The MCU Disconnect

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Everyone is excited over the just-released behind-the-scenes video of Avengers: Infinity War, and what it promised–namely the teaming up of diverse characters like Iron Man, Star-Lord and Spider-Man. That is all well and good, but the teaser didn’t erase the growing feeling that the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the TV shows set in the MCU are unrelated to each other.

Actually, that isn’t quite accurate, the TV shows have proven to be set in the MCU with its references to the films and Easter eggs, but it’s a one-way connection. That is because the MCU films have not made any references to the TV shows aside from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which dealt with S.H.I.E.L.D. at the same time that the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was running. Ever since that film the MCU disconnect has widened to the point that an argument can be made that the two media are set in different universes.

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How is this so? Starting in the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that program has focused on the coming of the Inhumans, and are now a constant presence in the show as the superhumans have taken the place of mutants. We all know that was done because of rights issues with 20th Century Fox who make the X-Men films. Originally, the intent of the Inhumans’ introduction (and let’s be clear that the Inhumans featured in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. weren’t the well-known heroes like Black Bolt and Medusa, but minor ones) was to set up a big-screen Inhumans film.That was the plan.

It isn’t a secret that tensions had been raw between the mastermind behind the MCU, Kevin Feige, and the head of Marvel Entertainment, Ike Perlmutter, who was in charge of Marvel’s media. Feige ran the films while Perlmutter did the TV shows and the comic books. Perlmutter was incensed about the Fox X-Men rights and wanted to de-emphasize the mutants throughout Marvel and as a substitute for the mutants it was decided to focus on Inhumans and how they are persecuted by our society. Apparently, Perlmutter was responsible for pushing an Inhumans film and wanted to use the MCU TV shows and comic books to build interest, hence why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shifted from a spy actioner in its first season into a soapbox about the plight of Inhumans in later seasons.

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Feige and Perlmutter were butting heads over many issues and it became so bad that supposedly Feige was ready to jump ship until Disney intervened. Feige was allowed to become autonomous from Perlmutter and there is probably were the disconnect went into full swing. The first noticeable sign of this was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which didn’t mention anything about what was going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the TV show. This raised many questions among fans in the film’s climax when a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier appeared with many S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and it would’ve been a perfect place to include cameos from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters but this didn’t happen. There were many vague explanations about why this didn’t happen but none of them were satisfactory.

Around this time (2015) Netflix premiered its entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Both shows made references to the larger MCU but to date the films haven’t acknowledged the superheroes that appeared in the Netflix shows. In fact, there isn’t any noticeable connection between the Netflix shows and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which airs on ABC. There has been a couple of cryptic Easter eggs in the ABC show where a type of bullet created in Luke Cage was used in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but was never named; there was a news blotter in one episode mentioning a gang war going on in Hell’s Kitchen, a focal location in the Netflix shows.

Now with so many characters slated to appear in Avengers: Infinity War, the fact that the bigwigs at Marvel Studios and the TV shows will not say if the film will include the TV characters is beyond frustrating. Feeble explanations about not over-crowding the film or scheduling conflicts just won’t satisfy fans.  True, it’s not the end of the world if Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t feature Daredevil but it defenderswould be a wasted opportunity. In the comic books, The Infinity Gauntlet event (the basis for this film) was a major crossover event that was packed with many Marvel characters. We already had to make peace with the notion that this film won’t include the X-Men (thanks Fox) or the Fantastic Four (blame the deal with Fox again), but Kevin Feige and company could at least throw in some kind of cameo of the TV characters. Wouldn’t it be cool if during one scene set in Hell’s Kitchen, Captain America, Iron Man and the other Avengers are besieged by Thanos’ forces and are saved at the last second by timely assists from Daredevil, Luke Cage and the other Defenders? They wouldn’t have to stay around long, just make their appearance and move on. Would it be too much to just drop the word Inhuman during some dialogue or show some news headline featuring the Punisher or Ghost Rider?

We can complain all we want about the DCEU, but at least from the beginning Warner Bros./DC Studios made it clear that the DCEU films and the Arrowverse TV shows were in two separate universes and so no one expected to see Stephen Amell popping up as Green Arrow in a DCEU film. With Marvel they dangle this illusion about a connected universe but in reality it does not exist. If that is the case, the TV shows should be freed to go off in their own direction and drop the references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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True, production has begun on Avengers: Infinity War but it’s not too late to work in some kind of bone to throw to the fans. Some kind of gesture would appease the legion of geeks out there who dream of seeing a true interconnected film and TV universe.

Lewis T. Grove

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Captain America: Civil War…The Aftermath

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WARNING: The following will discuss major spoilers in Captain America: Civil War, anyone who has not seen the film yet and do not want to be spoiled should stop reading from this point on.

Captain America: Civil War, like the previous Captain America films, has had a profound impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The biggest fallout from the deteriorated relationship between Steve Rogers/Captain America  and Tony Stark/Iron Man being the disintegration of the Avengers team.

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Naturally, we cannot expect this situation to last in the MCU. Despite the world’s animosity towards superheroes, it does need a superhuman team to take on the larger-than-life threats. What will likely happen in between this film and the next Avengers film is that the team will be reformed. As to who will make up the new Avengers is open for speculation.

New Avengers and Fugitives

But if the Marvel Studios films loosely follow what happened in the comic books then there might be two teams of Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War, Part I (at this point we don’t know what the film’s new name will be so let’s call it by its original title for now). In the Marvel Comics following the Civil War mini-series there were two Avengers teams, one was known as the Secret Avengers and operated outside the law and there was the “official” Avengers, which was later infiltrated with nefarious sorts and morphed into the Dark Avengers.

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Avengers: Infinity War could roughly follow this development by having Tony Stark leading a new team composed of Vision, Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion will cameo as Wonder Man’s civilian identity of Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, so he is a natural to play Wonder Man–a casting decision we foresaw years ago), a new Captain America, Captain Marvel (someone that the film’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, have suggested may appear), and someone new to the MCU perhaps She-Hulk or Tigra or even Black Knight.

Now the film could be about how the official Avengers are treated as celebrities, but the reality is that many of the new recruits are traitors. Think about it. This plot twist would be a variation of the Thunderbolts’ first storyline and Wonder Man’s initial appearance. When Wonder Man first joined the Avengers he was supposed to betray the team but had a change of heart and became an actual hero. The original Thunderbolts team was actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, who were pretending to be heroes. This twist could be unveiled to audiences who would be shocked that new recruits like Tigra or Black Knight are actually supervillains and Zemo was behind the scenes plotting this machination much like he did in Captain America: Civil War.

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Meanwhile, Steve Rogers could adopt a new identity as either Nomad or the Captain as he did in the comic books. He would be without his shield, which he abandoned at the end of his third film. The new, evil Captain America (who can be Johnny Walker, the future U.S. Agent) could be the one wielding the shield while Rogers could use an energy shield like the one that Phil Coulson used in a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Of course, by the end of the film Rogers will rightfully regain the real shield. It could be given to him by Stark as a symbolic way of renewing their partnership.

Before that happens, Rogers will probably be leading his own clandestine team made up of Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Falcon.

Accords & Aftermaths

So, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, what does any of this have to do with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet? rhodey downPerhaps Thanos’ team of the Black Order could show up on Earth looking for the final Infinity Stone, which happens to be embedded on Vision’s forehead. The aliens defeat the Avengers and take the Stone or are behind the betrayal. This would lead Stark and Rogers to realize they have to join forces to combat Thanos and the film ends. Cue the post-credits scene with a triumphant Thanos and his completed gauntlet.

OK, so what about the rest of the MCU? How does Captain America: Civil War affect it? To be honest, it may have minimal impact outside of the third Avengers film and the Black Panther solo film, and the reason can be seen in the lineup of films between Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.

Up next is Doctor Strange, which seems likely to be set apart from the traditional MCU. Unlike Ant-Man, do not expect to see an Avenger making a cameo in Doctor Strange. At best, there may be a reference to one of the Infinity Stones. The same situation will apply to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. That sequel takes place in outer space and according to director James Gunn, doesn’t have anything to do with Thanos.

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The Eve of Marvel’s Phase Three

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Marvel Studios is launching Phase Three of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the release of Captain America: Civil War. It is hard to believe that less than ten years ago, the superhero film landscape changed forever with the 2008 release of Iron Man, considering he was not a top-tier character in the Marvel Universe. But, the film turned out to be much better than most expected and the very tail end of the film tantalized fans with the promise of a larger film universe when Nick Fury appeared and mentioned that not only were there other superheroes but that a team called the Avengers was planned. This was a spectacular, game-changing moment in superhero films. Never before had superhero films spawned a viable universe. Of course, the original Superman films and Daredevil had spinoff films but they were dead on arrival and seemed like afterthoughts.

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Each successive film in the MCU built upon a shared-universe platform that culminated with The Avengers and continued on with the Phase Two MCU films that concluded last year. Now the Phase Three films of the MCU promise to up the ante in superhero madness that will conclude with the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. Most likely the MCU will have undergone an upheaval that will begin with Captain America: Civil War. How so? For starters, Spider-Man is now officially part of the MCU and is the grandest prize in Marvel Studios’ quest to regain the film rights to the Marvel Comics characters. As most people know Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the X-Men have their film rights owned by other studios. Ever since the success of Iron Man and other early MCU films, Marvel Studios has been methodically regaining film rights to their characters. Now that the webbed wonder is “shared” by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, who is next?

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The most likely target is the much-go home ffmaligned Fantastic Four. Currently, Fox has the film rights and by now it is clear that the movie studio does not know how to translate Marvel’s First Family into the big screen. The hot rumor going around the Internet lately is that Fox selling/trading the rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel is a done deal. Speculators point out that Fox being allowed by Marvel to go ahead and develop TV shows based on the X-Men franchise somehow proves this. It is believed that Marvel would not just give up the TV rights lightly. Some serious haggling must have occurred and short of giving back the X-Men to Marvel (maybe our grandchildren will live to see that happen), the only bargaining tool Fox had was the Fantastic Four. Doubters will say that both studios denied this, but remember that Sony and Marvel denied until last year that Spider-Man would join the MCU and we know how that turned out.

The thing to watch out for is the film slate for unannounced films after Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, especially now that the Inhumans film has been placed on hold. It is quite possible that Marvel wanted to make room for a potential Fantastic Four film after the Avengers or to kick off Phase Four. Nothing would thrill fans more than to see the FF make an appearance or even have an Easter egg in Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, which would set up a solo film nicely, just as it is happening now with Spider-Man. If this is going to happen, Marvel is not ready to reveal this, so as always, we have to wait and see.

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Of course, this doesn’t help soothe any hurt feelings for anyone who eagerly anticipated Inhumans. Frankly, the property hasn’t taken off in popularity despite Marvel’s best efforts in the comic books and the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Inhumans were supposed to take the place of the X-Men as part of the turf war that Marvel is having with Fox. But with tensions thawing between the two entertainment giants, the Inhumans lost their appeal. A reason for that can be placed to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the show is spending a lot (or too much according to unhappy fans) of story time to the Inhumans and what has been shown so far about them hasn’t exactly captured the imagination when compared to the X-Men. Another reason based on more Internet rumor has to do with MCU honcho Kevin Feige no longer answering to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter. Allegedly, relations between the two were less than harmonious and now Feige is in charge of the film franchise while Perlmutter handles the TV properties. Since Inhumans have appeared first on TV, well…put two and two together. It’s just hearsay and we won’t get the actual truth for a very long time, but it is intriguing. Don’t fear for the Inhumans though. They’ll make their appearance on film one of these days. They can do so in a Fantastic Four film.

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Enough with the speculating and let us concentrate on the confirmed menu coming our way. After Captain America and Iron Man finish duking it out, we finally meet the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange this November. Next year our favorite Guardians of the Galaxy return, Spider-Man will have his grand homecoming and Thor and Hulk have a buddy film. Afterwards in 2018, Black Panther gets his solo outing, Ant-Man returns with the Wasp and the Infinity War begins. Finally, Phase Three concludes in 2019 with Captain Marvel and the conclusion of the Infinity War. We fans certainly have a full plate!

José Soto

 

Marvel Phase Three and Beyond

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Marvel Studios has once again captured headlines lately with their announcement for their upcoming film slate. While the news that a sequel to Ant-Man will be made came as a nice surprise, there are now rumors percolating about what films will get produced. It’s intriguing food for thought starting with the revised schedule for their Phase Three Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films.

Phase Three

The third phase of the MCU films starts next year on May 6 with the release of the eagerly awaited Captain America: Civil War, which many are calling Avengers 2.5 because it’s stuffed with so many superhero characters. Next in November 4, the Sorcerer Supreme himself Doctor Strange makes his big-screen debut.

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From there Marvel Studios amps up their schedule by releasing three films per year starting in 2017 with Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 on May 5, a Spider-Man reboot for July 28 and finally Thor: Ragnarok on November 3. Now the 2018 slate has been changed to accommodate the second Ant-Man film. This means that Black Panther has been moved up to February 6, instead of July 6. That slot now goes to Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War, Part I debuts on May 4. Sadly for some fans, the Captain Marvel film originally scheduled for November 12,  2018 will instead come out the following year on March 18. The final two Phase Three films for 2019 will include Avengers: Infinity War, Part II on May 3 and Inhumans on July 12.

More Ants!

Ant-Man turned out to be a bit of a surprised for many who predicted it would be Marvel Studios’ first flop. Instead it made $178 million domestically and even more overseas. While it wasn’t a humongous blockbuster, Ant-Man earned a healthy profit and lots of good will from fans who appreciated its quirky charm.

waspThe fact that there will be a sequel proves that Marvel has a lot of confidence in the property. So what will Ant-Man and the Wasp be about? Here’s a thought, while the first film was basically a heist caper, the sequel could be a rescue story or have a man vs. nature motif. The film could be centered on rescuing the original Wasp who was lost in the quantum realm in a flashback scene in Ant-Man. In fact, some observers of the film picked out a silhouette that resembles the Wasp when the title hero was momentarily trapped in the subatomic universe. Having Ant-Man and the Wasp exploring the quantum realm and finding new worlds will be a fun twist and visually arresting. After that if Marvel Studios decides on another Ant-Man film they can call it Giant-Man as Ant-Man morphs into Giant-Man to follow the comic books in a sense.

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DC Wins The TV War…For Now, Part Two

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The rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel Comics has many fronts in media like toys, films, video games, etc. But as it stands right now, DC Entertainment dominates the television medium with its current slate of TV shows on the air and their plans for additional programs coming in the near future.

DC’s Television Summit

Once Smallville ended in 2011, a void needed to be filled by DC Entertainment in terms of having a superhero presence in the TV landscape. Rather than mining the Superman/Batman lore, the decision was made to showcase DC’s proto justice leagueother heroes and it was a wise choice. For some time, DC and Warner Bros. fell into a crutch and relied too much on Superman and Batman to represent DC in other media. This was understandable since those were the company’s two biggest heroes. It makes perfect business sense to take advantage of the popularity of those heroes. The problem, though, is that with all the marketing and attention focused on Batman and Superman, DC’s other heroes were left out and helped give the impression that the rest of the DC roster consisted of second stringers. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The DC universe is populated by many captivating heroes and villains and the problem was that the company wasn’t taking full advantage of that notion. Marvel, and specifically Marvel Studios, faced a similar problem but for different reasons. They didn’t have the film rights to Spider-Man or the X-Men, so they had to rely on their lesser known properties. It turned out for the best, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten live-action adaptations of Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor.

In DC’s case, they too were forced to look elsewhere since the Superman well had run dry with Smallville and Batman was considered off limits because of the Dark Knight films. Thus, DC Entertainment looked to an urban vigilante that had many of Batman’s characteristics – Green Arrow.

Arrow aimsAll things considered, he is a solid alternative for Batman when it came to being featured in a live-action TV show. After all, both are urban crimefighters without superpowers and use specialized weapons. When Arrow premiered in 2012, it presented a more grounded, realistic world for the superhero. In the first season, the main character, who wasn’t even called Green Arrow (in one episode his alter ego, played by Stephen Amell, thought that name Green Arrow was “lame”), wore a practical uniform with only a hoodie and grease paint to conceal his identity. Moving away from fanciful superhumans allowed Arrow to concentrate more on character development and street-level fight scenes. This meant that it was more inviting and relatable for casual viewers.

What the producers of Arrow did correctly is that they embraced the DC universe. They weren’t afraid to name drop places like S.T.A.R. Labs and Blüdhaven. Likewise, the series featured recognizable DC characters like Amanda Waller (head of the Suicide Squad), Slade Wilson and even the Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Assassins. It was enough bones thrown to DC fans to keep them glued to their TVs. Arrow then took a step further and introduced superpowered characters in its second season thanks to this strength-enhancing drug called Mirakuru and the introduction of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), whose Flash origin occurred at the end of one of the Arrow episodes.

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This naturally led to The Flash spinoff that premiered recently. Taking a lighter tone than Arrow, The Flash is more of a throwback to the fast-moving comic books with outlandish supervillains, while utilizing the same kind of engrossing subplots that Arrow uses. What’s more is that both shows are definitely in the same universe. Although the concept of a shared universe isn’t new in TV shows, this was the first time this was done for superhero shows (not counting The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman) and it’s exciting to watch characters appearing in both programs with even more allusions to a wider world.

Both Arrow and The Flash are huge hits on The CW network and should be around for the long haul. Gotham, a show set in the title city and taking place after the killing of Bruce Wayne’s parents, is a hit on Fox. In fact, it pulls in more ratings than The CW superhero shows but that is due to the wider audience that Fox has compared gordonto The CW. Even though Gotham is a hit, there should be some caution because it’s on Fox, so there isn’t any guarantee that it will last as long as if it was on The CW. That is a problem that DC and Warner Bros. faces. Sure they can put anything on The CW, a fledging network, but it won’t reach as large an audience as in the major networks. But on the big networks, there is more pressure to succeed. Already, Constantine airs on NBC and has dismal ratings–it was recently announced that the show won’t go beyond initial 13 episodes and its fate is unknown. Constantine’s rating woes are due to its time slot: Fridays at 10 pm. How can any show succeed on that slot? It probably would’ve been better if it aired on a cable network where it could’ve thrived and be allowed to be darker like its comic book counterpart.

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