CCI: Marvel Studios – Making Marvelous Movies

For years, comic book fans have always been concerned whenever a movie adaptation of their favorite comic occurs. It has always been risky for comic book companies to hand their properties to a studio, because the studios vision may not align with the comic book company's and the resulting product is…less than stellar.

Well, no more. At least, not for Marvel. In its first official panel at Comic-Con International, Marvel Studios unveiled their two upcoming films. Comic book enthusiasts, you should feel pleased – very pleased.

Marvel Studios began with a presentation on their upcoming "Incredible Hulk" movie. Representing the film were producers Gale Anne Hurd and Avi Arad, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, director Louis Leterrier and actors Liv Tyler and Edward Norton (who are playing Betty Ross and Bruce Banner). Other members of the cast include Tim Roth (the Abomination) and William Hurt (General Ross); however, they were not free to attend the panel.

Production on the film began two weeks ago in Toronto, and Leterrier reported that he had just finished filming at 7:00am this morning before flying out here. The director said he was first introduced to the character through the '70s TV show, and hoped to create a similar feel with the movie.

Feige said this film is a complete reboot and should be looked at as "part one of a new Hulk saga." Hurd added, "We aren't going to have a Hulk that is three different sizes in this film" (in reference to Ang Lee's version of the character).

It was also announced – for those who didn't know – that Norton has written the screenplay for this film. The actor said he was a "Marvel kid" growing up, loved the television show, and is trying to capture the feel of that along with writer Bruce Jones' run on "The Incredible Hulk."

When it came time for Tyler to talk about her experiences with the film so far, she explained that she hadn't done any filming yet. Although, she did mention that she was a fan of the show growing up. Tyler also let it slip that this movie will be about the search for a cure for the Hulk.

The effects are being handled by Rhythm and Hues, and a concept drawing of the Hulk was briefly shown. It definitely looked more rough and savage than Ang Lee's version – and there is no way this Hulk could ever be confused with Shrek. With this Hulk, be afraid, be very afraid.

In the audience Q&A, a fan asked if the Hulk's origin will follow the TV or the movie. Norton somewhat avoided a direct answer, but did say that the origin would be unspooling throughout the film. He mentioned inspirations in his screenplay were the Bruce Jones-written issues of "The Incredible Hulk" along with "Hulk: Gray." He also added that other characters from the comic books – like Leonard Samson – will make appearances as well.

Leterrier also talked about what a huge undertaking this is. He said that a normal movie has approximately 150 scenes; this movie has 350 scenes. And as this presentation wrapped up, Norton added that he enjoyed referencing other elements of the Marvel Universe in the script, "like super-soldier serums and other things."

The second half of Marvel Studios' presentation was all about the upcoming "Iron Man" film. Arad and Feige remained in their seats and were joined by director Jon Favreau, Terrence Howard (who will be playing James Rhodes), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark). Favreau quickly introduced a rough trailer that they had thrown together for the con (which was also screened at the previous day's Paramount Panel).

The footage gave a great feel for how Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark. The character is equal parts egocentric, witty, and charming. Then, much like his comic book origin, we got to see him captured, learned about the need for a device for his heart, and witnessed Stark build the first Iron Man suit (the bulky grey metallic one). In this suit, we get to see him fight his captors.

Following that, there's a quick clip of some other characters, along with a second grey metallic battlesuit that looks a bit vicious. And then…the red and gold suit. It looks as fantastic as it ever did in the comics. The clip closed with Iron Man flying through the skies with some jet planes. The effects seemed seamless. Favreau let fans know that the suits (created by Stan Winston studios) seen in all the footage were actual suits, and that the only CGI shot was the one of Iron Man flying. Fans will just have to wait until the film's release on May 2nd to see what else this Iron Man can do.

The director then mentioned that this was the first time the actors had seen the film. So what was Downey Jr.'s response? "I'm sorry, could there have been a little more me in that?" [laughing]

Favreau mentioned that this is Marvel Studios' first movie, and likened it to a "really big independent movie." The reason he described it thusly is that Marvel is financing it themselves, and that there aren't any huge "name" stars in the movie. He credited director Christopher Nolan and "Batman Begins" for proving that big names aren't necessary to make big films. This enabled Favreau to pick the talented cast in front of him.

The director then brought out the creator of "Iron Man," Stan Lee (who also makes an appearance in the film). Lee proclaimed, "A guy from comics up here?!? Wow!"

Apparently, Downey Jr. and Stan Lee had lunch together before filming began so the actor could discuss the character with him. Lee liked it because he "finally got a good table."

Favreau then talked about the moral ambiguity of Tony Stark, saying that he was a character who pushes boundaries of what's acceptable. He's convoluted, but empathetic. The director explained, "I liked it that Han Solo shot Greedo first." He also admitted that Stark is "not a guy that you like on paper. He's complex and that's what makes him interesting for me."

The final question of the Q&A was whether or not an Avengers movie might ever occur. Feige asked if the audience if they wanted to see that, and received loud applause for a response. He smiled and said that something is "in the works."

Fans should pray that it's as good as what was shown and discussed in the presentation today. It appears Marvel Studios is off to a good start.

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