Monday, July 23, 2018

Marvel News

Back in December, when Disney's acquisition of Fox was announced, pundits immediately began cautioning that it might not happen, something I found immensely puzzling and as time has gone on it's seemed more and more like an unnecessarily timid approach. Years of planning goes into these agreements and the only viable block was Comcast (I'll talk about the Justice Department below). I haven't talked about the ebbs and flows of the news here much for two reasons:
  • The Murdochs have complete control of Fox's board, so they will always approve the move (which they have already, although we have another vote ahead--the lawsuit brought by a member of the board will, I think, be dismissed in short order)
  • Neither company (Disney/Fox) would have proceeded unless they were sure the Justice Department would rule in their favour (which it has thus far); given the department approved the much more massive AT&T purchase of TimeWarner there's clearly not much backbone from Justice against these kinds of corporate moves (particularly given the pro-corporate courts and the current president)
Comcast has finally given up their pursuit of Fox after making two bids (in December and then in May). There was never any doubt that Disney would simply outbid their competitor. In short, the only question for me has always been time--how long will it take for the acquisition to occur? When it was announced the parameters were 12-18 months and that seems to be right on track.

Phase Four

While the MCU won't necessarily call it Phase Four I think it serves as a useful term for what comes after Avengers 4. We've had a release date change for one of the unspecified announced films from March: July, 2021 moves to February, 2021. The speculation, and I agree, is that this is the Black Panther sequel (prior to the change it seemed to be the February, 2022 release, which would be a very long time after the first film). How does this change my speculation for what these films might be? Here are the adjusted guesses (none of which include the Fox assets, for reasons I give below):

  • May, 2020 - Guardians 3*
  • August, 2020 - Black Widow
  • November, 2020 - Doctor Strange 2**/Eternals
  • February, 2021 - Black Panther 2
  • May, 2021 - Captain Marvel 2/Thor 4
  • November, 2021 - Doctor Strange 2/Eternals
  • February, 2022 - Captain Marvel 2/Thor 4
  • May, 2022 - Avengers 5
  • July, 2022 - New IP (Moon Knight, etc)

*How James Gunn's departure, see below, impacts this I'm not sure
**Confirmed, see below

The Fox properties, I believe, will get new dates rather than replacing these. I think the MCU can easily manage releasing four or five films a year. Other notes: I removed Ant-Man 3 because I don't think the sequel is going to do well enough for it to get another independent film (having it immediately after Infinity War but nothing to do with it clearly did not help)--the characters will continue to appear, but not in their own vehicle. I also removed a Captain America film because while I think the character could survive and another film would be successful, at least for the moment there's no obvious space for that movie (granting that Eternals could easily be cancelled and something put in its place--indeed, it might just be a placeholder for other properties). The Captain Marvel sequel's placement will depend on box office I believe--if it's a massive hit then we'll see it in May, 2021, but if it struggles February, 2022 (likely shifted to March) is more likely, with the fourth Thor movie taking the other slot. Doctor Strange's sequel's placement is related to Benedict Cumberbatch's availability--if he can do 2020 then I think we see him then. The fifth Avengers film might be a version of New Avengers, or it could be the first time the Fox characters and traditional MCU heavies work together. The legacy characters who survive Avengers 4 and don't have their own films I'm expecting to appear in various other movies.

A full review of Luke Cage season two is forthcoming, but in brief: it's better than Jessica Jones season two (which I thought was derivative despite having good moments). Overall LC2 is on par with Luke Cage season one (I don't think it hits the highs, but it misses the lows--another viewing will settle my opinion). The show has some issues (I have no idea why Claire was unceremoniously dumped from the series--I don't think she's necessary for the show, but it could have been handled better; I also think Misty Knight's characterization continues to suffer from inconsistency--perhaps Iron Fist can fix that--see below). Mustafa Shakir was fantastic as Bushmaster and I'm glad he was left alive to carry on as a character. We also saw the continuing reclamation of Danny Rand (referenced by me months ago, but you can see it from the reaction to his appearance, eg here). In essence, the season goes into the mixed pile that includes its predecessor, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and Daredevil season two--it's not nearly as good as Jessica Jones season one, Daredevil season one, or The Punisher, but not as disappointing as Jessica Jones season two (the quick turnaround for JJ3, see below, makes me extremely worried, as there's very little time for the writing team to react to how poorly the sequel was received).

Speaking of Danny Rand, I mentioned back in October that I thought we'd get four Netflix Marvel series' this year and with Iron Fist's date announced (September 7th, matching my guess of September earlier) that's absolutely the case--we've already been told Daredevil season three will air this year (probably December). I think this three-month pattern will be maintained, such that The Punisher season two (filming since March) will drop in March, JJ3 in July (filming began in June), LC3 in September (as yet unannounced--I'm curious if Netflix will aim for Heroes for Hire instead), and so on.

The details that came out at SDCC about the show included the expected (Misty Knight playing a major role, something Jeph Loeb teased at SDCC in the lead-up to The Defenders last year), and the unexpected (Alice Eve's character being Typhoid Mary). This latter decision is an excellent one (it's not clear if this role is the same one dubbed "Tanya Parker" that we heard about back in December--at the time I mentioned that the villain list for Iron Fist is very threadbare and the only one from his own catalogue that seemed to fit was Ninotchka). I like the idea because she's a major villain with a core fanbase. While she might seem more suitable to Daredevil (she's his antagonist in the comics after all), but with Bullseye and Kingpin already in that season there isn't room for her there as she deserves to be featured--Iron Fist is a solid place to introduce her assuming it's done well (for more about her see below)--she would provide a good reason for Daredevil and Iron Fist to cross over in each other's series' (I was very happy to see the IF characters pop up in Luke Cage and think this cross-pollination should be a recurring element).

Image result for typhoid mary comics

Back in July I briefly discussed the character because That Hashtag Show was speculating she was going to appear in Jessica Jones season two (which would have been much more interesting than the route they choose--that character, incidentally, turned out to be part of Hogarth's C-plot which I enjoyed). She was created by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. in the 1980s and while she has some similarities to Elektra because the Netflix version was so poorly done they won't be apparent. There's no chance her origin is retained (a prostitute defending her pimp that Daredevil knocks out a window causing her disfiguration and motivating her to take on her antagonistic persona), so I'm not sure how she'll be introduced (some event like that in her past is possible). In the comics she has dissociative identity disorder--I'm not sure if IF will do that or not (it's an interesting angle to explore, but carries the risk of offending people suffering from it and their advocates). Early reading for her: Daredevil #254-#257, #259-#263, Power Pack #53, Captain America #373-#377, Daredevil #284, #292, #294-#295, #297, Marvel Presents #110-#115, Marvel Presents #123-#130, Daredevil: Man Without Fear #2, Marvel Presents #150-#151, Spectacular Spider-Man #213-#214, Astonishing Spider-Man #1, and Typhoid #1-#4

Image result for tom holland far from home

News is dribbling out about the Spider-Man sequel, which we now know will be called Spider-Man: Far From Home and takes place during summer vacation. I've been thinking about which A-list MCU character will appear in the film (the agreement between Sony and Marvel is that such a character will appear in each Sony movie) and, with Mysterio as the villain, thematically I thought Doctor Strange could be that link (a stage magician versus a real one), but he doesn't fit the bill in terms of an A-lister and the idea has already been debunked. That said, someone like Captain America fits better in terms of both recognition and relative power level (assuming he survives Avengers 4), although the current rumour is that Nick Fury will appear (the substance of which, an Instagram picture posted by Samuel Jackson, is very weak). As yet we've still heard nothing that invalidates the 4Chan theory I covered back in May (which only references Pepper Potts, who I think doesn't count in the A-list category).

There was additional casting news as Numan Acar was cast as "Dimitri," whom most are speculating is Dimitri Smerdyakov, aka the Chameleon. He's a an old school villain and the half-brother of Kraven the Hunter. If the speculation is correct about who he is then the two films will have introduced four members of the Sinister Six (Vulture, Scorpion, Mysterio, and Chameleon). This wouldn't match the members envisioned for Sony's version that made Drew Goddard abandon Daredevil season one (there's debate about who the members would have been, but Green Goblin, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Mysterio, and Kraven the Hunter were teased in Amazing Spider-Man 2). Marvel has avoided brand confusion when they've used a property that's been done before, which is why I think we're seeing villains who either haven't appeared at all or haven't been featured much (or, where they have, it's been a very different version--ala Tom Holland's Spider-Man).

Incidentally, unlike Homecoming (which has six credited screen writers and two story credits), this film features just the writing team of Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers--in theory that should make for a tighter story (not that the first film showed many signs of all that variation).

Image result for doctor strange

Kevin Feige confirmed we'll get a Doctor Strange 2--this was never in doubt in my mind, but it removes any ambiguity. My guess (above) is that we'll see it in late 2020 or 2021 (matching the release window of the original film in 2016, with the variability depending on Cumberbatch's very busy schedule).

Image result for james gunn

I was shocked that James Gunn was fired by Disney over his old Tweets--prospective Marvel directors must now be ruthlessly scrubbing their accounts. Disney's concern about its image is clearly paramount (along with the presumed tacit assumption that an MCU movie makes money no matter who directs it). The other oddity about this is Gunn apologized for offensive Tweets back in 2012, suggesting either Disney had no problem with them so long as they weren't well-known or simply didn't do their due-diligence in vetting him (the former is most plausible). It makes me wonder if at some level there was a desire to let Gunn go and this served as an excuse (Ike Perlmutter, who still has his hands on Marvel Entertainment and is a Trump adviser, can't be a fan)--but I'm just speculating.

As for how it impacts Guardians of the Galaxy 3, I don't think it does much. Gunn's script is unlikely to be scrapped so close to production, but it will likely be given a thorough scrubbing. The plan for the film is also presumably locked in place, so the struggle for Kevin Feige will be finding a director who wants to fit into that box--otherwise the film will have to be delayed (something that's possible, but I think is unlikely). I think Gunn's strength was his humour, so that's where his absence will be felt the most (the emotional notes in both films were, for me, a mixed bag--the Russo's did a better job with the Starlord-Gamora romance in a few scenes than Gunn did in two entire movies, for example).

Image result for union jack marvel

One of the stranger stories that has emerged is that MCU producer Nate Moore keeps trying to put Union Jack into the movies, specifically the Joseph Chapman version. I have no idea why Moore is so interested, as the character seems like a watered-down version of both Captain America and Captain Britain, but given Moore's position at Marvel it wouldn't surprise me to see him down the line. I'll be honest and say I forgot he was even a character in Marvel until this story came out (I don't think he appeared in any of the comics I read back in the day).

Speaking of things I was unfamiliar with back in my active comic buying days, Jeremy Conrad thinks the MCU is leaning more towards the Kirby version of the Eternals rather than the later Gaiman version, at least in terms of their origin (this is based on comments by Kevin Feige that are suggestive of the fact). He also believes one of the Eternals, likely Kronos, will have a small cameo in Avengers 4. I'm curious if, after Gunn's firing and Ant-Man and the Wasp's performance at the box office, Feige will feel a bit gun shy on the property (without knowing the plan for it, however, it's difficult to say anything meaningful about it--it might feature Nova, Quasar, and/or other non-Eternal characters to give it more cache--perhaps even Thor).

As expected Cate Shortland has landed the director gig. I have no idea what this will mean for the film, other than continuing to hope it's not a prequel. Clearly Feige dodged a bullet when he decided against having Ava DuVernay direct Captain Marvel, so until proven otherwise we'll trust his judgement (Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World, being the notable exception thus far).

I'm surprised that Sony is going ahead with their Morbius film, locking in Jared Leto to star and Daniel Espinosa to direct (joining script writers Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama)--albeit, the Gambit movie has been at this stage several times and nothing has happened. What isn't attached to the project is a date, which is interesting (it's too late for it to take the slot left open by Silver and Black's removal). My speculation that Sony was following in DC's footsteps of darker-toned movies seems to be true (the plot sounds a lot like Dexter thematically). One of the reasons I think this movie is being pushed ahead of others is that the MCU hasn't rebooted Blade so it's (relatively) fresh comicbook territory. I think Silver and Black was pushed back because with Black Widow coming soon differentiating it from that, especially in a disconnected Sonyverse, is far more difficult to do.

It's amazing to me that DC is making a Joker movie that's completely disconnected from the Joker in Suicide Squad, even though that version of the Joker is still (apparently) canon for the DCEU. While I think audience savvy is often underestimated, I have no idea why exec's at WB approved the idea of two concurrent version of the same character--"elseworld" stories work for DC in the comics, but I see no positive outcome for doing it here--either fans prefer the new Joker, in which case there would be demand for him to appear elsewhere which can't be fulfilled, or else he flops just as badly as Jared Leto's version and then you have two underwhelming takes on one of the most iconic villains. It's bizarre. If I were in the WB's shows I'd say Leto's version isn't canon (he'd be some gangster imitator of the real deal), cancel this "elseworld" idea, and let Mat Reeves create his own version of the character whenever that seemed appropriate.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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