Monday, May 14, 2018

Marvel TV and MCU News

Since my last post a few weeks ago an avalanche of news and speculation has come out. Below I cover Avengers: Infinity War news and theories; Avengers 4 theories; Black Widow speculation; Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, and Jessica Jones news; Captain Marvel; Ms. Marvel news; and the status of ABC's Marvel shows.

SPOILERS below for all released MCU movies and the Netflix shows

Jeremy Conrad (who broke The Eternals story) has the following rumour about Avengers 4:
In the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War, Nick Fury and Maria Hill are tracking the extraterrestrial signals being detected in Wakanda. Now neither Fury nor Hill knows about Thanos coming to Earth. But Fury does know about another extraterrestrial threat in the Skrulls due to him being around Carol Danvers in the 90s when she was dealing with them [in the upcoming Captain Marvel]. That’s why he sends the signal to Captain Marvel, because he believed the Skrulls were finally invading Earth. This then ties into Avengers 4 and Hawkeye’s role in the story. The rumor is that he’s working as Ronin in Tokyo and hunting down Yakuza, who are actually Skrulls. The casting notice for these extras apparently said they needed to be comfortable wearing a facial prosthetic, which would definitely point to them being Skrulls if true.
It sounds like the primary evidence for this rumour is the casting call associated with prosthetics. It's certainly plausible (as all good rumours should be), but if true doesn't sound like it's a major part of the story (simply background for what Clint has been doing).

Image result for five year gap

Another rumour floating around is that there will be a five-year jump from the end of Infinity War to its sequel. This idea primarily comes from something Gwyneth Paltrow said (see below), but also the casting of a 16-year old Cassie Lang and the leaked photos of Avengers 4 and Zoe Saldana's instagram from last year, both of which seem to show at least some characters in their outfits from the first Avengers/Guardians films. This is the idea:
In the five years after the events of Infinity War, Tony Stark (and possibly others) are now agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He and Scott Lang use some kind of technology that Hank Pym has developed in order to travel back in time in an attempt to defeat Thanos in the past. [The idea is Tony Stark will be married with a child and have to give up that life in order to save the trillions killed by Thanos.]
When the photos first leaked they were dismissed as Tony using his B.A.R.F. technology from Captain America: Civil War (this is because there was a set-photo that indicated that was the case--for those who don't recall, it allowed him to re-envision the past). The idea behind the five-year gap is that the story would echo Scott Busiek and Roger Stern's Avengers Forever storyline from 1998-99 (in which Avengers from the past and future are brought together to resolve the plot). The problem with this idea is that it's hard to jive the idea with the sequence of the second Spider-Man film unless the resolution puts them back in current times--and why would Nick Fury summon Captain Marvel if it was going to take her years to respond? It also runs against the MCU's normal routine of movies happening in real time (ergo, a year later).

[The Game of Thrones image above, incidentally, references George R. R. Martin's infamous five-year gap--where he planned a time jump from the end of Storm of Swords before the fourth book of the series, then changed his mind partway through the process which has since crippled his ability to finish the series.]

Joe Russo has said about the film (echoing Kevin Feige, link below):
I don’t think there are any comics that correlate to it. I think we’re in pretty fresh territory with Avengers 4. If anything, I think it’s interesting after to go back and look at some of the Marvel films and view them through a different lens. But I can’t think of any comics in particular that would have value
While this quote seems to contradict the idea of miming Avengers Forever, Conrad adds this (from Kevin Feige):
People always will jump to that [character death]. That’s not necessarily what we’re talking about. I talk a lot, because I’m a big-ass nerd, about Star Trek: The Next Generation, “All Good Things.” That to me is one of the best series finales ever. That wasn’t about death. Picard went and played poker with the crew, something he should have done a long time ago, right?
Conrad thinks this means we'll get something like that episode where Picard is jumping through time, re-visiting events to resolve the catastrophe. I remember the episode pretty well and the idea of exploring the past to solve the problem of the present is a good one (and matches what little information is out there), although I'm not sure what's known requires this kind of interpretation (or time travel--the B.A.R.F. tech could accomplish the same thing so long as they don't need to change or retrieve something).

While I don't think a five-year jump makes a whole lot of sense, of the various time-travel scenarios I've seen none of followed this pattern: stopping Thanos by stopping Civil War--preventing the events that lead to the Avengers breaking up so that they aren't separated when Thanos comes for the stones. This would involve at least three changes:
  • Preventing Loki from taking over in Asgard (Thor: The Dark World) - this would mean Odin isn't banished, Hela isn't freed (to destroy Mjolnir and cause Asgard's destruction), or Thor having to spend years running around the Nine Realms to sort out what was wrong (which might also prevent Thanos from getting the gauntlet made by Eitri)
  • Cap telling Tony that Bucky killed his parents (Winter Soldier) - the pair can process their grief long before Tony's guilt for creating Ultron has him back the Sokovia Accords and cause the Avengers to breakup
  • Banner making peace with the Hulk so he doesn't leave Earth (Age of Ultron)
This idea isn't perfect (I don't think it's what we'll see) and it doesn't answer some of the questions we have--like why is the team going all the way back to the first Avengers? There's even a rumour we'll see scenes from the first Captain America--how would that relate? This would also remove a lot of interesting character development and we know Taika Waititi wants to move on from the original Thor set-up, so something like this runs against what the MCU is trying to do and could take the stakes away from the consequences of earlier movies. That's the problem with time travel: avoiding confusion and making its impact felt in a way that feels earned. Ultimately I don't think we'll see anything in the past changed.

Finally we get to a rumour that comes from 4Chan. Why do we care about it? The same poster got some of Infinity War's elements correct (although looking through them most, if not all, seem derived from leaks, toy reveals, the comics and educated guesses), but its fun to go through these things anyway. So, this is the poster's version of the movie:
  • Iron Man reassembles the Avengers and decides to build his own Infinity Gauntlet to undo what Thanos did. They recruit Ant-Man to help them travel through time and space using the Quantum Realm to retrieve the Infinity Stones from different time periods. Thanos finds out about their plans and becomes hellbent on stopping them
  • The movie revolves around the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man
  • At one point, Captain America and Thor fight Thanos. Timeline alterations have restored Mjolnir, and Cap wields it against Thanos to allow the others to escape, and is killed holding Thanos off
  • At one point, Hawkeye must protect the unfinished Stark Gauntlet from Thanos' minions. He plays an "instrumental" role in Thanos' defeat
  • Thor's subplot centers on him assembling an army to challenge Thanos. Captain Marvel joins him
  • Hulk's subplot centers on Banner and Hulk finally merging to become Professor Hulk. He is the one that ultimately wields the Stark Gauntlet against Thanos, losing his arm in the process
  • Nebula's subplot centers on her efforts to redeem herself. At one point, she fights her murderous past self
  • Several MCU movies are revisited and retconned (probably not permanently), such as the Avengers retrieving the Power Stone creating a timeline where the Guardians of the Galaxy never came together
  • There's a pivotal scene between Doctor Strange and a fully CGI character being shot on a secret location, with a skeleton crew, and takes up a sizeable portion of the budget.
  • Only two of the original Avengers [are] meant to survive the movie. Cap dies.
  • The title was Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet at one point, but it might be changed after Zoe Saldana accidentally leaked it [this happened back in April, 2017]

You can see some parallel's to my thought-experiment above (with a different emphasis--here it's a hunt for the Infinity Stones). Is the basic premise plausible? Yes. Eitri has the mould for the glove, so making another is possible--certainly the power of a gauntlet is the simplest way to undo its work, although Stark himself (as a human) could never actually use an Infinity Stone. "Professor Hulk" refers to a Hulk with the intelligence of Banner--I'm accustomed to him being called the grey Hulk and when I was actively reading comics he went by "Mr. Fixit" (beginning in 1986).

What are the flaws of the summary? Let's go through them:
  • Stark can't actually wield the Infinity Gauntlet--Peter Quill, who is half-celestial, could only hold a single stone temporarily and then only with help--this doesn't mean he couldn't build one for someone like Thor, but that's not how the post presents things
  • Thor isn't going to die--prior to filming Ragarok (2016) it's likely Chris Hemsworth wanted to die (and the MCU was probably done with him too), but its success means there are more films for the thunder god in the works
  • There's very little Captain Marvel material here which would surprise me (even though Avengers 4 is meant to wrap-up the previous phases of the MCU I'd expect her to be more prominent)
  • I'm less certain that so many (four) of the original Avengers will perish. In terms of characters arcs, only Black Widow has places to go that won't be wrapped up by this movie (Iron Man's arc will be finished here, I think), but while someone like Hawkeye isn't that popular the rest of the characters are and I'm not sure how many the MCU really wants to kill off (Feige's comments about deaths above serve as a caution--comics almost never kill characters either)
  • There's no mechanism for how Doctor Strange returns from having been disappeared to being alive for his secret scene as described
  • Bringing back Mjolnir just to destroy it again seems redundant; I also don't think someone as important as Cap dies except in the climax

I suspect this post is just like the one for Infinity War--partially accurate--but comes via educated guesses from what's known rather than leaks or access to a script. Just to follow it through, however, if the movie does go through time to collect the Stones in their first appearances, we'd see callbacks to these movies:
-Captain America: The First Avenger (Space Stone)
-The Avengers (Mind Stone)
-Thor: The Dark World (Reality Stone)
-Guardians of the Galaxy (Power Stone)
-Doctor Strange (Time Stone)

Image result for young gamora

Speaking of rumours, there was a lot of speculation that Gamora was within the Soul Stone--this has been busted by Joe Russo:
And that moment when he clicks his fingers sends him into this ethereal plane inside of the Soul Stone where as part of his quote unquote hero’s journey in the film, he has one last moment to convey a sense of guilt about what he’s done. It illustrates what a complicated character he is. So, to clarify, it’s a spiritual representation of her [my emphasis] and obviously that’s something that the Soul Stone has power to do. But really it’s there to illustrate his pain and his guilt. I wouldn’t read much more into it beyond that.
This suggests she is indeed dead--which doesn't mean she can't come back in some way, but it sounds like the MCU is going to avoid the Soul World within the stone as per the comics.

Speaking of death, one of the weirder death confirmations we now have is Sif. Jaimie Alexander was scheduled to appear in Thor: Ragarok (presumably to die along with the Warriors Three), but couldn't due to her TV schedule. Apparently she is dead regardless (this time via Thanos). Betty Ross was also rumoured to appear, but she is also gone (either because Liv Tyler didn't want to come back or there was nothing left to do with the character).

The Luke Cage trailer looks pretty good. I'm a little surprised they kept Bushmaster's name (I've been assuming they wouldn't), but he was featured prominently as the antagonist. I'm curious if Netflix is going to move away from the six-episode arcs for antagonists--if not, presumably Mariah  will serve in the second half.

With more time to think about Cheo Hodari Coker's comments about Danny Rand's appearance, I suspect he's simply a single-episode cameo prior to the final battle with Bushmaster.

Iron Fist season two has wrapped filming, almost exactly five months after it began back in December. Conventional wisdom still imagines Daredevil season three appearing next (after Luke Cage), even though its filming won't wrap for another month. My opinion (which has been echoed, albeit unintentionally, elsewhere and I've expressed previously), is that we'll get Danny Rand's adventures first. I think it makes more sense to have Luke Cage and Iron Fist's releases close to one another (to capitalize off his appearance in Luke Cage). Back in October I went through how Netflix could release all four shows in this calendar year and that framework is still possible--with a September release for the next series (whichever they choose) and a November/December release for the other. What I'm truly hoping, however, is that Netflix realizes the shows need to interconnect much more to truly maximize what they can be (so no repeats of the disconnected Jessica Jones season two). Both the MCU itself and the CW DC shows prove how much this helps.

We got some casting news for season two, as veteran actors Annette O'Toole and Corbin Bernsen have been added. The latter is playing Anderson Schultz, a wealthy man, and O'Toole is playing his wife Eliza. Neither have a clear comicbook basis. This is the first casting news we've had in a couple of months. At the time the speculation was that we'd be seeing a version of "Suicide Run" which, if true, would presumably put the characters in the role of criminal bosses. I'm less sold on that idea, unless the adaptation is very loose. It would be a shame to give Jigsaw's origin in the first season and not use him as a primary antagonist in the second. I think it's much more likely we're getting an original story that simply borrows elements from the comics. I'm also curious if the restriction from Marvel to keep other Defenders from appearing in the show remains--I would hope not.

With casting news already coming out the production for Jessica Jones season three can't be that far away (to appear after The Punisher season two in 2019 presumably). That Hashtag Show has these breakdowns:
[ELLIOTT] Mid 30s-early 40s, male, open ethnicity. Must be over 5’11. A charismatic gambler and alcoholic. Attractive, quick-witted and dry. His edgy charm comes through even in the direst circumstances. SERIES REGULAR – ONE YEAR DEAL 
[COLLINS] 30-50, male, open ethnicity. He is physically spry, extremely intelligent and meticulous. Driven by a pathological need to feel superior. SERIES REGULAR – ONE YEAR DEAL
[KEIRA] 48-52, female, please submit African American, Latina, Asian, Native American, etc. A bohemian cellist and music professor. Intelligent, wry and sexy. Self possessed and able to weather any storm. SERIES REGULAR – POSSIBLE TWO YEAR DEAL
[ZELDA] 27-31, female, African American, strong, smart and driven. A rising star in her profession with the ambition and talent to propel her to the top one day. She’s earthy, beautiful, supportive and fiercely protective of those she loves. SERIES REGULAR – MULTI-YEAR DEAL
Typically the first letter of the name matches that actual name in the show. THS' guesses for season two postings were hilariously wrong and they acknowledge that there just aren't many characters from the character's comic past to draw from (all the additions last season were original to the show), so these are probably show-creations. That said, they made these guesses:
  • Edward Garner - this immensely obscure character (10 appearances debuting in The Thing, which makes me wonder if he's owned by Fox) ran the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (superheros wrestling each other), many of whom got their powers from the Power Broker (see below); this sort of storyline would be a lot of fun, something Jessica Jones avoids at all costs; my guess is that he's a love interest for Jessica (hopefully we will be saved from the awful Oscar in the next season)
  • The Power Broker (Curtiss Jackson) - a slightly more notable villain (31 appearances) who debuted in Captain America; his selection was to match Garner, but while I do think he's an antagonist I don't think this is who he is--I'm guessing it's another original creation
  • Unknown - the description suggests a possible love-interest for Hogarth; she certainly doesn't seem to be an antagonist
  • Member of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation - This connects to the UCWF idea above, which I don't think is on the table, so I think she's either a lawyer and part of Hogarth's storyline, or else a love interest for Malcolm
I still have PTSD from season two (my review isn't up yet, but I thought only the C and D plots worked, with A and B being derivative and occasionally bad--season one remains my favourite from the Netflix offerings, while the second is the worst--the complete lack of impact from the second season in the fandom indicates the show didn't miss just with me). Course-correction is always possible and perhaps showrunner Melissa Rosenberg can bring the show back to the heights of season one (the absence of Brian Michael Bendis material makes me doubtful, but it is possible). If the plot of the third season again revolves around previously unstated problems from Jessica's past I think that will asphyxiate the show. To quote Pops (Luke Cage), "Always forward".

I was feeling like a voice in the wilderness bemoaning the idea of the Black Widow movie being a prequel (as I said last time there's no new ground for it to go over, so what's the point?). Finally someone else out there agrees with me.

I've been thinking about where Captain Marvel has been since the 1990s (when her film is set). Has she simply been off in space leaving the problems on Earth to Nick Fury?  My guess is that she has been in suspended animation or that her abilities slow the aging process. My original suspicion was that she, like the original Wasp, was trapped in the Quantum Realm, but that's clearly not the case.

My familiarity with the Captain Marvel is quite limited--I know her mostly from her impact on Rogue in The Uncanny X-Men when I was reading the comic (1987-92). For those who don't know that story: Rogue takes Carol Danvers' powers in Avengers Annual #10 (1981) while she was still a villain working with Mystique; Danvers subsequently becomes the Phoenix-like Binary and joins the X-Men (#163; 1982), which Rogue joins not long after due to the trauma of absorbing so much of Carol's psyche (#171; 1983); this causes Danvers to leave in a rage. Carol regains her typical powers many years later (X-Men #269, 1990), but goes "off-page" for a considerable time afterwards (finally reappearing in 2000), joining the Avengers and re-branding herself as Warbird (2001). She returns to her old name (Ms. Marvel) after the disbanding of the Avengers (2005) and winds up on the Mighty Avengers (2007). The Captain Marvel moniker only became hers in her own comic in 2012. This complicated history will, I think, be ignored other than elements of her origin (but instead of Ms. Marvel she'll start as Captain Marvel). Whether any of the interaction with Rogue will happen once Marvel gets the X-Men back is hard to know (it's a great storyline, so maybe?).

Speaking of Ms Marvel, Kevin Feige recently said:
Ms. Marvel, which is another character in the comic books, the Muslim hero who is inspired by Captain Marvel, is definitely sort of in the works. We have plans for that once we introduce Captain Marvel.
I think this is part of the reason why the Carol Danvers film is in the past--there's plenty of time for Kamala Khan to have become a fan. Rumours about this being John Ridley's secret project for Marvel go back to April of 2015 (assuming this is his project for them), but those rumours were about him getting a television show with her. Feige, with the exception of Agent Carter, doesn't work with the TV-branch of Marvel (Marvel Entertainment), so putting aside whatever "sort of in the works" means, this suggests a film version of the character is on its way (presumably Kamala would be earth-based and Carol would be in space). This makes a lot of sense to me for both popularity and representative purposes. For those unfamiliar with the character, she was introduced in 2013--a teenage Inhuman character whose powers are similar to Mister Fantastic; before those powers manifest she's a fangirl of Danvers.

As expected Scott Buck's disastrous Inhumans officially got the axe from ABC. Agents of SHIELD remains hanging in the balance--will it be cancelled, retained, or moved to another platform? For myself, until the show actually becomes connected to the MCU/Netflix I won't be tuning in (as I've mentioned before). [Hours after I originally posted this it was renewed for an abbreviated sixth season.]
Image result for ch-ch-changes

There's a great comment from Joe Russo I want to touch on:
I think all of this — Netflix, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ this massive moment of disruption we’re in — is really a function of audiences craving new kinds of storytelling. I think we had a really nice run for 100 years of two-hour, two-dimensional storytelling, but I think over the next decade, decade-and-a-half, you’re going to see a radical shift in how stories are told.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. The attachment to traditional movies is one reason why some people struggle so much with Marvel movies--there's a sense of exasperation and resistance to change (Mike Stoklasa from Red Letter Media expresses this quite plainly--although it's worth noting he liked Infinity War). Those who struggle with it sometimes have the other problem you see with critics who find the entire genre ridiculous (people in capes fighting crime?). Those with the latter view get into fights with fans over the silly elements in these kinds of films (Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an example of this--for someone who thinks the film is aimed at 12-year olds, why should it matter if something in the movie doesn't make sense?). Critical conservatism is nothing new--to use literature as an example, it took 150 years for William Shakespeare to be acknowledged as anything more than popular entertainment (we can thank Samuel Johnson for that); decades for Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, and so on to get their due--just as many of their genres (horror, fantasy, etc) were long rejected. Comicbook movies are another rung on the ladder of critical appreciation (as, indeed, were comics themselves).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Marvel News

No SPOILERS below--I haven't seen Avengers: Infinity War nor have I had it spoiled--anything related to it is just speculation.

Frank Palmer at Screen Geek is claiming a major Marvel character dies:
The beginning of Avengers: Infinity War features the death of a major Marvel character. Some fans will be expecting it, while others will be blindsided.
Palmer himself echoes Kevin Feige's statement that deaths in the film will be permanent (looking, no doubt, to avoid the of Phil Coulson situation--dying in The Avengers only to spend five seasons on Agents of SHIELD). I agree with Palmer that, if true, the most logical character to die would be Loki--there's really no other major character that makes sense (and no, Heimdall does not count)--but this speculation isn't new as his death was rumoured weeks ago (eg). If this is true it will be a hard pill to swallow as Tom Hiddleston has been excellent in the role and there seems to be plenty of room for growth--admittedly his transformation from villain (Thor and The Avengers) to ally (Thor: Ragnarok) is a pretty complete character journey.

Feige, who was talking to everyone about everything in the run-up to Infinity War, told Mike Ryan:
I knew some about him [Captain Mar-Vell], but it was definitely Carol Danvers who was most interesting to us and why we choose her. [Mar-Vell will play a role when it comes to Carol Danvers’ origin story.] But as that character connects to the origin of Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel? We’re pulling from some of that for inspiration.
This turned into other sites saying "Kevin Feige isn't familiar with Captain Mar-Vell" which isn't what he said at all. To unpack this, let's briefly go over the origin of the film itself. Back in 2013 a Ms. Marvel script (pre-Kamala Khan, who first appeared in August of that year) was mentioned (Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel in 2012, so the script process presumably began no later than that), with Marvel looking for female-driven films (something Marvel Entertainment head Ike Perlmutter kept rejecting (passim; 'women and minorities don't sell toys' being his rationale--thus no Black Widow toys with the Avengers, cf). The announcement of a Captain Marvel film came in October, 2014 (alongside Black Panther, whose development history has a similar trajectory--both films delayed about a year after their announced date).

What this means is that in 2013 (at the latest) Kevin Feige had decided on a Carol Danvers film and, as a huge comicbook fan who is very involved in the MCU, he would know her origin story when she became a hero (as Ms. Marvel) in 1977 (the character dates back in 1968). Briefly, a former pilot and CIA agent who joins NASA, she befriends the Kree Mar-Vell (who debuted in 1967), who was using the identity of Dr. Walter Lawson as a cover--she becomes romantically and tangibly involved with him and via an accident gets her powers. Mar-Vell eventually gets cancer and dies (1982)--like every superhero in the comics his death doesn't last, but that's not our concern here. While the MCU is going to keep the Kree part of this story, along with Danvers having been an pilot and friend to Mar-Vell, I doubt how she gets her powers will be the same.

My assumption about the film (which takes place in the 90s and involves conflict between the Kree and Scrulls) is that it will end with Danvers trapped in the Quantum Realm, freezing her in time (much like Captain America), although how and why I have no idea. Because the film takes place in the past and it's expected she will be a major part of Avengers 4, it's not clear what will happen in her sequel as the version of the character the MCU is presumably going to draw from is the very modern (2015+) leader of S.W.O.R.D. and there's not many stories to draw from that (although I would enjoy her having adventures with Alpha Flight, the Canadian mutant superhero team who become part of SWORD).

As expected Jeremy Conrad is more reliable than Umberto Gonzalez, as less than three weeks after his scoop about The Eternals coming to the MCU Kevin Feige confirmed to Gonzalez (of all people) that they are having those discussions at Marvel. Gonzalez says 'insiders' have told him "multiple screenwriters have taken meetings and have been asked to come up with a story that focuses on the female Eternal known as Sersi"--I'd take his speculation with a grain of salt (especially in the immediate aftermath of his "insider knowledge" blowing up in his face).

Speaking of comments from Feige, he said the following about Nova:
Nova is… if we have a big board with a bunch of characters that have more immediate potential, Nova is on that board. Because of the connection to the Guardians universe, because there are more than one example to pull from in the comics that are interesting [Richard Rider and Sam Alexander]. And you’re absolutely right, he was in the earliest drafts of the [Guardians of the Galaxy].
This is no surprise given that the Nova Corps itself was featured in the first Guardians film. With the second Guardians film teasing Adam Warlock and James Gunn teasing Quasar on Twitter last summer, there's a host of cosmic characters around for the MCU to play with.

That Hashtag Show is claiming actress Emma Fuhrmann will portray Cassie Lang (Scott Lang's daughter) in Avengers 4--they don't know why it's an aged-up version (Fuhrmann is 16), as original actress Abby Ryder Forston (who is 10) will appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp. If the report is accurate it's also not clear if this change reflects events happening in the aforementioned film or Avengers 4. In the comics Cassie is known as Stature and Stinger and was a member of The Young Avengers, becoming a hero after her father's death. This makes me wonder if the Phase Four change that's been referred too isn't just the addition of the Fox characters, but the addition of something like The Young Avengers (it's had a varying composition, but began with Iron Lad, Hulkling, Patroit, Wiccan, the Kate Bishop Hawkeye, and Stature--I don't think Marvel would feel beholden to this lineup, but its spirit of young characters with some connection to the original Avengers makes sense).

Speaking of That Hashtag Show, they claim the Black Widow film will be a prequel (which I'm not a fan of). Specifically:
Late last year, I was told that this film would take place in the past; today, that was confirmed by a second source. The film will find Natasha living in the United States 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union! That timeline places the film firmly in the mid-2000s [the USSR dissolved in 1991, meaning the film would take place in 2006], meaning we’ll meet up with Nat prior to the events of Iron Man 2. That time frame opens up plenty of options, and while many fans seem to want a Black Widow/Hawkeye team up in Budapest [cf The Avengers], we’ve been told that early discussions about the film involved Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier. Stan seemed to have some ideas about a potential Black Widow film recently and their unique comic book history could make for a VERY interesting adaptation. Though no director has been officially attached to the film, we can report that Brad Winderbaum will serve as the film’s executive producer, following his time in that role on Thor: Ragnarok. While rumors place the film on Marvel Studios slate of 2020 films, we were unable to confirm that release date.
While I'm a fan of Black Widow, I think re-treading a background already spoiled in other films (particularly Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron) is not the right move, so hopefully it's not the plot we get.

Joe Russo was asked to expand on his comments about potentially adapting the "Secret Wars" storyline and he said the following:
Listen, my second favorite character growing up, and one of my prized possessions in my comic book collection is Incredible Hulk #181, which of course is the first appearance of Wolverine [November, 1974]. I feel like the mission of the Marvel Universe is to keep expanding and surprising people. Surprise them with casting choices, surprise them with story choices. If we’re moving into this world of crossover events, certainly that affords opportunity for other large-scale stories from the books like Secret Wars [1984] — which was another favorite comic of mine as a kid.
CBR, the source of these comments, believes that because the original version of Secret Wars was one of Joe's favourites as a kid that that's the version he'd adapt (as opposed to the Jonathan Hickman version in 2015). I think the key element is "surprise them with story choices"--I seriously doubt the Russo's would want to simply have the Beyonder force heroes to fight before eventually defeating him themselves.

Antonique Smith's character role has been revealed: Detective Nandi Tyler, who was a childhood friend and then professional rival of Misty Knight. She's an original character (as in no comic book basis). This is very similar to the Diamondback plot from the first season and I worry it's going to fall into the exact same cliches--Smith's performance, of course, could give it much more weight.

The never-ending Moon Knight rumours (the last being Jon Schnepp's erroneous prediction that he'd appear in The Punisher) got a boost of sorts from Kevin Feige when he said:
Yes. Does that mean five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now? There are stacks of character cards that we have in our, in our development offices, which we look at. Which we pull for him, which we discussed.
This is pretty vague and doesn't suggest any kind of immediacy--indeed, he's always seemed like a character more suited to television, although this suggests he's not coming to TV any time soon (if at all).

Speaking of rumoured characters, last February Namor was rumoured to have a TV show or movie in production (the former seeming most likely) and at that time speculation was Marvel had reacquired the rights to him. Talking to IGN recently Kevin Feige made comments suggesting Universal still had some control over the character (likely the same distribution rights they own for the Hulk since Universal owns them both), meaning using the character would have similar complications. Given that Universal (owned by Comcast) is unlikely to ever sell the character back (who presumably isn't under the same seven-year reversion clock that the Fox characters were), the MCU ought to use him like the Hulk if they want to include him.

Deadline put out a story that said the following:
[Peter] Rice told Fox employees that the transaction will most likely [my emphasis] be completed by spring-summer 2019 and end of summer 2019 at the latest
This lead to innumerable outlets (eg) saying the deal is going to be done in the summer of 2019 if it goes ahead. There are two things to point out here: Rice said "most likely" (so the timeframe could be shorter or longer), and that it's "mostly likely spring-summer"--a period covering roughly April-August, which is pretty broad and whose precise timing has a major impact on what movies Fox could release beforehand. I can't imagine that Rice has insider knowledge of how fast the courts are going to move, so I take this as him simply telling his employees what's already known--these decisions take at least 12-18 months--and he has no reason to imagine the sale not happening.

Speaking of that impact, Brent Andrew claims to have talked to some high-level Fox production crew members who told him the following:

  • X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the last proper Fox Marvel movie (meaning adhering to the muddled Fox continuity beginning with Bryan Singer's X-Men in 2000)--they also seemed to confirm re-shoot rumours for the film (which I discussed a month ago and make sense given the release date change)
  • The X-Men characters (and everything else Marvel at Fox) will be integrated into the MCU ASAP and all are planned for Phase Four

None of these revelations are surprising (some pundits were speculating on a much longer integration, which I think is ridiculous), but it's added fuel to what's already been rumoured. It's also yet another sign that New Mutants is just never going to be released.

After writing the above Kevin Feige provided some fuel to the ridiculous fire by saying it will be a long time before the Fox characters appear. I believe this is him both being prudent as well as some deliberate obfuscation--the same way I viewed his Spider-Man deal denials (something Sony and Marvel adamantly denied right up to the official announcement). Until the sale to Disney is complete Feige isn't going to say anything about what Marvel will or won't do with the properties--I'm pretty sure that's viewed as tampering if he did. The plans are in motion and once the sale is complete we'll see those characters ASAP.

More updates from DC as apparently Birds of Prey is taking Suicide Squad 2's production date to be the next film in active production for the DCEU. I mentioned a month ago that it was unclear if Birds of Prey was happening at all, or if it instead was going to be the Harley Quinn movie or Gotham City Sirens. At that time rumours suggested Suicide Squad 2 was filming this fall, but if this is correct it appears that indeed we are getting the film Margot Robbie mentioned back in November, 2016. To me the decision makes a lot of sense--Suicide Squad was a mess and not an easy movie to make a sequel to. Birds of Prey, on the other hand, takes an element people liked (Harley Quinn) and puts it in a fresh context which could serve as a launching point for a Batgirl film (however weird it will be to have Batgirl before we get the Matt Reeves' Batman movie). Since this report came out Variety is reporting there are two scripts for the film and the only constants in both are Harley and Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). The report also indicates Suicide Squad 2 might film immediately afterward. It makes sense for DC to double down on female-lead films when the MCU is only just getting there, but whether they can actually put out a good film remains an open question (signing Ava DuVernay to direct New Gods is not a positive sign).

The other rumoured DC film, Blackhawks (if it ever happens given Spielberg's age and busy schedule), isn't connected to the DCEU, so I won't get into that.

The leaked Venom trailer wasn't that bad except for the look for Venom itself (I've seen mixed reactions to it, positive and negative). I'm still not sure how the film will work out for Sony--detaching the character from its Marvel context. As a trailer it's an improvement on the very bland teaser the preceded it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marvel TV and MCU News

Jeremy Conrad (known for breaking the Deadpool 2 story) has a scoop where he claims the MCU's next big team series will be the The Eternals. Here are the key points from his article:
Through confirmation from multiple sources [three], Marvel is looking to launch The Eternals as a new franchise post-Guardians of the Galaxy 3 [2020] and the wheels are already in motion to find Marvel’s new team of heroes. The decision to do them came after the success of the very Kirby-esque Thor: Ragnarok and DC developing their New Gods movie [in active production but with no release date], but they’ve been preparing for them for a while and we’ll see a moon-sized hint at them in Avengers: Infinity War this month [presumably referring to Thanos' home of Titan]. The rumor says the movie is currently on the Phase 4 schedule for 2021 or 2022, and there’s a possibility some of the Eternals could pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 before being spun off into their own franchise. As Guardians 3 is the final outing for this team, introducing new cosmic characters prior spinning them off into their own movie would make a lot of sense.
The rest of the piece is Jeremy giving his opinion on why this is happening. The notorious Umberto Gonzalez has already dismissed the idea, but his own track record is a mixed bag (his colossal error on who Zendaya was playing in Spider-Man: Homecoming is just the latest example, but you can see an old list of others here), so his dismissal on its own doesn't amount to much. James Gunn is pretty quick to point out incorrect rumours so he's the one I'd watch in terms of the validity of Conrad's claims (the news broke on April 4th and so far there have been no denials--Rich Johnston is reporting an official announcement is coming soon--this runs contrary to Kevin Feige's statement that none of the Phase Four films would be revealed until after Infinity War, so my guess is the change is a reaction to Conrad's scoop).

As for who The Eternals are: Jack Kirby's creation back in 1976 when he returned to Marvel from DC (where he had created the New Gods which is the DC film mentioned above) and there are a lot of similarities between the two (both companies cancelled the run before he finished the storyline, illustrating their limited public appeal at the time). Briefly: when the Celestials visited Earth five million years ago and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity, they created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants (very angels/devils). The Eternals are long-lived and in general protected the human race, especially from the Deviants, with whom they've always had an enmity. Eventually the Eternals develop godlike powers.

How much of this the MCU would keep is hard to say. If the focus is the cosmic there's less need for the Eternals to be from earth's past. Thanos, who is an Eternal in the comics, may or may not be connected to them in the MCU--generally the MCU simplifies things (eg Ego becoming a Celestial) and that's what I'd expect with the Eternals.

A thought to add to my Infinity War speculation: is Tony Stark going to be the Uncle Ben moment for Spider-Man? I don't mean replacing it necessarily, I just mean as the dramatic moment--the emotional scene that serves as the cinematic touchstone for Peter Parker? There's certainly something about Tony wanting Peter to be better than he is that has some resonance with Ben's declaration in the comics. Just a thought.

Speaking of my speculation, we've had a comment from co-director Anthony Russo related to some of it:
We were considering showing [Thanos’] backstory, but ultimately felt it wasn’t necessary for the movie
My speculation was that we'd see Thanos' call to action (as in the event which begins his quest to balance the universe), so does this debunk that idea? It may, but Russo could also be talking about his origin in particular (growing up and developing) which is not quite the same thing.

I've also seen speculation that the fourth Avengers film will be in some way be the "Secret Wars" storyline--an idea that makes no sense to me whatsoever and fortunately the Russo's recently made comments that saves me going through why, as they expressed an interest in doing Secret Wars once the Fox properties are back with Marvel (see below).

For those unfamiliar with Secret Wars it refers to two two series in the 1980s from Jim Shooter (1984-86) and then a series of the same name from Jonathan Hickman in 2015. The two stories are very different--in the former an omnipotent being called the Beyonder is at the heart of the plot (which was written at the behest of Mattel to sell toys), whereas in the latter it's a merging of the various Marvel universes (bringing the Ultimate universe together with the default 616-universe, among others). The motivations of both are vastly different and when the Russo's refer to them I think they mean Hickman's (a sentiment echoed by others). While I no longer believe we'll ever see TV characters in the MCU, if we do this would be the place.

On the more take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt side of things the same Conrad has a one-source rumour that the Black Widow movie will be in 2020. This isn't much of a leap to make (it was my guess when the dates of phase four were announced). While Scarlett Johansson isn't old by any means (33), as a character she'll have had seven major appearances beforehand (I'm excluding her cameo in Thor: Ragnarok) and there comes a time where the interest in a solo appearance might fade away. Given how much Sebastian Stan has talked about such a movie it wouldn't be a surprise if he was in it (seeing the MCU tackle an espionage film would be fun).

On the Netflix side of things more news is coming out about Luke Cage season two (which is just two months away). Talking to Empire Magazine, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker said:
Danny [Rand] helps Luke channel his chi in a fight to end all fights that was just one of the most fun things we've done.
This doesn't specifically give us much of an idea for why Luke seeks out Danny's help (to deal with the Bushmaster perhaps? see below), but it does suggest fun is part of the process, which is what you want from a nascent Heroes for Hire. It also doesn't provide any hint at how long Danny is in the show--what's described could be one episode or it might be part of a story arc (my guess is the former).

Coker also described Bushmaster's powers as being virtually the same as Luke's. Speaking of villains he deflected addressing the specific problems the first season had with Diamondback as a villain (implying it was largely a matter of comparative performance, ie, Mahershala Ali was so much better than Erik LaRay Harvey that it made his character seem poor by comparison--something not very fair to Harvey who, I think, was at minimum a victim of bad material).

In talking about Luke's journey Mike Colter said:
Luke is his own worst enemy, and that's something I enjoy playing about him, because he doesn't necessarily understand the results of his actions. He's fallible and he makes mistakes. He's got an edge, he's got a chip on his shoulder, he's got to discover his own popularity and enjoy it a bit. He's learning on the fly what it is to be someone everybody recognises, to be someone everyone in Harlem looks to for answers. It's a lot of responsibility
This is a good arc to follow since it's so distinctive from two of the other Netflix characters (Daredevil is a secret identity and Jessica Jones doesn't want popularity). Comments from Simon Missick were a bit more vague:
How does this person who is identified by her strength and her power as a cop do that job [without her good arm]? She can't. So we see Misty at the top of the season walking away from the thing that defined her.
So it seems Misty leaves the police (something presumed when we heard Daughters of the Dragon was going to be in Iron Fist season two), but it's not clear what she leaves the police for and discovering that seems to be her journey for the season.

Despite mixed reactions to the latest season of Jessica Jones it has been confirmed for another. The speedy renewal (about a month later) suggests Netflix had already made up its mind prior to the release of two (much as it had, say, with a Punisher series or Daredevil season two). What will be interesting to see is how showrunner Melissa Rosenberg reacts to the mixed feelings fans had about the second season--comments after the first showed her very concerned with audience reception (citing Dexter's collapse) and she can't be happy with how the second season was received. The obvious change to make would be to push Jessica's story forward rather than triple-dipping into her past, but we shall see (and it is a long way away).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

MCU News

Luke Cage has added Annabella Sciorra to the cast, playing Rosalie Carone. She's the creation of Chuck Dixon (1992) and one of many short-lived Punisher villains (she's part of a mafia family and has been dead since 1996). I mentioned back in December that the roster of Iron Fist villains was fairly small and this is just as true for Luke Cage. Given the budget limitations of the Netflix shows they have to steer clear of villains with special effects-heavy superpowers, making many of Luke/Danny's villains unavailable. Because of that I'm not surprised that we're seeing Punisher characters pilfered for use in other series' (he has a vast cast of villains who are suited to the format). I'm not expecting Rosalie to be the main villain, as Bushmaster (who definitely won't be using that name) and Nightshade--along with Shades and Mariah--are presumed to be the primary antagonists. It's worth noting the first two characters are also not original Luke Cage villains, being Iron Fist and Captain America foes initially (as I go over here).

We've learned Jay Ali has been cast as a series regular in Daredevil season three as one of the FBI roles reported by That Hashtag Show back in November. I've been speculating for awhile now that there might be something broader going on with the inclusion of agency characters in the various shows (ie, not regular police). The list:
The Punisher - featured the CIA and DHS (who would be involved in the show regardless)
Jessica Jones - hasn't strayed from standard police
Luke Cage - none yet announced
Daredevil - "Ben Jeffries" and "Steve" (FBI agents)
Iron Fist - "Tanya Parker" (a covert operative--perhaps CIA or something similar)
I'm probably reaching here as what stands out is having that kind of character in Iron Fist (not typically something you'd expect there). My hope is that we'll see a The Defenders team-up versus the Kingpin (who tends to engender that kind of attention), but what this might indicate is a stronger leaning on procedural drama for the Netflix shows (I don't we'll see a repeat of Jessica Jones' season two soap operaish approach).

I finally finished watching The Runaways--I got about halfway through the show back in December, but things got in the way of me completing it (that's the problem with not dropping all the episodes at once--the can be interrupted flow). While Hulu's offering has a different feel from the Netflix properties, I quite enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to another season. The showrunners (Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage) found a way to make their limited special effects work and even though it has a strong YA leaning it avoided the worst elements that come with that (the romance is cringe-worthy, but otherwise everything worked for me).

While the Marvel TV remains largely disconnected from itself and completely detached from the MCU, Clark Gregg (Phil Coulson) is going to get one last hurrah as he's slatted to appear in Captain Marvel (along with Ronan the Accuser and Korath from Guardians of the Galaxy; and Maria Hill from both Avengers films and Captain America: Winter Soldier). Given the time frame the movie is set in (the 1990s) it's also possible the older Howard Stark (Iron Man 2, Ant-Man, and Civil War), Thunderbolt Ross (The Incredible Hulk/Captain America: Civil War), Everett Ross (Civil War and Black Panther), Hank Pym (Ant-Man/Ant-Man and the Wasp), Janet Van Dyne (Ant-Man and the Wasp), and Bill Foster (Ant-Man and the Wasp) could appear. I'd be shocked if Peggy Carter wasn't featured (an MCU favourite). The announced characters are already more than enough, but it's interesting considering which characters could appear given the era.

I wanted to briefly dismiss some articles that have come out recently claiming Doctor Strange 2 has been confirmed (something I think will happen in due course): all of these posts derive from a report on Movieweb which simply describes what writer C. Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson have said they would do if they get a sequel. The point here isn't that we won't get a sequel (I believe we will), but simply the source of the confirmation is erroneous in this case.

I believe that behind the scenes Fox is doing Disney a favour by delaying New Mutants long enough for them to kill it (an opinion Andre at Midnight's Edge shares). The deal is a good one for the sellers (the Murdochs), so it certainly suits them to help out their buyer. Since the underwhelming trailer for New Mutants dropped in October of 2017, the only news has been delays: the first delay was announced in January, just three months prior to release (moving to February, 2019), and now it has been moved to August, 2019, which means it will absolutely be in Marvel's control (and, I suspect, never released to avoid sullying an otherwise pristine brand). There's no reality that requires 16-months to fix New Mutants (that's enough time to re-film the entire movie). Also on the move is X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which shifted from November of this year to February of 2019. It's likely the unwanted sequel will still appear, since Fox can't really do more damage to the brand, but reading the tea leaves from studio shill Steve Weintraub X-Men requires unscheduled re-shoots that, in order to accommodate the actors, meant pushing the release back. All big-budget movies plan re-shoots, so this implies unplanned re-shoots meaning the film truly tanked in screen tests (rumours suggest the third act is the problem). These moves heavily impact Fox's original plan of three comicbook releases in 2018 (now just Deadpool 2, which has no impact on the future MCU-brand). While Comcast (which owns Universal) is trying hard to stop the sale to Disney, the delays buy more time to win out in the courts. As an end note: I'd thought we could kiss goodbye to stories about the Channing Tatum Gambit movie after Gore Verbinski left the project in January, but Omega Underground is reporting a new production date of June 19th (which, if true, means script revisions are finished and cameras will role in time for it to hit it's June 7, 2019 release date). Naturally, that schedule allows plenty of time for Disney to spike the film if they wish (as they surely would).

With Ike Perlmutter's interference out of the way at Marvel Studios (since September, 2015) I've been curious how the approach to casting would change. We all remember the controversy about the casting of the Ancient One in Doctor Strange (Tilda Swinton was cast before Perlmutter's removal, but that change was largely about placating China by avoiding using a Tibetan character). Prior to the change only two notable characters (Heimdall, Gamora, and Baron Mordo) had been ethnically switched (the latter is an alien, so the change isn't that dramatic). The first true test of diversity came with Spider-Man: Homecoming and while Sony had impute for that movie I think it illustrates what Marvel's approach will be (carried forward in Thor: Ragnorak): lead characters will remain as is, but secondary characters are fair game for change.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Avengers Infinity War Speculation

With Avengers Infinity War just around the corner I thought it would be fun to speculate on what we might see in the film. There are no spoilers for AIW below--everything discussed is via the two trailers (one and two) and other promotional material/public comments (including the prelude comic). There are, however, spoilers for all previous MCU movies.


Most fans are aware of the comic inspirations for this story, which was first hinted at in The Avengers (2012). The comic inspiration begins with Thanos Quest (1990), whose story continues through The Infinity Crusade (1993); perhaps more important are the recent Thanos Rising and Infinity (2013) stories. The film isn't intended as a direct adaptation (Captain America: Civil War (2016) is a good template to keep in mind as that adaptation was also by the Russo's), but many elements are borrowed, particularly from the latter series. I won't go through the plots of each comic series (for those interested you can start here) or their many known connections to the films, as such explorations are plentiful online and I'm less interested in that then in speculating about the movie itself. I will point out that Thanos' children (other than Gamora and Nebula) are creations of the 2013 comic--known as the Black Order, they consist of Proxima Midnight, Cull Obsidian, Corvus Glaive, and Ebony Maw, and seem to feature prominently in the film.

The MCU-version of Thanos, like his comicbook counterpart, is seeking the six infinity stones to power the infinity gauntlet. His motivations for doing so are, however, very different. In the comics Thanos is in love with the manifestation of Death, so he seeks power and death to impress her. In the MCU he wants to bring balance to the universe (requiring the death of half the life in it--we don't know why he thinks this is necessary, although the second trailer suggests it has been his goal for quite some time)--this puts an end to theories that Hela would be a stand-in for Death. I don't think the movie-specifics of this idea were settled until recently--Kevin Feige clearly intended the MCU to culminate in a struggle against Thanos prior to his first appearance (2012), but given how much the comics written afterwards seem to have impacted things, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had fairly free reign when they wrote the screenplay (which was composed no later than 2016). I definitely think a more nuanced, sympathetic Thanos will appear on screen.

The only active role Thanos has had in the MCU prior to these films was in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), but his role there was virtually identical to the one he provided in the background of The Avengers--motivating a subordinate antagonist (Ronan and Loki) to gather an infinity stone for him. In the post-credit scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) he declares that he'll gather the stones himself and that's the true beginning of these films.

The stones themselves have featured much more prominently than their seeker in the MCU:
-The Tesseract (space stone) is an important part of Captain America (2011), having been introduced in the post-credit scene of Thor (2011), and subsequently of importance in The Avengers before being stored on Asgard (Loki steals it in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), a supposition confirmed by the first trailer)
-The Mind Stone is given to Loki by Thanos in The Avengers, which is subsequently used by Hydra to create Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver in the post-credit scene of Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014); it gets retrieved and becomes part of Ultron's creation of Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron--Vision later appears in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and the stone continues to be a part of him
-The Aether (reality stone) is at the core of the plot of Thor: The Dark World (2013), which when recovered is given to the Collector who, despite the explosion of his collection in Guardians of the Galaxy, presumably still has it
-The Orb (power stone) is the core plot element of Guardians of the Galaxy which, when resolved, is stored on Xandar
-The Eye of Agamotto (time stone) has been held by earth's sorcerers for millennia, appearing in Doctor Strange (2016) and remaining with them
-The Soul Stone's location is completely unknown and, other than its image being shown by the Collector to the Guardians, virtually nothing is known about its location

What's interesting is that in the seven films since Age of Ultron the stones have only been an important plot element in one, Doctor Strange. I'm not sure what to make of that decision (since they were vital in five of seven previously), but their primary story will be wrapped up by the next two installments of the Avengers.

The gauntlet itself has been on its own brief, somewhat bizarre journey within the MCU, showing up as an easter egg in the first Thor (2011)--its appearance retained as another easter egg for Thor: Ragnarok where it was confirmed as a fake. In Age of Ultron we see that Thanos already has the real gauntlet, but we won't see it in action until Infinity War.


With the background out of the way let's try to explore the story as presented in the trailers. We need to keep in mind that the film is intended to have a definitive ending, such that even though the fourth Avengers film is a sequel it's not meant to end on an unresolved cliffhanger.

Where We Begin

Many of the Avengers are on the run after the signing of the Sokovia Accords (Civil War)--Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon are together and operating clandestinely as a team; Vision and Scarlett Witch are together apparently just as a couple (retired, perhaps); Hawkeye is retired and probably back with his family; Ant-Man is on his own (likely under a form of house arrest so that he can still see his daughter); Iron Man, War Machine, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange are in New York; Bucky remains in Wakanda with Black Panther; the Guardians are together (including additions Mantis and Nebula); Thor and Hulk are on the Asgardian lifeboat which, at the end of Ragnarok, is confronted by Thanos' ship. Newcomers the Wasp and Captain Marvel won't appear until their own films (although post-credit appearances remain possible).

First Act

-Introduction to Thanos (the Russo's describe it as primarily his movie)--flashback to his origin and the death of his people, which serves as his call to action that informs his arc throughout this and the next film--likely followed by his successful attack on Xandar where he seizes the Orb (power stone)--the way the trailers are cut he acquires this stone first--it's unclear if the few Xandarians we were introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy will survive (Nova Prime and Dey), but I'd expect at least Glenn Close's character to be killed if she appears at all. It's possible this content occurs after the Asgardian lifeboat scene below.

-Thanos attacks the Asgardian lifeboat, defeating those on board; Loki uses the Tesseract (space stone) and his wit to save some of them (I don't believe Asgardian genocide will be on the table for this story as they are too integral to the future of the Thor franchise)--Thor and Hulk are sent away via the space stone (perhaps by Loki himself); I expect that the characters introduced in Ragnarok survive (Valkyrie, Korg, etc), but Heimdall might be killed (much as I'd rather keep Idris Elba); I've seen speculation that Loki will also die, but unless Tom Hiddleston is tired of playing the character I think that's very unlikely--he's an extremely popular character with plenty of untapped potential

-The Guardians crash into Thor in space; Gamora talks about Thanos with a flashback to when she was taken (the info dump augmented by Nebula and includes info about their other siblings, the Black Order); ThorRocket, and Groot head off to the dwarves (some think this will include Peter Dinklage's character, but it's just as likely he's providing the voice for one of the Black Order--this despite his notable failure as a voice actor in Destiny) and create his new weapon (presumed to be Stormbreaker--in the comics the weapon used by Beta Ray Bill)--the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere (see below)

-Cull Obsidian and Ebony Maw arrive in New York to take the Eye of Agamotto (time stone) away from Doctor Strange--Wong is probably involved in this fight, but I suspect the villains are successful in taking it (which is why the ship Spider-Man see's is departing Earth and Iron Man has to race after him)--I'm assuming that they lose the time stone here because I think the fight in Wakanda is over the final infinity stone (either literally the last or the last other than the soul stone, but I expect the former), and because it gives the Black Order a "win" over the heroes, but this could happen later

-The Hulk crashes into the Sanctum in New York (Doctor Strange and Wong are there), which results in Iron Man showing up; Banner explains what Thanos is about--this could happen prior to the loss of the Eye of Agamotto, although I think the result will be the same

-Scarlett Witch and Vision are attacked by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight in an attempt to take the mind stone--Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon arrive and help defeat them, but Vision is badly wounded in the process--as a result, they will head to New York to meet with the other Avengers (likely after a call from Tony--see below); it's possible Tony's call is what has them arriving to save their friends

-Spider-Man see's one of Thanos' ships floating overhead and hurries to investigate--this occurs while Doctor Strange, Wong, Bruce Banner, and Iron Man are talking and Tony hurries out as the ship with Spider-Man begins accelerating into space--Iron Man brings him the iron spider suit so that Peter can survive in space

-The Guardians (minus Rocket and Groot) go to Knowhere to find the Collector and the Aether (reality stone); Thanos beats them there via the space stone, seizing the reality stone either before the Guardians or forcing them to flee (I fully expect the Collector to survive); when they fail they head to earth where two of the remaining infinity stones are

Act Two

-Tony has called Cap (this might occur before the above action with Peter Parker) and most of the Avengers assemble at their HQ (absent Bucky, Thor, Ant-Man, possibly Hawkeye, and unofficial Avenger Black Panther); I believe the Guardians (minus the aforementioned) meet them here because this is where the decision to split the team occurs--Captain America, War Machine, Black Widow, Falcon, Scalett Witch, Vision, and Bruce Banner in the Hulkbuster go to Wakanda, while Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man join the remaining Guardians (Star-Lord, Gamora, Nebula, Mantis, and Drax) in space heading to Titan--Wong presumably remains behind to defend the Sanctum. I believe the journey to Titan is to save the soul stone (there's no other reason to go there with the information we have)

-Hawkeye is sent on a mission of his own and a theory I like is that he's seeking out his old S.H.I.E.L.D. buddy Carol Danvers (a theory I first heard here)--this might be where we see Ant-Man--presumably he'll join the team for the Wakanda fight at the end; alternatively Clint is specifically looking for Scott Lang; I believe Hawkeye's family (or at least his wife) could be a casualty, although in what context I'm not sure yet (there's no obvious reason for the Black Order to seek them out)--my speculation is purely based on how poorly they were received and how they function better as character motivation for Clint to return to being a hero (he's really had no arc in the MCU yet)

-Thor and crew successfully create Stormbreaker; the Russo's have said he has a lot of screen time so there may be more going on with this plot than is readily apparent

-Shuri attempts to heal Vision--it's not clear if she's trying to separate the mind stone from his body (I've seen conflicting speculation, but given that I don't think he's likely to die, I expect she's trying to extract it and will succeed--this would present interesting character development for what is a pretty one-note hero)

-The space team confront Thanos on what's assumed to be his home planet of Titan--my guess (as mentioned above) is that they are fighting over the soul stone and it appears as though they fail (why the stone is there I'm not sure, but there isn't any other obvious reason for them to be fighting him there); it's possible Thor arrives dramatically to prevent them from dying at the end of this battle (see below)

Act Three

-The Battle of Wakanda: my guess is the team will fail until the cavalry arrives (the heroes who were in space) to avoid total annihilation, but it remains to be seen how Thanos can both get the sixth stone and the heroes still get a win; it's likely that they fail and the fourth movie is about preventing Thanos from following through on his plan (this would give dramatic license for Captain Marvel's arrival to help); I wasn't sure Ant-Man and the Wasp would have any connection AIW, but I've heard recently that it will impact the fourth movie

I don't think any of the infinity stones will be held in reserve for the fourth movie, such that in the next installment it will be about defeating Thanos with the infinity gauntlet. With that said I don't don't think the movie will end on a downer and the heroes will have achieved some sort of victory (even if it's a Pyrrhic one). I suspect the Russo's are aiming for an Empire Strikes Back feel where there's a sense of hope after failure (I'd guess that Thanos gets the stones, but his children and army are defeated).

An interesting theory is going around (eg here and here) that the movie will end with all the core Avengers (or at least some of them) dying with Thanos winning--Doctor Strange then sends heroes back in time to save them. There are reasons for suspecting time travel isn't an element in the fourth film, but it's really hard to judge the theories until we see how Infinity War unfolds.

As for deaths, I don't think we'll see more than one major character die in this movie (and even then it might not be permanent). Secondary and tertiary characters will fall however (much as they did in Thor: Ragnarok)--as mentioned above I'd guess Hawkeye's family (if not this movie, the next), Heimdall, Nova Prime, and perhaps a few others.

The Fourth Avengers Film

I've seen a few theories about this leading to a new timeline/partial universe reset to make room for the Fox properties (the mutants in particular), but I think this is very unlikely (the idea would remove the sense of consequence from previous stories). The writers of the fourth film have been keeping an eye on fan theories and said that none were right (it's difficult to establish when this interview took place--the report says "on the set" of Infinity War, which wrapped shooting in July of 2017).

In the untitled fourth Avengers movie (quite possibly Infinity Gauntlet assuming Zoe Saldana's slip of the tongue a year ago can be taken literally), however, I think we'll see casualties among the lead heroes. Briefly: Hawkeye (always a peripheral character) is commonly assumed to be among the dead; Nebula, whose only remaining character arc is killing Thanos, seems like an obvious choice as well (Gamora is also an option in this respect, but I suspect James Gunn wants to hang on to most of the Guardians for the third and final film of that iteration).

In addition to those two characters I think there are a number of others who might go simply due to their actors aging out: War Machine (Don Cheadle will be pushing 55 when the film comes out), even if it seems a bit redundant after he recovers from the spine injury from Civil War; Hulk (Mark Ruffalo will be pushing 52-- I'm not sure what will be left to do with his version of the character); and Iron Man--a suitably epic ending in his ninth major film (he'd be 54 at release; if he dies I think Robert Downey Jr. will remain as a voice however--his consciousness downloaded--echoing something that happened in the comics). If Banner goes we might see either the Amadeus Cho version of the Hulk or perhaps She-Hulk (problems with Universal's involvement seem negligible so long as they don't get solo films); there's also a chance Shuri (or someone else) will pick up the mantel of Iron Man as Iron Heart (even though the comicbook version of that character is enormously unpopular, the MCU could do a much better job with her).

Originally I thought Captain America would die (Chris Evans is always talking about potentially leaving--see below), but there's no point in giving Bucky the new identity of White Wolf (Black Panther post-credit scene) if he isn't going to wear that for awhile and although Falcon could also take up the mantel I don't think we'll see that yet. Chris Evans will only be 38 once the film is out and is popular enough in the role that Disney will likely pay him whatever he wants to stay. A year ago I would have put Thor on the death list, but Chris Hemsworth had so much fun making Ragnarok, whose new direction fits the cosmic direction of the MCU, that I expect him to stick around.

The true crux of it all is we're unlikely to see many deaths at all--they are extremely rare in the comics (and almost never permanent) and as a massively successful franchise there's little impetus for the MCU to suddenly start killing off characters unless there are external reasons to do so.

Going back to Chris Evans for a moment: a New York Times article about him has been used as the source for innumerable articles and videos claiming he's done as Captain America. Here is the actual quote:
For now, he has no plans to return to the franchise (“You want to get off the train before they push you off,” he said), and expects that planned reshoots in the fall [2018] will mark the end of his tenure in the familiar red, white and blue super suit.
This is Reggie Ugwu (the reporter) providing statements about Evans' plans that suggest (and only suggest) finality. The predictable hoard of clickbait articles and videos echoing this have been so ridiculous that others have pointed out the obvious issue with that conclusion. This is also not dissimilar to the difficult contract negotiations with Robert Downey Jr. after Iron Man 3 (whose ending was made in such a way that if he didn't re-sign there would be a reason for him not to appear in Age of Ultron). This, for different reasons, is also worth keeping in mind in regards to Benedict Cumberbatch's comments that there are no plans for Doctor Strange 2--I believe in his case Cumberbatch wants to maintain the illusion that Strange could die in the Avengers films, because if he admits to a sequel fans will know he has the plot armour of a sequel.

Those are my thoughts. I'm sure I'll be hilariously wrong about some details, but it's a lot of fun to speculate.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)