Keeping Up with Marvel’s Phase 3 – Part 1

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There comes a time in every movie’s production where you simply have to stop and take stock of what you have.  Marvel may have complicated this with their increasingly ambitious, increasingly intertwined movie phases, but the need remains unchanged.  A lot has happened with these projects in recent weeks, and it’s time to take stock of what we know and what we can assume to be the case, starting with…

Captain America: Civil War – Given that we’re less than a year away from what’s bound to be the biggest summer movie of 2016 (Batman vs Superman not withstanding), we actually know quite a bit about the movie.  We know that this is basically going to be Avengers 2.5: not quite Age of Ultron, but still featuring the increasingly inclusive roster of Avengers in its entirety.

It’s going to have Captain America.  It’s going to have Iron Man.  It’s going to have Hawkeye.  It’s going to have Black Widow.  It’s going to have War Machine, The Winter Soldier and Falcon.  It’s going to have newcomers Scarlet Witch, Vision and Ant-Man.  It’s even digging deep to bring back The Incredible Hulk‘s General Ross and Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s Agent 13 (aka Sharon Carter).

It will furthermore introduce two brand-new avengers ahead of their solo movies: Black Panther and Spider-Man.  Notable absentees include heavy-hitters Thor and Hulk.  As you may or may not recall from Age of Ultron‘s final minutes, Banner took the Quin Jet and went into hiding to protect the team from the Hulk.  Thor returned to Asgard in order to unravel what’s going on with the Infinity Stones.  Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange and the Inhumans will simply have to be patient and wait for their solo movies to introduce them to the movie-going public.

Obviously, cramming all of these characters into one film is going to me nothing short of a monumental challenge.  Most are going to be relegating to extended cameos only.  The super-powered inductees will doubtlessly do little more than drum up interest in their own pending solo projects.  The focus is going to stay with the movie’s two leading men: Rogers and Stark.

Outside of the Avenger’s internal strife, long-standing Captain America villain Baron Zemo – whose purple, fur-trimmed outfit makes him look like he jumped out of Boystown Burlesque show – will be the movie’s main antagonist.  Crossbones, who debuted in last year’s The Winter Soldier, will return as well.

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Doctor Strange – Despite how incredibly out-there the good doctor often gets, Kevin Feige has promised to keep most – if not all – of his idiosyncratic charm in tact.  Doubtlessly reassured by how readily the public has accepted the infinite oddities of Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel is happy to present their characters with as much fidelity to their source material as reason will allow.

So this means that we will be seeing (in some capacity) the Eye of Agamotto: Strange’s iconic and immensely powerful amulet.  This means that we’ll see the reality-bending (and doubtlessly Easter Egg-filled) Sanctum Sanctorum.  This means that they won’t try to explain away his mystical powers as some kind of mutation or advanced technology.  This, in short, means that we’re most assuredly getting an authentic Doctor Strange.

In terms of casting, the title character is going to be played by the resplendent Benedict Cumberbatch.  Although Cumberbatch is a bit on the young side for my taste in Strange, he’s an impeccable actor who is unquestionably the best actor that they considered for the role.  It will be interesting to see what direction they decide to go: either aging Cumberbatch to a more suitably wizened age or keeping with his excessive youthfulness.

I couldn’t be happier with Marvel’s choice in directors for the film: Scott Derrickson.  Although hardly a household name, Derrickson is a skilled writer-director whose made a strong name for himself among horror fans for both writing and directing 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose and 2012’s Sinister.  The latter of these two is what has me most excited about his inclusion, given how strongly that film relied on the surreal blending of the ordinary with the extraordinary and its emphasis on good old fashioned tension.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Starlord Drax the Destroyer Gamora Rocket Raccoon Groot Marvel Cinematic Universe MCU Disney II

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – As we start to get further and further out from the immediate concerns of Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, there’s understandably less concrete information to go over.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seems to be that dilineating point, where speculation takes over a more factual discourse.

The movie’s script is finished and has been sent out to the actors and crew to begin prepping for.  According to writer-director James Gunn, it’s going to be “both a bigger movie and a smaller movie because we focus more intensely on some of the characters.”  It supposedly focussing on the mystery of who Starlord’s father is and made Chris Pratt cry when he read the dramatic reveal.

James Gunn has also dropped hints that a new character will join the clandestine team, although that character’s identity has remained a closely guarded secret.  He has teased that it is a woman, however, and that she is most likely going to be an original creation of his (although he was enfuriatingly non-committal about even that much).

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The Spectacular Spider-Man – This is the big one.  This is the one that everybody’s talking about.  This is the one that we’ve been waiting for since the whole “Marvel Experiment” began back in 2008.  Spidey is finally in the MCU where he belongs, and he’s rife with possibilities.

Tom Holland made headlines in the last few weeks for finally taking up the mantle of Peter Parker: a considerably younger Parker than we’ve seen on screen to date.  Marvel is gunning for a 15-year-old Parker who has already been Spidey for a while before we’ll first see him in Civil War.

This Spider-Man is not going to be an origin story.  We are not going to see them dredge up Uncle Ben just to shoot him again.  We’re not going to see Parker bitten by a radioactive spider a third time around.  We’ve seen that twice already.  I think we’re good without seeing it again.

It’s been tossed around that the film will be sub-titled The New Avenger, but there hasn’t been an official word on that yet.  The plot is supposed to revolve around Spider-Man desperately trying to get into the Avengers, going so far as to take Iron Man on to prove his worth.

What I find most interesting is that producer Kevin Feige isn’t trying to bill this as a block-busting action movie.  Instead, they’re basically trying to remake The Breakfast Club.  He has stated that

“Just as we hadn’t seen a heist movie in a long time, or a shrinking movie in a long time, we haven’t seen a John Hughes movie in a long time. Not that we can make a John Hughes movie – only John Hughes could – but we’re inspired by him, and merging that with the superhero genre in a way we haven’t done before excites us.”

Speculating on villains seems like a pretty moot point at this time, since they’re supposedly looking into adding to Spidey’s already extensive rogue gallery with a set of original villains.  Given how adamently they’ve been tying everything back to the Battle of New York, I would be downright shocked if Uncle Ben wasn’t killed in the Chitauri crossfire rather than by a more ordinary mugger.  Just you wait and see.

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Thor: Ragnarok – Speculation abounds concerning the content and direction of Thor’s third solo movie, absolutely none of which is more than mere conjecture.  We have a title, Loki’s reveal as the sitting king of Asgard in Thor: The Dark World, Odin’s presumed death and a badass title to work with.  That’s it.

We can assume from the title that Asgard will face some kind of cataclysmic event, but even that’s casting a pretty wide net, considering just how many world-ending beasts Norse mythology can draw upon.  There’s Ymir, the progenitive Frost Giant, who maybe wants to avenge the wrongs done to the Jotuns (ie, Laufey 2.0).  There’s Jormungandr, the World Serpent, who’s just about as devastating as his name would suggest.  Maybe they’ll shake things up and throw Muspelheim’s Fire Giants at Thor this time around.

My personal theory is that this will most directly connect with Thanos’ plans for the Infinity Stones: even more than Guardians of the Galaxy.  From Age of Ultronpost-credit scene, we know that Thanos has decided to take a more hands-on approach with his schemes.  We know that Asgard’s vaults hold the Tesseract, revealed to be the Space Stone: not just something that Thanos needs to complete his Infinity Gauntlet, but something that would greatly assist with rounding up the remaining singularities.

So now we have Thanos, Gauntlet in hand, besieging Asgard with whatever other Stone he happens to have on hand.  You have Thor likely discovering his brother’s profound betrayal and having to wrestle with joining forces with him (again) against a still greater foe.  There’s might, magic and more than a little Shakespearian drama.  All you have to do is throw in Beta Ray Bill and you’d have a real party.

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One Comment

  1. I’m hoping that they include Fenrir, because if it’s Ragnarok then he has just as much reason to be there as Jormungandr and more reason than the rest.
    Loki, by Mike Vasich, is a great book, telling the story of the Norse myths. The intro of each chapter tells the Norse myth, and then the chapter retells it a different way. It’s definitely worth a read if you want to learn more about Ragnarok.

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