Thor: Love And Thunder Villain Gorr The God-Butcher Is Absolutely Terrifying

While it certainly wasn’t the biggest reveal from the crowded Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday, the confirmation of the Thor: Love And Thunder main villain was still pretty huge news for Marvel Comics fans – and exactly the type of thing I couldn’t wait to write about, because I love few things more than extensively researching obscure Marvel deep lore. And Gorr the God-Butcher is one of the most fascinating villains in the comics: a terrifying, complex, tragic Shakespearean figure…who just happens to also be an immortal mutant alien symbiotically fused with a cosmic death sword.

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Gorr | comicbook.com

Academy Award-winner Christian Bale is officially attached to play Gorr, joining Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor, and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, in the fourth (and until further notice, final) installment in the long-running franchise. We still don’t know how director Taika Waititi was able to land an actor of Bale’s caliber for this role, but I have a few guesses. Firstly, it goes without saying that Waititi is one of the most creative, inventive, and unique filmmakers working today. He was able to nab Cate Blanchett for the super-campy role of the goddess Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, before he was even fully established in Hollywood. Secondly, methinks the character of Gorr could be achieved at least partly via practical effects, as we know Bale loves his transformative roles, and physically becoming a literal alien could be his most shocking metamorphosis yet. And thirdly, the character of Gorr has a fascinating backstory that seems like juicy material for a dramatic actor.

Gorr first appeared in 2013, during Jason Aaron’s tenure writing Thor. The ageless alien being hails from a tumultuous planet traumatized by eternal war, famine, plague, and chaos. On this planet, as you might expect, the population spends most of their time praying to their gods for aid – to no avail, as Gorr personally loses his parents, wife, and all but one of his children to various disasters. Having lost all faith in the hope of gods, Gorr flees into the wilderness with his last surviving son, only to accidentally discover that the gods are real after coming across Knull, a primordial deity of darkness. Gorr’s lack of faith turns into an undying hatred of all gods who ignore the prayers of their worshipers, and he quickly kills Knull and takes All-Black the Necrosword, Knull’s powerful weapon, as his own. Armed with All-Black (quite literally, since the sword is symbiotic and fuses into his body), Gorr travels the universe, hunting gods and slaughtering them one-by-one. He meets his match in Thor, whom he initially tries to kill in the 9th Century and many times afterwards – but the cause of his downfall is none other than his own son, Agar, who tells Gorr that, in his quest to exterminate the gods, he has himself become one: the God of Hypocrisy.

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Gorr | comicbook.com

Because we’re talking about comics here, Gorr doesn’t stay dead for long. His spirit lives on in All-Black, and he gets resurrected again, pursuing Thor and Loki for vengeance. But his best story remains his original appearance, which gives him a surprising amount of depth, and provides the perfect basis for Thor: Love And Thunder‘s adaptation of the character. Knowing Taika Waititi, I expect him to give Gorr just a little more flair than in the comics (perhaps a morbid sense of humor), but that’s not the only thing that might have to change.

For one thing, we’ll necessarily have to see Gorr kill some gods for him to appear truly threatening – but most of the Asgardian pantheon (with the exception of Thor, Loki, and Valkyrie) are already dead, thanks to Hela’s purge of Asgard during Ragnarok. A possible solution to this problem would be to bring back Hela, and have her fill the Knull role and/or be one of Gorr’s targets. There’s a storyline in the comics where she sets up a casino in Las Vegas and hosts extravagant parties for villains: that sounds exactly like something Taika Waititi would love, and it would make for an awesome set-piece if Gorr crashed the party and dueled Hela to the death. We could also see Gorr go after the Eternals, who will have been introduced to the MCU by that point: they’re basically gods anyway, and so far they’re most closely linked to the Thor mythos in the comics. I’ve always wondered how they’ll be incorporated into the broader universe, but having Thor team up with them to defeat Gorr is definitely one possibility. It’s also been theorized that Gorr will be tracking Star-Lord, who is technically the demigod son of a Celestial (remember that major plotpoint that’s never been addressed since?), which would explain why Chris Pratt supposedly joined the cast a few months ago.

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Star-Lord | mewallpaper.com

I also doubt that Gorr and Thor will have as long a history together as they did in the comics. MCU Thor has been alive for over a thousand years, but it seems completely out of character for him to have battled Gorr during his youth and won (he was a boisterous, hotheaded idiot right up until the first Avengers movie). And having Gorr be one of Odin’s many secrets feels redundant. It would make a lot more sense for Gorr to first appear in the modern day (perhaps his family were snapped out of existence by Thanos, and he sets off on his vengeful murder spree before they get snapped back by Tony Stark?).

Even with these changes, the story of Gorr is still a great one: and I think it’s pretty clear why Christian Bale would be attracted to this role. The God-Butcher could easily rank alongside Thanos, Killmonger, Hela and Loki as the greatest MCU villains of all time if done well: and if this is the final Thor movie (I’m not saying it is, but it could be), then it only makes sense to go out on a high note.

What do you think? Are you excited for Christian Bale’s version of Gorr? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Ms. Marvel” Debuts New Footage, Will Costar In Captain Marvel 2!

Despite the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series only just beginning filming in Atlanta over the past few weeks, a sizzle reel compiled from behind-the-scenes interviews with the series’ creators and clips of new footage from the show was already completed in time for the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night, and gave us our first official look at newcomer Iman Vellani as the MCU’s first Muslim superhero, Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan. It’s not much, but it’s worth a shoutout because of the representation showcased in the sizzle reel itself, and the promise made by Marvel President Kevin Feige that Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) will go on to costar in future Marvel films.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | gamesradar.com

The brief video spotlights each of the four main directors working on Ms. Marvel, including Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. All are experienced filmmakers, and El Arbi and Fallah directed one of the highest-grossing films of this year, Bad Boys For Life: a gritty, action-packed adventure. Kamala Khan is a superheroine with a very distinctive superpower – the ability to redistribute the atoms in her body at will, to change her shape and size, create giant fists, or grow to incredible heights – so I hope all four directors will be able to carry that over from page to screen in a cool way, while keeping it wonderfully weird. Kamala Khan’s creator, G. Willow Wilson, has said she fears Khan will look “really creepy” in live-action because of her powers, but I have faith in Marvel to do her justice.

While the diversity behind the camera (where it matters most, arguably) is excellent, there’s been some recent controversy around the diversity onscreen…or rather, the lack thereof. A few days, #FixMsMarvel trended on Twitter, after it was discovered that two actresses cast in the series as Muslim women of color, Zenobia Shroff and Yasmeen Fletcher, are not Muslim (and Fletcher is half-white and Christian); that actor Matt Lintz, cast as Kamala Khan’s best friend Bruno, is possibly a Trump supporter (although he claimed later he is not political, which itself is a questionable stance, especially during these times); and that a sexual offender was reportedly cast in another supporting role. That last claim is certainly severe, but the actor in question is not confirmed to have joined the cast, unlike Shroff, Fletcher, and Lintz, all of whose names can currently be found on the Marvel website. For a series that is so laser-focused on improving representation of a traditionally marginalized demographic, these castings do represent missteps – and the MCU’s casting director, Sarah Halley Finn, is no stranger to casting controversy, having previously received criticism for picking a Mexican actress, Xochitl Gomez, as the (arguably) Afro-Latina Puerto Rican heroine America Chavez; and (allegedly) Oscar Isaac, a born-and-raised Evangelical Christian, as Jewish hero Matt Spector.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | murphysmultiverse.com

How you choose to digest this information and proceed is your own choice, and reactions to the news will vary. It’s especially disappointing, however, because of how perfectly cast Iman Vellani appears as Kamala Khan: and how excited I think we all are for her to succeed. Vellani doesn’t appear in her Ms. Marvel costume in the new footage, but she’s still channeling her in-universe role model, Captain Marvel – as we can see her purchasing the Captain Marvel costume she wore in behind-the-scenes photos (where I thought she was being played by a child actor: my apologies to Vellani); wearing a T-shirt that seems to hint at a Captain Marvel/Valkyrie romantic pairing (which, if that’s the case, I wholeheartedly support); and staring wistfully at the Captain Marvel posters and memorabilia that adorn her bedroom wall. Heartwarming footage was also shown of Vellani’s freak-out reaction to her casting.

I can understand freaking out, because Marvel president Kevin Feige made it very clear that Ms. Marvel isn’t a one-and-done character: she will soon join Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris in a lead role in Captain Marvel 2, fulfilling her fangirl dreams and allowing her a chance to punch bad guys with her supersized fists on the big screen where she belongs. Much was made out of Vellani’s two-star review for the first Captain Marvel review on her alleged Letterboxd account (which, she clarified, was not because of Brie Larson, whom she “would die for”) – hopefully, her appearance in the Nia DaCosta-directed sequel will make it even better than the first. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel may also help introduce the Inhumans royal family to the MCU, as a possible reference to Maximus the Mad hidden in the new footage hints that they’re on their way.

Ms. Marvel
Maximus | mcuexchange.com

The Inhumans were the subject of a short-lived ABC TV series, but they haven’t ever really caught on with audiences, except on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was helped by exceptional writing and great character work. For the Inhumans’ MCU debut, I think Marvel would be foolish not to borrow from the best and transfer popular Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. characters like Daisy Johnson and Yo-Yo Rodriguez over to the Disney+ series, with actresses Chloe Bennet and Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising their roles. We already have confirmation that another Inhuman from the comics, the bioluminescent Kamran, will appear and be played by Rish Shah: the stage is set for more to follow.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Ms. Marvel, and how would you deal with the controversies around casting? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

The Fantastic Four Are Finally Coming To The MCU!

Probably (no, definitely) among the biggest reveals from the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night was the announcement that the Fantastic Four – Marvel’s “first family” – will finally make their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the near future. Whether this is to be the final installment of Phase 4, or the first film of Phase 5 is hard to tell, because the lines between phases are starting to blur now that COVID-19 has messed up the entire release date calendar. Marvel President Kevin Feige offered no details: which makes me wonder if, for the time being, we might not hear as much about separate “phases”, just to give Marvel a little more freedom as they maneuver around the pandemic.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | nme.com

A first logo for the film was revealed: a sharp, angular four in electric blue. And Feige also announced that his Fantastic Four will be directed by Jon Watts, who has been very successful at bridging the gap between Marvel and Sony, directing their Spider-Man films. He is currently at work on Spider-Man 3, which Feige also confirmed on Thursday will feature Multiverse elements: it’s been widely reported (and become something of a joke online) that Spider-Man 3 will include virtually everybody – Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Jamie Foxx’s Electro, and probably Charlie Cox’s Daredevil. If Watts is showing onset that he’s capable of masterfully handling all these different characters and their individual storylines, he may be the perfect fit for Fantastic Four, which will almost certainly deal with the Multiverse in some way or another.

Watts isn’t, perhaps, the most exciting choice on paper: especially since many still feel that Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2, is the only director who’s shown any success with a similar concept – without even trying, Bird basically designed the blueprint for how a Fantastic Four film should feel. I understand why there would be dissatisfaction. But Watts’ Spider-Man films have been good (at least in my opinion: I know they have their extremely vocal haters), and some of the best scenes were those that dealt with the villain Mysterio, who supposedly came from the Multiverse until it turned out he was just a disgruntled Stark Industries employee. If Watts can do wonders with a fake Multiverse, imagine what he’ll do with the real deal.

Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four | whatculture.com

That being said, a Fantastic Four film can’t be all Multiverse shenanigans and confusing time loops and paradoxes. At its core, it has to be the story of a superpowered family facing challenges and overcoming struggles together, or fans will be rightfully angry. The closest thing we’ve got to this in the MCU already is the dynamic between Ant-Man and his immediate and extended family: but where those films generally have low stakes and slightly comedic action, the Fantastic Four is big, and epic, and dramatic. Downright melodramatic, at times. It’s still unknown if the MCU’s Fantastic Four will introduce us to a fully established team, or set up a proper origin story. Fox has tried and failed at that twice, both times bungling it by trying to rush the team’s biggest villains to the forefront: I think a new origin story is necessary to show that Marvel cares deeply about these characters, and that they’re committed to getting them right before we even start thinking about things like Galactus, or Silver Surfer, or Doctor Doom. Luckily, the MCU is currently setting up Kang the Conqueror, who seems like the perfect first-film villain for the Fantastic Four, if you ask me. He’ll already have been introduced in Loki or Ant-Man 3 by that point, so the film won’t need to waste any time revealing his backstory to audiences.

As for what a proper origin story would entail, well…I’ve always felt that the Fantastic Four should be time-travelers from the 1960’s, and that’s a pretty popular theory, but they don’t necessarily have to be. In the comics, they obtain their individualized superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific space mission gone wrong: Reed Richards, the team’s leader, becomes a super-stretchy human rubberband (a similar powerset to that of Kamala Khan, whom we’ll see in Ms. Marvel prior to Richards’ own appearance); Sue Storm, who I hope is more than just “Reed’s girlfriend” this time around, is able to turn herself invisible and create force-shields; Johnny Storm, Sue’s hotheaded teenage brother, gains the ability to set himself on fire and fly; while Ben Grimm, Richards’ best friend, is permanently transformed into a massive, self-loathing rock-monster. In the comics, they were among the first superheroes not to wear disguises, preferring to use their newfound celebrity status as a way of bringing attention to scientific breakthroughs – something that is admittedly a cool idea, but not that fresh in the MCU anymore.

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Fantastic Four | filmdaily.co

Thanks to Reed Richards’ obsession with time travel, quantum physics, and world-hopping, the Fantastic Four are intricately tied up with all the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe: particularly those who threaten the timeline, like Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom, or those who threaten to devour the world itself, like the cosmic being Galactus. But the fact that they have such epic enemies and high-stakes battles makes it all the more crucial that their first film in the MCU is smaller and more personal, with a strong focus on family.

So what do you think? How would you recommend Marvel proceed with this long-awaited adaptation? And who’s your favorite Fantastic Four character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Loki” Is Lost In Space And Time In 1st Trailer!

I’ve had a great many ideas about how I would love for each of the upcoming Marvel Disney+ shows to look and feel since long before we saw anything official from any of them: and Loki has become my second most hotly-anticipated of the entire batch (just behind WandaVision, which seems like a technical masterpiece as well as a wildly entertaining story) thanks to the elaborate image I had concocted in my head of how it should look, ideally: like a mix of gritty science-fiction, Terry Pratchett absurdity, and fantasy horror. So you can imagine my shock and awe when the first full trailer for Loki revealed that this show is everything I was hoping it would be, and much, much more.

Loki
Loki | denofgeek.com

The last time Loki graced our screens was…well, that’s a complex question. Technically that would be in 2018 when, both in our reality and in the main MCU timeline, he died pitifully attacking Thanos with a knife. But when the Avengers later staged their time heist and returned to the year 2012 to recover several Infinity Stones, they encountered the older, more feral and dangerous Loki that they had just battled and defeated in that year: and that Loki was able to escape with the Tesseract, opening a new rift in the Multiverse and ensuring that Captain America’s best efforts to preserve the sanctity of each timeline wouldn’t be entirely successful. The new series follows that Loki as he wanders throughout the Nine Realms, wreaking havoc and upsetting the natural order of things, while fighting characters and beings from the surreal side of Marvel comics.

That surrealism – already evident in the series – is precisely why I draw a comparison to Terry Pratchett: one of my favorite fantasy authors. By a complete coincidence, a trailer for the new BBC adaptation of Pratchett’s The Watch dropped yesterday before the Loki trailer reveal, and in my opinion did a horrible job of conveying the author’s characteristic brand of quirky, grammatical humor, or of capturing the colorful tone and style of his characters. This trailer (which has absolutely nothing to do with Pratchett) effortlessly achieves what any Pratchett adaptation should be aiming for – and if you don’t believe me, just check out the trailer thumbnail above: Loki, dressed in a ratty old coat and splendid emerald green waistcoat, a self-congratulatory campaign button pinned to his breast, grinning from ear to ear, donning his horned helmet, and gleefully teasing us with the line “Come on? What did you expect?”, all while standing in an abandoned arcade, surrounded by a group of absurdly-dressed misfits pointing spears and knives at him. It’s not just a brilliant adaptation of the Loki comics and a striking visual that will entice audiences: it’s a masterclass in absurd humor.

A large part of that has to do with Tom Hiddleston’s deliciously entertaining performance, which is just the right amount of camp; just the right amount of Shakespearean villain; and more quintessentially British than ever before. Hiddleston is, in fact, channeling a number of iconic characters from around the globe, including James Bond and Good Omens‘ Crowley (a creation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, by the way). He’s also stepping into the shoes of real-life historical figures – most notably the legendary “D.B. Cooper”.

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Loki as “D.B. Cooper” | vulture.com

Those who love the thrill of trying to solve decades-old mysteries will enjoy this reference. D.B. Cooper, the unidentified man who somehow pulled off a mid-air robbery in 1971 before parachuting into a storm and disappearing from history makes an appearance in the Loki trailer: and the series finds a delightfully clever way of answering the questions surrounding Cooper’s true identity, by suggesting that Cooper was none other than the God of Mischief. As for how he escaped an FBI manhunt, well, that’s quite simple: he was snatched out of the sky by the Bifrost bridge of Asgard, of course! A few dollars drift out of Loki’s attaché case as he disappears, and are scorched by the heat of the Bifrost – the same dollars, it would seem, that an eight-year old boy would find by a riverbank years after the event, mysteriously burned. The attention to detail here is simply staggering…and honestly, it’s as good an explanation as any. Cooper’s identity is still unknown, and the FBI officially gave up the search in 2016.

It’s not the only unsolved mystery teased in the trailer. Near the end, a Polybius arcade game is also briefly visible in the background: a reference to the arcade game of the same name that sparked an urban legend in the early 2000’s when it supposedly appeared out of the blue, hypnotizing or even brainwashing players, and attracting the attention of men in black. A crucial part of the legend was that the game would sometimes teleport players to other dimensions, and I expect that it will be used in the same way in Loki.

But why all this talk of historical mysteries? Well, the trailer confirms what we’ve long known: which is that the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) will employ Loki as one of their agents during the course of the show, and assign him various missions fixing the timeline and making sure human history proceeds as it’s supposed to do. The TVA serves much the same function as the Commission in The Umbrella Academy, but with a much larger team of characters: including Mobius. M. Mobius, played by comedic actor Owen Wilson, and a severe-looking councilwoman with martial arts skills, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In the case of Loki, it’s unclear whether the TVA actually wanted him on their team, or were forced to recruit him because of the danger he poses as a rogue operative, wielding the Tesseract. The TVA may also need his help against a shadowy enemy we see in the trailer slaughtering their agents: a hooded figure who could be the time-traveler Kang, or an alternate, even more horrible, version of Loki.

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Mobius M. Mobius and Loki | slashfilm.com

On the sidelines for now but sure to feature more prominently in time, there are hints of the Roxxon Energy Corporation – which, in the comics, tries to colonize space and harvest minerals on Mars. Interestingly, many theorists speculated that Roxxon would be the primary antagonist of Thor: Love And Thunder, with Christian Bale rumored to be playing the corporation’s tyrannical minotaur leader, Dario Agger. Bale has now been confirmed to be playing a different villain, Gorr the God-Butcher, but it seems Roxxon will still play a part in the Loki series at least. We see both its inconspicuous façade on earth, as a grocery store, and its more secretive side in the form of a deep quarry on an alien planet. A red-haired woman is clearly visible in one shot, and Twitter immediately started asking if it might be Natasha Romanoff: but although I initially thought the same thing, the different hairstyle and sword at her hip makes me think this is someone else entirely.

If any major MCU characters are going to show up, I would bet on Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and/or Idris Elba as Heimdall, since Loki’s disguise as D.B. Cooper appears to be part of an ingenious plan to get in contact with both of his fellow Asgardians, and the Bifrost bridge that sucked him up has to have been summoned by somebody. Hopefully something happens by the end of the series that will allow this version of Loki to interact with the current version of Thor.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

“Spider-Man 3” Recruits Andrew Garfield For Epic Crossover!

The third (and as yet untitled) installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man series is shaping up to be truly epic, combining elements from several past iterations of the character’s long onscreen history in what is sure to be a massive Multiverse extravaganza. Tobey Maguire’s 2002-2007 trilogy, Andrew Garfield’s 2012-2014 duology, and Tom Holland’s MCU series will finally collide in Holland’s third solo film, with major actors from all three franchises reprising their iconic roles and interacting for the first time ever. And yes, that includes the three Peter Parkers themselves. Garfield has just been confirmed today to be joining Holland in the upcoming Spider-Man 3, alongside two crucial members of the Maguire Spider-Man franchise – Kirsten Dunst and Alfred Molina – while Maguire himself is rumored to still be in talks, but is close to finalizing his own deal.

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Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker | independent.co.uk

We’ve been hearing for a while now that this plan was in the cards all along, so the news isn’t too surprising – it’s just extremely relieving and exciting that it’s actually on the verge of happening. The first hint that it could be a possibility was the casting of Jamie Foxx back in October. Foxx, who played Electro in Andrew Garfield’s second Spider-Man movie, was confirmed to be returning as the electric supervillain rather than an entirely new character, although one would hope he’s getting a brand new look out of this, because his previous appearance was…not great. Soon after, it was rumored that Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in the original 2002 Spider-Man movie) had joined the cast. Those rumors have now been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter. And that would have been big enough news to spark a lively bit of fandom discourse, but then Collider joined in the fun and gave us far more to talk about.

Collider’s article casually tosses out the bombshell that Andrew Garfield will return as the version of Peter Parker he played in his short-lived series, which came to an abrupt end after Garfield fell out of favor with Sony. In that very same sentence, and with no further elaboration, they also confirmed that Tobey Maguire is currently in talks to return as his version of Peter Parker, but that he hasn’t closed his deal just yet. And in the next sentence after that, they revealed that Kirsten Dunst, who played Mary Jane opposite Maguire’s Peter Parker, will also be coming back: and she will probably be joined by Emma Stone, Gwen Stacy in the Garfield movies. Stone isn’t a lock just yet, due to her pregnancy, but the fact that she just dropped out of a lead role in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon because of a scheduling conflict indicates that she might be returning to the Marvel Universe. Stone returning is interesting, given that Gwen Stacy…um, died.

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Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker | looper.com

All of this is very thrilling and happening very quickly, but we have to slow down and talk about why this is happening now. Because of another confirmed casting for Spider-Man 3, that of Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role as the MCU’s Doctor Strange, we can reasonably surmise that all these alternate versions of characters are showing up in Tom Holland’s universe because of something (or someone) tampering with the Multiverse – Strange’s field of expertise. If I had to guess, I’d say that someone is probably Wanda Maximoff, who will be toying with parallel universes in her upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision, before supposedly having a major role in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. Spider-Man 3, sandwiched neatly between the two, will likely deal with the fallout from Wanda’s disastrous attempts to reconstruct reality, and Doctor Strange will be forced to help the young hero battle villains from other dimensions. Meanwhile, the three Peter Parkers will have to team up to save humanity, and we’ll see what Maguire and Garfield’s Parkers have been up to since their franchises ended. It’s extremely meta, and I love the whole concept already.

Spider-Man 3
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock | thecinemaspot.com

As for anything in particular I’d love to see, well…I do hope that Andrew Garfield finally gets his wish and plays his version of Peter Parker as a bisexual man. Bisexual representation is sorely lacking in mainstream media, and so far the MCU hasn’t done a great job of depicting its own bisexual heroes and heroines: a scene confirming Vallkyrie is attracted to women was cut from Thor: Ragnarok, and a scene in which Okoye flirted with a woman was cut from Black Panther.

So what do you think? With Garfield, Molina, Foxx, and Dunst officially returning (and Maguire and Stone likely to follow suit, if all goes well), what are you hoping to see in Spider-Man 3? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

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!

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 2 Review!

SPOILERS FOR AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON 7, EPISODE 2

Coming off a solid premiere to the series’ seventh and final season, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. finds new ways to tie back into the canon of the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, subtly hinting that more connections between the two are on the way as the team continues their journey through the Marvel timeline. Much as they might have liked to not interfere with the course of history, the truth is that was never going to work – and episode 2 is where it all starts falling apart.

We pick up right where we left off last week, with the Agents coming to the realization that, to save S.H.I.E.L.D. from an invasion of Chronicom aliens, they must save Wilfred Malick (Darren Barnet), the man behind the creation of the shadowy organization known as HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s arch-enemy in later years. While Director Mack (Henry Simmons) and Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) unknowingly escort Malick on one of his missions, the rest of the team works against the clock to try and figure out what he’s planning, why the Chronicoms want him dead, and whether his life is really worth saving.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jemma Simmons | tvline.com

The answer to the first question is revealed fairly early in the episode, and is what brings this episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D into conjunction with the events of the MCU – Wilfred Malick’s secret mission, disguised as a job bootlegging illegal alcohol, is to deliver vials containing the ingredients which will later make their way into the Super Soldier Serum: the very same which will one day course through the veins of both Johann Schmidt (HYDRA’s Red Skull) and Steve Rogers (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Captain America). Through this chance encounter, yet another link is forged between the two enemies.

But as for that last question – is Wilfred Malick worth saving? – well, that’s a question that haunts everyone on the team, but especially Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Not only does she argue bitterly with her teammates about how they can feel comfortable allowing the future head of HYDRA to survive, but she even takes the initiative in one critical moment and tries to have him killed. Her assassination attempt fails – mostly because Deke isn’t really the best person to carry out any sort of plan, much less one that involves killing someone. But in the long run, that’s probably fortunate: since without HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D. would never be formed and Captain America would never be created.

Not everyone, however, makes it out of this timeline unscathed – or even makes it out of this timeline, period. The quiet, contemplative Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) accidentally gets left behind in 1931 at the end of the episode while the rest of the team escapes through an unexpected time window. Thankfully, he uses his wits to get a job at the speakeasy owned by Ernest Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who forged a somewhat uneasy relationship with the Agents during their stay in his timeline, and even gets to take a ride on the Zephyr One during this episode, marveling at modern technology behind his wildest imagination and demanding to know whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is really a group of Martian space invaders. The stinger at the end of the episode sees Koenig probing Enoch for information about how to make robots – seemingly hinting at an explanation for why he has so many descendants in the future, and all of them are identical.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yo-Yo Rodriguez | telltaletv.com

Agents “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) come out of their escapade in 1931 having sustained several more traumas. Though it was teased in the premiere that Yo-Yo hadn’t completely recovered from the incident in season 6 when she swallowed an alien bat and was almost killed by the resulting parasite, it is made explicit here when she fails to use her powers during a tense moment, prompting interrogation from Daisy. May, on the other hand, is still suffering from gaps in her memory and terrifying hallucinations sustained during the season 6 finale when she battled the death goddess Izel: she doesn’t know where or when she is, and she’s angry when she sees the LMD version of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), knowing full well that the Coulson she knew and loved is dead, and unwilling to let herself be tricked into trusting another duplicate of him.

Overall, I feel this episode is actually stronger than the premiere for a number of reasons. Yo-Yo, May and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) each get to play a part in the action, whereas the premiere left them waiting on the ship, essentially just twiddling their thumbs. The character work is a little bit stronger, as is the dialogue. And while I appreciated last week’s storyline focused on saving Franklin D. Roosevelt, this week’s episode benefited from being able to plunge us into the action and the drama without needing any red herring diversions to deliver exposition.

Speaking of action, there’s one standout fight scene when May and Enoch clash in the hangar of the Zephyr One: Enoch, re-outfitted with upgraded Chronicom tech, is almost winning until May (who, I might add, is still just recently awake from a coma) traps him and goes to town on his synthetic skull with a fire-extinguisher. I’m very excited to see where May goes in this season – it’s not at all unusual for her to use brute force, but her behavior in this episode is sending up red flags all over the place: she’s responding to her near-death encounter in season 6 much like how Coulson reacted when he found out he had been resurrected early in the series. If that’s a parallel that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is interested in exploring, I’m here for it.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Enoch | meaww.com

Once again, the Chronicoms are the weakest part of the story, and their villainy is tame and uninteresting. I was more intrigued by the possibility of HYDRA agents showing up to try and protect the Super Soldier Serum, but only one – a woman named Viola (Nora Zehetner) – actually appeared in person, and even she was either unconscious or unwillingly spitting out information in a German accent most of the time.

Now, all we can do is wait and see in which era of Marvel history the Agents will be dropped next – and whether or not they’ll get involved in any more MCU events on the long, uncertain road to the finale.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

Evan Peters Joins The Cast Of “WandaVision”!

First thing’s first, it’s important that we look at this news calmly and rationally, and not jump to conclusions because – OH MY GOD IT’S AN X-MEN CROSSOVER ISN’T IT??? X-MEN CROSSOVER, X-MEN CROSSOVER!!!

Forgive me. I’m calm now (*screams internally*). And I’m ready to very calmly discuss the news that just broke about actor Evan Peters joining the cast of Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision. Now, to those unfamiliar with the name, Peters’ casting is probably insignificant – but it shouldn’t be, because this is actually quite extraordinary and opens the door for…so many things (*cough, cough, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover*) that could drastically alter what we think we know of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future.

Quicksilver WandaVision
comicbook.com

Evan Peters, you see, is probably best known for his portrayal of the mutant speedster Quicksilver in Fox’s most recent round of X-Men movies. These films didn’t quite match the cult classic status of Fox’s original X-Men trilogy, but a couple of individual castings were spot-on: and many fans agree that Evan Peters as Quicksilver was one of them. But unfortunately for Peters, his version of the character has always been overshadowed by the version of Quicksilver who appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson’s version had far more exposure than Peters’ thanks to appearing in one (almost universally condemned) Avengers movie before being unceremoniously killed off – thus, many Marvel fans are still rooting for him to reprise his role, without even considering the alternative.

But now, Disney owns Fox, and with Evan Peters being cast in WandaVision, it looks far more likely that Marvel is looking to bring his take on Quicksilver into the MCU. It’s plausible, I suppose, that Peters is playing a completely different character. But the WandaVision series literally focuses on Quicksilver’s twin sister Wanda Maximoff as she tries to warp reality to bring back deceased loved ones, so that seems like a truly bizarre coincidence, if it is the case. It’s also possible that both Peters and Taylor-Johnson will play the role – after all, Wanda is going to be toying with some pretty dangerous magic, so it’s easy to imagine her accidentally summoning two versions of her brother out of the Multiverse. Such a mishap would also feel right at home in a sit-com like the ones by which WandaVision is inspired.

WandaVision
themarysue.com

But even if Peters’ role is only for a cameo, it’s still a major step forward for the MCU. Up until now, we’ve cautiously hoped for crossovers like these: but this would be the biggest one yet. And if it goes well, it’s possible it could be followed by other, similar crossovers. Other X-Men stars could potentially show up for Multiverse cameos, or small supporting roles: for instance, fans are already reacting well to the footage we’ve seen of Anya Taylor-Joy and Maisie Williams as Magik and Wolfsbane in The New Mutants, which will be the last of Fox’s X-Men films whenever it finally gets released. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet is still waiting for her chance to appear in the mainstream Marvel universe. There are a bunch of talented actors and actresses who have become fan-favorites without ever once showing up in MCU canon, and they don’t deserve to be tossed aside. Peters’ casting bodes well for all of them.

On the other hand, the MCU does have a responsibility to differentiate itself from what came from – and let’s not fool ourselves: the reaction to most of the Fox X-Men films was mixed, to say the least. Therefore, even if Peters is playing Quicksilver in WandaVision, I expect him to only have a small role, and I doubt he’d ever show up again. But who knows? I never even imagined we would be here, discussing this.

What do you think of Evan Peters being cast? Who do you think he’s playing? Would you like to see any more crossovers from the various other franchises existing on the fringe of MCU canon? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

For Pride Month 2020, Let’s Discuss The Year’s Biggest LGBTQ+ Moments In TV And Film!

SPOILERS FOR HARLEY QUINN SEASON 2 AND SHE-RA SEASON 5!

Happy Pride Month! As we begin to celebrate the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the community has accomplished already in 2020, through the mediums of TV and film. Though coronavirus has prevented many inclusive films from making it to theaters this year, there are still plenty that did get there before the world went on lockdown, and many more that have released on streaming. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the setbacks the LGBTQ+ community suffered early in the year, and three outstanding breakthroughs in representation that both occurred just last month which could signal big changes in the industry.

Of course, I should note that this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of every film or TV series released this year that touches on any of these issues – this is merely a discussion of some especially significant incidents spanning the course of the past several months, which I feel present a fairly accurate depiction of the year’s many ups and downs as a whole.

She-Ra LGBTQ
She-Ra rescues Catra | tor.com

2020 opened on a promising note with Marvel President and head producer Kevin Feige boldly announcing that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would welcome its first ever transgender superhero in the very near future, at a Q&A where he used the words: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.” Unfortunately, the moment was irreparably tarnished when it was revealed that Feige hadn’t realized the question was specifically about transgender superheroes, and only meant an LGBTQ+ superhero was coming very soon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that transgender heroes aren’t going to appear in the MCU at some point (there are rumors that a transwoman superheroine, Sera, could appear in either the Loki Disney+ series or Thor: Love And Thunder), but it does cast doubt on when that will ever happen. It was a bad omen, heading into the new year.

Marvel LGBTQ
Marvel Comics’ transgender heroine Sera | mcuexchange.com

In February, Marvel’s rival DC had a golden opportunity to explicitly confirm that one of their most major characters was canonically LGBTQ+ – but instead, their hyped-up zany comedy Birds Of Prey danced around the issue of sexuality, giving only eagle-eyed viewers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to lead character Harley Quinn’s bisexuality in an animated sequence, while simultaneously hinting through stereotypical mannerisms that flamboyant, misogynistic villain Roman Sionis and his partner-in-crime were a gay couple. A lesbian character in the film, Renee Montoya, did play a large role and had an ex-girlfriend who also showed up, which makes Birds Of Prey something of a “one step forward, two steps backward” sort of situation.

Around the same time, the Disney+ streaming platform came under fire for a slew of reasons, most of which involved the service’s attempts to whittle down their roster of upcoming original content in a manner which many saw as discriminatory towards series’ with a focus on LGBTQ+ issues. While Disney+ didn’t do this with all of their shows (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Diary Of A Future President both featured openly LGBTQ+ characters), they did make the decision to move their hotly-anticipated Love, Victor (a spinoff of 20th Century Fox’s successful gay romance Love, Simon, obtained during the Disney/Fox merger) to Hulu, deeming it too mature for their own platform. One of the service’s most high-profile original series’, a sequel to the Lizzie McGuire Disney Channel series, was shut down entirely – with some sources saying that it was due to the way in which the story tackled matters of sexuality. It didn’t take long before the whole situation had raised a very interesting discussion about what is “family-friendly”, but that hasn’t saved Love, Victor from heading to Hulu, nor has it resurrected Lizzie McGuire.

Love, Victor LGBTQ
Love, Victor | deadline.com

In March, as the world started falling apart thanks to coronavirus, the Pixar film Onward was lost in the catastrophe, and moviegoers barely had any time to acknowledge the fantastic animated feature or its moment of LGBTQ+ representation – a moment that would have been great, had it not been leaked to the press by eager journalists prior to the film’s release and subsequently massively overhyped. In the film, a cop played by openly lesbian actress Lena Waithe briefly mentions her girlfriend in a single line of dialogue. Despite how brief the moment was, the film was still boycotted by conservative groups like One Million Moms and banned by several Middle Eastern nations.

Within a few weeks, the coronavirus had already caused major shifts in the film industry: films were being reshuffled across the board, movie theaters around the globe were shutting down and studios were hurrying to push all their upcoming or recently released content onto streaming. Unfortunately, one notable victim of all the release date rearrangements was Marvel’s The Eternals, a film already remarkable for its diverse cast. The superhero epic directed by Asian-American indie icon Chloe Zhao is set to feature the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first gay couple, and was supposed to release in November of this year. Sadly, the film has now been pushed back to February of 2021, meaning we will have to wait even longer before we can find out what Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman was talking about when he said that there’s a gay kiss in the film that’s so emotional it made people on-set begin crying. Another Disney film, Jungle Cruise, was delayed an entire year, and will now be opening in summer, 2021: though it’s been invisible in the film’s marketing so far, Jungle Cruise is supposed to introduce Disney Studios’ first openly gay character – which is already somewhat controversial, as Disney couldn’t even be bothered to find an openly gay actor to play the role, rumors say that the character’s depiction is “hugely effete”, and test screenings apparently revealed that the character has a coming out scene in which he never actually states that he is LGBTQ+. Perhaps a delay for that movie wouldn’t be a bad thing, as it could allow them to do some much-needed reshoots.

But not everything has been all gloom and doom. The past month has introduced a wave of new representation: some of it from DC Universe, some from Netflix, some, most shockingly, from Disney+ – all of it through the form of animation.

In the first instance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn animated series rectified Birds Of Prey‘s glaring omission by adhering to comics canon and having Harley Quinn and fellow Gotham City supervillain Poison Ivy begin a tentative relationship, which has even resulted in the two sharing a kiss. The duo now have to sort out their messy, complicated feelings for each other, and that’s great. It’s the first time the relationship, which was wildly popular in the comics, has been represented onscreen – and fans are already enjoying the canonization of the pairing, which they have labeled “Harlivy”.

She-Ra LGBTQ
Adora and Catra | polygon.com

However, something that sets Harley Quinn apart is that the series is exclusively for adults, meaning that its audience is necessarily limited. That’s not a problem that faces Netflix and DreamWorks, whose collaboration on the animated reboot of She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power is something that can be enjoyed by all ages – the fifth and final season premiered on the streaming service just recently, and made the hopes and dreams of the series’ many LGBTQ+ fans finally come true when lead characters Adora (a.k.a. She-Ra, Princess of Power) and Catra rekindled their friendship: which turned into a slow-burn romance, which culminated in the two confessing their love for each other in the series finale, kissing, and saving the world with the power of love. That, my friends, is representation done right – because as much as I enjoy seeing “casual” representation (such as the cop from Onward, who simply mentions her girlfriend without making it a big deal), I infinitely prefer seeing characters whose sexuality or gender identity is something that actually helps to define who they are. And with Adora and Catra, whose relationship has been at the heart of She-Ra for all five seasons, it made complete sense that their love would play a huge part in the conclusion to the story – and it did, because showrunner Noelle Stevenson is a brave, brilliant genius, who fought to make sure that she wouldn’t have to pull a Legend Of Korra on her fans and just have Adora and Catra hold hands and/or gaze platonically at each other.

Out LGBTQ
Pixar’s “Out” | nytimes.com

Finally, we have to talk about Out. Though Disney+ is still new and working out many of its flaws, they did just recently make a big step forward – or rather, Pixar did it for them and Disney+ gets to take the credit: Out, the newest of Pixar’s animated Sparkshorts which debuted exclusively on the streaming platform, follows a gay man in an interracial relationship as he struggles to come out to his parents. Even though the story involves an unpredictable magical mishap and a lot of dog humor, it never loses sight of its true focus, which is a heartwarming message of acceptance. The short, which clocks in at around nine minutes long, is an understated milestone, becoming the first Pixar story to star a gay lead – and much to its credit, enjoyed a spot on Disney+’s top trending section, which shows that audiences are curious and eager for more content like this.

And so, as we head into Pride Month coming off of small successes like Harley Quinn, She-Ra and Out, I must ask of all my readers that you keep fighting for change in any way you can: whether that means demanding more LGBTQ+ representation from Hollywood, or protesting police brutality because black lives matter – or, preferably, by doing both. One day, we will see that change, and it will come from people like you. 2020 is a wake-up call for all of us: to fight harder. To do better.

“Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season 7, Episode 1 Review!

Returning to the beautifully messy, Marvel Cinematic Universe-adjacent world of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a seventh and final season is already proving to be a wild and unpredictable ride, filled with plenty of fun character beats, clever jokes and even a couple of callbacks. Already, the story is moving along at a better pace than season 6, though it also appears to be suffering from a couple of that season’s same problems. As the Agents move backwards through time and space to try and prevent a hostile alien takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D., they encounter a wide variety of characters – some taken straight from the pages of Marvel comics, others borrowed from history books – along with a number of uniquely dangerous scenarios that require them to be on top of their game.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
medium.com

Unfortunately for the team, their leader and only guide through the past is currently having something of an identity crisis. As you may remember from the season 6 finale, the team made a decision to resurrect the recently deceased Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) by planting his preserved consciousness into the synthetic body of an LMD robot. And though our first glimpse of LMD Coulson was as his smiling, chipper old self, it quickly becomes apparent that all is not well with him – Coulson, despite agreeing to help the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. one last time, is clearly angry at them for bringing him back from the dead: it’s been a recurring problem for his character, as the other S.H.I.E.L.D. members (and, ahem, the showrunners) can’t seem to let him rest in peace. LMD Coulson is seen struggling through panic attacks as his old memories flood his systems with past pain, trauma and guilt. He also ominously tells Director “Mack” (Henry Simmons) that when all is said and done, he will “reevaluate” the situation – dialogue that seems to forewarn more trouble for his character in the near future. It’s easy to imagine that everything will come down to his choice whether or not to die and stay dead – already, the premiere is hinting at possible conflict as LMD Coulson remarks during fight scenes that being a nearly indestructible robot has its perks after all, and he seems very happy being back in his element, leading the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on a romp around 1930’s New York City, fanboying over historical figures and relishing the opportunity to dabble in the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Apparently, not too much dabbling is strictly allowed by the rules of the series’ time travel mechanism, which appears to be rather different than the one presented in Avengers: Endgame. Though it hasn’t been explicitly stated what will happen if the Agents mess with historical events, everyone – and particularly super-genius Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) – strongly advises against it. In Endgame, tampering with history didn’t really matter too much, since the Avengers were simply creating alternate realities with every Infinity Stone they stole and every character they accidentally almost killed.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
digitalspy.com

As one would expect, however, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to changing history, as they find themselves in a number of predicaments that require drastic measures. Surprisingly however, it’s not the team’s newest recruit, time-traveling business entrepreneur Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) who causes these predicaments (despite Mack specifically singling him out and ordering him not to try and file any patents in the past), but rather one of the team’s most senior members, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet). Johnson was somewhat sidelined in the sixth season, but here she is already back in form – even encumbered by an impractical dress, she still has excellent fight scenes, making ample use of her Inhuman powers, and her confident wittiness provides a nice foil to Coulson’s steady flow of awkwardly timed “dad jokes”.

The members of the team who actually get to wander through the streets of Great Depression-era New York – Coulson, Daisy, Mack and Deke – also get a much-needed makeover, trading in their sleek black S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms for historically-accurate outfits, haircuts and accessories. Daisy complains about having to get rid of her purple highlights, but her resulting 30’s look, complete with delicate white gloves and a fancy fur stole is far and away the premiere’s best. Mack comes closest to matching her retro vibes, though he himself notes that the sight of “a black man in a fine suit” attracts more attention from passerby than he had hoped.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
showbizjunkies.com

The action back on the team’s ship is significantly less interesting and much less stylish, but Agent “Yo Yo” Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) has a number of touching, heartfelt moments while debating whether she wants to even try and fit in with the times if it means having to hide her mechanical arms, which she had grown to accept and be proud of, behind new, eerily life-like prosthetics. But for the most part, she and Simmons are forced to stand around and watch while the helpful Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) patches up Melinda May‘s (Ming-Na Wen) wounds from the season 6 finale.

A few other characters show up and either help or hinder the heroes’ journey. In particular, I have to give a shoutout to Patton Oswalt, who returns to the series to reprise his role as Koenig, the mysterious man with a seemingly endless number of identical siblings. Here going by the very appropriate codename “Gemini” and working as the proprietor of a speakeasy, this Koenig bears little resemblance to his descendants (apart from, you know, being identical to them): he’s rude, demanding, and a bit sexist. But he also hires a young man named Freddy (Darren Barnet), who proves to be of much greater significance to the story than one would guess.

And that’s my cue to start talking SPOILERS!, so if you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Freddy” from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. | newsweek.com

Yes, as it turns out, the Freddy who is working as a waiter at Koenig’s bar is in fact Wilfred Malick, a.k.a. one of the key members of HYDRA, the organization that would go on to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. soon after its foundation and, eventually, rip it apart from the inside – and it’s Freddy who is the reason why the Chronicoms have invaded 1931. But as Coulson and Daisy realize at the very end of the episode (in an exchange which, unfortunately, was already revealed in the trailers), the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now have to save HYDRA in order to save S.H.I.E.L.D., because without the one, the other cannot exist. The symbiotic relationship between the two covert groups has never been more fascinating.

But watching S.H.I.E.L.D. history unfold in front of our eyes is twice as much fun when its intertwined with real history – and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. perfectly mingles the two by leading Coulson and his team on a red herring mission to rescue then-Governor of New York Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Joseph Culp) from what they mistakenly believe to be an assassination attempt by the Chronicom aliens. Though they quickly realize they’ve made a mistake, they fortunately get to have a delightful little conversation with Roosevelt (who, in Marvel canon, founded the organization that would later become S.H.I.E.L.D.). It’s heartwarming to see how much the team idolizes him – in particular Coulson, who ends up helping the Governor into a wheelchair and is subsequently sworn to secrecy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
twitter.com | @bestofbennet

The episode’s biggest weakness is the Chronicoms themselves: the emotionless alien lifeforms whose mission to root their opponents out of history still feels pretty vague – tying everything back to the irreversible connection between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA is the right call, as the series began with that and ultimately should end with it as well: I just wish we didn’t have the Chronicoms right in the middle of the conflict, as I don’t know whether this thirteen-episode season will be able to balance so many storylines. Now, substitute the Chronicoms for the Kree and then I might reconsider, because at least the Kree have had connections to S.H.I.E.L.D. for a very long time – but these aliens, with their face-stealing technology and imperfect attempts at replicating humanity, feel very random. All except Enoch, who doesn’t really seem to have much stake (if any) in the fight between his civilization and the human race.

The episode’s last-minute stinger, however, brings the focus back to Enoch – though only as a way of showing us that Melinda May, who had been unconscious for the entire episode, is awake, and has escaped from her hyperbaric chamber. Judging by the glimpse of her face that we get as she watches Enoch from where she’s hiding in the ceiling fixtures, it looks like she’s having some issues of her own – she probably hasn’t quite gotten over the experience of being tossed through a portal into a demon dimension just yet. But as much as I’d love to see her deal with that pain as slowly as she needs to, I also don’t want the series to spend any more time addressing things from season 6 than it absolutely has to, if that’s at all possible. Even the mere mention of the Shrikes from last season made me want to cringe.

Overall, I hope the final season can improve. I had fun with this episode – the writing was good, and characteristically clever, but the heart wasn’t fully there. I want episodes that focus heavily on character development, rather than on time-travel mechanics and Chronicom politics. Namely, what I don’t want is another season 6: a season that gets so wrapped up in trying to outdo everything that’s come before, that it forgets to be fun and exciting. At the moment, season 7 could still go either way.

Episode Rating: 6/10

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!

“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.

Black Widow
syfy.com

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