And with this show — which is getting good reviews from advance viewers — not only do we finally kick off MCU Phase 4, we also kick off one of the most enjoyable hot stove league categories of all: speculating, guessing, and analyzing the teensiest scraps of information from the totally locked down Disney/Marvel PR team and the Sphinx-like utterings of Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige.
Before we get going on the latest round of utterings, a quick recap: Feige and his team’s 10-year-in-the-making cinematic Infinity Saga is one of the greatest achievements ever in commercial filmmaking. Conceiving a series of high profile multimillion-dollar blockbusters to tell a connected story that had a five-hour culmination in a well nigh perfectly satisfying manner, is something no one could ever have imagined before, or since. Just look at the missteps and misfires at Warner Bros and Star Wars to see how hard it is.
So, as always, I salute you, Kevin Feige. You did it, you crazy devil.
But after a climax as tremendous as the Avengers Infinity War/Endgame two-fer, and the wistful Spider-Man: Far From Home coda, where does the MCU have to go from here? They can’t possibly top the Infinity Saga, right? Are there any more Jim Starlin comics to mine?
So far, it seems that the MCU is barreling down Quirky Highway, with a more eclectic and unusual menu of projects delivered by individual filmmakers and concepts. And even if the Snappening is in the rearview mirror, the returns of Taika Waititi and Sam Raimi (OH MY GRACIOUS ME) and debut of Chloe Zhao offer more than enough anticipation to get our heart rates pumping for 2021 and beyond.
With that in mind, let’s dive in to our very first 2021 episode of What Is Kevin Feige Saying Today™?
Feige has been out there doing a very limited press round for WandaVision, and while many of his answers make it clear how unpleasant he finds the task, we finally have some news.
Feige sat down with Deadline, and delivered some news about WandaVision, Black Panther and even the Netflix Marvel-verse, which has been sent off into Dormammu’s limbo.
• He’s not worried about the switch to the small screen diluting the impact of big screen Marvel films (if and when we ever get back to theaters.) “It happens to star two Avengers and has the Marvel logo on it, but is wholly unique and that is what we had been working on for Disney+ and phase 4 features until we finalized Endgame,” he told Deadline.
• Monica Rambeau appears in WandaVision, which will also tie directly into Wanda appearing in Doctor Strange 2, the Raimi-directed Multiverse of Madness. But is WandaVision the on ramp to the arrival of the X-men in the MCU? Feige pursed his lips a bit at being asked this. “In hindsight, in five years if when we’re talking about everything that’s happened, everything can be a ramp to everything,” he said.
• Black Panther director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler has his work cut out for him, writing a Black Panther 2 without Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. There will be no CGI Boseman or recasting. “Ryan Coogler is working very hard right now on the script with all the respect and love and genius that he has, which gives us great solace, so it was always about furthering the mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda.”
• Black Widow is currently planned for a theatrical release in May, but with the ever shifting COVID conditions, that is not written in stone.
• Don’t hassle him about release dates, man. “Don’t ask me week by week what is going to happen in this world, I have no idea and don’t want to guess.”
• There’s been a lot of hopeful speculation about the Netflix team that people liked – Charlie Cox as Daredevil, Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones, Mike Colter as Luke Cage — joining the official MCU, and while every website out there parsed Feige’s answer as “He didn’t say no!” he really didn’t say yes either. He just said, “Never say never,” something we learned about comic books long ago. That said, there’s been a LOT of chatter about Ritter returning on one of the Disney+ shows, and she was pretty awesome as Jessica Jones, so it’s a good idea. If Tobey Maguire can come back, then never say never indeed.
Feige later sat down with Variety and delivered more hints.
• WandaVision was inspired by his own youthful TV viewing habits — endless sitcoms and Nick at Nite — as well as the obvious and wide-ranging acting talents of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. Really, what more do you need? Of course, he was also specifically inspired by the Tom King/Gabriel Walta Vision miniseries which first suggested the suburban setting for the android hubby.
Those covers in particular of Vision standing in the doorway of a suburban home with a white picket fence and a mailbox that says “The Visions” on it — that almost “Leave it to Beaver” type imagery — and what it was like when he was in that environment is what led me to say, “Let’s look at putting these two things together.”
• Some of the Disney+ shows could have more than one season, and some are being crafted with multiple seasons in mind.
• Marvel Comics have always been a mirror of society, and with “The Blip” — the five-year gap of life between Thanos’s snap and the return — Feige has been presented with the perfect metaphor for COVID-19: global events that change everyone’s life. In several upcoming projects, Marvel characters will talk about The Blip in ways that could equally be applied to COVID, he says. “The real-world connotations are shockingly and somewhat depressingly relevant now between our worlds.”
Finally, in a chat with Collider’s Steven Weinraub, Feige dropped a few major bombshells, although one you could have seen one coming.
• The third Deadpool movie will be set in the MCU. Yes. We knew it in our hearts but…now it’s more than just fanfic. And it will still be R-rated because that is Deadpool! Feige says Ryan Reynolds is too busy to plan for it any time before 2022, but Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin and Wendy Molyneux (Bob’s Burgers, The Great North) are writing the script under Reynolds’s watchful eye.
• Secret Invasion was teased at Disney Investor’s Day, and Feige revealed more about it. It’s a TV show, not a film, currently planned for 6 episodes starring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn as the Skrull Talos, as seen in Captain Marvel and Far From Home. The 2008 comics story — written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Lenil Francis Yu, Mark Morales and Laura Martin — involved the shapeshifting Skrulls infiltrating the Marvel Universe, with the tagline “Who do you trust?” Certainly fodder there for a series 13 years on, and Feige is on it:
“I mean, we’re interested in the political paranoia aspect of Secret Invasion and really showcasing the stars with Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn, two amazing actors that you want to have in any series, and we’re very lucky to have them for that. That’s the sort of primary focus of that and, of course, it will tie into other things and the Skrulls in ways you haven’t seen before, but yes, anything could be anything. Wise words… But we wanted to do that as a series because it would allow us to do something different than we’ve done before.”
Whew! We’re told more is coming from the Collider interview, so we’ll give you more Feige Dispatches as the news warrants! But he is not the only Marvel filmmaker doing the press rounds. Back in December, Eternals director Chloe Zhao (which is pronounced “jaw” just FYI) was promoting her highly acclaimed film Nomadland, and she had a few things to say about Eternals, which was to have debuted in November, but will be held back a year. Also she’s got Feige’s eye.
“Chloé will go toe to toe about Malick, or as esoteric and small a film as has ever been made, but also on Star Wars or on [Japanese superhero franchise] One-Punch Man in a way that is quite unique and quite spectacular,” says Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
(Not really that unusual if you hang out with film buffs, but okay.)
By the time Nomadland finishes its awards circuit journey (even in a pandemic-shrunken season) it’s quite possible that Zhao will be the most honored director to come to the MCU in a long time, as well as the second solo woman and first Asian director. And man, The Beat cannot wait for this movie.
“Her initial pitch to us was fascinating,” says Feige. “And frankly one of the reasons we moved forward on the movie was because of the vision that she brought to it.” One of the ideas Zhao embedded in Eternals was stylistic and rooted in her childhood. “I have such deep, strong, manga roots,” says Zhao. “I brought some of that into Eternals. And I look forward to pushing more of that marriage of East and West.”
Zhao also was pushing big thematic ideas — Eternals is literally about the history of humanity. “How much further and bigger can we go after [Avengers:] Endgame?” asks Zhao. “Because I’m not just making the film as a director. I’m making the film as a fan.”
Oh heck yeah.
Whew, that’s a lot to catch up on, but I’m sure you are as MCU starved as we are. It’s been a long, long wait with just photos of newly jacked Kumail Nanjani to keep us warm.
Whaddaya think? Are you excited for Phase 4? What are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments.