What Should Come Next For Marvel Studios?
Black Panther is predicted to break box office records (and don’t forget Kendrick Lamar’s soundtrack). On Super Bowl Sunday, the latest Avengers: Infinity War trailer dropped, hyping up one of 2018s biggest releases. Following Infinity War comes Ant-Man and the Wasp. In 2019, Captain Marvel and the currently untitled fourth Avengers movie will be the final pieces of Marvel Studios’ “Phase 3:” the third wave of interconnected releases that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So, what’s next? Beyond confirming a new Spider-Man movie and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Marvel has been keeping their plans pretty close to the vest. There isn’t anyone that can say what Kevin Feige and company have in store for the future, especially if Disney acquires 21st Century Fox. However, I’m going to pretend that I’m a Marvel Sudios suit for a minute. Here’s my “Phase 4:”
I know, I know. Hear me out on this. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye has been a supporting character in all of his appearances so far (his first being one uncredited line, delivered in silhouette, in 2011s Thor). Yet, Renner brings such charisma and panache to the character that’s been handicapped with fledgling screen time, and not much to do when he is on screen. It’s time we give him the spotlight.
We’re taking cues from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s take on the character. Focus on Clint Barton the man, not Hawkeye the hero. What’s he up to when he’s not saving the world? We find him down and out in New York City, fresh off of a stinging divorce in a janky one bedroom (assume his wife was Team Iron Man during Civil War). His neighbors are threatened with eviction by the Russian mob, and to get the money he takes a Black Ops assignment to intercept a tape of incriminating evidence alongside his replacement, Kate Bishop (also named Hawkeye). The two need to work together before the video gets out and changes Clint’s relationship with The Avengers forever. Like Winter Soldier, this flick is a “detective-cum-spy” movie with next to no spandex.
If he can play nice this time, Edgar Wright’s adept at balancing action and comedy (this jerk seems to think so), which makes him a model choice for director.
Jeremy Renner picks up the bow again because we like him. He’s always been the “normal” Avenger, so putting him in his element gives Renner an opportunity to flex his acting muscles (also his literal ones).
To bounce off of Renner, you need someone just as snarky, only a few decades younger; Riverdale’s Camila Mendes fits like a glove. Teens love Riverdale, and we love teens! (That came out wrong.)
Every hero needs a villain, therefore we will use Madame Masque, and grab Mad Men’s Jessica Paré for French authenticity. The Madame’s got the right amount of mystique (keeping her face hidden most of the time) and sex appeal (when she takes off said mask) that a femme fatale needs.
For the leader of the “Tracksuit Draculas,” we lock down a Russian actor. What’s Mikhail Baryshnikov doing? Sure, a dancer as a villain might be a weird choice, but I’m sure someone still loves Sex and the City.
Lastly, throw in a Scarlett Johansson cameo for good measure… She’s still under contract, right?
Judging from the Infinity War trailers, things don’t look good for android Avenger Vision (Paul Bettany). He’s got an Infinity Stone in his head, and cosmic conqueror Thanos (Josh Brolin) is going for a full set. However, suppose he gets out of “Phase 3” alive… or at the very least, rebuilt. Vision’s most interesting when he’s dealing with his own humanity (or lack thereof), so let’s pull from Tom King and Gabriel Walta’s run.
Here we’ve got Vision as the Avengers’ liaison to The White House. He settles down in the suburbs of Arlington with a family, one that he’s built himself in order to fit in. Every family has skeletons in its closet, but that becomes literal for Vision’s mechanical ménage. Lies and lies pile up as the family finds itself tangled in a web with no escape, all while struggling with what it means to be human. Vision wears a cape to work, but make no mistake… We’re going suburban gothic with a science fiction twist.
It’d take some convincing given his thoughts on the studio system (especially in regards to superheroes), but David Fincher’s our man. He’s done unsettling sci-fi and dealt with the horror of suburbia, which makes him a solid choice to helm a project like this. Just don’t tell him it’s a Marvel movie, and we’ll be fine.
Paul Bettany reprises his role as the android turned family man. Bettany’s played Vision with the right balance of handsome and creepy that the part needs. Besides, we’ve already seen him pull off the dad look in Civil War.
Joining Bettany onscreen we get Rosamund Pike as Virginia, his wife. She’s already worked with Fincher on Gone Girl (whose style we are shamelessly aping because I am creatively bankrupt), where she had the unsettling emotionless quality you’d expect from a robot housewife.
Vision’s daughter, Viv, should be the archetypal girl next door; as in put together with an instruction manual. Elle Fanning has done family (We Bought a Zoo), Science fiction (Super 8), and art house (The Neon Demon). We want all three.
Bring in Colin Ford as Vin, Vision’s son. I don’t know much about Colin Ford, but he looks like he was put together in a laboratory by White bread scientists (which is exactly what we’re looking for).
If Disney gets a hold of 21st Century Fox, that opens the door to reuniting Marvel with its most maligned property. I’ll be straight with you. The Fantastic Four have had a pretty rough time in Hollywood. Between Roger Corman’s unreleased attempt in 1994, Tim Story’s version in 2005, a sequel in 2007, and Josh Trank’s recent flop in 2015, nothing’s been able to stick. I just want to see this work for once.
First things first, don’t make them young. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Johnny Storm/Human Torch should be the youngest of the three, but they all should be able to buy beer. Second, go full Kirby and get weird. Thor: Ragnarok proved audiences can handle the more (for lack of a better word) fantastic elements of comics; these characters are cosmic explorers who handle the strange on a daily basis. Also, don’t jump straight to Doctor Doom as a villain. Keep the Latverian monarch on the back burner. Let’s use the Mole Man with an army of gross little goblins and giant monsters to punch.
As for direction, give Taika Waititi a crack at another corner of the Marvel cosmos; or try Brad Bird who knows a thing or two about superhero families (The Incredibles), but also does big action (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol).
For Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, throw some gray temples on Jason Bateman. He’s got experience with outlandish families, but turns like the Ozark show. He can stretch if need be (Pun intended; he stretches! That’s his thing. Google it, Karen).
Fresh off of Moonlight, getting Naomie Harris as Susan Storm-Richards/Invisible Woman would be a coup. She’s a prestige pick that also adds diversity. Recasting a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman will drive racists crazy, a time-honored Marvel Studios tradition.
Up-and-comer, Brandon Michael Hall as Johnny Storm, seems like a no-brainer. He’s young, he’s fresh, and his show just got cancelled. So, it’s not like he’s doing anything… unless his pilot gets picked up, but did you read that logline? We’ll be fine.
Rounding out the team should be Stranger Things’ David Harbour, whose wry line delivery (did you see those Tide ads? People love those Tide ads) makes him a match for Ben Grimm/The Thing. Plus, he already has experience with heavy makeup from the upcoming Hellboy reboot.
John Noble. He’s a theater legend who’s no stranger to the strange (Fringe). Also, he looks like he might plausibly live underground with a forgotten, abandoned race of horrible goblin men, and be cool with it.
Forget Chris Hemsworth for a moment. The smash success of Wonder Woman gave us the first real competition from the other side of the aisle, and Marvel still doesn’t have a female led feature film. (Note to self: Black Widow?) Thor: Ragnarok shook up one of Marvel’s weakest franchises; it essentially gave us a clean slate. Why not take advantage of it?
The new Thor flick features just that: a new Thor. Based loosely around Jason Aaron’s relaunch of the title, our new demigod’s actually Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) wielding a reforged Mjolnir that transforms her into the Goddess of Thunder. However, there’s a key twist: Jane’s battling cancer, and every time she picks up the hammer it kills her a little bit. Drama! This Thor doesn’t battle the average supervillain, either. She deals with shady mega corporation Roxxon, who take capitalism to its furthest extremes by exploiting the multiverse. Twitter’s all about socialism these days, so let’s make some money off of that. With Agent Roz Solomon of a reformed S.H.I.E.L.D., Jane works to stop a different kind of world consuming monster, all while racing against her own mortality. (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of things to hit, not just corporate giants, but frost giants, too.) We’re blending Norse mythology with bloggable sociopolitical commentary.
Bring in Michelle MacClaren for a director who can handle heavy action (Game of Thrones) and heavy drama (also Game of Thrones). We’re going to “out woman” Wonder Woman with this one.
We may have lost Natalie Portman for Ragnarok, but let’s splurge and bring her back. Portman’s a “serious” actor, and an Inspirationally Disadvantaged™ protagonist is the kind of part they relish.
The Goddess of Thunder, though, needs more physicality. Portman picks up the hammer, but Adrianne Palicki handles the (literal) heavy lifting. She’s got the presence and the Teutonic look for the part.
For Agent Solomon, we grab someone like Melissa Fumero from Brooklyn 99. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are basically super cops anyway, and her comedy experience lets her bounce off of Palicki.
Flip Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek from anti-corporate hero to dirtbag CEO Dario Agger. He’s got a quiet charisma about him that can easily turn dangerous.
What’s a Marvel Studios phase without a crossover event? We raid the toy box and smash everything together. Yeah, it’s a balancing act. There’s always the risk of an overstuffed mess (looking at you, X-Men: Apocalypse), but the crossover is a superhero staple and gets asses in seats. With Fox’s licenses on the table, we get back one of our biggest foes: the shapeshifting Skrulls.
With the Skrulls, the threat’s not just extraterrestrial. Instead, it comes from within. The Avengers discover one of their own is an alien in disguise, and everything goes out the window. When were they replaced? Have they always been a fake? Who else is hiding? Skrulls can assume any identity, and have been slipping in sleeper agents for decades. They can be anything and anyone: Captain America, RDJ, and even the President (god willing). Trust no one. Plus, if we don’t like an actor anymore, we can recast and say the old one was an alien invader.
With the enemy coming from inside, there isn’t much need to add new characters, which makes juggling a huge cast easier. The key issue is finding a director who can handle both intrigue and scope. The Russo brothers did well with Winter Soldier and Civil War, but let’s consider handing the reins to someone like Justin Lin. He’s got experience with both mystery (True Detective) and a huge set piece action (Star Trek: Beyond and The Fast and Furious franchise).
So, if we get Fox, why not X-Men? Integrating them into the current universe would be a colossal headache. I don’t wanna deal with it. They’re already complicated enough; it’d require a full reboot to fit in our world, which itself is constantly growing. Also, if the boys at Disney get their hands on Deadpool, there’ll be riots. Besides, no way we’re topping Logan.
Being a suit feels kind of sleazy, yet warm and comforting. Marvel, feel free to throw money at me.