Mike and Matt have once again written some words. We like movies based on comic book superheroes. There are a lot of intriguing ones coming out in 2018. We talk about them here. Using written words.
1. Black Panther
A black person is finally not a supporting character in the MCU! Will this be a dawn of a new age of better representation in Marvel films or will the films going forward still predominantly feature white men in the lead roles?
Matt: If only Blade had been part of official Marvel canon before now! I am more excited for Black Panther than any other film mentioned in this post due to the strong visuals, heavy use of African culture and predominantly non-white cast. The “Is this what white people get to feel like all the time?!” meme is a tremendous thing indeed, and all of this is coming from a Disney owned property no less. I don’t think this is a one-off, with Captain Marvel on the slate, and rumours of Black Widow finally getting a solo film to try and even the gender odds. As for racial diversity, Disney have live action versions of Aladdin and Mulan coming in the next few years, so they’re clearly not as tentative as they used to be about non-white leads. Obviously Marvel and Disney-proper are different, but depending on what goes down in Infinity War, Anthony Mackie could end up playing Captain America at some point. Heck, I was joking at the beginning, but Marvel do own Blade again. If they really want to prove they’re serious about all of this then Ms. Marvel (an American Muslim) and America Chavez (Latin-American AND queer) need to be part of those allegedly 20 unannounced films Marvel have planned.
Mike: The MCU’s future is most definitively white, male-centric. The upcoming slate of films obviously suggests that the studio is taking incremental steps in the direction of better representation, but it would certainly be too kind to assume this is the “new normal” for Marvel. Hopefully, my cynicism proves to be unwarranted, and their next slate of films will be far different than what we have come to expect. That seems like naive thought at best though.
2. New Mutants
The X-Men are doing a horror film! How will audiences and critics respond to a comic book property doing something dramatically different than what’s expected?
Mike: Recent history (Deadpool, Logan, Wonder Woman) suggests that fans and critics alike go nuts for the slightest deviations from what is expected from the superhero film formula. As such, it seems likely that as long as this one is adequate enough, it will get a lot of positive feedback from both camps.
Matt: Well for one thing they’ve guaranteed I won’t be seeing it in theatres as I’m a big giant baby who leaps out of his seat for every jump scare. I think we can all agree that’s a win. But precisely this is what I’ve been begging for every single time we’ve talked about the future of the X-Men and comic book films generally; the need to branch out into other genres. Ant-Man being a comedy does not count. To silence the silly group of people who think these films are a fad (multiple comic book movies have been coming out almost every year since Burton’s Batman) they need to prove that other kinds of films can be made using characters who happen to originate from the pages of a comic book, because not every comic book is action-based. Horror has been an incredibly bankable genre over the years as it requires a lower budget and has a high demand, so this is a smart direction to go in, and with The New Mutants’ most famous adversary being a demonic spirit, it makes sense. I tentatively believe this is going to be a pretty big hit, forcing Disney’s hand a little when it comes to the future of the franchise as they’re not exactly in the horror business.
3. Infinity War
We’ve seen several (if not many) MCU films that have two-dimensional villains looking to destroy/take over Earth. What can this film do to overcome the pitfalls of those two traditional MCU elements?
Matt: Kill characters. Don’t resurrect them halfway through the next film. Thanos is a world-ending, universe conquering final boss character. He can’t show up, give a speech, kill some nameless randos and get defeated by his one convenient weakness. He needs to mop the floor with every single character individually and even kill a few of them. If both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers survive this film (and its sequel) then Marvel have messed up. Lip service has been paid to this potentially being the last time we see some of the older cast, so I think Hawkeye might be another candidate for getting offed. Vision also, given he has a gem in his head. I could also see Thor ‘dying’ only to be rescued from Valhalla by Valkyrie in Thor 4, as this would be a colossal statement of intent – Thanos killing a god. We also haven’t seen much of a truly global threat before; there has been a lot of dialogue about something or other having the potential to destroy the world, but all the actual battles have been mostly contained to single cities. Thanos and his Black Order need to wage this war on multiple fronts. With this many characters in play, they need to be staging conflicts on multiple continents.
Mike: I have to agree with Matt on this one (as much as it always pains me to do just that). Marvel has never constructed a believable scenario where one of the main characters could die before. If they want this one to be different, they need to try to rip our hearts out.
I think Captain America and Iron Man are in fact the closest things they have to “franchise players.” I think Tony Stark has run his course though far more than Steve Rogers has at this point though. It’s time for Tony to die in the climatic battle of Infinity War. It has been decided. Thanks for reading.
4. Deadpool 2
What does this film need to do to avoid being just more of the same?
Matt: Well, it probably is going to be more of the same, and while that may sound the worst to certain people named Mike Thomas, I think that’s exactly what fans of the first film want. Deadpool exists purely to entertain. I can’t confess to have read more than 100 Deadpool stories, but I’ve yet to observe much if any attempt at profundity, and part of the original film’s success was that it lampooned other superhero films and focused entirely on being a good time. There have been a lot more superhero films released since Deadpool, so I think the sequel can get away with doing the exact same thing again. It would be nice if the villain didn’t suck, though. Cable and Domino should be a lot of fun. Oh and if they could maybe fire TJ Miller and edit out all of his scenes by June, bonus.
Mike: People think they want more of the same, and then they claim Iron Man II is an affront to humanity when it’s exactly the same as its predecessor. Or they dutifully watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II and forget about it a week later. Deadpool II needs to be The Winter Soldier of Deadpool films. That does not mean it needs to be serious. But it does need to change the rules of what we get from a Deadpool film. Turning it into a buddy cop movie with Cable will *probably* do the trick, but we shall see.
5. Ant-Man and the Wasp
A lot of second outings for MCU films feel like near-carbon copies of the preceding films. What does this film need to do to avoid that?
Matt: Marvel hid part of their expansion into multiversity within the first Ant-Man, with Scott Lang entering the quantum realm toward the end of the film, a place we were informed Hank Pym’s wife, Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, was lost forever. Given Scott escaped, Hank’s daughter Hope is taking over as the new Wasp and Michelle Pfeiffer has been cast as Janet, it seems likely we’re going to be heading back there, tying in with Doctor Strange’s reality-bending visuals and other dimensions now we’ve done space and magic. There was a lot to like about the first film, with the biggest problem being the villain. They’ve added some good people to the cast and Evangeline Lilly will have a much larger role, both of which are good things. I hope they keep and refine the heist aspect, while taking advantage of the aforementioned opportunity to go to some visually weird places.
Mike: Embracing the weirdness would be good. I think the biggest thing that would help would just be to make a villain that is worth caring about in the slightest. That would be such a major step-up from the first film that it alone would probably do the trick.
Assuming that this Spider-Man universe will primarily exist sans Spider-Man, what does Venom have to do to successfully kick off this new side universe?
Mike: This project strikes me as something that is doomed for failure. It feels like spinoff that there is no demand for and no established universe or tie-in to create a successful baseline audience. It’s a shame Sony could not do something smaller first and see if people actually really want a Spider-Man universe without Spider-man. This might be the next Universal Monster Cinematic Universe.
Matt: Pray? No film on this lineup intrigues me more than Venom, because I can’t fathom how they’re going to pull this off. Venom is an Actually Bad character whom I personally believe only gets remembered so fondly because of the 90s Spider-Man cartoon, but what do I know? Tom Hardy is a good actor, obviously, and they’ve got some other intriguing names floating around (Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, and Jenny Slate) but Eddie Brock is so meh. They’re talking about making a John Carpenter inspired Jekyll & Hyde film, which all sounds well and good but there are just so many things working against them here, not least of which is their connected-but-not status with the MCU. I think the most interesting thing here is the creative team, with the director having a background in comedy, and the writing team’s past projects including Con Air, Pain & Gain, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fringe, Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the new Jumanji film. That’s quite a range. Who knows, that many differing creative voices and a lead like Hardy could create something Actually Good, I’m just unable to picture it yet. One thing that’s for sure is they need to drop the weird science stuff they were getting at with the Amazing Spider-Man films. No more cross-species genetic experimentation stuff, kay?
7. Dark Phoenix
There seems to be a very good chance that this is the final film for the First Class characters. What does this film need to do end things on a satisfying note?
Matt: I’m going to predict this to be the worst superhero film to come out in 2018, and because New Mutants is a new venture and a lot of people probably don’t directly associate Deadpool with the X-Men, the narrative of ‘this is why it’s a good thing Marvel got all the rights back’ will probably happen. We’ve covered X-Men a LOT on this site, but to summarise: I love what they did with the first two films, I’m more down on First Class than most people, and I loved Days of Future Past but then felt Apocalypse felt pretty second-rate as the superhero genre has advanced around Fox and this newer cast are somewhat outstaying their welcome for me. It remains to be seen what Marvel end up doing with their mutants division, but this could well be the last hurrah for this cast as the question mentioned, so just give them all something to actually DO, please. I was hoping the kids would get more focus, getting to have fun and go to the mall, but if we’re going to space and having Sansa Stark go all Universal-Destruction-y, I doubt we’re getting that here. This is a storyline that is near and dear to most X-Men fans, and one they did once before in the worst film in the franchise, so if nothing else there’s a lot of pressure to execute this plot better this time around.
Mike: This will in all likelihood be the end of the First Class X-Men which leaves me feeling many feelings. For starters, I’m grateful towards First Class and Days of Future Past for managing to restore some goodwill to the franchise. I’m frustrated that the perfectly adequate and watchable Apocalypse was so readily dismissed given the far the inferior films that got better traction with critics and audiences. I’m annoyed that Kevin Feige is going to get his hands on the X-Men. (And I’m terrified of course of the Disney monopoly that is going on.)
Mostly though, I’m anxious about the quality of this film. While time travel and the Apocalypse character certainly stretched the bounds of the *possible* in the X-Men universe (especially compared to established rules of the first two films way back in the day), X-Men in space with aliens seems like a bridge that does not need to be crossed. There are also likely going to be way too many characters in need of getting proper stories which Apocalypse told us was not going to be the fully satisfying experience due to time restrictions.
tl;dr: this is probably not going to be good and that sucks.
This film obviously won’t be able to course-correct an entire film universe on its own, but will it be a good film in its own right (and its own bubble)?
Matt: Impossible to say. James Wan has certainly said some intriguing things about the tone of the film, and there’s been an incredibly positive response to Jason Mamoa’s work in Justice League (despite his atrocious dialogue) so I do think there will be a decent amount of public support for it. Wonder Woman was good and Justice League was a slight improvement on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in my opinion, so there’s sooooort of an upward trend happening in the DCEU. Justice League had been in production so long that the impact of Wonder Woman can’t have done a huge amount to change it, but they have a real opportunity to take some notes from their lone critical hit and leave the drab, dreary tone of their earlier efforts firmly behind. Patrick Wilson getting work is an undeniably good thing, and having Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lundgren will hopefully up the camp factor.
Mike: My man!