Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Marvel TV News

With Jessica Jones season two almost here information is slowly dribbling out. We now know all the writers for the series so let's go through them (returning writers in green; unlike the director choices this is not an all-female group):
Aida Mashaka Croal - two episodes; she comes via Luke Cage (both her episodes on that show are in the weaker, second half of the season, 8 and 13, which includes some of the corniest Diamondback moments, although the episodes have their moments)
Melissa Rosenberg - the showrunner returns and has written just as much as she did in season one (a full episode and another with a cowriter)
Hilly Hicks - returns and wrote one and a half (she wrote two the first season)
Lisa Randolph - one and a half (comes over from Star Trek: Discovery)
Jack Kenny - one and a half (comes from Kevin (Probably) Saves the World)
Raelle Tucker - one and a half (comes from Supernatural Gender SWAP)
Jamie King - returns to write one episode (as she did for season one)
Gabe Fonseca - one (comes from Night Shift)
Jenny Klein - one (comes from Supernatural and has since gone on to Cloak & Dagger)
Jesse Harris - responsible for just the story element of one episode (outside of short films doesn't have a lot of credits); had no credits on the first season but was part of the writing room

I mentioned months ago that because of the lengthy gap between filming seasons (twenty months) most of the writers for season one are long gone. Whether this and the absence of most of the comic source material will impact the show remains to be seen (for those who haven't read the comics most of Jessica's arc prior to having a daughter with Luke Cage was used in season one; she has storylines afterward, but they all connect to that reality and its one the Netflix show can't embrace).

One of the strange things to me is that Wil Traval's Simpson character (Nuke) is in Jessica Jones season two, but were it not for his Twitter feed I'd have no idea as his presence is in none of the marketing material or any of the public comments by the showrunner or co-stars. I can only imagine it's part of a strategy to keep the plot of the series secret (although to what end I really don't know--the approach seems to be to sell the attitude rather than the story to new viewers).

There's also a lot of speculation in the press about whether or not Trish Walker will become Hellcat in the show. I'm not sure if we'll see that this season or not, but in general Netflix, now that they've been cut off from the MCU mothership (by Disney to protect their new streaming service--as in, no more sharing of IP outside the company), will want to maximize their assets. So like the Punisher and Elektra (one successful, one not) they'll be looking to create an appetite for new shows (ergo, new heroes).

The early, formal reviews, have been uninformative. The ubiquitous (and meaningless) "too slow" has come up--something fans can ignore after it was used for the frenetic Defenders. There seems to be a critical consensus whereby family-friendly fair like the CW shows and Agents of SHIELD get a free pass, while more adult-oriented material (like The Punisher) hover in the low to mid-70s (with a shared general sentiment that, like Star Wars, these shows should be aimed at 12-year olds), all of which makes the collective opinion on the shows more or less useless as a guide. I did wonder if things like the #MeToo movement might move the needle for the show (the first season fits in with it perfectly) and the initial critical number has started to creep up so I think it will.

The release date for Luke Cage season two was announced (June 22nd). This fits the range that I predicted months ago and leaves plenty of room for the other two series' to come out this year. I wouldn't be surprised if we get Iron Fist or Daredevil in September (leaning towards the former to come out first given that they wrap filming at the same time and Iron Fist would be getting a bump from Danny Rand appearing in Luke Cage), with the other show in December--Netflix might be aiming for a three-month rotation for its Marvel properties (which seems reasonable)--in which case The Punisher would be next up in March, 2019.

Deadline reports that three series regulars have been cast for Punisher season two: Josh Stewart (as John Pilgrim), Floriana Lima (Krista Dumont), and Giorgia Whigham (Amy Bendix). After this news dropped That Hashtag Show had yet more casting information while realizing their earlier theory about the storyline was wrong, now believing that instead of Garth Ennis' "Slavers" the show is adapting "Suicide Run"--the latter was a Punisher crossover storyline (Punisher #85-#87, Punisher War Journal #61-#63, and Punisher War Zone #23-#25) running from December, 1993-March, 1994 (written by Steven Grant, Chuck Dixon, and Larry Hama). In that story Frank is thought to be dead and various imitators try to take over the Punisher reins while he's stuck in a small town recuperating. The casting call reads:
[Sheriff Bonnen] an authoritative male in his early 40s.
[Deputy Willis] a female, 33-37, who is a good cop but looks out for #1 above all else.
[Deputy Creamer] a 25-28 year old male who is described as optimistic and professional.
[Bob] a male in his early 50s who works at the desk at the sheriff office.
The switch in prospective stories means the THS guys believe John Pilgrim is a stand-in for Jimmy Pierce (whose name they believe was changed because it was used for a character who fought Colleen Wing in Iron Fist). This would mean another character THS is aware of (a female character dubbed "Drea") could be a version of Lynn Michaels, both of whom try to take over the role of the Punisher. My only issue with the latter theory is that the first letters used in the names for casting calls tend to match the actual character and that's not the case here. If they use this storyline there's plenty of room for appearances from characters like Daredevil if they choose to go that route.

Vulture was interviewing Krysten Ritter and asked her about The Defenders and she had a very interesting response:
I had a great time doing The Defenders and honestly, it was such a good experience that I would even do it again. I don’t think we are doing it again. It was never intentioned to do it again, but, you know, if I was given another opportunity, I would. ... My heart is in Jessica Jones, but I did have a great time doing The Defenders with the guys. We had a good time.
There are some clickbaity articles coming out as a result of this, but parsing it down what's clear is:
1) she was only signed to do one Defenders series
2) she isn't aware of plans to do another (while she might be under NDA, I think if that was the case she'd simply say she can't talk about it)
In essence the only thing we really know is that Netflix hasn't approved another team-up series, but it's clearly just a matter of time. Superhero team-ups do very well (on the CW, in the MCU), and crossovers (like Luke Cage in Jessica Jones or Danny Rand in the upcoming Luke Cage) suggest Netflix understands this lesson. A Defenders vs Kingpin would be excellent--it could include Frank Castle as well--and virtually writes itself. For those thinking these comments mean an end to Netflix team-ups there's no reason to worry.

After Deadpool 2 moved it's release date from June 1st to May 18th back in January, I wondered if Marvel would tweak the Avengers date (either to help support its fellow Disney property and/or to regain some breathing room against Deadpool). On March 1st the change happened, as the date moved a week forward from May 4th to April 25th, giving the film about four weeks without serious competition (Screen Rant has a good piece going through the permutations of the change). The most commonly given theory is that it's to avoid oversea spoilers in North America, which I'll buy if (after seeing the movie) there really are huge spoilers--until then, I think space for both Deadpool and Solo seems responsible.

Speaking of the broader MCU, I was curious to see if the acquisition of Fox (or, at least, the return of the characters to Marvel) would bump how many films the studio would put out per year. The new dates put on the calendar for 2021-22 don't indicate any change (three per year), albeit there's plenty of room to add more titles. Beyond the confirmed Phase Four second Spider-Man film (July 5, 2019) we have:
2020 (May, August, November)
2021 (May, July, November)
2022 (February, May, July)
[It's important to note that, although we're getting a Spider-Man 3, Sony picks the date, not Marvel, so it's not included in this assortment]

A few of these dates seem pretty clear: we know via James Gunn that the Guardians sequel is in 2020 and it is almost certainly in May (matching the release of the second movie); February, 2022 is Black Panther (why not use the same timeframe as the first?); more speculatively a second Doctor Strange is likely the November, 2020 release, while another Captain Marvel film probably fits into May, 2021. If Ant-Man is slatted for a trilogy then that could be the August, 2020 slot (although I don't think the studio feels beholden to solo trilogies for all its characters). Its likely that James Gunn will get a spinoff series of sorts (Adam Warlock perhaps, or The Nova Corps--although both could simply be folded into a new version of the Guardians), but there's no obvious spot for a third Doctor Strange (the Black Panther date also seems awfully far away). We can reasonably expect another Thor movie given that everyone involved is interested; a Black Widow movie seems to be in the works as well; it's hard to imagine Marvel giving up on Captain America; and we've had Avengers movies at three-year intervals. All this speculation looks like this:
May - Guardians 3 (previous film May/17)
August - Black Widow (new) or Ant-Man 3 (prev July/18)
November - Doctor Strange 2 (prev Nov/16)
May - Captain Marvel 2 (prev Mar/19)
July - Captain America 4 (prev May/16)
November - Thor 4 (prev Nov/17)
February - Black Panther 2 (prev Feb/18)
May - Avengers 5 (prev May/19)
July - Adam Warlock/Nova Corps (new) or Guardians 4 (prev May/20)

The August, 2020 date is pretty speculative, but two-year turnarounds for sequels have happened before (Captain America 2 and 3). Granted, all of this could be wrong and it doesn't include the various other legacy characters (like Iron Man) getting their own movies.

I don't have the Fox properties shown above because we don't know the timeframe for the sale and the above announcements sound a lot like what Marvel was planning before that purchase. The earliest we're likely to see the Fox characters would be 2020, but there's plenty of room for films to be added. Fantastic Four doesn't require a prominent release date, although any new X-Men films are likely to drop in a key slot (so, hypothetically, the May, 2022 spot). People like Charlie Schneider speculating about 7-10 years before integrating the X-Men is bizarre (as I've addressed before). Marvel would have known Disney was attempting to purchase the properties years in advance and spec scripts might have been written even earlier for "what-if" scenarios like what's happened with Sony. There's no question Kevin Feige knows what he wants to do with the characters and the only real adjustment will be fitting them into the current state of the MCU (and then attaching directors and actors).

Almost a year ago I briefly looked at the state of the DCEU, largely in terms of what's been announced and what's changed because I was finding it hard to keep track of. Since then things have only become more chaotic. Despite a solid return for Wonder Woman, Justice League bombed (a bad omen for Aquaman). I've mentioned before that I'd like DC to get its house in order and start putting out consistently good films, but we aren't there yet (I'd love to see a version of The Teen Titans that I grew up with in the 1980s, but there's no sign of that). Here are the changes, as best as I can determine, since my last post:

Upcoming (films with dates attached)
Aquaman (December 21, 2018) - initially slated for an October release; production has wrapped
Shazam! (April 5, 2019) - announced back in 2014, it was split into two movies (it and Black Adam) and given this release date in 2017; filming began at the end of January
Wonder Woman 2 (November 1, 2019) - announced after the reception of the original film, this will be yet another flashback movie (understandably they want to steer clear of the modern day mess that is the DCEU, although I still think it's a poor decision) and it will be interesting to see how it's received post-Captain Marvel--while I enjoyed the first WW, the plot was largely a mishmash of the first Captain America and Thor (with Uncle Ben's death thrown in) and I don't think they can get away with that a second time
Cyborg (April 3, 2020) - still has no director or script, meaning my suspicion that it's not going to happen remains unchanged
Green Lantern Corps (July 24, 2020) - moved about a month up from its original date awhile ago and although it has had screenwriters since 2017 there is still no director attached

Development (listed in announcement order)
Flashpoint - it's March 23, 2018, release date was abandoned some time ago; many directors have walked away the film, whose script was finished in September, 2017; in March new directors were confirmed who will get to re-write the script, so it's hard to know when it will come out; the general assumption is that the film will be used to reboot the DCEU out of dark mold of Zack Snyder's and Christopher Nolan's vision
Justice League Dark - originally an idea from Guillermo del Toro way back in 2013; since his departure in 2015 the studio hasn't had an acceptable script and there hasn't been a director attached in almost a year, putting this way back in the potential production schedule (the lukewarm reaction to Snyder's darker DCEU likely hasn't helped)
The Batman - in production on some level since Ben Affleck was picked to play Batman in 2014, the 2018 release became 2019 to where it stands now (unknown); much of this delay can be attributed to Affleck stepping away from the director/writer role (his script abandoned by January of 2017 at the latest); new director Matt Reeves suggested a 2018 production date last summer, but with no word since that seems unlikely
Justice League Part 2 - while Zack Snyder is no longer involved with the sequel, WB hasn't officially scrapped it, although it lacks writers, a director, or anything else of substance since Snyder's vision was scrapped; while I'm sure there will be another JL film at some point it's going to be an entirely different animal
Lobo - announced in March, 2016 (it's not clear how much of the plans--if any--date back to the 2009 project); it has a screenwriter attached, but as yet no director or finished script
Suicide Squad 2 - work on a sequel began in March, 2016 (prior to the release of the original) and the film has a writer/director locked in (September, 2017) with signs that production will occur in October of this year (making it a candidate to take either Cyborg or Green Lantern's release date)
Man of Steel 2 - put in "active production" August, 2016, but with no script or director attached it's difficult to imagine it coming to fruition any time soon
Birds of Prey - a report in November, 2016, along with comments from Margot Robbie are the only sources of news on this; beyond a script writer there's been nothing firm from WB about it
Gotham City Sirens - announced in December, 2016, with both a director and screenwriter attached, but no news has come out since and with Margot Robbie presumably preparing to film the Suicide Squad sequel it's difficult to parse when (or if) this will be appearing
Deadshot - inexplicably announced in December, 2016, in what I saw as a sop to Will Smith's ego; with no director or screenwriter attached this seems unlikely to ever occur
Black Adam - announced in January, 2017, as the character was split off from the Shazam film; it has no finished script or director, so won't be a reality any time soon (the longer this stretches on for Dwayne Johnson the more it seems like Channing Tatum's Gambit movie)
Nightwing - announced in February, 2017; with both a director and script attached this is one of the projects that was theoretically closer to production, but the director is doing another movie at the moment so it's not happening any time soon (it makes little sense in a connected universe to have the Nightwing movie happen before a Batman film--this is one of the problems with suggestions for a Ms. Marvel film or show--you need Carol Danvers before you can have Kamala Khan)
Batgirl - announced in March, 2017, but attached writer/director Joss Whedon walked away this February, meaning that however much of a rush the studio may be to push this out it has to start from scratch
Harley Quinn/Joker film - announced in August, 2017; it has writer/directors attached so is ahead of other films listed here
Deathstroke - reported on October, 2017, with Gareth Evans rumoured to write and direct, but nothing has officially been announced
Harley Quinn - I'm not sure how real this is, as the Margot Robbie statement it's based on (from November) doesn't require a solo film--in could, in fact, be referencing Birds of Prey--WB has said nothing official about it as yet

What can we expect? Aquaman is in the can and both Shazam! and Wonder Woman 2 can be expected to come out as is (there may be tweaks to release dates, but nothing more). This December WB seemed to confirm Suicide Squad 2, The Batman, Flashpoint, Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark, and Batgirl, but this list was updated just a month later with Man of Steal 2 and Nightwing added, but minus Batgirl, Justice League Dark, and Green Lantern. What to conclude from all this chaos? To me what's most likely are films with directors and scripts in place--it doesn't guarantee a film will happen, but it's more likely than when they are not. That said, SS2 seems to be actively moving forward, but none of the other films listed here seem that close to production. The other projects that have both directors and writers are: Gotham City Sirens, Nightwing, Harley Quinn/Joker, and (if the rumours are true) Deathstroke.

While we're discussing other studios it's worth mentioning that Sony's Silver & Black (announced in 2017 with a planned 2018 production date) has been shelved "indefinitely" due to script issues. With this change, other than the already produced Venom, there's nothing in production (although both Nightwatch and Morbius were announced in 2017, the latter has writers, but neither have dates attached). Reading the tea leaves it's clear Sony wants to see how a non-MCU Venom fares before sinking a bunch of money into spinoff properties. While there's a lot of depth to the characters attached to Spider-Man, most are best suited as secondary characters or having homes on TV (Netflix could do wonders with some of them, although I don't think they could survive if detached from their Marvel context). The odds are very good that Venom will fail and Sony will then sell the properties to Disney, ending the bizarre bifurcated of Marvel we've lived with for decades on screen.

No reason not to quickly check in with Fox as well. We know Deadpool 2 is coming out in May and the unwanted X-Men: Dark Phoenix appears in November. New Mutants, which was a completed film and originally due out this April, is now having extensive re-shoots and is set to premiere next February (this date, conveniently, is late enough that if Disney's purchase is approved Marvel could kill the movie--something I see as likely if they're given the chance). Beyond these three:
Gambit - Channing Tatum has been attached since 2014, but three directors have walked with the latest (Gore Verbinski) causing Fox to skip a March, 2018 production date and remove the film from a June, 2019 release to TBD. Because of the delays I don't think this film is ever going to come out, as the property will be back at Marvel (who are unlikely to want the aging Tatum in the role)
X-Force - production is slated to begin in October with former Daredevil showrunner Drew Goddard writing/directing--despite changing scripts and directors through its genesis this seems likely to happen given the success of Deadpool and with Ryan Reynolds backing it
Deadpool 3 - likely to occur even after Disney's acquisition; it will simply be re-branded in some fashion

A number of other films have been announced and X-23 has a script, Multiple Man a star (James Franco) and screenwriter, and Kitty Pryde a director and scriptwriter. However, none of these projects (or others that have been announced) will be far enough along for Marvel to not have a say in them. From what's been said it seems likely that Feige will allow Ryan Reynolds and his Deadpool mini-verse to continue while rebooting all other aspects of the Fox properties.

[Just a quick correction for previous pieces: I've inexplicably been writing "the" Hashtag Show rather than THAT Hashtag Show--an error I only noticed recently.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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