Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cosmic Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

One of the bits of news lost in the madness of SDCC last week was the possibility of the expansion of the Marvel Cosmic universe on the big screen.  During one of the Marvel panels it was mentioned that the current reintroduction of characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova may be a precursor to not only a larger Cosmic presence in the books Marvel puts out, but also on the big screen.  With the current level of sci-fi in some of the Marvel Now titles (Avengers is really going out there in a good way), the fact that Thanos is taking center stage with the limited Infinity series, coming up in just a few weeks,  and the idea that the Inhumans will be brought back to the comics following Infinity, it surely seems that Marvel may be putting together some large scale plans for the Cosmic universe to join into the current MCU.

Before we can look ahead to what Marvel might put on the big screen in the future, it might be helpful to look at what they've done in the pages of their comics in the past.  The following is not intended to be an all-inclusive list nor is it imagined to be in any order of importance, but it does present some of the bigger cosmic stories from the pages of Marvel comics:

The Kree-Skrull War
The Korvac Saga
The Kang Dynasty
The Infinity Gauntlet
Secret Invasion
War of Kings

Again, not all-inclusive, not in order...just some of the events from the pages of comics that have made an impact over the years.  With that list in mind, let's look at what Marvel has been doing recently so we can deduce what they might be up to soon.

We're starting to realize that Marvel's film strategy is to take some of the more popular comic arcs and best fit them to the big screen.  The Avengers did give us Loki trying to conquer the Earth, albeit in a much different way than in the pages of The Avengers #1.
Iron Man 3 gave us Extremis but it did not exactly follow the script written in the pages of the books.  Finally, Joss Whedon announced that the Avengers sequel would be titled, Avengers: Age of Ultron, but that the movie would not follow the comic arc of the same name, nor would Ultron be created by Hank Pym.  So while we see some fan-favorite and classic arcs being adapted to the big screen, we can also see that they are being adapted to best fit the characters at Marvel's disposal and in a way that the MCU brain trust feel will be best represented in a movie theater.

Marvel's first on-screen expansion of it's Cosmic characters (remember we met the Chitauri and Cosmic mastermind Thanos in Avengers) will come in August 2014 with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy.  The company displayed a bit of footage from the movie at SDCC '13 and it played to big cheers to an already tuned up audience.  The Guardians are an interesting choice for Marvel's first solo space-centered flick.  Individually the beings who form the Guardians are misfits, loners and even wanted criminals...not exactly a group of heroes.  Their ascension to becoming saviors of the universe is sure to be full of conflict among one another and even internally within each of them, but they will become heroes and they will usher in an entirely different type of movie into the MCU.

The plot for GoTG is still under wraps and I do not intend to try to figure it out here but we do know the cast of characters to whom we will be introduced and those characters and what they might mean for the future of the MCU is of deep interest.  In addition to the titular team we have been told we will be seeing a handful of other characters that have deep roots in quite a few of the classic, cosmic story arcs: Ronan the Accuser and Korath the Pursuer, two members of the alien race known as the Kree. The Controller, one of the elders of the universe and an unknown "assistant" to him. Nebula, a fiesty space pirate. Yondu, the Alpha Centaurian and member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. And Nova Prime and Rhomann Dey, two members of the Nova Corps who base their galactic police force on the planet Xandar.  We will also quite likely see the alien race, the Badoon, and the maximum security space prison, the Kyln.

Using what little bread crumbs are available one can, likely incorrectly, speculate that the three most likely cosmic events we are likely to see adapted on screen first are: The Korvac Saga, Annihilation and Infinity.  This does not include the fact that we are likely to see individual films for Nova, The Inhumans and more, nor does it factor in that we are missing one of the huge gateway characters to the Cosmic universe in Mar-Vell of the Kree (the first Captain Marvel).

Two of the three movies I named above (The Korvac Saga and The Infinity Gauntlet) I feel will fall into what I see as super-crossover events, much like what Marvel does in the comics, with Annihilation being a crossover just among Cosmic franchises.

 It is my belief that Marvel intends to build up its Cosmic entities into franchises much as they have done with the likes of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America and that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie will be the cornerstone of the Cosmic universe as Iron Man has been for the current Phases.  It would not shock me if, in the future, Marvel continued releasing 2 movies a year, if not 3, with one being Cosmic in nature and the other(s) continuing to build Avengers story lines or introducing new characters such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther, etc.

So just how do the bread crumbs and my speculation of Marvel's future plans lead me to these wildly irresponsible conclusions about which Cosmic events will be adapted into films?  The non-guardian characters introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy give me the most steam and this is how they fit my delusions.

Annihilation would, in my imaginary scenario, be the first cosmic team-up movie.  We would have to see a different timeline of events than the one in the pages of the comics since the current iteration of the Guardians were put together post-Annihilation, but an Annihilation movie would give us Ronan, Korath, Nova and the Guardians all joining forces to stop Annihilus, ruler of the Negative Zone, who has come to our universe, not to rule, but to literally destroy everything.  We'd also see a guest appearance by Nebula and, as long as we had just one Nova movie ahead of time, we'd have plenty of information and investment into the Nova Corp to make what happens to Xandar hit home.  Yeah there'd be some key components missing...Galactus and the Silver Surfer to name a few (remember last year Marvel trying to barter for their rights??)  This movie would also include Cosmic heavy, Thanos, the key to connecting the two MCU components, and it could leave Thanos in a very ANGRY mood going forward. As I said above, Marvel seems to have no problem cutting and pasting to make things fit into what they have at their disposal.

The Korvac Saga could be our first look at an Avengers/Cosmic team-up.  In the comics the original team of Guardians comes to Earth in pursuit of Michael Korvac, the most dangerous man in the universe, whose journey into the entity we see is begun by the Badoon. They eventually enlist the aid of Thor, who has done some time traveling, and the Avengers to try to defeat a man who has pretty much turned himself into a god.  The Collector and his daughter, Carina, play huge roles in this story.  We do not know who Ophelia Lovibond is playing in Guardians of the Galaxy but if her name is Carina, then I think we're getting this story somewhere down the road.  It gives us an initial team-up, gives Thanos a day off, and alters the perception of the Avengers as to just where they stand in the universe...might be a nice wake up call.  The story also includes a brief tangle with Avengers nemesis Ultron and some other interesting sides.  This is one story I would love to see on screen and could really shake things up in the MCU.

This finally brings me to the movie that we will likely wait the longest to see but will likely have a huge payoff, Infinity.  Infinity will be the adaptation and collection of years of story lines involving The Mad Titan, Thanos, and his will to dominate everything and finally win the affections of his mistress, Death.  Without giving too much away in terms of potential spoilers, he might get up close and personal with Death during the events of Annihilation, but she just may not love him the way he is obsessed with her and that just may set him on the warpath.  Marvel will likely use events from the classic Infinity Gauntlet story arc and combine them with the events of this year's 6 issue series, Infinity, pictured above.

Basically Thanos will be after the Infinity Gems, 6 stones that, when brought together, give their owner absolute power over, well, EVERYTHING.  Thanos put them all together in the Infinity Gauntlet, an item which was seen at Comic-Con 2010 as a prop for Odin's Treasure Room and supposedly sits in there in the MCU.

Just how this will play out on the big screen is yet to be seen, but I imagine we could see bits and pieces of going on in the background as we go or, perhaps, Marvel will continue to have Thanos pursue the Tessaract as he did in Avengers and in the pages of the comics.  Maybe they will do both.  Either way there will certainly be some form of Thanos trying to conquer the entire galaxy and it will take the full force of pretty much every hero in the MCU to slow him down.

A lot of speculation above...and almost all of it based on very little information to begin with.  I expect I'll revisit and revise my hypotheses quite a few times in the next few years but this is a start.  Regardless of whether I'm right or wrong about what movies we will see, the one certainty is that the Cosmic side of the Marvel universe is about to be introduced into the MCU and, though Marvel is missing the rights to some of the heavy hitters, they still have quite a bit at their disposal to make the Cosmic MCU just as varied and entertaining as what they have given us already.