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.

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming Poster Released and It’s Amazing

Simple but brilliant. This image reminds you of two things: this Spider-Man is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his youth. Just him lounging with headphones on. Brilliant.

Celebrating Black Superheroes – Storm

I love the X-Men. My favorite X-Man is Wolverine. But if there was anyone to take that favorite spot, it would be Ororo Munroe aka Storm. The New York born but African raised “goddess” has the mutant ability to manipulate the weather which makes her one of the most powerful alive. She has been a member of the X-Men since her first appearance while also serving stints on The Avengers and Fantastic Four. Once was married to T’Challa thus making her the one time of Wakanda. Storm is one of the most popular and important female superheroes. 
I first became familiar with Storm through the 1990’s X-Men animated series. She was one of the main members of the tram and there was a lot of spotlight on her. We learn of her claustrophobia, which is smething I never heard of before watching the show. It also showed that she was second-in-command to Cyclops and was the de facto leader of the underground Morlocks. All these important plot points lifted straight from the comics. 

In the comics, Storm is one of the most intriguing X-Men. She has gone through various phases, such as the time she sported a mohawk and was punk rock, while always remaining a stalwart member. Even serving as the leader of the tram while stripped of her mutant abilities. When there are multiple teams of X-Men, you can expect Storm to be the leader of at least one of them. 

In other adaptations, Storm has seen better days. In the animated series after the 90’s version, Storm is somewhat shafted compared to other members. In film, Halle Berry’s portrayal left a lot to be desired as well as Alexandra Shipp. One gets the sense that Bryan Singer does not understand the importance of the character. But at least the character is always there and gets some spotlight. 

I knew the importance of the character when my sister who has no interest in superheroes knows the importance of the character. There are few black female superheroes in popular culture. So the character arguably sticks out for being a force to reckon with and not just meaning her powers. Storm will continue to be one of the most important and popular heroes in superhero fandoms. That is important and beautiful. 

2017 Needs To Be The Year of Thanos

Thanos, The Mad Titan, is the current big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We know that he is gathering the Infinity Stones. Their comics counterpart can be placed into ths Infinity Gauntlet and be used for complete domination of reality. It can be assumed that this is the goal of the movie version of Thanos as well. But that’s the thing…we know next to nothing about Thanos. I have already made my statements clear that I think Marvel Studios has tripped with their handling of the character. He has only made three appearances so far, his introduction in The Avengers, a small role in Guardians of the Galaxy where he was disrespected by an underling and the last in Avengers: Age of Ultron where he made a lackluster after credits appearance. 

Avengers: Infinity War is due to drop in 2018 so in 2017 Marvel Studios should really build up his threat. James Gunn, the writer/director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel has said that Thanos will not be appearing in Vol. 2. He also made the same statements about its predecessor but weeks before the movie was released, it was announced Josh Brolin would be appearing in the movie as Thanos. It’s an open secret that the Guardians will be in Infinity War so something has to bring them to the conflict. Gamora and Nebula are both the daughters (kidnapped children) of Thanos and Drax has a personal vendetta against him. The Guardians also know where one of the Infinity Stones is stored at.

Thor: Ragnarok is probably the most important movie linking to Infinity War. At the end of Age of Ultron, Thor set out to figure out who was behind the gathering of the Infinity Stones. It is also widely believed that the final Stone, the Soul Stone, will play a role in the movie. Loki, currently masquerading as Odin, also has access to the Tesseract aka the Space Stone. Loki was also loaned the Mind Stone (it is still up in the air if he knew that info) in The Avengers to find the Tesseract but failed. So he might have to return a favor to be back in Thanos’ good graces. 

Thanos has not been announced for any of these movies. But as with his other appearances, they can be uncredited. Since Thanos is a motion capture character, it would not require a lot to get Josh Brolin in for a day or two to do the role. But it is time to see Thanos actually do something. The most action we have deen is him sitting in his chair and putting on a gauntlet. We have seen characters refer to him as the most powerful character in the universe but that has not been conveyed. Most of his underlings including both of his daughters have outright betrayed him. Ronan the Accuser outright dissed him and yet no retaliation.

One of the biggest criticisms towards the MCU is how the villains are one note. Marvel Studios can really build up the threat of Thanos before his big opening in Avengers: Infinity War. They don’t really have to be much. Just small cameos in Guardians Vol. 2 and Ragnarok to show he is coming for what he covets and is not messing around anymore. There would be something really unfortunate if the big bad for the MCU turned out to be a dud. 

I Think I Figured Out The Doctor Strange Timeline

  • First we see The Avengers Tower in the opening of the movie so it’s clearly post Avengers so after 2012
  • Pre-accident/rehab Stephen Strange takes place in 2013/2014
  • Training of Strange in the mystic arts takes place in 2014 through 2016
  • The second and third acts of Doctor Strange are post Civil War
  • The stinger with Thor (which is presumably taken from Thor: Ragnarok) takes place about a year after the main events of the movie. Strange’s look is completely different from how he looked in the main movie and he’s wearing his trademark orange/yellow gloves
  • The second stinger with Mordo takes place in between the main movie and the stinger with Thor

Should Doctor Strange Join The Avengers?

It’s no secret at this point that Benedict Cumberbatch will be reprising his role as Doctor Stephen Strange in Avengers: Infinity War and presumably the fourth untitled Avengers film. But it’s never actually been stated if Strange will actually join the team or will just be an ally of the team. I tend to fall in the camp that he should be somewhere in the middle. I guess the proper term would be, “on call”. Like you won’t necessarily call on Doctor Strange to take on Crossbones but if something of a Thanos level threat arises then you definitely call on him.

The movie did a good job of just establishing the threats that Doctor Strange has to face on a regular basis. The fact that he had to put himself an endless time loop where he was repeatedly killed just to stop the ruler of the dark dimension says something. Though he hasn’t quite reached the levels that he has in the comics, Strange is still incredibly powerful. One of the bigger issues that has faced the two Avengers movie is what exactly to do with Thor and the Hulk. By not having Strange be a full member of the team, the Avengers can avoid this issue.

It will probably be more wise for Strange to be featured in the “finale” of whatever story arc the films are building towards. Either way it will be interesting to see how Strange interacts with the rest of the MCU. They have yet to encounter someone like him . 

Why I Prefer Stephen Strange Over Tony Stark In The MCU

The release of Doctor Strange has drawn many comparisons to the very first Iron Man film that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008. Both are about brilliant yet arrogant men who after surviving a tragic event, eventually become superheroes. It’s a bit hard to judge where the Doctor Strange is going to go as he has only had one appearance so far. Tony Stark has had many appearances and frankly I think he is probably one of the least likable characters in the MCU. So while there are many parallels between the two, I can already say that I prefer Strange over Stark.

When we first met Tony Stark, he was arrogant and a philanderer and something of a war monger. But after the events that led him being injured, captured, and losing his mentor, he seemed to mellow out by the end of the first film. The second film ultimately changed my view on the guy as he arguably became worse. He became much more of a motor mouth and would cause many of the incidents that he would have to save. This is pointed out in The Avengers by Captain America where his more negative traits from Iron Man 2 carried over. Iron Man 3 we do see a younger Stark who once again eventually caused the problems that he had in the film. Age of Ultron was really the straw the broke the camel’s back for me as he once again caused the incident that the heroes had to clean up and was frankly more condescending about it. Captain America: Civil War more or less rectified the two extremes of Stark as he was more mellow and less of a know it all but still had his huge ego.

The ego and arrogance are two of the biggest drawbacks for me to the character. How he is regarded as such a great hero in universe has always been something I’ve wondered about. Other than The Avengers, all of his conflicts have been ones that he either caused or aggravated. His treatment of Scarlet Witch in Civil War was a real point of contention for me. Telling Cap that “Wanda didn’t want to leave” her forced house arrest yet when Wanda calls him out on it he only responds, “It’s not what it seems”. There is also his general hypocrisy about registering yet he willingly drags an unregistered teenager into his pissing contest with Captain America. I think his attitude being all over the place is something intentional on the creative teams behind the films but doesn’t mean I have to like the character.

Doctor Strange from the get go we do see that he can be nice. Sure he only takes cases that interest him or won’t risk his perfect record but when called for help, he doesn’t hesitate. By the end of the film, he willingly put himself into a time loop to endlessly be killed by a more powerful enemy. It’s left unclear as to how many times that this loop happened but it was surely enough. This was a far contrast from the man we saw at the beginning of the film where everything was about him. Halfway through the film, it was implied that he had all forgotten as to why he even sought mystical training (to fix his hands) and just enjoyed his new life. But when faced with the responsibility of being a Master, he shirked at first but by the end he somberly accepted the new role in his life.
Then there is the post credits scene with Thor. Clearly taking place during Thor: Ragnarok, which will presumably be set about a year after Doctor Strange, we see the meeting between the two. It’s cordial but there is seemingly some tension there and presumably has to do with Loki being on Earth. Strange has accepted his role as a protector of the realm and thus wants Loki gone and also Thor and Odin. So we do see the snark of Strange in the scene, he is much more focused on his role. It’s not hard to see why he wants the Asgardians gone as they have caused plenty of problems for Earth.

It’s easier for me to buy a hero who takes his job seriously. I never really got that with Stark with the constant quips and snark. Though Strange does not seemingly lose his sense of humor by his next appearance, we do see he has eased more into the role. It will be interesting to see Strange and Stark meet when Thanos comes knocking on Earth’s door. You can imagine that Strange will not be in the mood for any of Stark’s shenanigans. He jokes when he needs to but during all combat situations, he is utterly focused on what he needs to do to survive and win. So that’s why I prefer Strange over Stark.


 

Exploring The Relationship Between Sam and Bucky

To say that Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes didn’t start off on the best foot is an understatement. The two first met when the latter was trying to kill the former in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. By the end of that movie, Bucky had gone into hiding. Sam decided to stand by his new friend, Steve Rogers/Captain America’s side and track down his best friend. After two years, the three were finally reunited and the two best friends of Steve Rogers were now in his life.

We saw in Captain America: The First Avenger, that Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes were best friends and more like brothers. Both growing up poor in Brooklyn and Bucky being there for Steve whenever he got into it with bullies. Eventually World War 2 tore them apart from one another with Steve unable to go due to his physical limitations. The war brought them back together with Steve being transformed into Captain America and their bond continued with some power shifts but still strong. Eventually Bucky fell to his “death” and Steve was frozen only to awaken decades later.
After the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers was a man out of time and without a purpose. He was willing to die for his mission in World War 2 and immediately being thrust into being a superhero and also a government enforcer. Needless to say, other than combat he had nothing else going for him. Enter: Sam Wilson. A counselor at the local VA who helped soldiers with PTSD and other psychological ailments. is clear that Steve suffers from issues. This is outright said in Avengers: Age of Ultron by Ultron and Steve’s “nightmare” where he struggles with being a soldier without something to fight.So when Steve Rogers has no one to turn to in The Winter Soldier, he turns to a complete stranger and their bond is immediate. How often can you say that you would jump from a flying aircraft with no parachute with only a slight chance that your new friend will catch you.

The big issue here is when the two encounter Bucky Barnes who is the eponymous Winter Soldier. Bucky was captured by HYDRA and experimented on. Now with a bionic arm and mind wiped, Bucky is no longer the same man. Just an efficient killing machine who is frozen when he is not needed. That all changes when he meets Steve again and his memories slowly start to come back to him. Culminating in him saving his old friend’s life before disappearing once again to sort of his memories.

Sam Wilson briefly appears in Avengers: Age of Ultron where it’s established that they have been looking for Bucky for over a year. Also that he is aware how Steve continues to duck and doge having a normal life. By the end of that movie, the two are part of the new Avengers team and that continues in Ant-Man. Finally culminating in Captain America: Civil War where the three lives are connected once again.

It’s never given too much attention to but it’s clear that Sam Wilson as The Falcon is Cap’s guy. They have their own set of team up moves together. When Peggy Carter finally dies, Sam is there with Steve at the funeral. When Steve is about to go on the run, Sam wants to know why because he is going to go on the run with him. The bond between the two is established and one of the most natural feeling of the MCU. So when they finally do corner Bucky, it is Sam and Steve. Steve always there to be more cautious around Bucky because he knows what he can do and Steve has a certain blindspot for his old friend.

They aren’t given much screen time together but the two best friends of Steve Rogers quickly have their own bond. Bucky is mostly quiet and aloof with the members of “Team Cap” but not with Sam. They bicker in the car with one another about the seating arrangement. They both silently tease/cheer Sam on after he kisses Sharon Carter. In the airport battle, they are the two paired up with one another. In fact they are the first heroes to encounter new superhero Spider-Man and while both would probably lose against the web slinger one on one, they are able to hold their own against him for longer than you would think. In fact, Bucky takes a hit from Spider-Man to protect Sam.

By the end of that movie, both men are fugitives. Bucky is in fact frozen once again until he can get the last traces of the Winter Soldier programming out of his system. Smart guess would say that there next appearance will be Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 (working title). Since both those movies will be directed by The Russo Brothers, it’s fiar to say we have not seen the last of Cap’s two best friends working together. Hopefully their bond will continue and they will lose the “vitriolic” part of “vitriolic best buds”.

Top 10 Thursday: Favorite Superhero Movies


10. X-Men: First Class

9. Captain America: The First Avenger

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron


7. Man of Steel


6. The Avengers


5. Batman Begins


4. X-Men: Days of Future Past

3. Captain America: Civil War

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

1. The Dark Knight