Jonathan Majors Cast As Kang The Conqueror In Ant-Man 3!

I did not expect to suddenly have Ant-Man 3 on my radar as one of my most anticipated upcoming Marvel films, but that’s what casting Jonathan Majors in a lead role will do: especially when that lead role is – probably – none other than Kang the Conqueror, one of Marvel Comics’ most notable villains. The Da 5 Bloods and Lovecraft Country star is on his way to becoming a prominent and perhaps even permanent fixture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next couple of phases.

Kang
latimes.com

Ant-Man and its sequel Ant-Man And The Wasp are both perfectly decent, fun films, the former slightly more so than the latter, but Ant-Man 3 is apparently going to cap off the trilogy with an epic finale that raises the stakes dramatically: something I would not have suspected was possible, until now. But now, couple the rumors of a Young Avengers subplot with director Peyton Reed’s comments about making the third film “bigger” and “more sprawling” with “a very different visual template”, and then throw in this extra bombshell of a news story, and you have officially piqued my interest. Kang is a villain that many of us have been hoping would make his MCU debut sooner rather than later, and Jonathan Majors is about to get the breakout role of his career: he’s already made a mark on audiences in the first few audiences of HBO’s horror-fantasy anthology Lovecraft Story, and he made an impression on me in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, where he plays the troubled son of a Vietnam War veteran who is funny, endearing, and surprisingly resilient when put to the test.

The character of Kang, luckily, comes equipped with a complex and fascinating story (all of which is, of course, subject to change depending on how Marvel decides to utilize him) that will give Majors a lot more to do than some other MCU villain actors. In the comics, Kang starts out as a 31st-Century history buff named Nathaniel Richards who discovers time travel technology and uses it to begin manipulating time and conquering entire planets and alternate universes. Wearing his iconic green and purple armor (which, in my humble opinion, is actually one of the most ridiculous comics outfits of all time, but that can easily be fixed for the movies), Kang battles the Avengers and a number of other heroes, and has interactions with several more: including Thor, the Grandmaster, Black Knight, Mantis, etc. He later messes up the timeline so drastically that a younger version of himself (who goes by the name of Iron Lad) ends up turning on him and forming the Young Avengers team to try and put an end to his evil. It’s a lot to try and explain in a single movie that is already going to be balancing a number of other subplots, so expect to see some of the backstory simplified: one thing I believe will remain, however, is Kang’s origins in another timeline. He doesn’t even necessarily need to be from the future – in Avengers: Endgame, the team’s time-heist created a number of alternate universes, from almost any one of which Nathaniel Richards could emerge. With the upcoming Loki Disney+ series set to explore these new universes in depth, I imagine Marvel could start laying the groundwork for Kang’s dramatic entrance early. It’s possible he’ll even cameo in Loki before showing up on the big screen, though I feel like this news would have broken earlier, if that were the case, considering Loki has been in production for a while now (albeit halted due to coronavirus). But it’s definitely not too late to sneak him in for a cameo or small supporting role now.

Kang
ign.com

Kang showing up in Ant-Man 3 means the rumors of the Young Avengers showing up now feel a lot more plausible, not that they weren’t already: the team is quickly being assembled across the Marvel universe, with characters like Stature (Ant-Man’s daughter) having already been introduced, and Wiccan, Hulkling, Speed, Kate Bishop and America Chavez on their way. There’s a good chance now that Iron Lad will show up too.

Kang also has a bunch of other aliases that he picks up during his adventures through time, including that of an Egyptian pharaoh named Rama-Tut. While this is a wild guess on my part, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of seeing a hint of this character in Eternals, which will also deal with the Marvel universe’s ancient history. As for where Kang will end up in the future of the MCU, there’s plenty of options: he could become the next big bad; he might set the stage for the Fantastic Four to appear, as they too travel through time and space quite often; it’s theoretically possible he’s a one-and-done villain, but that’s just laughable. You don’t just use Kang once, and you certainly don’t just use Jonathan Majors once, especially not right now as he’s enjoying a swift rise to stardom and mainstream appeal.

One last thing: remember that it’s still not technically confirmed that Majors is playing Kang. Deadline, however, is reporting it as being extremely likely, which is a good sign for all of us who have been waiting to see this villain on the big screen. The only downside to all of this is that it means M.O.D.O.K. and A.I.M. might not be the main villains of Ant-Man 3, as was rumored, although I’m ready to move past that small loss if it means we’re getting Jonathan Majors as a supervillain instead. Who knows? Perhaps M.O.D.O.K. will also appear, and this film is about to become a lot more sprawling than we would have ever guessed.

Ant-Man 3
mcuexchange.com

What do you think of the news that Jonathan Majors is joining the MCU, and how do you feel about Kang? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Spider Woman” Moves Forward With Olivia Wilde Likely To Direct!

Spider-Woman, one of Marvel Comics’ myriad of web-slinging superheroes, is set to join either the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or both) at some point in the next few years, but first she needs an origin film: and thankfully, Sony has landed Olivia Wilde to do the job. Or at least, so it is being widely reported – technically, Wilde is developing a secret, female-centric Marvel movie for Sony, but the options for what that could be are fairly limited. It’s almost certain that this movie will follow the beginnings of Spider-Woman’s story.

Spider-Woman
comicsbeat.com

The question of which Spider-Woman, and which cinematic universe she’ll feature in, has yet to be answered. Wilde’s pitch for the film is said to have “completely revamped” the title character, which makes sense but also gives us no clear indication of what we might be getting into: will this new version of Spider-Woman still go by the name of Jessica Drew, or will she be someone else entirely? Will she join Tom Holland’s Spider-Man over in the MCU, or will she be wholly separate?

These questions need answers quickly, and I’m sure we’ll have more information soon because everyone who knows their Marvel Comics knows what this could mean for the MCU if (and that’s a big if) this take on Spider-Woman does in fact come under the Disney/Marvel umbrella, and if she is directly inspired by Jessica Drew: the Secret Invasion storylines begin to write themselves. In the comics, Jessica Drew is a major player in the takeover of Earth by hostile Skrull aliens, who have already been introduced in the MCU as mostly benevolent figures. Drew is impersonated by the Skrull queen Veranke, who uses her disguise to infiltrate organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers. While there hasn’t yet been any explicit hint of an upcoming Secret Invasion story in the MCU, the groundwork is being laid, and a series is rumored to be in development that will follow the story’s events: already, Skrulls have been shown impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home, under his orders, and Fury is working with an entire army of Skrulls at an in-orbit space base believed to be the headquarters of his new covert organization, S.W.O.R.D. – an organization where, in the comics, Jessica Drew herself sometimes works.

Spider-Woman
vocal.media

But all that is wild speculation, and for now we only have to wonder how much of Drew’s backstory will be adapted into Olivia Wilde’s origin film for the character. Drew’s powers (superhuman strength, bioelectric energy blasts, etc) derive from radiation, of course, but her story begins with her living in the Balkan nation of Transia as a child before being adopted by HYDRA and given the fitting codename of Arachne. As a HYDRA agent, she traveled the world, killing and causing chaos in a super-cool outfit equipped with wings, until she was able to break free from her brainwashing with the help of Nick Fury – not unlike the MCU’s Black Widow. Since then, she’s proven to be a dependable ally of the Avengers and other forces of good, and has also worked with Madame Web, an unconventional antiheroine who is also getting her own solo movie. Her own villain roster includes Viper (otherwise known as Madame Hydra), who has previously appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde picks Viper as the first film’s big bad: in the comics, Viper and Jessica Drew form a complicated relationship with Viper actually helping Drew on several occasions and even pretending to be her mother, and Wilde enjoys telling stories that center female relationships.

Spider-Woman
boundingintocomics.com

Wilde’s own previous directorial credits include the popular breakout hit Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age comedy. She is one of a steadily growing number of women joining the Marvel and Marvel-adjacent universes as directors, and she is definitely well aware of that fact: it was reported that she had a chance to pass on this project several times, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to “launch her own female superhero” and accompany other groundbreaking women like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland and Nia DaCosta into the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what she can do with Spider-Woman’s character, and I’m excited to see how/if it ties into the MCU.

So what are your feelings on a Spider-Woman movie? How should the character’s backstory be adapted? Who should be cast in the lead role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“The Old Guard” Review!

I think I should inform you upfront that Netflix’s The Old Guard was always going to be my cup of tea, no matter what. Five immortal warriors from various historical time periods come together to fight the powers-that-be? That has me written all over it. So forgive me if I’m a little bit biased, but yes – The Old Guard is just as good as I had hoped it would be. It doesn’t necessarily exceed my expectations (and in certain places, it did let me down a little), but there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be a movie I rewatch time and time again while I wait for the sequel that director Gina Prince-Bythewood clearly wants to make, based on this film’s very unsubtle ending.

The Old Guard
ew.com

The Old Guard was marketed as a nonstop action movie, and that’s definitely not untrue – but I think what was left out of the trailers and promotional material for this film is the extent to which this is actually a drama. If you’re going into this expecting something comparable to Netflix’s Extraction, with brutal fight scenes filling every available moment of runtime, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And while that might sound strange, considering this film’s entire concept, it actually pays off in the end: The Old Guard delivers on action when it needs to, but it still tells a complex and thoughtful character-driven story about people trying to find meaning and purpose in their overextended existence. We’ll see if that tactic pays off with audiences, but I truly hope it does because did I mention this film sets up a sequel?

If audiences are looking for the next Extraction, however…well, the action scenes in The Old Guard do leave something to be desired. The characters’ fighting styles lack any noticeable sense of finesse or historicity – though they each come equipped with their own weapon of choice from their respective centuries, they’re more often than not just carrying guns, which does feel a bit underwhelming: especially considering how much the huge, double-bladed battleaxe that Charlize Theron’s Andy (short for Andromache the Scythian) wields was played up in the trailers and posters. And though the action scenes get better as the film goes along, there are several that feel relatively middle-of-the-road: not bad, but not cleverly choreographed or visually interesting enough to capture attention. Apart from the climactic third act battle, the strongest fight is one in a drug-smuggler’s plane where Andy and her new recruit, U.S. Marine Nile Freeman (Kiki Layne) wrestle in a battle that requires their wits just as much as, if not more than, their physical strength. Is The Old Guard perhaps too clever for its own good occasionally? Perhaps.

The Old Guard
vanityfair.com

That being said, each of the five members of the team does possess healing capabilities that allow them to walk away from any injury, no matter how fatal, without harm – and that is something which is incorporated very well into the film’s writing. It can sometimes rob the tension from action scenes, but it drives the entire plot: it’s the reason why the team has survived as long as they have; it’s the reason why they’re on the run (because pharmaceutical corporations want to capture them and harvest their powers); and it’s, ironically, the reason why they can never be free from pain – unable to die, they have been forced to watch as humanity continues its self-destructive cycle of violence, as their families, loved ones and descendants grow old and perish around them. One of the team members, Napoleonic War veteran Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), tells a heartbreaking account of how his youngest son, dying of cancer, became consumed with jealousy of his immortal father. I’ve seen the concept of immortality tackled countless times in film and TV, but never as well as it is here.

But the film would never have succeeded at selling its hard-to-swallow subject matter without the efforts of its flawless cast. Charlize Theron, unsurprisingly, brings her all to the lead role of Andy, who has lived for so long she’s almost forgotten where and when she came from – but it’s not hard to figure out that she was once one of ancient Greece’s most fearsome war heroines. Kiki Layne, who comes into her own later in the film, shows the makings of a true action hero – and she just happened to do so at the best possible time, considering that the internet is currently fiercely debating who should play Storm in Marvel’s upcoming reboot of the X-Men franchise. Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli play opponents in the Crusades who, after having had to kill each other many times, ended up falling in love – not only did I greatly appreciate the genuine and meaningful LGBTQ+ representation (they actually kiss and show affection for each other!), but I was pleased to discover that Kenzari isn’t anywhere near as bland an actor as his role in Aladdin seemed to suggest. Chiwetel Ejiofor has a smaller role in the film as the team’s constant stalker, CIA agent Copley: who is very clever and very dangerous…but also very offscreen for most of the time.

The Old Guard
dailynews.com

Time is something our immortal protagonists have in plenty, but the film itself doesn’t have quite enough, in my opinion. The Old Guard is just a little over two hours long, but those hours seem to fly by at an alarming rate, and it sometimes feel like we reach certain story beats too early. But while I would criticize that aspect of the movie, I also have to admire that it made me want even more. I’ve mentioned the sequel bait twice already, but third time’s the charm, am I right? Don’t worry, no spoilers here – but let’s just say, there’s a lot of potential for this franchise going forward, if Netflix chooses to go forward.

Will they? Hard to say, what with coronavirus still turning the world upside-down every few minutes and forcing studios to prioritize like never before. But there’s definitely no reason not to, unless the film massively underwhelms audiences – but as someone who doesn’t want to see Extraction ripoffs from now until the end of time, I appreciated this more clever, introspective type of thriller, and I wouldn’t object to another one.

Movie Rating: 8.9/10

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Hercules Could Bring Bisexual Representation To The MCU!

It’s pleasantly coincidental that this bit of news has arrived during Pride Month, just when it’s most relevant. Though the character of Hercules has long been rumored to join the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes (we discussed theories that he would be the lead character of The Eternals over a year ago), this time seems like it could be for real: the Olympian demigod is apparently set to enter the MCU in one of the studio’s upcoming film or TV projects, and could bring some much-needed male bisexual representation to the superhero franchise.

Marvel Hercules
pinknews.co.uk

As of yet, these new rumors give us very little to go on: we still don’t even know when Hercules will appear, though there are almost limitless opportunities. The Eternals is an epic which will span thousands of years of human history, and blend reality (well, the MCU version of it) with mythology, so that seems like the earliest point at which the Olympian could make his debut. The Loki series on Disney+ will also explore different timelines, and quite possibly different worlds across the universe. Thor: Love And Thunder is perhaps the likeliest option, as Thor and Hercules are best buddies in the comics and fans have been rooting to see them onscreen together for quite some time. And the She-Hulk Disney+ series could feature Hercules’ companion Amadeus Cho (a.k.a. Smart Hulk), allowing for Hercules himself to show up as a supporting character alongside Cho before upgrading to leading man status later on – though it’s not clear whether Herc will actually headline his own series of solo films, or if he will only be a supporting character. His backstory is rich with detail, so there’s plenty there that could be used to design an entire trilogy, but there’s also an argument to be made that he’s too similar to the MCU’s Thor for that to ever happen.

But the most interesting bit of information about this new report is something that actually leaked on the internet even before the rumors of Hercules’ imminent arrival. Yesterday, several insiders hinted through social media posts that the character of Hercules would be openly bisexual whenever he finally appeared in the MCU, and could very well be in a relationship with the X-Men’s Wolverine.

Both characters have a history of being bisexual, though only in alternate universes in the comics – well, technically, in Hercules’ case, he’s been bisexual since his origins in ancient Greek mythology, but that’s something people have tried to ignore for quite some time. More recently, Marvel faced backlash after definitively stating that the version of Hercules in the comics’ main timeline was, in fact, still straight, something which fans contested. But if Marvel does choose to adapt the character now, there’s a good opportunity for them to fix their publishing division’s mistakes, and add bisexual male representation to the MCU.

Hercules
thegww.com

Hercules will likely not be the first LGBTQ+ superhero to show up in the franchise: Phastos, a major player in The Eternals, will be an openly gay character and be in a same-sex marriage; WandaVision on Disney+ is almost definitely going to introduce Wanda Maximoff’s gay son Billy Kaplan, and his boyfriend Hulkling; and one of the subplots of Thor: Love And Thunder will follow bisexual heroine Valkyrie, newly crowned King of Asgard, as she goes looking for her queen. But Hercules could be the MCU’s first male bisexual hero – and male bisexual representation (or bi representation in general) is exceedingly rare anywhere, thanks to persistent bi erasure.

So what do you think? Where do you hope the Olympian appears first? Will he be bi, or are we just getting our hopes up? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Michelle MacLaren May Direct “Captain Marvel 2”!

Let me just tell you that, in my personal opinion, there was no reason for Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to vacate their positions as the directors of the Captain Marvel franchise. Was Carol Danvers’ origin story the best-directed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and did the directing duo do the best job bringing the character to life? No, probably not from a technical standpoint. But Captain Marvel is still one of my favorite films in the entire Infinity Saga, and Boden and Fleck are good directors: their recent work on Hulu/FX’s drama Mrs. America should prove that. But they’re out, and they will not be working on the Captain Marvel sequel (though, intriguingly, it was also reported that they may not be out of the MCU entirely, and could be working on other projects for the studio).

Captain Marvel
imdb.com

In their place, Marvel is supposedly looking for a woman to direct the sequel, which will probably pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where Carol Danvers proved herself vital to the fight against the Mad Titan Thanos. Though she was underestimated, belittled and demeaned for a large part of her own solo film by an assortment of sexist villains – and by the angry, equally sexist internet trolls who put together an inconsequential boycott that didn’t stop the film from easily crossing the billion-dollar mark and becoming one of the most profitable films of 2019 – the heroine, played by Brie Larson, has proven to be fairly popular with fans, though many claim that the character still needs to find her footing in the MCU, with the help of a great director who truly “gets” her: much like how the Russo Brothers elevated Captain America to the same level as Iron Man, or how Taika Waititi reshaped the character of Thor with his zany, comedic touch. I would still argue that Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck could probably do it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to occasionally bring in a new vision, shake up the status quo, and give something else a try. If people are honestly still on the fence about Captain Marvel (I don’t get it, but whatever), then maybe she just needs a new director.

And I’ve got to say, Michelle MacLaren is not a bad choice. If it’s indeed true that she is one of several women being eyed for the job, then I would love to see this happen: MacLaren has never tackled a major film before (well, actually, she did try twice, but we’ll get to that), but her resume on TV speaks for itself – Emmy-award winning executive producer and director of some of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic episodes, and director of four fantastic episodes of Game Of Thrones (including The Bear And The Maiden Fair), three episodes of The Walking Dead, two episodes of Better Call Saulone of Westworld, and The Morning Show‘s pilot. In fact, she’s so ingrained in the TV scene that I have to wonder whether she might be directing a Disney+ series instead – perhaps even one that includes Captain Marvel in some capacity, such as Secret Invasion or Ms. Marvel. Then again, even though it might seem risky to hire a TV director for a blockbuster film, it’s worth pointing out that the Russo’s and Taika Waititi both had backgrounds in TV before moving to Marvel and directing some of the studio’s best entries. It’s just not indicative of anything.

Captain Marvel Michelle MacLaren
watchersonthewall.com

This wouldn’t be MacLaren’s first experience with superheroes either, though it might prove to be a more pleasant one for her than her last encounter with the genre. MacLaren was originally attached to DC’s Wonder Woman before abruptly leaving the project over creative differences and being replaced by Patty Jenkins (who did an absolutely incredible job, of course). The reason for MacLaren’s exit was supposedly that she wanted to make a more epic, action-heavy origin film for the heroine, but her TV background gave studio executives worries that she might be biting off more than she could chew. After a long and arduous pre-production stage, MacLaren left the project. Something similar may have happened with another comic book adaptation she was supposed to direct: Cowboy Ninja Viking, an action film starring Chris Pratt and Priyanka Chopra, shut down production in August 2018 and has been indefinitely stalled ever since. It was rumored that script issues were the problem in that case, but no details have ever emerged that would confirm or deny those suspicions. At least in the first instance, it sounds like MacLaren’s ambitions were simply too big for what Warner Brothers had planned – which doesn’t sound too bad, if audiences are looking for Captain Marvel to get a serious overhaul (again I ask, why does she even need one?), but Disney might not agree with that assessment, and the last thing Marvel probably wants is another director suddenly walking out on them.

Captain Marvel
syfy.com

But we’ll see. There are many talented women who could direct Captain Marvel 2. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that the MCU will try to be more committed to allowing individual directors the chance to break free from formula and run with their creativity, something that bodes well for the studio’s future – in the past, it was often said that Marvel films didn’t rely on the input of their respective directors so much as Kevin Feige’s overarching vision: which wasn’t a bad thing, since Feige’s vision allowed the studio to get to the place in which it finds itself today – a place where they can now feel free to hire more clever, unique directors: like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland, Sam Raimi, and Destin Daniel Cretton. MacLaren would be more than capable of holding her own even among their company.

How would you feel if MacLaren came onboard Captain Marvel 2? Do you think she could give the character the boost she (supposedly) needs? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Five Ways Black Widow Could Come Back To The MCU!

Last night, I had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame again for the first time in a while. As on previous rewatches of the film, I found myself appreciating most of the first act of the movie (where, SPOILER ALERT I GUESS?, the Avengers kill Thanos), and most of the third act (where the Avengers kill Thanos a second time). I even liked a lot of stuff in my least-favorite part of the movie, that troublesome second act that has the team split up across different timelines and try to steal Infinity Stones from history.

Black Widow
cinemablend.com

But I still cringed at the absolute worst part of Avengers: Endgame – the scene in which Natasha Romanoff, the legendary Black Widow, sacrifices both her life and years of character development in exchange for the mysterious Soul Stone, willingly leaping from that accursed cliff on the godforsaken planet of Vormir to her very certain death. Cue the outrage. Natasha Romanoff, Marvel’s first (and for a long time, only) woman Avenger, was sacrificed in much the same way as another woman a year earlier: Gamora, who was tossed from the cliff by her own father. As womens’ bodies continue to pile up at the foot of that stupid cliff, fans (and especially, female fans) asked Marvel one simple favor: could you please stop fridging women?

Natasha Romanoff’s death is doubly infuriating because it came just before her long-awaited solo movie, Black Widow, which is supposed to explore an adventure in her past, before the events of Avengers: Endgame. But many are still clinging to a desperate hope that the Widow is still somewhere out there, either alive on earth or fighting to get back home. So let’s take a look at a couple ways Natasha could come back to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5: It Wasn’t Really Her.

Yelena Belova
hitc.com

This theory is a bit preposterous, but still worth noting: the idea is that Natasha Romanoff’s “sister”, Yelena Belova, who will make her debut in the Black Widow film, actually traded identities with Natasha before Avengers: Infinity War, or at some other point before Avengers: Endgame. There’s a little bit of evidence that supports this: Natasha wearing Yelena Belova’s jacket in Infinity War; a shot from a recent Black Widow trailer that shows Yelena Belova on a surgical table with a strange scar around her forehead, as if her face had been removed or changed. This option is undoubtedly the least appealing, not only because it would mean that the rest of Natasha’s awesome character beats in Endgame weren’t her own, but because this only changes the identity of the woman victim. As Infinity War Captain America would say: “We don’t trade lives.” Nonetheless, expect the super-spy sisters to swap identities frequently in the Black Widow film.

4: Multiverse Shenanigans.

Gamora
reddit.com

As I mentioned previously, Gamora was the first person to lose her life on Vormir – but she has since returned, thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. Coincidentally, it was when Black Widow, Nebula, Hawkeye and War Machine traveled back to 2014 to retrieve the Power and Soul Stones that a 2014 version of Gamora was able to slip through into the present Marvel timeline, along with the 2014 Nebula and Thanos. If the Avengers wanted to bring Natasha back, they could simply find a version of her from another timeline – but that poses a whole bunch of other problems.

3: Bruce Resurrected Her.

Hulk
looper.com

One of the plot-lines left over from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that went nowhere was the love story between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. The two characters both regarded themselves as “monsters” (let’s not even get into the reasons why), and bonded over that. But after Bruce went missing for two years and the Avengers films switched directors, that story was mostly left unfinished. Except for the fact that, when Bruce Banner finally got his hands on a fully-operational Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Endgame and snapped his fingers to bring back the people that Thanos had dusted, he also tried to bring back Natasha. This is only mentioned in a throwaway line in the film’s final few minutes, but it’s still intriguing – could Bruce have been successful? How would he know? Natasha would presumably be resurrected on Vormir where she died, meaning she’d have to find her own way home.

2: Captain America Came To Bargain.

Captain America
screengeek.net

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America takes it upon himself to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones the Avengers had taken from time. The Space Stone went back to New Jersey, the Time Stone back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Reality Stone…I don’t even want to know how he somehow injected it back into Jane Foster without her knowing. But the Soul Stone is the most interesting one: to bring it back, Captain America would have to return to Vormir, to the exact moment of Natasha’s death, and hand it over to…Red Skull, I guess. But does returning the Stone mean that Natasha’s life is also returned? If Natasha is to be brought back to life, this is by far the most likely explanation as to why.

1: Natasha, Daughter Of Ivan.

Druig
en.wikipedia.org

And then we come to my theory. I’ve always believed that there’s a reason the Black Widow solo film is supposed to kick off the epic, cosmic events of Marvel’s Phase 4. But what business does the decidedly human heroine have in this universe of gods, aliens and mythical lore? Well, my theory is rooted in comic lore and a very intriguing name that gets dropped minutes before Natasha’s death. Red Skull calls her “daughter of Ivan”, and Natasha comments that he must be telling the truth, because she didn’t even know her father’s name. But who is Ivan? While there are any number of Ivan so-and-so’s associated with Natasha in the comics, there’s also another character who goes by that name, who has a connection to the events about to unfold in the MCU: Ivan Druig is the alias that Druig, an Eternal (who will be played by Barry Keoghan in The Eternals), takes when he impersonates a sadistic Russian KGB officer and the leader of a small Soviet state named Vorozheika. If “Ivan” is Ivan Druig, and Natasha is Ivan’s daughter, that makes her a demigod – similar to how Peter Quill was revealed to be the son of a living planet. Druig might have an interest in resurrecting his daughter, maybe even giving her new powers in the process. If this were the case, Natasha could hold her own in the next phase of the MCU, while her film would have a major tie-in to The Eternals that would help to get audiences excited for that film.

What do you think of these theories? Do you even want to see Natasha brought back, or were you happy with her sacrifice? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Black Widow” Final Trailer Review!

The final Black Widow movie trailer goes in a different direction than its two predecessors, focusing on the personal relationships between our protagonists, and the grim drama about to unfold as our team of antiheroes and misfits face off against the powers that be within the Russian government. There’s still plenty of cool, exciting action to be seen (Taskmaster especially keeps getting power upgrades in every new trailer), but director Cate Shortland was chosen for her work with intense, intimate dramas – and that’s exactly what she’s going to deliver.

Natasha Romanoff, our Black Widow, struggles with guilt from never having returned to Russia to help her family (they use familial terms to address each other, but it’s still unclear whether that means anything, considering Natasha supposedly never knew her biological family) escape from the clutches of the KGB Red Room training program that turned them all, including Natasha herself, into highly-skilled assassins. Natasha’s “sister” Yelena Belova and “mother” Melina Vostokoff were some of the lucky ones who weren’t entirely brainwashed to the point of becoming “Manipulated: fully conscious but no choices”, as Yelena describes the other Black Widows in the program.

But the other Black Widows, with their elegant, perfectly synchronized fighting techniques, aren’t even the most dangerous threat to Natasha and her team: Taskmaster, the head of the Red Room and a warrior armed with photographic reflexes that allow him to perfectly emulate any opponent’s techniques (in this trailer, we see him memorizing moves from Natasha’s iconic hallway fight scene in Iron Man 2 and using Black Panther’s signature Wakandan fighting style, which includes mock panther claws), he’s their biggest threat. Obviously, it’s hard to piece together where everything we see in the trailer happens in the context of the film, but it looks to me like he goes after each of Natasha’s team individually in the third act battle – and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who survives his killing spree.

Unfortunately for Natasha’s family, this is the type of film where characters are expendable, no matter how lovable and sweet: which means it’s possible that any or all of the trio (excluding Natasha, since this film is a prequel and we know she lives) will be snuffed out in a blaze of glory during their attack on the Red Room. Personally, I’m guessing it will be Red Guardian, Natasha’s gruff, bear-like father figure – and I suspect that Yelena could die a fake-out death, only to be revealed as alive in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. It would be sad to see any of them go, as they all look like fun characters, and their playful banter with Natasha about good posture is instantly endearing.

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As for Natasha herself, we may finally get a deep-dive into her troubled psyche. In this trailer, we see her fighting to retain her own identity while trying to live on the run and undercover, shedding one fake name only to adopt another, taking Melina’s advice never to “look into the past”. But here she is, faced with the conflict that will determine who she is and what she stands for: although this movie takes place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, after we had already seen Natasha in several movies, this is the moment that will turn her into the hero who gave her all to help defeat Thanos. This is the moment she stops being one of the Red Room’s countless faceless Widows, and becomes the one and only Black Widow. “At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be, and who you are,” Natasha declares at one point in the trailer: this movie is about her, making that fateful choice.

Are you excited to see the transformation of the Black Widow? What’s your favorite part in the trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.7/10

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The Ten Most Romantic Couples In The MCU: Ranked!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has (in)famously had a hard time establishing romantic relationships between its characters: even the few love stories that have helped to define the overarching story have sometimes gone through ups and downs, or simply collided headfirst with a brick wall and died (looking at you, Thor & Jane). And yet they keep trying to master the same old boy-meets-girl (or Norse-god-meets-girl, or boy-meets-alien, or computer-program-meets-girl) formula. That’s why, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’ve set myself a challenge: trying to find the ten most romantic, endearing, adorable couples in the MCU and ranking them.

Disclaimer: “ships” or non-canon pairings aren’t being considered on this list because that would be cheating – most MCU “ships” are at least ten times better than the majority of actual onscreen pairings. It’s simply not fair to compare.

10: Thor & Jane Foster.

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These two had something that looked like potential – I mean, if you squinted really hard. From the moment that Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and rightful heir to the throne of Asgard, crash-landed in the American Southwest, upsetting one of Jane Foster’s pseudo-scientific experiments, Marvel tried to convince audiences that a grand and glorious epic love-story for the ages was brewing – but all the magic (or “what your ancestors call magic”) words in the Marvel mythos couldn’t force Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman to look more than remotely disinterested in each other. And after Thor: The Dark World failed to turn up the heat, or really do anything at all, Portman had finally had enough: she quit the MCU, and Jane Foster was subsequently written out of the story. In Thor: Ragnarok, it was briefly mentioned that she broke up with the Thunder God offscreen – an uncomfortably awkward conclusion to what was supposed to be a cornerstone of Thor’s entire arc.

9: Stephen Strange & Christine Palmer.

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I’m actually tempted to move this couple ever so slightly further up the list, because while they’re not exactly memorable, they’re also probably not as bad and/or boring as you remembered. Dr. Stephen Strange, a snobbish, arrogant surgeon, wasn’t just the on-and-off boyfriend of Dr. Christine Palmer – he was also her work-partner, and it was mentioned (though never really elaborated on) that the two had even pioneered an important new surgical technique, making the couple basically equal. And after Strange’s run-in with karma, it was Palmer who tried to help him recover his strength and rebuild his life: their heated argument about Strange’s future is the most powerful scene in the Doctor Strange movie, and carries a lot of emotional weight. Unfortunately, Rachel McAdams’ character basically fades into the background after that, and apart from being privy to a battle on the astral plane and trying (unsuccessfully) to save the Ancient One’s life, she really has nothing more to do in the story. And she’s not returning for the sequel, so I guess that’s the end of that.

8: Peter Quill & Gamora.

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I don’t really like either Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord, an interstellar pirate armed with braggadocio, semi-Celestial powers that have proved to be entirely inconsequential outside of his own movies, and an impressive playlist of golden oldies), or Gamora (a.k.a. The Most Dangerous Woman In The Galaxy, who never actually lived up to that title before her untimely death at the hands of male screenwriters who didn’t know what else to do with her her own father, Thanos): nonetheless, I have to admit they had a spark of chemistry in both Guardians Of The Galaxy movies – and their interactions in Avengers: Infinity War, during which Gamora nearly convinced Quill to kill her (long story), are pretty emotional. There was something there! It wasn’t much, maybe, but it also wasn’t not there – much to the dismay of Thor & Peter Quill shippers everywhere. But in the end, Quill failed (because doesn’t he always?), Gamora got tossed off a cliff, and here we are with nothing left of their relationship but a sad trail of bubbles.

7: Natasha Romanoff & Bruce Banner.

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I like Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I know it’s unpopular to say this, but it’s honestly the best Avengers movie – not only because it references the events of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also because it successfully balances almost all of the main characters while still being able to add a couple new ones to the mix. There’s a cohesive plot, the stakes are raised, and the Avengers get to interact with each other on a more personal, intimate level than ever before. And then there’s Natasha Romanoff’s random relationship with Bruce Banner – while it’s not a bad idea, and they make a cute couple, the basis for their coupling up is based on the problematic idea that they’re both “monsters”: Bruce, because he transforms into a giant green killing machine; Natasha, because she’s…infertile? The messaging is weird and kind of sexist, especially since it would have been way easier to make Natasha’s murderous past with the KGB the reason for her guilt and self-loathing. It’s a shame, because Natasha actually did have better interactions with Bruce than she ever had with her former love interest, Clint Barton, but for better or worse their story arc was completely abandoned in Avengers: Infinity War.

6: T’Challa & Nakia.

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While there’s certainly an argument to be made that T’Challa, the catsuit-wearing guardian of the African nation of Wakanda, is slightly more low-key and subdued than many of his co-stars in Black Panther (let’s face it, he doesn’t have Okoye’s fiery energy, Killmonger’s smoldering charisma, or M’Baku’s macabre humor), there can be no denying that his relationship with Wakandan secret agent/humanitarian Nakia is super cute. The two are a power couple, with both characters having genuine hero moments – Nakia even briefly diverts the main focus of the film away from T’Challa, and considers becoming the Black Panther herself. By the end of the film, she’s also working around the world to help extend Wakandan aid to those in need. And when they’re onscreen together, they’re presented as a healthy, sturdy relationship that doesn’t have to rely on drama, troubling gender dynamics, or sarcastic banter to be interesting. They’re basically #CoupleGoals, and I love them.

5: Wanda Maximoff & The Vision.

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Ah, the tragic story of the computer program who became a man…once, for no apparent reason, and never did so again. The Vision, a sentient computer program outfitted with a cool new body (that, unfortunately for him, came along with the Mind Stone, one of the most coveted objects in the galaxy), didn’t really show any signs of attraction to the troubled witch, Wanda Maximoff, until Captain America: Civil War, but when their romance finally kicked into gear, and the two began to bond over spicy food, things got good – and then immediately got weird again, when Wanda blasted Vision through a floor, before suddenly…ending up on the run with him in Scotland? Where Vision was suddenly able to turn into a human man, but only did so once, for reasons that were never explained? Yeah, so there’s some serious gaps in what we actually know about their relationship, but at least it ended on a strong note, with Wanda having to brutally murder her lover in an attempt to destroy the Mind Stone before Thanos could get to it, only to watch Thanos use the Time Stone to reverse all her hard work, murder Vision again, and use the Stones to wipe out half the galaxy, including Wanda herself. If it’s any consolation, the upcoming WandaVision series on Disney+ will feature Wanda resurrecting her dead partner, only to have him presumably die once again when her entire reality inevitably comes crashing down around her. Cheerful, am I right?

4: Scott Lang & Hope Van Dyne.

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Technically, there have been two canon MCU power couples that call themselves Ant-Man and The Wasp: Hope Van Dyne’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, and then Hope herself and her partner, reformed burglar/single father/world’s best grandma, Scott Lang. But the latter couple has the edge on its predecessor, mostly because Janet doesn’t actually show up until the end of the second Ant-Man film, and most of her flashbacks with Hank were cut out of the movie anyway. Scott and Hope share the spotlight (and the title-card) in Ant-Man And The Wasp, which focuses almost entirely on their relationship – and their exchanges of playful, witty banter, coupled with their fidelity and focus on family, make them one of the most endearing couples in the MCU.

3: Steve Rogers & Peggy Carter.

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Specifically, their relationship in the first three Captain America films, before Avengers: Endgame happened. In the beginning, scrawny new recruit Steve Rogers and fast-talking, no-nonsense commanding officer Peggy Carter were actually quite a sweet pairing: they both had character arcs, and agency in their own stories. There was a quaint little 1940’s love story between them, but Peggy, by virtue of being in the military, wasn’t forced to play the damsel-in-distress or grieving-girlfriend-on-the-home-front roles: and in the post-war era, after Steve went down in the frigid Antarctic Ocean and was lost, she picked up her life and moved on, founding S.H.I.E.L.D. and starting a family. Her relationship with Steve after his resurrection from the ice was deeply emotional and interesting, and it was tragic when she passed away. But then to essentially reverse all the complexities of their post-The First Avenger relationship by having Steve go back in time and start all over with her, making her essentially a consolation prize for Steve after he failed to move on with his life, thus preventing her from moving on with hers? No, just no.

2: Tony Stark & Virginia “Pepper” Potts.

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They’re the MCU’s original duo: how could they not come in near the top of the list? Tony was a sarcastic, cynical mess of a human being; a war-profiteer who didn’t care one iota about the countless people killed daily by his weapons of mass destruction; Pepper was the very opposite, a cool, collected woman with savvy business skills and a friendly disposition. It’s a trope, and a tired one at that. But their relationship evolved into so much more than that – Tony became Iron Man, and Pepper took over as CEO of Stark Industries. They constructed the Avengers Tower in New York City. In the five years after Avengers: Infinity War, they got married and had a daughter. In Avengers: Endgame, where they even got to fight in battle alongside each other, their decade-long relationship came to an end with Tony Stark’s tragic death. In that final moment, as the former “Merchant of Death” gave up his life to save the world, Pepper stayed beside him and her face was the last thing he ever saw. I’m not crying: you’re crying.

1: Leopold Fitz & Jemma Simmons.

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Yes, I cheated! Fitz and Simmons, or “Fitzsimmons” as they’re more commonly known among the fandom, are not technically members of the MCU: they come from the Marvel TV division, where they made their debut on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and have endured through six grueling, torturous seasons of hardship, personal loss, tragedy and pure, wholesome romance. While they started out as the team’s two bumbling, socially-awkward scientists, it didn’t take long before the universe’s vendetta against them resulted in them standing up for S.H.I.E.L.D., and for each other, in incredible ways. Their tense, frantic struggle to figure their way out of an airtight box at the bottom of the ocean (long story) was one of the highlights of Season 1, as it showed just how powerful the two are as a team – so of course they were then split up. Jemma became an undercover spy, got eaten by a space monolith, was transported to another planet and had to survive on her own, fell in love with an astronaut who turned into an evil alien god, was possessed by the Kree, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know she had a thing for Daisy), and even met and defeated the demonic personification of her self-doubt: Leo lost his ability to communicate for a long period of time and became delusional, was possibly hinted to be bisexual (come on, we all know he had a thing for Mac), became a dashing secret agent, met his evil HYDRA doppelganger, fell in love with HYDRA’s cyborg overlord, and then got stuck in two different time-periods at once, which resulted in him dying but still being alive and yet somehow a space pirate in both timelines…it’s a wacky and confusing series, but their love for each other, which persists even against all odds, has always been at the heart of the story, and I would be lying if I didn’t say they’re the most romantic couple in what used to technically be part of (or at least adjacent to) the MCU.

So what do you think of my top ten, and would you have chosen differently? Did I leave your favorite couple off my list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Marvel Developing An “Agents Of Atlas” Adaptation!

Some day, Marvel will have to run out of new content to adapt to the big (or small) screen: some day, but today is not that day. Today, we have learned that the studio is planning to take yet another obscure group of characters from their seemingly endless roster and transform them overnight into pop culture phenomenons. This means that not only do we have Black Widow, Eternals, Falcon And The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange 2, What If, Thor: Love And Thunder, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Spider-Man 3, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Ant-Man 3, Black Panther 2, Blade, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy 3, Deadpool 3, a possible Secret Invasion Disney+ series, and future Fantastic Four and X-Men properties to look forward to (and if I forgot any others, please let me know in the comments), but we can now possibly add Agents Of Atlas to the list.

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You may not know the Agents of Atlas, which is why I’m here to inform you that they are, in fact, quite an interesting and diverse group of characters who certainly seem like a good fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Founded, in the comics, by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jimmy Woo (played in the MCU by Randall Parks), the team of Asian superheroes includes a wide variety of unique characters. The line-up changes from time to time, but a prominent member has always been Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, who will make his debut next year in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings – which, intriguingly, was just today confirmed to be filming scenes in San Francisco, where the Agents of Atlas have their roots, and where Jimmy Woo is already known to operate, as seen in the Ant-Man films. It’s thus safe to assume that an Agents of Atlas property would directly tie-in to events in the Shang-Chi origin story, as the initial report indicates.

It’s unclear whether Agents Of Atlas would end up in theaters or on Disney+, but I’m betting the team will show up first on the small screen before graduating to the big, probably in a Shang-Chi sequel. The group will probably include all its most popular members from the comics, including Shang-Chi; Jimmy Woo; Amadeus Cho, the Korean-American Hulk; Aero, a wind-manipulating Chinese woman; Crescent and Io, a South Korean girl and a giant glowing blue magic bear; Wave, a Filipina heroine with control over water; and Luna Snow, a South Korean K-Pop singer with ice powers (Silk, another important member of the team, is a little less likely since she’s a Spider-Man supporting character and thus jointly-owned by Sony). All of these characters have the potential to be really awesome in the MCU.

So what do you think? Are the Agents of Atlas something you want to see in the MCU or not? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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Sam Raimi To Direct “Doctor Strange 2”!

In a shocking turn of events, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has hired director Sam Raimi to pick up the pieces that were left scattered about in the wake of Scott Derrickson’s abrupt departure from the production of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, fulfilling a lifelong dream for Raimi and allowing him to return to the superhero genre that he, in large part, helped to define with his iconic, and hugely successful, Spider-Man trilogy.

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The process of finding a new director for the long-awaited Doctor Strange sequel began last month, after Scott Derrickson, who directed the Sorcerer Supreme’s first solo movie, suddenly parted ways with Marvel Studios, citing “creative differences”. Later, unconfirmed, reports suggested that Derrickson wanted the film to push its (presumably) PG-13 rating and tap into the horror genre, but Marvel was reluctant to follow him down that path: others have hinted that he was upset about having to structure much of the film around the events of the WandaVision Disney+ series. We don’t know for certain why he left – but for a while after his departure, all we knew was that the film was rushing towards a production start date in Spring without a director. It was a bad look for Marvel, and many wondered if Doctor Strange 2 would be pushed back from its 2021 release date.

However, things were still going smoothly behind the scenes, by all accounts: recent reports have suggested that a number of Marvel characters will be introduced in the sequel, including America Chavez, Brother Voodoo, Clea, and a host of alternate-versions of established MCU characters (which, for whatever reason, enraged fans who hadn’t noticed the word “Multiverse” literally in the film’s title), and the first film’s antihero Karl Mordo was also confirmed to return, with Chiwetel Ejiofor reprising the role. So it should come as no surprise that Marvel has had their eye on someone to replace Derrickson, and that that someone is quite possibly already onboard the project and getting comfortable in the director’s seat. It’s not the fact that a director has been chosen, but the identity of that director, that’s so shocking, relieving, and exciting all at once.

Sam Raimi, who worked closely with current Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to craft his own Spider-Man trilogy between 2002 and 2007, is in talks to helm Doctor Strange 2. Raimi is a fantastic choice for many reasons – not only is he the most successful and recognizable director to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe since their early days, but he’s also a huge fan of Doctor Strange (there’s even a reference to the character all the way back in Spider-Man 2), and arguably the man who made Marvel Studios’ huge success possible. Both before and since the Spider-Man franchise’s controversial final installment, Raimi has made a name for himself in the horror genre, making him an ideal substitute for Derrickson, who had hoped to explore a darker, creepier corner of the MCU with his movie. Raimi won’t have much time to rewrite the Doctor Strange scripts if he wants to meet the release date, but he’s also the sort of director who will want to leave his mark in other ways – despite claims from Marvel’s critics that their films are made by committee, using generic formulas and disregarding directors.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s left over from Derrickson’s brief tenure as director, and what Raimi will salvage, or throw out. Two of the strangest (no pun intended) elements rumored to feature in Derrickson’s script were the violent deaths of Strange’s constant companion Wong, and former girlfriend Christine Palmer, early in the film. While Benedict Wong (who plays Wong) will return for the sequel, it was revealed tonight, almost casually, that Rachel McAdams will not be coming back to portray Palmer, making me think those damning rumors were accurate, and McAdams left the project rather than become a victim of Derrickson’s killing spree. If Raimi does have time to rework the script, this could be something he addresses – on the other hand, the character of Christine Palmer is not one that audiences are deeply attached to, and so much else is going to be happening in the film that adding her into the mix seems unnecessary.

And then, of course, there’s the question of Spider-Man. While it’s unlikely that Peter Parker will feature into Doctor Strange 2 in any way, it would also be fittingly poetic if Raimi were able to do something with Tom Holland’s iteration of the beloved character. Funnily enough, theorists have long felt that an interaction between the web-slinging superhero and the Sorcerer Supreme would be able to clear up some of the problems presented by the awkward joint-custody arrangement between Sony and Marvel, that has kept either studio from fully enjoying all the benefits the character has to offer: for instance, if there comes a day when Spider-Man has to leave the MCU, what better way to manage that in-universe than by having him exit through the Multiverse, with a little help from Strange? To be clear, I don’t think this will happen in Doctor Strange 2, as a third Marvel/Sony Spider-Man movie has already been greenlit, but it’s still something I wanted to mention.

All in all, this is exactly the type of shocking news that Marvel excels at dropping as if it’s no big deal. Not content with simply finding a replacement for their first directorial misfire in years, they went out of their way to enlist one of the biggest names in the superhero business.

What do you think? Were you a fan of Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and what do you feel about him joining the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“Black Widow” Super Bowl TV Spot Review!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is only a few months out, and with a new line-up of character posts, special Twitter emojis and recently revealed tie-in merchandise, the film’s marketing campaign is heating up. Tonight, we’ve got a new Super Bowl TV spot that gives us tiny glimpses of new material: nothing too substantial, but just enough to keep us talking.

The brief teaser, which highlights each of the characters who make up Natasha Romanoff’s team of Russian special agents, features a voice-over from Romanoff, the Black Widow herself, who tells us that the Avengers weren’t her first family – before she was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s super spy and legendary assassin, she was a member of the Red Room program, which trained her (along with her “sisters”, Yelena Belova and Melina Vostokoff) to be the world’s most lethal killers. Now, in the Black Widow movie, she’s taking on the Red Room with the help of her comrades, and facing off against an impressive roster of villains.

We still haven’t seen the face behind Taskmaster’s skull-shaped mask, but we’ve now got more proof that he is indeed displaying his comics-accurate abilities, such as the photographic reflexes that allow him to copy any opponent’s fighting moves – in this new trailer, he flips his shield in a manner reminiscent of Captain America’s classic move, implying that at some point he fought the First Avenger.

The trailers for this film have been careful to avoid showing any spoilers, and this one is no different. We still have no clue what will happen to Natasha’s family on their mission deep into Siberia: a theory created soon after the first trailer’s release suggested that Natasha could be seen holding Yelena Belova’s jacket in a scene after a helicopter crash, leading the internet to believe that Belova might have died in the crash. That theory is disproved by this new TV spot, which shows the whole family safely reunited at the crash-site and gathering in a circle to hold hands – with Natasha being the only member of the team to stand to the side.

What do you think of the TV spot, and do you think any of Natasha’s family are doomed to die in the hotly-anticipated Marvel thriller? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 6.5/10

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Sebastian Stan Vs. “Avengers: Endgame” Explained!

Ah, the drama. Earlier this morning, Marvel Cinematic Universe star Sebastian Stan made headlines by seemingly expressing his disappointment with the ending of his Marvel character’s story arc in Avengers: Endgame (and was welcomed by Star Wars star John Boyega into the small but steadily growing community of actors unhappy with how they were treated in the final installment of their respective franchises). I say “seemingly” because it’s kind of unclear whether or not Stan’s vague, single-emoji response to an angry fan’s social media post was an expression of sympathy or not. But since Stan hasn’t clarified his position, and the internet is having a field-day with this story, let’s assume for a moment that Stan really doesn’t like the conclusion to the long and tumultuous history of Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, in the MCU.

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First of all, we have to take a look at the post which stirred up all this controversy and drama. The tweet, itself a response to an official Marvel post about Bucky’s relationship with Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, read: “Together until the end of the line. Or until bad, inconsistent, out-of-character writing turns Steve Rogers into his own anti-thesis. Shouldn’t it be “together until the end of the lie” now?” The author’s harsh condemnation of certain Avengers: Endgame plotlines would have been controversial regardless of whether it was spotted by a certain Marvel actor (who doesn’t even have Twitter, which makes the whole situation even weirder), but the fact that Stan posted a single wide-eyed emoji (which, according to the internet, could mean anything from shock to embarrassment), is what’s got everyone talking. Why is he angry about this whole “end of the line” business anyway, and what would he have preferred to the ending we got?

Before we go any further, let me make it clear that I don’t necessarily disagree with either Stan or the fan, but that doesn’t mean this post is going to devolve into an embittered, anti-Endgame tirade. I like Endgame: I like it less now than I did upon first viewing, because I’ve identified many of the film’s flaws, and I’m not entirely satisfied with the many of the film’s decision, especially with regards to the final choices of characters like Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, and, yes, Steve Rogers, but I still really like it. I don’t think the Russo Brothers are bad directors, or that Disney/Marvel are evil for not creating the perfect movie, or that anybody has to be “cancelled” by the MCU fandom. I’m not the type to start unnecessary drama (though, if you’d like me to, I could start by saying that Avengers: Infinity War is a complete and utter mess: but I won’t). No, I just want to discuss what I feel is one of the most uninspired and uncomfortable decisions made by the Avengers: Endgame writing team.

Which just so happens to be the conclusion to Steve Rogers’ and Bucky Barnes’ relationship.

In the MCU, these two characters, more than probably any other duo (with the exception of Thor and his brother Loki), have constantly been paired up in increasingly dramatic and thrilling situations that have tested their loyalty to each other time and time again: and yet, despite everything, they’ve always found a way back to each other’s side. Steve gets frozen in the Arctic Ocean for seventy years? No biggie. Bucky is horribly maimed in a wartime accident and becomes the brainwashed servant of a malicious organization operating deep within the most secure counter-intelligence group in the world? Not a problem. Their relationship was important to the plot of Captain America: The First Avenger, crucial (obviously) to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and pivotal to Captain America: Civil War, in which it was a dispute over Bucky’s safety that led Steve to disobey the Sokovia Accords and start a conflict with Tony Stark that led to the titular civil war which broke up the Avengers, which in turn led to Steve and Bucky going on the run, which in part contributed to Thanos’ victory in Avengers: Infinity War, which set in motion all the events of Avengers: Endgame and thus everything that will happen in the MCU for decades to come. It’s not like Bucky is some side-character: he’s a really big deal.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t.

At the end of Civil War, Bucky was sent to the African nation of Wakanda to recuperate from his injuries, and since then has shown up a handful of times onscreen, spoken a couple lines of dialogue, and has acted as little more than an extra in fight-scenes. In the post-credits scene of Black Panther, he’s not even that – he wakes up in Wakanda and gets the title of “White Wolf”, which seems to forebode big developments down the line. In Infinity War, he is gifted a seriously cool new vibranium arm that seems designed to wreak havoc on the battlefield but…doesn’t; and then, after being dusted by Thanos, he disappears for five years until the Endgame finale, where he has little more than a cameo as the guy standing silently but supportively behind Steve as he, Steve, makes some of the stupidest decisions of his unnaturally long life. And yes, he’s now getting his own Disney+ series (in which he will co-star alongside Anthony Mackie’s Falcon), but that can’t erase the fact that the conclusion of his relationship with the most important person in his life amounted to a brief exchange using dialogue recycled from their first movie. Meanwhile, Steve gets to enjoy a fairytale ending while everyone else in the MCU suffers irreversible pain and hardship; he goes back in time and unabashedly robs a strong, independent woman of her own agency and story arc, just so he can make good on a promise he made twenty-something movies ago. Was it so absolutely necessary that he have his dance with Peggy Carter, thereby creating his own alternate universe in which she never remarried after his disappearance, or had her own family, or moved on with her life?

No. It was, in my opinion, blatant fan-service that makes little to no sense given everything that has happened to Steve over the years. His entire arc has been one of trying to survive in the modern world, to find purpose and meaning in an era that no longer requires his antiquated morals and services, trying to adapt to society. At first, he fought with tooth and nail and Frisbee-shield: he pined after Peggy and he clung to Bucky, and he shook his head at newfangled customs. But he was beginning to change, to evolve, when Endgame happened – in Winter Soldier, he was forced to take a good long look at the government he had blindly followed into battle for decades, and in Civil War he actually fought back against all forms of government, becoming a rogue anarchist. He even had a new love-interest (albeit one who was related to his former love-interest, which made the whole situation highly disturbing and awkward). And then, after all that development, what does he do, first chance he gets? Hops in a time-machine and fills out an entire lifespan with Peggy Carter, thereby shattering any hope that he would move on with his own life, and stealing Peggy’s own opportunity to do so. And for Sebastian Stan and many other outraged viewers, the worst part of this was that it prevented Steve from having any time to interact with Bucky, a friend he had actually known for some time in both the past and present, and with whom he had a complex, meaningful relationship – for whom he had fought the entire world, for whom he had risked his own life countless times: a friend he had believed in when no one else would.

Steve’s ending is uninspired because it does nothing new with the character, but instead harps back on what made him interesting ten years ago: it reverses years of development in an attempt to make his story come full-circle. And unfortunately, this is similar to what happens to many other Avengers in the same movie: Tony Stark, who spent much of his life wondering how he would die and how many people he could save while doing it, died saving the entire world; Natasha Romanoff, whose every waking moment was spent giving thanks to her family and wondering when she would have to sacrifice everything for them, sacrificed everything, including her life, for them; Clint Barton, who just wanted a boring, middle-American family and a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, got all that after briefly turning into a bloodthirsty ninja and exacting vengeance on all the Asian crime-lords who had absolutely nothing to do with his family getting dusted by Thanos. Each of those endings tries to employ the full-circle trick, but they almost all fail because the full-circle trick doesn’t always work, and isn’t always that interesting, for the same reason why most people like the concept of free will more than fate – the idea that your destiny is predetermined is, honestly, kind of boring. There’s no surprise, no tension.

I can’t claim to understand what went into the making of Avengers: Endgame, or why the screenwriters and directors chose to do what they did with the story: but one thing that most Marvel fans have noticed (and have already speculated could explain the sudden disappearance of Bucky Barnes) is that soon after The Winter Soldier‘s release, a vocal division of the fandom rose up to demand that Steve and Bucky’s relationship go an extra step further and develop into a romantic dynamic. While both actors, Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan, were very supportive of the idea, it seems that higher-ups at Marvel were nervous even to acknowledge the idea of a Steve/Bucky love story, and tried to backpedal: they gave Steve a new, temporary female love interest, and even wrote in a conversation between the two where they talk about the extremely-straight-and-not-at-all-gay relationships that they had back in the 1940’s. And it didn’t take long before Bucky suddenly started vanishing from the movies and getting less and less screen-time. Maybe this is because of cowardice, or maybe it’s simply because the Russo Brothers didn’t want another gay character distracting from that crucial five-second cameo from the Unnamed Gay Man in Avengers: Endgame, but either way it does seem to have had a negative impact on how Marvel treated Bucky Barnes.

Now, we don’t know if this is why Stan doesn’t like the ending to Steve and Bucky’s relationship (technically, we don’t even know if he doesn’t like their ending). A single emoji can say a lot, but in this case it’s vague enough that I’m basing most of my assumptions off the original tweet, which said the Endgame plotline was “bad” (which is entirely subjective), “inconsistent” (which I’ve argued is an accurate assertion), and “out-of-character” (there’s no good answer to this one: after all, Steve is the character who rebelled against the very political structure that created him, but he’s also the same character who couldn’t even find a prospective date outside of his 1945 girlfriend’s immediate family). Now I leave it up to you, my dear jury, to decide for yourselves who’s right and who’s wrong in this debate. In my personal opinion, I have to agree with many of the claims made in the original tweet, but I’m also not going to sit here and say that Avengers: Endgame is poorly-written, as if it didn’t masterfully handle the extraordinarily large cast of characters across several timelines and in multiple parallel realities, right up until that iffy ending.

So what do you think? Is Sebastian Stan well within his rights to raise his voice, despite still being employed by Marvel (even John Boyega waited until after he was done with Star Wars to give them a piece of his mind), or does he come off as merely disgruntled? What do you, personally, think of the ending to Steve and Bucky’s story, and if you could rewrite it, would you? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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