that have culminated the same way. However, it’s Thanos that it all hinges on.

Revealed at the very end of Avengers as the true threat, Thanos has represented the greatest danger to the Marvel universe throughout it’s history. Mythic and modern in equal measures, Thanos is an endearingly flawed demi- god figure and a logical threat for the Avengers to face. However, Thanos’ reveal at the end of the Avengers has made clear that the future for Marvel was space.

It’s most successful non- web/mutant/avengers franchise in comic books has been Marvel Galaxies, the culmination of many disparate races and characters developed in the background of other marvel titles. Having exhausted almost every popular earth- based creation they have Marvel had no choice but to look to the stars.

Following the surprisingly engaging Annihalation series and having the foresight to give editorial duties to Warhammer and scifi veterans (and friends to the Bunker) Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the star spanning Marvel Universe has provided some of Marvel’s most engaging storylines in recent years. Through the Annihalation crossover and War of Kings storylines, one team stood out among all the others and absorbed all the best and most interesting figures in the Galactic Marvel section. Guardians of the Galaxy , brain child of Abnett and Lanning, kicked off with so much spit and gusto that it inevitably became a fan favourite.

This is here because we love this picture!!

With Thanos’ arrival in it’s pages, launching a further crossover that brought together the Annihalators – the most powerful figures in the galaxy – the relevance of Guardians of the Galaxy to the plot of the Avengers was cemented. Mostly killed off in that storyline, the notoriety of the Guardians has lost almost no momentum, rocket raccoon and Groot continuing to fight on in the back pages of the Annihalators.

Led by a disgraced and disillusioned galactic hero called Starlord – now a gun toting wisecracker, the Guardians represent the founding ideas that made comics great, combining it with Stan Lee’s philosophy for Marvel. Strong characters mix with unrelentingly uncompromising science fiction in a mix that is wry, exciting and fun.

With Iron Man 3, Thor and captain America 2 and Avengers 2 coming up in the next two years Marvel will be looking for a new card to play. We think that Marvel intend to make the Avengers movie another benchmark movie making it not only a repeat of an enormous crossover of successful films in their own right but are planning to add another to the mix. We anticipate that we are looking at a Guardians of the Galaxy / Avengers crossover in less than 3 years with an introductory movie for the star team appearing before hand.

All we need is Bob Hoskins to voice the part of Rocket Raccoon – to match the rugged cockney accent Marvel gave Rocket in the Marvel vs Capcom game and maybe Brian Blessed on Groot.

So when inevitably Thanos puts on his infinity Gauntlet to impress Lady Death in the next Avengers movie, two teams will ride out to face him. Don’t know about you but we can’t wait.

BTB Awards: Best Film

Winner – Senna

ts limited release will mean that Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the life and death of Ayrton Senna is unlikely to be topping may film of the year polls and at face value that seems sensible. A feature length documentary about the career of a Formula One driver who died nearly 20 years ago doesn’t exactly scream ‘mass appeal’ but nonetheless Senna is easily one of the most remarkable films of the year.
Utilising only archive footage and Voice-over, Kapadia creates a narrative which manages to be stronger and more engaging than most dramas. The decision not to include any talking heads segments means that the film feels more like a story being told first hand than a reflection on past events and the in-car footage (which looks mind blowing on a cinema screen) enhances this even further.
While the insights into the notoriously secretive world of F1 will be a treat for racing fans, the film’s greatest strength is its ability to appeal to people who don’t have the first idea about the sport. More than anything else Senna is a heart stopping, tear inducing story about an utterly unique individual. Whether you spend weekends pouring over lap times or you’re someone who thinks pole position is a thing that strippers do, there is a tonne of things to love about this film and you will be doing yourself a genuine disservice if you don’t seek out the DVD.

Runner up – Drive

For the runner up we go from a real life man in a car who is unable to stop to a fictional man in a car with no choice but to go on. The stylish, neon lit, meticulously shot Drive follows the story of Ryan Gosling’s driver as he makes ends meet on the streets of Hollywood – beautifully captured in various skyline, helicopter and stylistically careful ground shots creating a fantastical, idealistic and visceral stage for the action to take place on. In many ways the cinematography is the story as the central character – known only as Driver – enters into a tentative and touching relationship with his neighbour Irene (a flawlessly American accented Carey Mulligan) and her young son, who’s husband is incarcerated. Lingering silences and long, unbroken takes give the scenes involving these characters an assured intimacy that lingers with the viewer and plays realistically.

This is punctuated by acts of unspeakable violence, some of which admittedly come close to destabilising the careful balance that Director Nicolas Winding Refn appears to be looking for. The film could have played out as successfully as a 15 certificate on first viewing making the violence seem gratuitous and unecessary, however, I suspect that on repeat viewings the brutality and ludicrous violence will permeate more strongly and be powerful reminders of a thoughtful and energised movie and certainly a step up into the big time for both Winding Refn and Gosling.

The involvement of Simpsons regular Albert Brooks as deceptively chipper gang boss Bernie Rose and Ron Perlman has his apparently more savage and sweary partner Nino doesn’t hurt either.

Effectively Tarantino-lite, this is much less cartoonish, stylised and self consciously scripted. It also seems, accidentally or not, to be lifting directly from the GTA game series – with the theme and the look harking back to both Liberty and Vice City. This only adds to the fun in this subtle shocker.

Best remake / prequel – The Thing (2011)

To the arctic circle now for the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, The Thing. More than anything else it’s the choice to set the scene back in 1982 rather than reboot that has placed this film so high in our rankings. Following very much the same line as the original, it centres on the events leading up to the beginning of the first film in which two members of a Norwegian science team our found by an American research group.

The new film manages to mimic perfectly the light touch and claustrophobic lighting and setting, even going so far as to almost directly lifting moments from the original. But this is because the creature is doing what it did in the first place. The joy is in it’s appearance. The plot even deliberately curves at anticipated plot moments to both acknowledge and defy the original.

While it loses some of its appeal as the scale increases towards the end of the film, revealing perhaps a little too much of the origin this film scores highly for introducing a realistic female lead in Mary Elizabeth Winstead and tip toeing the line perfectly between homage and producing an original piece of cinema.

Best foreign language – Troll Hunter (2011)

Made off putting by the idiotic UK Trailer (below) this film by André Øvredal and Håvard S. Johansen (supporting writer) follows a group of hapless students in search of a hunter deemed illegal by fellow bear hunters. Determined to uncover who he is for the sake of an interesting film, they uncover a wide government cover up beyond anything they could anticipate.

Essentially, a Blair Witch Project that pays off the film manages to lull you into simply watching the ‘found footage’ of the students, constantly having to remind yourself that things are going to increase in scale exponentially at some point. And increase they do. However, the film maintains its roots until it’s finale on snowy Nordic tundra, maintaining a calm and careful pace that US blockbusters will never master.

The Norwegian mountains and countryside are really the great treat of the film at times (when there’s no monsters to hunt) as, for instance in one short sequence, sheer mountainsides and a glacial lake are filmed out of a car window as one of the students calls to another taking a whizz as nonchalantly as Sam Mendes filmed a brick wall with a plastic bag floating around in front of it. It becomes clear that what the world finds magnificent, Norwegians can take for granted and that the filmmakers are acutely aware that half their work is done merely filming on location in their beautiful country.

But it’s the monsters themselves that take centre stage. The decisions in the way that each is introduced is masterful, each uniquely different in pacing, reveal and environment. One is viewed finally from a great distance through a window of a shack which serves only to increase its impressiveness. With an enigmatic, monosyllabic central Troll Hunter, grimly wandering into harms way on behalf of the Norwegian government with the hapless batch of determined and stunned students along for the ride, it’s spectacular, engrossing and fun.

A stark change in tone in the middle of the film does threaten to scupper it slightly but the even pacing and anticipation of the unknown final Troll at the heart of the problem keeps things moving to impressive effect. They will try to remake it. I’m sure they’ll fail. Take the Norwegian out of Norway and it’s knackered.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewvWwhL1UQU

Best Comic Book Movie: X-Men: First Class

In a year in which at least three highly entertaining and thoroughly exciting comic book adaptations were released it was the one not made by Marvel that edged it for us – however marginally. It was the X-Men that clinched the title.

Easily the strongest of the X-Men films, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman along with woefully under acknowledged screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz brought the X-Men back to the 20th Century. Like Captain America, Vaughn and Goldman (the creative team behind Stardust and Kick-ass) the decision was taken to go to the roots of the title, seeing the original X-Men line-up changed to deal with those already revealed. Only, instead of merely laying comic book events over historical ones, Vaughn and Goldman interlace them directly with historical events.

We find an arrogant and slightly unlikable Professor Francis Xavier (played by James McAvoy) in the swinging sixties looking to extend his theory of evolution on to any girl with a discoloured eye or wonky toe. It’s clear that the X-Men are born from Xavier’s arrogance and it fills beautifully an absent detail in the inception of the X-Men. Brought into it is Erik Lenseherr (Michael Fassbender) who is hunting Jew killers and Nazi conspiritors around the world. Thinking that control of his power is fuelled only by anger and fury it makes Lenseherr – soon to become Magneto – a more well rounded character, as a cyclical psychology has formed in which Lensherr has to generate these feelings to tap into his power, only further perpetuating his anger and violent behaviour. All of the characters carry inherent (and human flaws) that make them accessible and offer a tone of inevitable doom to the proceedings.

Well realised set piece after well realised set piece is laced through the plot as the X-Men are pulled into conflict between both the Russian and US Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in a bid to avert Nuclear War. Something that could easily have been a cynical plot device is so neatly realised that it makes sense (and, winningly, illustrates the absurd nature of the Cold War in a language understandable to younger audiences).

So close in fact were the runners up for Best Comic Adaptation that featured below are the trailers for both Thor and Captain America. We thoroughly recommend both and can’t wait for the Avengers movie next year….

Runner-up – Thor

While pipped at the post by First Class, Thor was overwhelmingly the surprise of the year, guided effortlessly to be an entertaining romp by Royal Shakespeare Company founder, Kenneth Branagh, offering up laughs, pathos, energy and a star turn by Chris Hemsworth as the titular character. Tom Hiddleston as his half-brother Loki stood out only slightly among a frankly incredible cast featuring Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard (most likely drawn in particular to Branagh’s banner).

Thor tips the balance beautifully between fish-out-of-water comedy, fantasy epic and Superhero movie. Marvel’s incredible run of success to the Avenger’s movie next year seems to be unstoppable and Thor, as a potential tripping point has proven a nice surprise as a watchable, stand alone movie.

Runner-up – Captain America: The First Avenger

After being deemed unfit for Miltary service, Steve Rogers volunteers fora top secret research project that turns him into Captain America. We all know the story, however old school Director Joe Johnston achieved the implausible and made Captain America cool again. Borrowing heavily from Mark Millar’s Ultimates (effectively, in hindsight, a love letter to Hollywood and a considered development of the Avengers brand to become more audience friendly outside of comics) Cap still retains most of his gosh, shucks charm.

The decision to set the entire film in World War 2 is a bold and clever move, giving the audience credit where there may have been none with a more cynical film company. Featuring Hugo Weaving as arch Nemesis, the Red Skull, Stanley Tucci as Cap’s creator Dr. Abraham Erskine, Toby Jones as Dr Arnim Zola and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Philips it has a touch of class as well as being a crowd pleasing actioner. It also has the best villain diversionary tactic gag in comic book history as a Nazi assassin (Richard Armitage) escapes across the docks from the newly created Cap, he grabs a young boy and throws him in the dock. Cap, stopping to help the boy in time honoured fashion is greeted with the sight of the boy paddling away, shouting ‘Go! It’s okay. I can Swim.’ A wry sensibility that runs through the whole film.

BTB Investigates: Is Thanos the real Avengers movie bad guy?

The previews for The Avengers movie next year reveals the expected obliterated New York / Chicago / Seattle streets and the various Avengers charging into battle looking pouty and slightly impractically dressed and the suggested central bad guy, Thor’s half brother, Loki, flailing about in a cloak looking fairly imposing in a way an impish theatre actor might in a storm scene on stage. While we’re looking forward to the Avengers movie based on what we’ve seen – I can’t help but think that there’s an absent power behind the throne on this one. There’s a few reasons for this one:

  • Joss Whedon, assigned to direct this little number, is not one to work on a one threat script. Whether it’s Firefly or Buffy or Angel, it’s the initial threat, usually controlled by a shadowy puppet master and then often revealed to be a cosmic threat of unimaginable power. Not just that, he has a wry sense of humour and an acute understanding of what audiences like. He’s also a populist. Unafraid to do what is cool and follow expected narratives, he is a creature of loose habit. His plot structures have always incorporated big and very charismatic entrances of large scale bad guys. He’s also got a history of abstract and old school sci-fi and horror influences in everything he does, usually taking the source material and advancing it to be acceptable to TV/ Movie audiences.
  • Marvel has shown increasing bravery in bringing forward obscure characters from it’s ranks in it’s current spate of films and dealing with broad and fun themes rather than taking themselves too seriously. They also stick pretty close to source material and introduce figures that represent the proper threat for the development of the character.
  • The Avengers themselves have to be facing a threat on a scale that tests them well enough. Thor alone beat Loki. Loki is not a threat. The Hulk is clearly being held in reserve until the effects are finished but who is he going to face?
  • Mark Millar’s Ultimates is informing the Avengers. While there is an invasion of fantasy hordes in Ultimates 2 which may well fill the gap, it’s been well done and may still happen without undermining the theory that it’s Thanos that’ll step into the fray. An Alien invasion isn’t discounted either as appeared in Ultimates 1 and the Nazis might still be involved. Hard to say. Point is extra terrestrial or god attack, it doesn’t matter, Thanos is attached to both.
  • Rumours state that Thano’s glove from the Infinity Gauntlet series is visible on the Avengers set photos. Thanos brought the entire Marvel Universe to a standstill in the early ’90s as he took hold of the Infinity Gauntlet and threatened to destabilise the universe. A threat easily big enough to justify a call out at Avenger’s towers.

But why Thanos? 

Thanos is a being of credible bad that has sulked, skulked and schemed his way around the backwaters of Marvel’s cosmic universe, occasionally bringing the whole thing into doubt with his plans. Lover of the dubiously aged Death and as such effectively immortal, he is a corrupted Titan, a shrugging destroyer of time, space and any sentient being stupid enough to wander into his path. He’s Marvel’s Lobo. He has a death grin, incurable curiosity for how much chaos and death he can cause and how brilliantly he can destabilise the powers of the universe. For fun.

  • He’s a cosmic being and a god. Thor made it clear that Valhalla was a realm in space, responsible for galactic peace. Thanos is a deity on par with the Frost Giants. A corrupted and deformed child of gods. As the story goes according to Marvel.com – On Saturn’s moon of Titan lived a colony of Eternals, and Thanos was born as one of the last sons of the original colonists, Mentor and Sui-san. However, he was born misshapen and monstrous in comparison to the other Eternals, particularly his handsome and carefree brother, Starfox.
  • He is a collector of Cosmic Cubes. The one connecting link between all of the films (excluding Iron Man) is the Cosmic Cubes. The Red Skull was killed by it, underestimating it’s power in Captain America while the Cosmic Cube was cared for by Odin and stolen by Loki at the end of Thor. Thanos has long been associated with the cosmic cubes – which he aquires and uses regularly to keep causing trouble.
  • He’s just returned to the Marvel Universe in a plot involving a cosmic cube. Guardians of the Galaxy, while a lesser known title outside the industry is critically acclaimed and one of Marvel’s most consistent books. Returning wild and beserk, Starlord effectively punches him in the face with it to bring him down. But the fascination with the Cosmic Cube is obvious in the character and clearly a fundamental aspect of Thanos from the view of Marvel.
  • Abnett and Lanning aren’t writing him in the usual way. Thanos has never been hailed or fanfared like a galaxy spanning threat, narratively. Thanos is a tinkerer and walks in from the side lines to see what he can get away with. That wry curiosity and mischievousness was always the defining characteristic of Thanos. Even when associated with the destruction of butt loads of planets, Thanos is intellectually involved but never held up as a purveyor of all-hell-breaking-loose. But Thanos has been elevated this time. He’s not stronger, Thanos was always tough. He’s not more imposing, or larger. But the way he’s being written this time round suggests a greater awe, as if this character is just about to lift beyond his station in Marvel. It’s not uncommon, Iron Man, Thor, War Machine have all had massively increased status in the universe since seeing celluloid. Is Thanos gonna get the same treatment?

Thanos is a great bad guy and although the natural resistance has been removed now that Marvel is under the Lassetter banner of Disney and internally responsible for it’s own brand there would be sensible resistance at using an obscure, radiator chinned, purple god with a chip on his shoulder as the central pivot for a major blockbuster that’s never been tried before. Abnett and Lanning’s response is likely a reply to the existing rumours that Thanos almost got a big screen appearance.  The contrivance of plot that would be needed to introduce a second disgruntled child of the Gods when any sensible writer can apply the same emotional palette to the existing character without dropping a stocky, purple, alien gorilla face with 1980s shoulder pads into the action. But it’d Thanos. Against the Avengers. Directed by Whedon. Keep wishing guys but in all liklihood it’s just too cool to risk.

Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjXO_rNblA4

Marvel have taken advantage of their global take-over of cinemas (Captain America is now No.1 movie in the US oddly enough – though less popular in Yemen) and begun to invest in some beautiful high end animation. By very precise direction they have given themselves scope enough to generate incredible visuals for this DVD release based on the book by the same name. Which frankly I’m hunting out.

Avengers goes Pre Production Design!!

Over at Marvel.com, The Avengers movie has gone to pre production / PR stunt levels with the full team being given an amazing full digital paint job. Featuring all of the Avengers (Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Maria Hill and Nick Fury). In it we’re getting some hints – including a familiar looking cloud based battle cruiser in the background. All things are looking good at this stage as fun is visibly being had and Marvel isn’t taking itself too seriously on this project. That should be its saving grace as the entertaining side of both Thor and Iron Man were what won them the fans. If Captain America lives up to the hype Marvel Entertainment’ll only have one more hurdle to get over. This beast. Now feast your eyes ’til they burp.