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

Bringing The X-Men Into The MCU

When Walt Disney Entertainment acquired 20th Century Fox the entertainment giant gained the rights to several Marvel Comics properties, particularly the mutant superheroes, the X-Men. Ever since then fans of the comic book and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have speculated into oblivion over the possibilites of bringing the X-Men into the MCU.

Aside from the logistics of finding and hiring the right people (actors, writers, directors, etc.), there is the hurdle of making the mutants fit logically in the  intricate MCU. Consider the fact that the mutants in the comics and the Fox X-Men films have been a part of their societies for many years and were widely feared and distrusted. When watching an older MCU film, it is clear that mutants are not anywhere to be found (aside from a deleted clip from Iron Man where Nick Fury references mutants). Where are they? The simple answer is that mutants do not exist and the closest thing to the MCU had were the Inhumans who only appeared on TV shows and it’s murky if they are actually part of the MCU. That is a debate for another time, but looking closely at the TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it can be said that most shows are part of the MCU. Otherwise, where were the mutants during the calamitous events of the Avengers films? The heroes could have used their help!

On a related note, the same headache is going on with the Eternals. If they existed in the MCU throughout history why were they MIA during Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame? We’ll find out how this is explained when their film comes out next year.

Now, Marvel Studios is free to bring the X-Men into the MCU, so how can it be done? There are a few options and hopefully, Marvel Studios will find the best one. Here is what can be done:

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Recasting The X-Men

With Disney and Marvel Studios now having regained the film and TV rights to the Marvel Comics property, the X-Men, it is inevitable that a reboot of the film franchise is coming. There is a ton of speculation and fan lists out there over who should be cast in a rebooted X-Men team that will appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). An issue with these lists (and this one, too) is that casting films and TV shows is more complicated than saying “Bryan Cranston is bald so he should be Professor X!” Complicating the casting is the crowded plate of upcoming MCU films, some of which are not in production yet, and these have been delayed.

At this point, it is hard to tell when an X-Men film will be made, so many acting choices will not be available or no longer suitable for the roles. By the time Marvel Studios gets around to casting Wolverine, fan-favorite Tom Hardy may be too old. But for fun, let’s imagine if everything was cleared up and Marvel Studios gave the X-Men a go to begin preproduction tomorrow. Who would be the best candidates to play the iconic X-Men and associated mutants? Take a look and feel free to add your opinions in the comments on these picks and of other mutants not included in the list.

The Original Team

Cyclops

While the previous two actors who portrayed Scott Summers were fine, their roles were rather limited. In an MCU version of Cyclops, he has to be shown as undeniably the team leader, not Wolverine or Mystique or a mutant played by some other A-list actor. A true leading man is required for this role, which is why Chris Pine would be perfect for playing Cyclops. With his role as Captain Kirk, good looks and charm, Pine could believably come off as the leader of the X-Men and go toe to toe with Canadian upstarts with healing powers. Other candidates: Armie Hammer, Charlie Hunman, Matt Lanter, Garrett Hedlund

Jean Grey

The tortured telepathic member of the X-Men has to be portrayed by someone who can evoke sympathy, yet fear and dread when she transforms into the deadly Phoenix. In her role as the rebellious and complex artificial person, Dolores Abernathy, in Westworld, Evan Rachel Wood has demonstrated the acting range to bring us a Jean Grey struggling with her immense telepathic powers as she becomes the Dark Phoenix; which should happen in the third or fourth film of the rebooted franchise. Other candidates: Felicity Jones, Emilia Clarke, Rebecca Ferguson, Rosa Salazar

Beast

Both actors who portrayed Hank McCoy ran with the roles and made them memorable. This role of the team’s brawny, yet eloquent scientist needs to be portrayed by someone who comes off as intellectual but able to hold his own in a fight. It would be great if Kevin Feige could look the other way and allow Nicholas Hoult to reprise his role, but since that will not happen let’s go with Chad L. Coleman, who can do the job well and bring something new to the role. Other candidates: Joel Edgerton, Cillian Murphy, Pedro Pascal, Josh McDermitt

Angel

In his previous appearances, Warren Worthington III aka Angel, has been largely delegated to a background character, despite some interesting setups. In an MCU X-Men film, Angel, along with the original lineup, should take center stage. For this role Liam Hemsworth should be hired to play the flying mutant. He has the good looks, lanky build and acting ability to stand out. Besides casting a Hemsworth in the MCU worked out before! Other candidates: Sam Claflin, Jack Reynor, Garrett Hedlund, Logan Lerman

Iceman

Many fan castings for Bobby Drake often pick Nick Robinson, and that is because Iceman is a homosexual and Robinson played a gay teen in Love, Simon. Robinson is a good choice, but there are better candidates and he may not want to be typecast simply because he portrayed a gay character. Justice Smith is an inspired choice; he’s younger than the other actors, and more importantly talented enough to make Iceman shine in a new X-Men film. Other candidates: Chandler Riggs, Nick Robinson, Dylan Minnette, Curran Walters

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Sam Raimi & Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness

A few weeks ago, many of us lamented when it was announced that Scott Derrickson, the director of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, walked away from the sequel due next year. Known for his horror films, Derrickson promised that the sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first horror film. While this delighted fans, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige quickly walked that back and quipped the film would be more mainstream with “scary” moments like in many 1980s genre hits.

As great as the MCU films are they can be a bit generic when mishandled by the wrong directors. Usually Marvel Studios hires talented if not well-known directors who would rise to the occasion. But for every Russo Brothers we get Alan Taylor or the duo that directed Captain Marvel. After Derrickson walked because of the dreaded and ambiguous “creative differences” reason, many worried the film was in trouble and probably delayed. This would have been a black eye for Marvel Studios because Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was one of, if not the most anticipated of the announced MCU films (seriously, is anyone excited for a Shang-Chi film?).

Who would Marvel Studios hire to take over given the short notice? The film is slated to begin filming this May. There are many terrific candidates, but one stood out and thankfully he may be the best alternative if hired.

Variety reported this week that Sam Raimi was in talks with Marvel Studios to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This would be great if the studio hired him and this must happen.

As we know, Sam Raimi directed the first Spider-Man trilogy, including Spider-Man 2, which is still considered one of the best superhero films of all time. Raimi helped introduced the modern era of superhero films with his successful Spider-Man films. Sure, he directed Spider-Man 3, which was a big disappointment and the object of Emo Peter Parker memes, but it still has its good points. Then throw in the proto-superhero film that he directed, Darkman, a goofy and original superhero film that starred Liam Neeson. So, yes, he has bonafide superhero film credentials.

However, we cannot forget his horror film resume which includes the popular Evil Dead franchise featuring the beloved hero Ash (Bruce Campbell). Raimi even spearheaded the recent TV show Ash Vs. Evil Dead and directed the pilot.

Obviously, Raimi’s experience in both genres makes him more than qualified to take over the director’s chair for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

He has a wildly kinetic directing style which fits in perfectly with superhero films, just look at any clip from his Spider-Man films. Many scenes were clearly inspired by comic book art, some of which paid homage to iconic comic book pages.

Sam Raimi is also a huge fan of Steve Ditko, the artist that created Doctor Strange (and Spider-Man) along with Stan Lee. It would be perfect if he could take on another of Ditko’s creations. Doctor Strange was even referenced in Spider-Man 2 when J. Jonah Jameson considered naming Doctor Octopus Doctor Strange, but stopped because the name was taken!

Being that the film promises a multiverse of madness, this implies out-of-this-world visuals and scenes. This may include looks at alternate versions of Marvel characters and other dimensions. Imagine if Doctor Strange is shown traveling through alternate dimensions including one where Ash is battling the Evil Dead? Or better yet the one where Raimi’s version of Spider-Man exists and is played by Tobey Maguire? Of course, this is wishful thinking but just the thought of the possibility is enough to get us more excited for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

There is the concern that Marvel Studios will try to rein in Sam Raimi and soften his unique style.. But Raimi has proven in the past he can work well with major studios and has worked with Kevin Feige during the Spider-Man films, so the filmmaking experience might be stress free for all parties involved.

But before we start celebrating and get ahead of ourselves, let’s wait and see if the negotiations are successful. Fingers crossed! 🤞