“Ms. Marvel” Moves Into Pre-Production!

Disney+, the streaming service to end all streaming wars, is only a few weeks from release at this point, and new content is being announced almost daily, from classic films to original miniseries and made-for-TV movies. Unsurprisingly, Marvel Studios has a slew of upcoming projects slated to release on their parent company’s platform regularly throughout the next few years: but, according to new reports, we can expect one of them a lot sooner than previously anticipated.

Ms. Marvel, a recently announced Disney+ miniseries about Marvel’s first Muslim superhero (a teenage girl named Kamala Khan, capable of shape-shifting), has just been drastically fast-tracked, with production now set to begin in April of next year, rather than late fall, as was previously reported. Showrunner Bisha K. Ali and her team are apparently still on the lookout for an actress to play the lead role, but sources suggest that an announcement on that front could come fairly soon.

But while we don’t yet know who’s in talks to play Khan herself, we do have an idea of who could be portraying some of her supporting cast: and both the names in discussion as well as the characters they’re rumored to be playing are…well, surprising to say the least.

So, the thing is, the character of Kamala Khan doesn’t get her unusual powers in the same way that a lot of Marvel heroes have: her origin story doesn’t involve absorbing Tesseract energy from a plane crash or lifting a magical hammer. When she enters the MCU, Khan will become one of the few heroes who was actually born with her superpowers – but don’t jump to conclusions: Khan isn’t a mutant. In fact, she’s an Inhuman, a race of supernaturally enhanced human beings who you’ll probably remember from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the group that heroine Daisy Johnson belongs to – the Marvel TV team attempted to craft an Inhumans spinoff series back in 2017, but the show was a flop with audiences and critics, and ended after just one season. But now, with the Marvel TV division officially answering to Kevin Feige, there’s absolutely nothing stopping Feige from using the Inhumans if he chooses – and, apparently, he’s already made up his mind.

The Inhumans will supposedly be recast and will join the MCU proper through the Ms. Marvel series, de-canonizing the failed TV series once and for all. We’ve known for some time that Marvel TV is coming to an end, but this is a final nail in the coffin for the television mini-empire that Jeph Loeb tried to create. Now, few people are probably going to have a problem with the recasting of the Inhumans, since few people liked the casting to begin with, and even fewer actually watched the show – but how would you feel if the MCU chose to recast other characters; for instance, Daisy Johnson, herself a notable Inhuman who could conceivably appear in Ms. Marvel? I know many people are happy, even ecstatic, about the merger between Marvel and Marvel TV, but there are many fans of the TV division who don’t want to see their favorite shows get wiped out of existence, seven seasons of story completely unwritten, characters we’ve grown attached to revamped with new actors and new personalities – you can probably guess that I’m talking about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. here. Thankfully, there are rumors going around that some of the more popular characters won’t be recast, and will be preserved, as much as is possible, during their transition into the MCU – but who counts as a popular character?

Well, not the Inhumans, clearly. Marvel is currently looking for actors to play the royal family of Attilan, with Vin Diesel and Aaron Taylor-Johnson both in talks: both men have roles in the MCU already – Diesel as the voice of Groot, and Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, who perished in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Diesel is probably the more intriguing of the two; while he’s only had a voice role up until now, the character he’s set to play, the Black Bolt, wouldn’t have much occasion to speak at all – since the slightest whisper of his voice has the power to level cities and cause catastrophic ruin. Maybe that’s why Marvel doesn’t have a problem with Diesel filling the role, since general audience members wouldn’t see any connection between the two characters. Taylor-Johnson, on the other hand, is supposedly going to portray Maximus the Mad, the Black Bolt’s villainous brother.

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So what do you think of the news that the Inhumans could be rebooted in the MCU, with different actors? What are your opinions on the future of Marvel TV? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kevin Feige Joins “Star Wars” Team!

What is Kevin Feige? What is he, that he can patiently build up 23 films worth of material, mash it all together (successfully, no less!) in the most ambitious crossover event ever, than outdo himself the very next year, wipe the board clean and start all over immediately afterwards, unveiling his genius plans for the next two years and implying that he already has the next five planned out in his head? How is it that this man can expand one of the biggest movie franchises in the world to include as many as 12 new properties (14 if you include Fantastic Four and X-Men, which he hasn’t even begun discussing yet), probably 8 films in total and 8 streaming shows, seemingly without any worry that he could risk over-extending Marvel Studios’ reach? How is it that he can lose one of his company’s most iconic characters to a rival studio in a bitter war between his superiors at Disney and Sony, without breaking a sweat?

How is it even humanly possible that he looks at everything he’s got on his plate right now, calmly, studiously examines everything, nods his head, and says: “You know what, let’s add a Star Wars movie to the mix”.

You heard that right: Star Wars. Kevin Feige, a lifelong fan of the Galaxy Far, Far Away, is joining the troubled franchise to work with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on a new Star Wars movie.

From Kennedy’s point of view, this is probably both relieving and slightly nerve-wracking. Feige, with an entire decade of blockbusters behind him, will be a boost to the franchise, which has been going through some rough patches lately, with studio shakeups and audience backlash dominating the headlines: Star Wars is still a wildly successful property, but Kennedy needs it to outlast the Skywalker family, who will probably make their last appearances in this year’s The Rise Of Skywalker. However, her attempts to do so have been met with resistance, as some fans refuse to let go of the Skywalkers, or aren’t interested in the stories of Rey and Kylo Ren. Kennedy has a huge new wave of films she wants to roll out in the coming years, but so far her picks to produce and direct them have been so shocking, it almost seems like she’s intentionally courting controversy: Game Of Thrones‘ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are working on an entire trilogy for the franchise, even after the disastrous final season of their hit TV show that basically turned an entire fandom against them; and Rian Johnson, who infamously directed The Last Jedi (a film I actually quite liked) and became so hated among the Star Wars fanbase that Kennedy didn’t even keep him around to develop the sequel, is also shaping up his own trilogy.

Feige, then, is a breath of fresh air in this crowded kitchen. The man is beloved by the Marvel fandom, widely recognized as a business-savvy genius with a keen understanding of PR as well as how to craft excellent stories, and has produced many of the highest-grossing films in history. He’s also a die-hard Star Wars fan, which means he’s not just being brought in to rescue the franchise, but actually has a good idea of what he’s getting into.

But while Kennedy has to be happy about all that (what with her current track record of hiring directors, she had better recognize a good thing when she’s got it), there still has to be some doubt in her mind: Kevin Feige is a presence that leaves a mark on whatever he touches – assuming his Star Wars project is a stand-alone, that might not be so bad, but what if he wants to direct more? Apparently, he has already approached a major actor that he’s worked with before to star in his Star Wars film, and that actor has expressed interest (the rumor is that it’s Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, and a huge fan of Star Wars). How much of it will, in fact, be his? Kennedy’s obviously not passing Lucasfilm onto Kevin Feige, but she has to be worried that her own legacy in the company will be overshadowed by Feige, especially if Disney sees that the results are favorable and decides to work with Feige again. Disney CEO Bob Iger has just recently gone on the record criticizing his company’s handling of the Star Wars situation, saying that they tried to do too much at once and rushed the process. Wow, Kennedy’s got to be thrilled about that assessment of her work. The last thing that Star Wars needs right now is more infighting, and Feige’s involvement could be the spark that lights the flames of war.

And as for Feige? Well, I can’t imagine how he’s going to balance all of his new projects, or if his move to Star Wars signifies a shift away from Marvel (something that would undoubtedly only increase Kennedy’s fears). Some are saying this would be the perfect time for Feige to make good on his promise to diversify the Marvel franchise, by putting his current Executive Vice President of Production Victoria Alonso in charge of the studio. Others are begging Feige not to leave Marvel in favor of what they view as a lost cause.

I’m still busy wondering whether Kevin Feige is a cyborg: the man takes multitasking to the next level.

So what are your thoughts? Is this a good move for Feige, Kennedy, or both? Or is this is sign of worse things to come for both Star Wars and Marvel? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sony: Into The Spider-Drama

I had already made up my mind to write a follow-up post to all the Spider-Man drama last night, after some new updates on a rapidly evolving story. But I was blindsided by just how dramatic some of these updates would be. Let’s dig in and discuss.

So, for all of you new to the story: last night, Sony Pictures and Disney Studios supposedly ended the deal they’ve had since 2015, whereby the character of Spider-Man is jointly owned by both companies, with creative control largely belonging to Disney (and specifically Marvel Studios), and the vast majority of box-office returns flowing straight into Sony’s treasure hoard. This apparently came about due to a disagreement over money: Disney is fed up with having to satisfy Marvel by agreeing to this deal, and so pressed Sony to allow for a 50/50 co-financing agreement, which would effectively impoverish a studio whose only big franchise is Spider-Man. Sony backed away from the new deal and took Spider-Man with them. That was how things looked at first.

Then, just after I had posted my initial response to the news, some more headlines started popping up. It was all just a false alarm, blown out of proportion: deals were apparently still ongoing: theories started emerging that it had all been a hoax, that the details had been leaked by Disney as a publicity stunt to gather support. They might have; we don’t know yet. But a closer look at those headlines revealed that they were little more than unsubstantiated rumors and speculation. But for a moment there, it looked like both sides had reached an uneasy ceasefire. Sources were saying that Sony executives were trying to reach out and explain to the press that this was all hypothetical.

That was until Sony themselves took to social media to explain what had happened, leaving no doubt that they weren’t messing around here, a deal had not been reached, talks were not ongoing, and no, Disney, you can’t have Spidey back yet. Their official statement placed the blame squarely on Disney, and characterized Marvel Studios and Marvel president Kevin Feige as the main victims of this terrible offense: “We are disappointed,” read the press release, “but respect Disney’s decision not to have [Feige] continue as a lead producer of our next live-action Spider-Man film.”

Ouch. That hurts. Especially because Feige is caught directly in the middle of this studio warfare, and is now being used by both sides to justify their actions, but has no ability to actually work out a deal on his own. And at this point, it’s become Disney’s problem just as much as it is his – Disney is currently building an entire Marvel theme park in which the main attraction will be…a Spider-Man ride. That was truly a brilliant idea, deciding to cash in on the character before even settling the question of whether they could.

The shame and blame tactics didn’t stop there, as Sony suggested that Disney would now try to pamper Feige into submission with a whole bunch of new toys obtained during the Disney/Fox merger: “We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own.”

Even The Hollywood Reporter is using the word “divorce” to describe this situation, and it’s no surprise – this whole situation sounds very hostile, and very risky. Disney can back down and allow Spider-Man to slip back into Sony’s vaults, or they can wise up and offer a more fair and balanced deal, one that doesn’t involve them stealing half the profits of a franchise that’s not actually theirs. Maybe losing some of the marketing rights to the character wouldn’t hurt either, since Disney has clearly run rampant with them. Feige can’t do much at all, and any actions he does take will look like he’s being moved around by Disney, unless he tries to negotiate a deal behind their backs – which, you know, probably isn’t a great idea. At the moment, Sony president Amy Pascal is in the position of power: she can smash a gaping hole in Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, rob the franchise of one of its most iconic characters, and also wreck Disney’s new Marvel Land theme park.

Spider-Man star Tom Holland has been silent on the whole situation, but his Avengers co-star Jeremy Renner hasn’t, publicly stated that Sony should give back the character to Marvel, imploring the studio to remember that Spidey was Stan Lee’s favorite character. Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, who hasn’t actually entered the MCU yet, seemed dismayed that he wouldn’t be able to join a Cinematic Universe that didn’t include the Webslinger.

If a deal is reached, it should come before Disney’s D23 event (at which they’re expected to officially announce the Marvel Land park, and possibly some upcoming Marvel movies). That’s…the day after tomorrow.

Do you think Sony and Disney will settle this dispute? Is it too late for that? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Spider-Man Is Leaving The MCU!

Some Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home ahead!

Well, that was a surprise.

Today would have been a completely unremarkable, even boring day in the world of entertainment industry news – there weren’t any big, flashy headlines to wake up to, no unexpected trailers dropping or big casting news. The world was mostly just chatting amiably about Amy Adams’ birthday, and getting ready for D23. Then, this happened.

As of today, the Sony/Disney deal over the Spider-Man rights has officially collapsed, leaving chaos, heartbreak and a collective sense of shock in its wake. Most of the internet is hurriedly rushing out hashtags like #BoycottSony or #GiveBackSpiderMan, while the rest are cheering about what this means for a shared Spider-verse over at Sony. I’ll try to sort out the details and let you draw your own conclusions, but I want to point out upfront that I am one of the fans who is currently very upset about this news. Not to the point where I want to boycott Sony, as I think that’s pretty ridiculous, but definitely angry enough to…well, write this post, for one thing.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that Spider-Man is the subject of the trickiest rights situation in Hollywood: or, was. Sony exclusively held the rights to the character, and the entire Spider-verse (a.k.a. Spidey’s entire roster of supporting characters, rogues, etc), from 1999 to 2015. During that time they produced two separate Spider-Man franchises, one starring Tobey Maguire, followed by a reboot with Andrew Garfield in the Webslinger’s iconic costume. After the reboot flopped, and the Spider-verse looked to be in danger of breaking apart, Sony’s president Amy Pascal came to an arrangement with Disney and Marvel Studios that the three companies would be able to have joint ownership of the character – with Sony reserving most of the rights. Spider-Man was never sold to the MCU, so much as he was leased. Sony still financed, produced and distributed his films, while Marvel only got a small portion of all Spider-Man box-office returns. The only control that Marvel ever really had over the character was the ability to use him as they saw fit in a total of five Sony-approved films, to recast him, and to choose directors and creative teams for his franchise. For more information on the specifics of the deal, I’ll direct you here.

Meanwhile, Sony used the remaining scraps of the Spider-verse to start creating their own separate franchises, completely disassociated with the MCU – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Venom, two of last year’s most unexpected successes, seem to have proved to Sony that a three-way partnership with Disney and Marvel was no longer necessary – or profitable. Besides, they’re clearly itching to introduce Spider-Man to their roster of other characters, and they can’t do that until they have full control over the character once more.

So they did the only logical thing they could do. Mere days after Spider-Man: Far From Home, a Sony/Marvel production, officially became the highest-grossing Sony film of all time, Sony chose to pull out of their deal with Disney and Marvel – thereby immediately removing the character from the MCU, shutting the door on future Marvel storylines involving the character, and preventing Marvel president Kevin Feige from having any creative control over Spider-Man’s future films. This, of course, was always a risk, and it looks like Sony might have been scared by Feige’s supposed willingness to bring even more Spider-verse characters into the Marvel fold – perhaps that possible Gwen Stacy cameo in Avengers: Endgame was the last straw, who knows?

Whatever was the reason for Sony’s abrupt decision, it looks like, once they made up their minds, they didn’t back down. Disney apparently reached out to the studio, on Marvel’s behalf, with an offer to set up a 50/50 co-financing deal for all future Spider-Man movies – Sony turned it down immediately, and offered to keep the current deal going; the deal under which Marvel receives a measly share of profits. Disney rejected that offer. At which point Sony just cut their losses and took Spider-Man back. Both sides are just trying to look out for their business, and that’s completely understandable. Disney (and especially Marvel) don’t want to lose one of the cornerstones of their biggest franchise, and Sony doesn’t want to keep sharing their biggest franchise anymore, in a deal that has effectively prevented them from fully building their own Spider-verse.

The main problem is that this leaves Kevin Feige and the MCU in a horrible position. Having just set up a huge, world-changing story arc in Far From Home that was clearly intended to set up future Spider-Man movies and pave the way for Peter Parker becoming Marvel’s new Iron Man, Feige will now have to slowly dismantle all that hard work. If Sony and Disney don’t renegotiate (and it doesn’t seem likely that they will, at least not yet), then Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man is officially gone from the MCU, leaving a gaping hole in the universe’s carefully constructed structure. Mysterio, one of the most awesome villains in recent comic book movie history, is gone as well. MJ, Aunt May, Ned: all of them are gone. J. Jonah Jameson, who just got introduced to the MCU, is out of it again. Sony will take back all their characters and probably recast and rebrand them all, giving Peter Parker a new origin story in a new trilogy of films that will most likely not expand on anything you’ve seen in Peter’s brief MCU tenure.

And so I feel obligated to conclude this post with what will most likely turn out to be the last line of dialogue ever spoken by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU:

“What the fu-”

*cut to black*

Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings – What Are They?

It’s theorizing time! I’m not always an expert at this sort of thing (I tend to have flashes of what I think could be an interesting idea, but…well, we’ll get to that), but I’m mainly writing this post so you – and I – can understand better one of the more intriguing developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the unveiling of the long-anticipated villain, The Mandarin, and his shadowy terrorist organization; the Ten Rings.

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Well, them too – mainly we’ll be talking about the literal ten rings, what they are, what they can do, whether we’ll see them used as frequent plot devices like the Infinity Stones were (the proper term for an object in a film/book that is used as a plot device, such as Marvel’s Tesseract, is a MacGuffin: bear that in mind).

Let’s start with a recap of what we know: The Mandarin, one of Marvel’s most enigmatic villains, will finally appear in the upcoming film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, probably filling the role of Shang-Chi’s villainous father from the comics: Fu Manchu. The Mandarin is traditionally an Iron Man villain, and has indeed already been connected with Iron Man in the MCU – members of his terrorist organization kidnapped Tony Stark all the way back in the very first Marvel Studios film. But Stark never actually got a showdown with the mastermind himself – instead, he was surprised to learn that the man he had believed to be The Mandarin was actually just a regular guy (well, if you can call Ben Kingsley a regular guy) who had rather inadvertently had to adopt the moniker before becoming a puppet for an entirely different terrorist group. Needless to say, the Mandarin’s followers weren’t too happy with this guy pretending to be their criminal warlord, so they broke him out of prison after the events of Iron Man 3 and brought him face to face with the real Mandarin, someone we’ve never actually seen onscreen. And that was the last we’ve heard from The Mandarin or the Ten Rings, except for one brief encounter in the first Ant-Man movie, where Scott Lang battled a mercenary working for the organization. Since then, the group has apparently gone underground. But someone (or something…) is going to bring them back to the forefront of the MCU in 2021, clearly, so what can it be?

Well, to explain that, we have to look at the Ten Rings themselves – and I’m not talking about the terrorists anymore, I’m talking about the ten rings; like, rings you wear on your fingers, those kinds of rings. The Ten Rings (the terrorists) will probably be very important to the story of Shang-Chi’s solo movie, but I highly doubt they’re the Ten Rings being referenced in the film’s title – because the Ten Rings, while very mysterious, aren’t exactly legendary: the ten rings, on the other hand…well, those are.

I feel like this post is going to get very confusing. Warning to all future Marvel criminal masterminds: please don’t name your business after your jewelry – it just makes things a lot more complicated than they need to be. Thanks.

Anyway, the Mandarin’s ten rings are almost mythical, and very nearly divine. In the comics, these ten devices were created by a race of aliens known as the Makluans: they are weapons, endowed with the incorporeal spirits of ancient cosmic warriors and heroes, and each also possesses the ability to think and operate on its own, without even needing a wearer to use it. The ten rings are named Remaker, Influence, Spectral, Spin, Incandescence, Nightbringer, Daimonic, Zero, Lightning, and The Liar. They each have specific powers, but if you’re interested I’ll direct you to a place where you can learn more about those. For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to go into the subtle differences between “manipulating the atomic and molecular structures of matter” and “destroying the bonds between the atoms and the molecules”. Let’s put it this way: these things are powerful. Maybe not on quite the same level as, say, the One Ring of Power, but they’re up there.

Now, at first, upon reading all this, I had a crazy idea that somehow the Infinity Stones themselves would be used to explain the ten rings: that, somehow, when Thanos destroyed the seven stones, their broken fragments wandered across the universe and ended up in/on the hands of The Mandarin. Then I kind of realized that The Mandarin has been established to have had these ten rings since at least the 1950s. In the comics, he just happened to be the one guy around when a Makluan spaceship carrying the ten rings crash-landed in China: being a quick-thinking, practical sort of guy, The Mandarin killed the alien pilot and stole the rings. Much of the rest of his story has already been adapted in a slightly different fashion: he kidnapped Tony Stark (been there, done that), and then one of his rings ended up with Malekith the Dark Elf (he’s already dead in the MCU timeline). But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t interesting stories to be told.

For instance, the story of Tony Stark being kidnapped might have been adapted to the big screen already, but the Titanomechs which he built for the Mandarin in the comics haven’t: interestingly, these cyborg killers were later defeated by a swarm of Stark’s nanobots – and in the MCU, one of Stark’s last actions was to bequeath a similar swarm of nanobots to his friend, Peter Parker. There’s also the question of whether or not the rings will have their sentient abilities in the movies: if so, they could easily escape before The Mandarin is (possibly) defeated by Shang-Chi, and might find ten willing hosts for themselves. In the comics, when this happened, none of the hosts were really extraordinary, big-name characters – Malekith was by far the most important of them, and the MCU has already reduced him to a cut-and-dry one-off bad guy. The people that did end up with the rings were all rather pathetic, in fact: a disgruntled Broadway director who named himself “Lightning Conductor”, and a French neo-Nazi, for instance. But this time around, wouldn’t it be much more exciting if the rings actually went looking for the most powerful villains and criminals in the world – especially at this critical time, when there have been reports going around that Marvel wants to produce a villain team-up movie such as Thunderbolts, which could unite characters like Baron Zemo, Justin Hammer, Red Hulk and Ghost.

What do you think? How would you like to see the Ten Rings and the ten rings implemented into the MCU, and what sort of future could they have? Will the Mandarin be a one-and-done villain, or could he make multiple appearances in the next phase of Marvel films? Share your own theories in the comments below!