After Phase 3, What’s Next For The MCU?

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It’s well known that after the fourth Avengers movie, things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be different. Not just in universe but also in real life. Many of the stars of the movies will no longer be contractually obligated to appear in the franchise. Who knows what story will affect these characters we have come to know for almost a decade now. Just the one thing for certain is this: change. Change is coming whether we like it or not. President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige has said that he is not even sure if the Marvel Studios films will even be categorized in phases anymore.

Back to Basics

I love the MCU but even I’ll admit that things have become overblown. Almost every movie involves the world at stake. Now with the culmination of the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet storyline, it would be the perfect time to scale things back. With the recent successes of Logan and Deadpool, it would be foolish for Marvel Studios not to take notice. Those films were done on relatively smaller budgets and told more intimate stories that yielded both critical and financial success. Showing that not all of these movies need to have climaxes with large explosions and full of computer graphics.

More Standalone Films

 The nature of interconnected movies is the biggest draw of the MCU. But you can also see how it can be a double edged sword. This basically makes it that every film more or less to service the films that came before it and after. Just like the comic books that inspired them, not every story is connected with one another. Sometimes these heroes just get into their own adventures without it having to effect a future story and especially another hero’s films.

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The biggest out of place moment in Ant-Man was the scene where he had to steal a certain object. Who did the object belong to? Howard Stark who is currently deceased so it now belongs to Tony Stark. Where did Tony happen to have it stored? In the Avengers’ headquarters. Who just happens to find him and fight him? The Falcon. The scene was fun but it really served no real purpose other than to set up Ant-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War. It has no real effect on the plot.

New Faces Take The Lead

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Robert Downey Jr. has been the face of the MCU since the first Iron Man movie in 2008. His appearances in the franchise make him one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood. His cohorts such as Chris Evans are not that far behind him. They have effectively become too expensive especially Downey. Actors also want to do other things with their careers other than appear in these superhero movies. So now the with contracts running out after the fourth Avengers movie, it is time to phase out these older heroes in favor of new ones.

It’s no real shock that Marvel Studios started introducing new heroes such as Ant-Man at the end of Phase Two and new heroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange at the beginning of Phase Three. There are still those upcoming such as Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson on the way. So as major and supporting heroes continually get introduced, you can see a cycle forming. Older heroes will be phased out in favor of the new ones who will eventually become the old heroes and so new ones will be introduced. This way giving the audiences something new and not exhausting them of the heroes who came before and building up anticipation.

The Future

One thing for certain about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is change. The change is coming in one way or another. Who knows what shape or form it will take? The MCU is much different now than when it sarted. Imagine how it will be in another five years. That may be scary for some but change is also necessary. I personally cannot wait to see how this film franchise/universe changes.

 

Defending The Incredible Hulk (2008) aka The Red Headed Step Child of the MCU

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as of this writing there has been fourteen films. The franchise came out the gate roaring with the very first Iron Man movie. But something the franchise seems to always brush aside unless absolutely necessary is the second film in the franchise. That would be The Incredible Hulk. Directed by Louis Letterier and starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, the movie is very divisive. But I frankly love it and think it is one of the better MCU films. So it shouldn’t be treated so wishy washy.

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The story is very familiar to anyone who knows anything about the Hulk. Bruce Banner is on the run as he is being hunted by very morally dubious General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Banner worked with Ross on a project years ago that Banner believed was one thing but actually another. After testing it on himself, Banner became the Hulk and indirectly hurt Ross as well as Ross’ daughter, Betty who just happened to be involved with Banner. After a chain of events leads Ross learning Banner’s whereabouts, he enlists a special operative to help capture him. Enter: Emil Blonsky. An aged soldier who only knows how to fight and is uncomfortable with being older. This leads to Banner reuniting with Betty in an attempt to rid himself of the Hulk as Ross begins experimenting on Blonsky and turns him into another Hulk-like creature: The Abomination.

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The main theme in the film is really different from most superhero films. Banner does NOT want to be a hero. He was just a simple scientist wanting to make the world a better place through science before tragedy struck. When we meet him, he is willingly isolated. He has a beautiful neighbor who is obviously interested in him but he willingly chooses not to reciprocate. All he has for companionship is a stray dog and an internet buddy named Mr. Blue. The only thing he dreams of is ridding himself of the Hulk. The struggle for Banner to accept that he cannot get rid of the Hulk and just embrace it is a running theme that carries through the movie. The first time he turns into the Hulk is to protect himself from thugs, the second is because Ross wants to bring it out him and by the final time, Banner willingly throws himself out of a helicopter to stop his opposite. By the final shot of the movie, it ends with him intentionally triggering a transformation.

1200.jpgThe supporting cast are standouts. William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross is the standout. Ross is always a complicated character in the comics and this carries into the movie. We see him as a General that commands respect and for reason. We also see a fanatic who is obsessed to an unhealthy degree with Banner/Hulk. It is clear that he loves his daughter but it is also clear that he will let his obsessions override his more empathetic feelings. Tim Roth as Blonsky is also one of the few standout villains in the MCU. Blonsky is just an old soldier who can’t accept that his body is failing him. It is mentioned that with his record that he can be a high ranking officer but he turns it down just so he can be in the fight. This self loathing and seeing the power of the Hulk also drives him into obsession and experimenting on himself to achieve said power. Liv Tyler as Betty Ross is a bit more of a mixed bag. She’s never been the strongest actress but she is serviceable as Betty Ross. She is much more actively involved in the origin of the Hulk and helping Banner embrace the Hulk side of himself.

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Louis Letterier is a solid director but you can tell that this film is plagued by behind the scenes drama. Edward Norton is notorious for being something of a control freak and difficult to work with. Though I do love Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, I still would have loved to see Norton return to the role. His Banner is soft and beaten down and Norton conveys that perfectly. When watching the blu-ray, there are many deleted scenes that give more character interactions. There is a particular one between Banner and Betty’s new boyfriend, therapist Doctor Samson. It is a relatively short scene so the only reason I can see it being cut is that it would be considered too “heady” for a summer blockbuster film. If this film was made after The Dark Knight, I think the scene would have been left in. There is also a longer scene between Ross and Blonsky that explains their frustration with the military complex focusing more on tech than people.

the-incredible-hulk-2008This film also has one of the best fight scenes in the MCU film. The climax is battle between the Hulk and Abomination in Harlem. It really is two brutes going at it and trashing the city while they’re at it. The standout bit is when Hulk crushes a car to form makeshift boxing gloves out of them to help even the odds between he and Abomination. This makes sense because Letterier is an action director so it would make sense that the action scenes are top notch. Especially when compared to the earlier Iron Man which were so choppy.

The Incredible Hulk is not a perfect film. There are some scenes with some odd editing which knocks the wind out from the scenes. There are also the earlier backstage issues that are kinda obvious. But does it deserve to be treated like it does in the MCU? No. There are many reasons why as the film was a minor success and the whole distribution rights to the Hulk are a mess. At first they tended to shy away from the film other than little references here and there. With the return of William Hurt as Ross in Captain America: Civil War, it seems that more things are being integrated. There are rumors that Liv Tyler will be returning as Betty Ross. But Marvel Studios should embrace this film more than it does. It is a far better film than Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 2 which they proudly display.

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Thoughts About Avengers: Infinity War

As of the events of Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers are no more. At least not in the way that we’ve gotten to know them in three movies. Captain America and the heroes who stood by him are now fugitives. Iron Man is in charge of The Avengers now with only The Vision by his side. War Machine is crippled, though there is a strong possibility that he can probably still function a suit. Spider-Man is something of a question mark as even though Iron Man was very pro registering, he still enlisted a teenage hero who clearly did not register. Black Widow is in the wind. The Hulk and Thor are dealing with more important things in outer space. So where does that leave the heroes when Thanos inevitably comes? How do the Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Captain Marvel fit into this?

There is no doubt that the heroes will reunite by the time of the sequel of Infinity War. But what about the events in Infinity War? We know that Thanos has finally gotten off of his chair and is about to get the Infintiy Stones. There are many more movies by the time Infinity War comes around so even though Thanos is not announced as appearing in any movies until Infinity War, there is no doubt in my mind that Thanos will appear before then. I mean it’s not too hard to get Josh Brolin, the actor who plays Thanos, to come in for a day or two to do motion capture for the character and just plug Thanos into a movie. But that’s something I’ve talked about lately. 

Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel are going to be a masterclass in filmmaking. There are a lot of balls in the air and one mistake could mess up the whole thing. It not only has to acknowledge everything that has come before. It also has to set up the movies that come out after and in between its sequel. The Russo Brothers only had about a dozen characters to deal with in Captain America: Civil War. They have said they will be dealing with about four or five times more than that with these two films. One cannot envy their position. Maybe you do because this is something that is unprecedented and are breaking new ground. We will all know in May 2018.

Here’s a picture of Sean Gunn who does the motion capture for Rocket Racoon on the set. Check out the new logo

What Marvel Studios Can Learn From Lucasfilm Pt. 2

Disney owns two of the biggest franchise makers in Hollywood currently: Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios. I’ve already discussed what Marvel Studios can learn from Lucasfilm in integrating their various projects across mediums. It’s an open secret that there is a divide between the television and movie sides of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now with the release of Rogue One, it has become even more apparent that Marvel Studios is really not living up to its full potential of making a more cohesive universe.

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If you watched Rogue One, Forest Whitaker played Saw Gerrera who first appeared in The Clone Wars animated series and later Whitaker reprised the role in a guest spot on Star Wars Rebels. there was a cameo from Chopper, the resident droid from Star Wars Rebels. Along with that the Ghost, the ship used by the cast of the show was shown entering The Battle of Scarif. Finally, over the intercom, there was a mention of a General Syndulla who was later revealed to be Hera, one of the main characters on the show. Though these were all easter eggs, they did subtly confirm that the Star Wars universe was more than the movies.

When watching recent Marvel Cinematic Universe specifically Captain America: Civil War, you can see that there are many missed opportunities. During the briefing to the Avengers by Thunderbolt Ross, he specifically mentions the rise of vigilantism in the world. Though only showing the events of the Avengers and their actions. This was a missed opportunity as the filmmakers could have referenced events in Daredevil such as the main character being blamed for blowing up a few city blocks and Jessica Jones where she publicly executed someone with mind control abilities. You don’t even really need to show these characters but having characters acknowledge the events.
The one advantage that Lucasfilm seems to have over Marvel Studios to help keep things focused and integrated is the Star Wars Story Group led by Pablo Hidalgo. This group is supposed to help keep things tight and neat within the new canon established after Disney bought Lucasfilm. So that way there are no contradictions within its own canon as well as the added benefit of helping integrate all the various medias with one another. Marvel does not have this benefit and it is apparent from interviews from the showrunners and directors on the film, they hardly communicate with one another. It was frequently mentioned that Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni and Rogue One director Gareth Edward met with one another a number of times.

At this point, I doubt that the divide within the Marvel Cinematic Universe will ever close or at the very least become smaller. So while we may never get to see characters such as Daredevil and Captain America meeting one another, the movie and TV side are full of rich characters and storylines. But if the MCU ever gets a reboot, it would be the perfect opportunity to make things more cohesive. But until then, it is nice to see the people at Lucasfilm expand their universe with every possible tool available to them.

What Marvel Studios Can Learn From LucasFilm

Disney owns two of the most prolific studios in Hollywood, Marvel Studios and LucasFilm. Both studios have projects in film and television. Both claim that both mediums are connected to one another. But as time goes on, only LucasFilm is proving to hold true to that promise. When LucasFilm was bought by Disney, they claimed that a majority of all previous Star Wars related material was non canon and that everything going forward would be canon. When Marvel Studios first branched out into television, they also claimed that everything would be canon. But a few years later, Marvel Studios has proven that this is something of a fallacy while LucasFilm has done the opposite despite many worrying that it wouldn’t be.

When Agents of SHIELD first premiered, it was heavily advertised as being connected to the movies. This was solidified by appearances from movie characters such as Agent Maria Hill and Nick Fury with their film actors reprising their roles. This continued without fail as the first season went on heavily tying into the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But the cracks started to show with the start of the second season and with the Netflix shows such as Daredevil. It became especially glaring when the second season had a worldwide catastrophe that enabled people to become Inhumans. So when movies came out after the events and there were no references to the events. This especially became notable in Captain America: Civil War where a major plot point revolved around the growing incidents throughout the world that revolved around people with powers. There was nowhere a mention of anything that had gone on in the television series.

It became abundantly clear that continuity was a one way street. That things in the movies would be referenced in the shows but not vice versa. This may have something to do with internal politics more than anything. There was recently a split in Marvel Studios where Kevin Feige, who runs the film division, split from Marvel Studios proper. While they are all still one studio, Feige reports directly to the head of Disney and not the head of Marvel. Jeph Loeb who runs the television department still reports to the head of Marvel. So it’s clear that office politics has affected the brand more than anything. So while there have been no negative consequences in the brand, the whole “everything is connected” is turning out to be a flat out lie at this point.

Lucasfilm on the other hand has embraced its history. In the upcoming Rogue One, Forest Whitaker will be playing Sw Gerrera. Saw Gerrera was a character who originated in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. Though the show was popular, it was certainly not one of those things that reached the mass audience as that of the movies. Saw Gerrera has played an important part in the growing new history of Star Wars. He is a character mentioned in the animated series Star Wars Rebels and mentioned in the novel, Bloodlines. He is an important character who has a history but a simple one where you can put a character such as his in a movie without expecting much from audiences who may not keep with the novels and animated series.

LucasFilm has the story group that includes people such as Pablo Hidalgo and Dave Filoni. Everything ranging from the comic books to video games to animated series go through the story group. That way they make sure that no creator is stepping on another creator’s toes when it comes too their projects. Also  a way of keeping a cohesive universe where they can lend ideas and help out creators as well. So far the story group has been praised with the tight ship that they run. Making sure to help branch out the Star Wars universe in a myriad of ways.

Marvel used to have something like this before the shakeup in the offices of Marvel Studios. So as of right now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a river that only goes one way. Will this change in the future? It’s hard to say. Whenever the question is brought up to creators, they give a diplomatic answer that is basically saying no without saying the word. Maybe one day it will change. With the growing popularity of the Netflix shows and more and more television projects being developed, it would seem that audiences will eventually force their hand in the matter. LucasFilm has done a great job in expanding the Star Wars universe through all media. Not only can Marvel Studios learn from their book but also other studios who are intent on making universes.

The Third Avengers Movie Has A Title and It’s A Familiar One 

Avenger: Infinity War is the title. You may be thinking how that was always the title. Well it was originally going to be a two part movie with this one coming out in 2018 and the second part coming out in 2019. While the fourth film will still be a continuation they are still being treated as two separate movies. So the second title is still a mystery at this point. 

Why Announcing Ant-Man Will Be Part of “Captain America: Civil War” Was A Smart Move

“Ant-Man” has been the most decisive Marvel Studios since the studios conception. The film was supposed to be one of the first to be produced but various behind the scenes issues forced the movie to keep being pushed back. When the film was finally given a release date and with director Edgar Wright at the helm, anticipation grew. Then a few weeks before the film was supposed to start filming, Wright announced he was leaving due to creative differences with the studio.
It all sorted itself out eventually and the film had been made but fans were still skeptical especially without Wright directing. It is widely believed and more or less confirmed that Wright left because he could not make the film he wanted. Marvel Studios has a formula and that is how all of the projects that come from it must make sense within the established universe and all be connected with one another.
While doing press for “Age of Ultron” Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige was asked about the “Ant-Man” film and how important it would ultimately be. He very cryptically said that this would be the film to set up “Captain America: Civil War” which has been informally dubbed Avengers 2.5.
So when the casting announcement that Paul Rudd who plays the titular Ant-Man would be appearing in “Civil War”, some were shocked but others remembered what Feige said. This was a great move to draw up hype for “Ant-Man”. Showing that there is a greater importance to the film than previously believed. With this news going to become talked about more as the film draws closer to release and audiences knowing how all of these films are connected. In one master stroke Marvel Studios has proven what a marketing genius it is by taking one movie audiences were skeptical on and making it essential for a future release.