“What If…?” Episode 8 Fixes The Worst Part Of Age Of Ultron

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

Marvel’s What If…? has been working overtime to try and rectify the faults of some not-so-great or downright bad MCU films, from Thor to The Incredible Hulk to Ant-Man And The Wasp, and in today’s episode they’re tackling Age Of Ultron. Even when they’ve succeeded at doing so, I can’t say I’ve been strongly tempted to go back and rewatch any of these movies, but I’ve always been especially conflicted about Age Of Ultron because it’s a movie that has no right to be as bad as it was, and yet in hindsight it’s so obvious why it failed.

What If...?
Ultron | cnet.com

On the one hand, there’s a lot to like about it. As the only Avengers movie taking place between the team’s formation and their disintegration, Age Of Ultron gave us some much-needed insight into the Avengers’ family dynamic, and the relationships at play within the group. It introduced us to Wanda Maximoff and Vision, both enduring fan-favorites. It brought us that epic opening action sequence that spun directly out of events on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., and which is still the closest the MCU ever came to linking up with Marvel TV.

But…for every great character moment came a cringeworthy interaction between Black Widow and The Hulk, laced with misogyny. Despite introducing us to Wanda, she was burdened with terrible writing and a ridiculously bad Eastern European accent, while her character’s Romani heritage from the comics was erased and has yet to be restored in the MCU. And apart from that one opening action sequence, the battles were largely unmemorable, and the villain Ultron was a comical caricature with no depth or nuance to his motivations.

Unsurprisingly, most of these problems can be traced back to director Joss Whedon. The extent of Whedon’s reprehensible behavior on multiple sets throughout his career is still just being brought to light, thanks to people like Ray Fisher and Charisma Carpenter speaking up about his abuses of power. Whedon’s tyrannical arrogance is how we ended up with a theatrical cut of Justice League so bad that Warner Brothers had to release a better version of the same movie earlier this year, and it’s how we ended up with an Age Of Ultron movie so bad that What If…? had to at least try and fix it.

So of course today’s episode of What If…? is perfectly suited for me, or anybody who’s ever wished that the best elements of Age Of Ultron could be isolated and transplanted into another, better, movie (or in this case, a thirty-minute long animated episode of streaming television), discarding everything that didn’t work…which is most of Whedon’s movie, to be honest. The first and foremost change is that in this new timeline, Ultron (voiced by Ross Marquand) is actually a legitimate threat.

Within the first couple of minutes, we’re treated to an unhappy alternate ending to Age Of Ultron that’s arguably – no, definitely better than the actual third act of that movie. Ultron gets his hands on Vision and downloads his consciousness into the android’s body, before shortcutting his plan to exterminate the human race by simply cracking the world’s nuclear codes and raining fire from the skies. It’s a lot easier and less melodramatic than building giant propeller engines beneath a random Eastern European city, and trying to use said city as a meteor to cause global extinction.

But what do you know, it’s also less effective. Because while almost everyone on earth dies in the nuclear firestorm, two Avengers survive – Natasha Romanoff (voiced by Lake Bell) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). Not exactly useless now, are they? How they survived the initial apocalypse is left a mystery, but it’s very clear when we pick up with them again that they’ve been on their own for quite some time, using their wits to scrape by. On their own, neither of them is strong enough to take on Ultron, but Romanoff comes up with a classic Black Widow plan to save the day, which involves breaking into the apocalypse-proof KGB archives in Moscow – and finding the key to resurrecting HYDRA’s own villainous AI, Arnim Zola (Toby Jones).

What If...?
Black Widow | thecinemaholic.com

Even though I’m pretty much indifferent towards MCU Hawkeye, there is something inspiring about watching these two characters in particular as they struggle to overcome an opponent they know is far too strong at this point to be dispatched with an arrow or a kick. Neither of them has a superpower (beyond Hawkeye’s precision), neither has a great weapon (Natasha finds her father’s shield from his days as Red Guardian, but that’s later), and neither should logically have survived a catastrophe of this scale in the first place. But they did, so they’ll be the ones to stop Ultron or they’ll die trying.

And rest assured that both heroes get to prove themselves in battle against Ultron’s hordes of sentry bots. Their fast-paced fight scenes make good use of What If…?‘s sleek animation style and fluid character movements, and Natasha in particular has some very cool moments, while Hawkeye makes the sacrifice play to save his friend (and Zola’s delightfully chatty consciousness in a robot body) in a scene evocative of Natasha’s self-sacrifice in Endgame. But in this universe at least, only another computer program like Zola has a chance of combating Ultron.

That’s something that becomes abundantly clear as Ultron leaves earth and sweeps through the universe, seeking out life in every corner of the cosmos and eradicating it as part of his objective to protect existence from itself. He obliterates Asgard, Xandar, Ego, and The Sovereign, killing the Guardians of the Galaxy in the process. He cuts Thanos in half with his laser-beam like a slice of salami meat, and takes the Infinity Stones from his corpse, adding them to his already impressive arsenal of weaponry. Captain Marvel (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) puts up a good fight, but Ultron kills her too, releasing a shock-wave that annihilates an entire string of nearby planets. He is without equal in the universe.

But the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a Marvel Cinematic Multiverse now, and Ultron becomes aware of that fact when he overhears What If…?‘s narrator, The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), talking about him from outside the boundary of his own universe. Something similar happened in episode four when Doctor Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) reached a level of power where he became capable of communicating with The Watcher through the boundary, but the difference – and what ultimately makes Strange Supreme slightly less of a villain than Ultron – is that he didn’t literally break the fourth wall to try and attack The Watcher. Strange Supreme’s greatest flaw was his humanity, but humans are capable of feeling regret and guilt, and even in rare cases of admitting wrongdoing.

Ultron is not human, however, and he has no conscience, which means there’s nothing to prevent him from trying what Strange Supreme would not. What follows is a clash of titans unlike anything we’ve seen in the MCU up until this point, and we just saw Captain Marvel go up against Thor last week. The Watcher is a cosmic entity of indescribable power and intellect, and Ultron is a mercilessly destructive computer program clothed in the synthetic flesh of Vision and spangled with Infinity Stones – when they throw punches, they break holes in the very fabric of reality. At one point, Ultron even goes full Galactus and swallows a star-system whole (but since he’s using Vision’s body, and Vision canonically doesn’t have a digestive system, that should have been the end of him).

The Watcher is a surprisingly good fighter, and Jeffrey Wright finally gets something to do in this show (not that the little motivational speeches weren’t cute and all), but even he is no match for Ultron and must ultimately run and hide. It’s only then that The Watcher realizes it’s up to him to stop Ultron, even if it means breaking his ancient oath to never intervene with the natural course of history. The countless tragedies that The Watcher watched and never did anything to avert apparently weren’t enough to make him question his oath, but losing a fight with a computer is the last straw.

To add insult to injury, the only place where The Watcher can hide is in the remains of Doctor Strange Supreme’s former universe. But in a lucky twist of fate, Strange Supreme might just be The Watcher’s best bet at defeating Ultron. We also know of several other characters who will join the unofficial Guardians of the Multiverse team in next week’s episode, including Party Thor (not sure how much help he’s gonna be, but okay), Killmonger, T’Challa as Star-Lord, and Captain Carter, not to mention survivor Black Widow and AI Arnim Zola. That’s a weird line-up of characters right there, the kind that could only come about via the Multiverse, and frankly I can’t wait to see how they interact.

What If...?
Hawkeye vs Ultron | Twitter @blurayangel

I’m also scared, because the stakes are unusually high going into the finale, and we don’t have any assurance that all of these characters will survive the confrontation with Ultron. The Watcher will presumably live to narrate another season of What If…?, and Captain Carter’s apparently headed for the movies, but everybody else is in serious danger. That’s a testament to the fact that What If…? is largely unafraid to kill off beloved heroes, and to the fact that Ultron is more threatening now than he ever was in Age Of Ultron. It’s never too late for redemption in the MCU.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

“What If…?” Episode 7 Teaches Thor A Good Lesson – Don’t Mess With Captain Marvel

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

One of the great things about anthologies, Marvel’s What If…? being one of them, is that you (usually) never have to spend too long in a story setting that bores you, or with characters who grate on your nerves, before you’re on your way again. That’s not to say the next installment will always be good, but variety keeps things interesting – and I’m finding that’s especially true of What If…?, which at least finds ways to shake things up each week, even if the series has yet to reach another high-point on the level of episode four and has declined markedly in quality in its last two episodes.

What If...?
Party Thor | collider.com

It’s a bit of a shame, too, because with a little more focus and a few touch-ups to the script, I think What If…? could surely have done something more interesting with a character as wonderfully ridiculous as Party Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the unofficial nickname of this Variant of the MCU’s Thor who comes to Midgard to escape his kingly duties on Asgard and ends up hosting an intergalactic get-together based out of Las Vegas that threatens to tear the earth apart.

That intriguing concept harkens back to actual Norse mythology, which is a lot more weird and trippy than I think most MCU stans realize (as evidenced by all the MCU Loki fans horrified that he could ever be attracted to himself, as if mythological Loki didn’t turn into a mare so he could…uh, have “diplomatic relations” with a stallion and give birth to that stallion’s babies). The MCU’s version of Thor has never been much like the mythological character who would go out partying with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the giants of Jotunheim, only to find himself trying to drink the ocean out of a horn, so it’s pretty awesome as a fan of both to see some crossover there, and even spot a couple callbacks to the myths.

But these are the MCU versions of Thor and Loki we’re dealing with, and that’s not a bad thing by any means. For one thing, it allows the scope of today’s What If…? to expand well beyond Asgard and Midgard. There are cameos, some sizable and some of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety, from a bunch of cosmic characters plucked mostly from Thor: Ragnarok and the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. Jeff Goldblum pops up as The Grandmaster (and “release the foam” is instantly immortalized as one of the character’s most iconic lines); Karen Gillan, Taika Waititi, and Clancy Brown reprise their roles as Nebula, Korg, and the Norse deity Surtur, respectively, while Mantis, Rocket Raccoon, Yondu, Ayesha and Valkyrie all have background roles.

The only character missing from the crowd, or at least the only character I missed, is Hela. The Nexus Event of this whole timeline is Odin returning Loki to his birth-parents in Jotunheim and raising Thor as an only child, but technically Thor’s sister Hela should still exist in this timeline regardless – and personally, I think What If…? missed out on a great opportunity by not having her living in Vegas and running her own casino when Thor arrives. It’s an actual storyline in the comics, people! Forget Party Thor, we could have had Party Hela!

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What If…? | cinemablend.com

Unfortunately, even with this incredible assortment of characters all onscreen at once like it’s the Endgame of parties (which technically it’s about to be if they don’t all leave), the story still finds a way to drag…perhaps because it’s centered around a romance between Thor and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) that didn’t work seven years ago when the MCU tried to make that a thing, and still doesn’t work now. In a franchise in which Steve Rogers once kissed his dead girlfriend’s niece, and where the most believable romance is between a woman and a sentient computer program, Thor and Jane still somehow stands out as one of the MCU’s low-points when it comes to love-stories.

It wasn’t just that Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman had no chemistry, either, or that every time they shared the screen Hemsworth looked vaguely uncomfortable and Portman seemed bored out of her mind. It was more so that the early Thor movies hinged on the notion that their characters were soulmates being forced apart by the universe itself, and nothing about their painfully apathetic performances seemed to back that up. At least in What If…?, Hemsworth and Portman both seem more enthusiastic about the whole business and Hemsworth is leaning into his strengths as a comedian, which makes their interactions amusing to watch if not particularly romantic, but there’s still nothing that explains why these two are supposedly fated to fall in love.

Frankly, I was far more interested in the high-speed romance between Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green) that unfolds across just a handful of scenes, in which they go on a date, get married in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator, and are last seen squabbling like an old couple. It’s the kind of outlandish pairing that makes absolutely no sense on paper, but in execution it just works. It’s ridiculous, yet completely in-character for both Howard and Darcy, and I bought their chemistry and mutual attraction for each other.

With subplots like that, the heavy focus on Thor and Jane’s relationship feels underwhelming, and the happy ending to their love story tacked on at the end of the episode is so contrived that the episode itself immediately turns around and forces a new problem to arise: one involving What If…?‘s ultimate big bad, revealed here for the first time – an alternate version of the genocidal cyborg Ultron who’s apparently succeeded in downloading his consciousness into the Vision’s body and then also conveniently picked up some Infinity Stones along the way. As we near the end of the season, I hope to learn more about this Ultron in next week’s episode.

I also hope that we get to see more of Carol Danvers (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) before the season’s end. She has a pivotal role in this week’s episode, summoned from the heavens by S.H.I.E.L.D. to put an end to Thor’s partying – allowing for an effective if slightly shallow commentary on how women are often depicted in media as being “no fun”. I enjoyed seeing Carol trade punches with Thor in an epic battle spanning several continents, and I admired her capacity for understanding and empathy; but I’m still not sure how I feel about her – and most of the women around Thor, for that matter – having to teach him lessons about responsibility and common decency.

What If...?
Captain Marvel vs Thor | Twitter @marvelsupdates

Oh, and as for who would win a duel between Thor and Carol, the episode doesn’t fully answer that question which has long riled up MCU fan-forums. The two cosmic heroes seem pretty evenly matched in their first fight: Carol’s power-absorption protects her from Thor’s lightning, and she’s stunned but not seriously injured by a blow to the head from Mjolnir – ultimately, it’s only when Thor uses the hammer to pin her down that she’s defeated. But Carol reveals later that she’s unable to use her full power on earth without making a considerable dent in the planet’s surface, and when she does lure Thor out to Siberia to try and fight him more freely, the fight seems to be turning in her favor before it’s interrupted. Sorry, Thor, but I think Carol wins this one; and someday I’d love to see a fight between the two where neither has to hold back.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

“What If…?” Episode 4 Is The Coulson Content I Needed Today

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

I appreciate that the premise of What If…? would suggest that anything is possible if you simply let a timeline spiral out of control, but let’s be honest: there is no timeline out there where I don’t start this review by penning some kind of heartfelt tribute to Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson. Once an Agent, always an Agent.

What If...?
Phil Coulson in What If…? | Twitter @shrutiraoart

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Coulson on our screens. The finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was only last year, bringing a (temporary?) end to the adventures of Coulson and his crew after seven incredible seasons…but technically the original Phil Coulson died at the end of season five, and was then replaced by a Life Model Decoy with all of Coulson’s memories, so you could say the last time that we’ve really seen Coulson – like, the OG Coulson – was in Captain Marvel, where he showed up briefly in sequences set during the 1990’s. Until today, that had been his last appearance in the MCU proper (since Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still considered to be on the fringes of MCU canon).

But the MCU keeps finding creative new ways to bring Coulson back, and at this point it’s getting mighty suspicious given all the recent rumors about Clark Gregg boarding the Secret Invasion Disney+ series (he skillfully avoided an interviewer’s question on the topic just the other day, using the kind of vague language that usually means the interviewee is wary of revealing too much). The MCU proper hasn’t ever addressed his first resurrection, the one that launched him from an untimely end in Avengers to a fresh start on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., so all of his post-Avengers appearances in the MCU have been flashbacks, but things are starting to look up.

And who could resist bringing Coulson back into the MCU proper, after watching his performance here and seeing how his character continues to connect with fans? What If…? itself didn’t trend on Twitter this morning: but Coulson did, and even cracked into the top ten trends. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans like myself were just happy to see him again, and MCU fans who don’t watch the “non-canon” TV shows were enthused because they barely got to know Coulson in the movies. Clark Gregg, meanwhile, is at the top of his game in What If…?, delivering rapid-fire humor and characteristic charm.

One of the great things about Coulson’s character is that he’s constantly evolving. He’s died and been resurrected so many times he makes it look like an Olympic sport, but every time he’s been brought back to life Gregg finds something new to bring to his performance. Today’s episode of What If…?, for instance, highlights an unexpected story element that Gregg apparently had a lot of fun with – Coulson having a crush on Thor (this has led to a lot of confusion online because some fans jumped to the conclusion that he was gay. I can easily believe that Coulson is bisexual or pansexual, but I will not be accepting any erasure of his slow-burn romance with Melinda May).

Anyway, Coulson’s ability to cheat death time and time again is a quirky bit of meta-context to have going into this episode, which is centered around the subject of death, rebirth, and the encouraging thought that some hopes and dreams can never really die….even if all but one of the original Avengers are murdered in a string of killings that range from unsettling but family-friendly (like Thor being impaled by a rogue arrow) to downright freakish (I’m sorry, did The Hulk just inflate and spontaneously combust?). And in What If…?, the dead stay dead.

Based on the events of that fateful week between Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor, today’s episode envisions an alternate timeline where a serial killer haunts S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically targeting each of the candidates on Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)’s Avengers Initiative shortlist for mysterious reasons. This timeline’s Nexus Event is the sudden murder of Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert).

What If...?
Loki and Nick Fury | sg.news.yahoo.com

Or at least, so you’re led to believe throughout most of the episode. The big twist is that this timeline had actually branched much earlier, but where the episode falls apart as a good whodunnit mystery is that the twist (which could have been really well-done) relies on so much information that is nowhere discernible through any previous clues that it just comes out of left field, and feels totally unearned and frustrating because how was anyone supposed to guess that in this universe Hope Van Dyne of all people was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and killed on a mission, or that her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) went off the deep end because of it?

It’s no fun to try and play along with a mystery where the answer is designed to be totally random, but at least the lead-up to the twist is thrilling and suspenseful – largely thanks to Lake Bell voicing Black Widow with a nearly-perfect blend of the wry humor sported by Widow in her earliest MCU appearances and the nuance and depth that only crept in later. She still dies by the end, but at least that fate is shared by all of her teammates so she doesn’t feel quite as singled out in What If…?. The lack of Scarlett Johansson’s voice is noticeable, but Bell is an experienced voice-actor with a lot of flexibility and range, so it’s not egregious.

More than ScarJo, what’s missing from Bell’s Black Widow performance is a great animated action sequence that really puts you back in that 2010 headspace when Black Widow was still a lethal spy and assassin who used her wits to get the upper hand in a fight. She does break out of the back of an armored van, but we barely get to see her in action there. And her final one-on-one fight with Hank Pym in a darkly-lit library is eerie and intense, but not exactly flattering to the Widow given that she’s not able to land a single punch or kick on Pym before dying (and yet somehow in the Black Widow movie, she’s able to survive a fall from the stratosphere).

A more evenly-balanced fight ensues at the end of the episode, when Hank Pym suits up in the Yellowjacket armor to duel Nick Fury over his daughter’s grave, only to get more than he bargained for when he realizes that Nick Fury is actually Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. Out of context that probably sounds even weirder than Hank Pym turning into a serial killer (to be honest, that character regression totally tracks; it’s just poorly-handled), but the fight is well-established, allows for an interesting clash of science and magic, and highlights three characters who have never been very action-oriented in live-action.

But Fury’s alliance with Loki quickly disintegrates when the God of Mischief decides to stick around on earth and simply…take over. With no Avengers ready to challenge him, his conquest is swift and decisive, and it could have ended the episode on a really sour note were it not for another twist: Fury calls in Captain Marvel (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) as back-up. And just as things are getting really interesting, that’s where the episode ends abruptly.

Now, I know last week’s episode kind of did the same thing, but that was left a little more open to interpretation. The threat of Ego didn’t necessarily feel urgent. This plays like the first half of a two-parter, and I’m left wondering where’s the second half where Nick Fury and his new Avengers take on Loki and the entire Asgardian army. You can’t just tease the possibility of war between gods and mortals, and then not follow through with that! My desperate hope is that the episode of What If…? that was reportedly moved from season one to season two because of time-constraints is the one that picks up this story thread again.

What If...?
Nick Fury vs Loki | cinemablend.com

As is, this is a decent episode; nothing more. Seeing Coulson again made me happy, but honestly I think the people most likely to get a kick out of this episode are the three or four die-hard fans of The Incredible Hulk. Not only does What If…? recreate an iconic moment from the much-maligned Universal movie with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner supplanting Edward Norton’s version, but the character of Betty Ross shows up for the first time in official MCU canon. Much to my dismay, Ross is not voiced by Liv Tyler (Stephanie Panisello takes the role instead), but hopefully this clears the last hurdle that prevented Tyler from returning in the She-Hulk series; her character’s disputed canonicity.

Ah, well. Perhaps, taking a page out of Coulson’s book, this storyline could pop up again somewhere down the line when we least expect it, and we might even get to see Nick Fury’s new Avengers in a future episode or season of What If…?, with Captain Marvel, Captain America, Betty Ross, and/or whoever else makes the cut. Never say never, am I right?

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

Marvel Offers 1st Look At Eternals And Upcoming Film Slate

What will it take to get moviegoers back into theaters? Hollywood has been asking themselves that question a lot recently: things were looking up for a moment with the success of Godzilla Vs Kong, but Mortal Kombat‘s limited mainstream appeal made it a poor successor to the Monsterverse epic. All eyes are turning towards Marvel’s Black Widow to make or break the box-office, and just this morning Marvel has released a teaser of their upcoming film slate that’s supposed to work as a little…incentive, to get people hyped up about their theatrical releases after a few months of Disney+ series’ (and streaming in general) dominating the conversation.

Marvel Eternals
The Eternals | comicbook.com

Granted, at least one of these movies will be available to purchase on Disney+ while it plays in theaters, and that happens to be Black Widow, so…we’ll see whether this ends up revitalizing the box-office like it’s supposed to, but either way this teaser gave me all the feels, and a first fleeting look at the upcoming film Eternals, my most-anticipated Marvel feature and the one best positioned to be a serious contender at next year’s Academy Awards race.

When I say fleeting, I’m not kidding – we only get a mere thirteen seconds to admire Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao’s stunning cinematography, and a range of what will presumably be outstanding performances from an all-star cast including Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. But thirteen seconds is all it takes to sell me on the film’s premise, and Zhao’s stunning vision for her first MCU project, one to which she has committed herself with the same clear passion as her critically-acclaimed A24 drama, Nomadland.

Spanning time and space, Eternals follows a group of celestial beings (not to be confused with the literal Celestials, who created the Eternals) who have roamed the earth since prehistoric times, subtly guiding the forward flow of human civilization. Thirteen seconds isn’t much, but it allows us to see the Eternals in their ancient guise as godlike superheroes defending the city of Babylon outside the famous Gate of Ishtar (once considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World)…before showing them in their modern forms, revisiting the site of the Mesopotamian city as archaeologists.

We see a little bit of how they’ve each adapted to life coexisting alongside the human race; with some of them, like Salma Hayek’s Ajak, distancing themselves from civilization (Hayek appears to be riding on horseback through what could be the American Southwest or even the Pampas of Argentina), while others, like Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo, have become celebrities among the humans (I love that he’s brought his own personal camera crew along with him to meet the other Eternals). Angelina Jolie’s Thena is the only character we see fighting in the clip (and I could be wrong, but I think she’s only sparring with her fellow Eternal, Gilgamesh), but the choreography looks good and her golden sword is both beautiful and cool.

Marvel Eternals
Angelina Jolie as Thena | indiewire.com

Perhaps my biggest fear was that the Eternals’ costumes wouldn’t look great in live-action, since up until now all we’ve really seen of them is some concept art…which, with all due respect to the artist, wasn’t quite as visually striking as some fans had been hoping. But this clip lets us see a few of the suits in action (not all, though, and not the ones that looked worst in the concept art), and they seem practical, well-made, and simply gorgeous – with Jolie’s Thena making a particularly strong impression, dressed from head to toe in white with gold accents. Her regal, even haughty, stride indicates that she’s not going to allow any opponent to get a speck of dirt or blood on her pristine outfit – and I respect that power move.

While the rest of the teaser does feature some new footage from Black Widow and Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, the two major talking points besides the never-before-seen Eternals footage were both title reveals – Black Panther 2 officially receiving the emotional subtitle Wakanda Forever (that movie is gonna make me cry: I just know it), and Captain Marvel 2 rather unusually being retitled and rebranded entirely as The Marvels.

I’m a bit conflicted on how I feel about the latter title: firstly, because when I got the notification on my phone about this announcement, I honestly thought The Marvels was going to be an MCU sitcom. Of course, the title is supposed to reference the film’s holy trinity of heroines – Brie Larson as Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau (who also goes by Captain Marvel in the comics), and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel – but it’s a bit too much of a cheeky pun on the company’s name, and slightly undermines what I feel should be more of an epic and awe-inspiring moment. Some fans are upset that the Captain Marvel solo franchise is now dropping Captain Marvel’s name, and I get that – though I also understand and appreciate that the new title celebrates more inclusivity, and puts the three women on equal status, rather than elevating Carol above her costars.

The teaser is very focused on release dates, some of which we already knew, some of which are a bit of a surprise. Black Widow and Eternals are both set in stone and unlikely to shift around on the calendar – the former is comfortably anchored by a Disney+ simultaneous release, and the latter is being positioned for awards season. Shang-Chi will still release in September, between the two films, while Spider-Man: No Way Home will close out the year on a bang, by all accounts setting up a Multiverse saga that will escalate in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, arriving March 25th, 2022. Thor: Love And Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be the big summer event-movies of that year, and The Marvels will premiere on November 11th.

Captain Marvel 2
The Marvels | marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

So far, only Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 are confirmed for 2023 (the former in February, the latter in May) but Mahershala Ali’s Blade will likely end up there too, along with Fantastic Four – the electric-blue logo for which pops up again in the final moments of this teaser, as if to remind us that we never know the full extent of Marvel’s plans for the future. Remember, these are just the upcoming movies.

But how do you feel about the studio’s slate of films, and which is your most anticipated? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!