Monday, August 20, 2012

The Present State of the Marvel Universe

So here they are…the new slew of Marvel films set to come out over the next two years. So far, here are the set release dates:

"Iron Man 3": May 3, 2013
"Thor: The Dark World": November 8, 2013
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier": April 4, 2014
"Guardians of the Galaxy": August 1, 2014
"Ant-Man" TBA

I'd like to go over some of the stuff I'm seeing, and (all in my humble opinion) what I like and don't like. ***POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING OF "THE AVENGERS" AND STUFF IN GENERAL. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.***

First of all, it's pretty obvious that the Marvel Universe is going cosmic. Here's a visual:

Yeah…pretty awesome, right? Note: Extra points if you can find Impossible Man. Anyway, Starting with "Thor", and greatly escalating in "The Avengers", extraterrestrial themes are slowly becoming mainstream in this franchise. And the Thanos teaser at the end of Avengers (as well as the future Guardians movie) doesn't suggest it's about to stop. While this is real cool and all, I don't want us to forget a part of superhero teams that seems about to be left behind: the super villain team.

Aside from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the lame attempt at partnership between Sandman and Venom, I can't think of any real super villain teams in any Marvel movie to date, let alone the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" of the last four years. The classic such team to be put against the Avengers is the Masters of Evil (you can see them on my background). Below you can see my favorite incarnation, the one used in the extremely popular television series "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Left to right, they are Crimson Dynamo, Wonder Man, Baron Zemo, Enchantress, Executioner…

…and Abomination.

In a chaotic world of aliens and gods, I find a nice little team-up like this to be very refreshing. It also provides more room for villain character development, allowing them to play off each other like the heroes get to. The "supreme overlord + mindless drones" stereotype (as seen in "The Avengers") doesn't allow this kind of growth (albeit Loki was an awesome villain, and showed much more character than I expected).

So lets take a look at how such a team-up could be put on the big screen, and at any evidence that it may happen.

In the cartoon, Zemo was Captain America's villain, Enchantress and Executioner were Thor's, Crimson Dynamo was Iron Man's, Abomination was Hulk's, and Wonder Man was kind of Ant-Man's, and kind of Black Panther's. So far the only one of these who has been in a recent film is Abomination, in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk". 

So let's look at "Thor: The Dark World". It's already revealed that the villain is Malekith the Accursed, played by Christopher Eccleston. I was hoping that they would use this installment to introduce E&E, but it seems not. I guess there's always the possibility of a cameo, but that doesn't seem like enough strength to carry them into "The Avengers 2". 

That's really what I'm hoping for–that Thanos will be more of a behind the scenes villain in A2, while some sort of human (or thereabouts) team of villains does the main roughhousing with the heroes.

Pretty much the same as T:TDW goes for CA:TWS. I was hoping that they would introduce Baron Zemo, or the modern version of HYDRA led by Baron Von Strucker, or something with AIM and MODOK. Instead, it seems they are reintroducing the seemed-to-be-dead Bucky Barnes as the amnesiac Winter Soldier. This seems really bizarre to me. In the comics Bucky "died" right before Cap was frozen in the ice (incidentally it was Baron Zemo who was the cause of Cap's suspended animation, not the Red Skull, and that would have made a good lead-in to the Masters of Evil), thus when he woke up, Bucky's death was the only thing on Cap's mind, and provided some great character depth in the following stories. This was completely forgotten in "The Avengers", so it seems weird that now they want to bring Bucky back. Oh well. We'll see. Maybe the title is a red herring anyway. Also, this installment introduces the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, which should be interesting.

So how about villains already introduced? Well, Iron Man had Iron Monger in the first movie, and a Whiplash/Crimson Dynamo amalgamation in the second. Both of them are now dead, and are unlikely to come back. Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer is still alive, and threatened at revenge, but in the comics, I believe, he never amounted to a super villain. Also, Mandarin, Firepower, and possibly Coldblood (played by Ben Kingsley, Ashley Hamilton, and James Badge Dale, respectively) will be introduced in "Iron Man 3". I guess any of them would make okay Masters, but we'll see.

Thor doesn't have much going for him. I doubt Loki would ever be in such a team, and next year's Malekith just wouldn't seem right, a poor substitute for the Enchantress.

The Hulk has already had the Abomination, played very well by Tim Roth, and there was also a bit of a Leader teaser with Samuel Stern played by Tim Blake Nelson. There are many possibilities here.

All Cap's had so far is the Red Skull, who seems a bit too important to be in a team like this. That is, if he's even still alive, which he freaking better be. I have the feeling he might come back in "The Avengers 2" to team up with Thanos somehow. If this happens, awesomeness will abound. Also, Winter Soldier should be introduced in CA:TWS, but I think he's to much of an emotional device to be in the Masters.

As a note, Joss Whedon has said that Wonder Man, who at some point is on the good side, is the only Avenger he doesn't want to bring to the big screen. Whether he feels the same way about WM as a villain is yet to be seen.

And that's pretty much it for the Masters of Evil. I hope some form of this team gets a chance to shine. Now just a few extra things.

Besides the movies listed above, Marvel is also planning movies for Doctor Strange…

…The Inhumans…

…and Howard the Duck… 

…Just kidding, just kidding. No Howard. Whew.

Pretty much all I have to say about these movies is that they should be awesome, buts it's very possible that they'd suck, I'm afraid. Hopefully they'll have good actors, writers, directors, the usual.

There's also the possibility that there will be a Black Widow/Hawkeye and/or S.H.I.E.L.D. movie. As much as I love BW and Hawk, I kind of don't want Marvel to make this. I just don't think it could hold up to the bigger features. The same goes for S.H.I.E.L.D. Sorry Nick.

I'm really excited about the upcoming Ant-Man movie. I really am. None of the characters are cast yet, and there are too many rumors to list, but you can check them out here. Some of my favorite ideas are Adrien Brody as Ant-Man, and either Gary Oldman or Tony Shalhoub (OMG!!) as Ulysses Klaw. Wasp will almost definitely be in it, and Ultron could be too. And no, Nathan Fillion won't be playing Ant-Man. He just won't. He's even made fun of the character when asked about the part. Also, there is a rumored "Iron Man 3" post-credits scene where Ant-Man battles Radioactive Man–one of the original Masters of Evil. A possible hint there?

Possible other Avengers who don't seem to have any movies in the works are Ms. Marvel (Yvonne Strahovski is the top choice here), the Vision (PLEASSSE!), and the Black Panther (movie?).


I kind of want there to be a Namor the Sub-Mariner movie, but ehh…

…maybe that's not such a good idea.

One more bit of interesting news. Apparently ABC is planning, among possible other Marvel shows, a 2013 "Hulk" series. Whether it will star Mark Ruffalo is unknown for now. I'm really, really sad that they aren't planning a Hulk movie. I'm also confused. In "The Avengers", Ruffalo's Hulk totally stole the show, getting the best moments and stealing everyone's heart. And the actor hasn't even had a solo shot at the Jade Giant yet. Of all of the Avengers, it seems to me that the Hulk most calls for a solo movie. The only reason for not going ahead with this that I can think of is that none of Hulk's story lines further any likely Avengers 2 plot. But it's not like this is a major problem. I mean, they're making a movie about a talking raccoon, I think they could fit the Hulk in somewhere. All I'm saying is that if Hulk doesn't get a movie…

That's all for now folks.