Film News

7 Good Things You Can Say About Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe

So, something happened two days. Maybe you heard about it. Marvel announced all of its superhero films through 2019, turning the wave of good will currently greeting the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer into a victory lap. We all became members of an Oprah studio audience, shrieking uncontrollably as Kevin Feige yelled out, “And you get a Black Panther movie! And a Captain Marvel movie! And an Inhumans movie! And the Civil War, Infinity Gauntlet, Ragnarok storylines!”

5/1/15 –     Avengers: Age of Ultron
7/17/15 –   Ant-Man
5/6/16 –     Captain America: Civil War (co-starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man)
11/4/16 –   Doctor Strange (not yet confirmed to star Benedict Cumberbatch)
5/5/17 –     Guardians of the Galaxy 2
7/28/17 –   Thor: Ragnarok
11/3/17 –   Black Panther (starring 42 and Get on Up’s Chadwick Boseman)
5/4/18 –     Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet part I
7/6/18 –     Captain Marvel
11/2/18 –   Inhumans
5/3/19 –     Avengers: Infinity War part II

As Comparative Geeks pointed out, they’ve actually given us too much to talk about there. So, here are just some of the good things about all of this that come to mind:

1. They made the announcement in front of fans and members of the press

Trio Marvel Phase 3Warner Bros. got the first shot in when it announced all of its DC movies through 2020, and now Marvel has come along to pat them on the head, “Isn’t that cute. Let’s show you how it’s done.” Warner Bros.’ announcement came at something called Time Warner Investor day, which was mostly just a dog and pony show in which Time Warner made many (Friends & Person of Interest on Netflix!), many (multiple new LEGO and Harry Potter movies), many (HBO Go available to non-cable subscribers next year) announcements designed to appease investors who still may not understand why they didn’t succumb to Rupert Murdoch’s recent attempt at a hostile takeover. That is because DC is just a small part of the Time Warner empire, a mere asset which Warner Bros. can exploit even while laying people off left and right. This is a business, and Warner Bros. bottom line approach in this particular instance is understandable. However, when trying to curry support from the masses and pop culture tastemakers a little bit of targeted pomp and circumstance couldn’t hurt.

All Marvel Studios does is make movies, and now a couple of TV shows. It is similarly under the thumb of a corporate overlord, in this case Disney, but as The Hollywood Reporter showcased over the summer Marvel still largely operates as an independent unit thanks to the tight-fisted management of mercurial CEO Ike Perlmutte. They make and market movies, and are currently on a run of sustained success that has only been rivaled by Pixar in recent film history. Part of this is down to how they manage to truly make every single film they put out into an event, never underestimating the importance of first engaging their core audience and then relying on them for help in reaching out to wider audiences.

So, whereas Warner Bros.’s announced line-up of films was delivered in matter-of-fact fashion by a CEO in front of a room full of suits Marvel invited members of the press and 600 (f’n lucky) fans to the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. They watched as Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon, the Russo brothers, Doctor Strange director Scott Derickson announced the upcoming films like some wonderful mix of a Comic Con panel appearance and Oscar nominations announcement ceremony, with each announced title coming up on a respective box alongside its respective release date. Moreover, Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans even took to the stage to help announce Captain America: Civil War, and stuck around to greet Chadwick Boseman as he walked on the stage after being announced as the new Black Panther.

None of that necessarily means Black Panther is going to be a huge hit, and something like Cyborg is going to fail since Ray Fisher wasn’t on hand when his solo film was announced by Warner Bros. However, one is clearly off to a far better start than the other. We’ve since learned that Ray Fisher didn’t even know there was going to be a Cyborg movie until mere hours before it was announced at Time Warner Investor day. That’s not such a good start.

2. Almost all of the rumors we’d heard were true, and now that they’ve been confirmed we can move on

To some degree, Marvel had been scooped over the past couple of months by sites like BadAssDigest and HitFix who’d been telling all of us:

  • RUMOR: The Avengers will partially break up by the end of Age of Ultron.

Feige pretty much confirmed that one, acknowledging that the line-up of Avengers in Age of Ultron will not be the same one we see in Avengers: Infinity War 1.

  • RUMOR: This will be explored in Captain America: Civil War, which will loosely adapt the controversial storyline from the comics which ended with Cap dead, largely because of Iron Man’s actions.

Confirmed. That alternate potential title we’d heard about, Captain America: Fallen Soldier, was clearly not chosen.

  • RUMOR: Black Panther and Captain Marvel could both be teased in Age of Ultron, setting up their own solo films down the line, or they could be pushed back a little later since Age of Ultron was getting too crowded.

They didn’t say much about Captain Marvel, but Feige announced that Chadwick Boseman will first suit up as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War.

  • RUMOR: Avengers 3 will be split up into 2 films, probably involve the Avengers teaming with the Guardians of the Galaxy to defeat Thanos

They are splitting it into 2 films, and it will depict the conclusion of the Infinity Gauntlet saga. It’s assumed, though not confirmed that the Guardians will be involved at some point. They’d have to be considering how connected they are to Thanos.

Confirmed.

That leaves only a couple of rumors dead (no new solo Hulk movie) or lingering in the air (Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange?, Sony letting them use Spider-Man for one of The Avengers sequels?), and any hopes for solo Falcon and Black Widow movies seemed to be have been generated more by fan’s wishful thinking than any concrete news from the studio.

3. Other than Robert Downey, Jr., Marvel finally has a lead character not played by a white dude named Chris

chadwick_boseman_a_l
Chadwick Boseman, whose name does at least start with “Ch,” though.

Chadwick Boseman was so good as Jackie Robinson in 42 and as James Brown in Get On Up that by his own admission he has now had to turn down offers to play the lead in individual biopics about Sam Cooke, Richard Pryor, and Muhammad Ali.   He simply couldn’t let himself get pegged as the black guy who just plays famous black people, but as THR recently pointed out the reason he’d been offered those parts is not solely due to type-casting. It’s also because the field of notable African American actors is so thin right now, with Hollywood having failed to launch any replacements for aging stars like Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and Eddie Murphy. Someone like Jaimie Foxx never quite caught on as much as those that came right before him, and current hot ticket Kevin Hart has been carried by his devoted African-American fanbase in the states. That’s great, but that also means Hart films don’t actually make much of an impression with international audiences, an increasingly crucial distinction in Hollywood.

Marvel had been helping the situation out by giving an actor like Anthony Mackie a break, showcasing him as Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Plus, they’ve had Don Cheadle and Iris Elba around for a while now as War Machine and Heimdall respectively, making a brave color-blind casting choice on that last part since Heimdall is white in the comics. However, they had yet to trust a huge franchise to an actor of color, and now they’ve corrected that, taking a chance on Boseman. This comes after Fox cast Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan to play the historically white character Johnny Storm in its Fantastic Four re-boot, WB recruited relative unknown Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and J.J. Abrams gave John Boyega a reportedly crucial leading role in Star Wars: Episode VII.

4. The superhero movies arms race between Marvel and WB has resulted in more diversity

captain_marvel___legacy_by_witchysaint-d4vtkw0
Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel

The solo Black Panther movie won’t arrive until 2017, followed 3 years later by Warner Bros.’ Cyborg movie, assuming the comic book movie bubble doesn’t burst by then. However, we’ll actually see both of those characters making their debut in 2016, Panther in Captain America: Civil War and Cyborg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

We have no idea when we’ll see Captain Marvel, if at all, before her 2018 solo film, but we’re due to see Wonder Woman Dawn of Justice in March 2016 before her own solo film launches a little over a year later summer 2017.

These are positive developments. Marvel’s achilees heel has been its lack of diversity for quite a while now, and there were many who thought Warner Bros. slate of films was created with that perceived weakness in mind, briefly position DC as the real trailblazers. However, now both companies have solo films on the way starring people of color as well as the ever-elusive female-led comic book movie. At this moment, it doesn’t really matter who announced what first, or which film will get here first. It matters that the often lily-white, male-dominated world of comic book movies just got more diverse, for as much as that type of thing really matters to viewers.

5. We are definitely getting a third Thor film

Well, whether or not you’d truly regard this as good news probably depends on what you thought of Thor: The Dark World, which is quite clearly the least-liked of the post-Avengers films. However, it was far from some kind of Amazing Spider-Man 2-esque franchise killer. It was good enough and made enough money to warrant a sequel, and it had been a long time since we’d heard anything about that. They’d hired some people to write the screenplay, but in interviews the stars seemed increasingly uncertain as to when exactly the freakin’ film was going to happen.

Well, now we know it is officially happening, adapting the Ragnarok storyline, the Asgardian apocalypse which when recently depicted in the comics a couple of years back resulted in every single Thor character – even Loki! – dying in a massive, world-ending battle. I personally find this news among the most re-assuring of any the newly announced films because, well, Thor is what actually drew me into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not Iron Man. Not Captain America. Thor. It was something totally different, a Shakespearean tragedy married to high fantasy, and introduced Marvel Studio’s most enduring villain: Loki. As a result, I have now read far more Thor comics than any other Marvel character, except for maybe Spider-Man. If I was a kid on a playground, and we were pretending to be The Avengers I’d always be Thor, unless I had the choice to be Loki.

6. They pushed Doctor Strange back 6 months

DoctorStrange-177Well, that’s not so good since it means we have to wait longer to see it, but at one point they were supposed to start filming soon. Now, here they are without a lead actor, and all this recent “Benedict Cumberbatch is close to signing the dotted line” hub-bub is exactly what we heard about Joaquin Phoenix during San Diego Comic-Con. If they need the extra time to get it right then it’s best to make that decision now, with Doctor Strange introducing the concept of magic into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a far more explicit manner than Thor did.

7. Things are about to get really messy

death-of-captain-americaOrb-like macguffins. Third-act aerial battles. White guy hero wins, learns a lesson in the end. Rinse and repeat. Maybe also kill someone only to bring them back before the end of the film.

Fair or not, that has been the knock on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially post-Avengers. Even the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy is not above such criticism. However, as indicated in Winter Soldier and heavily hinted at in the Age of Ultron trailer the Marvel Cinematic Universe appears headed for a tonal change.  The plots may play out as per formula, but we may be getting more morally compromised versions of our old favorites, especially Iron Man.  It gives the impression that we may not really know what to expect from this point forward, even for as much we think we have it figured out. For example, by splitting Avengers 3 into 2 movies they’ve thrown all of us “Cap will die in Avengers 3 because that’s when Chris Evans’ contract expires” theorists for a loop.

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