Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Marvel TV News

The rumoured purchase of Fox by Disney is now official and means that both the X-Men and Fantastic Four are returning to the MCU. This likely has no impact on the Netflix side of things, but certainly for TV in general it opens a lot of doors. As for the movies, presumably all the Fox films currently (or nearly) completed will come out as-is in 2018 (so New Mutants in April, Deadpool 2 in June, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix in November), with the reboots for the mutant franchises to come afterwards (the Channing Tatum Gambit movie, scheduled to start filming in March, may also go ahead). What will be interesting is: when will we start to get easter eggs for this stuff and how quickly will characters begin appearing in the MCU? The sale opens the door for changes to Captain Marvel (the Super Skrull is now available), although I don't think any other film on the current slate is likely to include elements of the returned properties (Jude Terror thinks it will be as early as a Avengers: Infinity War post-credit scene, but I see this as wishful thinking). In general I think we'll see The Fantastic Four first, but the idea floating around that mutants won't appear on film until 2020 or 2021 is, I think, absurd--there's no point in acquiring the IP and not getting out it ASAP.

This event has lead to people losing their minds--I don't mean the excitement amongst fans, rather it's entertainment pundits losing their senses and posing a variety of ridiculous theories about the purchase--ranging from the end of the Deadpool franchise (Disney won't allow an R-rated movie!) to keeping the X-Men completely separate and under the same auspices at Fox (John Campea suggesting this is understandable, but I have no idea what Charlie Schneider was smoking to suggest it--what would be the point of the acquisition if the status quo remains unchanged?). It's abundantly clear from how Marvel has hid its slate of films in Phase Four that plans for this possibility were long-considered (much like the inclusion of Spider-Man predated Civil War by a considerable margin--Kevin Feige made comments back in 2015 talking about their contingencies should things like this occur). Beyond the obvious point that we'll be getting a Fantastic Four reboot in the MCU, it also makes sense to reboot the X-franchises to avoid brand confusion and get away from Fox's nonsensical continuity and erratic quality.

Another interesting question is: how many MCU films a year will we get now? Each studio is releasing three movies in 2018--will that volume be maintained by Marvel or will they cut back? At minimum I think we'll get four Marvel movies a year, but more is certainly feasible.

We now have a date for Jessica Jones season two: March 8th, 2018. This is later than my prediction (January-February, favouring January), but fits in nicely with International Women's Day and previous releases (Daredevil season two and Iron Fist were also March releases). This also begins the framework for when the other shows will air. If it's a matter of symmetry then it will be a show at three-month intervals (Luke Cage in June, Daredevil in September, and Iron Fist in December). That said, there's nothing preventing Netflix from fitting them closer together if they wish (the original plan for The Punisher was October, just two months after The Defenders). The latter two shows (DD and IF) are filming at essentially the same time (with even more overlap than JJ and LC, which shared three months of filming vs the four DD and IF will have), making it easy to drop them within close proximity (there's been no hint that Luke will appear in JJ2, despite the parallel filming, incidentally). Indeed, with how closely together they are being produced it's possible we might see IF drop before DD (a precedent established by The Defenders vs The Punisher, granting very different circumstances). I think it would benefit the shows to cross pollinate more--it makes them more interconnected and would help with hype for The Defenders--while that's clearly the case for LC and IF, it will be interesting to see if either JJ or DD follows suit.

I thought the teaser for JJ season two was solid (the musical choice was great)--there was an emphasis on action, which seems like a direct response to the (albeit infrequent) complaints about the first season. The only revelation was that the Oscar Ramirez character is a love-interest (I'd mentioned previously that I thought the show would maintain an interracial relationship to mimic the absent Luke Cage--whose relationship with Claire Temple seems likely to continue--although I hadn't pegged Oscar as that person).

We still know very little about the plot, outside earlier comments that it would delve into the IGH story teased in season one (leaving room for more superpowered individuals if they choose to go that way). Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg said recently:
We’re allowing Carrie-Anne Moss and Hogarth’s story line, Rachael Taylor who plays Trish, and Eka Darville who plays Malcolm to have more opportunities for development so our world will feel a little bigger. The show is still totally focused on Jessica, but the supporting players are getting great moments to shine this season.
This is interesting because all three supporting character had story arcs in the first season (very good ones; Hogarth's divorce, Trish's relationship with Simpson (aka Nuke), and Malcolm's drug addiction via Kilgrave), so I'm not sure what this means exactly. It does make me wonder if the casting call for Ingrid (Leah Gibson's character) might be as a new love interest for Hogarth (Rosenberg worked with Gibson on Twilight, incidentally).

One of the interesting consequences of the long gap between JJ seasons is that most of the writers from season one are gone (Scott Reynolds went to Iron Fist and then Inhumans; Micah Schraft to Jane the Virgin; Hilly Hicks to Feed the Beast; Dana Baratta to Good Behaviour; Liz Friedman to Conviction; and Edward Ricourt to Wayward Pines). Potentially only two writers, plus Rosenberg herself, remain, and neither of those two (Jamie King and Jenna Reback) contributed to more than one episode. Whether this will impact the quality of the writing this season remains to be seen.

Incidentally, speaking of writers from the Marvel Netflix series, Lauren Schmidt Hissirch (who worked on Daredevil season two and The Defenders) will showrun Netflix's Witcher.

I didn't mention it at the time, but I find it interesting that new showrunner Erik Oleson was only announced on October 25th, with filming beginning just nineteen days later (November 13th). I have to think he was involved before that (possibly working with scripts from previous showrunners, Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez). The late switch is unusual, with the closest parallel being Daredevil season one (showrunner Drew Goddard dropped out with Steven S. DeKnight taking over May 24th--filming beginning in July). I haven't found any reporting on what happened to previous show runner Marco Ramirez--did he leave, was it a mutual parting of ways, or was he let go? Regardless, with twenty months since the release of season two the third season should be well planned.

The official announcement for season two has dropped. This is pretty fast for Netflix to publicly renew (just under a month), implying a lot of confidence in the property (I still haven't seen any stories talking about viewership numbers, although those can take months to come out). While no details were provided, I assume Steve Lightfoot will remain as showrunner and that Jigsaw will be the main (or one of the main) antagonists. Logistically Netflix could film and debut the show in 2018, but while the former is a lock I wouldn't expect it until 2019. This is a good interview with Lightfoot about the first season, incidentally.

Speaking of interesting articles, there's one on Vox about The Punisher's approach to dealing with the topic of PTSD. The author is, I think, far too generous towards those who complained about the show's violence (which boils down to it somehow celebrating violence which encourages it--this ridiculous idea falls apart if you apply it to anything else (eg, you enjoy crime shows, therefore you both encourage crime and wish to commit them! It's absurd).

In a somewhat similar vein, why does Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg say this when talking about the season renewal:
After less than a month, the show has a 60 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the 94 percent audience score painting a different picture among the show's diehard fanboy target audience
There's no good reason to use the term "fanboy" here ("diehard" is questionable, as he has no idea who is voting for the show on the site, but it's a little less egregious)--it's meant as a slight and suggests a lot of bitterness from Goldberg about the audience reception. What's his investment? I find this kind of thing bizarre--if he has some moral or ethical objection to the show then he should bring it up, otherwise his personal opinion is irrelevant to what is simply a news release.

I didn't reflect on this at the time because saying something is "for the fans" is normal rhetoric for anything excoriated by critics, but I do want to briefly comment on part of Finn Jones' comments from earlier this year:
I think some of the reviews we saw were seeing the show through a very specific lens
This part of his statement is, I think, absolutely correct. Putting aside what you thought about the show personally, one of the clearest things from the myriad of reviews was that each one had a very specific idea going into the show what they wanted from it. We could put some blame on the marketing perhaps, but (as I've said previously) it seemed like everyone had either the Immortal Iron Fist in their heads or a 70s style Kung Fu epic--this sentiment is still reflected in expectations for the upcoming season.

As bad as Inhumans ratings were, it's interesting to see the much-praised Agents of SHIELD (100% again this season?) slip below that watermark after the premiere (1.93/0.5, 1.84/0.5). Ratings for The Gifted also continue to slide, this time not just with general audiences, but also the key demographic (2.81/0.8 and 2.78/0.8). AoS has been in decline for a long time and is only on-air due to Disney's demands (what the ratings suggest is that this, indeed, will be its last season). As for the Fox show, in lieu of Disney's purchase and the declining ratings, cancellation seems likely (we might get something similar in the future, but a more coherent version of Bryan Singer's one-note view of mutant characters).

I wonder if one of the reasons Netflix is producing their Marvel series' in such quick succession is because they felt The Defenders was hurt by the long gap between shows (both of the upcoming seasons of JJ and DD will be over two years later). I'm just speculating, but you have to think that releasing them close together throughout the year will help build buzz and momentum for the team-up.

I'm also curious when exactly the Netflix shows realised the MCU (as in, the movies) were completely ignoring them. Daredevil season one, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage feature prominent MCU connections (eg: Fisk's plan begins through exploiting the damage done to the city via The Avengers; JJ has the subplot of the couple who try to kill her because of "the incident"; LC's plot heavily involves Justin Hammer tech), but Daredevil season two, Iron FistThe Defenders, and The Punisher do not. I'm not sure if the effort to distance themselves is simply acknowledging a reality or trying to set apart the Netflix shows. I think the shows are better off being referential even if they are being ignored--it lends verisimilitude to the idea of them being in the same universe (and fans like the easter eggs).

Going back to the discussion of what characters are available for Netflix to use: there were rumours back in the August of 2016 that four pilots (including White Tiger) were presented to Netflix as potential series' (the notorious Umberto Gonzalez disputed this at the time, which, at this point, seems to be correct). I'm less interested in whether pilots were shot or proposals were made and more if Netflix was offered other IP--it seems that if they were, they passed on it, but I do wonder when Disney decided to go ahead with their own streaming service and stop expanding their footprint at Netflix. It seems like it was last year, with Cloak & Dagger's announcement (April, 2016), followed by Ghost Rider appearing in AoS (July, 2016), and then The Runaways and New Warriors announcement (August, 2016).

One of the funny things that I've heard repeatedly about Avengers: Infinity War is that there are (or could be) too many characters. This is one of those statements that makes no sense whatsoever without context. There's no magical threshold where there are "too many" characters. One of the struggles some critics (and fans) have is adjusting their perception from individual, self-contained films versus the serialized approach of the MCU. If AIW was a stand alone film, or the first of a series, then you could make an argument that there's not enough screen time to support all the characters that appear. That's simply not the case here. Marvel can reasonably assume that most of its audience has seen some of the films and therefore does not need to do the establishing work that a solo film requires. Fans know who Tony Stark is, so the Russo's only need to worry about what he's doing within the context of the film (if you think about the first Avengers film, a fan only needed to see Iron Man and Thor to understand the team-up). Lazy sentiments like this drive me crazy. It's like when critics complain about there "being too much CG" in a film--the amount isn't relevant, it's how good it is and how well it works with the property (this goes along with the "MCU villains are bad" sentiment, which is pretty ridiculous at this point).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


  1. I did not realize this did not affect Netflix as I thought Disney would stream these now. MCU is sure about this?

  2. It will impact Marvel TV properties--so shows on Disney's upcoming streaming service as well as Hulu and ABC--but because Marvel has already said it's not going to provide additional IP to Netflix it won't impact those shows (although references could still occur).