Robert Downey Jr. Passes On Oscar Opportunity!

As the 2020 Oscars race heats up, and more and more actors throw their hats into the ring for a chance to take home the gold, we can be assured of one thing: Robert Downey Jr., the star of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame, won’t be among the contenders at next year’s ceremony.

RDJ has been one of the most talked-about and hyped-up candidates for the Best Actor award, but despite the anger and outrage of fans, despite all the petitions in the world, the veteran actor has made it clear that he is not going to make a move for the prize: in a recent interview with Howard Stern, Downey rather vaguely suggested that he didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. “There was some talk about [an Oscar campaign], and I said, “let’s not”.”

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Downey didn’t give any specific reasoning for his choice, and it seems particularly surprising given how hotly anticipated his campaign already was in the media: Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo, along with Iron Man director Jon Favreau, had both publicly given Downey their support in the race, and millions of Marvel fans were completely behind the idea. Whether or not the Academy Awards would have recognized Downey’s position as the figurehead of one of Hollywood’s biggest and most fortunate film studios for the past decade is a question we now have no way of answering: but why? What could have inspired Downey to back away from the finish line when it seemed so close?

Well, obviously, his choice could be entirely personal. It’s possible he has better things to do with his time than try to win a shiny gold trophy. But it’s also possible that Downey recognizes an unfortunate trend in modern Hollywood, and has made his choice to avoid courting controversy and stirring up trouble: what I’m trying to say is that the Academy Awards simply might not want to give such a prestigious award to the star of a superhero movie.

The discussion we are having now has been the subject of a great number of essays, articles and opinion pieces in the past few days: it started a long time ago actually, but acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s recent comments have made everyone sit up and take notice yet again. While promoting his new film The Irishman, Scorsese claimed that, despite having never watched a Marvel movie (he “tried”, to be fair), he believes that the films are “not cinema”, adding that “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Scorsese’s controversial comments quickly riled up the internet – Marvel directors and actors responded in various different ways, from James Gunn being “saddened” to Samuel L. Jackson bluntly pointing out that “Everybody doesn’t like his stuff either”. As for Downey himself, he was cool about the whole subject, saying that, while Scorsese’s insult “makes no sense”, he still respects and appreciates the director’s opinion. But he’s also not going to intentionally upset the other filmmakers and Academy members who agree with Scorsese, by campaigning for an Oscar. Because there are others: many others, in fact. And The Hollywood Reporter has turned a spotlight on them in a fascinating new article published just today.

The article has nothing to do with Robert Downey Jr., or even Scorsese: instead, it’s about another comic book movie making headlines right now – that being Joker. A gritty, realistic approach to the genre (and unabashedly inspired by the works of Martin Scorsese, in fact), the supervillain origin story has generated plenty of Oscar buzz already, with critics praising Joaquin Phoenix’s intense performance. But today, Academy Award voters were asked to anonymously contribute their opinions on the film, and on the genre as a whole: and their responses confirm that Scorsese is not alone in his beliefs. Several stated that comic book movies hold zero interest for them, with some even pointedly referencing Scorsese’s comments in their rebuttals of the film – and as for the one who said that we live in an age of “sanitized, shrink-wrapped cinema”, well, I don’t know if he was referring specifically to comic book movies, but I can’t imagine his opinion of those is good. Some of them didn’t even have plans to see the film at all, or were reluctant to see it for a variety of reasons; some logical (security concerns), or illogical (comic book movies suck).

And these are Academy voters: the men and women who will decide who takes home the biggest awards in the entertainment industry. Are they biased? Yes, some of them are undoubtedly biased. A large number of them might be voting against movies that they haven’t even watched. Are they right in their condemnations of modern cinema – do superhero movies deserve to be called cinema at all, or are they nothing more than flashy merchandising ploys? That’s for you to decide. But imagine if Robert Downey Jr. were to step into this arena and even try to launch a campaign for Best Actor. There’s a strong chance he wouldn’t win, and his efforts would most likely be laughed at behind his back – the fact that Joker is still considered by many to be an Oscar darling, even after the reactions from those voters, just goes to show how badly superhero movies are usually treated by the industry. As frustrating as it is, the Academy’s electoral process is not fair; not by a long shot. Downey is probably better off steering far clear of all these shenanigans, and instead focusing on the things that matter to him – such as his plan to help clean up the environment using high-tech robotics.

So that’s that: Downey has made his choice. The Academy will probably end up nominating Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor in his stead, but it’s not a sure bet that he’ll win either. Avengers: Endgame, which is up for several other awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) is also an underdog going into this highly competitive fight to the death. And so we have to consider whether or not Black Panther, which won a considerable number of Oscars at this year’s ceremony, really was a fluke after all: did it signal a change, as we all thought at the time, or was it merely a cheap publicity stunt?

I leave the question for you to answer: how biased is the entertainment industry against comic book movies? Could RDJ have won an Oscar, if he had run? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

All Of Marvel’s Disney+ Reveals!

Do I even have time to talk about anything that’s not Marvel on this blog? Probably not. Probably never. Certainly not with the amount of Marvel content that’s just been announced for Disney’s new Disney+ streaming service.

(Don’t worry: I will certainly talk about some of the other Disney+ reveals that were dropped at tonight’s D23 panel in California, possibly even that AWESOME trailer for The World According To Jeff Goldblum; but basically, it’s Jeff Goldblum being himself, and that’s all you need to know).

So let’s break down all the Marvel content you’ll be seeing on Disney+ in coming years, starting with The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, which should air in fall 2020. The main cast, including Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp and Daniel Brühl, were all confirmed, as well as one surprising addition: Wyatt Russell will be joining the show as the probable antagonist John Walker, a US agent who, in comics lore, is genetically modified to become a super-soldier of comparable strength to Captain America – Walker is an extremist/basically terrorist who is endorsed by the United States government, leading to a confrontation between him and Falcon. There will certainly be a lot of ruminations on what it means to bear the mantle and shield of the iconic hero in the upcoming series, as both characters fight for the honor of being the one true Captain America.

Next up was Loki, about which we learned almost nothing new. It will be six episodes long, air in spring of 2021, and link the events of Avengers: Endgame and the upcoming film Thor: Love And Thunder, by exploring what happened to the god of mischief after he vanished into an alternate timeline with the Tesseract. No cast has been officially confirmed, though I’ve been seeing rumors that Idris Elba’s Heimdall will be returning for the series, as well as a new character played by legendary actor Ian McKellen (another clear indicator, if true, that Marvel will be ignoring Fox X-Men continuity). Michael Waldron will helm the series.

WandaVision was also confirmed at the panel for a summer 2021 release date: one of the weirdest upcoming Marvel projects, the show does not yet have a director attached, but it does have a screenwriter in Jac Schaeffer (who is also writing Marvel’s Black Widow), and a large and surprising cast: alongside Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany’s Vision, the following have been confirmed: Teyonah Parris will play a grown-up version of Captain Marvel‘s Monica Rambeau; Kat Dennings will return to the role of Darcy, a fan-favorite last seen in Thor: The Dark World; Randall Parks will reprise the role of Agent Jimmy Woo, a lovable and humorous cop; and Kathryn Hahn will play an unnamed “nosy neighbor”, in what was described by Marvel president Kevin Feige as a mix between an epic MCU adventure and old episodes of 50’s sitcoms. Honestly, that sounds amazing: the show will apparently also include some horror elements, and will be absolutely bizarre.

For some reason, absolutely nothing was said about the Hawkeye show. That can’t have been an accidental omission, but it’s surprising nonetheless.

The What If? animated series planned for summer 2021 teased a series of 23 episodes for each existing Marvel movie; episodes in which there will be drastic changes to current MCU canon, resulting in alternate realities. Almost all of the main Marvel cast will be lending their voices to the series: Hayley Atwell has been receiving the most attention, however, since she gets to portray a version of Peggy Carter who took the super-soldier serum during World War II and became Captain Britain. Variations on Captain America and Star Lord were also shown.

Following that were three of the night’s most startling and crowd-pleasing reveals. A Ms. Marvel series documenting the origins of Kamala Khan, one of Marvel’s only Muslim superheroines was already widely rumored, and actress Mindy Kaling had supposedly approached the studio with ideas for the show: the rumors were officially confirmed today, and it looks like Khan will not only be the star of a Disney+ series, but will also make appearances in MCU movies going forward (probably Captain Marvel films, since the teenage heroine from Jersey City is known for being a Captain Marvel fangirl). Comedian Bisha K. Ali will produce the show.

Next, a Moon Knight series was confirmed, and received probably the best Disney+ title logo so far. Marc Spector, the Moon Knight, is a very complex character who some thought might have been better suited for a Hulu series, where he could have been darker, grittier, and more risque. Well, we’ll see. I have faith in the series, if only because its logo is actually awesome. No director or cast is attached.

Finally, She-Hulk, a.k.a. Jennifer Walters, is confirmed for a series: one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved heroines, the quick-witted lawyer retains her human personality when she transforms into a female equivalent of Bruce Banner’s Hulk, meaning she’s “the brains and the brawn” right from the get-go, whereas Banner had to progress through several films before reaching that point in his transformation. No director or cast is attached, but fans are already rallying for the series to be a superhero action/courtroom drama crossover.

So…what do you think of Marvel’s upcoming slate of shows? Personally, each and every one sounds awesome, and I can’t wait for a chance to sit down and try to figure out more about them: expect many more theories and predictions in the days ahead!

Until then, go watch the trailer for Jeff Goldblum’s new show. You’ll thank me.

“Eternals” Filming Begins?

With Marvel’s Eternals now officially confirmed for a November 2020 release date, and assembling an impressive all-star cast, it seems only a matter of time before cameras actually begin rolling and we start seeing behind-the-scenes photos, footage, etc. There was even some hinting at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend that filming had already begun, a little earlier than anticipated. Now, we might – possibly – have a clearer idea of what’s going to happen in the film, and which characters might have yet to be cast.

According to one source, sets are currently being built for the Eternals film over at Pinewood Studios in England, where production is slated to begin in September. The set, which appears to be a large pyramidal temple with ornately-carved statues, was initially believed to be intended for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker reshoots set on the iconic Yavin IV planet from the original trilogy, but closer examination shows that the site, and especially the statues are probably intended to look Aztec in origin, rather than…Yavini? Yavinese? Yavinish? I don’t know. I mean, ignoring the basic fact that any Aztec site built in England is going to look very different from a Mesoamerican jungle until CGI and fake tropical plants are used, the set does look like an Aztec temple.

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Why, though, would an Aztec temple be built for Eternals? Well, there’s one very good reason I can think of: the entire Eternals comic book history begins in one such temple, all the way back in 1976. In Jack Kirby’s The Eternals #1, archaeologists Daniel Damian and Margo Damian traveled to Central America to uncover ancient Aztec ruins, only to discover that they had actually stumbled upon the Tomb of the Space Gods. Naturally, the Tomb was opened, a whole bunch of extremely weird stuff happened, and eventually Margo Damian was turned into a Deviant and killed, because that’s what tended to happen to female characters in old comic books. I highly doubt that a modern adaptation of the story would allow Margo to die off so quickly, but it does seem that she (or, at least, a fully fleshed-out character loosely-based on the cardboard cutout that previously held the name) will appear in the upcoming Eternals film: though she wasn’t one of the characters revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, there are still reports going around that the film’s lead will be a human female archaeologist with the codename of “Karen”. These new images, possibly unveiling a first look at the Tomb, give credence to this theory.

And just because we got a whole bunch of casting announcements at Comic-Con doesn’t mean there’s not many more to come. If Disney is to be believed, what we’ve seen already is just the tip of the iceberg: the D23 event next month will apparently give us even more food for thought, including confirmation of several more Marvel films, more casting, and possibly some early footage from Black Widow (though we’re also getting a first look at Black Widow on the Avengers: Endgame Blu-Ray release at the end of this month, so stay tuned for that!). It wouldn’t be shocking if more people joined the Eternals ensemble cast at D23, considering that there are a whole bunch of roles which might still need to be filled – including Sersi, the Damians, Elysius, Zuras, Druig, Eros and maybe Hercules. Some of these roles might have been written out of the script since they were initially reported early this year, but these new set images indicate that the Damians, at least, are still in for the time being.

The “Broken Women” Of “Black Widow”.

Last night, I began my coverage of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con panel with a brief post about what had been revealed at the Black Widow presentation; there seemed to be very little at first – it was a prequel, Florence Pugh would play Yelena Belova, and the film’s villain would be Taskmaster. And that seemed to be it. Boy, was I wrong.

Since then, there’s been a bunch of interviews with the cast of Black Widow (who are about to head back to London for more filming): a lot has been revealed, and we’re going to have to go over it all. Forget basically everything in my initial post. There’s a lot to talk about now.

The big thing about the film, apparently, is that it’s a drama: what with Black Widow herself being something of a small-scale superhero, it makes sense to focus on finding creative ways to make this film stand out, since, honestly, in a universe where Captain Marvel can punch spaceships out of the sky with her bare hands and Thor can harness the power of a dead star, Black Widow’s skills with a baton just aren’t gonna cut it. Scarlett Johansson has revealed that this film is much more intellectual than other Marvel movies: she gets to “talk more” than ever before, and says that there’s a lot of dialogue. It’s an introspective movie that will explore Black Widow’s mental and emotional state during a very interesting period of her life, when she was a fugitive in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It looks like, during this time, Black Widow is on her own and trying to figure out her purpose in life when her past suddenly catches up with her and takes her on a wild ride back to places she remembers from her youth – the Red Room and Budapest, for example. The Black Widow we see here is someone who’s a little out of her element, and more than a little scared of what’s happening all around her: but we know from Avengers: Endgame that Widow will eventually pull herself back together and find her moral compass once again, only to have to sacrifice everything she’s won to save the world. Prediction: this film will prove, once and for all, that Black Widow is the most tragic character in the entire MCU.

What she finds on her journey will surprise her: first up, we have Florence Pugh’s character, Yelena Belova. We have a few new details on this elusive Russian assassin – she’s got a complicated history with Black Widow. The footage shown to the crowds at Comic-Con depicted Belova first attempting to murder Widow by strangling her with a curtain before sitting down with her to share a drink. Pugh says that Belova is very strong, but is dealing with her own issues – I think we’ll see Belova struggling between sticking with the Red Room that she’s known for her entire life, or leaving to follow Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, into the great unknown. It’s becoming more and more likely that Belova chooses to take on the mantle of “Black Widow”, when she learns of Romanoff’s self-sacrifice. Can you imagine how shocked the remaining Avengers will be when Belova arrives and introduces herself as Black Widow?

Now, we have a tidbit of information that has me flabbergasted: there’s no Taskmaster in this movie, apparently. Turns out, the footage shown at Comic-Con did not show the hooded villain as was previously reported – no, the character seen in that footage (footage which has not been released online) was a woman, Melina, who becomes the Iron Maiden character from the comics – the footage apparently showed Melina and Black Widow fighting in the wreckage of a fiery car crash. This character will be portrayed by Rachel Weisz, who says of Melina that she is an embittered woman who has been cycled and recycled through the Red Room program five times already, but had never been able to match the skill and prowess of her antagonist, Black Widow. She also mentioned that Melina is part of some scientific project which she couldn’t describe in any detail.

It looks like these three women will be at the center of the film: just as Captain Marvel explored the power of female friendships, Black Widow will probe deep into even more complex relationships of hatred, fear and resentment, as all three are trying to survive in a dangerous world.

But the two confirmed male characters both have interesting storylines as well – David Harbour confirmed that he is playing Alexei, the Red Guardian, a superhuman character born from Cold War conflicts; basically, the Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America. Considering that the Soviet Union disbanded quite some time ago, it would be interesting if Red Guardian was a relic of bygone days, someone who isn’t quite sure what he’s meant to do in a post-Cold War world: rather like Black Widow herself. Harbour promised that his character is very complex, which sounds awesome.

O.T. Fagbenle, meanwhile, is apparently not playing the villain, as previously speculated: instead, he’s a self-described “fixer” named Mason, who helps Natasha because of his romantic feelings for her. He’s a shady guy, who operates an extensive underworld of secret contacts and is always ready to help out his highest-paying customers by giving them emergency backup. He sounds like an interesting fellow, but we don’t know very much else about him yet.

So, now that we’ve gotten all this additional information; what do you think? Are you excited for Black Widow? Do you like the thought of it being a drama? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Madness In The Multiverse – And On Disney+!

Marvel’s Phase 4 announcements at last night’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation didn’t just include a detailed outline of the movies they will be releasing over the next few years – all of their Disney Plus streaming shows were also officially announced, and even received logos and some casting announcements. There’s so much to go over in this post. Let’s start with the simplest stuff.

So Falcon And The Winter Soldier is coming to Disney Plus in Fall of 2020, and will bring with it a newly redesigned version of the villain Baron Zemo, still played by Daniel Brühl, but no longer looking quite as…dare I say, boring…as he did in Captain America: Civil War. This time around, he’s sporting a comics-accurate mask, and promises to be much more physically intimidating as well. That show looks promising, but there wasn’t much to talk about. Emily Van Camp, who will star alongside Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, was not present at last night’s panel, so that presentation mostly consisted of the two leads passing around Captain America’s shield for a minute or two.

Loki arrives in the spring of 2021: Tom Hiddleston, who returned to Comic-Con to thunderous applause, will also be returning to the iconic role – Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed that the Loki we see in the show will indeed be the one from the past who escaped with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, leaving open the possibility of a return – maybe, somehow, Loki will find a way back into the current timeline.

A Hawkeye series was also confirmed last night, and it was revealed that archer, and sometimes Avenger, Clint Barton will be training Kate Bishop, a character who was rumored to appear in Endgame but turned out to be Barton’s daughter. There was no clue as to who would be playing Bishop, but Jeremy Renner will return to the role of Hawkeye – that will be in fall of 2021.

In one of Marvel’s more unusual panels of the night, a What If? animated series was confirmed for the summer of 2021 – Jeffrey Wright will star as The Watcher, a cosmic entity who observes the world’s history. Many of the Marvel stars will be joining the show for voice-acting work, starting with Hayley Atwell and Chris Evans in an episode which will explore what would have happened if Peggy Carter had taken the Super Soldier serum. It sounds…decent. But it will presumably feature the concept of the Multiverse, and that’s where things get interesting.

WandaVision is the Disney Plus show I’m most looking forward to, and we can expect that to drop in spring of 2021 – it will star Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as the android Vision (Vision kind of died back in Avengers: Infinity War, and Bettany gave no indication of how he will be returning). The show will be set in the 1950s and have a corresponding retro flair (no explanation for that either), and it will also star Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. That’s right, the sweet little girl from Captain Marvel, whom we last saw in the 1990s, will now be an adult…in the 1950s. If you’re confused now, prepare to be even more baffled as time goes on: Olsen said that this show is “weird”.

Is it any wonder, then, that the events of WandaVision will apparently lead directly into the most bizarre, freaky movie of the next phase – Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. With a title like that, the film is already promising some seriously trippy weirdness, but apparently it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the MCU – Benedict Cumberbatch came onstage to talk about how this film will stray near, or over, the boundaries of what can be done in a PG-13 film. Apparently it will be Marvel’s first real horror film, and will feature Nightmare as the villain. And, just as many of us had hoped, Scarlet Witch will also be in the film, presumably because of something that happens in WandaVision – possibly, she gets targeted by Doctor Strange’s nemesis Baron Mordo, whom we last saw embarking on a mission to kill magical beings across the world.

Oh yeah, and the title suggests that the whole concept of a Multiverse is real – in Spider-man: Far From Home, we thought we had seen the last of that idea when Quentin Beck revealed that his scriptwriter had made it all up. Looks like that scriptwriter knew a little more than he let on to Beck, because Doctor Strange is about to set out into the Mad Multiverse. This opens so many other possibilities, it’s hard to even think about right now.

Which of these upcoming projects interests you the most? Are you excited that the Multiverse is real? Do you like the idea of Maximoff and Strange teaming up? Share your thoughts in the comments below!