[Sorry, there are spoilers here from “Avengers: Endgame”, so if you’re one of the few on this planet who haven’t seen it, look away.]
The fans who probably waited all day and night to get into the Marvel Panel in the legendary Hall H of Comic-Con (where all the biggest stars in the world bow down to the fans of Comic-Con) were rewarded with a huge spillage of news about Marvels Phase Four, poured out by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Here’s the lowdown along with clips from the stage.
The end of Phase Three was “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (just saw it, loved it). We won’t be getting another movie from Marvel until May 1, 2020, which is a huge gap for the studio which normally gives us three films a year. But I guess with how massive “Avengers: Endgame” proved to be along with having to figure out how to proceed without Iron Man or Captain America, it’s understandable. We’ve gotten so spoiled nowadays, getting sequels for our favorites often every year instead of every three years. Another reason they need more prep time is the launch of Disney+, wherein they will be spending big bucks to bring their movie actors into the streaming world, with these series tying into the movies, requiring us to subscribe if we want to be in the know. I’ll cover Disney+ tomorrow. This is the movie schedule:
“Black Widow” – May 1, 2020: The first female Avenger but second to get her own film, after Captain Marvel. Presumably, they’ve got a loophole that will bring her back from the dead, or this will be an adventure pre-dating her sacrifice. Scarlett Johansson will be joined by David Harbour (“Stranger Things”), Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh (“Midsommar”), O.T. Fagbenle (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), and Ray Winstone, directed by Cate Shortland.
“The Eternals” – November 2020: Marvel’s such a strong brand that they’re able to bring in titles completely unknown to the general public who then salivate to see them. After his stint at DC, Jack Kirby came back to Marvel in 1976 guns-a-blazing with some far-out concepts and some of the best artwork of his life. Alas, most of his books didn’t last long, with The Eternals being canceled with Issue #19. Still, Jack’s stunning images and concepts are “eternal” and so Marvel is diving head-first into bringing them back to consciousness (can Warner deliver “The New Gods”, please?). They’re shoring things up with a strong cast, headed by Richard Madden, Angela Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Kumail Nanjani. This is currently in production, directed by Chloé Zhao.
Kumail Nanjani made an interesting comment while onstage, saying that he felt like the classic old films like “Casablanca” had action, romance, drama, comedy and that after that, everything got divided into genres. He feels that the Marvel films are popular because they bring all those elements back together.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” – February 12, 2021: Cashing in on the kung-fu craze of the early ’70s, Marvel Comics acquired the rights to the pulp villain Dr. Fu-Manchu and decided to introduce his son, Shang-Chi, who fights bad guys including his father. Created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin (also creator of Thanos), Shang-Chi debuted in 1973, running both in his own comic book and magazine until the kung-fu craze ended. His look was based on the late Bruce Lee, who is making somewhat of a comeback in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. Since that point, Shang-Chi has been a somewhat obscure character which per Marvel Studios logic makes him ripe for introducing to moviegoing audiences.
In Hall H, they announced the cast headed up by Chinese-born Canadian actor Simu Liu best known for CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience”, along with Awkwafina and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Marvel has hired Japanese-Hawaiian Destin Daniel Cretton to direct.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – May 7, 2021: This is intriguing, as the concept of the Multiverse has bedeviled both Marvel and DC over the last few decades (and frankly, they’ve made a mess of it). Maybe Marvel Studios can finally sort it all out. Interesting that they inserted the multiverse concept into “Spider-Man: Far Frome Home”, I guess as a seed for what’s to come.
“Thor: Love and Thunder” – November 5, 2021: This was the biggest jaw-dropper. What? First-off, Natalie Portman is coming back, but this time as Thor, Goddess of Thunder. And Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie will be the first openly LGBTQ+ superhero as King of Asgard who is looking for her queen (shades of “Gentleman Jack”). Of course, Chris Hemsworth will be back as well as director Taika Waititi who helmed the last and best Thor film “Ragnarok”.
“Blade” – TBD: There was one last announcement by Feige, that Blade would be returning with Mahershala Ali. Excellent news. I only saw Blade 2, but it was directed by Guillermo del Toro and was a-mazing. No date was given, but it’s good to see this property back with Marvel Studios.
Overall, I think Marvel’s moving in the right direction, consciously diversifying but in a non-token way. This is a great sign given the direction this country seems to be moving in; I did note that there was a strong anti-fake news/anti-Fox News message in the latest Spider-Man. And didn’t J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) sound just like Rush?