“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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Twitter | @eternalsupdates

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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Twitter | @eternalsupdates

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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Twitter | @eternalsupdates

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!

Marvel’s Ghost Returning? Thunderbolts Explained!

It’s time for another Marvel theory! (I feel like I randomly make up times for Marvel theories because I don’t actually have a well-defined schedule for anything: well, we’ll say today is MCU Theory Saturday).

For today’s theory, we’re looking at some interesting comments made recently by Ant-Man And The Wasp actress Hannah John-Kamen (star of Netflix’s new series, The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance): the actress hinted coyly that her Marvel character, Ghost, might make an unexpected return to the big screen. Obviously, she can’t reveal too much about details – she mentioned that signing a contract with Marvel is like taking a blood oath not to spoil anything – but her words have already sparked a fair amount of debate among Marvel fans over where the quantum-phasing antihero could show up again.

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Some speculate that John-Kamen could be referring to a voice-acting role in the upcoming animated Disney+ series What If…?, which will explore 23 alternate timelines branching out from each of the 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films: presumably, the Ant-Man And The Wasp episode will feature at least a bit part for Ghost, who was the central antagonist of the 2017 summer blockbuster. But that’s too easy an answer for me: I like a little more substance to my theories, so I’m going to say that, even if Ghost does show up there, there could be another place for the villain-turned-heroine to make an appearance – and in the main Marvel timeline, at that.

Over and over, for the past year or two, we’ve seen rumors that Marvel is considering a film (or even film franchise) based off the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers comic runs, two relatively similar stories that could easily be merged into one cohesive whole. In Thunderbolts, the one most likely to be adapted, a group of reformed villains and antiheroes comes together, sometimes under the leadership of Norman Osborn, sometimes under Helmut Zemo (who has already shown up once in the MCU, and will return in Falcon And The Winter Soldier next year). to sell their services to government organizations: lots of chaos results, as some of them revert back to their villainous ways, backhanded deals get made, and political mayhem erupts in their wake. The actual team roster has been pretty fluid throughout the years, but one notable iteration (Osborn’s Thunderbolts) included Ghost. Since Norman Osborn is a Sony character, and Sony isn’t sharing with Marvel anymore, it looks like Zemo could take his place as leader of the team, with no problems. Other Thunderbolts members have also been featured in the MCU already, but in bit parts, such as Justin Hammer, and Thaddeus Ross (the human alias of Red Hulk). Yelena Belova and Taskmaster, both of whom will make their MCU debuts in next year’s Black Widow, are also key members of the comic team.

It’s always a tricky business, handling villains and antiheroes and trying to make them sympathetic, but Marvel has done a pretty good job in their movies of achieving this: Ghost, for instance, was originally Ava Starr, who was debilitated by a condition that made her body literally fade in and out of existence and visibility – something which also allowed her to walk through walls and disappear from sight. While Ghost’s condition was at least temporarily healed by Janet Van Dyne and her Quantum Realm powers, it seems that she wasn’t fully cured by the end of Ant-Man And The Wasp, since the whole reason that Scott Lang went microscopic and got trapped in the Quantum Realm for five years was because he was looking for more antidote for her. She and her guardian, Bill Foster, haven’t been seen since, but John-Kamen confirmed that Ghost, at least, never died. Whether she was snapped by Thanos is unknown: it’s possible that she survived, and had to endure five more years of her excruciating pain – perhaps she’s been driven back to her dark ways, and is once again wreaking havoc? How long did she hold out hope for Lang’s return? Where is she now? All these questions could be answered in a Thunderbolts movie.

Then again, maybe she’s going to have a role in the third Ant-Man film: however, as of right now, there actually isn’t a third Ant-Man film, so…that’s a bit of an obstacle. Personally, if there is an Ant-Man 3, I hope that we get to see one of Marvel’s craziest villains (and another part-time Thunderbolts member), Gypsy Moth, on the big screen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Ghost show up again, whether as an antagonist or in a supporting role.

How would you feel about Ghost returning to the MCU as a semi-reformed villain? Could Marvel pull off a Thunderbolts movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian” Trailer!

In the first trailer for Jon Favreau’s original Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, Star Wars goes dark, gritty and mature, alien mercenaries engage in some brutal space warfare, and, most shockingly, storm troopers finally learn how to fire a gun properly!

There’s not a whole lot to actually discuss, but that’s perhaps the beauty of this trailer: it’s simple, hauntingly so. We’re only treated to two lines of dialogue, but the music and atmosphere are allowed to say more than words ever could. Set in an era between the original Star Wars trilogy and Disney’s series of sequels, the Disney+ show will follow a Mandalorian mercenary (who, apparently, isn’t Boba Fett? I haven’t been paying attention) somewhere on the “outer reaches of the galaxy”, where the war between the New Republic and the First Order is only a distant rumor – yeah, right. Give it a few episodes, watch how fast we start seeing characters from the sequels show up. Not that I’m complaining. Have I mentioned that I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi? It’s a pretty good movie.

As someone who’s still reacquainting myself with the trappings of this topsy-turvy franchise, I have to admit: this catches my interest. Maybe it’s just because I’m still susceptible to stories about space gangsters and pirates. I don’t really know, but it looks good. It gives me hope that this whole Disney+ venture isn’t a disaster: in fact, it might be a worthy competitor to Netflix and HBO Max in the near future.

And as for Pedro Pascal, the show’s lead, well, he doesn’t actually appear from underneath his helmet and armor in the trailer, and he doesn’t even speak either line of dialogue, so…I don’t really know what to expect from him. He looks menacing – or, rather, his armor does. Pascal himself still looks like the lovable, tragically doomed Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones to me.

The first episode of The Mandalorian is set to arrive on Disney+ on release day, November 12th, so that’s something to look forward to. Mark your calendars, folks! How do you feel about the trailer? Do the grittier aspects of Star Wars appeal to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

All Of Marvel’s Disney+ Reveals!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Is There Any Chance Of Hela Returning?

It’s time for a Marvel theory, because we haven’t done one in a little while, and because I don’t really know what there is to say about the fact that a Love, Simon series is coming to Disney+, and I don’t want to get embroiled in the catastrophic mess that is Disney’s live-action Mulan, unless I absolutely have to. So, instead, let’s talk about something nice – the Goddess of Death.

The last time we saw Marvel’s iteration of the iconic villainess Hela (portrayed by legendary actress Cate Blanchett), she was being crushed under the weight of the fiery giant Surtur, and the crumbling wreckage of Asgard at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire planet around her then blew up, to the point where it would be entirely possible to ever rebuild, at least according to Korg, the helpful blue rock-monster. So, the general consensus among fans is that whatever remains of Hela is floating somewhere in the frozen void of space. But is it that simple?

According to Cate Blanchett, the character doesn’t have to be permanently dead, and she’s perfectly willing to reprise the role, if director Taika Waititi allows. What with everything else supposedly going on in the fourth Thor movie, Thor: Love And Thunder (two versions of Thor, Valkyrie looking for a girlfriend, possibly a last hurrah from Loki himself) it might be difficult to find a place for the Ragnarok villain, but there’s a few ways that it could work.

Firstly, there wouldn’t need to be any elaborate explanation for how she survived. She’s the Goddess of Death. Maybe she physically can’t die – and if she did, wouldn’t that pose a problem for all the dishonorable dead, who would now lack an overlord? Is her fiefdom now leaderless? What’s happening down in Hel? Honestly, it’s better to just say that Hela survived the destruction of Asgard, fled back to Hel (since she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go), and is now either scheming over some new plan, or has begrudgingly made peace with Thor, her younger brother – even though she kind of killed a large part of his population, cut out his eye, destroyed his homeland and set into motion the tragic events of Avengers: Infinity War. It’s not hard to imagine: take a look at Hela’s Wikipedia page and count how many times people are being brought back to life either by her, or because of her.

So what would she be up to, in the post-Endgame world? Well, it’s obviously too late to have her fill the role of Mistress Death, Thanos’ one true love and divine muse; something that fans had wanted to see. But she could have a few tricks up her sleeve, still.

The one that seems most likely to me, not only because it’s fun but because this is a Taika Waititi movie, and that man is absolutely insane (in a good way), is a storyline from some of the more recent Thor comics, in which the Goddess of Death sets up shop in Las Vegas, Nevada, opening a lair for criminals called the Inferno Club – not to be confused with the Hellfire Club, also from Marvel comics. Here, Hela has met and plotted with some of the greatest villains in the cosmos, including Loki, Mephisto, and even Dormammu (remember him, from Doctor Strange?). Her stories on earth have mostly revolved around her trying to foil the plans of the New Mutants, including Magik and Dani Moonstar, so it provides an opportunity for some X-Men cameos or namedrops. And who wouldn’t pay the price of admission just to see Cate Blanchett, decked out in the character’s campy black-and-green attire and lofty antlers, managing a casino?

As for how she could be tied into the plot, well, that might rely on everyone’s favorite God of Mischief, who may or may not be returning for the final Thor film. If he does come back, it will be a very different Loki than the one who was killed by Thanos in Infinity War: this Loki would be the one who escaped through an alternate reality in Endgame, still very much a villain – i.e., the exact type of person who would get lured into Hela’s club, and who might even strike a deal with his evil sister, if he hasn’t reformed by that time.

So there you have it: a perfectly good, and perfectly Waititi, way to bring the Goddess of Death back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What do you think? Will Blanchett make a return to the role? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Obi-Wan Kenobi Headed To Disney Plus!

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The great Jedi master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the most legendary and respected figures in Star Wars lore, is apparently being dished out to the Mouse House’s fledgling streaming service, Disney+, in a new show set to (presumably) cover Kenobi’s exploits in the decade between the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy.

But don’t give up hope just yet: Disney is making a valiant effort to have this show look and feel like movie-quality material – so much so, that they’ve gotten Ewan McGregor, who played Kenobi in the prequels, to reprise the iconic role. There’s no hint yet of how large McGregor’s paycheck for the series is, but I’m guessing it’s got to be pretty big to tempt the actor to the small screen – then again, he seems to have a pretty comfortable relationship with Disney already, having previously portrayed a grown-up version of Christopher Robin in the 2018 film of the same name.

As of right now, the show has no official title, so we’ll call it “Kenobi” because I like the sound of that. More details will probably be announced at Disney’s D23 event later this month, but until then we have a few things to think over.

Firstly, the fact that Kenobi is only a Disney+ streaming show is already upsetting fans (by the way, I’ve begun to spell the name of Disney’s streaming service with a + sign instead of writing the word Plus, since apparently that’s how we do things in Hollywood nowadays). That’s a pretty rational complaint: it’s still unclear how large the budgets for these shows will be, and whether they’ll actually maintain the same level of quality as the movies they’re based on – let’s not beat around the bush; people are worried that it’s going to look like a CW show. I’m sorry, CW, you get a lot of flack for stuff you have absolutely no control over (except the ridiculous costumes; those are entirely your fault), but this is how the public thinks. Some are also frustrated that someone of such prestige in the franchise would be demoted in such a way, instead of getting his own film trilogy: in my opinion, the Star Wars prequels were already a perfectly good Obi-Wan Kenobi trilogy, since he was arguably more of an interesting protagonist than Anakin Skywalker. But yeah, this news probably means that all those rumors of a Kenobi movie are just that – rumors. Even if they did come from Deadline.

As for the show’s setting, we have no indication as of yet: but we have to assume it will take place in the decade or two between The Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope, while Kenobi is off…wandering the barren wastelands of Tattooine? I don’t know about you, but a whole series of Obi-Wan just hanging out with Jawas sounds like fun to me: unfortunately though, the showrunners probably will deny us the content we deserve, and instead give us some half-baked story about Obi-Wan before he arrived on the desert planet, stoking the fires of rebellion, fighting rogue Sith lords and running into CGI reconstructions of characters from the original trilogy. Nowhere near as entertaining, I know.

Do I sound slightly cynical and annoyed in this post? It might be because I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about this news: am I happy, or am I one of those angry fans ranting about how Obi-Wan Kenobi, the greatest Jedi in history, was demoted to a Disney+ series? Or is it just because I’m annoyed that I have to use a dumb + sign from now on?

You know…it might be that.

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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marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

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!

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.

LGBTQ Diversity In Marvel Phase 4! 7
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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!

The “Broken Women” Of “Black Widow”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millie Bobby Brown Joins Marvel’s “The Eternals”!

Millie Bobby Brown, the teenage star of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things is enjoying what is hopefully only the promising beginning of a long career in the entertainment industry: she is still best known for her work on the show, since her film roles have tended to…not go quite as well. This year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a good example – Brown was supposed to be one of the film’s main selling points, but wasn’t enough to garner any critical or, crucially, financial success for the film, which flopped.

Now, as people begin to wonder how long Stranger Things can last (I’m going to guess that, as long as it keeps drawing in record audiences, it will last for a long time), Brown is turning her attention to the movie industry with new fervor. She’s already snatched up the lead role in Enola Holmes, a film about the crime-solving younger sister of famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who will be portrayed by Henry Cavill. And, according to one very peculiar reference in an article by Variety (I’ve noticed that Variety does this a lot), Brown might also be on her way to joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The article in question talks about what Marvel will be showcasing at their eagerly-awaited Hall H presentation for San Diego Comic Con. Obviously, the event will be huge, but the article itself seems, at first glance, to just recap what we already guessed. Marvel president Kevin Feige will be there, and will officially announce projects such as Black Widow, Doctor Strange 2, Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and The Eternals“which has been widely reported to star Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Richard Madden, as well as “Stranger Things” lead Millie Bobby Brown”.

Say what now?

Millie Bobby Brown Joins Marvel's "The Eternals"! 8
goal.com

It’s entirely possible that Variety has confirmation of this casting, and just decided, for whatever reason, to randomly drop it as an aside in an article about Comic Con. As I said, they do that sort of stuff a lot. But it is interesting that they don’t actually reference any sources, saying instead that these are just the cast-members “widely reported to star”. Is that confirmation or what? Considering that Brown is currently at the peak of her popularity, wouldn’t it have made sense to, I don’t know, address this major casting announcement in a separate article?

It doesn’t even seem possible that they would be basing this information off the rumors going around a few months ago that Brown had been cast in The Eternals, rumors which Brown herself strongly denied, claiming she didn’t even know what The Eternals was, and that the rumors were “a waste of time”. But, then again, this is not the first time Brown has been associated with Marvel – back in 2017, she was seen visiting Avengers directors Joe and Anthony Russo while they were filming Infinity War and Endgame: and interestingly, a lot of rumors were going around before Endgame‘s release that two characters from The Eternals would be in in the film, specifically in a post-credits scene. It’s important to note that one of these two characters was rumored to be a teenage female, known as “Piper”.

If Brown has been cast as “Piper”, whoever that may be, she will not be the first Stranger Things star to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe: David Harbour, who play Brown’s character’s father on the show, was cast in the upcoming Black Widow movie, also in an undisclosed role.

So what do you think? Is this a slip-up by Variety, or has Millie Bobby Brown actually been cast in The Eternals? How would you feel about this casting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and be patient: all will be revealed at San Diego Comic Con!

“Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” Full-Length Trailer!

Who expected Maleficent to be the year’s most epic family drama? Even Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, with its all-stars cast, pales in comparison to a film starring Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer as rivals vying to control – and mother – the rebellious young princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), in one epic custody battle involving magic, witchcraft, and giant bears ripping people limb-from-limb. We even get the pleasure of watching Jolie literally turn people into burning skeletons, while Pfeiffer takes aim at her with a hefty-looking crossbow, and – wait a moment: this is a Disney movie?

Indeed it is, proving that the Mouse House isn’t afraid to take some risks every now and again. After the first teaser for the film dropped, I was a little worried that the whole thing was just going to be a sparring match of witty one-liners between Jolie and Pfeiffer, and it might still boil down to that in the end: Jolie’s performance as the demonic sorceress Maleficent seems to be mostly about evoking a “mood” – with lines like “Don’t ruin my morning!” and “Love doesn’t always end well” dropped as if they’re mantras to live by, while her variety of outfits continue to stun and dazzle (though I still hate the wings: even worse, there’s more wings on the way, but we’ll get to that in a moment). Pfeiffer’s character, the Queen Ingrith, is quite clearly a villain: the smirk on her face as she embraces Aurora makes it kind of obvious that she’s not just concerned for the princess’ well-being – though it’s still a little unclear as to why she wants to risk open war with Maleficent’s forces of magic. As we go “beyond the fairytale”, a lot of things become unclear.

Granted, there’s still a lot of good stuff in the trailer: the darker elements are still very cool and surprising; Jolie and Pfeiffer are still good actresses, so their dynamic looks interesting and it does appear that we will indeed get some intense showdowns between them, such as I asked for after the first trailer; the production values look great (except for Jolie’s wings and horns: for some reason, Maleficent is the only character in the film whose costumes look completely bizarre and uncomfortable). The first film was criticized for relying too heavily on special effects, but honestly…the special effects look like they’ve only gotten better. There’s a real sense of danger from the trailer, something that Disney doesn’t often indulge in – I genuinely don’t know what will happen: will Maleficent conquer the forces that oppose her, and win back her adopted daughter? Will Aurora choose to leave the beguiling witch, and instead risk it all for true love? And what’s going on at the end of the trailer?

Near the end, we watch Jolie’s character get hit by crossbow arrows – fired by some of Ingrith’s own henchmen, or at least it appears that way. Anyway, she falls into the sea and is saved by a strange dark shape, that carries her away to some other mystical place of labyrinthine tunnels and glowing caverns where she encounters…Chiwetel Ejiofor? Sorry, that’s Chiwetel Ejiofor dressed up with horns and giant wings (wings that look just as ridiculous as Jolie’s). In fact, it turns out there’s a whole bunch of other demons like Maleficent (all of them winged and horned, to my dismay), and they want her to join them in their…war against Ingrith? Quest for world domination? Hunt for a better costume designer?

I don’t know what’s going on there, but it looks like both Maleficent and Aurora will be conflicted as their mother/daughter relationship is tested by the forces of evil – including Maleficent herself.

Trailer Rating: 7/10