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 Studios Welcomes The X-Men And The Fantastic Four

This past Friday, shareholders from both 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company officially approved Disney’s offer to buy a significant portion of 20th Century Fox. There are many reasons and benefits for Disney acquiring the rival entertainment company but one of them especially interests superhero fans. That is that now Disney and Marvel Studios can use the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties whose film rights were held by Fox. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the most formidable shared cinematic universe will now be a superpower and Marvel Studios will take full advantage of its acquisitions. So what lies ahead for Marvel Studios? Let’s explore.

Enter The Mutants

The X-Men are the biggest prize for Marvel Studios since they are very popular with fans and the mutants’ absence in the MCU has been glaring. That didn’t stop the film studio from producing quality films it is just that it annoyed many that the studio, which proved it cared about its characters, were unable to feature the mutants. Meanwhile, while Fox did put out some fine films like Logan and Deadpool, their films were hit or miss. At times it was obvious that Fox did not appreciate or understand the mutants and often the adaptations were not faithful, at best. Other times we were presented with dire schlock like X-Men Origins: Wolverine that did a textbook character assassination on Deadpool.

young x-men

Now that Disney and Marvel have the mutants under their fold, the question is what to do with them? The Disney heads made it clear the mutants would be folded into the MCU though there is a good argument for keeping the mutants in their own separate universe. That is because a core concept of the mutants in the Marvel Comics is that they have existed alongside humanity for a very long time. For obvious reasons there hasn’t been any evidence of mutants to date in the MCU with the closest analogy being the Inhumans as shown on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. So how could it be that mutants have existed in the MCU all this time? Where were they during the events of Avengers: Infinity War? A separate argument can be made for the MIA characters from the TV side of the MCU like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but that is another story.

The way forward is to have mutants being a recent phenomena in the MCU that came about from the events of Thanos’ finger snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Another is to tie them with the Eternals, a property that the film studio is reportedly exploring. The Eternals storyline about alien Celestials experimenting on prehistoric humans and leaving them with a genetic time bomb that explodes into mutantkind during modern times is an avenue worth considering. Or have it that mutants have existed all along, but are very rare and stay hidden, which would go nicely with Logan/Wolverine and Professor X, and that for some reason more mutants have become more prevalent. This mystery could be explored over several films, perhaps as post-credit scenes. Being that it will take some time to properly redo the X-Men, mutants could be gradually introduced in other films and the fourth MCU phase could culminate in an Avengers vs. X-Men film. That could be a perfect way to launch a new series of X-films.

A casualty of the Disney acquisition are the upcoming Fox mutant films Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants. Both were supposed to come out this year, but have been delayed until next year. The latest rumors have it that both films are considered by insiders as bad as the infamous Fant4stic and that they may be scrapped altogether or be dumped on streaming services. It’s too early to say but the films now seem like unwanted children without any future. Dark Phoenix will be the swan song of the proper Fox X-Men films and it might not even feature the word “X-Men” in its final title to avoid associations with future MCU X-Men films. The New Mutants has gained the stink of being a troubled film laden with extensive reshoots and that doesn’t bode well. Its fate may depend on how Dark Phoenix fares. If Dark Phoenix fails, whether as a theatrical release or a streaming release, then expect The New Mutants to disappear like the infamous Roger Corman film version of the Fantastic Four.

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Avengers: Infinity War—Aftermath & What’s Next For the MCU, Part II

Avengers: Infinity War has taken the world by storm and has become the biggest comic book superhero film of all time.  The nineteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is generating continued talk and speculation about where the MCU will go next. Let’s continue the discussion, at least until other summer ’18 flicks like Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story soak up the attention. As before, major spoilers will be thrown around, so for anyone who has not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, here is your last chance to avoid being spoiled.

 

 

 

SPOILERS

 

 

 

How the Hulk Got His Groove Back, Etc.

Before the original Avengers make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers 4, a few of them have arcs that need to be concluded. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Hulk was soundly beaten by Thanos early on. The beatdown was so bad that he refused to appear when Bruce Banner tried transforming into him. The Hulk never reappeared, leaving his story line unfinished. Clearly, this will be addressed in the next film where he will finally emerge in an epic rage as Black Widow is threatened or even killed. That by the way will be the extent of her development until her rumored solo film. Anyway, just like Thor had his crowd-cheering moment in Avengers: infinity War when he showed up in Wakanda with his new hammer to kick some ass, so too, will the Hulk put a serious pounding on Thanos and his minions. It’s something to look forward to!

Bring me thanos!

Bring me Thanos!

Meanwhile, Captain America’s story was underdeveloped in the third film. He never reconciled with Iron Man or regained his true shield. He did have a showdown with Thanos that surprised the Mad Titan as Cap held off due to his undying willpower. Captain America has had an underlying tragic aura as he is a man who cannot quite fit in. While the natural progression will be to have the old soldier lay down his life, hopefully he will be allowed to have another ending. Just a side note, it would be totally awesome if there is a scene where he not only wields his true shield but Thor’s hammer because, damn it, he is worthy!

Another Avenger that will get his day in the sun is Hawkeye who was noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War. Behind-the-scenes photos do confirm that not only will he be in the fourth Avengers film but might take on his Ronin identity. Possibly this will be because his family were victims of Thanos’ dusting.

Being that the next film will likely concentrate on the Hulk and Captain America (and Iron Man), do not expect Thor to get much attention. He spent most of his time in Avengers: Infinity War getting his mojo back by constructing Stormbreaker and took his shot with Thanos. Close, but no cigar. Don’t worry, the God of Thunder will have his applause-generating moments, but the most that may happen is that he will be involved in finding what’s left of his people. This would be a great way to send him off without killing him and brings up good ideas for future Thor adventures.

guardians with power stone

The Guardians stand with an Infinity Stone.

Will they all be killed off aping that scene from Guardians of the Galaxy where Peter Quill and company held the Power Stone? Instead all six original Avengers wield an Infinity Stone to defeat Thanos, but the effort takes their lives. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

Here Comes The New Guard

With the original Avengers probably fighting their last battle next year, who will take their place? Black Panther and Spider-Man are contenders but T’Challa may be too busy running Wakanda to be a full-time Avenger. He is popular, though, and he could fill the moneybags role possibly vacated by Iron Man.  Spider-Man is still too young and would be better suited to his urban solo adventures. Ant-Man and the Wasp could pick up the mantle and their story could continue in new Avengers films. Captain Marvel will provide the muscle and a cosmic connection, since supposedly the next slate of MCU films will be more cosmic.  Other candidates include Doctor Strange, the Winter Soldier and maybe even the heroes featured on the MCU TV shows. Maybe a couple of the Guardians of the Galaxy could even join the Avengers.

Let's talk about this plan of yours. I think it's good, except it sucks

Let’s talk about this plan of yours. I think it’s good, except it sucks.

One thing is certain is that when he is resurrected Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, has much explaining to do! His plan for defeating Thanos was better than Iron Man’s, which did suck, and it almost worked. If only he hadn’t let his emotions get the better of him! The leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy has taken on a lot of Internet flack for supposedly ruining the heroes’ best chance to remove the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos in Avengers: infinity War. Frankly, some people are just too harsh on poor Quill. He just learned his love Gamora had been killed by Thanos, how else would he act? If anything, his actions where he revived Thanos from his induced trance by attacking him is quite true to his nature. Peter Quill is quite impulsive and emotional; he reacted the same way when he learned his father, Ego, killed his mother. We cheered him on then. Besides, this could have been part of the scenario that Dr. Strange foresaw as the only one where they defeat Thanos. Otherwise, he could have easily stopped Quill when he started attacking Thanos. The next film may allow the Guardians as much screen time as with Avengers: Infinity War, if so then expect Quill to feel guilty about his actions and find a way to make up for it. If they have ample screen time, the Guardians may be the cosmic key to defeating Thanos.

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Sorry Folks, No X-Men Or FF In The MCU For A While

XMEN in MCU

Many of us were disappointed when we learned last week that there are not any immediate plans to integrate the X-Men or the Fantastic Four into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In an interview with Vulture, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige stated that it is too soon to stick the newly acquired properties into the MCU and that Marvel Studios is busy with their current slate of heroes.

As disappointing as that is, it should not come as a surprise. First of all, despite all the news in December 2017 about Disney buying most of 21st Century Fox’s intellectual assets, it is not a done deal yet. It will take at least a year for the deal to be finalized and approved by the government and, of course, there can be roadblocks, which would disrupt immediate plans for the Marvel mutants and the First Family of comic books. Coming right out and making that statement was the safest thing for Feige to admit. The statement is a good way of letting fans know to not get their hopes up that the X-Men or the Fantastic Four will somehow turn up in the next two Avengers films.

To shoehorn these new characters into carefully planned films and TV shows would be too disruptive and ruin the narrative flow. They have to be naturally introduced into the MCU because that universe is not set up for mutants and their baggage, although it will be easier with the Fantastic Four. The X-Men property is built on the premise that mutants are widely feared and disliked by normal humans. This would not gel with the MCU where for the most part, superhumans are better received. In the comic books, although both mutants and superheroes co-exist, the way they are treated does not make sense. If normal people distrust mutants because of their powers, shouldn’t they feel the same way about superheroes? Comic book events like Civil War addressed this but the dichotomy still exists. Besides the entire humans-fearing-superhumans motif has been addressed in the MCU with Inhumans as seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans. Last we heard both TV shows are nominally part of the MCU.

Look at the bright side, the time being given to integrate the properties allows Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to have some breathing room. They can take their time to figure out how to integrate mutants and the Fantastic Four and just as important, who to cast in the roles. Despite what some may hope, it is likely that Marvel Studios will recast the iconic roles. This is a great opportunity for the Fantastic Four who’ve had terrible casting in the Fox films, but for the X-Men this can be traumatic for fans. Also, after the slated Fox X-Men films and TV shows run their course, it would be a good idea to give the properties a decent rest so when they make their comeback, the level of interest will be intense.

All we need is some patience and hope that at the very least some cryptic references about the X-Men and the Fantastic Four can be made in next year’s MCU films and beyond.

Lewis T. Grove 

Disney Buys Fox And Becomes An Entertainment Supergiant

We’ve all been expecting this for weeks with all the gossip and innuendo. Some salivated over the idea of an expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), others feared the rise of a modern-day monopoly. Regardless of opinion, the Walt Disney Company has bought a significant portion of 21st Century Fox and in the process, regained the film rights to several Marvel Comics properties and now own several other intellectual properties. This is truly staggering news and a legitimate cause for celebration and concern.

To be clear, Disney has only purchased (for $52.4 billion) the film division, 20th Century Fox, the Fox TV shows, assorted channels like FX and National Geographic, and other divisions of Fox. These include Sky and a majority share of the Hulu streaming service, while Fox will retain its sports and news divisions.

MCU fans may feel that the biggest prize of the purchase has been the film rights to the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool, but those are just fringe benefits. Disney would have regained those rights even if Fox was sold to another party. Instead, Disney wants to have a significant film library for its coming streaming service and the Fox properties will provide that. In addition to the missing Marvel properties, Disney now owns several franchises and intellectual properties, which include: Planet of the Apes, Alien, Avatar, Titanic, Ice Age, and The Simpsons. Some of these IPs are a strange fit for Disney since the company is renowned for its family-friendly fare, but more adult offerings are not unheard of for the entertainment giant. Disney once owned Miramax, which produced mature films during its time with Disney. Also, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, assured fans that their Marvel films will explore R-rated offerings, which means that Deadpool should be safe for now.

But will Disney produce hard R-rated fare like the Alien films? They might, but it is possible that they may just sell the IPs to another studio to help recoup some of the mammoth cost of the sale. Other IPs like Avatar and Planet of the Apes should fit well with Disney. After all, Avatar has a heavy presence as a themed land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Planet of the Apes is an obvious addition to the same park.

Bob Iger also announced today the fate of the X-Men films. It was speculated before the sale was finalized that the X-Men films might remain in their own separate continuity or relegated to TV shows for the streaming service. Instead, Iger said that the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four will be integrated into an expanded MCU from Marvel Studios. The Fantastic Four are an easy addition to the popular cinematic universe and their inclusion is to be celebrated because Fox’s attempts at Fantastic Four films have been terrible. However, the X-Men are a different matter. For the most part, the films worked and adding them to the MCU may make that cinematic universe too crowded. Their addition could take attention away from lesser-known Marvel properties that could have seen their day in the sun. Films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Ant-Man may not have been possible if Marvel Studios owned the X-Men back then. Will the big purchase mean that these kinds of films won’t be made in favor for the new mutants on the block? It is hard to imagine Marvel Studios releasing three films per year as it now does and a mutant film or two. This will certainly create superhero fatigue. Plus, how good will the MCU X-Men films be? Will they be hard hitting and successfully tackle the mature themes of bigotry that the current films do?

Right now, Marvel Studios has the task of recasting the X-Men, including Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman has stated that he will not return to the role. Luckily, the film studio has had a good streak when it comes to casting their superheroes. On the other hand, expect the current X-Men film universe to end. This does not mean that upcoming films like Deadpool 2, The New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be canceled. Those films are complete and will be released as planned. But a sequel to The New Mutants is unlikely and the “Dark Phoenix” story may be a fitting conclusion to the films. Another thing to consider is that the X-Men films, for better or worse, are associated with director Bryan Singer, who’s had problems lately with allegations of sexual abuse and unprofessional conduct on film sets. Ending the X-Men films and starting over fresh is Disney’s best option, with the sole survivor being the Merc With a Mouth. He may have a thin connection to the MCU like the Marvel TV properties do and be the snarky commentator of the film universe.

When the dust clears, Disney will have a monumental job of integrating all these properties and divisions into its entertainment empire. Will it be too much for them? Possibly. As mentioned before, it may be best for Disney to sell off some of its IPs or divisions or simply shut them down for the time being. Another thing to consider is will all this disperse the company and dilute it? Iger and his executives may believe they can handle, but they may have bitten off more than they can chew. We will not know for a while.

The most disturbing aspect of the mega purchase is the explosive growth of Disney. They now have their expansive tentacles in many parts of our lives and our entertainment. Under normal circumstances, this sale may have been opposed by the government, but that is unlikely these days. This may take years, but perhaps the company may be forced to get rid of many properties and divisions before they assume too great a control over our entertainment venue.

There are so many details that are unknown to the general public and we won’t know for some time. Until then all we can do is wait and keep an eye on new developments, which will be covered here as they happen.

To think it all started with a mouse.

José Soto