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 Chlo√© 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!

“Echo” Hawkeye Spinoff Coming To Disney+!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is probably the least interesting part of the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series…which I imagine really sucks for Renner’s hardcore fans, but is great for those of us who are only going to be watching Hawkeye for the amazing women involved: Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, and Alaqua Cox as the antiheroine Echo.

Echo
Echo | marvel.com

And despite being a complete newcomer to the acting scene, it’s Alaqua Cox’s Echo who’s apparently first in line for her very own Disney+ spinoff coming out of Hawkeye, a series that hasn’t even finished filming yet. Variety reports that, while the spinoff is still in the early stages of pre-production, Etan and Emily Cohen have come onboard to write the series scripts. This news, if true, would make Echo the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to get her own solo spinoff, further enriching this vast corner of the MCU, and hopefully proving once and for all that the Disney+ series’ aren’t just supposed to act as extended prologues and epilogues to other movies – they are their own thing, and should be viewed as such.

It’s been hard to convince some fans of that latter point, particularly when dealing with a universe where the occasionally eyeroll-inducing need for “interconnectedness” drove viewers away from Marvel’s previous TV collaborations with ABC (which hosted the long-running and criminally underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Netflix (which only just recently relinquished the rights to Marvel’s Defenders content, including beloved heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones), after those TV series’ struck out on their own and forged new ground…in the process becoming less essential viewing for the MCU overall. That’s a pattern we saw repeated after WandaVision‘s finale, which proved to be controversial in part because fans felt cheated when the series didn’t halt in its tracks to introduce the Multiverse, or reveal villains like Mephisto and Nightmare, or reinstate Fox versions of the X-Men (though, to be fair, Evan Peters should have been playing Peter Maximoff), despite laying the groundwork for at least two other Marvel films and another Disney+ series.

Echo
Hawkeye | businessinsider.com

The news that Echo specifically is getting a spinoff is exciting for several reasons. The character – whose codename comes from her ability to expertly replicate or “echo” any opponent’s fighting style and techniques – is a deaf Native American antiheroine named Maya Lopez, who rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld to become a widely-feared and respected warrior. While operating in Japan and fighting a faction of HYDRA, she adopted the alias of “Ronin”, the same name we saw Hawkeye himself randomly pick up in Avengers: Endgame, during his five years as a vigilante/serial killer. The Hawkeye series will hopefully explain away all the mysteries surrounding the Ronin identity, including whom it belonged to first in the MCU canon, but Echo’s story doesn’t have to end there.

In the comics, Maya Lopez goes on to help and hinder the Avengers at various points, even playing a critical role in the Secret Invasion storyline which will be adapted for Disney+ in the near future. She’s had complex relationships with many of Marvel’s grittier street-level characters, including Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Kingpin – who mentored her throughout her childhood, after first murdering her father. Maya later turned on Kingpin and left him temporarily blinded, but he’s honestly the least of the villains she’s battled while wielding her signature nunchuks, from Madame Hydra to the Skrull Queen Veranke – the former of whom at least deserves to be brought back into the MCU, with Mallory Jansen reprising the role she so brilliantly originated on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In one storyline, Echo even hosted the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force within her during an underwater battle with Namor.

Echo
Phoenix Force Echo | comicbook.com

Echo’s role in Hawkeye is still unknown, though I remain confident in my theory that she’ll be revealed to be one of the last remaining Red Room cadets trained by Taskmaster, positioning her at an intersection between the storylines of Hawkeye and Black Widow and making her the literal “echo” of one of Widow’s greatest failures, still reverberating through current MCU history. Having her own spinoff series, though, vastly expands the number of stories that could be told with the character – from undercover work as a ninja in Japan, to fighting alongside Daredevil on the streets of New York City, all while helping to increase onscreen visibility for the Indigenous and disabled communities.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see Alaqua Cox as Echo? Do you have any theories about her spinoff? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Abomination To Return In “She-Hulk” Series!

Even apart from official confirmation that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany will indeed be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series – despite her insistent, and very convincing, claims to the contrary over the past few months –¬† there were several other reveals about the series that have me even more excited to see Maslany transform into the lovable, seven-foot tall, bright green bodybuilder: and prove once and for all that she is not simply a gender-swapped version of the Hulk, as some like to claim, but a unique and fascinating character in her own right, with an abundance of new stories to tell.

She-Hulk
She-Hulk | comicbookinvest.com

For one thing, the series will not gloss over Walters’ day job as a lawyer and activist for both societal reform on a widespread level, and individual superheroes. Marvel president Kevin Feige strongly implied that a couple of familiar MCU characters – both heroes and villains – might wind up in court before Walters, and that she might be placed in increasingly more tricky (and potentially dangerous) predicaments depending on who she’s either representing or trying to place behind bars. Heroes who might show up include Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, most of whom are already fugitives from the law. But they likely won’t end up in prison, or if they do, it won’t be for long. Villains, on the other hand…that’s where this gets interesting.

The MCU has long had a habit of discarding potentially interesting villains after a single film appearance, without ever actually killing them off – which was just lazy storytelling during Phases 1 through 3, but turns out to be a blessing-in-disguise heading into Phase 4: because now, with the Infinity Saga finally completed, we have time to go back and address all the unresolved storylines of these various antagonists. And there’s long been speculation that, as in the comics, a multitude of these long-forgotten villains will assemble their own version of the Avengers called the Thunderbolts, under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, an anti-superhero watchdog (who, ironically, is secretly able to transform into the Red Hulk). With no specific Thunderbolts series or movie announced during the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, I believe She-Hulk will act as the Phase 4 set-up to an eventual Thunderbolts series or movie during Phase 5.

Think about it for a moment. Currently, the MCU has dozens of villains whose fates are still unknown, and a few who have yet to show up but probably won’t be killed in the near future: and all of these villains have committed more than enough heinous crimes to deserve high-profile court trials. Let’s go over a few. Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s wannabe copycat in Iron Man 2, quietly dropped off the grid after unleashing a small army of heavily-armed robots on New York City; Ghost, the quantum-phasing antagonist of Ant-Man And The Wasp, never received the healing particles she was supposed to get from Scott Lang, and has likely regressed back into self-loathing and hyper-aggression; Yelena Belova, who is set to appear in both Hawkeye and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, probably won’t stop being a violent super-assassin anytime soon; Baron Zemo, the big bad of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is far too ingenious to stay locked up for long (he’s already escaped one high-security prison); and Madame Masque, whom Vera Farmiga will likely play in the Hawkeye series, is just a really cool character. There are a bunch of others who could fill out the team roster, but the one that we need to focus on is Abomination.

She-Hulk
Abomination | cinemablend.com

First introduced in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Emil Blonsky (better known as the horribly mutated, grotesque titan Abomination) has only been referenced in-universe once or twice since his debut: back in 2013, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that he was being held in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, in a cryo-cell in Alaska. Since then, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA and been almost entirely disassembled from the inside, but there’s been no mention of Abomination since. Until now. She-Hulk will officially feature the return of the old villain, with Tim Roth reprising the role after over a decade – and hopefully getting a new and improved, comics-accurate, design. The fact that Roth’s involvement has already been announced suggests that Abomination plays a key role in She-Hulk…and what do you know, he also has connections to Thaddeus Ross, and thus to the Thunderbolts team.

So what’s my theory? I believe, based on everything we know so far, that Jennifer Walters’ work as a prosecutor will place her directly in Thaddeus Ross’ line of fire, as he tries to secretly unite various villains and keep them out of prison, even while Walters fights to incarcerate them. In the MCU, it may be agents working for Ross who give Walters the gunshot wounds that almost kill her, leading to Bruce Banner having to save her life with an emergency blood transfusion – which in turn leads to her becoming the She-Hulk, and gaining the extra brawn she’ll need to take the fight straight to Ross. And when she comes face to face with him (probably in the season finale, after figuring out how deeply the corruption goes), that’s when Ross will reveal his own alter ego, the Red Hulk, and engage her in an epic duel. Sounds pretty good to me.

She-Hulk
Red She-Hulk | wallpapersafari.com

As an additional bonus, Tim Roth’s MCU return means we could see other characters from The Incredible Hulk pop up in She-Hulk: including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross (herself a Hulk variant in the comics, the fearsome antiheroine Red She-Hulk). Tyler’s return is something that’s been rumored, and that fans have especially been hoping to see – and of course, I’m always up for a Lord Of The Rings star coming into the MCU, even though, in Tyler’s case, she’s been there for a while; just not getting the recognition and screentime she deserves.

So what do you think? What are you looking forward to from She-Hulk, and how do you want Tim Roth’s Abomination to feature in the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Hawkeye” Casts Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga, Several More!

With the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series having just started filming in New York City, official casting announcements were inevitable. The Hollywood trades proved to be a bit slow when it came to confirming that Hailee Steinfeld was, in fact, the series’ co-star (something that was reported by The Illuminerdi several months ago, and proven yesterday in behind-the-scenes footage from the Hawkeye set), and they weren’t even the first to break the news that Black Widow actress Florence Pugh will be reprising her role as Yelena Belova (can we say reprising if she hasn’t even had the chance to appear in Black Widow yet?) in Hawkeye, but they – specifically Variety – have now announced some exclusives of their own: including casting for Kate Bishop’s mother, the villains Swordsman and Clown, the antiheroine Echo, and her father.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova (right) | indiewire.com

The biggest news is, of course, the Florence Pugh casting. Pugh, hot off an Oscar nomination and a string of other successes, will eventually debut in Marvel’s Black Widow as Yelena Belova, a suspicious assassin who reconnects with Natasha Romanoff, her “sister” and former Red Room classmate, in order to take down the shadowy Russian government organization that created her. Belova’s fate after Black Widow is still unknown, with many wondering if she’ll betray Romanoff at some point during the movie and have to go into hiding, reappearing after the Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame; or perhaps she’ll become the founding member of the Thunderbolts team, a group of semi-reformed villains working undercover for a variety of different reasons…but whatever the case, we can be pretty assured she survives Black Widow, something that was previously in question. With COVID-19 continuing to delay the release of the Widow’s solo movie, more and more unintentional spoilers for the film are inevitable.

As for what Belova will be doing in the Hawkeye series, that’s a bit more mysterious – although it’s been rumored she’ll don the Ronin mantle that Hawkeye himself briefly wore during the events of Avengers: Endgame, while he was going on a murder spree throughout Asia. If Belova is coming back out of the shadows after Endgame, it would make sense for her to wear a disguise at first: though whatever crimes she commits while wearing said disguise would inevitably have consequences for the person who wore it before her. We’ve all been wondering how Hawkeye gets re-involved with the superhero business after retiring and settling down with his family – an ongoing fight between him and Belova to finally rid himself of the guilt and shame of the Ronin disguise and the damage it’s done to him…that would be just the thing, in my opinion, and it would be a great thematic throughline for the series.

But there could be another catch. The character of Echo, who will be played by newcomer Alaqua Cox (and when I say newcomer, I mean “does-not-even-have-an-IMDb-profile-yet” newcomer), is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, with her own claim to the title of Ronin, and a possible connection to the Red Room – or at least people associated with the Red Room. Echo, a deaf Native-American woman born with the name Maya Lopez, takes the Ronin moniker in the comics while working undercover in Japan. She quickly becomes a prestigious crime-lord, but her moral code is complicated, and she sometimes offers her help to the Avengers as well. But one potentially crucial detail about her is that her superpowers are identical to those of the villain Taskmaster: the main antagonist of Black Widow. Both characters possess photographic reflexes, which allow them to flawlessly mimic the movements and fighting style of any opponent. From the Black Widow trailers, it’s become clear that photographic reflexes are also taught to all the Red Room cadets, including Natasha Romanoff herself, and Yelena Belova. In the MCU, it would make sense for Echo to be one of the last batch of Black Widows raised in the Red Room, or an apprentice of either Taskmaster or Belova, gone rogue after the events of Black Widow (which presumably ends with Natasha destroying the Red Room completely). Not only would it streamline the series, but it’s a choice that would make Echo even more significant: as the living legacy (or, one could say, an “echo”) of both Hawkeye and Natasha’s worst mistakes, but with her own unique identity and agenda. It also allows for Natasha to still be a part of the story after her death.

Hawkeye
Echo | fullcirclecinema.com

Echo’s father has also been cast, with Zahn McClarnon (most notable for roles in Westworld, Fargo, and Doctor Sleep) taking on the role. His character – named Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln in the comics, William Lopez in the show – is most notable for being murdered by agents of his former employer, Kingpin, and leaving the marking of a bloody handprint on his daughter’s face before he died: a marking she would adopt as her symbol. Hopefully he has more to do in the show, but no other details have been given on his role.

Two other villains are now confirmed, although there have long been rumors that they would show up. Fra Fee will portray Clown, a serial killer from the pages of the Hawkeye comics who comes from a circus and doesn’t really have any overarching agenda besides senselessly murdering people. I suspect that his tragic circus backstory will be retconned to tie in with Hawkeye’s own tragic circus backstory (it would be pretty bizarre to have two in one show, otherwise), but I don’t expect him to stick around long, or pose much of a threat. He’s minor antagonist material at best.

Swordsman, on the other hand, might have more to do. Set to be played by Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton, the character is getting a small name change – from Jacques Duquesne to Jack Duquesne – but his backstory should remain much the same. In the comics, Duquesne mentors the young Clint Barton at the circus where Barton grows up: before one day betraying him while attempting to flee with stolen money, and almost killing him in the process. Barton becomes Hawkeye and the two don’t really interact much beyond that. In the MCU, it’s possible that Barton will purposefully seek out the Swordsman for his help, or the two will be enemies. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this part of Hawkeye’s history, which has heretofore never been referenced in the movies.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | gameinformer.com

And finally, we have Vera Farmiga – who will be playing Eleanor Bishop, the mother of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated star of the Conjuring horror franchise, is a high-profile actress for such a small role…except that Eleanor Bishop isn’t your average movie-mom character, and she may be one of the series’ major antagonists. In the comics, Mrs. Bishop fakes her own death shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then proceeds to live a life of crime, as the mastermind behind the villainous Madame Masque (who, as you might remember, is rumored to appear in Hawkeye). The comics distinguish Bishop and Masque as two separate characters – but I think the Hawkeye series will make them one and the same for increased dramatic effect when the masque finally comes off. Eleanor Bishop might not have a very strong connection to Clint Barton, but it’s worth pointing out that Kate Bishop is supposed to be the co-lead of this show – and as such, she should have her own circle of supporting characters and villains.

So what do you think of the casting, and of my speculation? Which character are you most excited to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!