The Superhero Multiversal Crossover Events Are Among Us

The biggest and latest thing now with live-action superhero films and TV shows are the crossover events that feature previous versions of superheroes and supervillains showing up to lend a hand or imperil the current heroes. The most recent and one of the best examples was seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home where the Spider-Man (Tom Holland) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) met two older versions of Spider-Man (both played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield) that appeared in their own films.

Of course, fans will be in for a treat this week as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuts and promises to deliver a the mother of all crossover events as the worlds of the MCU, previous Marvel films and more will interact. But that’s not all, next year The Flash will be about its own crossover event as the title hero’s (Ezra Miller) time travel antics will create alternate timelines and have him meet previous film versions of DC’s superheroes; notably Batman, reprised by Michael Keaton.

There have been other examples of multiverses in superhero films and TV shows. The TV series Loki, heavily dealt with this theme as the title villain (Tom Hiddleston) was a Loki from an alternate timeline that ultimately did not die as he escaped the events that led to his death in Avengers: Infinity War. This Loki grappled with knowledge about his potential fate, time travel and bizarre variants of his being, which included an alligator version of Loki (!). The events of the TV show probably led to the multiversal crisis befalling the MCU.

The Disney+ animated series What If…? exclusively explores other versions of the MCU, such as one where T’Challa never became Black Panther but instead became Star-Lord, or a world where zombies have overrun the MCU. More importantly at least two characters introduced in the What If…? series will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. They are a dark version of Doctor Strange and a Peggy Carter who recieved the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. In one segment when a superpowered Ultron and the Watcher fought, their battle raged across different universes, including what may be the Star Wars universe. This series is inspired by the Marvel Comics title What If…? which explored different outcomes and events of the Marvel Universe, only the animated series focused on the MCU and for the most part the series was fun to watch.

Another terrific animated presentation from Marvel was the masterpiece Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which took place in an alternate world where a blond Peter Parker died as Spider-Man and Miles Morales took his place as a new Spider-Man. In his adventures he met alternate versions of Spider-Man including an older, jaded version of Peter Parker, Peter’s old girlfriend, Gwen Stacy and a cartoon pig. The film won the Oscar for best animated film and two sequels will be coming out starting next year.

Marvel is not the only one dealing with animated alternate worlds. DC has released several animated films based on their Elseworlds imprint, which is their own take of alternate universes. We’ve witnessed adaptations of popular Elseworld tales such as Superman: Red Son, Gotham Under Gaslight, and The Dark Knight Returns. These films were excellent adaptations of the source material or were inspired by the original premise.

DC has already had its live-action forays into alternate worlds. Crisis on Infinite Earths was a television crossover event that took place across DC’s Arrowverse TV shows. The event was a very loose adaptation of the classic comic book mini-series about multiple timelines and universes in DC being combined into one. The highlight of that event was, of course, the cameos, Easter eggs and appearances of DC heroes and villains from various live DC films and TV shows that were not part of the Arrowverse. For instance, we got to see Burt Ward reprise his role as Dick Grayson from the 1960s Batman TV show, we revisited the world of Smallville, and Brandon Routh appeared as Superman in a combination sequel to Superman Returns and loose adaptation of the classic comic book mini-series Kingdom Come. But the biggest surprise was that the TV version of the Flash (Grant Gustin) briefly met the film version played by Ezra Miller.

As to the rest of the crossover event, it was acceptable. Being these were Arrowverse shows with limited budgets, the result was what one would expect. Still, it was often entertaining and seeing the concept of a multiverse realized was fun, especially the end of the event which gave us tanatlizing glimpses into other worlds and stories.

These stories about multiverses and alternate characters and situations seemed unheard of fairly recently. Aside from the logistical hurdles of clearing rights and enticing actors to return to roles, the film and TV executives also feared that such stories would be too confusing. Sure, comic book readers and fans would understand the concept of alternate timelines and situations but the average person might not. Fortunately, as we have seen lately, these live-action presentations have been very successful, especially Spider-Man: No Way Home, which became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Still, the writers and showrunners have to be able to thread the needle carefully and tell a compelling and clear story. Otherwise, the result will be a confusing and unsatisfying film or TV show. The important thing to remember is that these are fun and fascinating explorations of our favorite characters. So for now, let’s enjoy and celebrate. these crossovers and multiverses for what they are.

Morbius: When Trailers Deceive Us

By now, most of us have heard about Morbius and how it wildly differed from what the trailers promised. Namely, solid connections with Spider-Man or even the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But what we got was downright deceptive.

For some time now, there have been grumblings by filmgoers and fans about how what was shown in trailers never showed up in the final films. Some recent examples include the famous charge of the heroes in the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, which prominently showed a very large and angry Hulk charging along with the other Avengers and allies. But as we saw in the film, the Hulk only appeared briefly in the film’s opening moments and the scene of the charging Avengers was nowhere to be found.

Another example was in the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home which digitally removed the other Spider-Men taking part in battling the many foes or alternate scenes with Doctor Strange that did not make it to the final film.

A big reason for these deceptions is because of spoilers. A decision was made for Spider-Man: No Way Home to keep the revelations about the other Spider-Men a surprise, even though this was the worst kept secret in Hollywood. In another case, for a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, the God of Thunder was shown in channeling electricity with two eyes flaring with energy. However, when this happened in the film, Thor by this point, lost an eye while battling Hela.

Another reason for the deception is not that the films were intentionally deceiving viewers but rather the clips in the trailers failed to make the final cut of the films. This points to what probably happened with Morbius.

In the trailers for Morbius there were several scenes establishing the existence of Spider-Man in the world of Morbius. A great example is that clip of Morbius walking past a poster of Spider-Man with the word “Murderer” sprayed over the poster. This led to wild speculation if this film took place in the MCU given Spider-Man’s predicament or in the non-MCU Spider-Man films where the character underwent a dark chapter that we have not seen.

There were also a couple of scenes showing Adrian Toomes/Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) interacting with Morbius, which led to more speculation. But alas, none of this happened or was seen in the final film, which had zero Spider-Man connections until the post-credits scenes. Without going into spoilers, these scenes did not make any sense.

Obviously, eager Spider-Man fans were sorely disappointed by the final cut of Morbius. The question remains is how long will film studios and their marketing departments continue to deceive filmgoers? Yes, the audiences have to consider that usually when a trailer is released the film has not been completed, so they cannot expect to see every shot in a trailer to show up in a film. They also have to consider that studios want to leave some surprises for fans. But to outright tease connections to the world of Spider-Man and the MCU and deliver nonsenscal post-credit scenes is an insult to fans. What will happen is that fans will eventually tune out trailers and the enthusiasm for these films will diminish, and this could ultimately impact the box office. Being that this is the thing that matters most to film studios, they have to take heed about how they burn fans with deceptive trailers.

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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Top Ten Films & TV Shows Of 2021

After the live-media drought of 2020, genre films and television shows made a roaring comback in 2021 even though the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our lives. As we have learned to deal with the pandemic so have the TV and film industry, which was great news since there was much more films and TV shows for us to enjoy. Here are the ten best films and TV shows of 2021.

Television

10. Superman & Lois

This Arrowverse version of Superman surprised everyone by capturing the essence of the DC superhero while bringing a modern twist of his world and situation. Tyler Hoechlin delivered a sensitive and strong performance as the newest Man of Steel.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale

The fourth season of the dystopian saga of an America under control of religious zealots. This season’s theme was about post-traumatic stress and dealing with rage as the main character escaped to Canada and dealt with the aftermath of her ordeal.

8. Sweet Tooth

This adaptation of the comic book about a road trip undertaken by a hybrid mutant boy and a tortured hunter in the aftermath of a viral apocalypse was a touching adventure. Many decried its cliffhanger season finale but thankfully a second season is coming.

7. Invincible

At first glance, Invincible seemed like just another animated knock off of the DC Universe. But the animated adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book quickly asserted it was much more than that due to its ultra-violent tone, adult nature and a fresh take of classic comic book tropes.

6. For All Mankind

The second season of the alternate history TV show further developed a world where the Soviets won the moon race with ramifications in the 1980s. Escalated Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. served as a chilling backdrop for the show’s characters who were forced to deal with alarming events on Earth and on our moon.

5. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The second TV show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) surprised viewers with its exploration of racism, social inequality and hero worship. As well as the burden of living up to the legacy of Captain America and confronting the past. On top of those mertis were all the glorious fight scenes and captivating plot developments, which made The Falcon and the Winter Soldier so winning.

4. Doom Patrol

The quirky bunch of misfit superhumans continued to shock and delight viewers with the third season of the show. While the Doom Patrol members were outrageously funny with their caustic behavior, they touched our hearts with their tragic situations in episodes which were just downright bizarre and existential.

3. What If…?

While not every episode delivered, on the whole, What If…? was an intriguing examination of alternate versions of the MCU in animated form. Some episodes knocked it out of the park with alternate versions of characters and stituations such as a terrifying version of Ultron that put the live-action version to shame and a tragic version of Doctor Strange that might turn up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

2. WandaVision

Marvel Studios first MCU-set television show, which streamed on Disney +, instantly stood out in a crowded streaming market thanks to its innovative style which was partly a send up of American sitcoms throughout the decades. At the same time, WandaVision kept viewers captivated with its perplexing mysteries and further developments of the MCU.

1. The Expanse

Coming in at the end of the year as the best television program is the sixth and final season of The Expanse. The must-see sci-fi epic about life in the settled worlds in our solar system was notable for its grounded and realistic depictions of life in space, as well as intriguingly complex characters and political situations. The Expanse is already lauded for being of the best sci-fi TV shows and its reputation will grow in years to come.

Honorary Mentions:

Foundation; Hawkeye; Into the Night; Lost in Space; Love, Death & Robots; Snowpiercer; Star Trek: Discovery; Star Trek: Prodigy; Star Wars: The Bad Batch; Titans; Tribes of Europa; The Wheel of Time; The Witcher

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Spider-Man: No Way Home Is The Strongest, Most Emotional Spider-Man MCU Film

Usually the third film in a trilogy is considered the weakest entry even it it is a solid effort. The latest Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Spider-Man: No Way Home, proves otherwise and is actually the strongest entry.

Given the content of the film, it will be nearly impossible to discuss it without going into not just spoilers, but heavy spoilers. So, to be fair to anyone who has not seen this instant classic, this review will only cover broad generalities with more in-depth analysis to follow some other time. There will be some spoilers but only in the broad sense and covers what was revealed in the trailers.

Spider-Man: No Way Home picks ups immediately after the end of the previous MCU Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Far From Home where Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) secret identity of Peter Parker was revealed to the world. The aftermath of the revelation is devastating to Peter and those closest to him like his girlfriend, MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Peter’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

The loss of privacy and the intrusive nature of the outside world eventually drives Peter to seek magical help from the sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). He asks Doctor Strange to cast a spell to make the world forget that he is Spider-Man, and the sorcerer agrees to do it. However, during the casting of the spell, Peter distracts Doctor Strange, which causes the spell to be corrupted.

The result is that Spider-Man villains from alternate film universes are brought to the MCU, in other words, the foes from the earlier, non-MCU Spider-Man films. These include Doctor Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Electro/Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), the Sandman/Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), and the Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).

Spider-Man quickly finds out that tackling with the not-quite Sinister Six and his decisions comes with severe consequences that not only imperil him and those around him, but the fabric of the multiverse itself. These developments force him to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility…and sacrifice.

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