Nagging Questions About The Current MCU

Most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are besides themselves with the new content streaming on Disney+ and coming soon to theaters (fingers crossed). While the new content is enjoyable and the upcoming slate of films and TV shows is exciting, there are a few nagging questions unanswered to date about the MCU. Here are just a sampling, oh, by the way, there will be spoilers about the characters and events of the MCU:

What Happened to the Avengers?

It is pretty obvious given the events of Avengers: Endgame that the superhero team broke up. By the end of that film Iron Man/Tony Stark sacrificed his life to stop Thanos; Captain America/Steve Rogers went back in time to live his life and returned as a feeble old man, so he’s out of commission (more later); Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff died obtaining the Soul Stone; and Thor left for space with the Guardians of the Galaxy. That left us with just two of the founding members, the Hulk/Bruce Banner and Hawkeye/Clint Barton. The Hulk was left with a disabled arm, while it was implied that Hawkeye retired. In fact, he did retire from the superhero life at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So this means the Avengers are no more, correct? But why is it with the current TV shows and the last Spider-Man film, the main characters are referred to as Avengers? Would this mean the team is still active? It does not seem likely given that the Falcon, Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff were seen operating independently and behaved as if the team was gone.

If that is the case, wouldn’t Tony Stark or the founding members would have tried to set up a new team to carry on without them? Given all his fortune, wouldn’t Stark have left behind resources to ensure the Avengers continue? It seems irresponsible given the world-threatening events to leave the world without a team to protect it. Of course, this is a perfect way to set up the Thunderbolts, the Fantastic Four or some other superhero team to fill the vacuum. But when will we see this happen?

Who will be in the new Avengers line up?

We have clear candidates with the new Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (if he can clear his name by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home), War Machine, and maybe James Barnes (the former Winter Soldier), White Vision, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and the Wasp. But is this the end for the Hulk? Is there anyway his arm can heal in time for him to rejoin the team and what is going on with Hawkeye? Will he be grooming Kate Bishop to take over for him as implied by the upcoming Hawkeye series?

What if the MCU introduces the Young Avengers as the team that will become the new Avengers? The Disney+ TV shows have already introduced members of the Young Avengers such as Elijah Bradley (Patriot), Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Cassie Lang (Stature), Wiccan and Speed. All we need now are Iron Lad and Hulkling.

What Happened to Steve Rogers?

This is one of the most nagging questions about the current MCU. We last saw him handing over his shield to Sam Wilson at the end of Avengers: Endgame and that was it. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, whenever he is mentioned he is said to be “gone” which is very cryptic. Did he die of old age? Or is he on the Moon as someone on the show speculated?

There are unconfirmed reports online that actor Chris Evans is negotiating with Marvel Studios to return to his role. Does this mean a rejuvenated Steve Rogers will appear down the line as it happened in the comic books? That is hard to say, but it won’t be answered until Phase Five of the MCU given that the announced lineup of upcoming films does not indicate anything about Captain America, although a fourth film featuring Sam Wilson as the captain is in development.

What does the end of WandaVision mean to the MCU?

Obviously, the events of WandaVision will lead to more exploration of the magical side of the MCU. The events of WandaVision not only directly lead to the next Doctor Strange film but Spider-Man: No Way Home as our favorite Wall-Crawler grapples with multi-dimensional threats and visitors.

From the way Wanda Maxmoff twisted reality in WandaVision, the door has literally been opened to the bizarre with unexpected appearances. Think of her dead brother Piotr returning, which was a meta casting joke and reference to the recent X-Men films. The next Spider-Man film will feature characters from previous Spider-Man film incarnations reprised by the original actors such as Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina and supposedly Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe. Will we see more appearances from other past properties? Why not bring back the actors/characters from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so we can get confirmation that they exist in another continuity?

Another important related question has to do with Wanda herself? Can she be redeemed? Her actions in the show were villainous: she took over a town and warped the reality and minds of its residents against their will. At the end, she did not face justice for her actions and the post-credits scene in the final episode hinted that she was taken a more nefarious turn as she was shown studying the dark magical arts. We’ll find out in next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as she will appear…supposedly as the film’s villain.

Are the other non-Disney+ Marvel TV shows part of MCU continuity?

Ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered many wondered whether or not the show was part of the MCU. This sounds silly given appearances of characters from the MCU films such as Agent Coulson, Nick Fury, Sif and others. But the films never referenced the show or acknowledged its existences. None of the original characters from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned up in an MCU film or were mentioned. The same went for other Marvel TV shows before the existence of Disney+. The Marvel shows that streamed on Netflix supposedly took place in the MCU but no one ever saw Daredevil or the other New York-based Netflix heroes turning up in the films. Ditto for other Marvel TV shows like Runaways, and Cloak and Dagger.

The only rare exception was when the original human Jarvis introduced in the TV show Agent Carter made a brief cameo in Avengers: Endgame. Also, there are rumors that some of the actors in the Netflix TV shows will reprise rebooted versions of their characters in upcoming films. We’ll know if this is true if Charlie Cox reprises his role as Matt Murdock in the next Spider-Man film.

Supposedly, the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, did not want any association with the TV properties if he was not involved with the production. This explains why the films never referenced the TV shows to the irritation of some fans who sought a tighter continuity between the media.

At this point, the answer to the question is that no, these non-Disney+ TV shows are not set in the greater continuity of the MCU.

What happened in between the five-year jump in Avengers: Endgame?

During Avengers: Endgame there was a five-year time jump with limited exploration as to what occured in that time period. Supposedly, what was left after Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War was a paradise; never mind that his actions wiped out half of all life in the universe. This point of view came from the Flag Smashers terrorist group featured in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. One of the flaws with the villains is that we never saw for ourselves how great life was back before the Avengers resurrected the life wiped out of existence by Thanos.

According to some reports, the upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will take place in this five-year period, which will give us a first-hand look at society during this time and we can tell for ourselves if things were as great as the Flag Smashers claimed.

Also, it would not be surprising if future films and TV shows feature flashbacks which take place during this time period and will probably be explored in other medium such as those Prelude comic books. However, this time period is ample ground for future films and TV shows to explore.

Where are the mutants?

Ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and gained the film rights to the X-Men, fans have been desperately waiting for any news or sign that the mutants will appear in the MCU. To date, those wishes have gone unfullfilled and will be for some time.

Anyone who saw last week’s Phase Four movie slate did not see any sign of mutants. The only clue we have to date was a visit to the fictional country of Madripoor in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which was Wolverine’s hiding spot in the comic books.

But other than that we won’t get anything else, not even casting hints until maybe next year or the following when Phase Four starts winding down. But it’s for the best since the mutants need to rest and recharge creatively. This will build up demand and excitement for whenever they X-Men or Mutants or whatever they wind up being called, finally debut in the MCU. In the meantime, we have plenty of X-Men and related films and TV shows, and many of them are great and worth rewatching.

So, are there any other questions about the MCU? Be sure to list them in the comments section below!

Captains America And The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the second Disney+ TV series based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) just finished streaming its inaugural season. On the whole, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is another winner for Disney+ despite its flaws. As fans speculate, discuss and laud the series, it is pretty clear that it sets a new direction for the MCU. Spoilers will follow below for anyone who has not watched the show in its entirety.

The series takes place several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, is now “gone” (it is never clearly stated if he died) and his two best friends Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) were left to pick up the pieces after Steve’s absence.

In the end of the last Avengers film, Steve Rogers passed on his nearly mystical shield to Sam Wilson to carry on the legacy of Captain America. However, when the series starts, Sam is very uncomfortable with that mantle and donates his shield to the U.S. government as he carries on juggling his private life with his contract superhero work for the government. At the same time, Bucky is grappling with guilt from his previous life as the Winter Soldier, where he carried out brutal assassinations.

While the two men try to go about their lives, events occur that force them to get involved together. These include a terrorist group called the Flag Smashers led by a young woman named Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman). In the time between the last two Avengers films, half the world population was erased from existence until they were restored. The Flag Smashers believe the world would be better if there were no borders or nations, which apparently happened in between the films. To help their cause, Karli and her comrades have taken the same super soldier serum that gave Steve Rogers his enhanced strength and agility. They also steal more of the serum to create an army.

The U.S. government commissions a new Captain America, who is John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a military vet suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and he has a major chip on his shoulder. Naturally, he clashes with Sam and Bucky as the two track down the Flag Smashers.

Their hunt for the terrorists lead them throughout the world and encountering allies and foes including the Machiavellion Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and the mercenary Batroc (real-life mixed martial artist Georges St-Pierre). Zemo truly stood out as a character in the series with his cold charisma and calculating nature. His cause (a hatred and distrust of superhumans) was clearly defined and understandable from his point of view. For a villain who was dismissed by many fans in Captain America: Civil War, Zemo was elevated to become an A-list villains who had his own humorous memes, especially with his dancing at a night club. Here is an hour-long edit put out by Marvel Studios of Zemo dancing for your enjoyment!

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Memo To Marvel Studios: Release Your Films!

OK, the title of this post does come off a might hyperbolic, but the feeling is justified among many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) who have been without any new MCU films in over a year and a half.

Of course, this is not the fault of Marvel Studios or even Disney since the COVID-19 pandemic has been so disruptive in our society. Disney cannot do any widescale release of films in theaters because most of them are closed for safety reasons. Who wants to go to a crowded movie theater during the middle of a pandemic? Even if Disney was inclined to release a film widescale now they would lose money. Just look what happened last year when Warner Bros. released Tenet in the summer.

Last month, Disney and Marvel Studios announced a release schedule for their films for this year with Black Widow due on May 7th. This announcement was done with the understanding that the pandemic would be under control. However, at this point it will take some more time, with the latest estimates of widescale vaccine distribution happening during the late spring, summer and early fall. This jeopardizes the release schedule of the MCU films with Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (due on July 9th) and even Eternals (November 5th).

The problem with the MCU films, and one of its strengths, is their interconnected nature. To fully appreciate the films they have to be watched in order as certain scenes connect with the other films. For example the post-credits scene in Captain Marvel deliberately led into the next MCU film Avengers: Endgame. Another example can be seen with the Infinity Stones. The Reality Stone was the main macguffin in Thor: The Dark World and was seen been placed in a specific spot for safe keeping at the end of that film. But in Avengers: Infinity War, the main villain traveled to that spot and obtained the Reality Stone.

A new wrinkle is that are the new MCU TV shows on Disney+ are certainly part of the MCU, and what happens in those shows will be referenced in upcoming films.

Rumor had it that even though Black Widow was a prequel film, it set up future events in the MCU from the introduction of the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers to Black Widow’s sister, Yelena Belova, becoming the new Black Widow. Yelena has already been confirmed to appear in the Disney+ show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So this is a strong reason why Marvel Studios wants Black Widow to be the first MCU film out of the gate and not launch the cinematic part of the MCU’s Phase Four with Shang-Chi or Eternals.

But the problem is that pushing back Black Widow pushes back other slated MCU films. Some of us are eager to see the next Doctor Strange film, which was already delayed to next year, as an example. What would be the reaction if it got bumped to 2023? Would this imperil other announced films in pre-production to the point of them being cancelled?

The delay also could jeopardize the release of the Disney+ shows and in fact already has. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was supposed to be the first Disney+ TV show to stream followed by WandaVision. Now that has been reversed with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier coming out this March as WandaVision is currently streaming. But who knows how more film delays would affect the future Disney+ shows?

Something has to be done. At this point it would be best if Black Widow and even Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were released on Disney+ this year. This would satisfy fans who are eager for new film content (though many are pleased with WandaVision), entice more subscribers to the streaming service, free up the backlog of films piling up now, and maintain the viewing order of both films and TV shows. Also consider this, is there a great demand to see Black Widow knowing the character’s fate or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which features a character who was last popular during the 1970s?

Yes, this will hurt Disney financially but the company is already losing money and are going all in with their streaming platform. Releasing the films on their app would generate revenue so it would not be a complete loss. Of course, this endangers the filmgoing experience later on but this is inevitable. No matter what Marvel Studios and Disney decides, this situation cannot continue, but we’ll know soon what they decide. 

It could have been worse. Take comfort that at least we got to see Avengers: Endgame in theaters before all this started.

The Eve Of Marvel’s Phase Four

MCU Phase 4

It is hard to believe that the last official offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was well over a year ago (Spider-Man: Far From Home). We fans underwent a severe drought thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which left most theaters closed and films delayed. Thanks to the pandemic there weren’t any offerings from the MCU last year unless the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is counted, and there are valid arguments that the show is no longer part of the MCU. However, all this will change later this week with the debut of WandaVision on the streaming app, Disney+.

It feels a bit strange that the MCU event that will kick off its Phase Four will be a TV show instead of a film, but that was inevitable given COVID-19. Black Widow was supposed to launch Phase Four last year followed by the show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but many delays killed that plan. Many believed Disney would air Black Widow during the holidays on Disney+ but that never happened. Instead Marvel Studios and its head Kevin Feige were determined that the cinematic start of the MCU’s fourth phase would happen with Black Widow, which is currently scheduled to premiere on May 7. Of course, this is not guaranteed given the nature of the pandemic. Sure, there are vaccines available but the distribution has been awful and unless it ramps up, at this rate our society will not be protected enough by spring. However, if efforts to speed up vaccinations follow through as promised by President-elect Biden and others then it could be safe for a significant portion of the population to go back to theaters by the late spring or summer. Let’s hope so because there already is a scheduling casualty this year.

Sony announced that its Marvel film Morbius, originally scheduled to be released last fall and moved to this March, will be moved again to October 8 now. This is not a severe delay and will be a better fit given the time of the year and the fact that Morbius stars a vampiric anti-hero. But this is concerning. Does this mean other films will be shuffled again? So far, the MCU films slated for this year (Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals) are still on schedule. What helps is that after Black Widow, the other two MCU films will premiere in the second half of 2021, The pandemic better be winding down by then. If it isn’t, then Disney may not have a choice but to release Black Widow and maybe the other two films on Disney+ to avoid creating a backlog with 2022’s scheduled releases and causing more delays.

With that said, Marvel Studios has quite a trove of MCU fare for waiting fans. Except for the third MCU Spider-Man film from Sony, the MCU films slated for this year may not be eagerly anticipated like Thor: Love and Thunder, but the TV shows coming out this year will more than make up for that until 2022. The 2021 shows will feature beloved MCU heroes and villains played by the same actors and boasting movie-quality production values and effects. However, many of the shows promise to be quite…unique. The trailers for WandaVision have shown that it will be as unconventional and bizarre as Legion or Doom Patrol, which will be a creative boost for the MCU. Although the MCU films are revered worldwide, they can be faulted for following a familiar formula and look. WandaVision, Loki and What If…? should push the envelope and take chances as promised by Feige and Marvel Studios. 

Meanwhile for the more conventional shows, it is rumored that mutants will make their MCU debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Some have observed from BTS set photos that part of the show seems to take place in Madripoor, a country heavily featured in the Wolverine comics. The enemy mutant Omega Red is supposedly appearing either in this show or in the Shang-Chi movie. The final TV shows scheduled for late 2021, Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel will debut more modern and popular heroes, such as Kate Bishop and Kamala Khan. 

hawkeye kate bishop and pizza dog

 

Disney+ will premiere new TV shows next year starring other popular Marvel heroes making their live-action debuts. These are Moon Knight (with Oscar Isaac playing the psychotic title hero), She-Hulk (supposedly a legal comedy…the jury is out if this is the case, pun intended), Ironheart (perhaps this will have Robert Downey, Jr. coming back as an AI mentor this time?) and the event series based on important storylines from the Marvel comics Secret Invasion and Armor Wars. One other TV special will be mentioned below.

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Marvel (MCU) & Star Wars Have A Bright Future At Disney

By now, everyone reading this must have heard of the Disney 2020 Investor Day announcements on Decelber 10, which left us geeks and nerds salivating and tickled pink with excitement over what Disney has planned with our favorite IPs in their Disney+ streaming platform and theatrically. That last point alone is enough to hearten us since Disney more or less declared that the theatrical viewing experience will not die out. The best example of their commitment came when presenter and Marvel Studios head, Kevin Fiege, affirmed that the long-delayed Black Widow film will debut in theaters next May. This squashed any rumors that the film would premiere first on Disney+ and marks a return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

MCU Phase 4

Marvelous News

Kevin Feige gave perhaps the most anticipated presentation since we’ve all been suffering from MCU withdrawal this year. Fortunately the wait will soon end as WandaVision will finally stream next month on Disney+ and the new trailer shown on Disney 2020 Investor Day was just as bizarre and trippy as the previous trailers. WandaVision looks like it will be a pivotal anchor in the MCU going forward and is rumored to be the first of a multiverse-connecting trilogy that will be further explored in the next Spider-Man film before concluding with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was confirmed that the Doctor Strange sequel will feature America Chavez.

By the way, very little information was given about the new Spider-Man, probably because it’s a Sony film, but the non-stop reports about cast members from all the previous Spider-Man  films coming back just leaves us very ecstatic.

Other highlights from Feige’s presentation were the news that the She-Hulk TV show will star Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, have appearances by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and Tim Roth will return as the Abomination; two mini-series about the Secret Invasion and Armor Wars comic book events will stream on Disney+; the third Ant-Man film (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) will feature Kang the Conqueror as the villain; Christian Bale will play Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder; and from the footage shown the best were the previews of the new Loki series which will deal with the Time Variance Authority, the animated What If…, and the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage of Ms. Marvel, who will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. Perhaps the most exciting news was the confirmation that Marvel Studios will produce a proper Fantastic Four film to be directed by Jon Watts, who directed the MCU Spider-Man films. Finally, a chance to do the Fab Four correct! Hopefully Spidey can make an appearance in that film!

Aside from Black Widow it is at this point too early to go into the release dates announced by Feige because we all know the schedule can change. But it is exciting and comforting to know that Marvel Studios is plowing full-steam ahead with their productions and 2021 will mark the Great MCU Comeback. Continue reading