The Masters Versus Marvel

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So… Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Ken Loach and Marvel movies.

A lot of people have been asking me if I’m angry at the disparaging comments from these revered directors, about Marvel films not being “cinema”, seeing as I’m such a fan of the studio’s output.

And my response to this? Well, actually… not in the slightest.

I mean look, these three directors have made some genuinely amazing movies between them, undeniable classics of cinema, including Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Kes and I, Daniel Blake.

Scorsese, Coppola and Loach have worked long and hard in the film industry and produced an incredible body of work and now they’re all of a certain age and they’re perfectly entitled to their opinions, no matter how grouchy.

But those opinions don’t affect my love for what I consider to be far more than just churned-out fare from the Hollywood factory. I think the Marvel movies, some fair, some good and some downright amazing, constitute a bold, incredible experiment in long-form narrative, told with passion and love for the source material by creators who care about making the best in escapist entertainment.

I don’t want all movies to be Marvel movies, but they have a place in the world that fits just fine with my sensibilities (and clearly those of many others). Of course I recognise that they are part of the larger corporate design, but that doesn’t mean the creatives aren’t doing their best work within that environment.

And if I have some criticism of what Scorsese et al. are saying, it’s that it all feels a little churlish to undermine that work. Frankly, it just makes the three of them a little diminished in my eyes, a little lacking in class to throw unnecessary shade across the bow of the efforts of fellow industry creatives.

But beyond that, what they’ve said doesn’t affect me, it shouldn’t affect you, and it doesn’t change what I love about Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange or The Avengers. It also doesn’t change what I love about Casino, The Conversation and Cathy Come Home.

If these three old masters want to define “cinema” in such narrow terms, well good for them, they’ve more than earned the right.

For me, however, cinema is a broad and wonderful church, from the smallest, most personal stories, to huge, archetypal tales of soaring wonder, and everything in-between.

Cinema is whatever each of us wants it to be.


– Dave King, Editor In Chief, is a multi-hyphenate, which sounds rude but isn’t. He is an animation director-producer-writer-lecturer-bon viveur whose work has been seen in books, newspapers, magazines, comics, TV and web series, commercials, music videos and documentaries.

He is also an Englishman in Norway, which means he drinks from the skulls of his enemies but lifts his little finger while doing so.

Spider-Man: Sony and Marvel Stick Together (For Now)

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In news that, while not entirely shocking, is most certainly welcome, Sony and Marvel have come to an agreement to continue working together on Spider-Man.

Variety announced today that Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman, Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Walt Disney Studios’ head Alan Horn have been involved in top-level negotiations to allow their successful working relationship to move forward.

Right now that means the third film in the “home” trilogy (after Homecoming and Far From Home) will fall under the deal, as well as the option for Spider-Man/Peter Parker to appear in one future film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“I am thrilled that Spidey’s journey in the MCU will continue, and I and all of us at Marvel Studios are very excited that we get to keep working on it,” said Feige in a statement. “Spider-Man is a powerful icon and hero whose story crosses all ages and audiences around the globe. He also happens to be the only hero with the superpower to cross cinematic universes, so as Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold.”

This is much better news than fans of this iteration of Marvel’s famous web-slinger could have hoped for in recent weeks, given the very public rift between the two companies, which was based on movie profits and merchandise rights.

Thankfully, level web-heads have saved the day and Spider-Man will swing where he belongs. At least for now.

Marvel Finds Its Kate Bishop For Hawkeye TV Show – Hailee Steinfeld!

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Variety are reporting that Marvel are close to signing Hailee Steinfeld to play Kate Bishop, in their new Disney Plus limited series, Hawkeye.

Jeremy Renner will move across from the movies to play Hawkeye, and Steinfeld will play Kate Bishop, a character who took on the mantle of the Hawkeye name, while Clint Barton was off doing dark deeds as Ronin (as seen in Avengers: Endgame).

We’re big fans of Steinfeld, here at Out Of Dave’s Head Towers, from her breakthrough role in the Cohen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit, through to her superb turns in films including The Edge of Seventeen and the Transformers film it’s okay to like, Bumblebee.

Since these series on Disney Plus will be more directly linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (unlike the ABC and Netflix shows, which drifted further away from the MCU over time), it will be intriguing to see whether Steinfeld as Bishop will eventually cross over into future films.

Hawkeye will string his bow on Disney Plus in autumn 2021.

Game Of Thrones Comes To Marvel (And What That Could Mean For The Cinematic Universe)

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There’s been a lot of news coming from Disney’s D23 expo this weekend, so let’s catch up on the fact that Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington, better known as Jon Snow, is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Harington will join his Game Of Thrones buddy, Richard Madden, in Chloé Zhao’s The Eternals, to play a character called Dane Whitman. This is intriguing for a whole bunch of reasons we’ll unpack here.

Dane Whitman, as all good comic book readers know, is the alter ego of the Black Knight, a character who wields a mystic ebony sword (with a blood curse) and a long-time member of The Avengers.

In more recent years, the Black Knight’s story was closely connected to Marvel’s UK superhero, Captain Britain, a character that the geek rumor mill has been in overdrive about for the past couple of years, suggesting that Marvel are gearing up to bring him to their Cinematic Universe.

While Whitman and the Black Knight have been connected to The Eternals in the comics (via a romantic entanglement between Whitman and Eternal, Sersi), you might begin to question why they’re being brought together for the movies, it seems unlikely someone with Harington’s star power would be brought in for a one-off cameo, and…

Well, that’s a lot of conjecture and putting two and two together to make five, but hey, what else can we do with so little solid information coming from Marvel at this early stage!?

Will this be a full-on introduction for the Black Knight? Will that lead to a Black Knight movie or series (Harington would fit in nicely with the other Disney Plus Marvel shows)? Will that open up a doorway to introduce Captain Britain? Will the UK cease to exist after Brexit?

Feel free to add your tuppence ha’penny worth’s of opinions in the comments below.

Meanwhile, the Game Of Thrones alumni will join Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, and Don Lee.

The Eternals will hit your local cinema next November.

Avengers Assemble At Disney Parks

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Marvel’s The Avengers want you to Assemble. Strictly speaking, they want your credit card to assemble, but they’ll welcome you along for the ride.

The previously announced news that Marvel’s characters would join the famous parks was confirmed at today’s D23 expo, where they gave more information on the upcoming super-hero lands.

The Disney Parks blog announced:

“When guests visit Avengers Campus, they will become part of an interconnected, global story that spans from California to Paris to Hong Kong with the Avengers recruiting new extraordinary people to join them.”

Avengers Campus will open at various Disney theme parks in California and Paris, joining the just-opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction to lure in geeks. They will will incorporate the existing Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! and a new Spider-Man attraction that will invite “new recruits to “suit up” alongside Spider-Man with the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (WEB).”

The first phase of the Anaheim Avengers Campus is expected to open in 2020, so you’d better start saving your pennies or deciding which part of your soul you’ll hand to Disney now.

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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Balanced Web-Spinner – Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Following up the successful first collaboration between Columbia/Sony and Marvel (Spider-Man: Homecoming), the cosmic hugeness of Avengers: Endgame  and the culmination of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe always promised to be a tricky task, but returning director Jon Watts and returning scriptwriters Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers have managed a pretty balanced movie that nicely answers all those demands.

Set eight months after half of humanity was restored to existence in Avengers: Endgame (now referred to as The Blip), the film wastes no time showing us some of the ramifications of this but also throws us headlong into a plot which, by necessity, has to stretch out more broadly than Homecoming’s friendly neighbourhood feel.

Terrifying giant creatures, Elementals, have seemingly crossed over into our world from another reality and, while attempting to enjoy a summer class vacation through Europe and engage with a blossoming relationship with MJ, Peter Parker is pulled into battling these monsters by a heroic newcomer, soon named Mysterio.

With Tony Stark no longer around, Mysterio becomes a mentor figure to Peter, but all is not quite as it first appears and events soon spiral out of our young hero’s control – both in and out of his webby mask.

Jake Gyllenhall’s Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) works well against Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, in an arc which nicely defines Peter coming to terms with loss, while underlining his constant struggles with responsibility from a fresh angle. And while the resolution of this arc might be one of the film’s weaker moments, there is still a great deal to savour.

In terms of character development, the high-point of the film is undoubtedly Peter and MJ’s romance. Zendaya’s MJ is a real treat; snarky, goofy and vulnerable, and I could happily watch an entire movie of her and Holland just playing off against each other.

Holland is, it almost goes without saying, a pretty much perfect Peter Parker, beautifully playing the push and pull the character feels between his heroic responsibilities and his teenage life, continuing to make him highly relatable.

The actions sequences are excellent, the climax in the centre of London is one of the best Spider-man set pieces since Spider-Man 2’s train battle ( I saw the film in 3D, which really enhanced this sequence), and the film balances action, drama and (a great deal of) humour deftly, giving it a distinct feel while still integrating it firmly into the MCU.

It’s a superb summer movie, and a lot of fun (often mischievously so), even if a certain amount of Homecoming’s down to earth charm has been sacrificed.

Do make sure you stay through the end credits, as one of the two stings brings not only a wonderful cameo (particularly for long-time Spider-Man movie fans) but a pretty seismic cliffhanger for Spider-Man’s status quo.

The best thing about the film is that it makes you want to spend more time caught up in Spider-Man’s web and in the company of these characters, so bring on Spider-Man: Home From Home, Home Run, Home Sweet Home, or even Don’t Try This At Home

Marvel Phase 4 – Black Widow Begins Filming In Norway (English Language Exclusive)

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Blue Bayou – the shooting title adopted by Marvel for the production of the first movie in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, has begun filming here in Norway.

The unit production base has established itself in the small village of Sæbø, in Sunnmøre on the western coast of Norway. The Sagafjord Hotel was overrun with a fleet of trucks as rumours first exploded locally that this was filming for the latest James Bond film (which is actually also shooting here, not too far away on The Atlantic Road and in Rauma, slightly further north in the region).

Per Henry Borch, line producer for Truenorth, the production and service company, confirmed to NRK that the film wasn’t Bond 25 in an effort to stop interested fans swarming to the site, obviously not considering that there might also be plenty of Johansson or Marvel fans ready to make the trip.

But your roving reporter can confirm that trucks, equipment and local signs are festooned with the legend Blue Bayou, revealed back in February as the shooting title for Scarlett Johansson’s first solo outing as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow.

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Local newspapers are suggesting that Sæbø and nearby Bondalen (oh, the irony) are standing in for Romanoff’s childhood home in Russia.

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Shooting titles are often used to deter curious onlookers for location shooting and Marvel Studios productions have recently used covers including Mary Lou (Avengers: Infinity War/Avengers: Endgame), Open World (Captain Marvel), and Bosco (Spider-Man: Far From Home).

Crewmembers at the base remained tight-lipped and impervious to my requests for the movie’s entire plot-line, but filming will continue throughout the week. Production of the film is based at Pinewood Studios in the UK (as seen in the exclusive photos here), while the film is being directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer (Captain Marvel, the forthcoming Vision & Scarlet Witch TV series).

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No official release date has been given for Black Widow, but you can be sure you’ll be updated on these pages.

Avengers: Endgame Makes ALL The Money With A $1.2 Billion Weekend

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As predicted here on Out Of Dave’s Head (though I’ll grant you I didn’t really need a crystal ball), Avengers: Endgame has blasted off with a record-breaking $1.2 billion opening weekend take at the worldwide box office.

Marvel’s astonishing experiment in long-form storytelling has smashed the year-old Avengers: Infinity War records by nearly $100 million in the U.S. and a jaw-dropping $560 million worldwide.

The 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which launched in 2008 with Iron Man, has seen the linked multi-franchises bring home more than $19 billion in worldwide box office to date, and with a whole slate of films lined up for the forthcoming Phase 4, that figure seems likely to grow.

The much-discussed “superhero fatigue” that critics love to load onto these films seems to be pretty non-existent when it comes to Marvel movies, possibly because their release plans are carefully thought out and almost certainly because the films are far from the cookie-cutter exercises those same, lazy critics write them off as.

Long-form cinematic storytelling is certainly nothing new, of course, having been around since at least 1912, with Edison’s What Happened to Mary, before finding huge popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with the likes of Flash Gordon, Spy Smasher and The Adventures of Captain Marvel (or Shazam! as he’s now known). 

And movie sequels have been around forever, but were generally regarded as poor relations to the source material and usually awarded declining budgets and box office receipts (the original Planet of the Apes films, for example).

Star Wars and its subsequent offerings have done much to pave the way for this latest iteration, with the linked trilogies of the Skywalker saga we’ve had since 1977. But Marvel have taken this to a truly intriguing new level, launching a number of different franchises which link to form one longer narrative. Story strands, character arcs and thematic resolutions occur in Avengers: Endgame which have carried through from that first Iron Man movie in 2008. Carrying these elements across a franchise is one thing, but to test audiences with knowledge needed across multiple franchises really is quite brave for a studio, and something Marvel should be lauded for.

And while Spider-Man: Far From Home, released in July, sees Marvel’s Phase 3 come to a conclusion, the as-yet unannounced slate of Phase 4 films is likely to include Black Panther 2, Doctor Strange 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (happily with James Gunn reinstated), the long-promised Black Widow movie, a likely return for Captain Marvel and debuts for Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu (directed by Destin Daniel Cretton) and The Eternals (helmed by The Rider‘s Chloe Zhao, and rumoured to be starring Angelina Jolie). And those are just the productions we know of, Marvel are sure to have some surprises up their sleeves.

So as Marvel sit back and prepare to work their accountants hard in the coming weeks, rest assured that we’ll likely be giving our hard-earned money to the company for some time to come.

And personally, if they continue to make films as engaging, enjoyable and emotional as these have been, I’ll be very happy to do so.

This Is The End! Avengers: Endgame* *spoiler-free review

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This is, without a doubt, the hardest review I’ve ever had to write, because in order to keep it spoiler-free, there’s really very little I can tell you.

Certainly, in terms of specifics I’m going to tell you absolutely nothing, because the film will work even more effectively if you go in cold. Suffice to say if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you know nothing, Jon Snow!

So, let’s keep this general: directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, left the universe in a much-reduced place this time last year – cosmic villain Thanos (father of Gamora and Nebula, from the Guardians of the Galaxy films) achieved his aim to place the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet, snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population of the universe in an instant. The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, lost.

Avengers: Endgame picks up some twenty-plus days later, the remaining heroes split asunder in different corners of the galaxy, in bad places both geographically and emotionally.

What happens next is, quite simply, astonishing. The structure of the (three hour long and not a dull moment) film is continually surprising: the first thirty incredibly intense minutes arguably take the story where you might have expected the entire film to go, and then you’re left with two and a half hours of some of the most bravura narrative you’re likely to see in a franchise movie for a long time.

That the film acts as a total summation of Marvel Studios’ bold and innovative, ten year, interconnected, multi-franchise, long form storytelling is perhaps no surprise: this is where we, and the characters, have been heading all along. But the sheer level of smarts on display is something to be admired.

Because the story is concluded so satisfyingly should not however, lull you into thinking this is an easy ride. The fact we’ve had so long to become attached to these characters means that Marvel pull out all the stops to put the audience through an emotional wringer: I can honestly say I lost count of the amount of times I cried, but I can tell you there were tears of both sadness and joy.

I sat with a goofy grin on my face, with tears of pure happiness streaming down my face, at the audaciousness of the penultimate forty-five minutes. And in the last fifteen minutes the real tears began. To be clear, the film left me a total wreck.

This unrestrained emotional response is a testimony to the genuine skill not only of the storytellers, but also of the actors. I’m sure it would be so very easy to coast through roles like these, but there isn’t a single moment where the cast aren’t completely in the moment.

There is a strand, an emotional arc involving Thor, where the balance between comedy and pathos strains to tip too far in one direction, but Chris Hemsworth manages to keep things just in check.

There might also be an argument to be made that some of the solutions (and yes, I’ll avoid details) lead to a little head-scratching which will no doubt fuel fan arguments for months to come.

It’s also fair to say that while all previous Marvel films have strived to pay-off for both casual viewers and fans, Avengers: Endgame, rightly, is full-on about resolution, and therefore will probably leave newbies wondering what the heck is going on. But after ten years, that’s perfectly right and fair. And earned.

But these are very minor negative points in what can only really be considered as Marvel’s crowning achievement.

Avengers: Endgame not only gives you everything you could possibly have wanted from this finale, but also gives you so much more in terms of narrative twists and turns, satisfying emotional arcs, thematic pay-offs for threads linking almost every single Marvel film and genuine surprises, particularly for those of us who’ve been along for the ride for the past decade.

And while there are plenty of seeds for the next Phases of Marvel movies (interestingly, Phase 3 officially ends with Spider-Man: Far From Home, in July), you’d better believe this is the end, beautiful friend.