Monday, October 15, 2018

Speculating on Future MCU Characters

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With the Fox properties on their way back to the MCU I was thinking about other characters who might be coming to screens--those not currently confirmed and not part of the Fox deal. We'll exclude anyone already announced as on their way or directly hinted at (no Eternals, who include characters like Starfox and Sersi; no Adam Warlock or Nova; I also consider Kamala Khan a lock who simply required Captain Marvel before she could appear). To create this list I went through various lists dealing with this exact topic as doing my own research looking at popular heroes. I've listed them in order of their first appearance, with the year in brackets, and included any ongoing series they've had (those in green have had significant rumours about them or already been introduced in some informal capacity):

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Namor (1939; 1968-74, 1990-95, and 2010-11) - because Universal owns his distribution rights (they were last working on a project for him in 2006), he's not going to get his own film (despite rumours), but he's heavily associated with both the Fantastic Four and (to a lesser extent) Black Panther, so I could imagine him appearing in their films. I've excluded his original comic run in the 1930s, incidentally.

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Black Knight (1955) - putting aside his original iteration in the 1950s and his villainous descendant, the hero (Dane Whitman) has a connection to Sersi (of the Eternals), but he's never been able to support his own book--instead he's been part of teams like the Avengers. He has a pretty unique hook (the knight motif) that the MCU hasn't covered yet, so he's a distinct possibility (he'd also work on television).

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Wonder Man (1964; 1991-94) - there was a deleted scene in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with Nathan Fillion in the role, but because it was deleted he's not officially in the MCU yet. Simon Williams has spent most of his time as a roleplayer with the Avengers and, as such, would only appear in a group context and I'm not sure what niche he'd fill for the MCU. Without James Gunn to advocate for him, I don't think he's likely.

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Hercules (1965; 2008-10, 11-12) - a long time hero who generally serves as either support in a group (like the Avengers) or as second banana to Thor; if he appears I think it's most likely in the latter's context and there might be some push within the MCU to have Greek gods represented since Wonder Woman serves that same niche in DC.

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Blade (1973; 1994-95, 2006-07) - with the popular film 20-years ago you'd think bringing him back to screen would be a slam dunk, but it's worth noting that the popularity of both vampires and ninjas has declined severely in the interim and it's difficult to see where an edgy character like Blade could work in the MCU; he'd fit easily on Netflix, but Marvel isn't cooperating with them, so I'm not sure what will happen (rumours for him can be found here).


Shang-Chi (1973; 1974-83) - while he's a popular name for journalists to drop as TV-fodder, as a character born out of the Martial Arts craze of the 1970s he has the same problems that Iron Fist does, but is a much less popular character. Unlike Danny Rand there's been no popular renaissance for him since his original series and while he persists in the comics the market for ninjas is finite (especially since virtually every Marvel character uses martial arts now). I think there's no chance he appears on film (if we're looking for an Asian breakout character there are much bigger ones to lean on).

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Tigra (1974) - frequently an Avenger, but outside of a mini-series she's never been able to support her own book; she'd never get her own film but could be part of a group, I'm just not sure what box she'd tick for the MCU so she's a very distant maybe (perhaps as a counter programming to DC using Cheetah).

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Moon Knight (1975; 1980-84, 1989-94, 2006-09, 2010-11, 2014-15, 2016-present) - I have no idea what the reluctance to use him is--he'd work on TV (too dark/edgy for film at the moment), but Marvel doesn't want to give Netflix properties anymore and none of the other streaming services seem like a good fit (maybe Hulu?). As a character who has persisted since he was introduced he has a core fanbase and represents something the MCU doesn't already have, so I'd put a lock on him appearing eventually (rumour archive here).


Captain Britain (1976; 1976-77, 1985-86, 2008-09) - probably best known for his time on Excalibur and New Excalibur, he not only has a long history but hits on a number of facets the MCU has only scratched the surface of (international heroes and mysticism). I think he's likely (if, perhaps, not soon), although I wonder if Marvel fears how many 'Captain' monikers they can carry (you can read the rumours about him here). Incidentally, he's unrelated to the Union Jack character whom MCU producer Nate Moore is so fond of (oddly enough the two UK heroes didn't appear together until 2008, despite the latter dating back to 1981).

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Spider-Woman (1977; 1978-83, 1999-2000, 2015, 2016-17) - we already have rumours that Jessica Drew will appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home, so if that's the case she doesn't belong here. The Spider-Man films are the most logical ones for her to appear in, but she needn't be restricted to that (I do wonder if Marvel will use her hero name or simply have her referred to as Jessica Drew). Regardless, I'd be surprised if we didn't see her (oddly enough, it appears her rights are separate from Spider-Man's, such that the MCU could use her even if Sony walked away from their arrangement--I believe this is true for the Miles Morales as well, which if rumours are true are part of how Marvel pressured Sony into their current deal).


Quasar (1977; 1989-94) - if he didn't come up so much in various articles I wouldn't consider him, as he's (comparatively) an obscure character. James Gunn seems to be the one advocating for him, so I don't know if his departure means the character is less likely to appear.


She-Hulk (1980; 1980-82, 1989-94, 2004-05, 05-07, 14-15) - has the same tricky arrangement with Universal and unlike Namor she doesn't have the same kind of cache; when not in her own book she's been an Avenger or associated with the Fantastic Four. The concern here, besides the situation with Universal, would be the possibility that the MCU wants to avoid derivatives of core character--this would change considerably if Hulk dies, of course.

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Firestar (1981) - this is a funny one as the character comes from an animated series (Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends), the only such character presented. She's only ever had miniseries and is probably too obscure to appear (doesn't tick any particular boxes)--I included her because she's appeared on a number of lists I've seen, but in researching her she's always been a mutant and therefore is via Fox--I left her in because of her very curious origin.

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Beta Ray Bill (1983) - his visage (or at least one of his race) appeared in Thor: Ragnarok, and I'd be shocked if we didn't see him in the fourth Thor film; he's only had miniseries to himself, but he's a beloved character and well-suited to interacting with Thor.


Sentry (2000; 2018-present) - I'm adding this late because I'd quite forgotten the rumours about him that have circulated the last couple of years (for example) because I wasn't covering them extensively at the time. Despite currently having his own comic, it's clear he works best as part of a team or as an antagonist--he certainly fits the framework of the Cosmic Marvel stuff James Gunn was supposed to run. With that said, he hasn't slipped into any official rumours (unlike Quasar above), but his split personality definitely offers unique opportunities for the MCU and I think uniqueness is what you look for in characters who aren't especially popular.

This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, of course, and leans more towards older heroes. Marvel isn't afraid of obscure properties given both Guardians and Eternals (both of which, admittedly, fit the older hero model). The MCU might one day tackle characters like the Tarzan-like Ka-Zar (1965) or Shanna the She-Devil (1974)--I think are tied up with Fox. If we're looking for representation someone like Moondragon (1973) or America Chavez (2011) are possibilities, although they either have never had their own series or (in the latter case) weren't unable to sustain one (2017-18).

Which of the above characters do I consider most likely to appear (excluding Firestar for the reasons given above):

Definitively
Namor - likely in Fantastic Four rather than his own film (I can't decide if Feige thinks it's worth competing with Aquaman or not)
Blade - I'm 50/50 on him being on TV rather than film, but in either case I don't think it's soon
Moon Knight - I have no clue why he's not already on TV, but if he's being reserved for film it must be for a particular reason
Captain Britain - he ticks a lot of boxes, has interesting connections to different characters, is quite distinct from the other Captain--I think we'll see it, but probably not soon (likely waiting for the X-Men introduction, particularly if we get Psylocke and she remains his sister)
Spider-Woman - if she's not in Far From Home she's going to pop up soon--in film as a supporting character or on TV in a similar role
Beta Ray Bill - he'll absolutely appear in the next Thor--that's speculation on my part, but I'd be shocked if he didn't

Maybe
Black Knight - the main attractive thing about him is his distinctiveness (no one has done a medieval-style hero on film); he'd also be very easy to do on TV, but there's no chance he gets his own film (I could see him either in the Avengers or perhaps showing up in Doctor Strange)
Hercules - the easiest fit for him would be Thor, but that IP is getting very crowded (while Ragnarok killed off a lot of characters, it also added Valkyrie and Korg with Beta Ray Bill presumably on his way)
Tigra - slips into the maybe pile just because DC is doing a similar character and if she's done poorly it gives Marvel the opportunity to take that (narrow) niche; she'd most likely be an Avenger
Quasar - I'm not sure if he's planned for whatever comes after Guardians or not and I also don't know how much James Gunn was the force behind him as part of Marvel Cosmic; I'd guess he'd be part of the second phase of the Guardians (if that's still a thing)
She-Hulk - were it not for Universal I'd put her in the definite pile, but because of those complications the most likely event is that she's a new member of a group (Avengers etc)
Sentry - the most intriguing thing about him is his split personality--he serves as a foil against threats to the larger universe or as that threat himself if his power-levels are maintained

Unlikely
Wonder Man - I just don't know what using him accomplishes, but if he does appear it's as a supporting character on the Avengers
Shang-Chi - if he appears it would be as a supporting character and almost certainly on TV

Of these characters only three, I believe, can lead their own property, but only one (Moon Knight) is a lock to do so--either on TV or film. The other two, Captain Britain and Blade, are somewhere in the MCU pipeline, but all three are later than sooner.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Marvel News

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I'm disappointed that Iron Fist has been cancelled. While this likely means the show is gone forever, some are speculating it will migrate over to the Disney streaming service--I doubt that's possible given that last December Netflix claimed they owned the IP. Another theory is that the character will be brought over to Luke Cage, either simply joining that show or it becoming Heroes for Hire (a good idea, but one with no factual basis as yet). I frankly have no idea what this means--Finn Jones' social media hasn't offered any clues, but I would like both Danny Rand and Ward Meachum (along with Typhoid Mary) to remain active participants in the Netflix MCU. Their disappearance, if they are indeed gone, could be explained by the Snapture--the limited self-referential nature of the Netflix properties makes it easier to ignore a cancelled show.

Some people are speculating that the show was axed to make room for something else, but Marvel isn't providing Netflix new IP, so if that's true it could only be with something they already own--what could that be? I suspect we'll find out sooner than later because Netflix has already received a lot of criticism from Marvel fans for not planning a Defenders 2, so even with Daredevil season hype I think they'll need some sort of positive PR to go along with this.

[Update: Entertainment Weekly says the following: "EW confirmed the character will continue to appear in the Marvel universe." That is a very strong statement--he will continue--note they said the 'character' which leaves wiggle room that it's not Finn Jones--they also said the 'Marvel Universe' which could mean the MCU or Disney's streaming service rather than Netflix.]


With the news that the Avengers 4 reshoots have wrapped (apologies are on offer for any theorists who believed post-Fox acquisitions would appear in the film), a now deleted Reddit thread purporting to describe the trailer for Avengers 4 has appeared. We have a copy of its content here (since then other imitating threads, like this, have popped up). While it's difficult to say how valid it is, the contents are worth exploring:
The trailer starts off showing the damaged Infinity Gauntlet in a field on the farm planet [where we last saw Thanos]. As the camera focuses in on the Gauntlet, we hear Tony’s voice: “We were destined to lose.” Epic music score starts. The Quinjet is shown landing in a Wakandan wasteland as we hear Steve Rogers say: “We have come so far.” Tony and Nebula step off the jet as the remaining Avengers approach. Steve has a look of relief and says: “Tony”. Tony, seemingly defeated, shakes his head and gives a friendly smirk back to Cap. Marvel Studios Logo appears.
This idea, of the film beginning so soon after the Snap, would have Jeremy Conrad's blood boiling. The scene is pretty generic--it's plausible, but something easily invented.
We get a glimpse of the Battle of New York from 2012 Avengers. Loki is shown looking shocked and baffled as he is on top of the Stark tower. There is a flash of a blue light as the camera pans back. (Cuts to black) Next we see the Wakandan throne with M’Baku at the helm. He’s surrounded by his new kingsguard. (A mix of the hill tribe and Dora Milaje). Shuri and Banner are seen working on a new project in the lab. Black Widow, in full gear, is in Hawkeye’s family home from Age of Ultron.  Basically everything is thrown all over the place and broken. Nat is studying some type of map with multiple photos and locations on it. A quick shot of Thanos is shown with a long sword, walking down an alleyway in New York City.  The next shot is a dark hooded figure with glowing eyes, aiming a bow and arrow before shooting towards the camera.
This matches the widely publicized leaks that include the Battle of New York and it is likely that Marvel will show them in a trailer as a way of deflating them as a spoiler (as they did for Infinity War trailers). The image of Thanos with a sword matches art leaked earlier in the year and the idea that Hawkeye's family has been Snapped is widely speculated (including by me).
(1-2 visuals of the Quantum Realm) Scott Lang (no suit) is shown running through a park dodging explosions. (Shot of Space) Thor and Valkyrie are aboard a Kree ship. Thor says: “If the stories are true, you’re our universe’s last hope. If such a thing even exists anymore”. The next shot is an older, determined Tony Stark walking through the new SHIELD HQ’s (Avengers Facility in upstate New York). He’s in full SHIELD attire and carrying an orange briefcase. Banner (wearing spandex) is seen running from something, looking terrified. The next shot is Ant-Man appearing out of a flash of light and landing in a desolate place. We see it from his point of view from inside his helmet. He looks left to right and to his left again and says: “What in the-“.
The Scott Lang shot is interesting because there were leaked photos of him running through a neighbourhood, not a park, so its potentially a hint of either confirming or dismissing the entire leak. The Thor/Valkyrie-pairing fits rumours we've heard. The Kree ship could hint at Captain Marvel or someone like Kronos (also rumoured); I vaguely recalled a rumour about a ship and indeed there are two, here and here, although neither are tied to Thor or the Kree.
(Camera focuses on Vormir and its stars) Next, a shot of Rocket and Nebula modifying some new weapons in the lab. Rocket says “When can we try this bad boy out?” They both smile at each other and fist-bump. We get our first glimpse of Iron Man in his red and gold nanotech armor. Hulk falls from the sky and lands in front of him. Thanos, in full armor, smiles. Hulk smiles back. The next shot is in Japan. War Machine, Nat, and Steve (in their full Avengers gear) are surrounded by The Yakuza. Hawkeye (Ronin) walks through everybody from behind them and approaches the Avengers. There’s an intense exchange of looks between Clint and Natasha (Next shot is at the Sanctum) Wong is communicating with Dr. Strange’s soul via portal. (Cuts to black) Grey haired Tony Stark and Ant-Man are in a post-apocalyptic NYC. The screen flashes back and forth multiple times through multiple scenes.
The Yakuza-element fits other rumours we've heard (specifically attached to Hawkeye, as I went over in my aforementioned article). The scene with Wong matches nothing I've seen discussed--note the comment doesn't say Soul Stone, but see below. There have been hints that Strange is more involved in Avengers 4 than the other Snapped heroes, but it's never been clear how exactly. I'm not sure what to make of a post-apocalyptic NYC--does it refer to the damage after the 2012 Battle or something in the future?
We see Captain Marvel floating with her fists on fire and her eyes lit up. Thanos in the soul stone with young Gamora screaming at him. [There's no punctuation here but this appears to be a separate scene] Loki and Thor fighting off Chitauri together. And Tony handing Steve a brand new shield in the Wakandan throne room. (Cuts back to Tony and Scott) Tony opens the orange briefcase as Scott hands him an illuminated bracelet. Tony asks: “How?… Is this even possible?” (Iron Man and Ant-Man are shown travelling through the Quantum Realm. Tony and Scott are back in the battle of New York from 2012). The final shot before the title reveal is an Infinity Stone disappearing from Thanos’ damaged gauntlet. He abruptly gets up and puts on his armor. His face goes from extremely infuriated to a menacing smile.
Title reveal: Avengers: Annihilation
The bracelets match the leaks mentioned above while a Stone disappearing from the Gauntlet fits my theory that the goal of the film is to prevent the Snap from happening in the first place (it's also a way to motivate Thanos to stop what's happening). We see confirmation of Conrad's rumour about the title. Loki's role is interesting--fans saddened by his death in Infinity War would love seeing him active and helping the Avengers.
Stinger: The Hulk is training at the new SHIELD facility with Black Widow and Steve. Steve notices that Hulk has been training non-stop as of late, so he asks why. Hulk responds in Banner’s normal voice with: “My rematch is coming real soon, I can feel it!”
There's not much to glean from this final element as its fairly generic and also what we expect from Banner given the leaked artwork showing 'Professor Hulk'.

To sum up, most of what's described here could easily fit into well-written speculation from the information that's already out there. At the same time, there's nothing that immediately decries it as a fake--it's not overly stuffed with leaked elements or fan theories and it broadly fits the prevailing narratives known about the film. In the end I think it's plausibly a description of the trailer, but nothing about it comes across as definitively true. Because the coverage of it has been limited I don't think Marvel is going to feel pressured to release the trailer early (unlike Captain Marvel, at least according to rumours), so I suspect we won't see it until December.

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This is just speculative musing, but I've been trying to decide if Ant-Man and the Wasp made enough money for Disney to make a third film. To try and get a sense of that I looked at the increases of individual IP's (ie, not Avengers films) to see how each series has done (with the percentage increase in brackets):

Captain America: 370k, 714k (92.9%), 1.153k (61.4%)
Thor: 449k, 644k (30.2%), 854k (32.6%)
Iron Man: 585k, 624k (6.66%), 1.215k (94.7%)
Ant-Man: 519k, 622k (19.8%)
Guardians: 773k, 864k (11.7%)

We can argue that Cap has an unfair advantage because Civil War is more like Avengers 2.5, but in terms of independent IP it's not that different from Ragnarok (Cap/Iron Man vs Thor/Hulk). Obviously the crossover impacted the numbers, but not to the point where it makes the comparison irrelevant. The most surprising thing, I think, is how small a boost Guardians received--I've mentioned previously that I think the sequel suffered from Gunn writing it by himself (he does humour wonderfully, but the other elements of storytelling definitely suffer)--this is borne out, I believe, in that lackluster increase. Iron Man 2 also had a very mild increase, but not only is that a weak film it took place at a very different time--before the MCU was the MCU, in some ways. While Guardians is lower than Ant-Man, it's also starting on much stronger financial ground, so no matter how you slice it the franchise is not where the MCU (or Disney) wants it.

I think a third Ant-Man is in trouble. Despite appearing in Civil War (to boost his profile) and despite being family friendly and adding established stars (a grossly underutilized Michelle Pfeiffer along with Laurence Fishburne), the sequel made less than Doctor Strange--a more bizarre property with a less bankable lead. It's going to be interesting to follow and see whether the character fades into a costar (much like his comicbook counterpart) or if there's another film coming for him in Phase Four.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Marvel News


Further news has dropped confirming that the Fox-Disney deal is on-course to conclude in the earlier time frame (sooner than later--the soonest in January). Speaking of that purchase, I posted my article looking at what I think we can expect with the X-Men in the MCU (I may write about the Fantastic Four as well, although I've never been particularly interested in them).

There are stories floating around about this news that are making an erroneous conclusion: 1) the process of absorbing the physical elements of Fox will take longer, 2) therefore there will be a delay in the MCU using the returned Fox properties. The first has nothing to do with the second--MCU's on-hand production can easily make X-Men or Fantastic Four movies--the physical elements of Fox will simply add to how much production can be handled. The only thing that isn't set for the January 1st date provided in the article is the approval process on an international level (which may drag on a little longer).

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I covered Jeremy Conrad's five-year gap theory in my comprehensive look at Avengers 4, but we have reason to return to that idea. In that article I brought up my two primary problems with it: 1) why is Nick Fury paging Captain Marvel if she's either arriving in five years or her arrival doesn't solve the immediate problem (which thematically the beeper implies), 2) the weak evidence supporting the fact (one ambiguous comment from Gwyneth Paltrow, the casting of twin boys, hair and wardrobe changes we'd get anyway, and a casting rumour about Scott Lang's daughter). Conrad is now jumping for joy about a Tweet from a guy who works at SuperBroMovies (having written exactly one article for the site):
Avengers 4 starts [five] YEARS after Infinity War. Not just a few months later as some people were hoping for. Sorry guys.
I've never heard of the guy, but Conrad calls him an 'industry insider' without elaborating (or responding to questions about him). I did my own research and he's primarily a DC rumour-guy who is hit or miss (it's difficult to tell what are simply educated guesses by him and actual scoops). Here are a couple of examples of things he's put out: he mentioned Ben Affleck wanted to stay in the Batman-role earlier this year and that seems completely untrue; in the summer he said Birds of Prey was casting, which doesn't take a genius to figure out given when the filming is scheduled to start. Conrad is pretty lazy when it comes to providing reasons why we should accept this information (outside his own confirmation bias). He also seems to have some emotional problems in dealing with criticism of this theories:
Resolving the death of half of the universe just days after it happened lessons the impact of what Thanos did. By picking up the story years after the event it gives the movie a chance to show the impact The Snap had on the world, how it broke the characters involved with it, and it also gives those characters a future (and possible family members) that they would need to sacrifice in order to reverse the events of a bad past. Starting Avengers 4 years after the events of Infinity War is very smart storytelling, and it’s going to be very cool to see where the movie goes from there.
Conrad is using a strawman ('a few days') to make his point--the speculation I've seen and share is that the time gap will be the usual one for the MCU (a year later in this case, following how long it has been between the films in real time). Given that Conrad isn't particularly subtle (as illustrated by how badly he got trolled over his as-yet unconfirmed Avengers Annihilation scoop), I wonder if he actually has inside information about the five year gap and isn't creative enough to come up with better reasons for it (his Twitter feed is filled with juvenile sparring with Star Wars fans who don't like The Last Jedi or Solo, which speaks to some emotional instability).

To sum this up: I have no idea if the source is credible, but Conrad's persistence with this idea (dating back to when there was even less evidence for it) makes me wonder if he was given an inside scoop that he can't reveal and simply doesn't know how to properly handle the information. I dismissed this idea previously, but I think given the histrionics I have to at least put it back in the 'maybe' pile. Let's briefly consider what it would mean:

The characters would be much older--a great deal would/could have happened off-camera. Conrad's primary argument is that Tony has a kid (the Paltrow statement and twin-casting) and thus fixing the Snap would mean giving up the child. I have a couple of problems with this: 1) I think that's much too hard on audiences to accept (and, really, why wouldn't he be able to have that child again once the timeline is sorted out?), 2) why would you want to portray a happy future post-Thanos? We know that when the film ends we'll be back to normal MCU time (probably a year after Infinity War, with a remote chance it occurs directly after Infinity War). The more you think about it the less sense it makes in terms of emotional impact--the Russo's aren't going to spend a ton of time on a future that's going to be undone and what, really, positive developments could you be losing by resurrecting half the universe? It's very implausible.


We've had our first toy leak related to the film and to me--or anyone who read my Avengers 4 article--there's not much new here. We get an image of the assembled heroes (the ones who survived the Snap: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye, Rocket, Nebula, War Machine, Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel). The picture of the group matches the leaked art from a few months ago (which suggests someone involved with the toy companies leaked the image). The only new thing is the uniforms depicted (not shown here, but can be seen via the link)--Conrad says the white outfits match the style worn by Hank Pym in Ant-Man and the Wasp and their purpose is surviving the Quantum Realm--I see no reason to argue with that, but it's been assumed for quite some time that they would use that route to travel through time.


I don't typically comment on actor salaries because that's not my interest, but there are some general points to make about the THR report that Scarlett Johansson is being paid 15 million to star in the Black Widow film. The relevant quotes:
That salary equals what Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth earned for ... this year’s Avengers: Infinity War. Evans and Hemsworth also nabbed that same $15 million payday for Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok, respectively, as well as the upcoming fourth Avengers film.
Just a note that both actors initially signed cheap, long-term deals when they started with the MCU. 
Marvel typically doesn’t open up its wallet for first outings – Robert Downey Jr. included as he took home $500,000 for the first Iron Man. Johansson pulled down about a low-seven figure salary for the first Avengers movie in 2012 (compared to Downey’s $50 million).... Still, Chadwick Boseman nabbed a seven-figure paycheck to star in Black Panther ($2 million, according to sources, which well tops Downey's first showing). ... And Brie Larson, whose Oscar win for 2015's Room figures into her deals, will be paid some $5 million for next year’s Captain Marvel movie (Larson landed a generous payday, but in exchange signed a seven-picture deal that locks her into multiple franchises.)
I hadn't heard that Larson's deal was for seven films, but we can assume that will consist of a trilogy of her own movies along with several Avengers (and possibly X-Men) appearances. This puts a lot of pressure on Marvel to get her character right. [After this story broke Larson Tweeted out a denial.]
While talent deals add to more than $100 million of Infinity War's budget [estimated at 316-400 million], it helps business affairs executives sleep easier knowing each Avengers movie easily crosses the $1 billion worldwide mark [1.5, 1.4, and 2.0].... And Marvel typically allows its actors to share in the upside of a film, including bonuses of up to several million dollars based on the film’s performance.
That profit-sharing arrangement is a great way to invest actors--even those being paid a much lower figure--into pushing for the MCU's success.
Ultimately, it appears that Evans, who announced that Avengers 4 will be his last film as Captain America, is leaving while the going is good.
THR is misconstruing Evans statement. As I explained at the time, nothing Evans said definitively says anything about what's happening between he and Marvel. He's a relatively young actor and there are going to be times he'll want to knock on the MCU's door to ask for Robert Downey Jr. money--the MCU won't want him to leave either because of how popular and bankable he is. If his comments mean anything they likely mean he'll appear less frequently, but I wouldn't be surprised if we found out another Captain America movie is in our future.

The other thing I take away from this is that Marvel likes to buy low when it comes to their actors, unlike Warner Brothers with DC (or Universal with their Dark Universe) where, out of the gate, they spend a lot of money on talent. One of the things that made the MCU so successful was deflating their talent cost--I suspect they will continue to try to do this, where possible, in order to maintain their profit margins (so look to lesser known actors, at least partially, for the returned Fox properties).

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What a strange place it is for Disney with the problem they created for themselves by firing James Gunn. The script and actors are in place for Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but with no director and none internally who will take on the film, it will be interesting to see when they gear up for production and what changes (if any) they make to Gunn's script. I mentioned previously that Zoe Saldana (Gamora) has about 500 Avatar films to make with James Cameron, meaning her schedule could be a nightmare to sort out if she's meant to survive to the final film (granting that Disney is purchasing those films via Fox, which would make it easier to sort out).

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THS is reporting that among the scripts the MCU has commissioned is one for the Dark Avengers (a 2009 Brian Michael Bendis comic), featuring villains working for the government. While THS has no idea how realistic it is to expect the property to be developed, I was interested in what they said about Sony's Silver & Black:
Though the details of Sony’s deal with Marvel Studios have never been made explicit, we do believe that part of the reason Silver and Black was delayed [late February and then cancelled in August] is because Marvel Studios made an effort to gain access to Norman Osborn, who was originally intended to be in Silver and Black.
I hadn't heard this before, but it would be no surprise at all if the MCU wanted to use Osborn. You have to think that one of the reasons the MCU has been using lesser villains in Spider-Man is due to Sony wanting to hold back on the bigger names to use in their own films (like Kraven the Hunter).

Image result for venom poster

I haven't been out to see Sony's latest effort--I'm pretty indifferent to the character to begin with and none of the previews did enough to draw me in. The film had a better than expected opening weekend (pulling 80 million), arriving in a week filled with counter programming rather than actual competition. I was surprised by the response given its critical drubbing, but as was pointed out to me on Twitter, marketing likely played a huge role in that (even if it didn't specifically work for me). Will the film have legs? The next serious competition is the upcoming Halloween film and I don't know if that will push it back, but it does need legs. If the film goes full Batman v Superman and falls off a cliff, then all the news we're hearing about future Sony films will grind to a halt. If, instead, it has a more typical decline, then we may indeed get a Morbius movie (which is next in line for production).

I think Sony is hoping that when Marvel needs to resign their Spider-Man deal (after Far From Home), they can make shoehorning in the Sony-verse part of it, but with the re-acquisition of the Fox properties Kevin Feige is in position to decline and leave Sony floundering to explain why their lead character is no longer part of the MCU. It Sony's attempt at leverage which, I think, is doomed to fail. Only Universal, which is owned by Comcast, is likely to continue resisting Disney's efforts to reclaim all the lost Marvel properties (all of which the MCU can already use, just not in their own films).


James Gunn has been hired to write (and possibly direct) Suicide Squad 2--it's pretty unusual for Polygon to have a scoop like this so there must be a personal connection (direct or indirect) to Gunn, but that's just by the bye. The most interesting part of this story was an update:
Gunn is reportedly taking a totally new approach to the property so this isn’t exactly a sequel to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. What exactly that means? We do not know
Charlie believes he'll be able to completely re-imagine the team, which could include recasting, recycling the roster, etc. Gunn is not a fan of Jared Leto, so it seems unlikely that his version of the Joker would reappear. The film has no release date (production was originally planned for this fall, but the script for the film was so similar to Margot Robbie's plans for Birds of Prey that it got thrown out), so it's not clear when it will appear.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Monday, October 8, 2018

The X-Men in the MCU: Speculating on the Lineup and Origin


Now seems as good a time as any to speculate on the ways the X-Men will be incorporated into the MCU. The sale of the floundering Fox movie division to Disney was announced in December (pending approval and at the current pace looking to arrive at the earlier target of 12-18 months). When complete Marvel will have regained most of the properties they lost in the 1990s (with the exception of the Spider-Man characters at Sony and the distribution rights for Hulk and Namor at Universal).

Knowing the characters are coming back is one thing, but what will the MCU do with them? What version of the X-Men will we see? There are many possibilities. Will Kevin Feige choose an era of the team, cherry-pick favourites (as Fox has done), or imitate the 90s X-Men animated series? We have no idea yet, because for legal reasons Marvel can't publicly discuss it until the sale is finalized (although I'm sure internally it has already been decided). I am under so such constraints however, so let's speculate.


While the X-Men have been around since 1963 (one of the many creations of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby), that's not the iteration that made them the bedrock of Marvel for 30 years. The reason why the X-Men were the most famous Marvel characters prior to the MCU is due to just one man: Chris Claremont.

Claremont took over the comic in 1975 and continued on until 1991. While he's been back at Marvel several times since his initial departure, his significant tenure remains the first 10-15 years at the helm of the comic--nothing since has been as impactful.

It's my belief that Claremont's run, particularly the earlier material, will serve as the inspiration for the MCU. This was largely true for the Fox movies as well, although their adaptations leave plenty of room for Marvel to make their own versions of those stories. The subsequent writers for the X-Men won't, I think, be as important (despite such lauded talents as Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, Warren Ellis, and Brian Michael Bendis all spending time with them--no disrespect to those writers, as it's simply a reflection of how much their work is dependent on the earlier Claremont material).

This isn't to say nothing will be borrowed from modern writers, as not even Fox was that restrictive, using Whedon's initial storyline as the impetus for the lamentable X-Men: The Last Stand, and the mid-90s "Age of Apocalypse" for the awful X-Men: Apocalypse. I suspect initially the MCU will only borrow a few retcons and/or newer characters when adapting classic stories. It's those early Claremont stories that form the foundation of what made the X-Men such popular characters. Fortunately for Marvel, despite eight Fox films, there's a mountain of material that's either untouched or was poorly used.

I'll delve into which story they might adapt below, but fans should look from Giant-Size X-Men #1 /Uncanny X-Men 94-209 (1975-86) as the primary inspiration. The cutoff is because in Claremont's later phase he went through nearly endless stories about the mutant-human conflict ("Mutant Massacre" (86), "The Fall of the Mutants" (88), "X-Tinction Agenda" (90-91)). These not only become tedious (there's a reason why Comicbookgirl19's X-Men video series wraps up with the Dark Phoenix Saga, X-Men 138), but are stories that require significant development beforehand.

This focus on the Claremont-era would be a change of sorts from how Marvel has adapted stories thus far. Most of the current MCU movies borrow quite heavily from recent comics--Spider-Man: Homecoming owes a lot to the Ultimate Spider-Man imprint; Doctor Strange and Black Panther to their updated origins; Guardians of the Galaxy used the modern rather than original lineup; Ant-Man and the Wasp is inspired by a 2013 story, Avengers: Infinity War borrows from the 2013 version of the story, etc. Part of the reason we see this trend is that more recent versions are up to date with modern sensibilities, but this isn't as much of a concern with Claremont who was very progressive for his time--creating some of the most iconic female characters in Marvel (with a much smaller sprinkling of persons of colour).


The Fox X-Men, whose footprint is largely Bryan Singer's vision, ignored Claremont's ensemble approach and narrowed the focus to just a few characters: WolverineProfessor XavierMagneto, and (to a lesser extent) Mystique. This approach caused problems because the characters from the comic are so well-known that fans could be bothered by their were portrayal (or lack thereof). The narrow focus means many characters who appear make no significant impression (what, really, is Storm's character arc in Apocalypse and how is it related at all to the Storm of the original trilogy who, in theory, is the same person?).

Another element from the Fox films is their heavy reliance on the theme of racial discrimination (also true of The Gifted). While faithful to the comic (especially the back half of Claremont's run), I think the mutant-human racial angle is difficult to make work now (this angle, fear of an empowered "other," didn't resonate with the Zack Snyder's Superman, Marvel's The Inhumans, or The GiftedDeadpool 2 justifiable made fun of the trope and it does seem a little silly these days). At the outset it was a interesting idea by Lee/Kirby to use the X-Men as a template for racial discrimination for their (mostly) white readers, but their version of the X-Men didn't resonate and most of Claremont's classic stories do not focus on that element (serving instead as a backdrop). I think the idea continued to function on some level up until recently because comicbook fans themselves were a marginalized group--but now? Superheroes are popular culture, so being part of that group makes it very hard to see mutants as outsiders or an "other".

You wouldn't know it from the Fox films, but Claremont's version of the X-Men was often a lot of fun: they went into space, visited the Savage Land, etc. This made for a good balance against the hard-hitting personal stories. I suspect the MCU is going to aim for a young lineup with that same kind of split focus (something at least one other luminary agrees with), with the mutant-human issue as a backdrop. The reason I envision a younger group is to contrast them with the much older Avengers--it also means the audience can grow with them.

Thus far, when Marvel has re-acquired a property that's already appeared on film, they've put them on TV or Netflix (DaredevilThe PunisherElektra, and Ghost Rider). Presumably the idea is to both avoid brand confusion and to keep IP that's less PG-13 friendly off the big screen. When they've used character's with shared ownership (Universal's Hulk and Sony's Spider-Man), they've steered clear of what's come before--focusing on different stories and situations (neither was an origin story; Bruce Banner isn't just fighting the impulse to turn into the Hulk and Peter Parker's struggles are largely related to being a kid). This second approach is another reason why I think we'll see this approach with the X-characters (which runs contrary to a lot of theories I see, eg Rob at Comics Explained, whose prediction for them is very similar to what Fox has been doing for the last 20 years).

How do you make mutants suddenly appear in the MCU? This is a problem various people have tackled and only a few (eg) have picked what I see as a possible answer: Thanos. What I mean is the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, directly or indirectly, being the progenitor of them (through his or someone else's actions). This could mean iconic elements of character backgrounds are lost (like Magneto's past as a Holocaust survivor--something now 73 years ago), but I don't think Marvel is going to want to focus in the same way on the same characters that Fox did. Another possibility is that mutation has simply begun happening, but this is a weaker answer ("just because" is not very engaging). Using the Infinity Stones, even if it's not directly related to Thanos (Loki's invasion in The Avengers and/or Hydra's experimentation), could have unexpected consequences. There are many potential reasons, but I imagine the MCU will want to tie it in to previous events/effects (this would also differentiate it from Fox).


What kind of team will we see? There have been innumerable lineups and members to choose from so I thought I'd list several to illustrate the many possibilities:
  • Lee/Kirby (60s): Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Iceman, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Professor X
  • Claremont (original/70s): Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Banshee, Sunfire, Wolverine, Thunderbird*
  • Claremont (my era/late 80s): Storm, Rogue, Psyloche (pre-ninja/pin-up era), Dazzler, Havok, Longshot, Colossus
  • Fox Cartoon (early 90s): Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, Professor X
  • Morrison (00s): Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, Phoenix (Jean Grey)
  • Whedon (00s): Cyclops, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Beast, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Lockheed, Colossus, Armor, Blindfold
  • Guggenheim (now): Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Nightcrawler, Prestige (Rachel Summers)
*Thunderbird was killed shortly after his first appearance and Sunfire rejected becoming a member

This doesn't include iconic characters like Polaris (who would join Peter David's X-Factor while I was still reading), nor the various creations of the 90s and beyond. Mystique, so prominent in the Fox films, was a villain during Claremont's run (albeit one with a special relationship with Rogue). I'll speculate on what I think the team will look like below.

Which X-Men?

What about the lineup? I've mentioned that the number of characters who have been X-Men is huge, so there are innumerable heroes to pick from. That said, the MCU will want to go with better known characters (since this is a well-established IP, unlike The Guardians of the Galaxy or the upcoming The Eternals), but how many and which ones is tough to say. It's worth mentioning that when it comes to gender or race-swaps in the MCU, Feige has held the line on well-known, core characters, but let loose with secondary ones (eg Heimdall, Valkyrie) and anything that looks alien (eg Gamora, Mantis). The only exception has been Nick Fury, but while well-known he was never an A-list hero so he still fits in with the general approach. There's an abundance of great female X-Men, but fewer mutants of colour that are as popular (with some notable exceptions). Let's eliminate a few potential X-characters to cut our list to a more manageable size (those highlighted in green had more than just cameos in the Fox movies/TV shows; I've included the year they were created and by whom in the comics):
  • Colossus (1975; Wein/Cockrum): he's appearing as a regular in the Deadpool franchise and while I love the character I think he'll remain integrated in that sub-realm of the MCU (otherwise you worry about brand confusion); his existence means his sister Magik can appear (I don't think the Fox New Mutants film will "count" if it ever appears)
  • Polaris (1968; Drake/Heck; Magneto's daughter): unfortunately used in The Gifted; I like the character (who has a very long history), but given that I think the MCU is going to steer clear of Magneto for awhile it would make her presence unlikely
  • Phoenix/Prestige (1981; Claremont/Byrne/Romita Jr.; Rachel Summers): I'm quite fond of the character, but unless they change her origin she requires not just Jean Grey, but also the "Dark Phoenix" saga to make any sense--I believe that storyline is far away for the MCU (I don't think the two Fox attempts will prevent Marvel from doing it, particularly as the odds of Dark Phoenix being released are shrinking)
  • X-23 (2004; Kyle/Yost): the female inheritor of Wolverine requires a Wolverine before she can appear (much like Kamala Khan's Ms Marvel needs Carol Danvers before she can appear, as I've discussed before)--down the line she'll show up, but not right away (I don't think her appearance in Logan is relevant, although it may close the door to race-swapping--the Fox version is biracial, the comicbook character is not, and the MCU doesn't like brand confusion)
  • Angel (1963; Lee/Kirby): Warren Worthington has never resonated much and doesn't tick any boxes for what makes the X-Men unique; his only interesting iteration was when every character in Marvel was becoming a dark, Wolverine-clone (the 90s were an awful time for comics)
  • Negasonic Teenage Warhead (2001; Morrison/Quitely): already in Deadpool, but I think there was no chance she would have been used regardless
  • Blink (1994; Lobdell/Maduereira): I don't think we would have seen her anyway, but she has been used both in the Fox films and The Gifted
  • Emma Frost (1980; Claremont/Byrne): a long-time villain who began the journey into becoming a hero shortly after I stopped reading comics; I think she'll appear at some point, but as an antagonist and probably not right away
  • Captain Marvel (1968; Thomas/Colan); yes, she was with the X-Men for a time in the 1980s (if never formally a member); as someone getting her own movie in the MCU she's not a possibility
  • Forge (1984; Claremont/Romita Jr.): only an occasional X-Man and were it not for research I would have forgotten he existed--there's nothing to get excited about here--he was a romantic interest for Storm, but I believe that will be Black Panther in the MCU (mimicking the comics)
  • Original team composition: as mentioned above the Lee/Kirby founding team was never that popular and they aren't how the MCU version will begin (just as The Guardians of the Galaxy didn't use the original team)

That doesn't narrow it down very much, but I think we can make some educated guesses for who will be in it (and I'll go into why):
  • Wolverine (1974; Wein/Romita/Trimpe): I've seen it argued that because of Hugh Jackman's iconic portrayal that the MCU will stay away from him, but as the most popular X-Man he can't be ignored (that same argument would mean no Spider-Man in the MCU and we've seen how well that's worked); I do think we'll get a slightly different version of him (perhaps more comic-accurate, ie, more firmly Canadian and perhaps a stockier actor), but there may be less emphasis on him since Fox has gone through so much of his origin material (my guess is we'll see the Department H origin with James Hudson, aka Guardian, and perhaps Alpha Flight, since that's virtually the only part of his origin Fox ignored)
  • Storm (1975; Wein/Cockrum): a phenomenal character with a great arc that Fox has done nothing with; she has a strong link to Black Panther, which makes her a lock to appear (she could even debut in his sequel)
  • Professor Xavier (1963; Lee/Kirby) it's hard to imagine the X-Men without him, so I expect he'll appear, but I think he'll be much more in the background than strongly featured (again to avoid Fox brand confusion); there's an argument to be made that the MCU could go for a completely different beginning and have Emma Frost as the initial leader (more in line with how the modern X-Men have operated), but I don't think they'll do something that radically different
  • Rogue (1981; Claremont/Golden): never done well on screen (apologies to Anna Paquin--the take on her in the first X-Men was potentially interesting, but it never went anywhere); with both an iconic power and popular romance (as much as I dislike Gambit); she also has an interesting connection to Captain Marvel (unworkable unless she begins as a villain, but it would be fun to see that element--hell, she could even debut in the Captain Marvel sequel if they want to go that route)
  • Nightcrawler (1975; Wein/Cockrum) also never done correctly by Fox (issues with the writing once again)--a fun character whose joking, swashbuckling nature has yet to be depicted (instead we've only had the morose, Matt Murdock-style Catholicism)
  • Shadowcat (1980; Claremont/Byrne): more often known as Kitty Pryde these days, she's another fantastic character who hasn't been done well either (less an issue with Ellen Page as much as it is with the writing)

The maybe pile:
  • Cyclops (1963; Lee/Kirby): while it might seem crazy to not automatically include the usual leader of the X-Men, I could see the MCU going with the more popular Storm as team leader to avoid the now very tired Cyclops/Jean Grey dynamic (and avoid brand confusion)
  • Jean Grey/Phoenix (1963; Lee/Kirby): because she's had such a prominent role in the Fox films I suspect Marvel will stay away from her for awhile, which is another reason why you don't need Cyclops right away (one requires the other, so if we have one, we'll have both)
  • Beast (1963; Lee/Kirby): I like Hank McCoy, but Fox has used him enough that any MCU-version risks brand confusion--he's a casualty of that (at least in the beginning)
  • Gambit (1990; Claremont/Collins/Lee): if there's a Rogue we need a Gambit (my reservations aside), but he's not someone you need right away and it might be awhile before he becomes part of the team
  • Iceman (1963; Lee/Kirby) I always found him bland and didn't think Fox did anything interesting with him, but he's an LGBT character in the comics, so maybe?
  • Sunfire (1970; Thomas/Heck): ticks the box for representation and is an interesting character--the fact that he's fairly obscure isn't a problem and they could keep his rejection of the team intact (which would make him a temporary member)
  • Thunderbird (1975; Wein/Cockrum; 2000; Claremont/Yu): there have been two Thunderbird's with quite different powers; the first has now appeared on The Gifted, meaning he's less likely to appear in the MCU--again, Marvel's desire to avoid brand confusion
  • Havok (1969; Drake/Heck; Cyclops' brother): I wasn't a fan of Fox's version and he can be an interesting character, but he's not required, nor do you need him as a permanent member of the team (he's also tied up with his brother Cyclops and has a long-standing romance with Polaris)
  • Dazzler (1980; DeFalco/Romita Jr./Stern): has a long history that isn't always as a member of the X-Men; she has enough cache to do well in the movies (she's one of the very few X-characters who managed to support her own comicbook for years), but there isn't a specific hook that means you have to have her (indeed, she's the kind of character you could easily put on TV--The Runaways prove the FX for shiny lights is very doable)
  • Psylocke (1976; Claremont/Trimpe; probably the Jim Lee pin-up version, although I prefer the original Betsy Braddock); poorly done by Fox (Olivia Munn wasn't given much to work with), but as a character who can easily slip into a one-note, Wolverine-clone, the appeal here would be representation (despite my own feelings that once Claremont turned her into an Asian martial artist she became incredibly generic)--she's also possible TV fodder (the FX required for her is limited); if they go the Asian route I suspect they'll drop her connection to Captain Britain (her brother in the comics)
  • Banshee (1967; Thomas/Roth): a B-list X-Man when he's been on the team; I rather enjoy him, but I'd be surprised if he was included
  • Longshot (1985; Nocenti/Adams/Potts): a strange character whose powers are the same as Domino's (Rob Liefeld's classic "borrowing" to create characters), with a strong connection with Dazzler and, as such, a bit much for inclusion
  • Jubilee (1989; Claremont/Silvestri): I'm not a fan of the character--intended as a Kitty Pryde replacement when that character was moved to Excalibur, she wound up dividing the fanbase (many found her annoying); she ticks the representation box, but I don't think she'll be shoehorned into the movies unless there's no Kitty (she's another character easily done on TV)
  • Multiple Man (1975; Wein/Claremont/Buscema): rarely a full member, but a fun character with unique powers (I'm more familiar with him via his time on Peter David's X-Factor rather than on the X-Men)

I'm not as familiar with characters created after I stopped reading regularly (late-1992, which includes a group of retconned 1970s X-Men Ed Brubaker created in 2005, none of whom are particularly popular), but I don't think those that were originally with other teams (like The New Mutants) or were former villains are going to appear in the original iteration (the former for the sake of their own brands, the latter for the sake of future stories); I believe the X-Force characters are being left to Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool.

My guess is that the team will have six-members plus Xavier--that's how many heroes were in the first Avengers film and the first Guardians--it seems like the sweet spot of how many characters the MCU thinks you can safely introduce in an interesting way and get away with it (each film also had a mentor character: Nick Fury and Yondu). My hypothetical team would be: Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and one other--likely looking for representation (Nightcrawler could be race-swapped)--perhaps Sunfire? If it weren't for The Gifted I'd pitch Thunderbird. Coincidentally, this group is similar to the recently cancelled X-Men Gold team (listed above). If it were up to me I'd add classic Psylocke (who opens the door for Captain Britain) or someone obscure like Multiple Man or Magik.

There are many different approaches towards these characters as they all have deep, complicated histories (overly complicated in some cases). Do they have Kitty Pryde join as a 13-year old, as she does in the comics (slightly less evocative now since Iron Man does something similar in Civil War with Spider-Man)? If they pick the Department H background for Wolverine, is that slowly revealed or do we see it right away--does he fight Hulk as he does in his first-ever appearance? Does Rogue's origin include her interactions with Carol Danvers? This group includes three characters who could be introduced in other movies (Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and any vehicle that includes Hulk)--does the MCU take that approach?

Why this fivesome (plus one other)? Because it shifts the focus away from the Fox films--there's no Cyclops/Jean Grey dynamic, no Magneto, no Mystique (at least as a member of the team). At the same time it is still recognizably the X-Men, with at least four iconic characters that Fox did very little with (three of whom were in the cartoon). These are characters the fans can get behind and ones the MCU has plenty of room to do different things with.

Storyline

What do I think the first film will be about? It will be an origin of sorts, but with a very different arc than the first X-Men film. Singer's first effort (which Feige worked on) had the team already assembled--in many ways X-Men is Wolverine's origin rather than the team's. Fox didn't do a team-origin until Days of Future Past (14-years later), but the focus of that film is Magneto/Xavier (and Mystique) rather than the team assembled. In essence Fox has never done the X-Men origin in a traditional way, leaving that route open to the MCU should they wish.

There's plenty of precedent for the MCU not beginning at the beginning (Ant-Man for example, where we get Scott Lang's origins, but Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man; this is also true for both The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man: Homecoming which skip their origin story; from what we can tell Captain Marvel's origin is also non-traditional, using dialogue and flashbacks to explain her past). The last traditional origin MCU film was 2016's Doctor Strange (there was little choice here, as they had to introduce magic to the universe). It's also worth noting almost all the supporting characters in the MCU arrive as experienced versions of themselves--Nick FuryBlack WidowHawkeyeFalconWong, the members of the Guardians.

I expect we'll get an experienced version of Professor X and (if she's included) Moira MacTaggert. With that said, introducing mutants into the universe requires some work, meaning we're more likely to get a Doctor Strange-like origin film rather than jumping in with both feet (explaining mutants could be done in another film, but that's a tricky approach, relying on the audience seeing that other film and understanding the world-building being done).

The film has to be an origin of sorts, but without imitating its Fox precedents. I think Len Wein's origin (Giant-Size X-Men #1) is a good place to look for inspiration. In that story the call to action is rescuing the original X-Men, which wouldn't work here. However, you could make the rescue be for Xavier himself. The 'hook' for doing so could be redemption arcs for those with troubled pasts (Rogue and Wolverine)--it would also provide an excuse to recruit someone young like Kitty Pryde.

In Wein's story the enemy is a giant monster and I doubt that's what we'll see--the only certainty is that I don't think the villain is going to be Magneto (the X-Men have a giant roster of villains so there are many options). What's important is less their enemy and more about them becoming a team--becoming the X-Men.

Going forward it will be interesting to see what the MCU does with the team. Fox has already attempted most of the best-known storylines ("Dark Phoenix" twice; "God Loves, Man Kills" as the basis for X-2; "Days of Future Past," albeit in a way where it could be used again; and the two storylines referenced above). What we haven't seen are things like the X-Men in space with the Starjammers, or in the Savage Land with Ka-Zar, or interacting with other mutant groups that aren't inherently hostile (like Alpha Flight). I don't think the Fox-attempts mean the MCU won't tackle those stories, but I think they will be more open to different types of narratives.

When?

When will we first see an MCU X-Men film? Typically it's a year from filming to screen, but before filming we need a script, director, and actors (this can be a simple or time-consuming process). I strongly suspect Kevin Feige has most of this figured out (especially given all the time he's had to prepare for it)--there are undoubtedly spec-scripts on-hand along with lists of potential directors and actors. We can't really compare the situation with Spider-Man because of the shared arrangement with Sony, however, that process (of introducing him in someone else's film) may very well be how we're introduced to mutants. It's likely, to my mind, that we'll see some a reference or tease for the X-Men before their own movie arrives (the first opportunity to do so seems to be 2020, as all the 2019 films will have been locked by the time the sale is completed).

I think we'll have to wait about 18-months after the sale is finalized before we see a film--so the fall of 2020 at the earliest to the summer of 2021 at the latest (most likely Christmas or summer). I don't think any of the declared MCU dates will be used, instead the X-Men will get their own date (meaning four MCU films a year)--they can easily add this capacity because they'll have absorbed Fox's film division. If this seems like an eternity to wait, it's seems like the best we can hope for based on a standard development (this framework also applies to the reacquired Fantastic Four).


There are a ton of other mutant properties beyond just the X-Men: The New MutantsX-FactorAlpha Flight, Excalibur, etc. In movie terms I'm not sure how many would ever warrant their own films, although the latter has a connection to Captain Marvel that might be used (as in, them appearing in her movies--if I was given a chance to put in just my favourite characters from that team I'd want either version of Guardian along with Puck, Box, and Flashback). They are likely far down the line of potential development, unlike the X-Men which the MCU will want on-screen ASAP.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Marvel News

Image result for captain marvel

I forgot to comment on the Captain Marvel trailer in my last post. It's more of a teaser than an actual trailer, which makes sense since the film is six months away. It's better than the Ant-Man and the Wasp final trailer and about on-par with its first. It is not, however, on the level of the opening trailers for Infinity War, Black Panther, or Thor: Ragnarok (definitely better than the awful Spider-Man: Homecoming trailers and about on par with Guardians of the Galaxy 2). As a trailer its fine, but perhaps not as mind-blowing as hoped (granting it had a lot more heavy lifting to do than all the aforementioned trailers since she's a new IP).

In terms of substance the trailer does less to overtly set-up the plot than it does to establish who Carol Danvers is (which is exactly what it needs to do since, despite her longevity, Captain Marvel has never been a particularly popular character--with a 23-issue run as Ms. Marvel in the 70s, then a series of brief runs when she took over her current moniker in 2012--14, 15, and 10 issues respectively; I wrote about her origins here). What's hard about depicting characters this powerful is making their powers feel earned and making them feel threatened (Wonder Woman doesn't have to earn her powers, but rather decide to give up her isolation and use them, echoing Thor in some respects)--a trailer can't really delve into that though, that's a challenge for the film itself.

From the teaser it seems as though Carol was taken (or rescued) by the Kree when she's an air force pilot and through that process either loses her memories or has them taken away (very Winter Soldier if that's the case). With the Kree she becomes part of a team, Star Force, which in the comics are a group of villains (and the involvement of Ronan suggests they still are; it's not clear if he or Jude Law's character are in charge). How or why Carol leaves that group isn't clear (is it her choice or by accident?), but she winds up back on earth, meets Nick Fury, and her memories start coming back. We're shown the Scrulls, who are ostensibly the enemy of the film, but not much is said about them. It seems like the film will have Carol recovering her memories, figuring out who she is, and then deciding who she wants to be (presumably rejecting Star Force if, indeed, they are enemies in the film as well). It's left ambiguous whether Jude Law is good or bad--he was announced as playing Walter Lawson, who is Captain Mar-Vell in the comics, but many people are proposing he's actually Yon-Rogg, the villain responsible for giving Carol her powers. I think his character will remain Lawson, but it's possible he'll be given a more ambiguous role (I doubt he's evil however, as Ronan fulfills that role for the Kree already).

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People have been losing their collective minds since Chris Evans Tweeted a thank you for playing Captain America. The general impression is that he's hanging up the shield and likely dying in Avengers 4 (Charlie, via the link, still thinks he's dying, but leaves the door open to flashbacks etc). I have a problem with this which is shared by Jeremy Conrad:
I don’t necessarily mean that Cap is going to die in Avengers 4, but it could mean he is retired in such a way that we won’t see Chris in the spangly outfit again for a long time.
The reason why interpreting Evans' comments should be treated with caution is that neither Kevin Feige nor the Russo's would want Evans to spoil the film by revealing his fate. Evans is not known for spoilers, so there's little doubt that the sentiment was approved (tacitly at least) by those involved. Cynically I'd want to call this a ploy to bump his pay, but it's so early in the process (we're months away from the release of Avengers 4), that I think it's simply an earnest expression from the actor.

I do think, incidentally, that the intent is for Captain Marvel to take over the leadership role (how many Captain's do you want on a team?), or at least share it with Doctor Strange or Black Panther, as I think most of the Avengers' characters are retiring after the film. I believe this eventuality for three reasons: 1) most of the actors are older, 2) so that phase four can launch with a mostly new team, 3) to make room for the X-Men/Fantastic Four. It's simply too difficult to keep such a huge roster in play--secondary characters will be sent to the streaming service (ala Scarlett Witch) to make room for the newer IP. I do think (as I say in my Avengers 4 Speculation post) that very few will actually die so that they are available for cameos etcetera.

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For quite some time I thought we might get successor heroes in the MCU like we've seen in the comics--perhaps a Falcon version of Captain America, or an Amadeus Cho version of Hulk, etc. I'm much less convinced of this now and think Kevin Feige is trying to avoid this because it forces a comparison--which version of X do you prefer? There's also a fear that the successors would simply be derivative (how different, really, is one Hulk from another?). It's much safer to go with original characters and with the Fox properties returning there's only so much screen time regardless. That doesn't mean we won't see these versions elsewhere (via streaming or what have you), but that I'm dubious Ironheart etc will be appearing on screen any time soon.

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Conrad is pushing the idea that the title of Avengers 4 is Avengers: Annihilation, basing it on the photo the Russo's released not long ago. While Conrad may indeed be correct his reasoning is incredibly weak--you can see two A's in the picture? There are actually four, definitively, with another potential four added to the mix. What I think is happening is Conrad's source has confirmed the title, but Conrad can't see anything more definitive within the picture to confirm it (you can see him wrestling with this problem with even further stretching to rationalize it--he should have just said "a source told me" and left it at that).

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We've had more information come out about Daredevil season three:
  • It's an original story inspired by Frank Miller's "Born Again" and Kevin Smith's "Guardian Devil"
  • No other Defenders will appear
  • Fisk spends at least some of the season under FBI house-arrest
  • Matt feels unworthy of the Daredevil identity
  • Karen's secret past will be revealed
We've been aware of the "Born Again" inspiration since the end credit scene in The Defenders. That's a 1986 Miller story that pits the Kingpin against Daredevil and has an arc for comicbook Karen Page (which won't be followed as-is in the show). Some of the elements of this plot have already been used (such as Fisk's rise and fall as a public figure--season one); others (such as Karen becoming a heroin addict and selling Matt's secret identity, or the Ben Urich role) wouldn't work with the Netflix version (the latter is dead, after all). In essence the Kingpin finds out who DD is and destroys both lives before everything falls apart for Fisk.

I wasn't familiar with Smith's "Guardian Devil" (98-99), but it has a strange plot (DD caring for an infant who might be the Antichrist; Karen has HIV via the "Born Again" storyline and winds up being killed by Bullseye (!)). It's a preposterously silly story, but what I think is being referred to is the Foggy storyline--he's accused of murder, gets fired, and goes to jail. Nothing else seems related except, perhaps, the Catholic themes which also appear in Miller's story.

We again have no guest appearances by other heroes (Netflix continues to fail to understand the medium as well as they should).

I'm a bit worried about Daredevil's storyline--him having qualms that prevent him from embracing his identity are the heart of both his first season and The Defenders--there's a worry about it being overly repetitive and going down the road of Jessica Jones 2's failures (we will, I hope, at least not break show continuity the same way).


We've learned that Chloe Zhao will direct The Eternals and we've been offered some hints about what the story is:
one aspect...involves the love story between Ikaris, a man fueled by cosmic energy, and Sersi, who relishes moving amongst humans. ... The project also allows Marvel to assemble a diverse cast of various shapes and sizes.
I think the latter comment is in reference to how obscure (and short-lived) the title is, giving the MCU plenty of room to cast any role with anyone (likely adhering to gender, however). This sort of freedom existed for Guardians of the Galaxy as well--an existing IP, but little known (granting there's a much bigger backlog of GotG material). I don't know if the comment, incidentally, is the reporter's or from Marvel.

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The trailer for the delayed Dark Phoenix came out--it's more of a teaser given how short it is.  The Fox X-Men reboot-that-isn't-a-reboot (I think the term 'Singer-verse' is probably the best label for all the films) has generally been bad (Days of Future Past being the exception), despite a good cast. Unfortunately, nothing about the teaser indicates it will be better than the trainwreck that was X-Men: Apocalypse.

Bizarrely, the day after the trailer was released the film's date (proudly displayed as February on the trailer) was moved from February to June (even John Campea, of all people, picked up on how weird this was). This, like New Mutants before it, is the second time the release has been shifted and makes it a virtually certainty that Disney will be able to decide what to do with the film. For awhile I was following the conventional wisdom that the movie would come out as expected (unlike New Mutants, which I expect to be buried on the Disney streaming service), but now I believe it will also disappear. I see no reason why Kevin Feige (who we know will have complete control over the Fox Marvel properties once they arrive at Disney) would want the Fox films to muddy the waters of the characters (and put yet another nail in the coffin of the Dark Phoenix Saga).


Shockingly (or perhaps not) The New Mutants re-shoots haven't happened yet. The re-shoots were announced in January, so it boggles the mind that in ten months literally nothing has happened (as far as I can ascertain they haven't even been scheduled). I have to think this is Fox tacitly abandoning the film to Disney's mercy (which, given the horror-tone, may never see the light of day).


Deadline is reporting the Fox deal could close as early as the end of 2018, but is supposed to happen no later than early 2019. Back in July I mentioned the 12-18 month window originally reported in December and nothing suggests that's going to be anything other than 100% accurate.

While it seems even more pointless than usual, Gambit was given a new release date (March, 2020) with filming set to begin in February. If the latter happens I'll eat my hat.



More DCEU shuffling as the release date for Birds of Prey has been finalized for February, 2020.

This is a pure aside, but I'd never heard anyone else make the comparison I had in my head when I saw Wonder Woman, which was that the film was a mishmash of the first Captain America and Thor. I've now stumbled across at least one other person has now made it, a Youtuber called HiTop Films.

Opinion

I don't discuss entertainment shows very often, but I did want to comment on them briefly. I started this blog just a couple of years ago, but it was earlier that I started paying attention to entertainment news (looking for MCU and Marvel Netflix information).

Initially I was drawn to Emergency Awesome (Charlie Schneider) and Collider; both are big channels and both post daily content. As it happens neither are particularly good sources of news and I stopped watching the latter some time ago (I still watch Charlie as he's a good barometer of what the average fan thinks).

Collider has changed drastically from when I first found it--initially it was John Campea, Jon Schnepp, Kristian Harloff, and Mark Ellis commenting on news introduced by a presenter (Ashley Mova or Natasha Martinez). The show wasn't perfect, but this formulation (minus the presenters) was the best Collider had.

Campea left (twice!) and now sustains his own channel (throwing a bone to Robert Meyer Burnett, who is also no longer with Collider). Campea is a shill, but has some use as a barometer of industry opinion (his personal opinions on films are awful). Schnepp has passed away, but prior to the that the site picked up all the entertainment dregs from the unwatchable Popcorn Talk. Current Collider is plagued with cringy hacks (they are only missing New Rockstar's Sam Bashor to have the complete set of the worst commentators available). Why are they bad? They are lazy (commenting on properties they know little or nothing about) and agenda-centric--whatever hobbyhorse they are riding outweighs genuine discussion or news dissection--I don't want my news vetted in that way. This makes the show unwatchable (it's pretty clear Red Letter Media's "Nerd Crew" segments are riffing on Collider). Their catastrophic fall in views (via Socialblade) show that a time is coming when it will simply implode and Harloff (the best personality remaining there) will sail off to success elsewhere carrying with him the dead weight of his buddy Ellis. I will note: the website isn't as terrible as the YT-element.

Are there similar channels with better content? No. Grace Randolph covers the same kind of topics, but she hates her former employer Marvel so much that it colours all her coverage. Midnight's Edge does fantastic video essays, but these are infrequent and very specific (it's companion channel, Midnight's Edge After Dark, is a mixed bag at best and not very good for comicbook media). Otherwise there's nothing providing regular content that is rigorously researched and features interesting opinions--it just doesn't exist.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)