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Suit up: Marvel and DC hope to blow us away in theaters this year

Matthew Lane • Feb 26, 2017 at 8:30 PM

If you’re a fan of comic books, science fiction or fantasy, there’s no better time to be alive than today.

As it stands now, in any given year you can expect to see four or five comic book movies hit the silver screen. And we’re not talking about the quality of Dolph Lungren’s “Punisher” or Ang Lee’s “Hulk.” We’re talking top-notch, mostly true to the source material superhero flicks with budgets north of $200 million and nearly that much more for marketing and advertising.

Plus, if you include the comic book-inspired shows on the networks, cable and streaming services, it truly is a golden age of entertainment for us geeks.

In my opinion, you can thank two people for making all of this possible: Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr.

In 2000, Jackman brought Wolverine, Marvel’s most popular mutant, to life in Bryan Singer’s “X-men,” a movie that showed Hollywood executives that superhero flicks could be made well and would be supported by the fan base. Seventeen years and eight movies later, Jackman is (maybe) popping his claws for the final time in next month’s “Logan.”

As for Downey, he essentially brought clout and gravitas to the 2008 “Iron Man” movie, arguably one of the best superhero movies ever made. His spot-on portrayal of the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe and give us nearly a decade of Marvel’s greatest on the big screen.

In case you’re not keeping score, quite a few geek movies are coming out this year — a whole bunch of sequels, a couple of reboots and some fresh takes on some old properties.

First up is “Logan” (March 3), the alleged final entry for Jackman as the uber-popular Wolverine character. It is set in the near future, which has not seen a mutant born in 20 years.

The synopsis from Twentieth Century Fox is that Logan is caring for an ailing Professor X in a small town on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s world is turned upside down by the appearance of a young mutant (X-23) who is being pursued by dark forces.

The director is James Mangold (who did the last Wolverine movie) and for the first time, a movie features Logan in an R-rated world. Expect plenty of bloody “snikts.”

In recent years, Marvel has pushed up its summer movie season kickoff to coincide with Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May). This year, the Guardians of the Galaxy (May 5) return for a second installment set two to three months after the galaxy-spanning adventures of the surprise 2014 hit.

The misfit Guardians will travel throughout the cosmos and struggle to keep their newfound family together, while helping Star Lord learn more about his true parentage. Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket return, along with newcomers Mantis, Simon “Wonderman” Williams (Nathan Fillion) and Ego (Kurt Russell).

In a make or break movie, “Wonder Woman” (June 2) has the weight of the world on the Amazon’s shoulders, at least as far as the future of the DC Comics Cinematic Universe goes. So far, DC and Warner Brothers have not been able to repeat the magic Marvel has crafted with its cinematic universe, which is why “Wonder Woman” has to knock it out of the park to keep hope alive that we’ll continue to see DC Comics’ most famous heroes and villains on the big screen.

The Israeli beauty Gal Gadot returns to the role of Princess Diana, along with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy and David Thewlis as the god Ares — the main villain.

The movie appears to be the typical origin story — Wonder Woman is being raised on Paradise Island, an American pilot crashes there and shares the story of a world consumed by war. Naturally, Diana leaves to explore the greater world, end the ensuing conflict and face off against the Huns and her cousin Ares.

Besides Black Panther, one of the standout characters in last year's “Captain America: Civil War” was Tom Holland’s portrayal of Spider-man. After mediocre showings of the Amazing Spider-man 1 and 2, Sony decided to partner with Marvel on the next iteration of the web-slinger, which debuts this summer with “Spider-man Homecoming” (July 7).

Thankfully, Marvel is avoiding yet another origin story for our friendly neighborhood Spider-man with the movie picking up right after the events of Civil War. The premise of the movie is that Peter Parker, with the help of Tony Stark, attempts to balance his life as an ordinary high school student while also fighting crime on the streets of New York City.

New to the big screen will be the villain Vulture (Michael Keaton) and true to the source material, the character’s name is Adrian Toomes — the original Vulture who debuted in the second issue of the Amazing Spider-man.

Rounding out the superhero movies of 2017 will be “Thor: Ragnarok” (November 3) and the long-awaited “Justice League” (November 17).

As with Iron Man and Captain America, this will be the third solo outing for the Norse god and likely his biggest battle to date. According to Marvel Studios, Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and must get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok — the end of the world for his people.

The big baddie is Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Thor is expected to face off against Hulk, with scenes reminiscent of the Planet Hulk storyline from the comics. Jeff Goldblum has been cast as the Grandmaster, so I expect to see something similar to the Contest of the Champions story as well.

Finally, we get to “Justice League,” the culmination of (technically) four prior movies that DC Comics and Warner Brothers hope to use as a tent pole for future DC character flicks. As hinted at in last year’s “Batman v Superman” movie, the Justice League is being formed by the Dark Knight and Wonder Woman to face the coming threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.

Zack Snyder is no stranger to comic book movies. His directing resume includes “Batman v. Superman,” “Man of Steel,” “Watchmen” and “300.” He’s listed as a producer on most of DC Comics’ upcoming movies as well, including “Wonder Woman,” “Flash” and “Aquaman.”

Hopefully, Snyder’s work will get better with age and the “powers that be” will use their creative control to make the DC Comics Cinematic Universe more enjoyable for die-hard fans and casual viewers alike.

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