The standard biopic plotline based on the life story of Carl Brashear follows the uneducated sharecropper's son (Gooding) as he braves 1950s-era racial discrimination for the right to risk his life in one of the most dangerous occupations in the armed services. At the Navy's elite salvage school in New Jersey master diver Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro) gives Brashear the "Officer and a Gentleman" treatment singling him out for special punishment at the request of the base's insane racist commander (Hal Holbrook). Will the hero overcome the obstacles in his path to becoming a master diver himself?
Gooding's glowing likability is the main factor keeping the film's saintly conception of Brashear from getting annoying fast. The one-dimensional character lacks a single flaw for an actor to grab onto but Gooding's enthusiasm is contagious (remember that Oscar speech?) and he gets surprising mileage out of it. De Niro's trademark intensity is put to only minimal use in a variation of the cantankerous drill sergeant part familiar from half the military flicks ever made.
George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food") delivers some effective if obvious action-drama in the film's first half which chronicles Brashear's tireless efforts to earn his Navy flippers. Unfortunately Scott Marshall Smith's screenplay gets a bit water-logged dealing with the hero's subsequent career both above and below the waves. (One key development closely parallels John Wayne's role as a Navy flier in another true story 1957's "The Wings of Eagles.) All this sets up a particularly weak courtroom finale reminiscent of another slew of movies including "A Few Good Men" and "Rules of Engagement."
Artisan Entertainment announced on Thursday that action director Kirk Wong is set to develop and direct the feature film version of Marvel Enterprises' comic book Iron Fist, starring Ray Park.
Buzz around the project started last year when Artisan inked a deal with Marvel Comics to bring Marvel's renowned superheroes and villains to film, video and the Internet, including Captain America, Thor and Black Panther.
And no one could be better suited to direct the martial arts-themed project than Wong. His directorial credits include the cult favorite The Big Hit, starring Planet of the Apes hunk Mark Wahlberg, and Crime Story with Jackie Chan. Wong has also directed several action films in his native Hong Kong, including Gunmen and True Colors.
Iron Fist will explore the hero's history and background, a device that could lead to a film franchise with several sequels, which would certainly please Avi Arad, CEO of Marvel Studios and Iron Fist's producer. Marvel Studios, the production company responsible for last summer's box office topper X-Men and 2002's much anticipated Spider-man, will also head this film.
So, you say you've never heard of Iron Fist?
"It's about finding great stories," Arad told Variety in March. "It's not about whether someone knows the name."
"The comic-book geek community is highly aware," Ari added. Guess that's all that matters.
The origin flick will focus on Danny Rand, an Earth-born child raised as a martial artist in an other-dimensional city called K'un-Lun. He masters the ability to focus his "chi," or spiritual energy, into his fist and strike with the force of iron. He then returns to America to avenge his parents' murder.
Accents and Accessories
In December, Ray Park was cast to fill the yellow slippers of the adventurer and hero for hire, Iron Fist. You may remember Park, a martial artist and stuntman, for his red-and-black role as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace and, more recently, as Toad, Magneto's right-hand man in last summer's blockbuster X-Men.
Park, who started studying martial arts when he was 7, made his big screen debut as a stunt double for James Remar's Rayden in Mortal Kombat: The Annihilation. The Scottish actor has since carved a niche for himself in Hollywood, the perfect place to showcase his skills and the second-degree black belt he holds.
But what about the Scottish accent? Although George Lucas chose to dub Park's accent for Phantom Menace, Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige told Comics Continuum that the accent would stay and would be incorporated into the character's background.
"It would be to our advantage to mention it, to explain it and to understand it, rather than try to ignore it," he explained. "And there will be a fun explanation to it."
Feige also told Continuum that while Park will wear a costume in the film, it may not be exactly like the green leotard that adorned the adventurer in the comic book.
"I think it's safe to say that we will do something that, at most, mimics it as closely as possible, or at least suggests it…. maybe he's wearing something that happens to be those colors," Feige suggested. "If you put that right into a film, obviously it would probably not work. He's got slippers on."
He's probably right. Unless they were made of Gore-Tex, even a superhero would have a hard time fighting crime in a shoe that could so easily slip off and that provides no protection against the elements.
Other than Park, no actors have been confirmed for Iron Fist. The script was penned by John Turman (Buck Rogers, The Incredible Hulk), also a martial artist. The combination of Wong, Turman and Park could prove to be a successful union for Artisan, Marvel and comic book fans.
Principal photography is expected to begin late this year or early next year.