Marvel

The Flash CW

This was a big week for the small-screen spandex set. Three separate comic book series (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Flash, Arrow) wrapped for a long winter hiatus, and each mid-season finale dropped a bombshell with mass quantities of comic book significance. As well they should. TV superheroes shouldn’t be relegated to the small-fry stuff that characterized Agents in its early episodes (drawing on weighty comic lore like stuff left over from Iron Man 3, stuff left over from The Avengers and a little-known, little-cared for mutant named Scorch). Bigger is better, and comic staples like the Inhumans, The Reverse Flash and the Lazarus Pits are size XXXXXXL. But long are the days when you could make whatever Smallvilles or Blade: The Series and not worry about the larger ramifications. None of what we saw this week exists in a vacuum; even the CW’s output exists in the context of DC having two separate live-action expanded universes coexisting at the same time. So let’s examine how this week’s winter finales might effect the superhero films of tomorrow.

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Captain Marvel

Getting swept up in a mass wave of superhero movie hype is extremely fun and everyone should do it. To that point, we at FSR have done just that — note the many “Is Marvel Doing This? Will Marvel Do That?” think pieces borne of last week’s Marvel Studios Phase Three party. But there’s an angle to this great Internet Hype Train that seems a tad off-message. Specifically that, with Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios has become a glimmering beacon of superhero diversity, now and forever. Obviously, Black Panther and Captain Marvel are paragons of the non-white, non-male superhero set, and Marvel deserves applause just as DC does for expanding its film slate to include actors and characters that offer a wider representation of the population that’s actually going to see these movies (and, in much smaller numbers, reading the comics). Except the general response has painted Black Panther as Captain Marvel as the first steps towards a broader, more inclusive Marvel Universe. Emphasis on “first.” Please peruse the headlines below, at your leisure.

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Marvel

Marvel movies are a lot of things (and, as of yesterday, a lot of movies) but in all that costumed heroism there’s something missing: a little something of substance. Think of Terminator 2 and the caution sign it painted around advancements in computer tech. Or The Matrix, which took a similar thought and spackled on large globs of Jesus and Alice in Wonderland. Now try Thor: The Dark World. Iron Man? Guardians of the Galaxy? All of them pack it on when it comes to fun and excitement, but nobody’s going to be writing any scholarly papers on them in 15 or 20 years. Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes the grade, announcing its stance on drone warfare and government intrusion, then masking that stance in auto-firing killcruisers, but it’s the exception that proves the rule. Think about how much The Winter Soldier‘s politicisms stand out amongst its MCU peers. It’s more than noticeable. Technically, if Marvel wanted to up their intellectual game, they could do it with any hero in any franchise. Tony Stark could take up his comic counterpart’s drinking habits and make us ponder alcoholism; Captain Marvel could meet up with Gamora and form the outer space version of NOW. But yesterday, the studio finally marked in Black Panther on the roster with permanent ink (and a star in Chadwick Boseman), and there’s no better superhero to get us thinking about real-life strife than Black Panther.

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Captain Marvel

Smack in the middle of yesterday’s massive Marvel announcement — so many movies! like, more movies than we expected to be getting! — came the news that the comic book behemoth is finally bringing one of their beloved superheroines to the big screen in her very own movie. Both Marvel and DC have long been the subject of speculation and derision over their lack of diversity in their features, and that seems to be changing in a big way. Someone finally noticed that entire subsets of the population were being underserved in their features! While DC finally announced a Wonder Woman film as part of its ballooning slate (set to hit sometime in 2017), Marvel has now answered with its own feature: a Captain Marvel film. It may have taken two whole phases, but Marvel has finally slated a female-led solo superhero feature for July 6, 2018. That placement is key, because it means that Carol Danvers (the current Captain Marvel) will likely play a part in Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2, which will arrive on May 3, 2019 (even better, she’ll undoubtedly be teased and/or wholesale introduced in Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1, which hits theaters two months before the single film opens). This couldn’t have happened at a better time.

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Marvel Studios

Hope you weren’t busy today, because Marvel has just busted out with a tremendous amount of information — really, this makes Comic-Con look like a warm-up — and it’s here to utterly alter the look of the already superhero-crowded box office. Not content to send out a press release (like DC; sorry, DC), the Marvel team just spent the afternoon putting on a jaw-dropping event that included the announcement of three all-new projects and confirmation of five (well, really six) long-rumored features. The treats didn’t stop there, because Marvel has also gone ahead and confirmed Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther (oh, and also, hey! we’re getting Black Panther!), though there’s no word on if Benedict Cumberbatch is indeed set to play Doctor Strange. So what have we got ahead of us? Well, there’s that Black Panther movie and then also a little something called Captain Marvel (if you’re into female-led superhero movies, which we are). Oh, and how about Inhumans? They’ve got that, too! What else…what else? Doctor Strange will officially arrive on November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is set for May 5, 2017; the third Thor film is titled Thor: Ragnarok, and that will arrive on July 28, 2017; and the third Captain America feature is now called Captain America: Civil War, with a release date of May 6, 2016. Oh, and one more thing. We’re not getting a third Avengers film. We’re getting a third and fourth Avengers film: Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 will arrive on May 4, 2018, with Part 2 hitting on May 3, 2019. That’s a long war. After the break, check out our updated list (working from this little guy) of […]

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The Avengers

Question: do you like the current lineup of The Avengers? The actual Avengers that make up said cinematic Avengers films? The superheroic team that avenges? Considering the massive box office success of the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the answer is probably “yes.” Well, that’s going to change and– wait! It’s a good thing. It’s going to be okay. More than okay, actually. When the first Avengers film concluded way back in 2012, it signaled two things: the end of the first phase of the MCU and the beginning of the Avengers as a crime-fighting entity. Although it ended on an up note — well, as “up” as things can possibly be after the destruction of a major American city — subsequent films have started steadily dismantling the group in ways both large and small. Individually-focused films, like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, expanded out the stories of single superheroes, while features like Guardians of the Galaxy reminded us that there is a big, wide world outside the reach of the Avengers. Then there are specially built outliers, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and television’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that fold into bigger stories that have direct consequences on the rest of the MCU. Considering how things ended in the last MCU film that will directly impact the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron (that would be The Winter Soldier, which arrived back in April, and doesn’t that seem so long ago?), we already know that stuff in Avengers world is going to be tough (something the trailers haven’t hid so far), but just how tough is it going to […]

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Doctor Strange

Everyone, calm down. It’s finally happened. Maybe. Probably. Oh, you know how these things go. Earlier this month, we reflected on the long, strange trip that had brought us to this crucial juncture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: a Doctor Strange movie without, well, a Doctor Strange. Those days may now be over. Deadline reports that Benedict Cumberbatch is “the studio’s choice for the superhero pic, and negotiations are about to begin.” Again, no formal offers have been made, Cumberbatch has not accepted anything and nothing has been officially announced. Still, it’s no surprise that Marvel has acted relatively quickly to line up a new Sorcerer Supreme after their long-gestating chats with Joaquin Phoenix proved fruitless.

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Avengers 2 Ballerinas

There they are, stuffed between a dozen action sequences and even more shots of Avengers looking sullen: ballerinas. To be exact, it’s the 1:36 mark of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer. They jump to their toes after Black Widow touchingly goes palm to palm with Hulk but before snow-ready soldiers fire a host of large guns. The question is what ballet students are doing in the middle of Marvel’s superhero movie. Hopefully, the answer is Black Widow (unless Tony Stark is about to get a surprising new addition to his cinematic origin story). In the comics, Black Widow has a fairly complicated backstory involving manufactured memories growing up as a ballerina (which explains why she can knock a person down with her hair). She also appears as one during the “Winter Soldier: Black Widow Hunt” series as a direct callback to her youth.

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Justice League movie

Quick question: what do you have going on in your life for, oh, like the next six years? You’re free? Awesome, because Hollywood has just changed that for you in a big, big way. You’re busy now. Yes, for the next six years. With yesterday’s announcement of Warner Bros.’ extensive DC Comics-centric release schedule — which starts in 2016 and goes like a freight train all the way up until 2020 — the superhero movies landscape has ballooned out to almost unfathomable levels. Remember when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seemed like a distant dream? Just wait until you hear how long you have to wait for your Green Lantern reboot (hint: it’s a long time). Get out your day planners, people (okay, fine, your phones), and let’s plan out our next six years of superheroic movie-going madness. Print it out. Stick it on your fridge. Tell your friends. And buckle up.

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Doctor Strange

If only Marvel could conjure up some kind of magic — perhaps while someone wears a cape — to create a viable candidate to play their Doctor Strange in, uh, Doctor Strange (see! naming the movie is easy! why can’t casting be, too?). Rumors about a Doctor Strange film have swirled like so much mystical fog for years now, but the film is finally coming together for a 2016 release. One teensy problem, however? The feature still doesn’t have a leading man. Oops. We’ve been through, yes, entire years of chatter on this one, and still, no Doctor Strange. Will that change soon? (Well, yes, but haven’t we had fun getting there? No?) Behold! A brief history of trying to find a proper actor to play an iconic character as part of a multimillion dollar franchise!

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Warner Bros.

The casting you expected to not pan out has, indeed, not panned out. Joaquin Phoenix is not, according to the reporting of Deadline, going to be donning a billowy red cloak and a Van Dyke to become Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange. Phoenix had been in talks for the role since July, upgrading to “final talks” status in August, and losing him this late in the game means Marvel is most likely going to have to repeat the whole process again with someone else (that’s what Deadline indicates, anyway, in titling their expose “Back to Square One”). As a gut reaction, this is saddening news. Phoenix is a truly phenomenal performer; there must have been something in Doctor Strange that piqued a creative spark inside him (why else wade through three months of contract negotiations?), and I would have loved to see Phoenix take that spark and let it amplify out into a stunning performance. As entertaining as most Marvel movies are, nobody’s winning an Oscar for their harrowing portrait of an Avenger. It’s not likely Phoenix would have changed that, but he would have brought a gravitas to the performance that guys like Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pratt, hilarious and/or ripped as they are, simply can’t match.

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Captain America The Winter Soldier

One of the biggest hits of the year so far has been Captain America: The Winter Soldier, making it a bigger success than the first film. It helps that it follows up The Avengers and cross-pollinates with other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, what also helped it along was a fresh story that was less of a gee-whiz superhero film and more inspired by the conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s. Now that the film has been released on home video, the directors and writers have sat down and dissected it in their commentary track, available on the Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray. (Sorry, folks… the DVD does not have the commentary on it, so you’ll have to spring for a Blu-ray player if you want to listen. But, seriously, why don’t you have a Blu-ray player already? You do? Thought so.

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Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Josh Brolin‘s performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t wildly dissimilar to his work in Men in Black III. They’re very different films and performances, of course, but both prequels feature Brolin inheriting a role from another actor. Brolin eerily embodied Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, while in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For he’s channeling Clive Owen’s work as Dwight McCarthy from the first movie. This is Dwight before he had to change his face, which, in case you haven’t read Frank Miller‘s comics, is why Owen isn’t back playing the character. Whether Josh Brolin studied Clive Owen’s performance never came up in our wide-ranging conversation with the actor, who’s clearly pleased with both the film and his performance. With the exception of Labor Day – a film I’ll readily go to bat for — it’s the first time since True Grit Brolin hasn’t had to carry a movie. Not because he isn’t the lead, but looking at Oldboy, Gangster Squad, and Men in Black III, the end products often weren’t on par with Brolin’s work in them. Thankfully, that’s not the case in this instance, nor should it be in the near-future. Brolin has Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice coming up, the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, and Everest, a survival pic boasting an impressive cast. He’s also playing Thanos in the Marvel Universe. Brolin has a lot going on at the moment, but he took the time to speak with us at the junket for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

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Marvel Universe Live!

The first explosion makes me scream like a small child (fortunately enough, I am surrounded by small children, so no one really notices, even the family next to me who seem freaked out that a full-grown woman is sitting next to them, alone, sipping a beer and scribbling madly in a notebook). The second — and then the third, the fourth, the fifth and so on — makes me laugh hysterically. It’s the first night of Marvel Universe Live! (exclamation mark totally, totally theirs) at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and the circus atmosphere is infectious. And no, it’s not just the beer. Marvel Universe Live! (yes, we will always use that exclamation mark) is a live stage show about, well, the Marvel universe, one that’s heavy on the stunts and light on on the story. It’s sort of like the Ice Capades without the ice. The show features all the usual suspects — the Avengers, Spider-Man and various foes, a handful of X-Men — all joined together in service to adventure and justice, an all-star occasion that will never be replicated on the big screen (rights issues and all that). As if seeing Wolverine fight alongside Captain America and Black Cat isn’t thrilling enough (and it really is, in a very weird way), the show also boasts a ton of pyrotechnics, some straight up fire and a motorcycle chase involving Cap and the Red Skull. It’s little wonder that everyone in the audience is totally enthralled by the spectacle, even if (especially if?) it’s […]

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Thanos-The-Avengers

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Black Widow in Captain America The Winter Soldier

You have to admire the Hail Mary timing of Sony’s almost-announcement that they’d be making a film at some point with some sort of female superhero from somewhere in Spider-Man’s neck of the woods with a potential release date (some time) in 2017. It’s the studio jargon version of, “We’re thinking really hard about it, promise!” but it also depressingly represents the greatest progress in modern superhero cinema yet; Sony has already hired screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan to make whatever they’re planning an inky reality. Meanwhile, ten movies and a bank vault full of wins later, Marvel is still stuck in neutral on the proposition of seeing a woman’s name standing triumphantly alone on the marquee. At this point, Marvel chief Kevin Feige is familiar with the question. He gets it all the time, and over the past few years his answers have evolved from hollowly specific to insultingly crass to safely vague.

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Thanos Guardians of the Galaxy

With Jonah Hex, Men in Black: III, Oldboy, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the upcoming Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, actor Josh Brolin has been in five comic book movies in the last four years. Some have been more successful than others. It goes without saying, but the less said about Jonah Hex the better (we say more here). Thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy and A Dame to Kill For aren’t movies you’ll want to forget once you’ve left the theater. That’s especially fortunate for Marvel’s latest — which made just a little bit under $100m dollars this weekend — because the Guardians and other supporting players are a key piece of the puzzle for Marvel’s future. One of those characters is Brolin’s Thanos. He appeared not-yet-Brolinized in the end credits of The Avengers, but has a much more prominent part in Guardians of the Galaxy. His role as the puppet master villain of villains in the universe is now established so the comic book non-readers will no longer ask, “Who’s the square-faced purple dude?” With that big douchey smile, the egomaniacal chair, and the fact that he’s purple, he’ll be hard to forget the next time he pops up in future Marvel movies. It also helps that Brolin is doing more for the part than providing Thanos’ voice.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix

Just as Marvel’s The Avengers gave shawarma sales a huge boost in the summer of 2012, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has brought forth a newly-rediscovered love for cassette tapes. This is thanks to the “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” that Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt), dying mother made for him in 1988. Quill kept the joy of mix tapes alive while he bounced around the galaxy for 26 years, rocking out to music from Blue Swede, The Jackson 5, David Bowie, and The Runaways. As a child of the 80s, I am intimately familiar with cassettes, Walkmans, old-school 1/8” headphones, and the awesomeness of a mix tape. However, I also remember burning through my fair share of cassettes in my youth (and needing a pencil more than a few times). Of course, the track list for “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” will always be awesome, but seeing all that Quill goes through in Guardians of the Galaxy, it got me thinking. Would that mix tape have lasted for 26 years in space? Would it even still work?

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Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Studios is still new. Based on their track record, that’s almost hard to believe. Of the nine movies they’ve put out, all of them have performed considerably well, if not completely gangbusters, at the box office. Considering their latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy, is on track to make over $70m this weekend, their luck will continue. At this point, we may have to stop calling it luck and start calling it smart business decisions. One of the people responsible for Marvel’s success is, of course, the president of the studio, Kevin Feige, and he’s fully embraced the spirit — and often downright weirdness — of the characters and their worlds. Feige gambled on an untested formula that’s paid off. Few people expected Iron Man, and with it Marvel, to succeed the way that it did, but he was one of them. Six years ago, it was clear he believed in their ambitious plan from the start. “It’s a little bit of planning, a little bit of luck and you end up with a studio that has the film rights to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Ant-Man,” he said in 2008. “And clearly, when you put them all together, you know who you get.” He meant The Avengers, as well as a whole series of successful solo superhero films around it. Guardians of the Galaxy is the one that now puts Marvel’s brand to the ultimate test. Iron Man wasn’t a very well known character to the general public, but the Hulk, Thor and Captain America were all pretty […]

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They Live Wonder Woman at Comic-Con 2014

It’s easy to hate Comic-Con. My view of things is probably a bit different from the average person, since I’m surrounded by people “in the industry” and it’s become cool over the last few years to use a tone of tired disgust when talking about the media explosion that takes place every year. More specifically, and you know this, we’re talking about San Diego Comic-Con, which over the years has become so big  that we just call it “Comic-Con” despite there being literally thousands of other Comic Conventions every year. Attendance at the event first eclipsed 100,000 individuals back in 2005. My first adventure was The Year of Watchmen, in 2008. By then, the crowd had ballooned to more than 125,000 people. This year it’s estimated that more than 130,000 people entered the exhibition floor. During the weekend it owns in July, it’s ubiquitous. You see it on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media sites. You read articles about it, and you sense it just underneath the surface of other articles. Dusted-off essays and tired tweets will make jokes about nerds and body odor, the smell of Thor’s leather underwear, the stank emanating from far too many layers and far too much wool in an unmercifully hot Southern California summer. Just as it’s easy to hate the hellacious line for Hall H or the semi-constant jostling from working your way through a crowd, it’s easy to make fun of Comic-Con, too. I’d never pretend to be anything other than a nerd at heart. Even […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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