As the wait is finally over for Marvel Studios’ release of the film Guardians of the Galaxy, speculation is increasing about which other characters from the comics will be next to grace the big screen. Guardians is Marvel’s first attempt at introducing a wider audience to some of their lesser-known comic book characters. The anticipation for the movie was built up greatly by a storm of advance promotion. If the film is a success at the box office, then Marvel will have a workable template for adapting some of their other characters into stories for feature films.
Comic book fans are already coming up with lists of the ones who most likely deserve a solo movie. Because of rampant speculation that Marvel has already created a big-screen vehicle for him, the character who fans seem to most believe will be next is Doctor Strange. Many could consider him the Harry Potter of the Marvel universe, though with an edge. He first appeared during the psychedelic period of the 1960s, and has been greatly received by readers. He has lived up to his name by providing some of the company’s most bizarre storylines and concepts. Doctor Strange draws his power from magic and invocation instead of technology, and he can offer an obvious opportunity for Marvel Studios to move in on the still popular witchcraft and wizardry trend.
The difficulty with this character as the subject of a feature film is the ability to create a decent balance between seriousness and camp that the comics have. In addition, it will take the right actor to boldly deliver signature lines like “By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!” in a manner which will have audiences cheering instead of laughing. Recently there have been rumors that a film adaptation is in the works with actor Joaquin Phoenix suiting up for the role, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Another character who has appeared on a list or two is She-Hulk. Based on the history, it has appeared unlikely that a female Marvel character could deliver in a solo film. The best example of this is the 2005 movie Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner as the warrior assassin. The film was a spin-off of 2003’s Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, which was also a box office disaster. Elektra got critics and non-geeks to believe that, other than Spider-Man and X-Men, other Marvel Comics characters who are not on film do not deserve to be. Fans, however, have demanded the opposite.
Despite the character’s popularity, one of the things which are preventing She-Hulk from being made into a movie is Marvel’s struggle to get a franchise going for the classic Incredible Hulk character. In 2003, Marvel and Universal Studios released Hulk, starring Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly. The movie was not well received, mainly due to the fact that it did not truly stick to the basic story of the comic book. In 2008, after Marvel Studios was established, they released the re-boot The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton as Hulk and his alter ego Bruce Banner. What made this film successful was in part the fact that it paid homage to the 1970s television series of the same name. The film also, unlike the Eric Bana film, referenced the comic book. Fans cheered when the Hulk delivered one of his famous lines, “Hulk smash!” The character returned to the big screen in 2012’s successful blockbuster The Avengers.
The difference between Hulk and She-Hulk is that the female Hulk is permanently in her green-skinned state. Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk when he gets angry and when he turns his mind stays under the influence of that anger. She-Hulk, on the other hand, is not influenced by anger and she has the same awareness and intelligence in her mutated form as when she was an ordinary person. As of now, there is no confirmation about any sequels to The Incredible Hulk, although the character will return in the sequel to The Avengers. If a Hulk franchise happens, it is quite possible that She-Hulk, and other female characters, will be considered for a movie adaptation.
One character who has been on the big screen in The Avengers is the character who appears most likelyj to receive a solo film based on the popularity of the character with audiences in that movie. This character is the archer, Hawkeye. He has been a fan favorite for a long time, and many screenplay writers would agree that his origin story would translate well into a movie. In particular, his time as a criminal before he became a member of the government agency called S.H.I.E.L.D to team-up with fellow superheroes makes for a compelling storyline on paper.
In The Avengers, Hawkeye is portrayed by actor Jeremy Renner. He first appeared as the character in a cameo in 2011’s Thor. When The Avengers was released a year later, it was the most successful film that year. Renner will reprise the role in the upcoming sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. As of now, Marvel has not said if a Hawkeye film is in the works, but with the Avengers success there appears to be a good chance of it happening.
The Marvel universe is populated with myriad characters known only to the devoted readers of the comic books. The release of Guardians of the Galaxy is an attempt by Marvel to translate that readership into a significant theater audience. If the film does well, then the company will have confirmation of their ability to capitalize on even the lesser-known characters from the comics. It will no longer be speculation that the characters created in the print version of the Marvel universe are able to make the next step and leap off of the page and onto the big screen.
Opinion By Andrew Cerecedes