Get Ready For Your Head To Explode. Here’s Part Of Phase Four Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe!

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Marvel Studios are back at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con, and as expected, Kevin Feige has been onstage (after officially confirming Avengers: Endgame as the biggest film of all time – sorry Avatar) to announce the next slate of movies we’ll all be getting excited about and buying tickets at the box office for years to come.

First up, on November 6th 2020, will be The Eternals, a huge cosmic adventure featuring more characters created by the great Jack Kirby! Alongside Richard Madden, Bryan Tyree Henry, Don Lee and Kumail Nanjiani, Marvel have landed the big guns of Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie to star in director Chloe Zhao’s first epic.

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan then took to the stage to discuss their upcoming limited series for the new Disney Plus channel, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will also feature Daniel Bruhl reprising his role as Baron Zemo, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Next up on the movie front, we’ll see Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The film will finally introduce the real villainy of  arch bad guy The Mandarin (as opposed to Ben Kingsley’s Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3), to be played by screen legend, Tony Leung. The title role of Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, is taken by Simu Liu (best known for appearing in the TV series, Kim’s Convenience). Awkwafina also stars in the film, which will be released on February 12th 2021 (that’s a great birthday present for me) and be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen then came out to promote WandaVision, their limited series for Disney Plus in spring 2021, which will see the Scarlet Witch and Vision in adventures taking place after Avengers: Endgame.

Tom Hiddleston also appeared to announce his Loki mini-series, also for Disney Plus (I guess we’ll all be subscribing to this channel…), also in spring 2021.

Excitingly for yours truly, director Scott Derrickson then came out to announce the fabulously-titled, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (take that, the days of just adding a 2 to the title), which will cast its spell in cinemas May 7th, 2021. “We’re going to make the first scary MCU film,” said Derrickson, making this Doctor Strange fan positively salivate!  The sequel will feature Elizabeth Olsen, as Scarlet Witch teams up with Doctor Strange and it will follow on from the events in the WandaVision series. That subscription just became even more unmissable!

The always wonderful Jeffery Wright came out to announce he would be the voice of The Watcher in What If…?, the first animated series in the MCU, with many actors from across the MCU reprising their roles as voice talent. Streaming exclusively on Disney Plus, in the summer of 2021.

Also for Disney Plus (oh, just take my subscription money already), Jeremy Renner will reprise his role as the Avengers’ ace archer in a Hawkeye series, which it was confirmed will feature the character of Kate Bishop from the comics and also look at more of Hawkeye’s time as Ronin.

The Cinematic Universe gets another fabulous title with Thor – Love and Thunder, reuniting Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, and directed again by Taika Waititi. In even better news, Marvel have persuaded Natalie Portman to return as Jane Foster and (as in Jason Aaron’s run of comics) she will become the female Thor! This, my friends, is going to rock and will hit our theaters, November 5, 2021.

As regular readers of this blog will be more than aware (since we broke the story of its Norwegian location filming) Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O-T Fagbenle, and Rachel Weisz star in Black Widow. Directed by Cate Shortland, the film lands in theaters May 1, 2020. “I’m looking to wipe out some of that red in my ledger,” said Johansson, and I’m happy we’ll get the chance to see her do that at last. Footage shown at SDCC promises a very Jason Bourne feel, which I’m totally down for.

As if the announcements couldn’t get more insane, the MCU will be reintroducing Blade, the vampire slayer, as played by Academy Award winner (and huge favourite at Out of Dave’s Head), Mahershala Ali! No release date has been announced yet.

Finally, get ready for your geek heads to explode (as mine did), because alongside the likes of Black Panther 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and Captain Marvel 2, Feige also mentioned… New Mutants (which will presumably preclude the some way off introduction of the X-Men) and… huge drum roll for those of who’ve been clamouring for this, Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four!

Okay, so that’s everything announced for Phase Four (and the accompanying TV shows) FOR NOW (well, for the next two years)! Remember we haven’t even mentioned The Avengers or Spider-Man yet. It’s safe to say we’ll be throwing our money at Marvel forever so I’m considering some kind of neural transfer of half my earnings until retirement.

UPDATE: In the crazy rush to put this news piece together, I ascribed New Mutants to be one of the forthcoming projects from Marvel Studios. Fiege actually said “there’s no time left to talk about mutants, and how mutants fit into the MCU.”
This leaves the fate of the Fox New Mutants film up in the air, but bodes well for even more exciting news to come about Marvel’s Mutants, possibly at the forthcoming D23 even in August. Stay Tuned!

Meanwhile, courtesy of the fine folk at JoBlo.com, here’s a handy visual (including all the newly released logos) to help you keep track on the Marvel Madness…

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This Is The End – Avengers: Infinity War * spoiler free review

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The Marvel films have always struggled with villains, it’s a frequently heard complaint that few villains beyond Loki and, arguably, Erik Killmonger, have left too much of an impression. So let’s get this right out there – not only was Thanos worth waiting for, but he instantly ranks at the top of the hall of infamy.

There was concern that the Mad Titan would be a let down, that he couldn’t possibly live up to the almost ten-year build which has led us to this point. But the combination of a wonderfully layered performance from Josh Brolin and superlative animation effects work brings Jim Starlin’s deranged creation to full, terrifying life in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.

This feat is even more impressive in a film which (as I’m sure you know from the hype) brings together all the expected characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and perhaps even some unexpected ones).

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) do a splendid job of pulling together an increasingly active number of franchises, giving most characters a neat arc and/or several great moments, though there are exceptions, inevitable even with a two-hour forty minute running time, and a certain amount of shorthand is definitely at play. That they manage this without spending an hour on exposition is a minor miracle, and a testament to deft storytelling (and the good will engendered by eighteen previous films).

There’s an undeniable frisson of excitement (especially for a Marvel geek like me) to see new combinations of characters, having Spider-Man and Doctor Strange interact left me with the biggest grin on my face, but the filmmakers know they need more than just a Marvel Team-Up to make a satisfying film.

There are real stakes here, literally the fate of the universe (or half of it… you’ll see…) hangs in the balance, with a number of different strands occurring in different locations on different worlds, and the action feels all the more vital because Marvel have taken the time to build these worlds and make us care for the characters. And it’s no spoiler to say your emotions will really be put through the wringer – I wept a solitary, manly tear on more than one occasion.

But don’t think the threat of the universe coming to an end or talk of tears means it’s all doom and gloom: this is a thrill-a-minute adventure that hits the ground running and barely lets up on the action, but as usual it’s mixed in with some fabulous and funny character interplay – Thor with Peter Quill and Doctor Strange with Tony Stark bring unexpected delights.

There’s also a distinct feel here of the beginning of a changing of the guard – the first ten years of Marvel movies has seen a very definite roster of characters and Infinity War shows us that the company’s willingness to shake things up is part of what makes them so successful, and which lends even more weight to the story, of course. Even the obligatory post-credit scene nods in that direction (it’s a nod that literally made me whoop in the cinema).

Is there a downside to all this? I suspect that a casual filmgoer would be rather lost but y’know in that case, get with the Marvel game like the rest of the population, I guess.

Avengers: Infinity War is a huge, and hugely exciting, comic book, sci-fi epic that really sees the gutsy long-game approach taken by Marvel pay off, giving us the Empire Strikes Back of their bold, long form narrative, and finally giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe its own Darth Vader, a cosmic villain with a welcome emotional core.

And really, so as not to wander into the spoiler zone, that’s about all I can say, except that this is the huge Marvel adventure we’ve been waiting for.

This is the end*… but bring on May 3, 2019 and Avengers 4 as soon as possible please, I only have so many fingernails left to chew through.

*Speaking of the end, you KNOW to stay right through to the very end of the credits, right…!?

Here Comes Thanos! The Final Avengers: Infinity Wars Is Rather Exciting.

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There’s really not a heck of a lot I can say about this trailer. If you’re not down for Marvel’s All-Star Mash Up by now then there’s probably nothing more here to convince you. You are hopelessly wrong, of course.

For the rest of us, April 27th really can’t arrive quickly enough as Avengers: Infinity War is the beginning of the culmination of ten years of narrative and the chance to see all of Marvel’s flagship characters facing off against the big, bad and purple cosmic Trump, Thanos (as played by Josh Brolin). And seen here? Spider-Man and Dr.Strange, together on screen for the first time! Oh boy! Captain America going mano y mano with Thanos! Gosh!

Marvel have gotten particularly adept and not blowing their wads in trailers and this still feels mighty restrained to me. What do you think? Are Marvel still playing their cards close to their chests?

I’ll see you in the theater in just over a month. I’ll be the one hyper-ventilating.

Epic! The Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Is Here…

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The trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has landed and, wow… you need to see this:


I know, right!?

It’s not the same trailer that wowed audiences at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con (yes, yes, I peaked at the leaked version) but if anything it feels even more epic.

Rumours are running rife that this may be the last time we see some of these characters (at least in their present forms), so better make the most of… hm, well, that would be telling, right!? In the meantime, we can look forward to the ultimate Marvel Cinematic Universe mash-up of The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy as they face up against the Josh Brolin-shaped cosmic might of Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War arrives May 8th, 2018. The hype starts here…

Marvel’s Masterful, Mystical Doctor Strange

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Many who know me might suggest I was always going to give this movie an easy ride. Doctor Strange has been one of my most beloved characters since I was first introduced to him sometime in the early 1970s. Let’s face it, I’m an easy mark for a movie featuring anything to do with Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts, right!?

But, as excited as I’ve been about seeing the good Doctor onscreen, I was always going to be this movie’s worst enemy, sitting in the dark of the theatre daring it to take a wrong step with the Sorcerer Supreme, challenging it to weigh up against forty years of expectation.  Doctor Strange has lived and breathed in my imagination for decades, so my warning to director Scott Derrickson and the Marvel team might have best been summed up by Yeats: Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Thankfully, I needn’t have worried, Doctor Strange delivers as faithful a translation of Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s creation as a fan could ever wish for, and embellishes it with thoughtful meditations that give this version of the character some important textures.

The thrust of the plot follows that of the comics, and sees talented but arrogant neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange lose the use of his hands in an accident but gain a new life as he travels to the mystical Kamar-Taj to study the teachings of The Ancient One.

As Strange learns to use his newfound powers he comes into conflict with one of The Ancient One’s ex-students and uncovers a threat to the very existence of our reality.

Ultimately what makes Doctor Strange work is that beyond the far-out visuals and imaginative sparkle, Derrickson and the Marvel team have crafted a remarkably human story. Director, script and cast combine to give us a set of characters we care for and the storytelling is gifted with many grace notes of humour and small, human moments. Benedict Cumberbatch shines (sometimes literally) as he enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe, breathing a fully formed life into Doctor Stephen Strange even before the event that takes him on his spiritual journey.

Likewise, both Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor are magnificent as The Ancient One and Karl Mordo respectively, both actors doing a lot of heavy lifting to fill in their unscripted humanity. Likewise, out of necessity of script mechanics, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, fills in a lot of blanks through sheer will of performance. I can only hope she is given more to do in the sequel, because here she teeters dangerously on the edge of being wasted, and McAdams deserves far better than that. Benedict Wong is superb value too, as a version of Wong thankfully and necessarily much developed from the early comics.

The one actor given short shrift is Mads Mikkelsen, which also highlights the film’s one unfortunate weak point. With so much screen time given to introducing Strange and his supporting cast of characters, we’re never allowed to creep beneath the skin of Mikkelsen’s villainous Kaecilius. This is a charge often levelled at Marvel villains of course, and unfortunately Doctor Strange isn’t going to buck that trend.  Thankfully, this is balanced out by the long game developed for Ejiofor’s Mordo, and if you want the full effect of this you should most definitely stay in your seat until the very end of the credits for the vital scene which will no doubt kick off important events for the sequel. Also of note is the final title card, which promises that: Doctor Strange will return.

For a megalithic blockbuster, Doctor Strange has also emerged as a rather personal movie. Director Derrickson’s well documented faith and spiritualism both shine through and inform the film, adding fascinating and thoughtful layers to the story that needs to function for the franchise. The plot is playful with any number of ideologies and both studio and audiences should be happy that such an intelligent, contemplative fit was found for the character.

This thoughtfulness spills through into the climax of the film, which veers beautifully away from the usual CGI slam-fest (though it involves plenty of CGI) to bring about a truly unusual (oh go on then… downright Strange) resolution, true to the character and true to the notions of ego and selflessness at the heart of the mysticism which propels the film, care of Derrickson (and scriptwriters John Spaihts and C. Robert Cargil).

Of course, the real spiritual heart of Doctor Strange in the comics lies in the astonishing visuals envisioned by co-creator, Steve Ditko, and it’s from here the film truly dazzles. In this age of CGI bloat and fix-it-in-post visual effects, it’s increasingly rare to walk out from a movie feeling you’ve seen something wondrous and fresh, and Doctor Strange delivers both feelings in bucketfuls: from travels through glorious LSD landscapes of the psychedelic multiverse to breathtaking battles across ever-expanding M.C. Escher cityscapes, the film is a treat for the senses.

Those senses include your hearing, as Michael Giacchino (composer of wonderful scores for films such as Pixar’s The Incredibles and the recent Star Trek reboot – as well as, allegedly, Marvel’s forthcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) lavishes the film with one of the studio’s most effective scores, including a Doctor Strange theme (all harpsichord, Hammond organ, sitars and jingle-jangle guitar) that you’re sure to be humming as you leave the theatre.

They say you should be careful what you wish for, but as an almost lifelong fan of the good Doctor, I could not have hoped for a more thrilling, magical and human translation of the story that’s played out in my psyche for so long.

Buy the ticket, take the ride, you’ll be glad you joined Marvel and Doctor Strange for this trip.

Doctor Strange Trailer Goes Full Psychedelic

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Since all of the previews of Marvel’s forthcoming Doctor Strange movie to date have focused on the impressive yet Inception-inspired visuals of cityscapes folding in on themselves, there has been much nervous talk that the company and director Scott Derrickson would not go full on psychedelic.

Happily, the IMAX featurette released today (see below) can put our little fanboy hearts to rest, for right there, snuck into a piece by Marvel’s head honcho, Kevin Feige, rhapsodising about the comic book genius of artist (and Doctor Strange co-creator) Steve Ditko, is a sequence of visuals guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of long-time fans (though… nerd alert… it’s a shame neither of the visuals accompanying the talk by Feige are actually drawn by Ditko, but still…).

Obviously (and happily) Marvel and Derrickson have been holding back to reveal too much before the film’s release in November, but these glorious visuals look like a page of Ditko 1960s inspired psychedelia come to life.

As a card carrying (well, FOOM card carrying) Doctor Strange fan since the early 1970s I can honestly say this has me even more excited about what looks like Marvel’s full step into cosmic weirdness.

I’ve got my cloak of levitation and all-seeing Eye of Agamotto ready for November 4th, see you at the cinema!

Marvel release magical new Doctor Strange trailer.

“We only want to come when we have a LOT of stuff to show you,” said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios in his introduction at the Hall H presentation of the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con.

After debuting a new studio logo, which will now play before all their movies, with a new musical fanfare by Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Star Trek 2009), he brought to the stage the cast (Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan, who will play Erik Killmonger; Lupita Nyong’o, taking the role of Nakia; and Danai Gurira as Okoye) and director (Ryan Coogler) of Black Panther (and revealing a new logo for that film).

Feige followed this by revealing a whole bunch of art and designs (and new logo) for Thor: Ragnarok (which promises to include elements of classic comic book story, Planet Hulk – imagine the green giant in an outer space gladiatorial arena – as well as being a buddy movie). Directed by Flight of the Conchords’ Taika Waititi, the film looks like it will contain a broader streak of humour than previous Thor movies, and – alongside Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo – features Cate Blanchett as the villain, Hela.

Next up, director Scott Derrickson introduced his cast for the highly anticipated Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong). Cumberbatch took to the stage in a wild, smoke-filled laser light show, and premiered a second, and far stronger trailer for the film.

The presentation is still going on as I post this and I’ll be sure to bring more news as it hits, but Feige wasn’t exaggerating when he said Marvel had a lot to show!

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Marvel logo source: JoBlo Movie Trailers