We're Comics Fans, We're Always Looking Ahead1 of 12Over the last few weeks, Marvel Studios has dropped some bombshell announcements about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the first trailer for Doctor Strange, and new details about Spider-Man: Homecoming, their recently named reboot, co-produced by Sony. Many of these items, including smaller stories like the Russos shedding some light on the differences between Avengers: Infinity War Part One and Part Two and some new casting choices for Thor: Ragnarok have added some new wrinkles to the well-mapped future of Marvel’s films.
And while we could sit back and wait for time to reveal all, there are clues firmly planted in these various reports that paint something of a picture for where Marvel is headed – even of those clues often raise more questions themselves. We’re not saying we know exactly what Marvel is up to – we’re saying that we’ve got eyes on these things and some better-than-educated guesses about what it all means. Here are ten new thoughts about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Science Bros. Forever2 of 12In case you missed it the other night, Jimmy Kimmel seemed to be firmly under the impression Robert Downey Jr. would be at least appearing in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. If you saw RDJ’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host didn’t seem to be speculating, but appeared to be expecting Downey Jr. to confirm it was a done deal.
The quick-witted actor recovered just enough to at least stave off confirmation yet, saying “perhaps” and that contracts were not signed “yet” (not exactly a denial), but it appears Marvel may be coming to terms with the actor’s escalating price tag.
As has been revealed by now, Tony Stark and Peter Parker share a scene in Civil War that seems to reflect the ‘science geeks / mentor-protégé’ role Marvel Comics established a few years ago for the Civil War comic book series, and it would make lot of sense if that continued next year in Homecoming.
Cliffhanger Smiffhanger3 of 12“The movies are very very different from one another. It’s not a part one and part two scenario, necessarily,” co-director Anthony Russo said this week about Avengers: Infinity War Part One and Part Two.
That would help explain a lot. When you look at the Marvel release calendar, the one thing that stands out for you is that the MCU doesn’t come to a halt or fall off a cliff after Infinity War Part One. Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel both happen in-between, so unless they’re both flashbacks movies, superhero life on Marvel Earth seems to carry on.
Russo’s words seem to suggest Part One will not end in a cliffhanger to be resolved in Part Two, which again makes sense again considering important things seem to happen in-between.
As to the narrative structure of the two films, we suspect we’ll have more thoughts on that after seeing Civil War, so stay tuned.
"Whooo Are You??? "I'm Nor-Man"4 of 12With Michael Keaton reportedly in talks to play the villain – or a villain – in Spider-Man: Homecoming, speculation immediately turned to who, with the most common theory and rumor being the Vulture.
But we can’t help but think the famously-intense Keaton would make a perfect Norman Osborn.
Now we still think Marvel has to stay away from the Green Goblin – at least early – in its Spidey reboot, but bear in mind we’ve seen much more Harry and more Harry-as-the-Goblin, than Norman. Norman was actually last seen substantially in Sam Raimi’s first (2002) Spider-Man, played by Willem Dafoe, although he briefly appeared in Raimi's sequels. Variety, who first reported the Keaton talks, was unconvinced the actor would be Homecoming’s main villain. Now it's unlikely Marvel would tap an Oscar-caliber actor for a one-off, second fiddle role, so maybe they’re playing a long game here – establishing Osborn first, and saving his Goblin turn for down the line.
And again, Keaton’s talents seem well-suited to play a relatively normal, if intense businessman who is also a cackling, madcap psychopath in his spare time.
With it looking more likely Robert Downey Jr. will be playing a mentor to Peter Parker, maybe having a rival industrialist (and Iron Man’s opposite number) also vying to be a father-figure to Peter would be a dynamic that could make sense?
Flight of the Valkyries5 of 12The most reliable information about actress Tessa Thompson joining the Thor: Ragnarok cast seems to be that she’ll be Thor’s new love interest (replacing the not-returning Natalie Portman) and she’ll be “kind of a superhero” herself.
Less reliable is the rumor she’ll be the kind-of-superhero Valkyrie, but piecing a few things together, you can certainly make a case for its narrative efficiency. Follow us, we’ll try to make sense of it in the end.
1.) The first two Thor films established Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is into Thor, he isn’t into her (for Norse gods know what reason), and that Sif is jealous of Jane Foster.
And since Jane isn’t coming back, having Thor once again look past Sif and find an immediate new love interest would be kind of cruel to Sif.
2.) Alexander is now the star of a hit NBC TV series and is probably busy these days.
3.) By rule, Marvel films have deaths or apparent deaths and no Thor film with a subtitle that literally translates to the death of Norse gods will be an exception.
4.) Valkyrie’s whole reason to be is to choose which fallen Asgardian warriors are worthy to be taken to Valhalla, the land of the honored dead.
You see where we’re going with this yet?
Killing like four birds with one stone, Sif falling heroically in battle early in Ragnarok not only sets the stage and raises the stakes for the film, it also serves as a way to introduce Valkyrie and clears the romantic field for Thor to follow his heart without crushing Sif’s … again.
Kaluu? Ahhh!6 of 12Superhero rivalry seem to be the big 2016 theme - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse all feature friend-vs-friend face-offs in some form or another. Suicide Squad will just add to the ambiguity of super-heroism them later this summer.
Will all this duality carry over to November’s Doctor Strange? Marvel has yet to identify which Strange villain Mads Mikkelsen is playing and to be honest, his appearance in the trailer doesn’t help narrow things down much.
So we’re here to offer a theory - Kaluu.
We’ll save you a Wikipedia search – in Marvel Comics, Kaluu and the Ancient One were students together in the practice of mystic arts, but where the Ancient One found a path towards the greater good, Kaluu chose the darker path – black magic, no less – in the pages of the Darkhold.
So think of Kaluu as the Darth Vader to Ancient One’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, with Stephen Strange as the Luke Skywalker – sans the daddy issues.
Kaluu could also help set up the ‘separate paths’ angle with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo, (for now, apparently, a good guy).
Perhaps the Kaluu-Ancient One dynamic would play itself out again with Strange and Mordo eventually choosing opposite paths in subsequent films.
And while this is admittedly a whole lot of speculation, consider this - after a 24-year absence from comic books, Kaluu was fairly recently dusted off to be a key villain in Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers and Captain America & The Mighty Avengers.
Superheroes? I Don't See Any Superheroes?7 of 12Unless you count the Mortal Kombat-looking peeps towards the middle, one of the more notable elements of the Doctor Strange trailer was the lack of superhero costumes.
Marvel even seemed to purposely not show Strange in his iconic blue tunic-red-cape-with-high-collar duds (as seen in the first stills) until the very end of the trailer, and even then it was a long shot cast in shadow.
Message received, Marvel – this is not your standard superhero movie. This is a new thing.
More on that in a moment.
31 Flavors8 of 12We’ve touched on this before but Marvel Studios tries to distinguish each film franchise with its own flavor/sub-genre. The Captain America pictures are the more cerebral entries … Ant-Man was a heist film … Guardians of the Galaxy a space opera. Now we have the mystical entry Doctor Strange that seems to be registering with fans as a trippy Matrix/Inception/Kung Fu mash-up.
Hints from Kevin Feige and Chadwick Boseman seem to suggest 2017’s Black Panther will be the exotic, jet-setting black superspy adventure history seems to be calling for that will beat the perhaps-inevitable Idris Elba-James Bond collision course to theaters.
And all indications are Marvel is going for a lighter, teen, "John Hughes" vibe with Spider-Man: Homecoming. And we still expect Blade back someday.
Where does that leave Captain Marvel? What niche will it carve out for itself? Our bets are still on it being Marvel’s answer to a war-military movie – a modern-day aerial-focused Top Gun featuring Air Force pilot Captain Carol Danvers (call-sign “Marvel”) becoming a one-woman fighter-jet.
Stars Aligned9 of 12For the first time since Guardians of the Galaxy became a surprise hit in 2014, somebody involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally acknowledged Star-Lord would likely appear in Avengers: Infinity War.
Guardians writer/director James Gunn has largely ignored the speculation and at times has pushed back against it, seemingly concerned with his films being perceived as just preamble to a larger event.
So when Anthony Russo said he’s looking forward to using Star-Lord, it was the first official nod to the inevitable ... and necessary.
Simple storytelling rules require the Guardians to be present for the final battle with Thanos (which given it’s a two-part epic, is has to be). Their origin as a team is tied to Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
You can’t reveal in exposition in Guardians 3 that Thanos has been defeated. Drax, for one, has to be there; it’s his entire reason for being now that Ronan is dead.
Russo said it himself - Infinity War will be a "culmination of everything that's happened before."
Everything means everybody and don't let James Gunn tell you different.
Phase 4, Like Lightning?10 of 12It’s no secret that Marvel’s in-house animation department tries to reflect what is happening in the MCU, but can the relationship work the other way? As we’ve argued before, the more we find out about Marvel’s movie take on Spider-Man, the more their take seems to be in line with their animated version of the character – the wise-cracking teen hero navigating his way through the adult worlds of superheroes.
So we may be overthinking this one, but we got that itchy feeling after seeing Marvel heavily promote the debut of the Thunderbolts on Marvel’s Avengers Assemble the last couple of weeks. Maybe it’s just the Baron Zemo connection. But add that to the upcoming relaunch of the comic book property with Winter Solider at the helm, and you start to wonder.
James Gunn once expressed a desire to make a T-Bolts movie, but how would that even work in the MCU? Its entire premise is known supervillains in disguise. Having a superhero team revealed to be villains never seen before in the MCU would take some of the teeth out the concept.
And is there even the requisite numbers of villains left in the MCU to make up a team? Some know what happens to Crossbones in Civil War, but we don’t know yet.
Loki would be a kick? Nebula? Batroc? How about Timothy Roth’s Abomination from Incredible Hulk? Last we heard, he was in custody of General Thunderbolt Ross, who is popping back up again in Civil War.
It's a little hard to piece a full team together, but there are some pieces on the board.
And Now, For Our Next Trick11 of 12So the early Civil War reviews are in, and critics are really, really (really) reacting positively to Tom Holland as Marvel Studio’s version of Spider-Man. Several of the reviews have pointed out how Holland’s performance, and how he fits into things, will make everyone forget Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 was just two years ago.
“Good” trumps "fatigue." Get the character right, and the past is forgiven… (see Daredevil’s Punisher.)
And see where we’re going with this?
Just a few months ago, we would have told you the Fantastic Four will be radioactive as a big screen property, buried in 200 feet of concrete in some two-mile hole in the desert, for years to come. But if Marvel pulls off a “Spider-Man, take 3!’ as deftly as they appear to have so soon after moviergoers effectively voted Garfield out of the mask, is it crazy to think Marvel Studios could perform another miracle and bring the FF back to big-screen life sooner rather that later?
Does Marvel Studios’ golden touch have that far of a reach? They’ve been defying the odd since day 1 and you have start wondering if a Spider-Man-like deal with Fox for Marvel's First Family could be that much closer to reality.
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