A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part Two

We’re continuing our look at the superhero film event, Avengers: Endgame. This time we’ll speculate on a major plot device, what lies ahead for the team and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even who will be in the team later in the future. As before, major spoilers will follow, so turn back now if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame yet.

 

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The Smallest Hero with the Biggest Impact

Avengers: Endgame didn’t just feature story arcs about the OG Avengers but on allies that joined the team and their mission to undo Thanos’ snap. Nebula and Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with everyone else were at the end of their rope, feeling defeated after Thanos’ victory in the previous film. There was significant time spent on them and they had their special character moments. While they made important contributions to the team’s quest to reverse Thanos’ snap, one of other ally became the most unlikely Avenger of them all: Ant-Man. He is not only the smallest MVP in Endgame but the most important one because the Avengers’ ultimate victory would not have been possible without Ant-Man.

Lang shows up

When Scott Lang aka Ant-Man re-emerged from the quantum realm after the film’s five-year time jump, he quickly realizes that time travel is possible due to the way he experienced time differently in the micro-dimension. He goes out of his way to locate the Avengers and presents them with this idea. Lang, fresh and eager from his experience in the quantum realm becomes a beacon of hope and new-found resolve for a defeated team. He inspires everyone into believing that the devasting effects of the Decimation could be undone.

ant-man in Avengers Endgame

To think this was all possible because of a rat. This anonymous rodent just happened to step on the controls of the quantum tunnel machine in a storage unit that brought Lang back into the world. Coincidence? Sure. Blind luck? You bet! But sometimes all it takes is the right circumstance to change everything. Even if some rat didn’t accidently save the universe, Lang would have been released some other time, what is important is that his re-emergence happened at the right time. Given his contribution, including his actions which later saved the Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and War Machine, Ant-Man is a shoe-in not only for another solo film, but as an Avenger in the team’s next film.

A Soldier’s Final Mission

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers traveled back to different time periods to return the Infinity Stones and nip the creation of alternate timelines.

His final journey raised many questions given how his mission ended. As mentioned in part one of this post, Rogers decided to spend his days in the past with Peggy Carter and grew old with her. We know this because moments after he disappeared into the quantum tunnel, he turns up nearby as an elderly man.

This started rampant speculation about how he returned since he didn’t use the same quantum tunnel machine he left in. Some theorized he was in the Prime MCU all along and never created a new timeline. The writers for the film agree with this, but it’s hard to believe because given his heroic nature, there isn’t any way that Rogers, whether or not as Captain America, would not interfere with history. He would have prevented Bucky from becoming the Winter Soldier, stopped the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones, let alone real-world tragedies like the JFK assassination or 9/11. The Avengers: Endgame directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, contradict this notion and believe that Rogers lived out his years in an alternate timeline. Good evidence for this is the fact that he comes back with an intact shield. Remember that his shield was broken during his battle with Thanos. Rogers must’ve obtained the new shield in the alternate timeline. Perhaps that timeline’s Captain America died or the shield was no longer needed in the brave new world Rogers created.

The question is how did he return? The temporal/quantum technology in the new timeline must have advanced more significantly than in the Prime MCU. Or that timeline’s Doctor Strange could have used magic to transport Rogers back to his native timeline. This and how did Rogers return the Stones are intriguing material for a potential film or series on Disney+, though we’ll probably never know.

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A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part One

By now, most of the movie-going audience and fans have seen the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, Avengers: Endgame. The fourth Avengers film is a monumental epic that concludes the 22-film Infinity Saga that started back in 2008. While it sums up long-running character arcs Avengers: Endgame does leave us with many questions as to its implications, intricacies and the future direction of the MCU.

Needless to say, major spoilers will follow. So, if you’re one of the few who has yet to see it (what are you waiting for?), then stop reading and come back afterwards. You’ve been duly warned….

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Avengers: Endgame had an expansive cast of characters, and that is not including all the MCU heroes that appeared at the end of the film for the climatic final battle with Thanos and his army. The film could have been overstuffed with characters and plot lines, but thanks to the skills displayed by the directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, the film breezed through its three-hour runtime. The characters were the main focus in the film and came off as more human than in previous efforts. They were all traumatized by the Decimation or Thanos’ snap and Avengers: Endgame, at least in its first hour, was a story of survivors and how they dealt with failure.

Survivors and Sacrifices

Some like Hawkeye aka Ronin aka Clint Barton, saw their families turned to dust and went to dark places in their souls. Hawkeye became a murdering vigilante who had to be coaxed back to help the Avengers in their time travel scheme to collect the Infinity Stones and undo the snap. He was hesitant at first, then skeptical and more willing than the others to lay his life on the line because with his family gone, he had nothing to live for, except for the faint hope that they would be returned to him. When Barton finally reunited with them, it was beautiful to watch as he attained an inner peace. But this won’t be the last time we see him. He will show up in a Disney+ show where it’s rumored, he will be mentoring a new Hawkeye.

black widow and hawkeye

Other heroes were ready to make sacrifices to reverse the Decimation. In the case of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, her sacrifice was her own life as she gave it up so that Hawkeye could attain the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir. Unlike many of the other Avengers, Romanoff never had a real family until she joined the team. She was even surprised on Vormir to learn that her father’s name was Ivan. In a way, she had nothing to lose except her life when she willingly let herself fall to her death. Even though she had no one, her death was painful to watch since she is so beloved among fans. But at least she will return in an overdue solo film next year, which is obviously a prequel. Maybe we can find out what happened in Budapest.

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Top 10 MCU Villains

mcu villains

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are beloved by many but one complaint lodged against the MCU is over its villains. Critics point out that the main flaw with the MCU films are its lightweight villains. This is a valid criticism since many times the MCU films featured forgettable foes that didn’t resonate with viewers. However, there are some truly outstanding villains in the MCU, and some underrated ones, as well, that have broken this mold lately. Here for your consideration are the best MCU villains. Needless to say spoilers will follow.

Thaddeus Ross

10. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (The Incredible Hulk)

Obsessed and prejudiced against superpowered beings, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) has proved to be a hindrance to superheroes in the MCU. First as a general in The Incredible Hulk, Ross played a Javert-type by relentlessly chasing Bruce Banner throughout the Americas. His actions led to the creation of the Abomination and fractured his relationship with his daughter, Betty.

Ross next turned up in Captain America: Civil War as an obtuse Secretary of State determined to bring all the superpowered beings of the world under control by imposing the Sokovia Accords. This truncation of freedom and individual rights put him at odds with Steve Rogers and his teammates, which ultimately led to the Avengers breaking up.

Hela

9. TIE: Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)/Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)

These two are prime examples of villains crazed with world conquest. Hela is the Asgardian Goddess of Death who destroyed Thor’s hammer, conquered Asgard and helped cause its destruction. More than a match for her half brother, Thor, she was portrayed with great gusto by Cate Blanchett.

Born in the fires of World War II, the Red Skull/Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) outgrew the Nazis and formed the Hydra terrorist organization thanks to his severe nihilistic mindset and access to superweapons. While not as layered as other villains on this list, the Red Skull in the first Captain America film was quite memorable and his recent reintroduction into the MCU sparked new interest in him.

8. Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3)

Despite the controversy surrounding the third Iron Man film, it can’t be denied that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) was not only the best Iron Man villain to date but one of the MCU’s top foes. Not only was Killian a notorious business competitor to Tony Stark, but he was the mastermind behind A.I.M. and the Mandarin. His machinations to topple the U.S. government and destroy Tony Stark by implementing the Mandarin’s terrorist campaign are nothing short of genius.

However, it was his vendetta against Stark that made Killian somewhat relatable. Years ago, Killian was a nerdy scientist who was dismissed by a pre-Iron Man Stark. This inspired him to achieve Stark’s level of success and fueled his hatred for Stark. This bit of history also illustrated how Stark’s callous past had caught up to him in Iron Man 3 and nearly undid him.

7. Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

As the U.S. Secretary of Defense (the MCU is a fertile ground for evil politicians, isn’t it?), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) developed a S.H.I.E.L.D. project using preemptive strikes that targeted world leaders and important figures like Tony Stark and Stephen Strange.

What is worse is that his actions against Steve Rogers and his supposed friend Nick Fury revealed that Pierce was a Hydra leader who had infiltrated and corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. to its core. A big factor in his successful infiltration was his charming exterior which hid his cold interior. What made Pierce even more frightening and formidable were his immense resources and clout. He actually had the law on his side, which he used to take out to try to take out Captain America and his allies.

6. The Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Nowadays it may be difficult to think of Steve Rogers’ BFF as a villain, but that was not the case in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the first Captain America film, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastain Stan) was Steve’s Depression-era buddy and joined him in World War II before ultimately dying in the line of duty. Or so we thought.

The second Captatin America film resurrected Barnes as a vicious and brainwashed Hydra assassin who was more than a match for Captain America. He even caught Cap’s famed shield in mid-air as it was thrown at him! The level of ruthlessness and deadly skills he displayed was as intimidating for us to watch as it was for the film’s heroes to endure. At the same time we felt for Steve and Bucky because of their past history and the fact that Bucky was forced by Hydra to carry out heinous acts.

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Captain America: 75 Years As A Living Legend

Alex Ross Captain America art

This year is a true landmark for Marvel Comics’ Star-Spangled Sentinel of Liberty. It’s not just because Captain America is the star of the biggest movie of the year (to date) Captain America: Civil War, but most importantly because this is the year Marvel is celebrating his seventy-fifth anniversary.

Imagine that number, three quarters of a century old and up there with the likes of modern-day legends like Superman and Batman. Unlike those two icons, Captain America didn’t always enjoy a high level of popularity. There are many reasons which reflected the mood of the times and the character’s level of development.

Unlike Batman and Superman, Captain America was undeniably a byproduct of the World War II era. When he made his debut in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941 World War II was occurring.

War-Born Hero

The U.S. was not involved in the war but Captain America Comics #1 coversooner or later the country would be and this left U.S. citizens with frayed nerves. It was the right time for a morale booster in the comic book pages. Comic book creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both of whom were Jewish and particularly alarmed by Adolf Hitler’s undisguised anti-Semitism, wanted to bring to life an American counterpart to the so-called German Aryan super race. Keeping that in mind they created Steve Rogers, a weakling who wanted to serve his country and was transformed into the super-soldier Captain America.

To their shock, almost immediately after his debut, Captain America became a sensation with the American public. But after the war ended, interest in the Sentinel of Liberty waned. The public was ready to move on from its war footing and Captain America was too ingrained in the World War II era to seem relevant in a post-war America. Even an attempt to modernize him in the 1950s as a “Commie Smasher” failed to reignite interest and before long his title was canceled. It seemed as if he would be relegated to the dustpan of comic book history. Or so it seemed.

Legendary Rebirth

Thanks to the efforts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s, the good captain was resurrected as part of the new wave of comic book superheroes that took the nation by storm. Due to the ingenuity of Lee and Kirby, Captain America was brought back into the limelight after being found frozen in the landmark comic book The Avengers #4. This plot twist was ingenious in that it brought back the same character without having to pull an Earth-2 introduction of a new character with the same name. At the same time, the man-out-of-time twist added a lot of pathos to Captain America, who now struggled to find a place in a new world and find a sense of relevance. Of course, what helped the captain’s newfound popularity were the exciting stories that placed him in the middle of the Avengers’ battles. From these early tales it was obvious that Captain America was a born leader and the other team members gravitated towards him and treated him as such. It wasn’t long before he became the actual leader of the Avengers and led the team into higher levels of greatness.

Captain America lives again

At the same time, he was rewarded with his own comic book that featured many interesting supporting characters and villains, among them a resurrected Red Skull–his greatest enemy during World War II.  But what kept the stories interesting was the character development of how he struggled to fit in and overcompensated by throwing himself into his work of saving the world.

This came to a head in the 1970s during the Watergate era when he lost faith in the U.S. government and actually gave up the Captain America identity. This theme would be revisited time and time again in several stories in the following decades that coincided when the nation was plagued with self doubt.

The Heart of America

Sam Wilson: Captain AmericaDuring these events other heroes have taken up the mantle of Captain America and provided fresh new outlooks on what it is to be the iconic hero. Most readers know that currently Sam Wilson,  who was Captain America’s partner the Falcon, is the new Captain America. The twist here being that Wilson is  African-American, but it feels natural because who else but Steve Rogers former partner is worthy enough to wield the shield and honor of being Captain America? It is a testament that the role of Captain America is larger than any one person.

Fans of the more traditional Captain America should not fret. As these cyclical stories go, eventually the original hero will reclaim the mantle. Steve Rogers has done it in the past, most famously after he was supposedly assassinated in Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed run of the title last decade. Keep that in mind with the current absurd plot twist that Steve Rogers is a Hydra sleeper agent. This is just a sales gimmick and it too shall pass.

With Sam Wilson as Captain America now, this development illustrates the universal appeal of the superhero. Despite his bright costume, Captain America isn’t some jingoistic right wing ideologue who sprouts platitudes about making America great. He is more than that, he is a symbol for what this country represents and strives for: freedom, justice, perseverance, hope, and decency. He doesn’t go around boasting about the U.S., he just fights for what is universally right. It is part of his core belief and why he resonates with people from all walks of life.

Another reason for his success is because given his situation, it would be natural if he wallowed in self pity, but he doesn’t. Of course, he does have regrets and doubts, but Captain America just plows ahead and adapts to any situation.

Reaching Legendary Status Through Film

These days, seeing how popular he is in our culture, it is hard to believe that some had doubts about his widespread appeal, especially overseas. It’s why his first film Captain America: The First Avenger was called simply The First Avenger in Russia, South Korea and Ukraine, while other countries were given the choice of dropping the name Captain America, but kept it anyway.

Chris Evans as Captain America

 

That film and its sequels turned him into a A list superhero that has in many ways eclipse Marvel Studios’ most popular superhero Iron Man. Much of the credit is due to the smart writing and direction that delivered exciting and thought provoking films. Of course, the casting of Chris Evans was truly inspired. Marvel Studios could have gone the easy route and hired some square-jawed hunk but went with Evans. His portrayal of Steve Rogers/Captain America feels natural and he emotes a sense of empathy and iron will that quickly won over audiences. Just like with Robert Downey, Jr. or Hugh Jackman it is difficult to imagine who can take over the iconic role.

Captain America patriotIt is clear that the superhero is more revered these days because of the films but it is more than that. Captain America has a special quality that is sometimes hard to pinpoint but he evokes an ideal of who we all should be, not just Americans but everyone. That is why we are all celebrating his 75th anniversary.

José Soto

Captain America: Civil War…The Aftermath

civil war

WARNING: The following will discuss major spoilers in Captain America: Civil War, anyone who has not seen the film yet and do not want to be spoiled should stop reading from this point on.

Captain America: Civil War, like the previous Captain America films, has had a profound impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The biggest fallout from the deteriorated relationship between Steve Rogers/Captain America  and Tony Stark/Iron Man being the disintegration of the Avengers team.

team cap 3

Naturally, we cannot expect this situation to last in the MCU. Despite the world’s animosity towards superheroes, it does need a superhuman team to take on the larger-than-life threats. What will likely happen in between this film and the next Avengers film is that the team will be reformed. As to who will make up the new Avengers is open for speculation.

New Avengers and Fugitives

But if the Marvel Studios films loosely follow what happened in the comic books then there might be two teams of Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War, Part I (at this point we don’t know what the film’s new name will be so let’s call it by its original title for now). In the Marvel Comics following the Civil War mini-series there were two Avengers teams, one was known as the Secret Avengers and operated outside the law and there was the “official” Avengers, which was later infiltrated with nefarious sorts and morphed into the Dark Avengers.

team iron

Avengers: Infinity War could roughly follow this development by having Tony Stark leading a new team composed of Vision, Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion will cameo as Wonder Man’s civilian identity of Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, so he is a natural to play Wonder Man–a casting decision we foresaw years ago), a new Captain America, Captain Marvel (someone that the film’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, have suggested may appear), and someone new to the MCU perhaps She-Hulk or Tigra or even Black Knight.

Now the film could be about how the official Avengers are treated as celebrities, but the reality is that many of the new recruits are traitors. Think about it. This plot twist would be a variation of the Thunderbolts’ first storyline and Wonder Man’s initial appearance. When Wonder Man first joined the Avengers he was supposed to betray the team but had a change of heart and became an actual hero. The original Thunderbolts team was actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, who were pretending to be heroes. This twist could be unveiled to audiences who would be shocked that new recruits like Tigra or Black Knight are actually supervillains and Zemo was behind the scenes plotting this machination much like he did in Captain America: Civil War.

team cap again

Meanwhile, Steve Rogers could adopt a new identity as either Nomad or the Captain as he did in the comic books. He would be without his shield, which he abandoned at the end of his third film. The new, evil Captain America (who can be Johnny Walker, the future U.S. Agent) could be the one wielding the shield while Rogers could use an energy shield like the one that Phil Coulson used in a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Of course, by the end of the film Rogers will rightfully regain the real shield. It could be given to him by Stark as a symbolic way of renewing their partnership.

Before that happens, Rogers will probably be leading his own clandestine team made up of Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Falcon.

Accords & Aftermaths

So, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, what does any of this have to do with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet? rhodey downPerhaps Thanos’ team of the Black Order could show up on Earth looking for the final Infinity Stone, which happens to be embedded on Vision’s forehead. The aliens defeat the Avengers and take the Stone or are behind the betrayal. This would lead Stark and Rogers to realize they have to join forces to combat Thanos and the film ends. Cue the post-credits scene with a triumphant Thanos and his completed gauntlet.

OK, so what about the rest of the MCU? How does Captain America: Civil War affect it? To be honest, it may have minimal impact outside of the third Avengers film and the Black Panther solo film, and the reason can be seen in the lineup of films between Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.

Up next is Doctor Strange, which seems likely to be set apart from the traditional MCU. Unlike Ant-Man, do not expect to see an Avenger making a cameo in Doctor Strange. At best, there may be a reference to one of the Infinity Stones. The same situation will apply to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. That sequel takes place in outer space and according to director James Gunn, doesn’t have anything to do with Thanos.

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