Monday, May 14, 2018

Marvel TV and MCU News

Since my last post a few weeks ago an avalanche of news and speculation has come out. Below I cover Avengers: Infinity War news and theories; Avengers 4 theories; Black Widow speculation; Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and Jessica Jones news; Captain Marvel; Ms. Marvel news; and the status of ABC's Marvel shows.

SPOILERS below for all released MCU movies and the Netflix shows

Jeremy Conrad (who broke The Eternals story) has the following rumour about Avengers 4:
In the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War, Nick Fury and Maria Hill are tracking the extraterrestrial signals being detected in Wakanda. Now neither Fury nor Hill knows about Thanos coming to Earth. But Fury does know about another extraterrestrial threat in the Skrulls due to him being around Carol Danvers in the 90s when she was dealing with them [in the upcoming Captain Marvel]. That’s why he sends the signal to Captain Marvel, because he believed the Skrulls were finally invading Earth. This then ties into Avengers 4 and Hawkeye’s role in the story. The rumor is that he’s working as Ronin in Tokyo and hunting down Yakuza, who are actually Skrulls. The casting notice for these extras apparently said they needed to be comfortable wearing a facial prosthetic, which would definitely point to them being Skrulls if true.
It sounds like the primary evidence for this rumour is the casting call associated with prosthetics. It's certainly plausible (as all good rumours should be), but if true doesn't sound like it's a major part of the story (simply background for what Clint has been doing).

Image result for five year gap

Another rumour floating around is that there will be a five-year jump from the end of Infinity War to its sequel. This idea primarily comes from something Gwyneth Paltrow said (see below), but also the casting of a 16-year old Cassie Lang and the leaked photos of Avengers 4 and Zoe Saldana's instagram from last year, both of which seem to show at least some characters in their outfits from the first Avengers/Guardians films. This is the idea:
In the five years after the events of Infinity War, Tony Stark (and possibly others) are now agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He and Scott Lang use some kind of technology that Hank Pym has developed in order to travel back in time in an attempt to defeat Thanos in the past. [The idea is Tony Stark will be married with a child and have to give up that life in order to save the trillions killed by Thanos.]
When the photos first leaked they were dismissed as Tony using his B.A.R.F. technology from Captain America: Civil War (this is because there was a set-photo that indicated that was the case--for those who don't recall, it allowed him to re-envision the past). The idea behind the five-year gap is that the story would echo Scott Busiek and Roger Stern's Avengers Forever storyline from 1998-99 (in which Avengers from the past and future are brought together to resolve the plot). The problem with this idea is that it's hard to jive the idea with the sequence of the second Spider-Man film unless the resolution puts them back in current times--and why would Nick Fury summon Captain Marvel if it was going to take her years to respond? It also runs against the MCU's normal routine of movies happening in real time (ergo, a year later).

[The Game of Thrones image above, incidentally, references George R. R. Martin's infamous five-year gap--where he planned a time jump from the end of Storm of Swords before the fourth book of the series, then changed his mind partway through the process which has since crippled his ability to finish the series.]

Joe Russo has said about the film (echoing Kevin Feige, link below):
I don’t think there are any comics that correlate to it. I think we’re in pretty fresh territory with Avengers 4. If anything, I think it’s interesting after to go back and look at some of the Marvel films and view them through a different lens. But I can’t think of any comics in particular that would have value
While this quote seems to contradict the idea of miming Avengers Forever, Conrad adds this (from Kevin Feige):
People always will jump to that [character death]. That’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. I talk a lot, because I’m a big-ass nerd, about Star Trek: The Next Generation, “All Good Things.” That to me is one of the best series finales ever. That wasn’t about death. Picard went and played poker with the crew, something he should have done a long time ago, right?
Conrad thinks this means we'll get something like that episode where Picard is jumping through time, re-visiting events to resolve the catastrophe. I remember the episode pretty well and the idea of exploring the past to solve the problem of the present is a good one (and matches what little information is out there), although I'm not sure what's known requires this kind of interpretation (or time travel--the B.A.R.F. tech could accomplish the same thing so long as they don't need to change or retrieve something).

While I don't think a five-year jump makes a whole lot of sense, of the various time-travel scenarios I've seen none of followed this pattern: stopping Thanos by stopping Civil War--preventing the events that lead to the Avengers breaking up so that they aren't separated when Thanos comes for the stones. This would involve at least three changes:
  • Preventing Loki from taking over in Asgard (Thor: The Dark World) - this would mean Odin isn't banished, Hela isn't freed (to destroy Mjolnir and cause Asgard's destruction), or Thor having to spend years running around the Nine Realms to sort out what was wrong (which might also prevent Thanos from getting the gauntlet made by Eitri)
  • Cap telling Tony that Bucky killed his parents (Winter Soldier) - the pair can process their grief long before Tony's guilt for creating Ultron has him back the Sokovia Accords and cause the Avengers to breakup
  • Banner making peace with the Hulk so he doesn't leave Earth (Age of Ultron)
This idea isn't perfect (I don't think it's what we'll see) and it doesn't answer some of the questions we have--like why is the team going all the way back to the first Avengers? There's even a rumour we'll see scenes from the first Captain America--how would that relate? This would also remove a lot of interesting character development and we know Taika Waititi wants to move on from the original Thor set-up, so something like this runs against what the MCU is trying to do and could take the stakes away from the consequences of earlier movies. That's the problem with time travel: avoiding confusion and making its impact felt in a way that feels earned. Ultimately I don't think we'll see anything in the past changed.

Finally we get to a rumour that comes from 4Chan. Why do we care about it? The same poster got some of Infinity War's elements correct (although looking through them most, if not all, seem derived from leaks, toy reveals, the comics and educated guesses), but its fun to go through these things anyway. So, this is the poster's version of the movie:
  • Iron Man reassembles the Avengers and decides to build his own Infinity Gauntlet to undo what Thanos did. They recruit Ant-Man to help them travel through time and space using the Quantum Realm to retrieve the Infinity Stones from different time periods. Thanos finds out about their plans and becomes hellbent on stopping them
  • The movie revolves around the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man
  • At one point, Captain America and Thor fight Thanos. Timeline alterations have restored Mjolnir, and Cap wields it against Thanos to allow the others to escape, and is killed holding Thanos off
  • At one point, Hawkeye must protect the unfinished Stark Gauntlet from Thanos' minions. He plays an "instrumental" role in Thanos' defeat
  • Thor's subplot centers on him assembling an army to challenge Thanos. Captain Marvel joins him
  • Hulk's subplot centers on Banner and Hulk finally merging to become Professor Hulk. He is the one that ultimately wields the Stark Gauntlet against Thanos, losing his arm in the process
  • Nebula's subplot centers on her efforts to redeem herself. At one point, she fights her murderous past self
  • Several MCU movies are revisited and retconned (probably not permanently), such as the Avengers retrieving the Power Stone creating a timeline where the Guardians of the Galaxy never came together
  • There's a pivotal scene between Doctor Strange and a fully CGI character being shot on a secret location, with a skeleton crew, and takes up a sizeable portion of the budget.
  • Only two of the original Avengers [are] meant to survive the movie. Cap dies.
  • The title was Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet at one point, but it might be changed after Zoe Saldana accidentally leaked it [this happened back in April, 2017]

You can see some parallel's to my thought-experiment above (with a different emphasis--here it's a hunt for the Infinity Stones). Is the basic premise plausible? Yes. Eitri has the mould for the glove, so making another is possible--certainly the power of a gauntlet is the simplest way to undo its work, although Stark himself (as a human) could never actually use an Infinity Stone. "Professor Hulk" refers to a Hulk with the intelligence of Banner--I'm accustomed to him being called the grey Hulk and when I was actively reading comics he went by "Mr. Fixit" (beginning in 1986).

What are the flaws of the summary? Let's go through them:
  • Stark can't actually wield the Infinity Gauntlet--Peter Quill, who is half-celestial, could only hold a single stone temporarily and then only with help--this doesn't mean he couldn't build one for someone like Thor, but that's not how the post presents things
  • Thor isn't going to die--prior to filming Ragarok (2016) it's likely Chris Hemsworth wanted to die (and the MCU was probably done with him too), but its success means there are more films for the thunder god in the works
  • There's very little Captain Marvel material here which would surprise me (even though Avengers 4 is meant to wrap-up the previous phases of the MCU I'd expect her to be more prominent)
  • I'm less certain that so many (four) of the original Avengers will perish. In terms of characters arcs, only Black Widow has places to go that won't be wrapped up by this movie (Iron Man's arc will be finished here, I think), but while someone like Hawkeye isn't that popular the rest of the characters are and I'm not sure how many the MCU really wants to kill off (Feige's comments about deaths above serve as a caution--comics almost never kill characters either)
  • There's no mechanism for how Doctor Strange returns from having been disappeared to being alive for his secret scene as described
  • Bringing back Mjolnir just to destroy it again seems redundant; I also don't think someone as important as Cap dies except in the climax

I suspect this post is just like the one for Infinity War--partially accurate--but comes via educated guesses from what's known rather than leaks or access to a script. Just to follow it through, however, if the movie does go through time to collect the Stones in their first appearances, we'd see callbacks to these movies:
-Captain America: The First Avenger (Space Stone)
-The Avengers (Mind Stone)
-Thor: The Dark World (Reality Stone)
-Guardians of the Galaxy (Power Stone)
-Doctor Strange (Time Stone)

Image result for young gamora

Speaking of rumours, there was a lot of speculation that Gamora was within the Soul Stone--this has been busted by Joe Russo:
And that moment when he clicks his fingers sends him into this ethereal plane inside of the Soul Stone where as part of his quote unquote hero’s journey in the film, he has one last moment to convey a sense of guilt about what he’s done. It illustrates what a complicated character he is. So, to clarify, it’s a spiritual representation of her [my emphasis] and obviously that’s something that the Soul Stone has power to do. But really it’s there to illustrate his pain and his guilt. I wouldn’t read much more into it beyond that.
This suggests she is indeed dead--which doesn't mean she can't come back in some way, but it sounds like the MCU is going to avoid the Soul World within the stone as per the comics.

Speaking of death, one of the weirder death confirmations we now have is Sif. Jaimie Alexander was scheduled to appear in Thor: Ragarok (presumably to die along with the Warriors Three), but couldn't due to her TV schedule. Apparently she is dead regardless (this time via Thanos). Betty Ross was also rumoured to appear, but she is also gone (either because Liv Tyler didn't want to come back or there was nothing left to do with the character).

The Luke Cage trailer looks pretty good. I'm a little surprised they kept Bushmaster's name (I've been assuming they wouldn't), but he was featured prominently as the antagonist. I'm curious if Netflix is going to move away from the six-episode arcs for antagonists--if not, presumably Mariah  will serve in the second half.

With more time to think about Cheo Hodari Coker's comments about Danny Rand's appearance, I suspect he's simply a single-episode cameo prior to the final battle with Bushmaster.

Iron Fist season two has wrapped filming, almost exactly five months after it began back in December. Conventional wisdom still imagines Daredevil season three appearing next (after Luke Cage), even though its filming won't wrap for another month. My opinion (which has been echoed, albeit unintentionally, elsewhere and I've expressed previously), is that we'll get Danny Rand's adventures first. I think it makes more sense to have Luke Cage and Iron Fist's releases close to one another (to capitalize off his appearance in Luke Cage). Back in October I went through how Netflix could release all four shows in this calendar year and that framework is still possible--with a September release for the next series (whichever they choose) and a November/December release for the other. What I'm truly hoping, however, is that Netflix realizes the shows need to interconnect much more to truly maximize what they can be (so no repeats of the disconnected Jessica Jones season two). Both the MCU itself and the CW DC shows prove how much this helps.

We got some casting news for season two, as veteran actors Annette O'Toole and Corbin Bernsen have been added. The latter is playing Anderson Schultz, a wealthy man, and O'Toole is playing his wife Eliza. Neither have a clear comicbook basis. This is the first casting news we've had in a couple of months. At the time the speculation was that we'd be seeing a version of "Suicide Run" which, if true, would presumably put the characters in the role of criminal bosses. I'm less sold on that idea, unless the adaptation is very loose. It would be a shame to give Jigsaw's origin in the first season and not use him as a primary antagonist in the second. I think it's much more likely we're getting an original story that simply borrows elements from the comics. I'm also curious if the restriction from Marvel to keep other Defenders from appearing in the show remains--I would hope not.

With casting news already coming out the production for Jessica Jones season three can't be that far away (to appear after The Punisher season two in 2019 presumably). That Hashtag Show has these breakdowns:
[ELLIOTT] Mid 30s-early 40s, male, open ethnicity. Must be over 5’11. A charismatic gambler and alcoholic. Attractive, quick-witted and dry. His edgy charm comes through even in the direst circumstances. SERIES REGULAR – ONE YEAR DEAL 
[COLLINS] 30-50, male, open ethnicity. He is physically spry, extremely intelligent and meticulous. Driven by a pathological need to feel superior. SERIES REGULAR – ONE YEAR DEAL
[KEIRA] 48-52, female, please submit African American, Latina, Asian, Native American, etc. A bohemian cellist and music professor. Intelligent, wry and sexy. Self possessed and able to weather any storm. SERIES REGULAR – POSSIBLE TWO YEAR DEAL
[ZELDA] 27-31, female, African American, strong, smart and driven. A rising star in her profession with the ambition and talent to propel her to the top one day. She’s earthy, beautiful, supportive and fiercely protective of those she loves. SERIES REGULAR – MULTI-YEAR DEAL
Typically the first letter of the name matches that actual name in the show. THS' guesses for season two postings were hilariously wrong and they acknowledge that there just aren't many characters from the character's comic past to draw from (all the additions last season were original to the show), so these are probably show-creations. That said, they made these guesses:
  • Edward Garner - this immensely obscure character (10 appearances debuting in The Thing, which makes me wonder if he's owned by Fox) ran the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (superheros wrestling each other), many of whom got their powers from the Power Broker (see below); this sort of storyline would be a lot of fun, something Jessica Jones avoids at all costs; my guess is that he's a love interest for Jessica (hopefully we will be saved from the awful Oscar in the next season)
  • The Power Broker (Curtiss Jackson) - a slightly more notable villain (31 appearances) who debuted in Captain America; his selection was to match Garner, but while I do think he's an antagonist I don't think this is who he is--I'm guessing it's another original creation
  • Unknown - the description suggests a possible love-interest for Hogarth; she certainly doesn't seem to be an antagonist
  • Member of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation - This connects to the UCWF idea above, which I don't think is on the table, so I think she's either a lawyer and part of Hogarth's storyline, or else a love interest for Malcolm
I still have PTSD from season two (my review isn't up yet, but I thought only the C and D plots worked, with A and B being derivative and occasionally bad--season one remains my favourite from the Netflix offerings, while the second is the worst--the complete lack of impact from the second season in the fandom indicates the show didn't miss just with me). Course-correction is always possible and perhaps showrunner Melissa Rosenberg can bring the show back to the heights of season one (the absence of Brian Michael Bendis material makes me doubtful, but it is possible). If the plot of the third season again revolves around previously unstated problems from Jessica's past I think that will asphyxiate the show. To quote Pops (Luke Cage), "Always forward".

I was feeling like a voice in the wilderness bemoaning the idea of the Black Widow movie being a prequel (as I said last time there's no new ground for it to go over, so what's the point?). Finally someone else out there agrees with me.

I've been thinking about where Captain Marvel has been since the 1990s (when her film is set). Has she simply been off in space leaving the problems on Earth to Nick Fury?  My guess is that she has been in suspended animation or that her abilities slow the aging process. My original suspicion was that she, like the original Wasp, was trapped in the Quantum Realm, but that's clearly not the case.

My familiarity with the Captain Marvel is quite limited--I know her mostly from her impact on Rogue in The Uncanny X-Men when I was reading the comic (1987-92). For those who don't know that story: Rogue takes Carol Danvers' powers in Avengers Annual #10 (1981) while she was still a villain working with Mystique; Danvers subsequently becomes the Phoenix-like Binary and joins the X-Men (#163; 1982), which Rogue joins not long after due to the trauma of absorbing so much of Carol's psyche (#171; 1983); this causes Danvers to leave in a rage. Carol regains her typical powers many years later (X-Men #269, 1990), but goes "off-page" for a considerable time afterwards (finally reappearing in 2000), joining the Avengers and re-branding herself as Warbird (2001). She returns to her old name (Ms. Marvel) after the disbanding of the Avengers (2005) and winds up on the Mighty Avengers (2007). The Captain Marvel moniker only became hers in her own comic in 2012. This complicated history will, I think, be ignored other than elements of her origin (but instead of Ms. Marvel she'll start as Captain Marvel). Whether any of the interaction with Rogue will happen once Marvel gets the X-Men back is hard to know (it's a great storyline, so maybe?).

Speaking of Ms Marvel, Kevin Feige recently said:
Ms. Marvel, which is another character in the comic books, the Muslim hero who is inspired by Captain Marvel, is definitely sort of in the works. We have plans for that once we introduce Captain Marvel.
I think this is part of the reason why the Carol Danvers film is in the past--there's plenty of time for Kamala Khan to have become a fan. Rumours about this being John Ridley's secret project for Marvel go back to April of 2015 (assuming this is his project for them), but those rumours were about him getting a television show with her. Feige, with the exception of Agent Carter, doesn't work with the TV-branch of Marvel (Marvel Entertainment), so putting aside whatever "sort of in the works" means, this suggests a film version of the character is on its way (presumably Kamala would be earth-based and Carol would be in space). This makes a lot of sense to me for both popularity and representative purposes. For those unfamiliar with the character, she was introduced in 2013--a teenage Inhuman character whose powers are similar to Mister Fantastic; before those powers manifest she's a fangirl of Danvers.

As expected Scott Buck's disastrous Inhumans officially got the axe from ABC. Agents of SHIELD remains hanging in the balance--will it be cancelled, retained, or moved to another platform? For myself, until the show actually becomes connected to the MCU/Netflix I won't be tuning in (as I've mentioned before). [Hours after I originally posted this it was renewed for an abbreviated sixth season.]
Image result for ch-ch-changes

There's a great comment from Joe Russo I want to touch on:
I think all of this — Netflix, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ this massive moment of disruption we’re in — is really a function of audiences craving new kinds of storytelling. I think we had a really nice run for 100 years of two-hour, two-dimensional storytelling, but I think over the next decade, decade-and-a-half, you’re going to see a radical shift in how stories are told.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. The attachment to traditional movies is one reason why some people struggle so much with Marvel movies--there's a sense of exasperation and resistance to change (Mike Stoklasa from Red Letter Media expresses this quite plainly--although it's worth noting he liked Infinity War). Those who struggle with it sometimes have the other problem you see with critics who find the entire genre ridiculous (people in capes fighting crime?). Those with the latter view get into fights with fans over the silly elements in these kinds of films (Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an example of this--for someone who thinks the film is aimed at 12-year olds, why should it matter if something in the movie doesn't make sense?). Critical conservatism is nothing new--to use literature as an example, it took 150 years for William Shakespeare to be acknowledged as anything more than popular entertainment (we can thank Samuel Johnson for that); decades for Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, and so on to get their due--just as many of their genres (horror, fantasy, etc) were long rejected. Comicbook movies are another rung on the ladder of critical appreciation (as, indeed, were comics themselves).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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