Marvel Mondays: Hype Check for the MCU’s Future

Somehow, despite announcing one million Marvel projects a year ago, Disney+ Day 2021 brought not just new footage of the existing slate, but yet more announcements. Time for a hype check.

Hawkeye debuts next week, so I’ll be leaving that out of the equation as you’ll be hearing a LOT from me about it for the rest of the year. I’m cautiously optimistic based on the trailers and new footage. It also doesn’t include things like X-Men and Captain America 4…

Although a friendly reminder that none of the Disney+ shows will ever matter as the service isn’t available in China:

2022

Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness

Hype Level: High

The original is one of the most polarising films in the MCU. On the one hand there’s perhaps no greater evidence they’ve settled into a blueprint and can copy and paste it forever. The stellar cast are criminally underused. There’s yet another under-baked villain. It’s oddly paced. And yet people like Benedict Cumberbatch and the arrival of magic in the MCU.

For me excitement comes from a switch in directors, welcoming Sam Raimi back into the superhero fold to hopefully tell a slightly more macabre (but still PG of course) mystical tale. Also WandaVision did wonders to rehabilitate Wanda Maximoff’s character into somebody I’m legitimately excited to see show up in things going forward, and the notion of Strange potentially mentoring her to become the regular fixture Cumberbatch’s schedule simply won’t allow. Plus America Chavez!

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Hype Level: Low

An obvious homage/send-up of the Star Wars Holiday Special, James Gunn had his own festive tale in the works for years before Kevin Feige finally let him make it. That’s not a great sentence to have in the back of your mind in my opinion. All we really know is that it’s live action, will feature the team travelling to Groot’s home planet and is both fully canon and will allegedly set up some aspects of Vol. 3.

I’m sure it’ll be suitably whimsical and do some ‘bad on purpose’ stuff to poke fun at the Star Wars version, and at only 40 minutes, I can’t imagine being offended by its existence. But I can’t say I’m in any way excited for it, personally.

Moon Knight

Hype Level: High

Few comic book characters have been begging for a live action adaptation more than the deranged avatar of the moon. Part Batman, part Deadpool, part something else entirely, there are many directions you can take the character in, and having such a versatile actor like Oscar Isaac playing him will hopefully help them play around.

Much as it pains me to promote the work of a shady individual, Warren Ellis’ brief tenure on the book was stellar (and very new reader friendly), and I would imagine a combination of his and Mark Waid’s runs will inform the series. It could easily spiral into cringe due to the multiple personalities gimmick, but my hope is it threads the needle between brutal/gritty action and a bombastic story. But for real, what on earth was that accent in the trailer?!

Ms. Marvel

Hype Level: High

Marvel and DC try to introduce new superheroes ALL the time in the hopes they’ll catch on, join the ranks of their classic beloved characters, and get their own shows, movies, games and merchandise. VERY few stick. That has not been the case for Kamala Khan, who has to rank among the most popular new characters of the 21st century.

As a teenage Muslim fangirl from New Jersey who idolises Captain Marvel, she’s absolute nightmare fuel for the ‘no politics in my comics’ crowd, which is a positive in my book. It looks like they’ll be making at least a token effort to tell a different kind of story, but it’s still not something I’d like to see more than one season of, because as far as I’m concerned this is just a prelude origin story before she becomes a huge part of the movies. But I know Disney have issues with letting things end, hence how many spin-offs and sequels there are throughout this column.

Secret Invasion

Hype Level: Low

It is utterly bizarre to me that this has been relegated to a Disney+ show given what a huge story it was in the comics. Revealing that Skrulls had covertly infiltrated all levels of global society, hiding in plain sight as various superheroes and celebrities ahead of a full scale invasion was huge, and rewarded readers if they went back and connected subtle clues across various books. This should be a huge movie event with lots of famous faces.

Instead, the only confirmed returns are Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn, joined by the admittedly exciting addition of Olivia Colman and the somewhat intriguing Emilia Clarke, one of whom will presumably play the Skrull Queen, Veranke. Kevin Feige has already warned the project is not intended to match the scale or scope of the comic, but still… bummer. Apathetic guess: Christopher McDonald will play the president, who is a Skrull.

She-Hulk

Hype Level: Medium

I LOVE this character, but it’s always seemed like one they’d need to be exceedingly careful about bringing to life. In most stories, Jennifer Walters is permanently in her Hulk form, unlike her cousin who transforms when he gets angry. From a cost and logistics standpoint, I would think they’ll go against that and have her change back and forth to maximise the amount of screen time for Tatiana Maslany.

For me everything revolves around how She-Hulk ends up looking on screen. They teased us with a shot of her slowly standing up, but it was brief and filmed from behind. I’m sure they’ll tighten it up for release, but it didn’t look great. There have been rumours Charlie Cox would appear as Daredevil based on seemingly nothing more than the fact he and Walters are both lawyers. While that would increase my interest level, I’m not convinced it’ll happen. Plus Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth are returning and Jameela Jamil is playing the villain, so that’s… something!

Thor: Love and Thunder

Hype Level: Maximum

It’s no secret I’m an enormous Thor stan. I’ve said time and again that no character in the MCU has longer legs given his immortal lifespan and many adventures across the nine realms. Still, it took Taika Waititi to get the franchise off life support despite the well received work of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, with Ragnarok acting as a soft reboot.

I’m somewhere between indifferent and lightly intrigued for the guest appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy to follow up on the events of Endgame, but am thrilled that Natalie Portman is coming back for real this time. The story of Jane Foster claiming Mjolnir to become the new Thor is one of the biggest and best in comics of the last decade, and I’m hoping we see a love triangle between her, Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. A lame off-screen confirmation was given that Valkyrie is bisexual in Ragnarok, so here’s hoping Disney keep their ‘brave’ streak going with some actual evidence of LGBTQ+ representation this time around.

Wakanda Forever

Hype Level: Medium

This is such a weird one to try and write about. Black Panther was incredible. But what on earth does a sequel look like without its beloved protagonist? I’m sure Ryan Coogler has come up with a solution, but there’s an undeniable sombre shadow hanging over the entire thing that makes it feel crass to be excited. For me, anyway.

I might feel better about it all if the obvious route of passing the mantle to Shuri didn’t come with a massive downer of its own in the form of Letitia Wright revealing herself as an anti-vaxxer. In fact she’s so committed to being an idiot that it’s causing filming delays. Potentially an all-time bag fumble in the making. If not for all of these real life events, this would obviously be much higher.

What If…? – Season 2

Hype Level: Zero

The Disney+ era of the MCU is coming up on a year old and What If…? was far and away the biggest disappointment. At least with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier I went in with low expectations, and while my hopes weren’t overwhelmingly high for this animated project, they still somehow delivered the most boring possible version of the premise. The characters looked bad (though most of the action scenes were well done), the voice acting was mediocre, they clung to the MCU’s leg like a terrified toddler and most of the hypothetical scenarios lacked imagination.

Given the practicalities of producing animation, there’s a very slim chance that we’ll see any kind of departure from these things in the second season, especially as one of the episodes was cut from season one due to time constraints. In theory because it’s an anthology, every episode is a blank slate, but in reality there have been far too many overarching issues for me to have any confidence in this as an ongoing project.

2023

Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania

Hype Level: High

Ant-Man has been a mixed back in the MCU so far. On the one hand, the first film was a welcome low stakes reprieve from the dour Phase 2. On the other, both films have lacked that special something. Everybody loves Paul Rudd, and the supporting cast have been fun, but the pressure is fully on for this third entry to inject more excitement that translates into a stronger box office.

Enter Jonathan Majors, who blew my socks off in Loki, and is almost solely responsible for my hype level. He’s playing Kang the Conqueror here, a far less benevolent variant of ‘He Who Remains’, and one of Marvel’s biggest bads. Where Kang goes, the Fantastic Four often follow, and Ant-Man has close ties to the group in the comics, so there is some hope this is where Marvel’s First Family will make their debut. Personally I’d throw everything I’ve got at this so-so series and try to go out with a bang, because surely there won’t be a fourth.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3

Hype Level: Medium

Once upon a time this would have been the highest of highs in terms of anticipation, but the shine has really come off the Guardians apple over the years for a variety of reasons. For one, Chris Pratt’s meteoric rise has in turn led to an enormous backswing due to his gross beliefs. Similarly, James Gunn has been through the wringer, and while I am mostly still a fan, he has started to become a cult of personality. Finally, I was not a big fan of Vol. 2. It has some moments for sure, but the overall tone was a little more lame the second time around, and Drax and Mantis got completely side-lined. Gamora and Nebula had slightly more to do, which was nice, but it remains the Star-Lord, Groot & Rocket show, and it has become much easier to dislike Peter Quill in particular, thanks to Infinity War and who is playing him. Plus the perpetually-rebooted comics and various cartoons and video games have oversaturated the Guardians market. (Though the most recent game is tremendous if you’re into that kind of thing.)

So the deck is stacked firmly against Gunn to deliver a compelling third movie in the franchise. Perhaps he’ll rise to that challenge. After all, before the first film came out people were sceptical and he turned those low expectations into a monster hit. So maybe operating from an underdog position again will result in recapturing the magic of the original. Everything may hinge on the handling of Gamora after two instances of massively under-using Zoe Saldana (made worse by how damn good she was in Infinity War), and the debuting Adam Warlock, a theoretically enormous player in the grand scheme of Marvel, and whose actor, Will Poulter, I’m not entirely sold on being up to the task.

The Marvels

Hype Level: High

Captain Marvel was a Very Okay movie that functioned well enough to introduce an excellent character in Carol Danvers, played by one of Marvel’s biggest ‘gets’ in recent years, Brie Larson. The film became a lightning rod for douchebag criticism, with many a neckbeard accusing her of being arrogant, mean, and… well, a female Tony Stark, essentially. And as I said, it wasn’t the best film in the world, which made it a little awkward to passionately defend against those assholes.

Therefore, I’m hoping that a change in director and writer will do the sequel some good, as well as adding the well-received Monica Rambeau from WandaVision, and the promising-looking Kamala Khan of Ms. Marvel. One of the principal beliefs of this website is that ensembles are more fun than solo endeavours, after all. The inclusion of those characters all but rules out the idea of exploring what Carol did between the end of Captain Marvel and the present day, further dashing my hopes that they’ll eventually give Lee Pace something meaningful to do as Ronan, but still, I’m all in on this as a team-up.

X-Men ‘97

Hype Level: Medium

Look. I don’t relish in being the bad guy here, especially as this probably got the most buzz of any of the announcements, but X-Men: the Animated Series was not anywhere near as good as you remember. The internet may have fun debating BTAS vs XTAS, but as someone who has recently reviewed every episode of the former and rewatched a good chunk of the latter, it’s not even remotely close. XTAS wasn’t even the best animated X-Men show! Heck, it’s probably not even second best! Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men would be my personal top two.

But still! Reviving beloved dormant properties with their original creators is what streaming services are all about, so I can certainly understand the excitement. They just have a very small needle to thread here, as they must capture the look and tone of the original series but try and make it less… cringe? We’ve had two decades of movies and comics since the show went off the air, so there are plenty of new characters and stories to mine, but I simply don’t trust Marvel/Disney to get this right, especially after What If…? This is another one where the first trailer will tell us everything.

TBD

Agatha: House of Harkness

Hype Level: Low

The most egregious example of Disney being unable to leave things alone. WandaVision was clearly conceived as a self-contained, one-and-done character piece, designed to tell an intimate story about Wanda Maximoff and move her forward to a new status quo for future movies. It’s not just that it shouldn’t continue, it’s that it couldn’t; Wanda let go of her grief and the sitcom world central to the premise was dissolved.

And yet, they found a way! Kathryn Hahn deserves the world, and her performance as Agatha was sublime, so I considered ‘Medium’ instead of ‘Low’, but truly, this does not need to exist. I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it campy fun, but take a lesson from Wanda and learn to let go, Disney.

Armor Wars

Hype Level: Low

Look. I like Don Cheadle in general. But James ‘War Machine’ Rhodes has been potentially the least interesting recurring character in the entire MCU over the last decade. Could this be the project that finally turns him around? Maybe. But it feels too late for anything like that, and for what purpose? Is War Machine going to be one of the lead Avengers going forward???

I can’t escape the idea that this and Ironheart should have been merged into a single project, with Rhodes mentoring Riri Williams before she moves over into movies. There’s a decent chance of a Robert Downey Jr. cameo, which will of course set the internet ablaze, but it’s tough to imagine anyone being legitimately excited for this series.

Blade

Hype Level: High

When Blade and its sequels first captured hearts and minds, most didn’t even know the titular vampire hunter was a Marvel character. Unless you had a good memory of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, of course! So now that superhero movies are infinitely bigger, it’s felt inevitable that ‘The Daywalker’ would eventually get the call to return to the big screen and mix it up with the ‘normies’.

The biggest hurdle the project faced was getting out from under the enormous shadow cast by Wesley Snipes. Mahershala Ali is about as exciting an actor as you can cast, and while details are minimal (Bassam Tariq was only announced as director two months ago), you get the sense everybody involved is taking the reboot seriously. If nothing else, the world of Blade should unlock even more of the weirder side of Marvel, which is sorely needed after a decade of hegemony.

Echo

Hype Level: Low

I don’t dislike this character at all, but she is enjoying an odd push of late, first being selected as the new host of the Phoenix Force in the comics, and now getting her own TV show.

The character will debut first in Hawkeye, so my excitement levels could skyrocket in the next few weeks, but right now it strikes me as another ‘really?’ project, and an unfair situation for its star, Alaqua Cox.

Fantastic Four

Hype Level: Maximum

Arguably I’m being unwise to not better guard my heart against disappointment given the film history of Marvel’s First Family. I feel silly being a Marvel fanboy who puts total faith in Kevin Feige ‘getting it right’ with characters whose film rights once sat elsewhere, but this will assuredly be treated as one of the highest priorities the studio has ever had. It cannot be overstated how important the team have been to the history of Marvel, with multiple iconic runs helping establish a number of comic book tropes, such as Ben Grimm wrestling with the negative aspects of his physical transformation into The Thing.

Something that helps my confidence is the hiring of Jon Watts as director; Spider-Man was in a similar position a few years ago, with Marvel desperate to put their stamp on one of their most prized characters and fully integrate them into the bigger picture. I have personally enjoyed the approach taken with the MCU Spider-Man films, and hope for even better here. If done right, they should be as big a set of characters as any in the medium, and where they go, comics’ greatest villain, Doctor Doom, follows. This is a character that once refused to help save the universe because he wasn’t the first person asked. Inject him directly into my veins.

I Am Groot

Hype Level: Low

I’m probably not the target demographic for this. But let’s talk about it anyway! I got a little sick of the Groot shtick in the weeks after the release of the first Guardians of the Galaxy. My tolerance was admittedly tested more than the average person’s given my job entailed handling an ungodly amount of Guardians merchandise, which mostly focused on Groot.

I get it, he’s cute, he has one of the most varied sets of abilities of any fictional character, and they’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of him re-growing after ‘dying’. Indeed, this series seems like it will feature Baby Groot, far and away the most popular version of the flora colossus. I just… am very over it and have seen it in a dozen incarnations now. A decent chunk of the Guardians comics actually dropped the ‘I Am Groot’ gimmick, and this may shock you, but versions of the character that can actually talk are generally more interesting.

Ironheart

Hype Level: Low

I feel awful saying I’m not excited for this, because I do love the central conceit of Riri Williams as a teen genius who forges her own Iron-Man-inspired identity. I just don’t know if there’s enough there for a full solo series versus a teen ensemble show.

Trailer footage will probably change my mind about that when it eventually pops up, but see my above comments about Armor Wars.

Loki – Season 2

Hype Level: High

I toyed with bumping this down to a medium due to the departure of Kate Herron, who delivered the most complete Disney+ Marvel project to date, as well as the general difficulty of recapturing lightning in a bottle. I was a little disappointed the first season ended in a cliffhanger rather than making an attempt to tell a complete story, but it was still great.

Big corporations have a tendency to identify what was popular in a first instalment and then inject faaar too much of it in a sequel. Jack Sparrow, Wolverine etc. I don’t think there’s much about the first season they could do that with, but Disney have consistently risen (fallen?) to that challenge.

Marvel Zombies

Hype Level: Zero

Seriously, what year is it?

I know that the zombies imprint of the comics sells really well, and some people were all-in on the zombie episode of What If…?, which this will presumably spin off from, but it’s hard for me to imagine a less appealing show.

Spider-Man: Freshman Year

Hype Level: Low

Similar to my thoughts on X-Men ’97, but with the added fact that this will presumably be directly tied into the MCU. That was one of the biggest issues with What If…?, and as far as I’m concerned they need to do a lot of work to prove to me that an animated project that closely adheres to their overarching vision is worthwhile. Please just make a regular Spider-Man cartoon. There have been lots of them, and most of them are great! Especially Spectacular Spider-Man.

Based on the name and teaser, one assumes this will be filling in the blanks of MCU Peter’s first year as the wall-crawler, and the character model appears to be drawn to resemble Tom Holland… but with glasses! These are all red flags for me. My favourite part of Marvel’s take on Spidey was that they skipped the origin story, trusting audiences to be familiar with it after five movies and various cartoons. So going back on that and potentially showing him getting bitten, losing Uncle Ben and exclusively wearing his homemade costume is… not appealing.

Untitled Wakanda Series

Hype Level: High

Unlike its big screen sister project, an ongoing series set in Wakanda does not have depressing real life issues hanging overhead. The world of Wakanda was my favourite part of Black Panther, so the idea of exploring everyday life from the Golden City to the outskirts sounds perfect to me. I’m a sucker for any fictional world that features distinct factions with their own iconography and idiosyncrasies, so getting to spend time in each of the tribes mentioned in the movie is definitely right up my alley.

My hope would be that it is an anthology of sorts, moving from one region to another each episode, but perhaps with the Dora Milaje acting as the connective tissue, investigating various disputes that turn out to be interconnected. I’m never mad about Danai Gurira’s Okoye turning up, and I’m holding out hope we see some version of Ta-Nahisi Coates and Roxanne Gay’s story of lovers Ayo and Aneka becoming disillusioned with the way the nation is run and the role of women in Wakandan society. Please, I beg of you, a human drama.

Plugs

Next up is Hawkeye, which is dropping its first 2 episodes on November 24th, meaning I’ll have reviews for both up on the 29th.

Check out The Matt Signal Beyond, in which I recap episodes of Batman Beyond every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend a pair of cautionary tales involving drug addiction and being an incel.

There Will Be Movies continues each Wednesday, as Ben Phillips and I talk about 25 of our favourite movies from the 90s. This week by pure coincidence for our 69th episode is Boogie Nights.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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