D23 Expo 2022: A Great Disappointment For Marvel

For some time, fans expected the presentation by Marvel Studios at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) to pale when compared to this weekend’s D23 Expo 2022. The last D23 convention was jammed with exciting announcements about Marvel Studios. Being that D23 is prepared by Disney and devoted to its properties, one would think all mind-blowing announcements and presentations about Marvel Studios would be revealed at D23 after this summer’s SDCC. For weeks, the rumors have been flying fast about pending casting announcements for upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) projects. Supposedly, Deadpool 3 was to be announced with a special appearance by Ryan Reynolds; Henry Cavill, Denzel Washington, Jodie Comer, and numerous actors were to be announced as being cast for several MCU films and TV shows; the cast for the Fantastic Four would be revealed. Did any of that happen? NOPE.

There weren’t any major, new announcements, except that Matt Shankman has been officially announced as the director of the Fantastic Four film, and Armor Wars has been re-confirmed as going into production. The Marvel Studios presentation consisted of films and TV shows that we knew about. We did get some casting announcements such as Ke Huy Quan appearing in the second season of Loki, and that Tim Blake Nelson will appear in Captain America: New World Order as the Leader, With that last revelation does this mean that the Hulk will appear in Captain America: New World Order? The Leader is a Hulk villain, after all.

We did learn that a lot of footage and trailers were presented at D23 about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Echo, Loki, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Ironheart. Too bad, most of us cannot see them. Based on Twitter and other social media feeds by those lucky enough to have attended the presentation, the footage sounded great, but no one else could see the footage. All we received were TWO trailers. One for Secret Invasion, which has the look of a solid spy thriller, and Werewolf By Night, a one-shot film coming next month on Disney +. It is both surprising and concerning that Werewolf By Night will stream on October 7, less than a month from now, but it is only now we are seeing any footage. Honestly, the black-and-white trailer makes Werewolf By Night look very campy while evoking the mood of an old Universal horror film and a grindhouse film. But it could be good.

Perhaps the most intriguing news coming out of the Marvel presentation was the revelation of the Thunderbolts lineup. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Basically, the lineup seems like a reunion of cast members from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow, plus a return of a villain from Ant-Man and the Wasp. So, no Abomination or Baron Zemo as everyone expected. Still, just the inclusion of the Winter Soldier is enough to get excited over the Thunderbolts.

As it can be seen, there wasn’t any announcements about other MCU projects. No news on Blade, Deadpool 3, zilch about the X-Men, not even anything on the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is supposed to be streaming in a few short months, or Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3. Keep in mind that an exclusive trailer for that film was shown already at SDCC. They could have at least released it to the general public.

Even if Disney could not show exclusive footage to the general public for their MCU projects, at least release an image. Let us see a better look at Namor or Kang! Releasing two trailers does not cut it.

On the other hand, the Star Wars presentation was better, with its highlight being the release of the trailer for the third season of The Mandalorian. With the Star Wars presentation, not everything was shown to the general public, but at least enough was released. Even the Disney animated films presentation from yesterday was more interesting.

Blame it on our unrealistic expectations and for giving in the hype and speculation, but aside from the few thousand people who attended D23, the Marvel Studios presentation was a disappointment for everyone else. This was the first live D23 since the pandemic and the excitement was wild, Disney could have made some exciting and surprising announcements on the level of Avengers: Secret Wars at SDCC, but nothing new was revealed. Overall, the Marvel presentation was almost as disappointing as the presentation by Warner Bros. about their upcoming DC films and TV shows at SDCC. Yes, that bad.

Disney definitely dropped the ball at D23 with Marvel Studios and the MCU. Hopefully, future conventions and presentations will improve, but we should temper our expectations and be realistic.

Questions About The Future Of The MCU

The aftermath of Marvel Studios’ announcement of their upcoming films and TV shows at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con is still ongoing. All the complaints about Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been vanquished as fans now contemplate Phase Five and Six,which will start early next year.

Although the reaction to the new MCU projects has been positive, many questions did come up about the films and TV shows or rather what was not announced. Observers pointed out there were gaps in the official release schedule for the upcoming phases, especially with Phase Six. In that phase only three films were announced (Fantastic Four, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and Avengers: Secret Wars), but there were slots for eight more releases. So, what could they be? Let’s examine further…

Where are the Mutants?

The mutant characters in the X-Men and other assorted X-teams were particularly absent during the Comic-Con announcement. Ever since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and its film properties in 2019, which included the film rights to X-Men, fans have been anxious to see Marvel Studios’ take on the mutants. And some are becoming impatient. But given the many mutant-related films and TV shows over the last few years, it is for the best that the mutants be given a rest to build up demand and recharge the creative energy of those who would bring about more live-action mutant films and TV shows. Marvel Studios played it smart with drip, drip, drip Easter eggs and references to the mutants in the MCU. In last year’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, part of the action took place in the fictional country of Madripoor, a location well known as Wolverine’s incognito stomping grounds. It has been heavily implied in WandaVision, that Wanda Maximoff was a mutant. Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, turned up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, albeit this was an alternate variant. In the most recent MCU TV show, Ms. Marvel, it was revealed at the end that the title character was a mutant, though that word was not actually used.

It has been reported that Ryan Reynolds, who plays Deadpool, will reprise the role in a Deadpool 3 film for Marvel Studios, and it has been rumored the film will be part of Phase Five. Whenever the film comes out, it is bound to be a hit and increase demand for more X-Men-related films.

Secret Wars and Followups

Perhaps the mutant superhero team will be one of those unannounced films in Phase Six. One possible clue was the recent announcement that the director of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty would not be Joe and Anthony Russo but instead the director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton. It was expected that the Russo Brothers, who directed the last two Avengers films to great success, were the go-to guys for future Avengers films. But in the past, they’ve expressed a desire to do their own take of the X-Men. Perhaps, they were offered their dream assignment and this will be announced at the D23 Expo in September. Or the X-Men won’t turn up until Phase Seven. It was reported earlier this week that Disney cannot recast the X-Men until 2025 and Marvel Studios will probably want to run out the clock until then before even starting work on the MCU version of the mutant superheroes. At this point it’s anyone’s guess.

Once Cretton was announced as the director of the next Avengers film, people began wondering who would helm Avengers: Secret Wars. It could go to the Russo Brothers, but that seems unlikely, given the possibility they could be busy with the mutants. Then again they could be tapped to direct Avengers: Secret Wars if it turns out the film will actually be a two-part saga. The original Secret Wars mini-series in 2015 was a sprawling epic that will be difficult to pull off with just one film. It could turn out that the story of Avengers: Secret Wars will have to be continued into Phase Seven, which could be called the Battleworld Saga. During Secret Wars, various patches of reality were merged into a world created by Doctor Doom. The Phase Seven films could explore these separate realities before coming to a concluding epic film.

Getting back to the director of the sixth Avengers film, if the Russos don’t direct it then another possibilty is Jon Watts, the director of the MCU Spider-Man trilogy of films. The concludng film of the trilogy, Spider-Man: No Way Home, was one of the most succesful films of all time and its head-spinning plotline about multiversal variants and characters from different film franchises meeting each other was well directed by Watts. This makes him an obvious contender for an Avengers film dealing with characters from alternate universes meeting and battling each other. This could be the reason why Watts left the Fantastic Four reboot he was supposed to direct. His success with Spider-Man: No Way Home demonstrated he had the skills to take on an even more epic film.

Putting aside speculating about directors and mutants, let’s ponder what other MCU offerings are coming up. It was a surprise that the previously announced Armor Wars TV mini-series was not part of the announcements at Comic-Con, yet Marvel Studios insist that mini-series will still be made. It is possible Armor Wars will be part of Phase Six.

It has also been reported that a TV series based upon Wonder Man will be produced and if so Wonder Man can be part of Phase Six. Other live-action TV series could include second seasons for Hawkeye, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and maybe a third season of Loki that could coincide with the upcoming Avengers films.

As for other films, a no-brainer would be a second Shang-Chi film, as well as a third Doctor Strange film. After all the last Doctor Strange film ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and was strongly tied to the Multiverse Saga. There are rumors that Marvel Studios is considering a followup to Eternals, but since that film had a mixed reaction what is more likely is that some of its characters will be important players in other films, perhaps one about the cosmic superhero Nova. Supposedly, Marvel Studios is developing a Nova film, which could not only feature the Eternals, but tie-in with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, this depends on how the third and final Guardians of the Galaxy film concludes.

The Spider-Man Wild Card

Given the humongous success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a new trilogy about the MCU Spider-Man should be a given. Yet, nothing has been announced. As many know, Marvel Studios does not have the film rights to Spider-Man and Spider-Man films were never made part of Marvel Studios’ big announcements. They just pop up and a spot on the crowded MCU schedule is found for them. Expect the same thing to happen with Phase Five and Six.

The big question with future MCU Spider-Man films is will Jon Watts return to direct them? If not him then who else can direct a Spider-Man film? Marvel Studios cannot make that decision because that will be up to Sony Pictures, which holds the film rights to Marvel’s most popular character. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on more Spider-Man films, Sony is obsessed with mining other Spider-Man-related properties. The problem is that what they have planned does not sound promising aside from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. So, fans will have to wait and see what Sony decides.

No matter how this all ends up with Phase Five and Six of the MCU, fans will end up happy, upset or somewhere in between. Either way, there will be something for everyone.

José Soto

Potential Directors 4 The Fantastic Four

The recent news that director Jon Watts left the upcoming Fantastic Four (FF) film by Marvel Studios was a big surprise for fans of the Marvel Comics property and apparently the film studio itself. Unlike Ant-Man and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness where the original directors of those films were replaced fairly quickly, it seems as if Marvel Studios is taking its time and keeping to its vest who the replacement will be. There are many possible choices and rumors of who will take over. The popular talk was that John Krasinsky, who appeared as an alternate version of Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic in the latest Doctor Strange film was the frontrunner and one reason why Watts left the project. But those rumors have died down since it is not clear that the actor will even be cast as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of Richards.

When choosing the replacement director for the Fantastic Four, the president of Marvel Studios,Kevin Feige, has to pick a solid director with a proven track record. Unlike some other MCU films, the Fantastic Four truly has to be phenomenal because the superhero team is one of Marvel Comics’ top properties and the previous vilm versions of the Fantastic Four have been major letdowns. So, Marvel Studios has to get this film right and cannot afford a misfire. The latest rumor has it that Feige prefers to have a proven veteran filmmaker tackle the film instead of an up-and-coming director. That makes sense because for every Joe and Anthony Russo, who blossomed with MCU films, there have been forgettable picks like Alan Taylor.

With that let’s look at some possible choices, which will include the latest rumored potential directors and some suggested possibilities for the Fantastic Four. Of course, bear in mind Kevin Feige may tap someone completely unexpected for the task.

John Krasinski

As noted above, Krasinski is considered the frontrunner for the job, at least among fans, given all the fan art of his casting and his directing resume. He has shown the ability to not only direct. but star in genre films, as seen with A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place, Part II. One hindrence is that the actor/director may not want to commit to a long-term film deal. At best, he may only star and direct one Fantastic Four film and hand off the directing duties to someone else for the sequels.

Bryce Dallas Howard

She is the latest rumored frontrunner for the directing task, and for the role of Susan Storm. Fueling the rumors are her recent acclaimed directing of the better episodes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Currently she is set to star in and direct a remake of Flight of the Navigator, so this may prevent her from taking the job, but then again she may jump ship for a higher profie job.

Peyton Reed

The director of the Ant-Man films famously pitched a Fantastic Four film back in the noughties to 20th Century Fox that would have taken place in the 1960s and would have been a comedy. For some time it was rumored that the superhero team would debut in Reed’s upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but that is doubtful since there has been no news or updates and the film’s release has been moved up to early next year. So there goes Reed’s chance to direct the FF, but, given his interest with the property and his MCU background, Reed would be a perfect choice.

Sam Raimi

After a long absence, the Spider-Man director made a superhero film comeback with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness where he proved he could still deliver an enjoyable superhero venture. His Spider-Man films were very whimsical and adventurous with the unique Raimi camera tricks that should go well with the FF. Plus, Bruce Campbell could cameo as the Impossible Man or some other comedic role!

Chris Columbus

Back in 1995, Columbus was attached to write and direct an adaptation of the Fantastic Four, but unfortunately left the project due to the astronomical cost for the special effects, which would have been difficult to pull off in that time period. The director has solid genre credentials, most famously with the early Harry Potter films, and should be considered.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home—Spider-Man’s Endgame

Despite a global pandemic and naysayers, Spider-Man: No Way Home (NWH) defied expectations and is a mammoth box office hit. With the success comes discussion over what lies ahead for future Spider-Man films and the ramifications of the events of NWH. Be aware the following will include spoilers about Spider-Man: No Way Home and related films.

The Complex Film Web

Spider-Man’s film history and its development has always been rocky. Before the first Spider-Man in 2002, it took years and armies of lawyers to develop a Spider-Man film thanks to the Marvel Comics superhero’s complex film rights. As it now stands Sony Pictures holds the film rights to Spider-Man, not The Walt Disney Company or Marvel Studios. While Sony had great success with the early Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films, they struggled with their rebooted film duology, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film studio tried to start their own film universe based on Spider-Man and related property to rival Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But those films were not as successful as the Raimi films nor were they well received. This forced Sony to scuttle further planned films and work with Marvel Studios to integrate the superhero into the MCU. This paid off tremendously as the MCU Spider-Man films were beloved and very profitable.

The partnership between Sony and Disney hit a large hurdle in 2019 shortly after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film which ended on a cliffhanger. The two companies could not come to terms and Sony took back the film rights, effectively ending all appearances by Spider-Man in the MCU. After some time, cooler heads prevailed and Spidey was allowed to have at least one more appearance in the MCU, which was Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film that celebrated all the Spider-Man live-action films as the actors who performed Spider-Man in the older films, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprised their iconic roles. Many theorized that based on the film’s plot line dealing with alternate realities that the superhero would transition away from the MCU and into his own reality that was populated by other characters such as Venom and Morbius.

Across a Multiverse

According to executives from both film companies, Spider-Man will remain in the MCU for the time being. Producer Amy Pascal even went as far as to announce that a new MCU Spider-Man was in development and perhaps more. He is also supposed to appear in one other MCU film as a feature character like he did in Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films. It would be terrific if he could show up in the MCU reboot of the Fantastic Four since the two properties have a shared early history and the director of the MCU Spider-Man films, Jon Watts, has been selected to direct the FF reboot.

Spider-Man remaining in the MCU is welcome news for fans who love the MCU version of Spider-Man. No one can say for certain if this actually happens, but given the huge success of the MCU Spider-Man films, it would be in the best interests of both film studios to continue the arrangement. On the other hand, if this does not come to pass, at least the cliffhanger was resolved and the last film in the trilogy brought this Spidey’s story to a conclusion and a new chapter in his life.

Supposing Spider-Man were to remain in the MCU what would he face next? One clue is the alien symbiote that created Venom. At the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Venom was transported to the MCU, however he did not play a vital role in NWH. Instead, Venom and his host Eddie Brock hung out in a bar in Mexico and was transported back to his own reality in a mid-credit scene in NWH. The scene was quite funny, but some were disappointed that Venom did not help out the Spider-Men or join the Sinister Six. But a small fragment of the symbiote was left behind in the MCU. So this could be what Peter faces next.

As to how this fragment remained while everyone else not part of the MCU were transported back to their own realities, well, because plot holes. On that note, where were the other characters from other realities that knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, such as the Raimi version of Venom, or the Harry Osborns in the other films or Peter’s love interests? The real-world answer is that having them show up would have made the film too crowded. It already had the two previous versions of Spider-Man and the main villains from those films, plus the Venom and Matt Murdock appearances. It is possible they arrived much later in NWH and were quickly whisked back before they could do anything. Or maybe they were about to come through in the scene near the end where the dimensional rift threatened to rip open wider. In that moment, audiences could make out the forms of other Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter and Scorpion, so other characters who knew Spider-Man’s secret identity were bound to come through, also.

For now, it seems as if Venom will have his own universe that is populated by at least one other Spider-Man villain, Morbius. There are hints that this universe is part of the film universe of The Amazing Spider-Man films. These include the font for the Daily Bugle newspaper seen in Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Morbius is similar to that seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Another is the Oscorp Building featured in those films turned up in a recent trailer for Morbius. That film references Venom and the trailers featured Michael Keaton as presumably the Vulture, an MCU Spider-Man villain. How can this be? Simple, this version of the version is similar to the MCU version seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The way that actor J.K. Simmons reprised his role as J. Jonah Jameson in NWH being that he played the same character in the Raimi Spider-Man films also applies in this case with the Vulture. In other words, his appearance in Morbius does not mean the film takes place in the MCU. As to the apprent absence of Spider-Man in the Venom films to date (post-credits scenes aside), well, they could have taken place before The Amazing Spider-Man films.

There are plans to create a film based on Kraven the Hunter with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the famous Spidey villain. This film could be interesting, but would feel hollow without Spider-Man’s presence. More than Venom or Morbius, Kraven was driven and defined by Spider-Man. He was obssessed by besting his ultimate prey in the comic books. This culminated in the classic story line “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and it is hard to imagine such a story being filmed without Spider-Man. If the Kraven film takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man films perhaps it can include Andrew Garfield’s version of Spider-Man.

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More Genre Film Delays?

Looks like we are heading back to square one with the COVID-19 pandemic. The delta variant of the coronavirus has raised infection numbers worldwide just as it was recovering from the pandemic (thanks maskholes, covidiots, and other morons who either won’t mask up or get vaccinated for stupid reasons). As the COVID-19 cases began to explode in alarming numbers this development seems to be causing film studios to reconsider their release schedule. We all know how severely their original film schedules were thrown out the window when the pandemic first happened last year.

Already, Paramount Pictures announced that they canceled the September 17, 2021 release of Clifford the Big Red Dog to no date certain. While many adult genre fans would not care about that they have to realize the precedent this is setting. The same thing happened last year when the James Bond film No Time to Die had its release date canceled. It was the first major film to be delayed. This eventually caused a ripple effect as the pandemic worsened as we saw that Marvel Studios’ Black Widow was yanked from its May release date with just weeks to go. Can history repeat itself if the film release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is delayed from September 3, 2021 to who knows when? What about Eternals? What about Spider-Man: No Way Home?

That Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures production is the most eagerly awaited offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for the year. But we have yet to see a trailer or even acknowledgement about what it is about or who appears in the film. So the speculation about Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will continue. This is concerning for Spider-Man fans because the film is supposed to come out this December and by this time there should have been a trailer, but Sony has not provided any updates on the film. This is fueling speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home will be delayed.

Adding ammunition to this is that today’s trailer release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage did not have a release date, only the tag: “Exclusively in movie theaters this fall”. The Venom sequel is supposed to be released on September 24, 2021 but by the way things are going, it’s anyone’s guess if this will happen. If Venom: Let There Be Carnage is pushed to October or November this in turn will push Spider-Man: No Way Home’s release date to next year and further delay Sony’s Morbius film.

If Spider-Man: No Way Home is delayed this dominoe will affect the other MCU films slated for future release. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is connected to the Spider-Man film and is the first MCU film of 2022. Will this impact the Disney+ MCU TV shows, as well?

Of course, the delays will create even more tension with Marvel Studios, their parent company, Disney, and Sony. Spider-Man: No Way Home is Sony’s biggest film and they want to get the most bang out of their production so they may want to hold off until next summer. As mentioned above this will disrupt Marvel Studios plans for their films creating more delays. On top of that there are reports that Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige is not happy with Disney over the way they handled the release of Black Widow. He did not favor its simultaneous release onto Disney+ and in theaters, which caused the film to lose money in the box office. And he was sided with Black Widow’s star Scarlett Johansson, who is suing Disney. This could be the start of the unraveling of the Golden Period of the MCU. Who knows where this will end? Perhaps Feige may eventually jump ship and go work at another film studio. Warner Brothers will take him in a second!

At least for Warner Brothers, their DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films may not be as affected as The Suicide Squad is coming out this week and they don’t have any DCEU films slated for release until next summer. Hopefully by then the unvaccinated will get a clue and we’ll be able to put this disease behind us. Their other genre films like Dune and the new sequel to The Matrix, which were slated for release this year, will also stream on HBO Max. So they might stick to the schedule for the rest of the year. As we have seen throughout the pandemic this release strategy will dampen box office returns. Keep in mind, both Warner Bros. and Disney have announced they will discontinue this practice. That could change if the pandemic doesn’t abide soon.

For now, it is too soon to say where things will end. Perhaps infection and death rates will plummet or booster shots to combat the delta variant will be distributed soon to put the vaccinated at ease. There are reports that vaccination rates are increasing so hopefully by the end of the month we can see better numbers. Of course, this grousing about delayed genre film releases cannot compare to the pain and misery that the coronavirus is causing among us. We all have to do our part, which includes continuing to mask up (even if we’re vaccinated), washing up, social distancing, and the other efforts to stop the spread of the virus. OK, PSA is over, whether or not these films we love get delayed it’s more important to stay safe and enjoy the many other media that is still available for our enjoyment.