Who will be included in an Avengers big screen movie? It is difficult to tell at this point . . . 

However bloating the membership to more than five or six members (and believe me – they were usually much more in the comics!) will mean that the storyline might lose focus and some popular characters be given short shrift, something which jinxed the X-Men movies to a degree. (On a personal note, we would like to see the Scarlet Witch included in the line-up, but that is just because we’d like to see that yummy costume on the big screen – hubba, hubba!)

Whatever tack a movie version of The Avengers might take, one hopes that screenwriter Penn will at least steal a few plot ideas and concepts from Mark Millar’s Ultimates comic book series even it does mean having to pay the comic book writer some extra royalties or giving him a writer’s credit. (Come on! It’ll be worth it!)

First appearing in March 2002 as part of Marvel’s “Ultimate” imprint – a re-invention of Marvel’s superhero characters within a more “adult” environment free of any previous back stories and continuity – The Ultimates are basically The Avengers retold within a contemporary setting. The line-up features Iron Man, Giant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor. Here they are bandied together under the tutelage of SHIELD’s General Nick Fury making them government operatives unlike the private sector-funded Avengers of the comics of old. George W. is president of the U.S. and issues such as “homeland security” are the order of the day – just as they are in real-life post-9/11 America.

"Hulk wants Freddie Prinze Junior!"

Millar’s Ultimates boasts several neat ideas and has a very cinematic feel to it which makes it ripe for plunder. Unsurprisingly the series have already formed the basis for two recent direct-to-DVD animated Avengers movies. Millar’s Ultimates is however also very dark and cynical – which is why the DVD adaptations of the material turned out to be more “kiddie-friendly” than hard-core fans would have liked. And which is also why the fans of Millar’s take on The Avengers shouldn't exactly hold their breath for a faithful movie adaptation of his comics.

So what’s the problem with Millar’s revisionist vision? For starters, Millar’s heroes are much less heroic than one would expect of a big screen Hollywood superhero movie. Giant-Man for instance is portrayed as a Prozac-popping wife-beater. Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s alter ego, is a wimpy passive aggressive nerd. When he finally “Hulks out” the Hulk is a sex-crazed raging maniac. “Hulk’s gonna get you no matter who they send, Betty!” he tells Banner’s fleeing girlfriend, here depicted as an alpha female PR agent. “Hulk hornier than a – ” (Our favorite line in the entire book? “Hulk wants Freddie Prinze Junior!”)

The most interesting take on the characters though have to be Thor as a Seattle 1999-era anti-globalism, neo-hippie type. Yup, you read that right. When first asked to join The Ultimates, he refuses. “Oh, it matters not whether you are wearing capes or combat boots, little man. You are all just thugs in uniform who will smash any threat to a corrupt status quo.”

When one thinks about it, some of Millar’s ideas have already been used for the big screen. Nick Fury of SHIELD is portrayed as a Samuel L. Jackson look-alike in The Ultimates (remember this was in 2002), the actor who actually plays the character in the Iron Man movie. In the comics Fury was of course a White cigar-chewing hard ass with a permanent five o’clock shadow. By the way, in one of the most monumentally bad miscasting off all time Fury was played by David Hasselhoff (no, really) in a very bad 1998 made-for-TV movie . . .

But the point is that Millar’s take is too cynical and dark for what will be a summer blockbuster. It is simply too family unfriendly. The Wasp for instance in one scene distracts the Hulk by flashing her boobs at him – see if that ever makes its way to a multi-million dollar movie! Still, there are loads of good ideas to be found in The Ultimates such as a fantastic-looking WWII assault led by Captain America to prevent the Nazis from launching a nuke at the White House. (Something which should at least make its way into any Captain America solo movie then.)

Any Hollywood scriptwriters would ignore Millar’s version at their own peril. You reading this, mister Penn?



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