“Loki” Update!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME SPOILERS! (have you seriously not seen the movie yet? What is taking you so long?)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been suspiciously quiet these past couple of days: no Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D episode last week, a disappointing trailer for Jessica Jones Season 3 on Netflix, and only a few stray behind-the-scenes images of Scarlett Johansson filming the Black Widow movie. As the release date for Spider-man: Far From Home draws closer and closer, we’re looking towards an uncertain future for the MCU, one populated by largely unfamiliar faces – such as the Eternals, and Shang-Chi, both set to make their film debuts in the next couple of years. Characters like Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange are expected to become the next “holy trinity” of Marveldom, replacing beloved heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor – well, maybe not Thor: the God of Thunder is still very much alive after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and has jetted off to S P A C E with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

It’s Thor’s brother Loki whom we’re discussing today, however. Loki’s familiar face is now just cosmic ash floating in the space between stars, ever since Thanos strangled him in Avengers: Infinity War, and then snapped his neck, and then blew up his spaceship using the Power Stone – the chances of him ever coming back to life are slim to none at this point. Unless, like many, you believe that Loki got off the spaceship just in time, and it was one of his clones that met a horrible fate at the gloved hand of giant purple Josh Brolin.

But, due to the events of Endgame, Loki doesn’t need to be alive to still be around in the MCU. When the Avengers went back in time to the 2012 Battle of New York, looking for the Space, Time and Mind Infinity Stones, they inevitably ran into 2012 Loki, who had just been defeated by the 2012 Avengers, and was being escorted into S.H.I.E.L.D custody along with the Space Stone. While Captain America was able to snatch the Mind Stone from…himself, and Bruce Banner persuaded the Ancient One to relinquish the Time Stone, the Space Stone wasn’t so easily won. In fact, it wasn’t won at all: due to the present-day Avengers interfering with the 2012 Avengers, Loki ended up grabbing the Space Stone and escaping in a flash of blue light, forcing Tony Stark and Captain America to go even further back in time, to 1970, to get the Space Stone from Tony’s father Howard Stark.

But that’s where things get tricky. At the end of Endgame, Captain America heroically volunteers to go back in time once more and replace all the Infinity Stones they stole, to the exact moment at which they were taken: thus erasing all the messy alternate timelines that had been opened due to the time traveling. The Time Stone will be easily returned to the Ancient One; the Mind Stone can be quietly snuck back into Loki’s scepter; the Space Stone can be put back into its safe in S.H.I.E.L.D HQ, circa 1970…

But Loki’s escape still happens. Captain America would have no way of returning the Space Stone to 2012, because he didn’t take it from the 2012 timeline: he and Tony took it from 1970. In this elaborate game of alternate realities and dimension-hopping, the 2012 Loki is still out there, somewhere in the universe, armed with the Space Stone. And this is a feral, unreformed Loki; one who still wants to kill his brother Thor, and is possibly still suffering from the effects of 2012 Thanos’ mind-control. In other words, this Loki is still a villain, and he has an Infinity Stone, and he needs to be stopped, or else bad things are going to happen.

I’ve already covered in a previous post how the Russo Brothers have suggested that Captain America might take it upon himself to hunt down this rogue Loki and wrestle him back into his proper timeline – but seriously, how is that going to work? We’re talking about Loki, the Trickster God, here. He’s not going to go down easily, and that’s presumably why we’re getting a Loki miniseries on the Disney Plus streaming platform. While the series, titled Loki, has not yet begun filming, it would appear that actor Tom Hiddleston is outfitted, styled and ready to go. Marvel President Kevin Feige was at a meeting for Disney investors and shareholders when he unveiled a picture of Hiddleston looking dark and suave, standing on a city street in full Asgardian costume, in front of a marquee for…Steven Spielberg’s Jaws?

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Now…that’s completely in line with the earliest rumors we had about the show, that it would be a prequel focusing on Loki’s meddling in human history. But the events of Endgame and the hints offered by the Russo Brothers, have suggested that Loki will be using the Space Stone to evade capture and try to make his way back into our present timeline. The Space Stone, however, only gives its user the ability to travel…well, through space. Not through time. There are a few possibilities for why this image shows Loki comfortably situated in the year 1975 – one is that he also has the Time Stone, somehow; by stealing it from the Ancient One? Or from Captain America, when he comes to return it to the Ancient One? This theory seems unlikely. It’s possible that the Space Stone has the power to travel through time as well as space, but that somewhat negates the whole purpose of it being the Space Stone to begin with. Then again, maybe Loki has the power to travel back in time? He’s never had that power before, but maybe. The image could also dispel all those rumors about Loki being about 2012 Loki at all: maybe the things we saw in Endgame were just a cruel misdirect, and the Russo Brothers were lying about Cap’s involvement. Maybe this is from a flashback scene, and the majority of the series isn’t set in the past: but it seems peculiar to tease time travel if it’s not the focus of the show.

We don’t know anything for certain, yet, but we are expected to get more details about Loki and all upcoming Marvel projects at San Diego Comic Con and Disney’s D23 in August. Stay tuned for more information!

“Shang-Chi” Updates!

With Marvel Studios already working around the clock to get Black Widow and The Eternals into production this year (with Black Widow having literally just started), as well as Disney Plus shows such as Falcon & The Winter Soldier and WandaVision, there seemed to be little doubt that upcoming movies such as Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Shang-Chi would have to wait until 2020 to start shooting.

But Marvel continues to be marvelous: in a surprising move, it looks like Shang-Chi will start shooting this fall, in Australia, under the direction of Asian-American director Destin Daniel Cretton, who has previously worked with other Marvel stars such as Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson. This could even be an indication of Marvel’s confidence in the film, if they’re giving it precedence over established franchises such as Black Panther and Guardians. This puts Shang-Chi firmly in place to make the February 2021 release date that I had previously speculated would be reserved for the Black Panther sequel. It does make a lot of sense when you realize that it will land on Chinese New Year.

Shang-Chi, the story of a Chinese martial artist fighting his villainous father, will be the first Asian-led Marvel film: while we don’t yet know who will be playing the protagonist himself (expect that announcement at San Diego Comic Con), we have some clues as to who else will be in the movie. Two character breakdowns have been released, and it seems that Marvel is looking for an Asian male and an Asian female to fill the roles of a “wise, old statesman” and a “skilled warrior”, respectively. Even though these hints are vague, fans have been quick to jump to the conclusion (partly supported by Marvel President Kevin Feige himself) that that “wise, old statesman” is none other than Shang-Chi’s evil father, The Mandarin. You may or may not remember The Mandarin from the Iron Man movies, and you might remember that the real Mandarin’s identity was never discovered, leaving the character something of an enigma in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that would have probably been how he remained, were it not for Shang-Chi’s comics backstory.

You see, the original 1970s Marvel comics in which Shang-Chi was first introduced also portrayed his father as a blatantly racist stereotype – even down to his name, Fu Manchu (and his accompanying Fu Manchu mustache). Obviously, the character was hugely important to the story, but could never be included in the movie. Which is why, suddenly, The Mandarin becomes so important – this question-mark of a character can easily become Shang-Chi’s father, filling the role of the problematic Fu Manchu, and giving us a fitting conclusion to a lingering question at the same time. It’s no surprise that this is one of the biggest fan-theories currently surrounding the Shang-Chi movie.

As for the “skilled warrior”, it’s probable that this is Fah Lo Suee (not to be confused with the Fah Lo Suee of the 1960’s Fu Manchu franchise), also known as the “Cursed Lotus” or Lin Tang, a criminal mastermind and ring-leader who finds herself at odds with her brother, Shang-Chi, time and time again. There’s a really interesting family drama at the heart of this story that can, hopefully, be explored in great depth. Even the dynamics among Odin’s family in the Thor franchise can’t rival the sort of back-stabbing, deceit and competition that goes on in Shang-Chi’s family of gangsters, smugglers and mercenaries.

What would you like to see from the Shang-Chi movie? Leave your own thoughts in the comments below, and expect more updates soon!

“Black Widow” Begins Filming!

Marvel’s highly-anticipated Black Widow solo movie was expected to begin filming next month, at Pinewood Studios in London, but apparently things have been moving quicker than anticipated, as leaked photos show that Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson has arrived in Norway.

Johansson touched down in the ├śrsta Municipality in a private plane, but cameras still managed to catch a glimpse of her (or, at least, someone who looks identical to her) being driven around the picturesque Norwegian landscape. However, it seems like the actress is here, not for sightseeing, but for filming, as other photos show signs with Black Widow‘s working title “Blue Bayou” written on them in a distinctly Cyrillic typeface. The Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff is clearly on her way to Norway.

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There’s no good reason as to why, just yet, but it’s easy to imagine that Norway, with its fjords, mountains and miles of uncharted wilderness, could be the perfect place for some impressive action sequences, or a secret KGB hideout. Norway is also, notably, where Thor builds New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame, but it seems unlikely that there’s any correlation – Black Widow is expected to be a prequel, set before the events of Romanoff’s first appearance in Iron Man 2. Other rumors, yet to be confirmed, suggest that the movie will take place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, following Romanoff as she flees from the law and the restrictions of the Sokovia Accords, helped by a rogue Steve Rogers. The problem with that scenario is that the film would kind of need…Steve Rogers, not to mention Falcon, and possibly Scarlet Witch and Vision. Those would be all great additions to the film’s cast, admittedly, but this is a solo film, not a team-up, and Captain America’s time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is supposedly over. It’s probably best to keep the focus on Widow herself, and have it be a prequel, where we can finally learn the truth about the Red Room program, and maybe even see some classic comics characters like Yelena Belova (expected to be portrayed by Florence Pugh, of Fighting With My Family).

That doesn’t rule out the possibility of characters like Hawkeye and Nick Fury appearing, since both had close relationships with Black Widow. And it seems likely that we’ll finally see what happened in Budapest. Rumors have been circulating like wildfire – most recently, some speculation that star David Harbour will be playing The Thing, one of the Fantastic Four, in Black Widow…despite the fact that this (a) makes no sense, and (b) wouldn’t work due to the timing of the Disney/Fox merger.

One last thing to note is that Scarlett Johansson was wearing the red braids she sported in Avengers: Endgame, not the iconic short red haircut seen in earlier films, or even her curly hairstyle from Iron Man 2. While it’s possible that this was Johansson’s own stylistic choice, it’s definitely an intriguing one, one that might bode well for the many people who want this movie to be a sequel. The behind-the-scenes video showing Johansson’s hairstyle can be found here.

With filming having now begun, expect more updates, castings, and theories to follow!

Richard Madden Joins “The Eternals”

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The cast for Marvel’s upcoming film The Eternals continues to take shape – and continues to nab big-name actors, with Richard Madden of Game of Thrones being the latest addition to the team roster. While Marvel has not yet released an official statement on the casting, Madden is believed to be playing the Eternal Ikaris, one of the film’s three male lead characters. So let’s take a brief look into the character of Ikaris, and what we might expect to see from him in the film.

Ikaris is one of the major Eternals, possessing the ability to fly, manipulate energies through molecular distortion, and teleport. He is immortal and invulnerable to most weapons (who isn’t, in the MCU?). He was born thousands of years ago, in Siberia, and inspired the ancient Greek legend of Icarus – well, technically his son did that, but I’m trying to keep this simple. Ikaris is the cousin and arch-nemesis of one of the Eternals’ greatest villains, Druig, who is also expected to show up in The Eternals. I have a theory we might see Druig even earlier, in the Black Widow prequel, and Ikaris’ Russian origin might suggest another connection, however tenuous. In the comics, Druig hunts Ikaris, searching for the location of the Pyramid of the Winds, located in the Arctic Circle – if Druig does appear in Black Widow, he might be looking for Ikaris, following a trail that could lead him to the sacred Pyramid in The Eternals.

In another comic run, Ikaris and the Eternal Thena defeat Druig in the fictional Russian state of Vorozheika, where Druig is attempting to win the allegiance of other Eternals. Ikaris and Thena have a long-standing conflict that could add another dimension to his character. But it is Ikaris’ relationship with another Eternal, the sorceress Sersi, that has frequently been rumored to be a crucial aspect of the Eternals film: it could make The Eternals the first MCU film to actually focus on a romantic storyline. Previous attempts to make love stories fit into Marvel films have all fallen a bit flat, with the designated “love interest” characters feeling one-dimensional and boring – for instance, Sharon Carter, who fell in love with her aunt’s ex-boyfriend; or Doctor Strange’s ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer, who was just…there; or Jane Foster, Thor’s girlfriend, a character that did not deserve to be gifted the incredible talents of actress Natalie Portman – and apparently Portman agreed, since she stepped out of the role after Thor: The Dark World and wouldn’t even return for a cameo in Avengers: Endgame – the filmmakers had to use old deleted footage of her instead.

So having a love story be the possible focus of a Marvel film could be one of two things: one the one hand, it could go down like the Fosters, Carters and Palmers of previous films – or, with a decent amount of screentime lavished on it, it could actually be pretty decent. In my opinion, the greatest comic-book movie romance of all time has to be that of Diana Prince and Steve Trevor in DC’s 2017 hit Wonder Woman, but maybe a similarly adorable couple could replace them – or at least try to come close. Richard Madden seems likely to be starring alongside Angelina Jolie as Sersi, so that dynamic should be interesting, if nothing else.

Marvel Phase 4 Timeline!

With Avengers: Endgame out in theaters (and crushing the box-office), Marvel is already looking ahead to the Fourth Phase of their cinematic universe – we’ve already discussed what movies will soon be coming to the big screen in the near future: now let’s talk about when we’ll probably see them.

So, leaving aside Spider-man: Far From Home, which long ago wrapped filming and is set to release on July 5th of this year, the next Marvel film to start production should be the Natasha Romanoff origin story Black Widow, which, according to star David Harbour, should begin in June, possibly in the United Kingdom. Director Cate Shortland is attached, and Jac Schaeffer is the scriptwriter. Scarlett Johansson will be returning to the role of the Russian assassin. We should see Black Widow on May 1st, 2020.

The Eternals, which may star Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani, is probably next in line, as cameras are expected to start rolling in September, also in England. Chloe Zhao is the director, making her Marvel’s third female director, and their first of Asian heritage. Matthew and Ryan Firpo will be the writing the screenplay for this ambitious project, rumored to have a massive ensemble cast with five female leads and three male leads. The Eternals does not yet have an official release date, but it seems likely that it could make the November 6th, 2020 slot that is currently reserved by Marvel.

Beyond that, things get a little trickier, but it looks like the eagerly-anticipated Black Panther 2, sequel to the 2018 box-office giant, is moving along at a swift pace, with the first film’s director Ryan Coogler and stars such as Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright and Danai Gurira – and even Michael B. Jordan, whose character died in Black Panther – all expected to return. Filming will probably begin early next year, and the movie could easily make the February 12th, 2021 release date.

After a strong outing in Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange has also been confirmed for a sequel – Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to reprise the role, though there has been no official announcement. Director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill are likely to return. The release date for this movie has been a matter of contention, with some outlets reporting it could arrive in 2020 – that seems highly improbable, as there has been no word on any production dates yet: though actor Benedict Wong did suggest it might start filming earlier than expected. But it’s a pretty safe bet that Doctor Strange 2 will arrive, at the earliest, in 2021. The only question is what month, exactly. Aside from the February 12th slot, there are just two other confirmed Marvel slots that year – May 7th and November 5th. Considering that the first Doctor Strange came out in November, and some other developments, I’m predicting we’ll next see the Sorcerer Supreme on November 5th, 2021.

So what takes that May 7th date? Well, the aforementioned developments have to do with the fact that Shang-Chi, Marvel’s first Asian-led film, is rumored to begin filming soon after The Eternals wraps. That should place its start date early next year, and could point to Shang-Chi making that May 2021 release date. Destin Daniel Cretton is onboard to direct the film, and David Callaham will write the script, but no casting announcements have been made yet.

Then there’s the whole question of when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will get off the ground – director James Gunn was fired and went to work with the DCEU over at Warner Brothers, only to suddenly be rehired by Marvel earlier this year. Now, Gunn has two commitments to the two rival studios, which is rather intriguing: thankfully, he’s decided to do the courteous thing and finish filming Suicide Squad for DC before picking up where he left off with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But, surprisingly, this sequence of events could start much sooner than anticipated: Suicide Squad is moving at full speed ahead, and Guardians 3 is now rumored to start filming sometime next year. It seems to me that we could see the return of Star-Lord and his band of intergalactic bandits on May 6th, 2022.

Beyond that there’s also a July 29th, 2022 date that could fit a Captain Marvel sequel, something that is likely to start sooner than later, based on the film’s incredible box-office run and astonishing staying power. There is a peculiar February 18th, 2022 release date as well, one that intrigues me: it doesn’t seem well-suited to Guardians of the Galaxy, which has been a Summer franchise, but Shang-Chi looks to be moving too quickly to get pushed back so far. It’s possible this is where Black Panther 2 ends up, or it’s also conceivable that this slot will be changed in the coming months. So far Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has said nothing about when we’ll see any of these films.

And that’s what brings us full-circle, back to Spider-man: Far From Home. Feige is apparently waiting until that film debuts before he will unveil the official Phase 4 timeline: that reveal will probably be made at San Diego Comic Con in July. We don’t have long to wait.