D23 Expo 2022: A Great Disappointment For Marvel

For some time, fans expected the presentation by Marvel Studios at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) to pale when compared to this weekend’s D23 Expo 2022. The last D23 convention was jammed with exciting announcements about Marvel Studios. Being that D23 is prepared by Disney and devoted to its properties, one would think all mind-blowing announcements and presentations about Marvel Studios would be revealed at D23 after this summer’s SDCC. For weeks, the rumors have been flying fast about pending casting announcements for upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) projects. Supposedly, Deadpool 3 was to be announced with a special appearance by Ryan Reynolds; Henry Cavill, Denzel Washington, Jodie Comer, and numerous actors were to be announced as being cast for several MCU films and TV shows; the cast for the Fantastic Four would be revealed. Did any of that happen? NOPE.

There weren’t any major, new announcements, except that Matt Shankman has been officially announced as the director of the Fantastic Four film, and Armor Wars has been re-confirmed as going into production. The Marvel Studios presentation consisted of films and TV shows that we knew about. We did get some casting announcements such as Ke Huy Quan appearing in the second season of Loki, and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear in Captain America: New World Order as the Leader, With that last revelation does this mean that the Hulk will appear in Captain America: New World Order? The Leader is a Hulk villain, after all.

We did learn that a lot of footage and trailers were presented at D23 about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Echo, Loki, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Ironheart. Too bad, most of us cannot see them. Based on Twitter and other social media feeds by those lucky enough to have attended the presentation, the footage sounded great, but no one else could see the footage. All we received were TWO trailers. One for Secret Invasion, which has the look of a solid spy thriller, and Werewolf By Night, a one-shot film coming next month on Disney +. It is both surprising and concerning that Werewolf By Night will stream on October 7, less than a month from now, but it is only now we are seeing any footage. Honestly, the black-and-white trailer makes Werewolf By Night look very campy while evoking the mood of an old Universal horror film and a grindhouse film. But it could be good.

Perhaps the most intriguing news coming out of the Marvel presentation was the revelation of the Thunderbolts lineup. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Basically, the lineup seems like a reunion of cast members from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, plus a return of a villain from Ant-Man and the Wasp. So, no Abomination or Baron Zemo as everyone expected. Still, just the inclusion of the Winter Soldier is enough to get excited over the Thunderbolts.

As it can be seen, there wasn’t any announcements about other MCU projects. No news on Blade, Deadpool 3, zilch about the X-Men, not even anything on the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is supposed to be streaming in a few short months, or Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3. Keep in mind that an exclusive trailer for that film was shown already at SDCC. They could have at least released it to the general public.

Even if Disney could not show exclusive footage to the general public for their MCU projects, at least release an image. Let us see a better look at Namor or Kang! Releasing two trailers does not cut it.

On the other hand, the Star Wars presentation was better, with its highlight being the release of the trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian. With the Star Wars presentation, not everything was shown to the general public, but at least enough was released. Even the Disney animated films presentation from yesterday was more interesting.

Blame it on our unrealistic expectations and for giving in the hype and speculation, but aside from the few thousand people who attended D23, the Marvel Studios presentation was a disappointment for everyone else. This was the first live D23 since the pandemic and the excitement was wild, Disney could have made some exciting and surprising announcements on the level of Avengers: Secret Wars at SDCC, but nothing new was revealed. Overall, the Marvel presentation was almost as disappointing as the presentation by Warner Bros. about their upcoming DC films and TV shows at SDCC. Yes, that bad.

Disney definitely dropped the ball at D23 with Marvel Studios and the MCU. Hopefully, future conventions and presentations will improve, but we should temper our expectations and be realistic.

The Summer Of 2022: A Golden Season For Genre TV Shows

As the summer of 2022 winds down and the recent permieres of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, The House of the Dragon, and Star Trek: Lower Decks, it can be easily argued that this summer was one of the greatest time periods for genre TV shows.

Usually the summer is a wasteland when it comes to TV shows. In the old days before streaming and cable, viewers had a difficult time finding any original TV shows. The best option was watching reruns or hoping some failed TV show with limited episodes or pilot would turn up. Often the quality of these cast-offs were suspect and they were forgettable. The summer was the time to go to the movies, to travel, or to go play outside. Well that has been noticeably different in recent summers, but especially the summer of 2022. Sure, those activities are still available, but if you want to just stay home, relax and get out of the heat, there are now plenty of original, quality TV shows to watch.

Starting in May and ending this month, we’ve been treated to a rich menu of TV shows to binge and obsess over. Here is a partial list, in no order, of what the summer of 2022 had for viewers:

Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Boys, Ms. Marvel, For All Mankind, Stranger Things 4, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Westworld, Baymax!, Moonhaven, What We Do in the Shadows, American Horror Stories, Primal, Harley Quinn, Resident Alien, The Umbrella Academy, The Sandman, Paper Girls, The Orville: New Horizons, The Walking Dead, Tales of the Walking Dead, and the three most recent premieres, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Star Trek: Lower Decks and The House of the Dragon. But there are more TV shows that will be out by the end of August such as See and Stargirl. Also left off this list were TV shows that debuted earlier this year but their season concluded during the summer, which include Superman & Lois, Fear the Walking Dead, and The Flash.

As anyone can see this is quite a diverse selection of TV shows that caters to all types of tastes. Want some space fantasty? There’s Obi-Wan Kenobi or The Orville: New Horizons. Superhero fare? Choose from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Stargirl, Ms. Marvel and so on. How about animated shows? There are plenty of choices like Star Trek: Lower Decks, Harley Quinn, Primal, Love, Death + Robots, etc. Whether its comedy or high drama, horror, sci-fi or fantasy, this summer offered them all. Even if anyone was not interested in TV shows, there were some interesting choices running from the I Am Groot shorts to full-length movies like Prey or Samaritan.

Why the sudden interest to fill the summer schedule with can’t-miss TV fare? There are many factors, but most likely the reason is that the television and streaming schedules are very crowded now with lots of competition. Some of the above TV shows might have gotten lost in the shuffle of a fall or winter schedule with many other kinds of TV shows and events like the Super Bowl and major holidays. It could also be due to the pandemic since many people still won’t venture out into the movie theaters and prefer the comfort and safety of their homes.

Whatever the reason, it is worth mentioning that many of these TV shows are high-quality productions that resemble mini-films with big-name stars and topnotch special effects. Many of these shows entered the public consciousness this summer and became must-view events to be discussed either online or in person. These included The Boys, Stranger Things 4, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In fact, Stranger Things 4 helped revitalize interest in the old ’80s song “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” due to the song’s placement in a few episodes. What is heartening is that many of the shows are not new and the fact that they can still generate public buzz is a remarkable achievement.

Will the summer of 2023 and future summer TV seasons match the quality and quantity of this summer’s exceptional genre TV shows? Who knows? Hopefully this trend will continue for a long time!

The DCEU 2013-2023?

It was not supposed to be like this. For decades, DC Comics’ characters ruled the box office and airwaves, especially with Batman, thanks to the backing of their parent company Warner Bros. That all changed starting in 2008 when Marvel Studios successfully launched their interconnected series of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which soon overtook DC and Warner Bros. in terms of critical and fan reception and economic success. Warner Bros. did put up a fight and launched their own version of interconnected films, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), with the release of Man of Steel in 2013.

That film, featuring a new, updated version of Superman, had mixed reactions. Some applauded the grounded, grittier take of Superman, while others complained about the dark tone of the film and its over-stylized look thanks to director Zack Snyder. Still, thanks in part to Henry Cavill’s performance as Superman/Clark Kent, the film was the sound basis for an interconnected film universe featuring DC characters, which continued with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. At last, Warner Bros. had a true counterpart to the DCEU because the second DCEU film greatly expanded its cinematic world as it not only introduced the DCEU version of Batman, but Wonder Woman, and other members of the Justice League superhero team.

But as we all know, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a negative reaction thanks to its uneven and convoluted storyline and the DCEU never quite recovered with its sophmore film. The DCEU had an uneven track record with its filmography. For every critical and commercial success like Wonder Woman and Aquaman there were failures like Justice League and the Suicide Squad films. The film universe was inconsistent with its tone and output, meanwhile, the MCU churned out hit after hit without any legitimate competition.

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What made matters worse for the DCEU was the fact that Warner Bros. seemed to give up on the DCEU by delaying long-announced films, including a solo followup to Man of Steel. This last issue drove Cavill away from the role as the film studio made announcements about new versions of Superman, which never materialized. Instead of focusing on the DCEU, Warner Bros. turned its attention to projects outside of the DCEU like Joker and The Batman, as well as TV shows that were not connected to the DCEU.

Many of these projects were successful, but they did not do anything for the DCEU. Fans asked for DCEU films featuring Superman and the other DC heavy hitters, but instead Warner Bros. greenlit films featuring lesser known characters like Black Adam, Blue Beetle and the Wonder Twins.

Then there were issues with the pandemic, which delayed film productions and forced Warner Bros. to debut films like Wonder Woman 1984 on their streaming platform, HBO Max. In fact, the parent company of the film studio, AT&T decided to forego or deemphasize film releases in favor of premiering films on HBO Max. This led to diminished financial returns for DCEU properties like The Suicide Squad.

Another sign that implied that the film studio had given up on the DCEU were rumors that the long-delayed DCEU film, The Flash, would be used to reboot the DCEU with new actors. Evidence for this lies with the fact that Michael Keaton is reprising his role as Batman in The Flash. Meanwhile the DCEU version of Batman, played by Ben Affleck and Superman, would be wiped out of existence thanks to the Flash and time travel hijinks. But that was nothing compared to the big changes instituted by new owners.

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Questions About The Future Of The MCU

The aftermath of Marvel Studios’ announcement of their upcoming films and TV shows at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con is still ongoing. All the complaints about Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been vanquished as fans now contemplate Phase Five and Six,which will start early next year.

Although the reaction to the new MCU projects has been positive, many questions did come up about the films and TV shows or rather what was not announced. Observers pointed out there were gaps in the official release schedule for the upcoming phases, especially with Phase Six. In that phase only three films were announced (Fantastic Four, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and Avengers: Secret Wars), but there were slots for eight more releases. So, what could they be? Let’s examine further…

Where are the Mutants?

The mutant characters in the X-Men and other assorted X-teams were particularly absent during the Comic-Con announcement. Ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and its film properties in 2019, which included the film rights to X-Men, fans have been anxious to see Marvel Studios’ take on the mutants. And some are becoming impatient. But given the many mutant-related films and TV shows over the last few years, it is for the best that the mutants be given a rest to build up demand and recharge the creative energy of those who would bring about more live-action mutant films and TV shows. Marvel Studios played it smart with drip, drip, drip Easter eggs and references to the mutants in the MCU. In last year’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, part of the action took place in the fictional country of Madripoor, a location well known as Wolverine’s incognito stomping grounds. It has been heavily implied in WandaVision, that Wanda Maximoff was a mutant. Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, turned up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, albeit this was an alternate variant. In the most recent MCU TV show, Ms. Marvel, it was revealed at the end that the title character was a mutant, though that word was not actually used.

It has been reported that Ryan Reynolds, who plays Deadpool, will reprise the role in a Deadpool 3 film for Marvel Studios, and it has been rumored the film will be part of Phase Five. Whenever the film comes out, it is bound to be a hit and increase demand for more X-Men-related films.

Secret Wars and Followups

Perhaps the mutant superhero team will be one of those unannounced films in Phase Six. One possible clue was the recent announcement that the director of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty would not be Joe and Anthony Russo but instead the director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton. It was expected that the Russo Brothers, who directed the last two Avengers films to great success, were the go-to guys for future Avengers films. But in the past, they’ve expressed a desire to do their own take of the X-Men. Perhaps, they were offered their dream assignment and this will be announced at the D23 Expo in September. Or the X-Men won’t turn up until Phase Seven. It was reported earlier this week that Disney cannot recast the X-Men until 2025 and Marvel Studios will probably want to run out the clock until then before even starting work on the MCU version of the mutant superheroes. At this point it’s anyone’s guess.

Once Cretton was announced as the director of the next Avengers film, people began wondering who would helm Avengers: Secret Wars. It could go to the Russo Brothers, but that seems unlikely, given the possibility they could be busy with the mutants. Then again they could be tapped to direct Avengers: Secret Wars if it turns out the film will actually be a two-part saga. The original Secret Wars mini-series in 2015 was a sprawling epic that will be difficult to pull off with just one film. It could turn out that the story of Avengers: Secret Wars will have to be continued into Phase Seven, which could be called the Battleworld Saga. During Secret Wars, various patches of reality were merged into a world created by Doctor Doom. The Phase Seven films could explore these separate realities before coming to a concluding epic film.

Getting back to the director of the sixth Avengers film, if the Russos don’t direct it then another possibilty is Jon Watts, the director of the MCU Spider-Man trilogy of films. The concludng film of the trilogy, Spider-Man: No Way Home, was one of the most succesful films of all time and its head-spinning plotline about multiversal variants and characters from different film franchises meeting each other was well directed by Watts. This makes him an obvious contender for an Avengers film dealing with characters from alternate universes meeting and battling each other. This could be the reason why Watts left the Fantastic Four reboot he was supposed to direct. His success with Spider-Man: No Way Home demonstrated he had the skills to take on an even more epic film.

Putting aside speculating about directors and mutants, let’s ponder what other MCU offerings are coming up. It was a surprise that the previously announced Armor Wars TV mini-series was not part of the announcements at Comic-Con, yet Marvel Studios insist that mini-series will still be made. It is possible Armor Wars will be part of Phase Six.

It has also been reported that a TV series based upon Wonder Man will be produced and if so Wonder Man can be part of Phase Six. Other live-action TV series could include second seasons for Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and maybe a third season of Loki that could coincide with the upcoming Avengers films.

As for other films, a no-brainer would be a second Shang-Chi film, as well as a third Doctor Strange film. After all the last Doctor Strange film ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and was strongly tied to the Multiverse Saga. There are rumors that Marvel Studios is considering a followup to Eternals, but since that film had a mixed reaction what is more likely is that some of its characters will be important players in other films, perhaps one about the cosmic superhero Nova. Supposedly, Marvel Studios is developing a Nova film, which could not only feature the Eternals, but tie-in with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, this depends on how the third and final Guardians of the Galaxy film concludes.

The Spider-Man Wild Card

Given the humongous success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a new trilogy about the MCU Spider-Man should be a given. Yet, nothing has been announced. As many know, Marvel Studios does not have the film rights to Spider-Man and Spider-Man films were never made part of Marvel Studios’ big announcements. They just pop up and a spot on the crowded MCU schedule is found for them. Expect the same thing to happen with Phase Five and Six.

The big question with future MCU Spider-Man films is will Jon Watts return to direct them? If not him then who else can direct a Spider-Man film? Marvel Studios cannot make that decision because that will be up to Sony Pictures, which holds the film rights to Marvel’s most popular character. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on more Spider-Man films, Sony is obsessed with mining other Spider-Man-related properties. The problem is that what they have planned does not sound promising aside from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. So, fans will have to wait and see what Sony decides.

No matter how this all ends up with Phase Five and Six of the MCU, fans will end up happy, upset or somewhere in between. Either way, there will be something for everyone.

José Soto

The MCU Returns To Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con made a huge return this weekend after a couple of years of inactivity thanks to the pandemic. Demonstrating that life in geekdom was returning to normal were all the presentations by and appearances of countless companies and individuals for the genre properties we love.

The big news this weekend at Comic-Con was the bigger-than-exptected splash made by Marvel Studios about their upcoming properties. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige appeared in Hall H of the convention and made several exciting announcements, which included the revelation that Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will end this year with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. By the way, the presentation for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was quite emotional given the loss of Chadwick Boseman. However, the trailer released for the film was exciting with the reveal of Namor the Submariner and the Atlanteans.

Phase Five of the MCU starts next year with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on February 17, 2023, and concludes on July 26, 2024 with Thunderbolts (Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad). Other films and TV shows, which will stream on Disney+, during Phase Five include Secret Invasion (spring 2023), Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 (May 5, 2023, and by the way the leaked images of a baby Rocket Raccoon were adorable!), The Marvels (July 28, 2023), Echo (summer 2023), Ironheart (fall 2023), Blade (November 3, 2023), Agatha: Coven of Chaos (winter 2023), Captain America: New World Order (May 3, 2024), and Daredevil: Born Again (spring 2024). The last two entries were the most exciting announcements as the fourth Captain America will feature Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who takes up the mantle of Captain America, while the new Daredevil TV series will have Charlie Cox resuming the title role he originated in the Netflix series. Fans have been teased about Daredevil with Matt Murdock’s appearance in last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, and even more enticed by his quick cameo in the latest trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The She-Hulk series looks like fun, even though some of the CG still looks sketchy.

However, Feige was not finished. He announced the most important Phase Six MCU films, and the sixth phase will begin with Fantastic Four on November 8, 2024 and continue on and conclude with two Avengers films! Avengers: The Kang Dynasty on May 2, 2025 and Avengers: Secret Wars on November 7, 2025.

Of course, there are significant gaps in the release schedule for unannounced projects, which could go to future Spider-Man films or something to do with the X-Men. Keep in mind, that despite all the buzz going into Comic-Con there was not an official announcement that Deadpool would join the MCU and not a word was mentioned about possible followups to successful Phase Four properties like Doctor Strange or Shang-Chi. But more information will be revealed in the September 10, 2022 D23 Expo. Perhaps the cast and director of Fantastic Four will be announced by then or it will be revealed that the Russo Brothers will direct the new Avengers films.

When it comes to Spider-Man, aside from some details on the upcoming animated series Spider-Man: Freshman Year (which won’t take place in the MCU), there weren’t any annoucements by Sony Pictures, who owns the film rights to Spider-Man, about the future of the MCU Spider-Man. However, given the mammoth success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a fourth MCU Spider-Man is inevitable, as are the future hot garbage Sony is filming like Kraven, El Muerto, and Madame Web.

Surely, there were other huge announcements at Comic-Con that did not deal with Marvel or the MCU, but they paled compared to Marvel Studios. It should be noted that Marvel Studios’ rival, Warner Bros. Discovery had a presentation about their DC film properties, which turned out to be a bit of a dud hampered with controversy. One of the big rumors going into Comic-Con was that Henry Cavill would appear or there would be an announcement that the actor would return to play Superman in either Black Adam or an upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film. But the actor was a no show, which melted the internet as furious fans lamented about this and the fact that the only involvement director Zack Snyder will have with DC properties will be an appearance in the animated show Teen Titans Go! The only revelations made about the DCEU were two trailers for Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. But nothing about upcoming DCEU projects like Blue Beetle and The Flash. It’s a shame because both DCEU trailers were very well done. Perhaps if Warner Bros. Discovery puts out another DC Fandome with more and substantial announcements then all will be forgiven, but to date there is not any information about a DC Fandome for this year.

Getting back to Marvel Studios and the MCU, the announcements were expected, but a pleasant surprise when they were officially announced. What was unexpected was that the early films of Phase Five were anticipated to be part of Phase Four, which seems to have ended prematurely. This could be because of the mixed reaction to Phase Four and a decision could have been made to end it soon in order to give fans a sense of starting over with more alluring and crowdpleasing films and TV shows in the next phase. So, even though Phase Four of the MCU turned out to be a mixed bag, fans can put that behind and look forward to what awaits with Phase Five, Six and beyond.