‘Black Panther’: Should Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa Be Recast?

The #RecastTChalla movement argues that many white superheroes have been recast again and again — and that the King of Wakanda’s adventures shouldn’t end.

#actors-and-actresses, #black-panther-movie, #black-panther-wakanda-forever-movie, #black-people, #boseman-chadwick, #change-org, #comic-books-and-strips, #dc-comics, #disney-plus, #fans-persons, #marvel-comics, #marvel-entertainment, #marvel-studios, #movies

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Review: A God’s Comic Twilight

The director Taika Waititi injects antic silliness, once again, into this Marvel franchise starring Chris Hemsworth, who swings a mighty hammer and flexes mightier muscles.

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Thor: Love and Thunder is a must-see Marvel homage to Jim Henson

Jane (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are back at it in <em>Thor: Love and Thunder</em>.

Enlarge / Jane (Natalie Portman) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are back at it in Thor: Love and Thunder. (credit: Marvel Studios)

Thirty minutes into the heartfelt silliness of Thor: Love and Thunder, a comparison dawned on me that clarified why I enjoyed this week’s new film so much: In 14 years of Marvel Studios films, the company has never as successfully made an homage to Jim Henson as this.

At its most madcap, Love and Thunder giddily honors the likes of Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show in terms of a rogue’s gallery of goofballs and kiddos chewing up the film’s gilded, Technicolor scenery. And at its darkest, it feels like a direct descendant of Labyrinth, as its villainy combines no-holding-back ruthlessness with some impressively staged shadow realms.

Most importantly, co-stars Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth nail the film’s titular L-word in remarkable fashion. This action film knows that it’s smothering a slab of rom-com peanut butter with ridiculous superhero-stakes chocolate, and the film’s leads dance around this fact mostly in joking fashion while still threading the needle of building a believable, finale-clinching connection. (Comparing the results to Kermit and Miss Piggy would short-shrift their incredible work to some extent, yet the comparison also kind of makes sense, once you see the movie.)

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Gorr the God Butcher is coming for Thor in new Love and Thunder trailer

Marvel Studios released the official trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder during Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

With the film’s release mere weeks away, Marvel Studios finally released the official full trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder last night during Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.

As I’ve reported previously, Thor: Ragnorak director Taika Waititi signed on for the fourth installment of the Thor films in 2019, adapting elements from the Mighty Thor comic books by Jason Aaron. (He’d read them while making Ragnarok.) That storyline follows Jane Foster being diagnosed with breast cancer and eventually becoming the Mighty Thor. Natalie Portman, who plays Foster in the franchise, has said both those elements will be in the film. (The Internet was abuzz when set photos of Portman leaked in March 2021, showing just how much muscle the diminutive actress had gained for the role.)

Per the official synopsis:

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Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany goes green in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law trailer

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, starring Tatiana Maslany, starts streaming on August 17 on Disney+.

Marvel has released the first trailer for its latest spinoff series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Bonus: Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Bruce Banner/Hulk and teams up with She-Hulk, played by Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany. Marvel also announced that it has begun production in Atlanta on Echo, a nine-episode spinoff series centered on the deaf gang leader Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who was introduced in last year’s Hawkeye.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has described the series as a “half-hour legal comedy” (with superheroes) and said it would hew closely to John Byrne’s take on the character in the comics. That would be The Sensational She-Hulk series, known for its metafictional approach, in which She-Hulk occasionally broke the fourth wall, walking through ads and even arguing with Byrne as the writer. The character has been a member of The Avengers, the Fantastic Force, and S.H.I.E.L.D., and it’s expected that She-Hulk will eventually appear in the MCU films.

Per the official premise: “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law follows Jennifer Walters as she navigates the complicated life of a single, 30-something attorney who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.” In addition to Ruffalo’s “Smart Hulk,” Tim Roth will reprise his role as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, and Benedict Wong will be back as Wong, most recently seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Jameela Jamil plays Titania, a super-strong rival of SheHulk; Ginger Gonzaga plays Walters’ best friend; and Renee Elise Goldsberry plays Amelia.

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Review: Moon Knight is a darkly complex superhero origin story with a soul

Moon Knight in full costume

Enlarge / Oscar Isaac is a tormented man with multiple personalities who becomes the avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu in Moon Knight. (credit: YouTube/Marvel Studios)

Can anything good ever come of gods interfering in the affairs of men? That’s the underlying conundrum posed in Moon Knight, the latest spinoff series in the MCU’s Phase Four, and in the case of the series, the answer is a resounding yes. Starring Oscar Isaac as a tormented man with dissociative identity disorder (DID), the series has more in common with the Netflix Defenders series than with recent Marvel fare like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. But instead of taking place in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, it’s telling a unique superhero origin story rich in symbolism and Egyptian mythology.

(Some spoilers below for the comics and the TV series. Any major reveals are at the very end, and we’ll give you a heads-up when we get there.)

As I’ve written previously, in the comics, Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight) is the son of a rabbi, marked at a young age by the Egyptian moon-god Khonshu to be the god’s avatar on Earth. But Khonshu is a supernatural entity with many aspects to his nature—and also exists out of phase with normal time and space—so forging a psychic connection with the human Marc harms the man’s mental health.

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Doctor Strange 2 review: Let Sam Raimi take you on a romp through Madness

Unsurprisingly, things get strange in <em>Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness</em>.

Enlarge / Unsurprisingly, things get strange in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (credit: Marvel Studios)

On paper, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a formulaic Marvel Studios superhero romp. Its plot beats read like sticky notes slapped onto an overpaid executive’s wall: A superhero arrives, seems all-powerful, then runs into an unstoppable foe. That strife turns the world upside down, and in resolving that change, the hero mends something in themselves to ultimately save the day, all while finding equal parts comedy and heart when the film’s world gets weird.

But a great film can succeed even while twisted around a formulaic plot, and it’s here that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (launching tonight in the US as a theatrical exclusive) wins out. Even though it comes with the Marvel Studios pitfall of predictability, it also stands as a grand example of the company letting filmmakers be themselves—and shows how clever, visually arresting filmmaking can transform “formulaic” plot beats into a fascinating journey for multiple characters. (Plus, after so much alternate-universe wackiness in multiple Spider-Man films, this film surprises by finding refreshing uses of the concept.)

What better way to show how far the universe of Marvel films has come in the past two decades than to have Sam “is he seriously dancing” Raimi stretch out his weird filmmaking legs and regain his blockbuster-level comfort?

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Buff Thor is back and trying to find himself in Love and Thunder teaser

Taika Waititi directed Thor: Love and Thunder, part of the MCU’s Phase Four.

Marvel fans have been loudly clamoring for something, anything, in the way of a trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder, given that the release is just a few months away. Their wish has now been granted. Marvel just dropped a long teaser for the Taika Waititi-directed film.

Waititi signed on for the fourth installment of the Thor films back in 2019, adapting elements from the Mighty Thor comic books by Jason Aaron. (He’d read them while making Ragnarok.) That storyline has Jane Foster being diagnosed with breast cancer and eventually becoming the Mighty Thor. Natalie Portman, who plays Foster in the franchise, has said both those elements will be in the film.

We haven’t really seen Portman’s Foster since 2013’s The Dark World. The character was always among the least interesting, to be honest. But Portman agreed to reprise her role after meeting with Waititi, who promised a fresh take for the character, and having her wield Mjolnir would definitely qualify. (The Internet was abuzz when set photos of Portman leaked in March 2021, showing just how much muscle the diminutive actress had gained for the role.)

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What to Know About Marvel’s ‘Moon Knight’

Starring Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke, the new Marvel series follows a troubled, crime-fighting caped crusader. But don’t mistake him for Batman.

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A misfit teen’s dream of being a superhero comes true in Ms. Marvel trailer

Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan in the upcoming new MCU miniseries, Ms. Marvel.

Marvel Studios has released the official trailer for its latest MCU spinoff series: Ms. Marvel, starring Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. Created by Bisha K. Ali and consisting of six episodes, the miniseries will air on Disney+ and help set up the upcoming film, The Marvels, next year.

Ms. Marvel is a relatively recent addition to the world of Marvel Comics, with the distinction of being the first Muslim character to have her own comic book storyline. She appeared briefly in the background of Captain Marvel #14 (2013), and the solo series Ms. Marvel debuted in February 2014. That first volume won a Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2015, and the rapid success and high popularity of the character is what inspired Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to introduce Ms. Marvel into the MCU Phase Four.

Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, is a teenage Pakistani American who lives in Jersey City. She’s a major comic books fan, worships Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and fantasizes about becoming a superhero herself one day. And then that day arrives. Her powers stem from the Terrigen Mists, released globally in a crossover storyline, the “Inhumanity.” The mists activated dormant Inhuman cells in several people, Kamala included.

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New Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness trailer is a psychedelic treat

Benedict Cumberbatch travels across realities in the forthcoming film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness\.

Marvel Studios dropped a spectacularly psychedelic new trailer for the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness just as the Super Bowl was getting underway.

(Some spoilers for prior installments in the MCEU below.)

As I’ve written previously, plot-wise, we know the film is set after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, WandaVision, and the first season of Loki. The latter introduced us to the Time Variant Authority (TVA), with our mischievous protagonist encountering multiple versions of himself from various different timelines, including a female incarnation named Sylvie (Sophia di Martino). The finale featured a confrontation with a variant of Kang the Conqueror, who had been controlling the Sacred Timeline—until an impulsive act by Sylvie unleashed more timelines than the TVA could prune, destabilizing the multiverse.

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Oscar Isaac finally enters the MCU with official Moon Knight trailer

Oscar Isaac plays Steven Grant/Marc Spector, who becomes the conduit for an Egyptian god in Moon Knight.

Fans finally get to welcome Oscar Isaac to the MCU. As promised, Marvel Studios dropped the official trailer for its forthcoming series, Moon Knight, during the NFL Super Wild Card matchup, along with a new poster. Isaac plays the title role: a former mercenary with multiple personalities who becomes the avatar of an Egyptian moon god.

Moon Knight is one of the lesser known characters in the Marvel Comics pantheon. The son of a rabbi, Marc Spector is marked at a young age by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu to be the god’s avatar on Earth. But Khonsu is a supernatural entity with many aspects to his nature—and also exists out of phase with normal time and space—so forging a psychic connection with the human Marc has a bad effect on the young man’s mental health.

Marc develops dissociative identity disorder (DID), eventually becoming a mercenary with his buddy, Jean-Paul “Frenchie” DuChamp. He is hired by the ruthlessly amoral Raoul Bushman for a job, in which the latter kills an archaeologist who has uncovered an Egyptian tomb. Marc saves the archaeologist’s daughter, Marlene, leading to a major fight with Bushman. Marc loses the fight and is left for dead, but the locals carry him into the tomb and leave him in front of a statue of Khonshu. Khonshu revives and heals the dying Marc.

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Could we build a synthetic digestive system for Vision to make him more human?

The birth of Vision in <em>Avengers: Age of Ultron</em>. Scientists have proposed a possible artificial digestive system for the synthezoid, although new technologies must be developed to make it a reality.

Enlarge / The birth of Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Scientists have proposed a possible artificial digestive system for the synthezoid, although new technologies must be developed to make it a reality. (credit: Marvel Studios)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2020, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: How to build a synthetic digestive system for Marvel’s Vision. Bonus: assessing the health status of five Avengers to determine how their health will fare as they age.

The folks at Marvel Studios aren’t the only ones who like to imagine What If…? Inspired by Marvel’s Vision, two scientists reviewed the current state of soft robotics to determine whether it would be possible to build an artificial digestive system for the synthezoid, describing their work a paper published earlier this year in the journal Superhero Science + Technology.  (It’s an open access journal published by TU Delft “that considers new research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and ethics motivated and presented using the superhero genre.”)

Hey, inquiring minds need to know! It’s not just a fun exercise in a more positive form of nerd-gassing, either. The authors note that humanity in general would benefit from advances in such systems, with applications in organ replacement and clinical treatments for patients with chronic digestive issues. 

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Benedict Cumberbatch encounters dark double in Multiverse of Madness teaser

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness debuted in theaters this past weekend as a post-credits addition to Spider-Man: Now Way Home. Marvel has just released it to the general public, and it looks like we’re in for another eye-popping, mind-bending ride.

(Spoilers for prior events in the MCEU below, particularly in Loki, What If? and No Way Home.)

The sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange has been in the works for years, with director Scott Derrickson initially signed on to make the film. Derrickson left the project in January 2020, citing creative differences, although it seems it was a mutually amiable parting. (Derrickson is still an executive producer.) Sam Raimi took over directing duties.

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Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal on ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’

The producers of “No Way Home” address questions about another trilogy, possibly putting MJ in a Spidey suit and convincing reluctant actors to reprise their roles.

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Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home is the best superhero film of the year

MJ and Peter Parker, dropping in one more time.

Enlarge / MJ and Peter Parker, dropping in one more time. (credit: Sony Pictures / Marvel Studios)

After seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third Tom Holland live-action film in the series, I’m befuddled. How do I fully convey its quality without spoiling even a smidge of its contents? As I left the theater, I found myself giddily talking aloud about the film, recounting its delightful surprises. It might have been enough to earn a slap from a spoiler-averse passerby.

Tricky as it may be to convey the film’s charm, laughs, excitement, and tear-worthy heart without revealing its twists, I’ll do my best to keep most of No Way Home‘s surprises as hidden as Peter Parker’s identity, while calling it out as a must-see superhero film.

Something really wacky happens (shocker)

That simile may make you sweat a bit, however, if you’ve been following the Holland series that kicked off with Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017. Its 2019 sequel ended with an NYC-rocking reveal of who’s been hiding beneath Spider-Man’s mask, and NWH picks up at this exact point in time, with Parker (Tom Holland) and his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) escaping an alarmed, newly informed mob via frantic web-swinging.

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Review: I cannot wait to recommend Marvel’s Eternals… on Disney Plus

For much of Marvel’s Eternals‘ 2 hour 37 minute runtime, I found my consciousness floating out of my body, through the lobby doors of the theater, and into an alternate reality version of my home. There, I saw myself gripped by weekly installments of my new favorite TV series, itself based on Marvel’s Eternals.

This dream series felt like a more Lost-ified version of the old TV show Heroes, where mythological icons contended with a mix of global stakes and emotional bonds, then had to unite with both purpose and superpowers over a complicated span of thousands of years. Each episode focused on one or two of the lead characters—and juxtaposed those stars’ current-day relationships with beautifully rendered, historically accurate callbacks to their adventures in other epochs.

I was so disengaged and disappointed by the new Marvel film adaptation—premiering exclusively in theaters on Friday, November 5—that my mind wandered into a different kind of “what if” than Marvel Studios likely intended. To its credit, Eternals regularly snapped me out of that daydream. I would still recommend it as an intriguing addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Jeremy Renner passes down his bow in fun, holiday-themed trailer for Hawkeye

I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly excited about Marvel’s upcoming Hawkeye spinoff series on Disney+. It seemed like an odd choice, given the character’s relatively minor role in the various Avengers films. But the studio dropped the official trailer this morning, and I might just change my mind. Hawkeye looks like a fun, comedy-action holiday romp and will debut on the streaming platform just in time for the Thanksgiving/Christmas season.

Per the official premise:

Former Avenger Clint Barton has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. Possible? Maybe with the help of Kate Bishop, a 22-year-old archer with dreams of becoming a super hero. The two are forced to work together when a presence from Barton’s past threatens to derail far more than the festive spirit.

Obviously, Jeremy Renner is back as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, as are the actors who played his three children, Cooper (Ben Sakamoto), Lila (Ava Russo), and Nathaniel (Cade Woodward). And thanks to that Black Widow end-credits scene where Yelena (Florence Pugh) meets Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) at Natasha’s grave, we know that she’s been manipulated into blaming Clint for her foster sister’s death and may well be seeking revenge. Pugh’s inclusion in the cast list pretty much confirms that.

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How Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Knocked Down Stereotypes

The Marvel superhero originated in comics filled with racist tropes. The creators of the new film made a list of the preconceptions they were up against and set out to conquer them.

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Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi’: How 88rising Crafted an Evocative Soundtrack

The Asian arts collective worked closely with the director Destin Daniel Cretton to put its imprint on the anticipated movie.

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Shang-Chi film review: Marvel’s latest grabs the brass ring—all ten of them

If you want to know what direction Marvel’s post-Avengers superhero films are going, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a pretty clear indicator—and it’s an optimistic one at that.

I had a blast watching Shang-Chi, which arrives exclusively in theaters on Friday, September 3, and I spent most of the time after my screening wishing for more. It could have been longer. Maybe there’s a director’s cut. Or, maybe this is the darned good launch of an entirely new film franchise, and this film is merely meant to set up the even more fully rounded sequel(s). Whatever the case, that’s a decidedly better way to leave theaters than being bored, annoyed, or otherwise shaken out of a good moviegoing experience by bad writing, acting, and directing decisions.

Shang-Chi seems driven by an apparent top-down directive to fortify a new class of mystical superheroes while sticking to Marvel’s guns of inclusion and fully rounded character development. The result is good news for anyone looking for a mix of refreshing surprises and comfort food in their superhero tentpole films. Plus, this superhero big screen debut delivers enough “holy whoa” moments to make any viewer feel like a kid again.

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Final Eternals trailer is heavy on the exposition, eye-popping visuals

Plot details have been scant to date for Eternals, Marvel’s forthcoming film based on the comic book series of the same name created by Jack Kirby in 1976. We now have the final trailer, and it’s a doozy: nearly three full minutes of mostly new footage, heavy on exposition and the striking CGI-heavy visuals Marvel is known for. The trailer also answers one obvious burning question: just where were these incredibly powerful eternal beings when all the action with Thanos wiping out half of humanity was going down? I mean, humanity really could have used their help.

As I’ve written previously, the comic book storyline tells of alien Celestials who visited Earth a million years ago, creating two divergent races—the Eternals and the Deviants—by way of genetic experiments. Those experiments were also responsible for the rare emergence of mutations in certain humans, giving them super powers. The Eternals protect the human race from the Deviants, and the two races engage in recurrent violent clashes. The Eternals’ immortality and powers come from cosmic energy and their ability to channel it. A new Eternals comic series was launched in January of this year, written by Kieron Gillen with art by Esad Ribić. 

We know the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and that an unexpected tragedy will force the Eternals out of hiding to join forces with humans to fight their ancient enemy, the Deviants. An extended teaser dropped in May, set to a mournful cover of “The End of the World.” The teaser didn’t convey much information in terms of plot, but it did give us glimpses of our primary characters over the course of centuries.

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Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Release

The star said making the film available on Disney+ at the same time it opened in theaters “dramatically” lowered box office revenue, which could cost her tens of millions of dollars.

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Review: Loki’s surprising twists paid off with a major cliffhanger finale

It should be obvious by now that Marvel Studios is leaning hard into the multiverse concept for Phase 4 of the MCU, and the Disney+ series Loki developed that multiverse even further as it concluded its six-episode run this week. Granted, the finale proved to be a bit “talky-talky” and heavy on the exposition. But it ended on one hell of a cliffhanger than sets up any number of tantalizing possibilities for the MCU as a whole—particularly Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently scheduled for release next March.

(Major spoilers for the finale are below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

As we’ve reported previously, the launching point for Loki the series is that scene in Avengers: Endgame when a 2012 version of Loki snags the tesseract containing the Space Stone and vanishes through a portal. Our trickster soon encounters a team of armed guards who “arrest” him on behalf of an entity known as the Time Variance Authority (TVA), the “custodians of chronology” in the MCU, monitoring violations to the Sacred Timeline. Catch the TVA’s attention by trying to change history, and you just might meet the wrong end of the Retroactive Cannon (Ret Con) and have your entire history deleted from the historical timeline.

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Black Widow review: ScarJo’s sendoff is MCU’s best standalone film yet

This week’s Black Widow may have put a new hit Marvel franchise in motion.

It’s intimate, aggressive, funny, and brutal in every PG-13 sense possible. It’s an Eastern European Marvel superhero tale that gives hearts to heartless characters without falling into the typical Marvel trap of ending with a neatly tied bow. And the entire cast nails this balancing act.

Perhaps best of all, star Scarlett Johansson (playing the titular character) finally gets to deliver on her Marvel hero status, instead of serving as a crutch for a randomly selected male Avenger. She doesn’t waste this opportunity, yet she still proves generous as a co-star, so much so that she helps launch Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Little Women) as the Marvel universe’s most compelling new hero in years.

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It’s a mad, mad multiverse as Marvel drops first trailer for What If…?

All our favorite MCU characters are back in animated form—plus a few more obscure players—in the first trailer for What If…?, a forthcoming series on Disney+ in which key events in the main timeline play out differently, “creating a multiverse of infinite possibilities.” It’s part of the MCU’s Phase Four, in which this multiverse will clearly play a pivotal role.

(Some spoilers for prior MCU films below.)

This new series is based on the What If…? comic book anthology series that debuted in 1977, narrated by a character called Uatu the Watcher, an entity from a computer world who travels throughout the cosmos observing the rise of fall of various civilizations. Each story in the comics centered on an event in the mainstream Marvel Universe, but then there would be a point of divergence, and the rest of the story explored the consequences of that change to the timeline. Marvel Studios first explored the What If…? concept in S4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., when the team members found themselves trapped in a virtual creation called the Framework, each living out a drastically different life.

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We have our best look yet at supervillain Mandarin in new Shang-Chi trailer

Marvel’s official trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is here, giving us a bit more of the title character’s backstory. It also serves up glimpses of classic villains the Mandarin and Abomination and a supporting (yet crucial) character from 2016’s Doctor Strange.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, this is the first Marvel film to feature an Asian lead—Simu Liu, best known for his role as Jung Kim on the sitcom Kim’s Convenience—as well as a predominantly Asian/Asian diaspora cast and crew. Marvel continues to keep plot details tightly under wraps, except to state that the main character gets drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organization and must confront his past. “Shang-Chi’s main problem in his life is rooted in not knowing who he really is,” Cretton has said. “He has to learn how to own every part of himself. If he doesn’t allow himself to look at all of it—the good, the bad, the light and the dark—and to own it all, he won’t be able to reach his full potential.”

The “ten rings” of the title refers to the Marvel Comics supervillain Mandarin’s Ten Rings of Power (worn on the fingers in the comics, shown as arm bracelets in footage from the Marvel film), each with a different feature: ice blasts, flames, or mind-control, for instance. As we’ve reported previously, Marvel created an entirely new character, Wenwu, who has gone by many names over the years, including the Mandarin, who made an appearance in Iron Man 3—or rather, Ben Kingsley played Trevor Slattery, an imposter posing as the Mandarin.

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Review: Our favorite trickster god is charismatic as ever in Loki premiere

Tom Hiddleston stars in the latest MCU series, <em>Loki</em>, which premiered last night on Disney+.

Enlarge / Tom Hiddleston stars in the latest MCU series, Loki, which premiered last night on Disney+. (credit: Marvel Studios)

It’s hard to write a killer TV pilot that compels viewers to come back for more. You have to establish a fictional world, introduce the main characters and core premise, and set up a compelling trigger for the subsequent chain of events—all without making things seem frenetic or incoherent and without employing labored explanatory riffs. That’s true even in the case of a well-established fictional universe like the MCU. Fortunately, the first episode of Loki, Marvel’s new series reviving Tom Hiddleston’s beloved Asgardian trickster god, mostly gets it right—even if it does occasionally lapse into lecturing narrator mode (“talky, talky”).

(Only mild spoilers below, with a bit of spoiler-y speculation below the gallery.)

We all remember that scene in Avengers: Endgame when a 2012 version of Loki snags the tesseract containing the Space Stone and vanishes through a portal. That’s where the series opens, with our trickster materializing in the middle of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, much to the bemusement of a gaggle of locals. It’s not long before another portal opens to bring forth a team of armed guards who “arrest” Loki on behalf of an entity known as the Time Variance Authority (TVA). TVA agents are the so-called “custodians of chronology” in the MCU, monitoring violations to the timeline. Catch their attention by trying to change history, and you just might meet the wrong end of the Retroactive Cannon (Ret Con) and have your entire history deleted from the historical timeline.

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We have our first good look at Eternals as Marvel drops extended teaser

Gemma Chan and Richard Madden head a star-studded cast in Marvel’s Eternals, part of Phase Four of the MCU.

Last month, we got the first teaser for Marvel Studios’ upcoming film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the second feature film in the MCU’s planned Phase Four. (Black Widow will be the first when it premieres in July.) Now we have our first real look at Eternals, in which members of an immortal alien race with cosmic powers reunite to protect the Earth from their malevolent counterparts.

The film is based on the comic book series of the same name created by Jack Kirby in 1976. The storyline tells of alien Celestials who visited Earth a million years ago, creating two divergent races—the Eternals and the Deviants—by way of genetic experiments. Those experiments were also responsible for the rare emergence of mutations in certain humans, giving them super powers. The Eternals protect the human race from the Deviants, and the two races engage in recurrent violent clashes. The Eternals’ immortality and powers come from cosmic energy and their ability to channel it.

Kirby was partly inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953)—which featured Overlords who controlled Earth’s fate—and the 1968 nonfiction bestseller Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken, postulating the concept of alien gods. Eternals also owes something to New Gods, Kirby’s own earlier series for DC Comics, circa 1970. When that epic saga series was cancelled (and left incomplete), he wrote Eternals for Marvel Comics. A new Eternals comic series was launched in January of this year, written by Kieron Gillen with art by Esad Ribić.

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Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier aims high, but falls a bit short

Confession: I wanted to like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more than I ultimately did. The various trailers seemed so promising, giving off vibes of a “buddy cop” action flick, with a bit more room to flesh out the character development and themes. What we got was a show that was trying to do too many things at once—including setting the stage for the Phase 4 films coming down the pike—and as a result, it never did any of those things as well as it could have done.

(There are a few major spoilers below the second gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

F&WS picks up in the wake of Avengers: End Game, when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) handed his Captain America shield to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier), having chosen to remain in the past and live out his life with Peggy Carter. Sam and Bucky must grapple with losing Steve and the burden of his legacy. Meanwhile, the US government has named their own new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a decorated veteran and ultimate “good soldier” who thinks he can better embody “American values” than Rogers. (The nerve!)

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Marvel drops first teaser for Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings

Simu Liu stars as a martial artist trying to escape his past in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

A young man who once trained as an assassin for a Chinese criminal organization discovers just how hard it can be to escape one’s past in the first teaser for Marvel Studios’ upcoming film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings, part of the MCU’s Phase Four. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, it is the first Marvel film to feature an Asian lead—Simu Liu, best known for his role as Jung Kim on the sitcom Kim’s Convenience—as well as a predominantly Asian/Asian diaspora cast and crew.

The title character first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1973, after the company had tried and failed to acquire the comic book rights for the popular 1970s TV show Kung Fu (starring David Carradine). Modeled in part on Bruce Lee, Shang-Chi was originally the son of Chinese criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu, trained in martial arts since childhood to become an assassin. After Marvel lost the rights to the Fu Manchu character, Shang-Chi’s paternity became murkier, but the international crime lord theme was common—although his father was revealed to be an ancient immortal sorcerer in the Secret Avengers storyline.

Shang-Chi has not traditionally had special superpowers, but his training in multiple styles of martial arts and assorted weaponry makes him a formidable opponent and a useful ally. Plus, he is a master of chi, making him even stronger and faster—fast enough to dodge bullets. When he eventually joins forces with the Avengers in the comics, Tony Stark gives him a pair of bracelets to further focus his chi (as well as some snazzy high-tech nunchaku).

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Our favorite trickster god teams up with time cops in official Loki trailer

Tom Hiddleston returns as everyone’s favorite Norse god of mischief in the forthcoming limited spinoff series Loki.

We just finished enthusing over WandaVision and are still awaiting the final episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Solider, but Marvel has a lot more in store for us. The studio just dropped the official trailer for Loki, its spinoff limited series starring Tom Hiddleston as the charismatic trickster demigod and (adoptive) brother to Thor. According to the official premise, after absconding with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, Loki “is a fish-out-of-water when he lands in a world of trouble with the bureaucratic TVA (Time Variance Authority).” One Ars staffer described the overall tone as “Men in Black meets Doctor Who,” which sounds like a winning combination to me.

As we’ve reported previously, Marvel Studios announced the development of its various limited series for Disney+ in 2018, all featuring supporting characters from the films who were not given their own standalone movies within the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU). Details have largely been kept under wraps, but we do know that, like WandaVisionLoki will tie into the forthcoming MCU film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it will consist of six episodes.

A brief shot from Loki that aired during the Super Bowl last year showed the titular character wearing a jumpsuit with the initials “TVA” stamped on it. TVA agents are the so-called “custodians of chronology” who monitor violations to the timeline in the MCU. Catch their attention by trying to change history, and you just might meet the wrong end of the Retroactive Cannon (Ret-Can) and have your entire history deleted from the historical timeline.

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‘Black Widow’ and ‘Cruella’ will get Premier Access releases on Disney+

In what looks like both an endorsement of its Premier Access streaming strategy and a tacit acknowledgement that theatrical moviegoing won’t be returning to normal anytime soon, Disney just announced that its movies “Black Widow” and “Cruella” will be coming to Disney+ at the same time that they’re released in theaters.

That means Disney+ subscribers will have the option to pay an additional, one-time $29.99 fee to watch the live action remake of “Cruella” at home on May 28, or to do the same for “Black Widow” on July 9. (The movies will later become available to all Disney+ subscribers at no extra charge.)

Disney first tested out this strategy with the release of the live action “Mulan” last fall, followed by the animated “Raya and the Last Dragon” earlier this month. The studio has released other movies, like Pixar’s “Soul,” directly to Disney+ without an extra fee, and it says it will do the same for Pixar’s “Luca” on June 18.

Other big Disney releases have been pushed back repeatedly — “Black Widow,” for example, was originally supposed to be released on May 1 of last year, and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has reportedly resisted sending it straight to Disney+. (This will be the first Marvel Studios film released since the beginning of the pandemic.)

However, Disney executives may only be willing to wait for so long. And because Marvel’s movies and new Disney+ shows are often interconnected, delaying one release can also require pushing back several others at the same time.

As vaccinations continue and COVID-19 case numbers decline from their peaks, movie theaters are reopening in major markets like Los Angeles and New York — but at reduced capacity, with box office numbers still far below what they were pre-pandemic.

In the face of this uncertainty (as well as a general shift to streaming), other Hollywood studios have adopted a variety of hybrid strategies for their 2021 theatrical slates. All Warner Bros. movies will be released simultaneously on HBO Max this year, while Paramount will be bringing its films to Paramount+ in an accelerated fashion, 30 to 45 days after the theatrical release.

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Black Widow’s delays will finally end with combined theatrical, Disney+ launch

After losing its initial May 2020 release date to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Disney and Marvel Studios’ Black Widow has finally settled on a release strategy: a simultaneous launch in theaters and as a “premier access” purchase on the Disney+ subscription service, both coming Friday, May 28.

Should you choose to watch Black Widow at home, this will require a one-time payment of $30 on top of your Disney+ subscription fee, which will unlock the film for repeat viewings ahead of its eventual release for all base subscribers. The same will apply to Cruella, the live-action prequel to the Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians, which will get its own theater-and-Disney+ simul-launch on Friday, July 9.

The announcement, as distributed in a Disney press release on Tuesday, notes that this follows the “successful release” of CGI-animated feature Raya and the Last Dragon both in theaters and on Disney+ on March 5—apparently confirming that the decision made dollars and sense for everyone at Disney, following a similar release strategy for 2020’s live-action version of Mulan.

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Falcon & Winter Soldier series premiere: More of Disney+‘s slow-burn status quo

How much energy can you muster for a drawn-out superhero option on TV this weekend? In terms of content that favors deliberately paced cinematics over instant, wham-bam action, the DC Comics universe already has a four-hour option capturing headlines—and for good reason.

Hence, HBO Max has mildly spoiled the debut of new Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The first episode launched Friday, March 19, without the surprise and weirdness factor that came with January’s Wandavision premiere. Without novelty on its side, the series has to stand on more familiar laurels. Thankfully it succeeds at that, but the results don’t quite reach the “rush to watch right now” conversation-starter status Disney+ has enjoyed over the past few months.

Shield retires a shield

This is now Marvel Studios’ second post-“unsnappening” series, and it’s the first to take a more predictable tack on the fallout throughout the Marvel universe. Endgame set this new TV series up in shameless corporate-synergy fashion when Chris Evans handed his Captain America shield to Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier), essentially telling audiences, “Two superheroes will continue a specific plotline—so stay tuuuuned.”

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Marvel drops one last trailer for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuts this Friday on Disney+.

With WandaVision now in the rearview mirror, Marvel fans have turned their attention to the imminent premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier this Friday. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as Sam Wilson (the Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) for a series set after the events of Avengers: Endgame.

As we’ve reported previously, after the Avengers and their many allies finally defeated Thanos in Endgame, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) handed over his shield to Sam so he could take on the mantle. But will Sam accept it? That’s a big part of what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will explore over the course of its six episodes, and showrunner Malcolm Spellman has said the tone will be similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Sam and Bucky will “team up on a global adventure that tests their abilities—and their patience.” The primary villain will be Baron Helmut Zemo, a Sokovian colonel-turned-terrorist who is obsessed with defeating the Avengers, with Daniel Brühl reprising the role from Captain America: Civil War. Director Kari Skogland has said that his appearance in the series shows him “paying for his crimes” and “in a very sad place.”

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‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Is Marvel’s Latest Double Act

The new Disney+ series, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, uses its superheroes to examine a world still on edge after a global catastrophe.

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Review: WandaVision sticks the landing with a very Marvel-esque finale

For all its touted meta-elements celebrating different TV decades, WandaVision wrapped up its nine-episode run in classic Marvel fashion, with Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda and Paul Bettany’s Vision valiantly defending their suburban nuclear family from the nefarious forces lined up against them. It was a satisfying, quite moving finale to this imaginative series. But fans expecting a surprise big-name cameo—Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange was a favorite of the pre-finale rumor mill—were disappointed.

(Some spoilers below; major reveals for finale below the gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there,)

Frankly, I was skeptical of the WandaVision concept when the studio offered a brief sneak peek during D23 Expo 2019, Disney’s annual fan extravaganza. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige—a fan of classic sitcoms—envisioned the series as a love letter to the golden age of television, with each episode channeling a sitcom style from a particular decade. Head writer Jac Schaeffer (Captain Marvel, Black Widow) championed the concept from the start, despite a brief backlash against the perceived silliness of the title. Schaeffer thought viewers would change their minds once they actually saw the series, and she was right: WandaVision currently boasts a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It even won over my skeptical soul.

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Marvel drops action-packed two-minute Falcon and the Winter Soldier trailer

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, coming to Disney+ in March.

Marvel Studios did the Super Bowl right by releasing a lengthy two-minute trailer for its upcoming new series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as Sam Wilson (the Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) for the Disney+ show, which is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame. The pair will “team up on a global adventure that tests their abilities—and their patience.”

(Some spoilers for prior MCU films below.)

You may recall that after the Avengers and their many allies finally defeated Thanos in Endgame, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) handed over his shield to Sam so he could take on the mantle. But will Sam accept it? That’s part of what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will explore over the course of its six episodes, and showrunner Malcolm Spellman has said the tone will be similar to Captain America: Winter Soldier. Marvel is purportedly spending in the range of $25 million per episode to ensure a cinematic quality for the series.

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Marvel’s Latest Frontier? In ‘WandaVision,’ It’s the Suburbs

Marvel’s first series for Disney+ is part drama, part homage to vintage sitcoms, following the misfit heroes played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to some weird places.

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The Biggest Casting News From Disney’s Investor Day

“Black Panther 2” will not recast King T’Challa. Harrison Ford is picking up the hat and whip again. And “Star Wars” recruited Rosario Dawson for her own show.

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We’ve got our first real look at Loki as Disney drops lengthy teaser trailer

Marvel’s Loki trailer.

Among the many (many!) tidbits unveiled during Disney’s Investor Day was a lengthy teaser trailer for Loki, the Marvel spinoff limited series featuring Tom Hiddleston’s charismatic trickster demigod and (adoptive) brother to Thor, last seen in Avengers: Endgame. Marvel Studios had vowed to provide “hefty” budgets for its various limited series, like WandaVision (which also has a new trailer), and this Loki teaser definitely has the high cinematic production values to show for it.

(Some spoilers below for Avengers: Endgame in particular.)

Marvel Studios announced the development of its various limited series for Disney+ in 2018, all featuring supporting characters from the films who were not given their own standalone films within the MCEU. Details have largely been kept tightly under wraps, but we do know that both Loki and WandaVision will tie into the forthcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Fan favorite Loki has always been one of the most multi-layered, psychologically complex characters, so we’re keen to see what the limited series has in store for him.

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After 12 years, Clark Gregg prepares to bid farewell to Agent Coulson. Maybe.

Clark Gregg never imagined that Agent Phil Coulson would become such an emotional touchstone in the MCU, and beyond, when he first signed on for the role.

Enlarge / Clark Gregg never imagined that Agent Phil Coulson would become such an emotional touchstone in the MCU, and beyond, when he first signed on for the role. (credit: ABC)

Get ready to bid farewell to another Marvel property when the seventh and final season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiers next week. Over the course of six seasons, the team has battled Hydra, hostile Inhumans, and alien species, and traveled through time—sometimes aligning with the broader MCU, sometimes sticking to its own separate storylines. It’s been an equally eventful journey for actor Clark Gregg, who plays team leader Agent Phil Coulson.

(Spoilers for The Avengers and prior six seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. below.)

First introduced in 2008’s Iron Man, Coulson quickly became a fan favorite, appearing in Iron Man 2 (2010)  and Thor (2011), before Director Joss Whedon broke our hearts by unexpectedly killing off the character in The Avengers (2012).  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought Coulson back from the dead to lead an elite squad of agents to take on the terrorist group Hydra, eventually incorporating the superhuman race called Inhumans into the storyline.  

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