Saturday, December 15, 2018

Marvel News

I mentioned back in April that one possibility for Avengers: Endgame was that Tony Stark would serve as our stand-in for the Uncle Ben moment for Spider-Man. If you think about their dialogue, especially in Homecoming and Infinity War, Tony has taken on a fatherly persona and, given Ben's visible absence, he's the one who could carry that same emotional weight. This theory has suddenly popped up everywhere (Reddit, What, etc). As gratified as I am that others have picked up on it, I still have reservations about it: Peter Parker is already motivated to do good, so unlike the traditional Uncle Ben he doesn't need Tony to provide him with a moral compass (I went through other reasons Tony might die in my speculation article back in October).

Two ideas I came up with after posting my article about the teaser:
1) When discussing possible plans Cap is acting on in the teaser, another could be going into space to rescue Tony is certainly one of them (it's also possible the trailer is cut in such a way that he's discussing what to do after Ant-Man arrives and is aware of the Time Vortexes in the Quantum Realm)
2) Scott Lang is wearing the same outfit in the trailer that matches the leaked photos of him seen running through neighbourhoods during filming--there's no sign of Luis' van in the latter, so it's difficult to place the photos into the timeline

There's something about human nature that attracts us to speculative theories--JFK's assassination, ancient aliens, the Bilderberg Group, etc. When the Avengers: Endgame trailer landed it shook Marvel pundits to the core as it attacked the flash forward/time-jump theory. Our good friend Charlie is doing his best to keep the vestiges of that theory (the five-year gap) alive. The loudest proponents (like Jeremy Conrad) have opted largely for radio silence (I'll get more into that below).

Charlie is, to some extent, a realist in the cited video: there's no denying the scenes of Iron Man and Captain America take place shortly after the Snapture (at most months later, but no more than that and likely much less). This means the film does not and cannot begin years later as the original theory proposed (Conrad's post mocking any other opinion is still up). Regardless, Charlie clings to the flash forward, so how does he do it?

The text on the top left might read: "Strat 1983: Archive" (the year cited is not definitive and I've seen it argued that it actually reads "IS03" or "1503"; if the year is wrong then Charlie's argument, shared by others, completely falls apart). I looked into the acronym and the only "STRAT" that might fit is "Strategic Planning System" (assuming it's something not invented for the MCU). Charlie's logic here is pretty simple: Scott Lang is in 1983 and leaving a message that, for some reason, Cap is replaying in 2018 or 19.

This simple supposition has one basic problem: it includes Luis' van. As I mentioned last time the van did not enter the Quantum Realm with Ant-Man, so what is he doing with it? The van is a 1972 Ford Ecoline, so it certainly exists in 1983, but the only reason Scott Lang would be driving around with it is if it still has the Quantum machine Hank Pym built in the back (as it was at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp). This means the van has to be from that time period or later and not from 1983. So what is Charlie's solution?

His theory is that Ant-Man escapes the Quantum Realm through a Time Vortex (cf Ant-Man and the Wasp) and arrives forward in time. He retrieves the van in the future (it's either unmolested or he's simply able to retrieve it and the machine). He then gets the assistance of a surviving Avenger (Tony Stark or Bruce Banner presumably) who help him figure out how to bring the van with him into the Quantum Realm. Scott then takes the van and somehow lands in 1983, apparently unaware of the fact (how that would be I don't know, but he's clearly unaware because he asks Cap to buzz him in). If he's in 1983, this means has to travel through time again to meet the Avengers in the present of the film Charlie imagines (years later).

To say this is convoluted is putting it mildly. Just to make it clear, here are the steps:
  • 1) Ant-Man escapes the Quantum Realm via a Time Vortex and winds up in the future; keep in mind that we know from Ant-Man that escaping the Quantum Realm only requires him to grow large which (as of Civil War) he can do by simply using the arm bands of his suit (rather than the disk he originally used via Hank Pym)
  • 2) Ant-Man's van/machine are unmolested in that future (either together or separately) and he's able to retrieve both (why he needs the van and not just the machine I have no idea)
  • 3) Someone in the future helps Ant-Man figure out how to use the machine while it remains inside the van
  • 4) Ant-Man uses the machine alone and goes through another Time Vortex, but misses the mark and lands in 1983 where he leaves a message for the Avengers at what would have then been a Stark warehouse (cf Ant-Man)--this odd occurrence goes unremarked at the time, but the recording is preserved for the next 36 years
  • 5) Captain America et al for some reason go through the old security camera footage after the Snapture (how this occurs is beyond me--just imagine the dialogue, "Hey Nat, let's re-watch old recordings from the Stark Warehouse door-cam to drown our sorrows")
  • 6) Ant-Man travels through another Time Vortex (despite Janet Van Dyne's warnings about the danger they pose) to meet the Avengers in whatever present Charlie imagines (the five-year jump perhaps)
This frankly doesn't make much sense. Charlie (and others) are falling victim to confirmation bias: they believe there's a time jump, so they are looking for any and all evidence that can prove it. The idea includes three time jumps by Ant-Man before we truly get into the story (to the future, the past, and then the present). The audience doesn't need an Avenger to 'figure out' the Quantum machine--it's a problem that's already been solved in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

So why do Charlie (and others) have so much attachment to the flash forward theory? It boils down to three things and I'll quickly go through them (they are also discussed here):
  • 1) Casting: THS reported (in a post now removed) that actress Emma Fuhrmann had been cast to play an aged-up version of Cassie Lang (Fuhrmann is 16, while original actress Abby Ryder Forston is 10); this has never been confirmed by anyone else (or denied), unless you count IMDB; subsequently Umberto Gonzalez reported that Katherine Longford was cast in the film in an undisclosed role and Conrad added the rumour that she's playing the adult daughter of Tony and Pepper (how this jives with the notion below of a baby I don't know)--no one else that I've seen has backed this theory; finally, there was a casting call for twins for the film and Conrad believes this could only be for Tony/Pepper's baby (the assumption being no one else in the film would have one)
  • 2) Gwyneth Paltrow comments: she gave an interview for the official magazine leading into Infinity War with this particular quote causing all the fuss: "[N]ow a decade later they're married, and they have a child." People initially jumped all over the 'decade later' part, claiming it meant since the first Avengers (ie 2012), but it's obvious from the context (and simple logic) she meant since the first Iron Man (2008). The married with a child element, however, remains and I'll get into that below
  • 3) Hair styles/custom changes: Cap's shaved beard, Nat's longer red hair with blond tips, Tony's blond hair; along with Hulk's suit in the concept/toy art
Let's deal with #2 first: keeping in mind that Paltrow is not the most mentally balanced human being, during Infinity War her major scene was discussing the wedding with Tony and a hypothetical child--she may well be confused enough to think those two elements were a tangible fact. More simply (and likely) is that Endgame ends with the a marriage and a child--the latter does not require much of a shift forward in time (indeed, it works perfectly well for the film to occur in 2019) and would fit the oft-rumoured scene featuring everyone from the MCU

I think we can quickly dismiss the hair and costume elements (#3) as largely superfluous. The only one that genuinely requires time is Widow's longer hair, but by itself it doesn't mean much (we don't know the context--is it an end credit scene?). The changes themselves are a very normal process of making the film distinct from its predecessor (as well as making it easier to sell new toys/ merchandise).

Finally is the casting (#1): we have no clue who Longford is playing and no secondary confirmation about Fuhrmann. Is it possible the team sees visions of the future? Of course, but that doesn't require time travel (we saw visions in Age of Ultron without that, after all).

Beyond these specifics there are just more and more problems with the idea. Janet Van Dyne warned Scott to avoid the Time Vortexes because they were dangerous and since he doesn't need one to escape the Quantum Realm, why would he use it for that purpose? There's also Nat's response to Cap in the teaser: "It's the front door," which only makes sense in the present (otherwise the response is "yes," because she was asked if its a recording).

The final blow to the underlying premise of a five-year (or at least years) gap is that the film is supposed to start that way (ie forward in time, something professed by both Conrad and his buddy Daniel). The teaser absolutely refutes this. What remains are whatever fragments can be preserved from that idea, but on a story-level there's really no room for 'time passes' once your starting point is the present. The universe is broken and that requires resolution--there's no point in paging Captain Marvel if her arrival doesn't signify immediate help. I want to be clear that I still believe time travel is an important element in the film and the team will undoubtedly use a Time Vortex, I'm only refuting the basic idea that Endgame included a five-year (or similar) gap.


If Aquaman can perform well outside of China, what (if any) impact does that have on the use of Namor in the MCU? I mentioned that the change in tone of the DCEU character (away from Snyder's dark version) helps the MCU by creating space for him to be distinctive, but could Aquaman do so well as to make Namor seem like a pale imitation? I think it might preclude an Atlantis-based storyline (since so much of Aquaman's action seems tied to that), but it was unlikely that would have been the MCU's approach anyway. I still believe that if he appears it will be as an antagonist in other films--The Fantastic Four perhaps, although it could be elsewhere. I forgot, in my previous piece, to mention that the use of Jason Momoa (rather than a blond-haired, blue-eyed actor ala the comics) makes the anticipated Asian race-swap for Namor slightly less of a selling-point (although the odds of a Caucasian actor were always virtually zero since Marvel has so few prominent Asian characters to put on screen--thus the Shang-Chi film).

Amidst the press for Spider-Man into the Spider-verse was this buried comment from Amy Pascal:
I think about crying [should the Sony-Marvel arrangement end]. I can only hope for a future where things work out. I’ve known Kevin since he was Avi’s very, very quiet assistant, who for many years sat in that room listening to us and being so much smarter than any of us without any of us realizing. I will say that working with Marvel has been one of the highlights of my professional career.
There's nothing surprising about Sony wanting to maintain the arrangement with Marvel. The trick will be that Sony wants their films to be part of the MCU and Feige does not. Sony also needs the MCU more than Marvel needs Spider-Man. The MCU can carry on just fine without Sony's properties--with the Fox IP returning, Tom Holland could fade off into Sony's very chaotic sunset until the company has to crawl back to Marvel. In essence, it's much more difficult for Sony to end the arrangement than it is for Marvel and the loss for Sony would be far larger. The negotiations may drag on for awhile, but I fully expect the arrangement to continue.

Speaking of the animated feature, high critical scores and hype have pushed the opening tracking towards 40 million, but it's still hard to imagine the film making much money. With a 90 million budget (excluding marketing) and Aquaman coming out next week, I have to wonder if Sony will actually put sequels/spinoffs into theaters in the future.

As the sun continues to set on the Marvel Netflix shows (oddly enough the starting point not just for this blog but also for Youtube's Midnight's Edge), we've learned that the deal between the two companies means there is a  two-year waiting period from cancellation before the character's can be used again by Disney. In the grand scheme of things this doesn't matter much, but it does mean no Daredevil until 2020 at the earliest. This may not apply to the Punisher (whose show drops in January), as he was not part of the original framework, but I don't imagine the MCU will ever use him, so that's a moot point.

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I just wanted to touch on the ridicule that has been heaped upon both Conrad and his buddy Daniel RPK when some of their loud predictions crashed and burned. Excluding the usual 'mad-on-the-internet' crowd, the vitriol has nothing to do with the duo being wrong, but the fact that they behaved like asshats towards anyone who disagreed with them prior to the trailer. There's no reason for them to act that way and their behaviour is what's made the backlash as strong as it is.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Marvel News

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After what feels like an eternity the teaser for Avengers 4 has finally dropped (roughly a year after the Infinity War teaser). With it we at last had the title reveal: Avengers: Endgame, which doesn't seem to spoil anything (as we'd been told it would).  I, like many people, dismissed that it would be the title precisely because it wasn't a 'mild spoiler' (the Russo's also denied it was the title months ago). Jeremy Conrad, who has made a huge fuss over the title being Annihilation, has decided the title was always in flux and therefore, no error was made. Conrad, it seems, does not make mistakes--I'm not infallible myself, so I'm not sure how that feels.

Speaking of being wrong, thus far it appears that all the trailer leaks were incorrect. There's almost no substance to the teaser at all, opening with Iron Man and Nebula seemingly adrift in space aboard the Benatar (the Guardians ship)--Tony making what he thinks is a last message for Pepper. Many have noted that Tony's outfit and look in this scene echoes that of his from the very first Iron Man. We then briefly revisit Thanos on his farm before heading to the Avengers facility (I'm incredulous at how much fuss people are making over what appears to be a few weeks without lawn maintenance--if you look at previous images it's difficult to detect much change). We then see what looks like Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and Black Widow discussing their plan--as this happens we see among the 'missing' is Shuri (heavily implying she was dusted, which makes sense as her abilities are pretty redundant when included with the OG Avengers). This is followed by the Hawkeye-as-Ronin reveal (an alter-ego we've known about via leaked photos from a year ago); he's being recruited or collected by Black Widow. Cap is seen wearing his Winter Soldier uniform while looking at a picture of Peggy Carter from the first Captain America. The stinger is Ant-Man arriving at the Avengers base, along with Luis' van, and asking to be buzzed in.

And that's the trailer--the meat of it boils down to just two elements (Iron Man believing he's about to die and Captain America getting ready to enact a bold plan--Ant-Man either interrupts the latter or is the genesis of it). There are a few heroes we know are involved in the film that we don't see: Captain Marvel (excluded for the obvious reason that they don't want to distract from her own film), Rocket (the CGI for him may not be finished), and War Machine. How do we know these three are part of the team? Toy leaks in October that confirmed concept art leaked earlier in the year. Overall I think the teaser was good, if not as evocative as the Infinity War teaser (which is understandable given how much more secrecy there is about the plot). The substance of the teaser is quite different from Infinity War except the stinger, which also aims for both comedy and the introduction of a character/s unseen until that moment (the Guardians in the latter case).

What can we glean from this limited material? There's a growing consensus (which I share) that Captain Marvel will find Iron Man in space. I'm guessing much like the Guardians and Thor in Infinity War she will answer a distress call. This isn't required for Carol Danvers--she could arrive on Earth looking for Nick Fury and come to the earth-based Avengers when she can't find him--just as there are others who could rescue Tony in space (such as Valkyrie or Kraglin)--but given that she's space-based and a bigger character than anyone else who could make the rescue, it makes sense. It's likely Nebula knows who Captain Marvel is given that she's Kree (whether the reverse is true is unknown).

From context is appears the heavily rumoured suggestion that Hawkeye's family has been dusted is true (no one else has family to lose, as Cap says in the voice over, even if Bucky and Gamora feel like family to some).

So what is Cap's plan? I think it depends on if this pre-dates Scott Lang's arrival or not. If it does my guess is he wants to find and fight Thanos in order to use the Stones to bring everyone back (what other solution, really, could he have at that point?). Alternatively, he might want to find Tony and rescue him from space (they know that's where he is because he talked to Pepper while on the Q-ship). My guess is the former idea is what's occurring and that the arrival of Ant-Man suddenly opens up new possibilities. Scott arrives with the van that contains the mechanism that opened the doorway into the Quantum Realm for Hank Pym, so the possibility of time travel is suddenly available (a less suicidal route than fighting Thanos in the present).

I've seen a theory that the recording of Ant-Man is from a previous time period (eg), but the evidence for that isn't very strong and what would be the point of him having Luis' van if it's from the past--it needs to be from Ant-Man and the Wasp or it serves no purpose (since it would lack the Quantum Realm device).

That's all I can glean from what was shown, but the teaser does poke holes in the long-cherished five-year gap that Conrad (and others) have been promoting since Infinity War. Let's first acknowledge that there could be trickery in the trailer, but at least on the surface Endgame seems to be happening shortly after the Snapsure--it's difficult to imagine Tony Stark floating in space for any serious length of time (or that his rescue would then include a lengthy return or a 'time passes' moment). It's also highly unlikely Shuri would still be considered 'missing' after years had passed (especially given that the Snap occurs in Wakanda). Scott also says they were in Germany 'a few years ago,' ie, 2016 for Civil War--while this doesn't necessarily pin down the timeframe for Cap, it's suggestive since Lang would have had to make his way to the Avengers building, giving him plenty of time to be aware of current circumstances (ie the time period) and thus he believes it's no later than 2019.

Let's be clear: if the movie opens soon after Infinity War there's no possibility of a time jump. Why? Narrative tension. This is the main reason I've rejected the idea from the start--there's no point in paging Captain Marvel if she's going to take years to arrive or else arrive soon after to no effect--it's just not dramatic.

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CCXP, the massive convention in Brazil, has brought us our first footage from Spider-Man: Far From Home. Sony has not publicly released the footage, so we're reduced to descriptions from those who saw it. The footage has greatly clarified the plot, which seems to refute both leaks from back in May (one on Reddit and one on 4Chan). The plot seems to be: Nick Fury recruits Spider-Man while on his class trip in Europe and joins him with hero Mysterio. They are facing off against elemental powers that seem to mimic Sandman, Hydro-Man, and Molten Man (confirming toy leaks in September); we cannot be sure yet if this is the Sandman (ie William Baker). The assumption is that Mysterio is either secretly a villain or becomes one through this process (he could go through a Mordo-like arc ala Doctor Strange).

None of these villains are known as Dmitri, and we know that Numan Acar is playing a character with that name via Deadline in July. If he is Chameleon, as speculated, it's difficult to see where he fits into the film.

Also confirmed is that, at least for Sony, Fury counts as an A-list Avenger (the deal they made with Marvel was that an A-lister would appear in the Spider-Man films). There's no suggestion any bigger name is slated for the film. There's an implication from this--Peter Parker is Tony Stark's surrogate son, so where is Tony in all this? It adds some fuel to the fire that Iron Man won't survive Endgame.

Footage of Captain Marvel was also shown at CCXP--this hasn't been released either, but we have descriptions to work with. The bulk of the footage simply expands on the scene above where Carol Danvers is captured by Talos (leader of the Skrulls); it shows her escaping.

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There's some static coming from The South China Morning Post (an English daily in Hong Kong which has a long and colourful history you can read here--it understandably has very limited circulation) about Marvel's plan for a Shang-Chi film (consisting of lazy journalism, which is no surprise--see below). The gist is:
An angry Chinese public is accusing Marvel Studios of insulting China after learning that its first Asian superhero on the big screen will be the son of Fu Manchu, the offensive fictional character who has become a shorthand for racial stereotyping
Let's keep in mind that the 'angry public' cited includes just three direct quotes from China's version of Twitter (two against and one for). The objection isn't even to Shang-Chi, but his association with Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu (who first appeared in 1912), originally his father. If your first thought is 'why not just eliminate Fu Manchu from the story,' then you've arrived at a solution Marvel has already come to (the comics changed his father to Zheng Zu in 2010). Because of how little known the character is there's really no pressure to stick to any of Shang-Chi's lore regardless. I still have no idea how you make this work as a movie, but who is father is won't be what makes or breaks it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Marvel News

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The Captain Marvel trailer dropped and it had two related purposes: 1) clarify the plot of the film since the teaser apparently confused many (my guesses from the teaser were reasonably on-target), 2) introduce Captain Marvel in preparation for her appearance in Avengers 4. There isn't a lot of new material in the trailer vs the teaser, but the plot is spelled out: Carol Danvers is found by the Kree having lost her memories; the Kree alter her, giving her increased power and longer life; she's caught up in the war between the Kree and Skrulls when she comes to earth and her memories begin to return; Nick Fury helps her recover those memories and it seems as though part of her journey is rejecting her old Kree allies (Yon-Rogg et al) as she resolves the conflict. The trailer was better than the teaser (a general sentiment from what I can tell), but still not in the upper echelon of recent trailers (ala Thor: Ragnarok etc). I'm still getting used to Brie Larson's voice as Danvers (the clipped nature of trailers makes it harder for it to impact me), and while the final affects shown aren't quite as clunky some seen in Black Panther (the fight in the heart of Wakanda and, to a lesser extent, part of the car chase in Korea), I think there's room for refinement. On the whole, however, I think what was shown accomplished what it needed too.

The trailer seems to have ended a feud of sorts between fans--there were complaints about the teaser that Captain Marvel didn't smile/seem happy. This complaint lead to journalists talking about how rarely other characters smiled in promotional material and saying the property was being held to a double standard. Whatever you think the truth is, the marketing folks for the MCU had no interest in fighting the good fight (if that's what that is), nor did the MCU want to go full Ghostbusters or Star Wars and wage war on part of the fanbase, so we see Brie Larson enjoying herself in at least part of the trailer and understand why she's so taciturn otherwise.

You can knock me over with a feather--the David Callahan script we heard about a month ago is for... Shang-Chi? Deadline reports the movie is being fast-tracked (see below) as Disney chases Black Panther money (!; the two properties aren't remotely comparable in terms of their background or their relative impact). Added to the character's obscurity is the difficulty is making a martial arts movie work at the box office. Can the MCU do it? It's possible, but Callahan needs to have one hell of a script to make it happen. I briefly discussed the character back in October, but dismissed him getting his own movie because of how dead the genre is (not martial arts itself--the niche is fine and MMA is very popular--but the the films as popular entertainment--arguably there have been no big hits in the last twenty-years (Rush Hour 2 made the most money at 226 million in 2001, which is 322 in 2018 dollars--just slightly more than an adjusted Incredible Hulk). To summarize the hurdles for this film:
  • No one has ever heard of Shang-Chi (this didn't matter for Guardians of the Galaxy, but that's a very different property); his very pedestrian nature was made clear when news about the film didn't trend in North America (or Australia, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, or Japan--after which I stopped checking--this is unlike Captain Marvel whose trailer trended worldwide)
  • His gimmick (martial arts) is generic and common--most MCU characters use martial arts
  • He's Chinese, not "Asian" (or even "Southeast Asian")--being Chinese does not automatically make him appealing throughout Asia
  • There's nothing particularly interesting about his comicbook history; he had stereotypical adventures during the martial arts boom of the 70s/early 80s, but then his comic died and he became a periodic bit player for other, more popular. heroes (never experiencing the renaissance of Iron Fist had ten years ago, for example)
These are all surmountable obstacles, but it's one hell of a mountain to climb. I think he absolutely needs an established character appearing in his film (Doctor Strange would be an obvious choice, but the MCU may want to steer clear of that given the 'controversy' surrounding the first film--and just using Wong would not count as a meaningful addition). Someone this obscure needs at minimum a lead-in from another movie (Black Widow?). The A-list character would participate ala Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming or Hulk in Thor: Ragarok. I take these elements as absolutely necessary for Shang-Chi to succeed as one would expect an MCU-movie to succeed (I have to think one of the lessons learned from Ant-Man and the Wasp is that adding lesser-known characters to a franchise does not give it the boost that adding established characters does).

A final point: why the fast-track? There's no fan demand for this, so why is the MCU in such a hurry?  I've seen arguments that Marvel is aiming hard for the Chinese audience, but they already do incredibly well in China. What I think is going on is related to what I talked about before: putting out three films in 2020. Let's briefly recap the situation:
  • 1) Guardians of the Galaxy 3 was moved from 2020, leaving the MCU with just Black Widow and The Eternals on their slate
  • 2) Disney wants at least three MCU films a year (supposition on my part, but a safe one)
  • 3) With such a short turn around (less than two years) any effects-heavy or star-heavy project is impossible (the former due to time, the latter due to commitments)
A character like Shang-Chi (with his lore) is both inexpensive and relatively quick to do, so what I think happened is that the idea of a film for the character has been floating around the MCU for quite some time, but the sudden need to hurry out a title in 2020 is what pulled the trigger. Perhaps they'll include Namor in the film (he's often fan-cast as an Asian character), although despite his lengthy history I don't think he has enough cache to bring people in (it could be the same problem as adding Wasp to Ant-Man--the addition of an unknown to a small property doesn't boost it). It'll be interesting to watch developments as the project unfolds.

The theory that Thanos is in the past on Titan (via an image of concept art that came out; Kinda Culty presented this theory awhile ago and I included it in my discussion of Avengers 4) was debunked at the Collider Q&A. The idea never made much sense to me as it seemed very ancillary to the main thrust of the plot.

Andre has posted a video about the Netflix cancellations of its Marvel shows and rightly points to corporate politics as the reason--that Netflix does not want the shows to act as support to Disney's rival streaming service. The only thing in the video that I question is the idea that the viewership numbers of Luke Cage and Iron Fist season two are lower--as I pointed out at the time that information comes from Business Insider which had the same opinion of Daredevil season three and then had to back off that when they got hold of better data (trying to measure social media impact was not a great indicator of viewership). All that really matters, as Andre points out, is that Disney is a competitor and Netflix has no interest in helping them.

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I haven't seen anyone talk about the fate of the remaining Marvel Entertainment TV properties (ie, Agents of Shield, The Runaways, and Cloak & Dagger), now that the MCU-proper is entering that sphere. I think it goes without saying that all properties that were not created through Kevin Feige don't 'count' and are therefore not part of the MCU. While there's theoretical creative space to bring at least the latter two shows into the fold, I don't expect that to be the case as Feige has shown no inclination to play ball with Ike Perlmutter's part of the Marvel Universe.

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For quite some time Jeremy Conrad and his buddy Daniel RPK (passim) have been putting out vague rumours--eventually they claimed the Avengers 4 trailer would be part of a good week for Marvel. The pair got scooped by John Campea of all people (who, to my recollection, hasn't had a correct scoop in years), who provided tangible dates for its release as well as the Captain Marvel trailer. The tendency of the aforementioned duo to put out vague rumours has managed to get all such banned from Marvel's subreddit. Conrad, incredibly, was whining on Twitter that some 'small site' had scooped he and Daniel prior to Campea putting out the information--Conrad basically pulled a Campea on someone smaller than himself--which does not paint him in a positive light.

To go further into this for a moment: the big scoop this week wasn't when the trailer would drop (we all knew it would be around the same time as the Infinity War teaser last year), but that Shang-Chi was in development. No one had this news--not Conrad, not Daniel RPK, not Umberto Gonzalez, etc. THS had the scoop about the writer (link above), but with no idea what he was working on. I bring this up because I want to illustrate just how rare such scoops are--Conrad's whole site is based on one scoop (The Eternals; he may have the A4 title correct as well, but that's still to be determined); Umberto's last was simply Catherine Longford being cast in Avengers 4 without knowing who she was playing; Daniel hasn't had anything MCU-related that I'm aware of; we can also cross off Derek Cornell (The Disney Insider) as a valid source as his rumour about a new Guardians 3 director has been debunked. Since I started this blog THS has had the best track record, although as I pointed out last time they have issues as well.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Marvel News

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The cancellation of Daredevil confirms my theory that Netflix is both getting out of the Marvel business and that Marvel is getting the characters back. What's the evidence? On the simplest level Netflix has cancelled three of their five shows, each after well-reviewed (or at least better-reviewed) and received seasons. It seems clear that this is part of Netflix's push to emphasize content they fully control (such as Witcher and other properties). As for the second element of my theory, just like with Iron Fist's cancellation, the press release for Daredevil mentioned the character will continue to appear for Marvel--this can only mean in television or film, so where else could that be but in the MCU? Marvel always retained some level of control over the IP as Netflix had to pay licensing fees to use the characters each season (this may explain the stubborn refusal to have actual Hellcat in Jessica Jones).

What does this mean for the remaining Netflix characters? Once The Punisher's second season (and Jessica Jones' third) drop they will also be cancelled. It also means there's no hope that the actors who portray these characters will be used again--the MCU doesn't like brand confusion and Kevin Feige doesn't want to have others involved in creative control (thus the refusal to let Sony's films be part of the MCU and his many fights with Ike Perlmutter).

Let's be clear about the timing of this and what it means: the cancelled characters are immediately available for use by Marvel. Given that, at any time (either on Disney's streaming service or the movies) we could see MCU-versions of these characters. I doubt there's any rush to do so, but it will be interesting to see what happens with them going forward. There is a theory that Marvel will do nothing with the characters for corporate reasons (as in, Disney does not want to promote Netflix by using characters whose shows they will continue to air). Those pushing this narrative skip the important clarification that comes with this idea:
And if they did, they’d be starting over from scratch creatively, like Sony ditching the Andrew Garfield movies for Tom Holland as Spider-Man
The negative approach is specific to Netflix-versions of the characters, not the IP itself. This is exactly what I'd expect--new actors, a new beginning, and done differently. The Netflix heroes were portrayed, generally, by older actors; the material was mature; the aesthetic dark. With Disney's edict for only PG-13 material (look at all the hoops Deadpool and Venom are going through attempting to adhere to this), we'll get lighter versions. Unrelated to this restriction I think there's no chance we ever see Jessica Jones again (the attempted reboot of her comic failed after 18-issues and Netflix has done virtually all her material already). Netflix experiments with Danny Rand and Luke Cage likely mean that if they ever appear again it will be as the lighthearted duo (Heroes for Hire) rather than with their own IP. The situation with Daredevil is very different, as Netflix resurrected the character as a viable property and he's the only hero that I think will definitely appear at some point (a more comic-accurate version, assuredly). As for Frank Castle, I don't think the MCU will touch him.

Netflix has also provided some lessons-learned for secondary characters: revitalizing Karen Page, making Turk work and not be just a bumbling stereotype, showing how not to do Elektra, creating the definitive Purple Man (ie, Kilgrave), etc. Whether any of these characters will make the transition to the MCU is an open question, but there's a lot to take away from how they were handled by Netflix.

Rumours have been swirling for quite some time that Jude Law's character in Captain Marvel is not Captain Mar-Vell (as originally reported), but noted villain Yon-Rogg (who accidentally gives Carol Danvers her powers in the comics); a toy leak has confirmed this idea. The decision makes a lot of sense--it avoids the very complicated backstory that goes with Carol picking up the mantel from her dead Kree lover (there's no doubt that the MCU wants to avoid multiple instances with that name as well as having her being derivative of a male character). It also clarifies why Captain Marvel is part of a Kree group that are villains in the comics (the toys spoil her Kree name: Vers, which has no comic-cognate, and was undoubtedly picked simply as a play off her last name). If Yon-Rogg and his cohorts are villains, how does that mesh with the Skrulls being the primary antagonists of the film? It seems like she'll have two separate sets of villains to deal with. Given that Ronan and Korath are the only remaining members of that group I think the odds of Yon-Rogg etc surviving the film are slim.

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Back when I posted my Avengers 4 Speculation article I mentioned that, unlike most people, I did not think Captain America was going to die in the film. That went against the overwhelming majority of theories out there who, due to Evans' contract situation and some ambiguous comments from the actor thought he was done. The Russo's have stirred the pot in my direction by saying Chris Evans is not done playing the character after that film--this hasn't prevented Charlie (the link) and others from bending over backwards to explain this away and continue to hold the opinion that he's going to die. He could still die and make appearances, and we have to keep in mind that the Russo's could be trolling or doing damage control from Evans Tweet not long ago, but the simplest explanation is that he doesn't die. As I've mentioned previously, Evans is only thirty-seven and is enormously popular--why on earth would you kill him off?

Jeremy Conrad believes the 'Karen' and 'Piper' characters we learned of through casting calls will be teased in Avengers 4. There's no reason to doubt that The Eternals will be teased prior to their own film and this is the only one where that makes sense (neither Spider-Man nor Black Widow are auspicious debuts for the ancient god-like characters).

THS as a Source

I've used That Hashtag Show as a source before and have mentioned that caution needs to be used when using their scoops (their speculation should simply be ignored). We may have reason to add more hesitation with their content, because there seems to be differences between the casting sheet THS put out (link above) versus the the plot description they offered back in October. Let's repeat the latter just to go through the issues:
The story of ‘THE ETERNALS’ is set millions of years ago when the cosmic beings known as the Celestials genetically experimented on humans, creating the super-powered individuals as well as more villainous off-shoots known as Deviants. The two groups went on to battle each other throughout history to see which would eventually become the ultimate race. The story involves the love story between Ikaris, a man fueled by cosmic energy, and Sersi, who relishes moving amongst humans.
Both Ikaris and Sersi appear in the casting call, but neither are called the lead ('Male lead' and 'Piper get that honour) and there are no Deviants at all. We could push the interpretation and say that the other two characters are leads but simply not called that on the sheet--it's possible--but the absence of the Deviants does make me wonder if this blurb is real. The above is, in many ways, simply a description of the comic series.

The other issue from THS is that they (along with most other sites and people like Charlie), accepted the fake Black Widow film description via the aborted 2004 film from Lionsgate--this was debunked very recently.

This isn't to say we should completely ignore the site--they do get real scoops and are especially good with Netflix material (unfortunately for them something that's largely trivial now), but simply that we should treat them with caution (the casting stuff they get generally turns out, but the plot descriptions are where things get sketchy).


My theory about the MCU wanting a Greek god character in response to the DCEU's Wonder Woman seems right (I say in response because Marvel doesn't have a truly popular Greek character in the comics that you'd feel like 'oh, s/he should definitely appear'). While Hercules (or whoever it is) may seem like a logical inclusion in The Eternals, he was not part of that brand in either iteration of the comic.

The DCEU isn't the only company rushing to take advantage of the MCU removing their July, 2020, movie from the slate (by shifting Wonder Woman 1984 to June). Sony has announced their own July film (almost certainly Morbius due to scheduling, as it begins production in February). I still have a hard time believing the MCU will only have two films in 2020, incidentally (particularly two riskier properties in Black Widow and The Eternals), so don't be surprised if a third gets added.

A final Sony note: I haven't talked about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at all because it's an animated movie and about as far removed from the MCU as possible. However, one of the stranger things going on with the film is its box office tracking: for a movie that cost 90 million to make, tracking for a 25-30 million opening has to be worrying (despite increasing over earlier numbers putting it in the 17-27 range). Press coverage has been overwhelming positive so we'll see how that impacts its release (just a week before Aquaman and Mary Poppins, which can't bode well).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Marvel News

THS has released character breakdowns for the film and these are incredibly vague:
  • Main villain is simply described as “exciting” and the studio is open to ethnicity, but looking for someone in their 40s
  • A “kick ass” female character described as a “female Bond” late 20s/early 30s
  • A male with an emphasis on African, Middle Eastern or East Indian actors late 20s/early 30s
  • One European Caucasian female and one European Caucasian male, both in the 50-60 year old range
  • Actress in her 50s to play a smaller, villainous role. The character was only briefly described as a “conniving female villian”
  • Minor role described as a “bookish American” in his late 20s
The only takeaway from this that I can see is that all of these are all new characters--which is not a surprise--although if this is indeed a prequel (see below) we're going to run into a problem where if one of the new characters is a hit how do you truly capitalize on using them in subsequent movies? That's one of the many issues with prequels in my opinion--so many things are lost if they are done well (look at how hard Wonder Woman is bending over backwards to bring Steve Trevor back for the sequel).

Discussing Film (link via Conrad) has revealed that the Black Widow prequel description going around is in fact fake, taken from a 2004 cancelled Black Widow movie involving David Hayter. Conrad still believes the film will be a prequel, but his belief is that it will be centered on Y2K--a bizarre choice in my opinion (what story beat does that serve other than minor name recognition for a certain age demographic?). I'm much happier that the aforementioned concept is busted because it reignites my faint hope that the film is either not a prequel or at least not entirely so.

With that said, I have been wondering what they can do to spice up the film if we are stuck with a prequel. Her past (in broad strokes) is already well-understood, but friends of mine suggested that it might instead be something that was hushed up. My initial objection to that idea is that it seems unlikely Natasha would stay quiet unless Nick Fury was involved and swore her to secrecy (her personal connection to him is pretty clear in Winter Soldier). If these past deeds are indeed under wraps, what could they be that's movie-worthy? Namor and Atlantis would fit the bill (already hinted at in an Iron Man 2 easter egg--I discuss him appearing in the MCU here--it would be an odd place to debut him, albeit any of the male calls could describe him). It could also touch on either Mutants or the Fantastic Four. I think it has to be something big, because if all we're going to get is an exploration of the Red Room via Age of Ultron (or Budapest via The Avengers) it's just retreading territory which is a poor way to sell your film. I'm all for another film with a Winter Soldier feel, but I don't want to have the result of what's occurring already well understood.

It's been confirmed that Captain Marvel (the character) is being based on Kelly Sue DeConnick's run--this comes as no surprise as DeConnick is the one who made her 'Captain' Marvel in the first place (her run on the comic lasted 32 issues, 2012-15) and established her as an iconic Marvel character. We also now know that the film is set in 1995. What significance the year will have is unknown.

Incidentally, I mentioned back in May about the speculation that Monica Rambeau will appear in the film and meant to follow-up it up now that we know the answer to that question. At the time I thought it was odd introducing the character since that meant it was unlikely she could appear in a sequel, but now we know it's Maria Rambeau who is appearing (likely in a small role), such that her daughter (Monica) can appear subsequently. This is a smart choice in terms of anticipating a supporting character going forward without having awkward time travel explanations to do so. Most won't be familiar with the character (I wasn't), but she's kicked around Marvel for a long time (1982) without ever establishing herself enough to have a comic run of her own. She wasn't always attached to Carol Danvers and it's DeConnick who began the association in 2012.

THS is reporting that The Eternals production start date is tentatively September, 2019. It's important to note that the source is only providing that information and that the rest of the THS article is simply their own speculation (which, as I've gone over before, is generally terrible; Conrad also excises the latter portion).

THS subsequently offered the character lineup and it's huge, although the information is sparse for most of them:
  • Karen: Actress in her early 30s. Open to any nationality or ethnicity particularly Middle Eastern, African and Native American. Powerful, a timeless quality, a leader. Warm, nurturing and intuitive. Should have an international/timeless feel. My feeling is that the role seems to have been invented for the film.
  • Male Lead: Described only as a Greek God. THS wonders if this is Hercules (I think it's plausible--I talked about the possibility of the MCU using him here).
  • Druig: the presumed villain who first appeared in Eternals #11 in 1977. Though he was a Kirby creation, THS says he gained notoriety after his appearance in Neil Gaiman’s 2000’s Eternals revival.
  • Piper: The studio is looking to cast a lead female, 10-16 years old of any nationality or ethnicity. Strong, charismatic presence with a magnetic personality. Wise beyond her years, articulate and quick-witted. Natural acting ability and some type of athletic background a plus. THS believes this character is a new take on the Eternal known as Sprite.
  • Elysisus: An actress, 20-40, for the role--Elysius is an artificial being created by ISAAC, the sentient computer system of Titan.
  • Forgotten One: The studio is looking for a male, ages 25-45, to play the Forgotten One, aka Gilgamesh (who first appeared in Eternals #13).
  • Ikaris: A male, 20-40.
  • Makkari: A male, 25-45.
  • Sersi: A female, 20-40.
  • Starfox: The brother of Thanos--male, 25-45.
  • Thena: Actress 20-40.
  • Zuras: the character is male, but THS doesn't include any call sheet information for him.
THS notes the absence of the Deviants, which doesn't necessarily mean they won't be included, but does indicate a very reduced role if they are. This is a massively overstuffed cast if they were all key characters, but instead I think most of the above are secondary--the male lead (perhaps Hercules) and 'Piper' seem to be the actual leads facing off against Druig.

We all recall that we were told the title of Avengers 4 would be a 'mild spoiler.' If that title is "Annihilation," what is the spoiler? The most likely reference is the Annihilation event, Keith Giffen's 2006 miniseries which culminates in Thanos' death. It's primarily a Nova story and nearly all the specifics don't mesh with what the MCU is doing, so I have to think it's the latter element which is the spoiler (if there is one). Conrad believes the title has changed twice already (from Infinity Gauntlet to Endgame to Annihilation), which means that 'spoiler' might refer to either of the other two titles (if his speculation is correct). Most speculation about the fourth film is derived from that original title (you can read the conventional thinking and my own here), the other title ('Endgame') doesn't have a comicbook history that I'm aware of.

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Derek Cornell is reporting that Bumblebee director Travis Knight is being considered to helm Guardians of the Galaxy 3. I'm unfamiliar with Cornell, who claims an inside source, but Knight is exactly the kind of guy I'd expect to be willing to pick up James Gunn's legacy and finish it off (he's not a big name and can work under difficult circumstances, ie Michael Bay)--most directors, out of respect for Gunn, won't touch his baby (especially as they would be held to his script). Whether it's Knight or someone else, Marvel has a reasonable amount of time to pick a director if the reported production date of February, 2021, is correct.

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There's a rumour that a Groot and Rocket show will be coming to the Disney streaming service. The two certainly fit the format and would generate a lot of excitement, but given that both are CGI I have to wonder if it fiscally makes sense to do so. If it is true it means Feige doesn't think the duo can carry a movie by themselves (which I agree with, incidentally).

The legal hurdles to the acquisition of Fox continue to fall as both the EU and China have approved the deal. Everything is on schedule for this to be wrapped up sooner than later.

The success of Venom (780 million, putting it on par with the first Deadpool and ahead of the following recent superhero films: Ant-Man and the Wasp, Deadpool 2, Justice League, Logan, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse) has Sony doubling down on its Sonyverse, setting aside two dates for untitled films in 2020 (July and October, specifically). Speculation is that these consist of the Morbius movie along with a Venom sequel--this is almost certainly the case as no other rumoured films are anywhere close to actual production. Conrad (link I used) makes an assertion that I agree with:
As for the question of how this affects Spider-Man, it probably doesn’t. If anything Sony realizes how much money Spidey being in the MCU makes them, and they’ll probably want to try to get their movies side-loaded into the MCU somehow. It isn’t so much about forcing Spider-Man out of the MCU, but crossing their movies over with the MCU money bin.
Ever since Amy Pascal's awkward attempt at shoving Sony content into the MCU, I think that's been the wish: to have Sony's Marvel material associated with the MCU rather than taking the character back. I'm not sure Feige has any interest in doing that, given that he's given Marvel Entertainment (all the TV shows) a cold shoulder right from the outset. Incidentally, I haven't seen Venom, but I get the feeling it's soaking up some of the Transformer audience, particularly internationally (fans who like big, loud, over the top films that aren't that serious).

Stray Observations

I was a bit surprised to see Campea take shots at Jeremy Conrad (without naming him); in trying to figure out why (he absolutely knows who Conrad is since he broke The Eternals scoop), it might be because he's friends with people at Slash Film whose Peter Sciretta is apparently feuding with Conrad. Ultimately this doesn't matter other than it's juvenile behaviour from Campea.

A brief comment on people like Conrad or the guys at THS: you may be wondering why such small sites get the scoops they do--especially given that they are superfans rather than journalists or former insiders. It's not just that they know people in the industry, but rather that they play ball with their corporate masters (in this case, Disney). Both produce an inordinate amount of positive Star Wars content (Jeremy on Twitter, THS generally) and this makes them worthy. It's important to note that the kinds of scoops given to them are never negative and that if Disney wanted to turn the tap off they could easily do so.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Marvel News

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Variety is reporting that a Winter Soldier-Falcon series is in the works and unlike the others that have been reported this one has a writer attached (Malcolm Spellman). This continues the phenomena of secondary characters from MCU Phases One and Two being shifted over to the streaming service. It doesn't necessarily mean they won't appear in movies after Avengers 4, but it does suggest that they will have a much smaller presence, such that the upcoming movies will truly be a watershed moment for who we see on screen going forward.

It's worth noting that all of the characters appearing on the streaming service confirms they will never have their own films. This isn't particularly surprising--none of the characters we've heard about thus far have been able to support their own comic for any length of time--but it does indicate that Phase Four will radically reduce the number of current MCU characters appearing (making space not just for new characters, but for the Fox properties). I have to wonder if future Ant-Man material will also be put on the streaming service. It's interesting that none of the actors involved are among the older in the MCU (no 54-year old Don Cheadle, 53-years young RDJ, or 51 year-old Mark Ruffalo, although 71-year old Sam Jackson has been rumoured); granted I doubt that's truly a factor in these decisions.

One other thing the above story tangentially confirms is that neither co-star will be replacing Captain America (as has been speculated many times)--even Charlie has figured this out--such that if Chris Evans leaves the role they won't be picking up the shield (a smart decision--Disney won't want brand confusion). My contention remains that Cap survives.

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Speaking of the shows, Peter Sciretta is reporting that Vision is meant to not only appear in Scarlet Witch's show, but have a large role and possibly costar with her. The inclusion of Vision suggests one of two things: Shuri backed up his mind on her computer or that Avengers 4 will undo his death somehow (it would fit my theory that the team goes back in time to prevent Thanos from ever assembling the Infinity Gauntlet).

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With so many shows coming to Disney's streaming service, all of which directly connect to the MCU, I have to wonder what the fate of Marvel TV outside of that is. There's no question that Kevin Feige wants to have a hand in anything happening within the MCU and that hasn't been the case outside of Agent Carter. It's generally understood that The Gifted and Legion will have no attachment to the future and broadly accepted that the Netflix shows are also unrelated. What about those on ABC, Hulu, and Freeform? To me it's been clear for a very long time that Agents of SHIELD is irrelevant to Feige (it's final season wraps this year regardless), but what about The Runaways and Cloak & Dagger? I believe that these will also be put on the pyre of Jeph Loeb and allowed to burn away in some alternate universe while Feige spreads his wings into an integrated television sphere. If I'm right I suspect Disney will want to jettison these non-canonical shows sooner than later (to avoid brand confusion). If anything is to be retained I fully expect some sort of crossover with Disney's service, but I don't think Feige is going to accept something he wasn't fully involved with creatively.

Just broadly, putting aside my own attachment to the Netflix shows, it makes sense to have one creative head for all the MCU. Splitting it between Feige and Loeb over at Marvel Entertainment never made much sense.

Related to this, Screen Rant is loudly proclaiming that Daredevil season three's viewership numbers are down 57%. Given that they have no access to Netflix's data, how do they arrive at this conclusion? Via a social media study from Jumpshot (whose data only covers the US audience). I'd take this with a grain of salt. It's probable that the numbers are down, but affixing any kind of number to it this way seems pretty reckless. If the show is in decline (probable), I don't think the primary factor is the quality of shows, but rather that we were sold on 'it's all connected' only to learn that it's not connected. This massively hurts viewer investment (part of the reason why AoS never found heavy traction on ABC either). Netflix refused to even try to CW itself by making the shows more self-integrated. We are, it seems, in the final death spiral of this glorious experiment.

[An update to this story: Business Insider is reporting that Daredevil season three is the most 'in demand' streaming show of the week (as measured by Parrot Analytics, which uses Demand Expressions as its data).]

Jeremy Conrad is re-confirming the title of the movie (Annihilation) as well as saying the trailer will drop in November (he doesn't source the latter, but it apparently comes from trailer production leaks that were loosely echoed in the most recent, and almost certainly fake, trailer description).

I've been thinking about Avengers 4, in part inspired by another toy leak (showing concept art). Not only does it confirm an earlier toy leak (from early October) showing Thor and Rocket in uniforms reminiscent of Hank Pym's from Ant-Man and the Wasp (ie, intended for the Quantum Realm), but it also reconfirms the concept art that leaked earlier in the year showing Thanos in his armour and carrying a massive sword. The latter image is a curious one for me, because with the Gauntlet Thanos needs neither a sword nor his armour. This suggests two possibilities: 1) the Avengers are powerful enough that the Gauntlet alone isn't enough (I don't believe this to be the case, but if we buy into the Avengers building their own Gauntlet it's possible), 2) Thanos no longer has a functioning Gauntlet and/or doesn't have all the Stones anymore (this fits my speculation).

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Executive producer Michael Grillo (no relation to Frank) has revealed that the Ancient One, long rumoured to appear in Avengers 4 (courtesy of the always talkative Mark Ruffalo), will indeed do so. Grillo said the actress only had availability for "one day," meaning it can't be more than a cameo. What sort of cameo is hard to say, since she dies in Doctor Strange, but if Ruffalo shared a scene with her clearly it involves the Hulk in some way.

The last few weeks have variously confirmed and denied various rumours I covered in my Avengers 4 speculation article. We've had Frank Grillo confirming what he himself hinted over a year ago, then deny it (he might simply be trolling since he wasn't happy with his character's death in Civil War, but I think if that was the case Marvel would officially end the rumours); Aaron-Taylor Johnson (Quicksilver) largely denying an appearance (albeit there's ambiguity with what he said); and the Swinton confirmation above. None of this, really, tells us much about the film, although Conrad claims it won't be three hours long.

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Conrad is reporting that a Hawkeye/Kate Bishop show or movie is in some kind of internal development (echoing his own rumour from back in June). He's not confident enough to say it will happen or where, but he is confident enough to talk about it being in development. I think such a story has no chance to be a feature film--Black Widow is already pushing the envelope of what can work as a superhero outing--but it would be a very cheap (in relative terms) TV show to make (the CW's Arrow has had seven seasons after all).

Unknown Marvel Film

THS is reporting writer David Callahan has been hired to write a script for an upcoming film, but they aren't sure which, other than not Black Widow, The Eternals, or Black Panther 2 (all three already have announced writers). THS speculation is notoriously wrong, but they throw out Doctor Strange 2 and Young Avengers as possibilities (the former is unlikely, as director Scott Derrickson likes working with writer C. Robert Cargill).

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Conrad is reporting a rumour that the role Katherine Longford is playing is that of the adult daughter of the Stark's and, therefore, basically a cameo without a future in the MCU (or so he implies). It's certainly plausible to have a 'name' actor in a limited role like this (Matt Damon did it in Thor: Ragnarok), but since this is a rumour about a rumour, we'll have to wait for more information to come out. Conrad's idea--of a fully adult daughter being sacrificed by the Avengers to defeat Thanos--would be a much more interesting sacrifice than his earlier narrative of them giving up a kid (as I mentioned when critiquing this idea, what's preventing them from having the kid once things are fixed?).

Speaking of rumours, there are a bunch of clickbait articles floating around right now about Namor because Kevin Feige was asked about him and his vague response was given far more weight than it should (his paraphrased answer was "Namor could make an appearance, still deciding IF & when"). This is no different from what we've heard before. Awhile ago, when I thought we were getting Zack Snyder's darker version of Aquaman from the DCEU, the likelihood of Marvel's Atlantian appearing (because of his similar profile and the rights situation with Universal) was slim. However, given that Joss Whedon and James Wan have shifted the character into a lighthearted surfer dude, there's suddenly space for the brooding, antihero that is Namor. I very much doubt he'll get his own film, but he could easily make appearances in The Fantastic Four or Black Panther (as I previously went through).

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I've been a voice in the wilderness for quite some time in saying X-Men: Dark Phoenix is unlikely to ever be released. Apparently my voice is not alone anymore however, as I stumbled across a Captain Midnight video from mid-August (prior to its date shift to the summer) making the same assertion. He makes one point I did not which is worth repeating: while shelving the movie (or burying it) is expensive, compared to the value of the brand itself the cost is negligible (fans might have a hard time believing it, but prior to the MCU the Avengers were a B-brand compared to the X-Men). This is also why New Mutants (whose reshoots still haven't happened) is something I think will never appear.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)