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

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

 

Avengers: Road To Civil War & Infinity

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First of all, anyone who is reading hasn’t seen Avengers: Age of Ultron should stop reading and see the film because some spoilers from that film will be covered. With that warning out of the way, let’s go over the ramifications of the newly released film.

Just like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron has proven to be a pivotal film in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). By the film’s end, the status quo of the superhero team has been irrevocably changed symbolized by a new lineup. But more importantly, the seeds for future films in the MCU have been planted or nurtured. Specifically, the next Avengers films, Avengers: Infinity War, Parts I and II, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

A complaint lodged against Avengers: Age of Ultron is that it spends too much time setting up these future films, but as one of the final films in Phase Two of the MCU it needed to set up strangePhase Three with its many references and subplots that weren’t intricately involved with the film’s main storyline. In fact, some have griped that more Easter eggs weren’t dropped, namely having cameos by Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel (who was supposed to be briefly introduced but dropped at the last minute). In reality, the film followed the mode of modern comic books that have many references to other titles, especially during big events. But never mind these gripes, looking ahead, one can’t help getting excited by the prospect of what is to come.

Comes The Civil War

After this summer’s Ant-Man, the next major event in the MCU will be the third Captain America film. It’s to be a loose adaptation of the classic comic book mini-series, Civil War, that came out last decade and forever changed the Marvel Universe. In that story, Iron Man and Captain America become bitter enemies with each other and formed factions that battled each other. It all started in the wake of a 9/11-type tragedy that had the public demanding that super-powered beings be held more accountable. This culminated in the passage of the Superhuman Registration Act and with the two heroes taking opposing viewpoints about the law and arms against one another.

Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios has stated that the film won’t be a strict adaptation of the mini-series, “So this will be Civil War based off all the other films you’ve seen up to this point, particularly Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron…Something happens. It has made the governments of the world say ‘we need to have some oversight of these guys.’ It’s not about the secret identity thing, as much as it is about, overall, who reports to who.”

iron capWhat will exactly happen? We can only speculate at this point as we wonder the following: Will the Winter Soldier be involved in some incident that leads to the Civil War? Or perhaps the film’s villain, Baron Zemo will orchestrate events to bring about chaos and the Civil War. It seems that Captain America: Civil War will be as deep and exciting as its predecessor with mature themes while delivering the big thrills. And it promises to be one of the bigger epics in the MCU.

But wouldn’t it have made more sense to make this an Avengers film instead? To have a war, one needs an army and presumably both camps will have its supporters, hence a large group of characters at least for a solo superhero film. Already, Robert Downey, Jr. will reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark. It’s been announced that the film will introduce Black Panther and Spider-Man (making his MCU debut). Other featured heroes include Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Ant-Man and Vision. The coming film runs the risk of being too bloated with characters and a story that needs more time or additional films to satisfactorily tell its core story. But the film is in good hands with Anthony and Joe Russo directing it. Continue reading

It’s Official Now: Spider-Man Will Join The Marvel Cinematic Universe!

spidey mcuMarvel Studios and Sony Pictures officially announced on February 9 that Spider-Man, the beloved flagship superhero of Marvel Comics, will now be a part of the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s clear that the rumors and email leaks about this happening were valid.

This development obviously paves the way for Spider-Man to appear in other MCU films like Avengers: Infinity War and give Marvel tighter control over the character. In addition, this agreement between the two studios will also allow for characters from the MCU like Iron Man or Thor to appear in standalone Spider-Man films.

First the plan is for Spider-Man (who sadly will be recast–spidy irongoodbye Andrew Garfield, you were a great Spidey) to appear in an unspecified future MCU film. Then another solo Spider-Man film will be released on July 28, 2017 that will be a co-production between the two studios with Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal overseeing the film. The announcement didn’t make clear which film Spider-Man will appear in, but undoubtedly he is a shoo-in for Avengers: Infinity War, Part I. That film is due to come out in 2018 so that means he can probably make his debut appearance in next year’s Captain America: Civil War! That would be just amazing (pardon the pun) since Spider-Man was an integral part of the comic book mini-series of the same name last decade. UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has reported that Spider-Man will indeed make his MCU debut in the third Captain America film.

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From glancing at the MCU and Sony’s original film schedule, the next Spider-Man film, originally scheduled for 2018, has been bumped up a year earlier. The new schedule pushes back the new Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok, to November 3, 2017 and the Black Panther debut film will now come out in 2018. The domino effect continues as Captain Marvel will now premiere on November 2018 and the Inhumans movie has been re-scheduled for 2019.

One film that may have been lost altogether is the Sinister Six film that was supposed to come out next year and directed by Drew Goddard. In the joint announcement there wasn’t any mention of that movie’s fate, which was to feature Spider-Man’s greatest foes teaming up to defeat him. Perhaps Goddard may be assigned to direct the next Spider-Man film instead.

Also unclear is whether or not plans to do a film about the Black Cat will go forward. Given the crowded production plate, there may not be any room for that character now, which is probably for the best. While a vital character in the Spider-Man mythos, the Black Cat may be unfairly compared to the more well-known Catwoman by average moviegoers who don’t follow comics.

live civil warOverall, this is hands down very exciting news that pumps new blood into the floundering Spider-Man film franchise. Now he is back where he belongs with the right people making sure we get the best Spider-Man on film. And that is how it should be because Spider-Man is Marvel’s best known and popular superhero. So, it only makes sense that Marvel Studios handle Spider-Man. Just look at what they have accomplished to date. Starting with Iron Man and continuing with Guardians Of The Galaxy, Marvel Studios have shown that they produce the most faithful and spirited big-screen adaptations of their superheroes. In the end, it benefits both studios. Sony still retains their film rights to Spidey, but pass on the logistics of putting out a quality film to another studio that has proven they have the talent to produce a topnotch Marvel superhero film. Marvel Studios gets a bonafide superstar added to their roster who can help pave the way for a Phase Four of their MCU because let’s face it by the end of the decade some of the actors currently playing our favorite heroes may either want to move on or be too old by then to realistically play the characters. Who better than Spider-Man, who will probably be recast with a much younger actor, to help spearhead the MCU in the future?

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This development also demonstrates the tenacity of Marvel Studios and Disney. Systematically, they have steadily regained the film rights for many of their characters. With Spider-Man now in their clutches, the only big name characters not under Marvel’s direct control are the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Trying to regain the rights to the X-Men from 20th Century Fox will be much harder to pull off if not impossible given the frosty relations Marvel has with Fox and the continuing success the latter film studio has had with the revitalized mutant film franchise. That could be the main reason why Marvel seems to be de-emphasizing the mutant heroes lately. But as for the Fantastic Four…that would depend on how Fox’s reboot is received. If it flops, then Marvel has a stronger hand in getting them back. If it succeeds, then it will be quite some time before the Fantastic Four joins Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel Universe on film.

For now though, let’s celebrate this film development.

José Soto