“Eternals” Begins Filming: “Thena” Revealed!

We’ve all been waiting for a glimpse, however brief, at one of Marvel Studios’ most tantalizing and mysterious upcoming projects – Eternals, the story of a race of human/alien gods created by the Celestials to protect our earth from prehistoric threats. Today, we’ve been given a glimpse, but it raises more questions than answers.

Angelina Jolie, one of the stars of the film (the others being Gemma Chan, Kit Harington and Richard Madden) has been spotted in the United Kingdom, filming some very interesting and unusual scenes for the superhero movie. Jolie has been confirmed to be playing the immortal warrior Thena, but, well…she doesn’t appear to be playing the character here: or, if she is, then her outfit has been dramatically altered since we saw it in the D23 Expo concept art last month.

I won’t post all of the photos, since they might be considered spoilers by some; but the few that I’ll show certainly seem to imply that Jolie’s take on the war-goddess is definitely very different from how she’s appeared in the comics, dressed in Greek-inspired armor.

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The first image shows Jolie, sporting the character’s white-blond hair, in what looks at first glance to be a Greek gown of some sort, wading through water, holding some sort of little black pot. The general consensus among internet theorists is that she’s scattering ashes, for whatever reason.

But the next photo made me start wondering…

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Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a depiction of ancient Greek women wearing such modern footwear. And that inspired me to start looking more closely at the rest of the outfit: those long sleeves certainly seem out of place in the ancient world, for instance…and then I found this image.

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Ignore the modern coat that Jolie is wearing over her outfit to keep warm, and look at the front of the dress: it’s very clearly a modern or 20th Century button-up dress, rather vintage-inspired by the looks of it. In fact, it gives off some serious Indiana Jones vibes, to the point where I almost began wondering whether Jolie was playing some sort of similar adventurer, or…archaeologist.

Oh, wait. Remember all those rumors from months ago that a “female archaeologist” was the lead of Eternals? But everyone dismissed them because Jolie was confirmed to play Thena, and nobody else seemed to fit the description of the character. That female archaeologist, after all, was said to be Margo Damian, from the original Eternals comics published back in the 70’s, a character who wore her hair in that decade’s trendiest styles (because archaeologists are paragons of fashion: everybody knows that), and dressed like a female Indiana Jones.

And now we have Angelina Jolie, the lead of the film, doing the same.

But Jolie is playing Thena, right? How can she also be playing Margo Damian? Well, there isn’t any precedent for this in the comics, but it is an established part of recent Eternals lore that the Eternals’s minds were once wiped by the trickster Sprite (who will also show up in this movie), and the gods were forced to live as humans, suffering from amnesia and fragmented memories until they remembered who they were. In the original comics, it turned out that Damian’s partner and love interest, Ike, was in fact the Eternal Ikaris (shocker, I know). We don’t know for sure what’s happening here, but Marvel might be updating the story and having Margo be the one to discover that she’s the long-lost embodiment of an ancient goddess – since, in the comics, she sort of just…died. This would also help to explain why the Eternals didn’t show up in Avengers: Endgame to help in the fight against Thanos – because they don’t remember their powers yet.

So what do you think? Is Jolie playing Thena or Margo Damian in this scene? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kit Harington Enters The MCU!

It’s only been a few months since the epic(ly disappointing) finale of the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, and many have been wondering where the Emmy-award winning show’s stars will go next: Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc, etc, is starring in a chipper Christmas rom-com; Maisie Williams, the girl with no name, is starring in a British comedy series; Lena Headey, the notorious villainess Cersei Lannister, will next be seen in Netflix’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; and as for the show’s star, Kit Harington…well, he promptly disappeared into a rehab facility, apparently suffering from stress. How much of said stress was caused by the strenuous and tiresome process of filming Game of Thrones is as yet unknown, but it looks like the actor is back on his feet and making a return to the entertainment industry in appropriately epic fashion: landing a role in a Marvel movie.

Harington is not the first of the show’s cast to end up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: last year, Peter Dinklage had a glorified cameo in Avengers: Infinity War. Sophie Turner, Thrones‘ Queen in the North, appeared in the Fox X-Men movies, and was soon to be joined by Maisie Williams – before things went abruptly downhill for that franchise. And earlier this year, a star from earlier seasons, Richard Madden, joined the ever-expanding cast of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals. And now, Harington has too.

Eternals covers the story of a race of space gods created at the beginning of the universe with the task of protecting and preserving the planet Earth. Madden, who played too-pure-for-this-world war hero Robb Stark on Game of Thrones, is here portraying the leader of the Eternals, Ikaris, who sports a dashing blue outfit and otherwise looks exactly like Richard Madden: thankfully, the horrendous hairdos from the 1970’s comics have been thrown out in favor of a more streamlined, modern approach. Harington, on the other hand, has been cast in the role of an Arthurian-inspired knight with a black outfit, a magical sword, a semi-divine love interest, and…hey, wait, is he just playing Jon Snow again?

Well, kind of. Harington’s new character, Dane Whitman, better known as the Black Knight, is definitely one of the most Game of Thrones-ish heroes Marvel has ever created, being the descendant of an actual member of King Arthur’s Round Table, who received his magical weapon from Merlin the magician: Whitman himself is also the recipient of supernatural gifts from otherworldly beings, as the Lady of the Lake (yes, the very same) gave him a winged horse named Strider – because, if you’re going to rip off fantasy tropes, why not rip off from the best? In a movie that already has an 11-member ensemble cast, I honestly have no clue whether Marvel will have time to fit in a backstory explaining that the Arthurian legends are MCU canon, but maybe that could be explored in future films.

The important thing to note is that Black Knight, while not an Eternal himself, is a love interest of the Eternal enchantress, Sersi – who has also been cast today, with Captain Marvel actress Gemma Chan filling the role. Introducing Black Knight and Sersi to the MCU on the same day certainly suggests that we’ll see them pair up in this movie, but it does raise some intriguing questions: in comics lore, Sersi is more commonly involved with Ikaris, so which one will she choose in the movies? And if she chooses to be with Black Knight, does that leave Ikaris open to be the MCU’s first gay character, as Marvel president Kevin Feige suggested last month?

Something that has bothered Marvel fans today is the fact that Harington’s talent is being “wasted” in such an “insignificant” role, when he could be playing somebody “important” like Wolverine. Regardless of the fact that Harington really doesn’t resemble Wolverine at all, this is a classic case of fans going in with expectations way too high: I’ll admit I was hopeful for a Fantastic Four reveal today, but anything having to do with the X-Men is probably at least a year away, if not further. Besides, we don’t know yet how big a role Black Knight will play in Eternals, or whether he’ll feature in future films; so, until then, let’s hope for the best, right? And let’s not forget that people also felt like Gemma Chan was wasted in Captain Marvel – and look at her now, getting a second chance in the MCU as the star of one of their upcoming films. Anything is possible in Marvel these days.

Even the Lady of the Lake, apparently.

Gemma Chan’s Return To The MCU!

Marvel Studios had a few unspoken, but solid rules that rarely, if ever, got broken: until this year. For instance, main characters didn’t die in Marvel films – or if they did, their deaths weren’t permanent: Loki could die over and over again, but he never had to actually die. Avengers: Endgame changed all that. Marvel heroes didn’t get more than three solo films: then, Thor 4 (Love And Thunder) got announced. Actors didn’t get to play more than one character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – if you signed on for a specific role, you were going to play that role and no other. Marvel president Kevin Feige was even pushing boundaries by allowing Paul Bettany to voice Tony Stark’s robotic assistant J.A.R.V.I.S., and also play Vision, the living, breathing embodiment of J.A.R.V.I.S. But today, apparently, all of Marvel’s rules have been thrown out the window.

Actress Gemma Chan, best known for her work in Crazy Rich Asians, had a supporting role in this year’s billion-dollar blockbuster Captain Marvel, as the trigger-happy Kree sniper Minn-Erva. Near the end of the film, (Spoiler Warning!) Minn-Erva’s spaceship gets blown out of the sky, and the assassin – presumably – dies in a billowing inferno. But while that might be the last we ever see of Minn-Erva, it might not be the end of the line for Gemma Chan in the MCU.

According to multiple outlets, Chan is making a return to Marvel, in the form of a completely new character who will appear in next year’s Eternals, a film which already stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Richard Madden as immortal space gods enlisted with protecting Earth from the Deviants. While very little is known about the film’s plot, it would appear to be a prequel spanning thousands of years of human and alien history, documenting a time when even the Titan warlord Thanos was still an infant. So, unless Minn-Erva is much older than she appeared, it doesn’t seem likely that we’re going to be seeing a younger version of her – and why would we, anyway? In Captain Marvel, Chan’s character was significantly…insignificant. Certainly not the type of villain that audiences are going to be waiting to see again on the big screen. Unless it turns out that she was an alien archaeologist in her spare time or something, it seems bizarre that Minn-Erva would appear in this movie.

But then…who is she? There may be at least three major female characters who have yet to be cast: the human archaeologist Margo Damian, the sorceress Sersi, and the possibly villainous android Elysius. If I had to take a guess, I’d wager that Chan is playing Elysius: not only because she looks much like the character, but because the comics version of Elysius actually has a small, but important link to the Kree aliens – the character first appeared in Captain Marvel #59, long before Carol Danvers possessed that title: instead, the Captain was a Kree male known as Mar-Vell, who became Elysius’ lover for a time before dying, at which point Elysius gave birth to their children, Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell, two very important characters in the Marvel comics. It’s a lot of stuff to keep track of, but it’s an important link that could be exploited if Marvel Studios feels the need to explain, in some way, the reasoning behind this casting choice. Minn-Erva could be another daughter or descendant of Elysius (though the identity of the father might need to change, since the name Mar-Vell was already used in Captain Marvel to refer to a female Kree character: unless Elysius is the Eternals‘ touted LGBTQ character?)

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Chan isn’t the only person joining the cast of Eternals today – Barry Keoghan of Dunkirk will make his Marvel debut in the film as well, in an unknown role: possibly as the god of love, Eros “Starfox”, or, as some have suggested, a young version of Thanos.

What do you think about Marvel breaking their own rules like this? Who do you think Chan and Keoghan are playing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

LGBTQ Diversity In Marvel Phase 4!

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe gears up for Phase 4, a variety of things have been revealed about the upcoming slate of movies and streaming shows they’ll be offering in the next two years: so far, we’ve got a general idea of what to expect from the fourth phase – it’s going to be absolutely insane, it’s going to be cosmic in scale, and it will be very diverse. Diverse in this case can mean two things: a general diversity of storytelling styles ranging from raw psychological thrillers (Black Widow) to absurdist comedies (Thor: Love And Thunder) – and a diversity of cast and crew, with an incredible number of minority groups being represented in mainstream superhero films. While a discussion about the diversity of filmmaking styles being used in Phase 4 would be very interesting and engrossing (Eternals will be shot on 16mm Ektachrome??), we’re going to focus on the latter meaning of the word for today’s post.

According to multiple outlets, Marvel may soon add a transgender superhero to its Phase 4 roster: an impressive roster already, one that includes at least three female directors, two or more female-led projects, Marvel’s first Asian-led film and Asian-American director, first deaf superheroine, and two or more LGBTQ characters.

While this new superhero’s name has not yet been revealed, it seems Marvel is looking for a transwoman actress to play her, under the code name “Jessica”. The rumors don’t even begin to suggest what film she might appear in, whether it’s one in Phase 4 or possibly Phase 5, which kicks off in 2022. Interestingly, though, this news story comes hard on the heels of speculation about one of Marvel’s other characters who might be on the LGBTQ spectrum – Ikaris.

Now, technically, in the comics, Ikaris is actually a straight cisgender male: but it seems that Marvel is looking to change that and possibly announce that Ikaris is a gay character – while, at the same time, Richard Madden, who will portray Ikaris in Eternals, will publicly come out as gay (there’s been lots of rumors about Madden himself in recent years). Talk about a publicity stunt! There’s just one thing that’s been nagging people about this: in the comics, Ikaris is probably most notable for his romance with the female sorceress Sersi, who has not yet been cast for Eternals: people have already begun to speculate that, since Ikaris might be gay, Sersi could be genderbent to be a male. This probably doesn’t have anything to do with the rumors about a transgender superhero, but it’s worth noting as another step forward for LGBTQ diversity (or is that a step forward? I can only imagine the controversy that would ensue if Sersi was genderbent to be a male).

As for who “Jessica” might be, it seems from the reports that she might be one of Marvel Comics’ only transgender characters – Sera, a supporting character in the Thor mythos: Sera started life as a male angel trapped within the Tenth Realm of Yggdrasil, but she identified as female; she was eventually rescued from her imprisonment by Thor’s sister Angela, who then became her love interest for a time. There’s a whole bunch of interesting stuff that could be done with the Tenth Realm, Heven, and the characters of Sera and Angela – not least of which is the possibility of Sera becoming the “queen” that bisexual heroine Valkyrie is apparently searching for in Thor: Love And Thunder. Unless that’s Angela? Or Jane Foster Thor? Jamie Alexander announced on Twitter last night that she wants to be Valkyrie’s queen, but, let’s face it, Lady Sif isn’t coming back.

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With so many possible LGBTQ storylines to choose from, which do you want Marvel to prioritize – and who else should come out in future movies? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

“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.

“Eternals” Cast!

If there was one Marvel project that we knew virtually nothing about going into San Diego Comic Con, it was Eternals – Chloe Zhao’s upcoming movie about immortal alien gods trying to protect the earth from other alien gods called Deviants. This was all partially due to the fact that nobody really knew anything about the Eternals comics (not surprising, considering they haven’t been in print for quite some time), and because there were a whole bunch of rumors about the film that ended up becoming huge headlines from various media outlets, headlines which eventually turned out to be untrue (or, at least, haven’t been confirmed yet).

One such rumor, for instance, was that Marvel’s first openly gay character would be one of three male stars in the film, and would most likely be the Greek God Hercules. Well, last night, four of the male stars of Eternals came onstage – and not one of them was playing Hercules. There’s still a lot of speculation, though, because…well, there’s a lot of chaos going on. First of all, Richard Madden was confirmed to be playing one of the main Eternals, Ikaris – we kind of knew or guessed that already. But the trades have all been reporting that Ikaris was going to be most definitely straight, and in a romantic relationship with the character of Sersi, believed to be played by Angelina Jolie. Last night, though, not only was it revealed that Angelina Jolie is playing a completely different character named Thena – it was also notable that nobody was confirmed to play Sersi. As of this writing, there is no Sersi in Eternals: arguably the only character from this film that even comic-book readers might have a chance at recognizing – isn’t there. So, yeah, in her absence, it’s entirely possible that Ikaris is the film’s gay character – and there’s been lots of (still unconfirmed) speculation that Richard Madden himself is gay, so who knows?

Obviously, the big news was that Jolie would not be playing Sersi, the enchantress and fun-loving witch: personally, that makes me very happy, because the character of Sersi absolutely 100% needs to be played by comedian Jameela Jamil. Oh yeah, and while Jolie takes on the role of the warrior Thena, the actress previously reported for that role, Salma Hayek, will actually be playing Ajak, the leader of the Eternals. But there were many other surprises:

Makkari, the super-speedy Eternal based on the Roman god Mercury, will not be played by Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani – instead, she will be portrayed by Lauren Ridloff, becoming the first deaf superhero in the MCU. The addition of Ridloff to the cast is a welcome surprise. Meanwhile, Nanjiani will be playing master swordsman Kingo, a character I’ve never even heard of before.

Millie Bobby Brown, long speculated to have a starring role in this movie – is not in this movie. The role she was supposedly eyeing, that of the teenage character Sprite or Piper, is instead going to child actress Lia McHugh. So we can finally let the Stranger Things actress take a break from reporters constantly pestering her about when she’s joining Marvel.

Brian Tyree Henry will take on the role of genius weapons-maker and inventor Phastos, in a surprise announcement. There was talk of Phastos being in the movie, but no indication that he would be a star. And, lastly, Asian star Don Lee will be the indomitable god Gilgamesh – a character so powerful that Lee even challenged Marvel’s Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, to a challenge.

Possibly the biggest shock is that this is the full cast: previous reports had stated that there would be no less than five female leads and three male leads – currently, we have four female and four male, perfectly balanced, as all things should be. But this is certainly a downsized version of the cast initially reported early this year, which included characters like Druig, Sersi, a “female archaeologist”, Hercules, Elysius, and Zuras. Whether they’ll be in the film, or simply remain to be cast, is still unknown. But one thing is for certain: despite the fact that a lot was cleared up at last night’s Eternals panel – it’s still just as confusing!

“Black Widow” Is A Prequel!

Marvel Studios has officially begun its conquest of the next few years of cinema and culture, with an absolutely outstanding array of new films and TV shows being revealed at San Diego Comic-Con – the entire world responded accordingly, pushing Avengers: Endgame past its box-office competitor Avatar to make it the highest-grossing film of all time, while also managing to dominate social media, with all of Twitter’s top ten trends being Marvel-related, from Kate Bishop to Thor: Love And Thunder. Marvel has also given me quite the headache, giving me endless topics to discuss for the next few days, or possibly weeks – and discuss we shall, starting with the first film to be released next year (but the last film to be announced by Marvel president Kevin Feige at tonight’s showstopper presentation).

Black Widow, officially confirmed for a May 1st, 2020 release date, with David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and O.T. Fagbenle set to star alongside Scarlett Johansson’s KGB assassin in what will be a semi-prequel movie set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, during a time in which Black Widow was a fugitive from her own government: it was not revealed whether or not Captain America, Falcon or Winter Soldier would be in the film. It appears that large parts of the movie will be set in the fabled city of Budapest, though it is still unclear whether the events depicted there are flashbacks to the battle of Budapest referenced by Black Widow and Hawkeye in The Avengers – and Jeremy Renner was not among the cast members revealed for the film, so there’s a possibility Hawkeye isn’t even in it. Footage from the upcoming film was shown to a cheering crowd (who all received Black Widow hats afterward): the brief sizzle-reel showed Black Widow fighting Florence Pugh’s character, confirmed to be Widow’s antihero nemesis and “sister-figure”, Yelena Belova – called it! – before moving on to an intense brawl with the film’s main villain, Taskmaster, seen sporting his iconic shield: still no word on who will be playing that character, but we do know that David Harbour will portray a man named Alexi – in other words, Harbour will not be playing her father, Ivan, as was previously believed by many theorists. I’m still holding onto hope that my theory about Widow’s father being the Eternal, Ivan Druig, is correct. Eternals had its fair share of surprises during their opening presentation, but we’ll talk about that in a separate post. It was also confirmed that Fagbenle’s character “has feelings for” Black Widow, which is interesting. It wasn’t said whether she reciprocated his affections, or not.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to cover the rest of the SDCC reveals tomorrow morning – Black Widow happened to be the least eventful of Marvel’s many panels, so it was easy to talk about all the basics. Stay tuned for discussion of Lady Thor, the Multiverse, Kate Bishop, Eternals casting and more!

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.

“Avengers: Endgame” Spoilers! Who Died?

Obviously, massive spoilers lie ahead, so turn away now if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame. Like, right now, because we’re going to start with the most unexpected – and thus the most shocking – death of the entire movie.

That’s right, Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, is the first Avenger to bite the dust in Endgame, in a heart-wrenching scene that sees her and her former partner Clint Barton (Hawkeye) travel to the cold and desolate planet Vormir, looking for the Soul Stone. Marvel fans will already know that the Soul Stone requires a sacrifice in order to be won: it stole Gamora, the fiercest woman in the galaxy, from us in Avengers: Infinity War, and now it’s taken Black Widow as well. Both Clint and Natasha try desperately to commit suicide and prevent the other from dying, but in the end Natasha is the one dangling precariously off the edge of a cliff, while Clint grips her hand, telling her he won’t sacrifice her. Natasha, however, reminds him that he has a family, while she has nothing to live for and no family to go home to – though, interestingly, Natasha gets an interesting hint about her own parents here on Vormir, when the Soul Stone’s guardian Red Skull names her “daughter of Ivan”. More on that in a moment.

Clint lets go, Natasha falls to her death, and the Soul Stone is won. But the question remains: was it worth it? Natasha’s entire character arc has been about her loneliness – she doesn’t have a family, and called herself a “monster” for being unable to have children. She believes she’s nothing but a cold-blooded killer, incapable of love. And, sadly, she dies like this too, sacrificing herself because she has nothing left. Rather than having a triumphant character arc, Black Widow dies in tragic fashion, far from her home, so that Hawkeye can get the Soul Stone. Yes, the Stone helps to save the day in the end, but Natasha’s sacrifice feels like a crushing blow, not just to the other Avengers, and to the audience, but to her own character: Natasha’s death is sad, but it’s also infuriating. She died without ever realizing that she was valuable in her own right. She died without ever truly fulfilling her arc.

The good thing is, there’s still a chance she’s coming back. Of course, a Black Widow movie is already moving into production and will be released next year, but it is a prequel, set long before Endgame. But there’s more evidence than just that: look here.

At the end of Endgame, Captain America goes back in time to replace all the Infinity Stones to the time and place they were taken from – in other words, the Soul Stone returns to Vormir. (This also means Captain America comes face-to-face with his old nemesis Red Skull, but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, Cap replacing the Soul Stone could negate Black Widow’s sacrifice and bring her back to life. But what’s the purpose of that?, I hear you ask. Why bring back a character who really doesn’t have anything to do in the next phase of the MCU?

Well, she could actually have a crucial part to play in the next phase, and here’s the evidence.

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The Black Widow movie will be the first film of Phase 4, for one thing (this was previously believed to be Spider-man: Far From Home, until Marvel President Kevin Feige revealed that Far From Home would be the final film of Phase 3). Black Widow also could have a newly-revealed connection to an upcoming film in the Marvel roster: The Eternals. In The Eternals, we will see a new character – the villainous space god Druig, who, in the comics, takes the identity of a Russian KGB agent and becomes leader of a Soviet state named Vorozheika. While living in Russia, Druig takes a new name – Ivan Druig.

That’s right. Black Widow could be the daughter of a god, even though she doesn’t know it. If her death is undone, Natasha will come back to life on the planet Vormir, far from her home planet and alone: imagine a scenario in which Druig, her father, comes looking for her. I would suspect a scene like this could occur as a post-credits stinger for Black Widow, which will probably focus on Natasha’s formative years. We’ve grown used to her being a baton-wielding martial-arts fighter, but what if she were to inherit some new powers from her father? This could open the door to many more Black Widow stories, and she could have a chance to live out the rest of her unfulfilled arc.

The next death is one that certainly seems more permanent – and to reverse it would be to negate a great arc that reached a satisfying and poetic conclusion in Endgame. Tony Stark, the Iron Man who started the MCU as we know it and has been Marvel’s figurehead for a decade now, sacrifices himself to wipe out Thanos’ army of killer aliens. He dies surrounded by his friends, survived by his wife and young daughter. It would be a mistake to reverse this death, in my opinion: however, that doesn’t mean we’ll never see Tony Stark again.

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You see, in the comics, Tony Stark has died before – but in one notable case, he was able to create an artificial intelligence hologram of himself before his death: we even saw this teased a little in Endgame, when Stark’s daughter Morgan watches a holographic video that Tony had prerecorded in case everything went wrong. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that Tony created an AI body for himself too, an artificial Tony Stark that could still be played by Robert Downey Jr, and could hang around Avengers HQ and make cameo appearances every now and again, or impart wisdom to the next generation of Marvel heroes. This seems like a fitting way to keep Tony around without reversing his incredibly impactful death.

The only death that I regard as “permanent” is Captain America’s. When Cap goes back in time at the end of Endgame to replace the Infinity Stones to their original timelines, as previously mentioned, he decides not to come back immediately. In fact, he goes all the way back to the 1940’s, and instead lives out a normal life with his old girlfriend Peggy Carter, before returning to the present timeline as an elderly man to pass on the Captain America mantle to his comrade Sam Wilson, also known as Falcon. We last see him sitting on a park bench, staring off across a lake, and it’s implied that his death is not far off, even though we don’t see it onscreen. In my opinion, this death can’t be reversed without a lot of time travel or a deep dive into the alternate realities that have been opened up by the events in Avengers: Endgame. While it seems likely that some of these new realities and timelines will be explored in some fashion, this is not one of them, I think. Any attempt to show Cap’s life with Peggy would be redundant and boring: his arc was concluded, and he can rest in peace now. I, personally, would have preferred a different end for the character, one that doesn’t involve Captain America messing up time and basically ensuring that Peggy and him end up together – whereas in the original timeline, Peggy had moved on with another man and had her own happy ending. It seems to suggest that Cap has some selfish intentions, and that’s not an implication I like (though one theory says that Peggy’s new husband was always Captain America, and that there’s actually two Caps, and always have been, and it’s just a really complicated and complex theory that I don’t have time to explain here).

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So those are the three main deaths of Avengers: Endgame (though not, in fact, the only deaths. A past version of Nebula, Thanos, and possibly a past version of Gamora all get killed off – in Thanos’ case, twice). I regard Black Widow’s death as temporary, Tony’s as permanent-but-with-a-loophole, and Cap’s as permanent. What do you think? Did you feel the character deaths in Endgame were satisfying or not? Share your thoughts in the comments and look out for more Endgame news in the days and weeks ahead.

“The Eternals” Casting Announcements!

Just as news on Marvel’s upcoming The Eternals movie was slowing down, two big announcements got dropped today. First, we got a report that Marvel is seeking to cast an openly gay or bisexual Asian actor in a lead male role. Soon after, news dropped that South Korean actor Ma Dong-seok has been cast in The Eternals, in an unknown role. Even though the two stories would seem to be connected, Ma Dong-seok does not appear to be playing the gay male lead: he is not openly gay or bisexual (as far as I can tell), and the initial report stated that Marvel is specifically looking at Conrad Ricamora for the gay lead – whose codename, by the way, is “James”, which is how I will refer to this character: “James” is said to be “intellectual, emotional, and has a strong sense of family”. And he’s also supposed to be in his 20’s, apparently, which would rule out Ma Dong-seok, who is forty-eight.

These reports follow news that broke not long ago concerning another casting announcement: Kumail Nanjiani will be joining The Eternals in an unknown role – though speculation has been rampant that he’ll be playing the super-speedy Makkari.

So let’s break it down. First, we have this news that the gay male lead will be played by an Asian actor – so far, the cast is looking really diverse, and that’s fantastic, but who is the gay male lead? Hercules has never been depicted as Asian in the comics, and is not exactly “intellectual”, so he seems an unlikely option at this point – not to mention the fact that Marvel’s go-to option is apparently Conrad Ricamora, whose slim physique doesn’t seem very Herculean (also, isn’t it somewhat paradoxical that the article states that Marvel is looking at actors in their 20’s for the role of “James”, yet Ricamora is 40?). No, at this point, I’m beginning to think Hercules will not be appearing in The Eternals, or, if he does, he won’t be the gay lead. But who else could “James” be? There are no gay characters in The Eternals comics, so it could be pretty much anybody. Perhaps Starfox, the brother of Thanos (very complicated situation: don’t ask), or perhaps he’s actually Makkari, and Nanjiani is playing somebody else? It’s all very confusing.

Then there’s Ma Dong-seok, a name probably unfamiliar to American audiences – this will be his first American film, in fact. My guess is that he will be portraying Zuras, leader of the Eternals, as the actor shares the same sort of large muscular build as the comics character. I suppose it’s possible, though to my mind unlikely, that he could be Hercules. It’s entirely plausible that he’ll also be playing some character we don’t even know yet. The film has been rumored to have five female leads and three male leads – a dauntingly large ensemble cast. It remains to be seen if indie director Chloe Zhao can pull off so huge a project, but I have faith. At the very least, it looks to be quite a diverse film already.

X-Men Won’t Be Joining The MCU – Yet.

The moment Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, Marvel comic fans around the world had one question: how soon will we get a Marvel reboot of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four?

It’ll be a while.

Those were Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige’s exact words in a recent interview, where he explained that he has a plan for the next phase of the MCU, and, at present, it does not include the X-Men. Specifically, he has a five-year plan that starts in 2020, apparently, so it appears we might not get our next X-Men movie until around 2026. Dark Phoenix, the last relic of the Fox X-Men, suddenly has a lot more significance: it will be a long time before we ever see characters like Professor X, Magneto, Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm onscreen again.

Or will it be?

You see, we might not be getting an X-Men film for a long time, but does that exclude the possibility of certain X-Men and mutants appearing in other, upcoming Marvel films, not as a team, but as individuals? After all, the Avengers weren’t introduced as a group – they got solo films first, that slowly built up to their first team-up movie. Why not do something similar with the X-Men: scatter them throughout Phase 4 of the MCU, separate and distinct from each other, and then, somewhere down the line, have them meet. There’s already a lot of possibilities, so let’s explore a few right now.

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First up, there’s The Eternals. This is a rather mysterious movie, which hasn’t started filming yet, but it should come out in November of 2020, kicking off Feige’s five-year plan. The Eternals are a rather unusual group of characters, and their backstory is hugely convoluted and confusing, but basically it goes like this: thousands of years ago, space gods known as the Celestials came to Earth and started messing about with humankind – they did experiments on human DNA, and were able to create a race of godlike beings, the Eternals. However, their experiments are also responsible for the Mutants: the X-Men are descended from those early humans who were mutated by the Celestials. The Eternals could be an epic spanning thousands of years, according to Feige, which means it’s likely we’ll see those experiments on humankind. That lays the groundwork for mutants showing up later in the MCU.

Then we have Black Panther 2 – the sequel to the highly acclaimed, Best Picture-nominee Black Panther. But while it will undoubtedly feature the return of beloved characters like T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia and Okoye, the film will probably add some new characters to the mix. And there’s one character in particular who has always had an interesting connection to the country of Wakanda and the Black Panther. That would be Storm, a.k.a Ororo Munroe, one of the most notable mutants in the X-Men roster. In the comics, Storm met T’Challa when they were both teenagers, and the two had feelings for each other – though they were forced to part ways for a time, Storm returned to Wakanda eventually and married T’Challa, becoming Queen of Wakanda. Imagine if, in Black Panther 2, we see something like this: T’Challa could hear rumors of a mysterious witch living out beyond the borders of Wakanda, who can control the weather – in a mission to stop her, he could end up learning her tragic story, of how her parents were killed when a fighter jet crashed into their house in Cairo, how she became a street thief before being adopted by the priestesses living in the Serengeti to whom she is distantly related. Perhaps they could end up having romantic feelings (though in that case, what happens to Nakia?), but more likely the two merely become close friends, and Storm becomes a citizen of Wakanda. And what about this for a post-credits scene: Professor X himself shows up in Wakanda and asks her to come with him. That would be epic.

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Then we get to Captain Marvel. The spunky,  faster-than-light superheroine memorably portrayed by Oscar-winner Brie Larson is incredibly powerful, armed with the power of an Infinity Stone, and there seems to be nothing in the universe that can stop her. So what kind of villain can be crafted for a Captain Marvel sequel, what kind of villain can actually pose a threat to someone so empowered? You would need someone who could use similar power.

Enter Rogue, the young mutant who can absorb powers from other people. In the comics, she has actually done this to Captain Marvel – with disastrous results. She absorbed Danvers’ powers and used them to battle the Avengers (and even threw Carol Danvers off the Golden Gate Bridge). While things eventually went back to normal, this incident left both characters emotionally scarred. And it’s interesting that Rogue happens to hail from the state of Mississippi: just one state over, in Louisiana, lives Carol’s good friend Maria Rambeau, and it’s not unlikely that Carol will spend more time there, in the Deep South. She could encounter Rogue there in Captain Marvel 2, and the consequences could be vast.

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There you have three movies already that could feature Mutants in some way. They’re not the only ones: multiple X-Men, such as Colossus and Magik, come from Russia, which is presumably where the upcoming Black Widow movie will be set. Magik also has some interesting connections to Doctor Strange in the comics, and the Doctor is getting a sequel which should come out in 2021. A future Spider-man movie could be a great place to introduce Iceman. There’s a plethora of possibilities, and even if we don’t get the X-Men as a team within the next five years, I have no doubt we’ll start seeing set-up for the X-Men in the near future.

Also, don’t forget that while Kevin Feige said the X-Men won’t be getting a film for some time, he said nothing about the Fantastic Four. They might be an easier group to introduce a little sooner, and wouldn’t require as much build-up to their introduction.