*Note: The following will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
For anyone who has seen Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the latest entry from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film raised many questions and fueled intense speculation for what lies ahead with the MCU and its version of the multiverse or alternate realities.
The MCU has toyed with the concept of the multiverse for some time and further explored it in recent Disney+ TV shows, and even Avengers: Endgame, but the sequel to Doctor Strange is the first MCU film to fully dive into the concept. During the film, the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) encounters a young woman called America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who has the ability to travel between universes or the multiverse. She is being hunted by Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who wants to steal her power (and killing her to do so) in order to travel to another reality where her fictional children that she conjured in WandaVision are actually alive. During a confrontation between Strange and the Scarlet Witch, Strange and Chavez wind up traveling through several bizarre universes before arriving in a universe numbered 838. The MCU we know of is designated 616, even though that designation belongs to the regular Marvel Comics universe, which itself designated the MCU 199,999.
Despite the weird worlds Strange and Chavez traveled through, like an animated universe or one where they turned into paint colors, the 838 quickly stood out in the way that society embraced living more harmoniously with nature and with its heroes. Strange met the superhuman team called the Illuminati who deal with the deadliest threats to reality and included alternate MCU heroes and new ones, as well. The most interesting Illuminati members were Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), a What If…? character perfectly realized in live action, Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four (played by John Krasinski, a fan-casting dream come true), a comics-accurate version of Black Bolt (reprised by Anson Mount who originated the role in the Inhumans TV show), and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who was a new version of the Professor X seen in the Fox X-Men films.
As great as it was to see these heroes, some fans were disappointed that the film did not feature more appearances by alternate characters such as a rumored Iron Man played by Tom Cruise, Tobey Maguire returning as Spider-Man or Chris Evans as the Human Torch (a role he played in the first official Fantastic Four films). Sure, it would have been terrific to see more cameos but to do so threatened to take away from the main story of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which had to focus on Strange and his foe. The appearances we got were to merely whet our appetite for things to come, which were clearly outlined in the film. So fear not, this is just the beginning. Before long we’ll have a deep dive into the multiverse.
This past week Discovery officially took over Warner Bros. and its properties including DC Comics and DC Entertainment. After doing so, the company (rebranded as WB Discovery) announced they were radically overhauling DC Entertainment and its superheroes, specifically their films and TV shows including those of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Even though there have been very successful DCEU efforts like Aquaman and Peacemaker, other releases did not exactly hit the high bar when it came to box office sales or critical/fan reception (Wonder Woman 1984). The goal of the restructuring is to make the DCEU genuinely competitive with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
This would mean that a head honcho would be hired to oversee the production of DCEU films and TV shows in the same manner that Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, does with the MCU. This also implies that the DC films and TV shows will be more coherent and less disjointed, while some once-prominent properties will get more attention. In fact, WB Discovery stated that Warner Bros. allowed top tier properties like Superman “languish” to the detriment of the DCEU and DC.
The Snyderverse and Stalled Efforts
Frankly, the coming changes are a much needed shot in the arm for DC and the DCEU, which has lacked a strong visionary leader. Previous leaders like Walter Hamada, Geoff Johns and Zack Snyder proved to be unable to present a clear direction for their films. Only Snyder came the closest to presenting a vision that was coherent. Unfortunately, Snyder is also a film director and when his Batman v Superman: Dawnof Justice did not impress critics and fans, and Justice League failed to reach the success of The Avengers, he was ushered out of the door by Warner Bros. and the DCEU that he helped create basically fell apart. Part of the problem with Zack Snyder being in charge with the DCEU (or the Snyderverse as some fans called the early films) is that although Snyder is a gifted director, what was needed to oversee the films was a producer in the mold of Kevin Feige. A producer is tasked with the production of films or TV shows and brings a guided vision to entire productions. Directors are focused on individual films first and bring their own stamp to what they film. It is not possible given a director’s schedule to expect him or her to oversee the vision of several films at once.
Even before Snyder’s exit, projects were stalled after big announcements, while conflict occured with many actors and filmmakers. Directors and writers joined and left projects. Then there were the casting headaches Warner Bros. faced from the fact that Henry Cavill, cast as Superman in the Snyderverse, was for all purposes, dismissed to the outlandish and criminal behavior of Ezra Miller, whose film The Flash has not even come out yet. Then there is the fact that The Flash was in perpetual development hell for the longest time as directors and writers exited the film left and right. Now, there are rumors that Miller will be fired from his role and in his situation it would be easy. Since The Flash deals with the title hero time traveling and alternate universes, just reshoot the ending to replace Miller with a new actor. Even Grant Gustin from the TV version of The Flash would be a better choice, although that casting may be too confusing for some.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is delighting fans of the classic video game franchise during its cinematic premiere this weekend. It is probably the best video game adaptation to the big screen yet. It is full of material straight from the Sega video games Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (S2&K), which makes the film a bit predictable for diehard Sonic fans, but is still a fun time throughout for all.
The story starts about 8 months after the events of the first film, Sonic the Hedgehog, with Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, who is as zany as ever playing Sonic’s foe) still stuck on the mushroom planet (a reference to Mushroom Hill Zone from S2&K) escaping with Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a big red echidna. Robotnik promises Knuckles that he would take him to Sonic’s (voiced by Ben Schwartz) location on Earth, which ties into Knuckles’ trait of being gulible. Tails (Colleen O’Shaunessey), a two-tailed yellow fox, then arrives on Earth to warn Sonic about Knuckles and the two soon become friends. I won’t be covering the rest of the movie’s plot so that people can have a chance to experience it for themselves, but I will now get into the most interesting easter eggs, which covers MAJOR spoilers for the film, so beware.
The first reference that I loved was when Sonic and Tails was in a bar in Siberia, and Sonic does the iconic “Sonic Adventure” pose while in midair. That moment made my heart jump in excitement, and is one of the many reasons as to why the director Jeff Fowler and the filmmakers clearly care about the source material. The scenes at the bar was also very funny, by the way. The next BIG reference is, of course, Super Sonic and the chaos emeralds. Going into this movie, I would have never expected the inclusion of Super Sonic, but I was so happy they added the golden god into the film. Super Sonic first appeared in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and quickly becomes a staple for Sonic games, so how could they not include him in this film? The next reference is literally big, The Death Egg Robot! This giant robot first appears in Sonic 2 like Super Sonic, but it is WAY bigger than any form the games include. It was really cool to see this giant robot in the film since, again, its a staple of the Sonic franchise.
Finally, the thing that got me most excited, but kind of worried, about a potential Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is with Shadow in the post credits of this movie. Shadow is a robot made by Dr. Eggman’s uncle Gerald in the Space Colony Ark. His backstory is very complicated, so I won’t get into it here, but that’s what worries me about the third film. They are basicially jumping 5ish games, as well as their characters, which are very important. He was first introduced in Sonic Adventure 2 and rose to be a fan favorite charcter of the franchise. However, I don’t think the story of Sonic Adventure 2 would translate well into a movie, it’s complicated and feels like it would be a weird plot to include in the Sonic films. The plot follows this girl named Maria, who was Robotnik’s granddaughter, and Shadow’s friendship with her. But she is killed by a guard on the Space Colony ARK and now Shadow hates humanity and wants to explode the Earth. The other problem is that the game included a lot of charcters we haven’t seen yet in the films. Amy, the Chao, Omega, Rouge, and Gearld, to name a few. I’m worried that they may jump the gun and go too crazy, but I still have faith in them, so I’m excited.
Overall, as a long-term Sonic fan, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is everything I would have asked for in a Sonic movie. The first just felt like a generic movie with Sonic in it, but the second one feels likes it’s Sonic’s movie, and I love that. It’s way better than Sonic the Hedgehog because that movie walked, but this movie can dash! The first film had to set up our characters so they could go crazy once introductions were out of the way. This movie is full of easter eggs and references to past Sonic games so fans will love it. It is also a fun and action-packed movie so anyone can sit down and enjoy this film. I cannot wait for Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and what it will bring to the table of an already full family of fans.
Despite a global pandemic and naysayers, Spider-Man: No Way Home (NWH) defied expectations and is a mammoth box office hit. With the success comes discussion over what lies ahead for future Spider-Man films and the ramifications of the events of NWH. Be aware the following will include spoilers about Spider-Man: No Way Home and related films.
The Complex Film Web
Spider-Man’s film history and its development has always been rocky. Before the first Spider-Man in 2002, it took years and armies of lawyers to develop a Spider-Man film thanks to the Marvel Comics superhero’s complex film rights. As it now stands Sony Pictures holds the film rights to Spider-Man, not The Walt Disney Company or Marvel Studios. While Sony had great success with the early Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films, they struggled with their rebooted film duology, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film studio tried to start their own film universe based on Spider-Man and related property to rival Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But those films were not as successful as the Raimi films nor were they well received. This forced Sony to scuttle further planned films and work with Marvel Studios to integrate the superhero into the MCU. This paid off tremendously as the MCU Spider-Man films were beloved and very profitable.
The partnership between Sony and Disney hit a large hurdle in 2019 shortly after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film which ended on a cliffhanger. The two companies could not come to terms and Sony took back the film rights, effectively ending all appearances by Spider-Man in the MCU. After some time, cooler heads prevailed and Spidey was allowed to have at least one more appearance in the MCU, which was Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film that celebrated all the Spider-Man live-action films as the actors who performed Spider-Man in the older films, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprised their iconic roles. Many theorized that based on the film’s plot line dealing with alternate realities that the superhero would transition away from the MCU and into his own reality that was populated by other characters such as Venom and Morbius.
Across a Multiverse
According to executives from both film companies, Spider-Man will remain in the MCU for the time being. Producer Amy Pascal even went as far as to announce that a new MCU Spider-Man was in development and perhaps more. He is also supposed to appear in one other MCU film as a feature character like he did in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films. It would be terrific if he could show up in the MCU reboot of the Fantastic Four since the two properties have a shared early history and the director of the MCU Spider-Man films, Jon Watts, has been selected to direct the FF reboot.
Spider-Man remaining in the MCU is welcome news for fans who love the MCU version of Spider-Man. No one can say for certain if this actually happens, but given the huge success of the MCU Spider-Man films, it would be in the best interests of both film studios to continue the arrangement. On the other hand, if this does not come to pass, at least the cliffhanger was resolved and the last film in the trilogy brought this Spidey’s story to a conclusion and a new chapter in his life.
Supposing Spider-Man were to remain in the MCU what would he face next? One clue is the alien symbiote that created Venom. At the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Venom was transported to the MCU, however he did not play a vital role in NWH. Instead, Venom and his host Eddie Brock hung out in a bar in Mexico and was transported back to his own reality in a mid-credit scene in NWH. The scene was quite funny, but some were disappointed that Venom did not help out the Spider-Men or join the Sinister Six. But a small fragment of the symbiote was left behind in the MCU. So this could be what Peter faces next.
As to how this fragment remained while everyone else not part of the MCU were transported back to their own realities, well, because plot holes. On that note, where were the other characters from other realities that knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, such as the Raimi version of Venom, or the Harry Osborns in the other films or Peter’s love interests? The real-world answer is that having them show up would have made the film too crowded. It already had the two previous versions of Spider-Man and the main villains from those films, plus the Venom and Matt Murdock appearances. It is possible they arrived much later in NWH and were quickly whisked back before they could do anything. Or maybe they were about to come through in the scene near the end where the dimensional rift threatened to rip open wider. In that moment, audiences could make out the forms of other Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter and Scorpion, so other characters who knew Spider-Man’s secret identity were bound to come through, also.
For now, it seems as if Venom will have his own universe that is populated by at least one other Spider-Man villain, Morbius. There are hints that this universe is part of the film universe of The Amazing Spider-Man films. These include the font for the Daily Bugle newspaper seen in Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius is similar to that seen in The Amazing Spider-Man2. Another is the Oscorp Building featured in those films turned up in a recent trailer for Morbius. That film references Venom and the trailers featured Michael Keaton as presumably the Vulture, an MCU Spider-Man villain. How can this be? Simple, this version of the version is similar to the MCU version seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The way that actor J.K. Simmons reprised his role as J. Jonah Jameson in NWH being that he played the same character in the Raimi Spider-Man films also applies in this case with the Vulture. In other words, his appearance in Morbius does not mean the film takes place in the MCU. As to the apprent absence of Spider-Man in the Venom films to date (post-credits scenes aside), well, they could have taken place before The Amazing Spider-Man films.
There are plans to create a film based on Kraven the Hunter with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the famous Spidey villain. This film could be interesting, but would feel hollow without Spider-Man’s presence. More than Venom or Morbius, Kraven was driven and defined by Spider-Man. He was obssessed by besting his ultimate prey in the comic books. This culminated in the classic story line “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and it is hard to imagine such a story being filmed without Spider-Man. If the Kraven film takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man films perhaps it can include Andrew Garfield’s version of Spider-Man.
Something is not right with Lucasfilm. It can be seen by the behind-the-scenes drama going on with the film studio once owned by George Lucas before he sold it to The Walt Disney Company nearly a decade ago. Another sign is the lack of solid information about their upcoming films and TV shows.
Lucasfilm has been mired in controversy for several years despite its early Disney-era success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. What is often overlooked with the latter film is that it had significant re-shoots which ultimately made the film a success. After that dilemma followed the film studio.
There was the heated reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi which sharply split Star Wars fans. Then the saga of revolving directors plagued Solo: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. With those two films the original directors were removed from the projects. Solo suffered greatly as the directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired when filming was nearly complete and forced the film to be essentially redone from scratch.
Now that the final Sequel Saga Star Wars films have concluded nearly two years ago, there is little sign of new Star Wars films coming up. Of course, there are many Star Wars TV shows slated to stream on Disney+ and they are eagerly awaited. In fact, many rightly argue that the TV shows are what is keeping the franchise alive thanks to The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Bad Batch and hopefully The Book of Boba Fett, which debuts next month.
The upcoming TV projects such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, the new season of TheMandalorian, Andor, and Ahsoka are eagerly anticipated, but we have little news about those shows. The recent Disney+ Day event which revealed many exciting Disney, Pixar and Marvel projects failed to deliver anything significant that was Star Wars related. Only a documentary about Boba Fett, cast interviews of the upcoming Willow TV show, and a sizzle reel for Obi-Wan Kenobi streamed on Disney+ while other studios rewareded subscribers with first looks at upcoming projects. What is confounding are rumors that there were Star Wars trailers and footage planned to be unveiled, but for some reason this did not happen. In the end, while the sneak peaks at other Disney properties were impressive, Star Wars looked threadbare on the streaming platform.
As for the films, there are more signs of trouble. The next Indiana Jones film was filmed and expected to come out next year, but has been bumped to 2023 with rumors of extensive re-shoots and revisions of the plot pending. This is alarming given the age of the film’s star Harrison Ford and declining interest in the film.
But the most disconcerting news came recently that director Patti Jenkins’ pet film project Rogue Squadron has been put on indefinite hold. Originally, the film was supposed to come out in 2023, but supposedly creative differences between the director and Lucasfilm derailed the project. Now, it is doubtful Rogue Squadron will ever be made. This is embarrassing for the film studio after all the hoopla they created last year when they released a video promoting Rogue Squadron that featured Patti Jenkins passionately talking about the film as she was shown next to a full-scale mock up of an X-Wing fighter. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!
That is not all, ballyhooed announcements of Star Wars films from director Rian Johnson and executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have led nowhere. What is next? Will the announced Kevin Feige-produced Star Wars film be shelved as well?
Many have pointed fingers and blame on Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. She has proven to be a somewhat controversial film executive who has enraged some fans and members of the alt-right. Despite the overreaction from some, she should accept the blame for the issues with the directors and the delays these events are causing because it is damaging the brand of Lucasfilm and its properties.
Given the image of Lucasfilm being in disarray, several fans have called for Kathleen Kennedy to be replaced by someone else, such as Jon Favreau, the showrunner of The Mandalorian. However, news has come out that Disney extended Kennedy’s contract for another three years. Surely, this demonstrates that the Disney executives have faith in Kathleen Kennedy, but can she turn things around? What convinced Disney that she deserved to continue running Lucasfilm? We have to hope that Disney’s continued faith in Kennedy is warranted because Star Wars as a film property sorely needs a win and there isn’t anything on the horizon. More importantly, Lucasfilm and Kennedy have to prove to fans that they can still deliver quality films and TV shows and time is running short.