Actor Michael Clarke Duncan passed away at the age of 54 this weekend. For a lot of people, he will always be remembered for his role in The Green Mile. But as a comic book fan, I would say that my favorite part of his career was his work as Wilson Fisk in Dardevil.
When it was announced that he would be playing the role of the Kingpin, there was a lot of fanboy concern about why they would change the race of the character. That wasn’t an issue for me. What I was more concerned about was how anyone could bring this immensely massive–in both size and emotional presence–to life.
And Michael did just that. His take on the Marvel Universe’s biggest crime lord was extremely menacing and sophisticated at the same time. His portrayal became what Kingpin was in my mind, more so than the original. It’s a lot like Mark Hammill’s Joker or Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine…they’ve become the voice of the character when I read it. With all the talk of a Daredevil relaunch, I would have loved for them to keep Duncan on board and taken it into that retro/grimy direction.
Outside of his work as the Kingpin, Michael was in a bunch of other comic book related projects. He was in the Sin City movie and voiced everyone’s favorite poozer Kilowog in Green Lantern. You can look at his full career here.
Did you know that this summer is the fifteenth anniversary of Spawn? Todd McFarlane’s devilish vigilante made his movie debut on August 1, 1997 and I’ve finally gotten around to seeing the movie. So what did I think?
It’s kind of hard to judge this movie. The plot is pretty straight forward; military operative Al Simmons is killed by his corrupt commander Jason Wynn and makes a deal with the devil to lead the forces of the underworld in exchange to be able to be able to see his fiancée (who happened to have had his child and married his best friend). There’s another deal that the devil made with Wynn, one that will pretty much start the apocalypse (there is a cardiac device that will trigger a series of explosions and release a plague if his heart stops) and allow the devil to rule what’s left of mankind.
Simmons’ conflict comes from his struggle with avenging his death. If he takes the advice of the demonic clown the Violator, Simmons will kill Wynn and bring on the end of the world. But if he follows Cagliostro, a former agent of the devil who was able to break free, he can save not only the world–but his former lover Wanda, his child and his best friend–from Wynn. And because deep down Simmons cares for these people, he follows the fallen angel to become an embodiment of justice. It makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, the special effects in this film were really distracting. By 1997’s standards, I guess they were groundbreaking. But watching it today, a lot of the CGI animation (like Spawn’s cape, the Violator’s demon form, and any of the scenes in hell with the devil’s legions) just reminded me too much of the Playstation games I enjoyed from that era. After doing some research about the film’s director and co-writer Mark A.Z. Dippé, it’s not surprising that the film was so visual effects heavy; he used to be an animator for Industrial Light and Magic.
The makeup and costuming effects were very well done. John Leguizamo looked utterly disgusting as the Violator’s clown form (and his one-liners were both cheesy and well played). Michael Jai White looked convincing in his Spawn makeup/armor, even though it did remind me of the Guyver. But it worked, except for one scene where Spawn was riding a motorcycle and his head was clearly painted onto a motorcycle helmet.
So why should you watch this film? Ultimately Spawn is a period piece, not in the sense that it shows off trends or what it was like to live in the 1990s.It’s a look back on what was considered cutting edge at that time. And in 1997 this film was cutting edge. Unfortunately, viewing this film in 2012, the film doesn’t hold up too well due to its over-reliance on special effects. On a positive, the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of McFarlane’s comics, and Spawn was considered a modest box office success that started the comics movie boom of the late 90s early 00s. Without this, there wouldn’t have been Blade or X-Men which really got the comics film ball rolling. To sum it up, this is an average film that was important in the context of its era.
This week it was announced that the next installment in Hasbro/Paramount’s GI Joe saga, GI Joe Retaliation, will be pushed back from its release date of June 29 to March 2013. Why would they do that, being that they’ve started the marketing push for the film.
I don’t know, but there are various rumors floating around. The party line has been that they needed more time to properly convert the film into 3D. Certainly the success of the Avengersreminds us that there is a boat load of money up for grabs.For me that’s a valid enough excuse.
There’s also a rumor floating around that Hasbro/Paramount wasn’t very happy with the poor reception of Battleship (a film adaptation that I still shake my head at) and somehow this is in response to it. I don’t buy that at all. Battleship was doomed from the start, as it was a very hard sell. Retaliation on the other hand is a property that already has a large audience, and the fact that this sequel looked so much better than the original just from comparing the trailers alone, this seemed like a can’t miss.
Even look at the movie schedule. Retaliation would have had a strong opening weekend and week. The biggest movie the previous weekend will probably be Brave, which I assume would skew a more family audience. The next similar film is Amazing Spider-Man, which comes out the next week. That could draw some of the Retaliation audience, but with it being released for the Fourth of July midweek, there’s more than enough moviegoers for every one.
Then there’s the ever crazy rumor that they are re-shooting scenes and weren’t happy with the results of the original film. I don’t know about that.
The rescheduling of this film also is going to throw off next year’s Wrestlemania. The Rock is scheduled to be at that event, so he’s going to have to promote both the biggest WWE show of the year and a new movie release. Eep.
I guess I’ll have to watch the original GI Joe cartoon movie instead.