Marvel Phase Three and Beyond

new schedule

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.

arrow flash

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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Avengers: Age Of Ultron Teaser Trailer!

Never mind watching next week’s episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Marvel has decided to release this teaser for next year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron today. Whoa…this just looks super awesome!

Seriously, what’s not to like? We have the Hulk battling Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor, lots of explosions and mayhem, and best of all Ultron! It seems like Joss Whedon made yet another brilliant casting decision by choosing James Spader to play the iconic Avengers villain. Ultron looks incredibly badass and intimidating in the same vein as the Terminator. Hopefully he’ll be on screen just as memorable as Loki or Magneto and become of the great Marvel movie villains. Obviously, there isn’t any way to say that this film will be better than its predecessor The Avengers, but it looks like another winner for Marvel Studios.

Our hats off to Marvel, after making the rest of us who didn’t attend this summer’s Comic Con sweat and agonize over the concealed footage shown at that convention, they’ve given all of us a nice treat. So enjoy this official Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer!

 

Update: …And here’s the extended trailer featuring more footage, it’s still creepy with that Pinocchio music.

The Aftermath Of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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First off, if anyone reading this hasn’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the most recent episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. then stop reading this because MAJOR SPOILERS will be discussed. Last warning, if anyone doesn’t want to be spoiled then go and watch that excellent movie or watch the TV show online somewhere and come back here when done.

Enemies Within

The events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, without exaggeration, completely changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What happened in that movie probably has more far-reaching consequences than the alien Chitauri attack on New York City seen in The Avengers.

S.H.I.E.L.D., the elite spy agency of the Marvel Universe, no longer exists by the film’s end thanks to Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his partners. It turned out that the ultra spy organization was infiltrated long ago by Hydra, the Nazi off-shoot organization led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) in Captain America: The First Avenger. That revelation halfway into the film was a big WTF moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, especially with the disclosure that Hydra was responsible for orchestrating many chaotic and destructive events in our history since the end of World War II. This was something that is disturbing to learn given our violent history and is the stuff conspiracy fans thrive on. But in hindsight, Hydra’s malevolent influence was there in the open for everyone to see.

fury and starkThink about it, ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced in Iron Man, there was something a bit too Big Brotherish about S.H.I.E.L.D. They seemed to know too much, had too much access as seen when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the agency’s director, turned up uninvited in Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) place in the post-credit scene in that film. The man was for all intents and purposes a trespasser but everyone was too busy wetting their pants when Fury mentioned the Avengers Initiative. Then they came off as a bit nefarious with the way they coldly confiscated scientific equipment and data from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her group in Thor. Their blasé attitude throughout the movie didn’t alleviate this feeling, it was as if they were untouchable and they were. In the climax of The Avengers, the World Security Council ordered a nuclear strike on New York City to stop the alien Chitauri invasion. Nick Fury refused to carry out the order, but the Council overruled Fury and had S.H.I.E.L.D. pilots carry out the order nonetheless. Being that the head of the Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), was revealed to be part of Hydra, this decision makes sense since he would be fine with sacrificing the city.

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As with real-life spy agencies, it would be par for the course for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be philosophically gray and murky when it came to getting their hands dirty when carrying out missions. To them the ends do justify the means; that is just the unshakable mindset of spies. Nick Fury at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was fine with this concept. He even scolded Rogers and told him to just accept the questionable philosophy of Project: Insight and get with the program. For that initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D. constructed three state-of-the-art helicarriers that would preemptively take out human targets before they could commit any acts of terror or criminal activity. Helping the project was a computer program that analyzed and predicted the behavior and actions of prospective targets. Later in the film, Pierce ordered the helicarriers to eliminate all potential threats, which numbered in the millions and included Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, the Avengers and Stephen Strange. While those name drops are cool Easter eggs for fans they point out the fact that Pierce and Hydra’s extreme plan would’ve eliminated any resistance to their plan to instigate world order.

At one point in the film, Fury wanted to preserve S.H.I.E.L.D., but Captain America was adamant about taking down the entire structure. Unlike Fury, he saw that the organization was corrupted and unsalvageable. Even without Hydra’s influence S.H.I.E.L.D. was too omnipresent and powerful. The agency was a perfect example of power corrupts. Thus, it had to be disbanded. This decision would immediately impact the lives of many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents around the world. Continue reading

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is too Cute & Bland

field agents

I really wanted to like Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., I really did. But after seeing a few episodes of the new series on ABC I have to admit that the show is a subpar, uninvolving disappointment.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has many things going for it, at least on paper. Start with executive producer Joss Whedon, who created the great TV shows Firefly and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. He directed the pilot episode and the megahit film The Avengers and he is one of the driving forces behind the show. For fans, it’s clearly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its many references and name drops from various Marvel films. Also, the star of the show is fan-favorite Special Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who turns up alive and well despite being apparently killed by Loki in The Avengers. That’s about it in terms of what’s good with the program.

socalled interrogationThe problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it commits two cardinal sins for genre fans; it’s dull and it’s a procedural-type of show. There are plenty of shows polluting the networks that are just like this one. Here’s the formula: the characters investigate some kind of crime, enter some forgettable guest stars, have everyone speaking in tech-ess that tunes out viewers and add in the Whedon touches. That would be adorably cute and perky female characters and actors speaking in a staged, witty manner. We’ve seen it all before and done better. Plus, in each episode there is an air of whimsy and lightness that doesn’t gibe with the situation in that world. What’s worse is that the light tone undercuts any sense of danger that is so badly needed with the episodes.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes place shortly after the movie, The Avengers. Society is dealing with the fact that superheroes and aliens exist in the world. S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is a multinational agency that is a major player in the espionage field. Phil Coulson, coulson and carwho appeared in most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, puts together a special task force to confront supernormal threats to world peace and security. On his team are veteran agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), two scientists/engineers–Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Emma Simmons (Elizabeth Hentsridge)–and the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit, a hacker called Skye (Chloe Bennet). Continue reading