Five Ways Black Widow Could Come Back To The MCU!

Last night, I had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame again for the first time in a while. As on previous rewatches of the film, I found myself appreciating most of the first act of the movie (where, SPOILER ALERT I GUESS?, the Avengers kill Thanos), and most of the third act (where the Avengers kill Thanos a second time). I even liked a lot of stuff in my least-favorite part of the movie, that troublesome second act that has the team split up across different timelines and try to steal Infinity Stones from history.

Black Widow
cinemablend.com

But I still cringed at the absolute worst part of Avengers: Endgame – the scene in which Natasha Romanoff, the legendary Black Widow, sacrifices both her life and years of character development in exchange for the mysterious Soul Stone, willingly leaping from that accursed cliff on the godforsaken planet of Vormir to her very certain death. Cue the outrage. Natasha Romanoff, Marvel’s first (and for a long time, only) woman Avenger, was sacrificed in much the same way as another woman a year earlier: Gamora, who was tossed from the cliff by her own father. As womens’ bodies continue to pile up at the foot of that stupid cliff, fans (and especially, female fans) asked Marvel one simple favor: could you please stop fridging women?

Natasha Romanoff’s death is doubly infuriating because it came just before her long-awaited solo movie, Black Widow, which is supposed to explore an adventure in her past, before the events of Avengers: Endgame. But many are still clinging to a desperate hope that the Widow is still somewhere out there, either alive on earth or fighting to get back home. So let’s take a look at a couple ways Natasha could come back to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5: It Wasn’t Really Her.

Yelena Belova
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This theory is a bit preposterous, but still worth noting: the idea is that Natasha Romanoff’s “sister”, Yelena Belova, who will make her debut in the Black Widow film, actually traded identities with Natasha before Avengers: Infinity War, or at some other point before Avengers: Endgame. There’s a little bit of evidence that supports this: Natasha wearing Yelena Belova’s jacket in Infinity War; a shot from a recent Black Widow trailer that shows Yelena Belova on a surgical table with a strange scar around her forehead, as if her face had been removed or changed. This option is undoubtedly the least appealing, not only because it would mean that the rest of Natasha’s awesome character beats in Endgame weren’t her own, but because this only changes the identity of the woman victim. As Infinity War Captain America would say: “We don’t trade lives.” Nonetheless, expect the super-spy sisters to swap identities frequently in the Black Widow film.

4: Multiverse Shenanigans.

Gamora
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As I mentioned previously, Gamora was the first person to lose her life on Vormir – but she has since returned, thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. Coincidentally, it was when Black Widow, Nebula, Hawkeye and War Machine traveled back to 2014 to retrieve the Power and Soul Stones that a 2014 version of Gamora was able to slip through into the present Marvel timeline, along with the 2014 Nebula and Thanos. If the Avengers wanted to bring Natasha back, they could simply find a version of her from another timeline – but that poses a whole bunch of other problems.

3: Bruce Resurrected Her.

Hulk
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One of the plot-lines left over from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that went nowhere was the love story between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner a.k.a. The Hulk. The two characters both regarded themselves as “monsters” (let’s not even get into the reasons why), and bonded over that. But after Bruce went missing for two years and the Avengers films switched directors, that story was mostly left unfinished. Except for the fact that, when Bruce Banner finally got his hands on a fully-operational Infinity Gauntlet at the end of Endgame and snapped his fingers to bring back the people that Thanos had dusted, he also tried to bring back Natasha. This is only mentioned in a throwaway line in the film’s final few minutes, but it’s still intriguing – could Bruce have been successful? How would he know? Natasha would presumably be resurrected on Vormir where she died, meaning she’d have to find her own way home.

2: Captain America Came To Bargain.

Captain America
screengeek.net

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain America takes it upon himself to go back in time and return all the Infinity Stones the Avengers had taken from time. The Space Stone went back to New Jersey, the Time Stone back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Reality Stone…I don’t even want to know how he somehow injected it back into Jane Foster without her knowing. But the Soul Stone is the most interesting one: to bring it back, Captain America would have to return to Vormir, to the exact moment of Natasha’s death, and hand it over to…Red Skull, I guess. But does returning the Stone mean that Natasha’s life is also returned? If Natasha is to be brought back to life, this is by far the most likely explanation as to why.

1: Natasha, Daughter Of Ivan.

Druig
en.wikipedia.org

And then we come to my theory. I’ve always believed that there’s a reason the Black Widow solo film is supposed to kick off the epic, cosmic events of Marvel’s Phase 4. But what business does the decidedly human heroine have in this universe of gods, aliens and mythical lore? Well, my theory is rooted in comic lore and a very intriguing name that gets dropped minutes before Natasha’s death. Red Skull calls her “daughter of Ivan”, and Natasha comments that he must be telling the truth, because she didn’t even know her father’s name. But who is Ivan? While there are any number of Ivan so-and-so’s associated with Natasha in the comics, there’s also another character who goes by that name, who has a connection to the events about to unfold in the MCU: Ivan Druig is the alias that Druig, an Eternal (who will be played by Barry Keoghan in The Eternals), takes when he impersonates a sadistic Russian KGB officer and the leader of a small Soviet state named Vorozheika. If “Ivan” is Ivan Druig, and Natasha is Ivan’s daughter, that makes her a demigod – similar to how Peter Quill was revealed to be the son of a living planet. Druig might have an interest in resurrecting his daughter, maybe even giving her new powers in the process. If this were the case, Natasha could hold her own in the next phase of the MCU, while her film would have a major tie-in to The Eternals that would help to get audiences excited for that film.

What do you think of these theories? Do you even want to see Natasha brought back, or were you happy with her sacrifice? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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“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.

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 1
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…

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 2
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.

"Eternals" Begins Filming: "Thena" Revealed! 3
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!

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Marvel’s “Hawkeye” Aims To Cast Hailee Steinfeld!

Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, Hawkeye, centered on the post-Endgame adventures of the former Avenger and expert marksman, has apparently just scored another win, mere days after landing Mad Men screenwriter Jonathan Igla.

Singer and actress Hailee Steinfeld, the Oscar-nominated star of True Grit and Bumblebee, is apparently in early talks to star alongside Jeremy Renner in the miniseries, as Hawkeye’s young apprentice Kate Bishop, a crucial member of the Young Avengers. Kate Bishop, an expert archer, fencer, and strategist, has long been rumored to make her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Hawkeye, but this confirmation is an exciting stepping-stone on the path toward having the Young Avengers team finally assembled in the MCU – with other Disney+ shows like WandaVision, Ms. Marvel and Loki also possibly hinting at the gang of teen superheroes, it sounds like the family-friendly streaming service could eventually be home to the team: which, honestly, seems like a great fit. Though, considering that Steinfeld is twenty-two years old already, this makes it look like Marvel’s casting choices for the Young Avengers will be skewing slightly older than expected.

We don’t really know anything about the plot of Hawkeye, or how much of it will be about Jeremy Renner’s iteration of the character versus Steinfeld’s fresher, younger take. But a quick look at Kate Bishop’s character bio opens some interesting possibilities for potential plot points: in the comics, Bishop has also donned the nickname “Hawkingbird” because she stitched her own outfit together from bits and pieces of Hawkeye’s attire, as well as that of another hero, Mockingbird, a.k.a. Bobbi Morse. Morse has already shown up elsewhere in Marvel, on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played by Adrianne Palicki – while both she and her partner, Lance Hunter, were forced to retire from the S.H.I.E.L.D. team early on, both characters are still very much alive in the MCU – and in fact, almost got their own spinoff series on  ABC, which was cancelled before airing a pilot. Palicki would probably be willing to work with Marvel again on the Hawkeye series, and her character, displaying super strength, agility and martial arts prowess, seems like a good fit for this mostly powered-down group of civilian heroes: plus, the retired agent would probably have a lot in common with Hawkeye himself, who notoriously left the main Avengers team to be with his family.

So what do you think about the casting? Is Hailee Steinfeld a good fit for archer-extraordinaire Kate Bishop? Could this be an opportunity to have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover with the main MCU? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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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.

Marvel's Ghost Returning? Thunderbolts Explained! 4
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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!

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D23 MCU Concept Art!

If you weren’t previously hyped for Marvel’s multitude of newly announced Disney+ content, prepare to be. We have a lot to discuss.

Over the weekend, Disney Studios sated the appetites of rabid fans at their D23 Expo with some exclusive reveals, including brief footage, concept art, and official posters for some upcoming projects. But now the public can share in the fun, as some of this stuff, specifically the concept art and posters, are being released. And we, being ravenous fans with a desire to nitpick and study every inch of new material, are going through this stuff with a fine-toothed comb, looking for clues.

The first official poster for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier dropped earlier today, sparking a heated discussion about the most trivial of subjects. Yes, Bucky Barnes, whose gloriously long hair has been a trademark of the character’s appearance since 2013, has finally visited a barber, it seems. Either that, or the graphic designer made a huge blunder by choosing to use 1940’s Bucky as a reference for this poster, rather than modern, stylish-Jesus Bucky.

D23 MCU Concept Art! 5
mcucosmic.com

Apart from Bucky’s new haircut, we can see that the Winter Soldier is donning a slightly new, streamlined outfit, as well as his vibranium arm (which still hasn’t seen any real action: here’s hoping we get to see some epic metal-arm fight scenes in the show). Falcon, who was entrusted with Captain America’s shield in Avengers: Endgame, is…not holding the shield, for whatever reason, and is also positioned behind Bucky, looking more like a supporting character than the lead. Perhaps both men are leads, but it does seem a little unusual to place the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new shield-bearer in the background. Then again, he does also show up in the top right-corner of the poster, flying across the sky, looking very much like a patriotic fighter-plane. In fact, the poster does seem to be going for a “war-movie” vibe – the pale watercolor sky, the ever-so-slightly antiquated heroic poses from Bucky and Falcon, the red, white and blue logo: it looks almost 1940’s to me – but again, considering that Falcon isn’t a time-displaced character like Bucky, that choice seems peculiar. Who’s the lead on this show, really?

Speaking of old-fashioned stylistic choices, though, the first official concept art/poster for the WandaVision series is blatantly dated: and both lead actress Elizabeth Olsen and Marvel president Kevin Feige have said as much. The show is said to have a retro, 1950’s sitcom style – at first, this seemed like it might have just been a creative reference for the showrunners to draw on, but this art suggests that the entire series will, in fact, look and feel like I Love Lucy, combined with idealized, bright and sunny ads ripped from the pages of an old Sears catalog.

D23 MCU Concept Art! 6
mcucosmic.com

It’s an even more peculiar stylistic choice than that on the previous poster, because neither Wanda Maximoff nor her (currently deceased) partner Vision have any real connection to the 1950’s. Yet here they are, dressed in period-appropriate fashion and sporting upper-class bemused smiles, surrounded by the accouterments of a typical “nuclear family”.

Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, has some untapped potential in the MCU that could explain this perplexing choice – in the comics, she has the ability to warp reality and create entire “pocket dimensions” that exist alongside our own. In such a faux reality, Wanda could presumably resurrect her dead lover and create a perfect, cheery little family for herself in a quaint little suburb: according to reports from D23, Wanda and Vision will have a nosy next-door neighbor, played by Kathryn Hahn, and a bunch of other comedic castmates – including the Thor franchise’s underdog Darcy, and Agent Jimmy Woo. Another sign that Scarlet Witch will use more comics-accurate powers in the new series is a hint, in this poster, of her more comics-accurate costume: Wanda’s shadow, in the top left-hand corner, sports her traditional crescent-moon tiara, something that hasn’t appeared in the MCU as of yet. Fans have been dying to see it on Elizabeth Olsen’s brow, and this poster gives me hope that we will.

Don’t expect WandaVision to be all canned laughter and sunshine, though – the series is rumored to head into dark, even macabre or paranormal territory, which makes sense, considering that it will always lead directly into the events of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which is being hyped up as Marvel’s first horror film.

What do you think of the new concept art? Does it look cool, or outdated? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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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!

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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!

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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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latimes.com

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!

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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!

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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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nerdist.com

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!

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“Thor: Love And Thunder” Adds A New Thor!

That title possibly counts as clickbait. No, Chris Hemsworth is not being replaced in the role of the thunder-god Thor. But he will be joined by a new Thor in his upcoming fourth film, which was officially revealed last night at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation.

First of all, let’s just talk about the fact that the titles revealed at SDCC are some of the craziest, most over-the-top names I’ve ever heard – Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings; Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness; WandaVision. But it’s this one, Thor: Love And Thunder, that takes the cake and eats it too. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from director Taika Waititi, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let him be crazy, because he does it really well, and it’s brought about some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most memorable moments – like Jeff Goldblum strutting around in a sparkly gold bathrobe, or Cate Blanchett with antlers, or…literally everything in Thor: Ragnarok, honestly. But Waititi’s craziness also meant that, when he took over the Thor franchise, he basically had to change a lot of stuff in order to make it work for him – victims of his beautifully bizarre style included the Warriors Three, Odin, and Jane Foster.

Now, technically, Jane Foster’s sudden disappearance from the MCU wasn’t really his fault. Actress Natalie Portman had played the one-dimensional “scientist girlfriend” character in two films already, and had been reduced to a damsel in distress on multiple occasions. She was bored with the character, she had no interest in the stagnant franchise, and she wanted out. She got out. So out, in fact, that it was something of a miracle when she “appeared” in Avengers: Endgame via recycled footage from Thor: The Dark World, and was even given her own title-card in the film’s credits. It seemed almost like an apology to the character that Marvel had overlooked, ignored, and eventually had to scrap because of their creative mistakes. In Thor: Ragnarok, she didn’t even get that – just a brief line from Thor about how she had broken up with him, and that was it. It wasn’t long before the god of thunder was making eyes at Valkyrie, the alcoholic warrior goddess/mercenary.

Well, two things have happened since then: one, Valkyrie is now openly bisexual, and has no interest in Thor, despite his flirtatious advances. Actress Tessa Thompson has made that clear in the past, but she confirmed it onstage last night, with Marvel president Kevin Feige’s approval, and Feige commented afterwards that Valkyrie will indeed be in a relationship with another woman in Thor: Love And Thunder. In fact, Thompson suggested that Valkyrie will be actively searching for a Queen to rule alongside her as she leads the people of New Asgard into an uncertain future.

The other big thing? Oh yeah, Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU for Thor: Love And Thunder, and, oh right, she’s still playing Jane Foster but this is Jane Foster as female Thor, and, I almost forgot to mention, she can wield Mjolnir now, and I am honestly about to pass out.

It was shock-and-awe last night: when Natalie Portman came onstage to accept the Hammer of Thor from Taika Waititi, Marvel fans around the world were absolutely flabbergasted. Certain fans went online to cheer and applaud the brave decision; others went online to complain bitterly about feminists taking over the MCU. The reaction to this has been incredible to watch. It was easily one of the biggest highlights of the presentation: Portman is obviously excited to be back, and this time she (and we) can be assured that she’s not going to be anybody’s boring-love-interest-sidekick – nope, this time around, she’s a superhero in her own right. It remains to be seen whether or not Waititi will adapt some of the other aspects of Jane Foster’s character from the comics: specifically, the fact that she is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away. Waititi is capable of inserting powerful emotion into his generally funny stories, as the death of Odin in Thor: Ragnarok proves.

Finally, yes, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor will still be in the movie, though there’s not actually any confirmation of whether or not the “Thor” in the title refers to him or Lady Thor. We’ll presumably find out when the films arrives in theaters November 5th, 2021.

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Madness In The Multiverse – And On Disney+!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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