Monday, August 12, 2013

UPDATE: MIA in the MCU Part 1: The Illuminati

The MCU will continue to expand upon its roster of characters with every movie Marvel Studios produces.  With the core group of the Avengers established, Marvel has begun to show a willingness to involve new heroes in their movies by adding Falcon to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and even going Cosmic with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Mutant twins Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch will join the crow in Avengers: Age of Ultron. We also know that Ant-Man will kick off their Phase 3 plans and it is all but assured that Doctor Strange will follow shortly thereafter.  Despite the film rights to several of their big name heroes (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer to name too many) at other studios, Marvel still has the ability to add some depth and flair to an already dynamic roster of big screen superheroes and many of the ones I will feature have had large roles in some of Marvel's legendary comic book arcs. Which ones do I think might deserve some love?  First off:

UPDATE:  With the news this week that the rights to Namor, the Sub-Mariner still reside with the good folks at Universal it makes it a little more difficult to imagine that we will see any version of the Illuminati in the MCU anytime soon.  While it's easy to swap people in and out, it is Namor's position as the ruler of Atlantis and his hateful disposition towards most humans that makes him an awesome addition.  There may yet be some hope as we don't know just when the rights to Namor may revert back to Marvel Studios so...never say never!

The Illuminati:  The Black Panther, Black Bolt and Namor, the Sub-Mariner

The Marvel universe is full of powerful characters, intellectual giants and absolutely insane happenings that, from time to time, necessitate that these characters come together to serve a common good: the protection of Earth.  Following one such event, The Kree-Skrull war, Tony Stark assembled a group of the most formidable minds and powerful beings in the universe: Charles Xavier, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Namor, and Doctor Strange.  T'Challa, the Black Panther and King of Wakanda, declined to be a part of the group and was vocal about his opinion that it was a bad idea. The powerful group worked behind the scenes to help protect Earth from the greatest threats to its safety.  Over the years the group came together and fell apart over issues such as superhero registration and how to best deal with the always dangerous Hulk (tricking him and sending him into space).  During the events of the Secret Invasion in which the shape-shifting Skrulls came to Earth and took the place of several heroes, the Illuminati came together but were ultimately undone by the intrinsic mistrust each had in the others while the Skrulls played off it.  After the events of the Infinity Gauntlet arc each member of the team was given one of the gems for safekeeping and recently the group, with a slightly different make-up(Captain America and Beast have replaced Black Bolt and Charles Xavier), has been assembled, ironically by T'Challa, to use the power of the gems to save the Earth as other dimensions collapse upon each other.

Tony Stark is clearly the centerpiece of all the MCU action at the moment and Doctor Strange is going to join heavily in that mix before long.  While Marvel, sadly, does not possess the film rights to Professor X, Beast or Reed Richards (that one stings the most!) there are 3 members of the Illuminati who could be used in Marvel films.

T'Challa will be a member of the MCU, sooner rather than later.  He is without peer both intellectually and in hand-to-hand combat and his integrity and desire to protect his country are equal to Captain America.  A Black Panther film has been rumored to be coming for some time and 42 star Chadwick Boseman has been rumored to be a top contender for the role.  T'Challa has never been afraid to speak his mind to other members of the Marvel universe and his unwavering integrity makes him the rock of his country and, sometimes, in the shoes of his counterparts.

Black Bolt is one of the most complex characters in all the Marvel universe and yet he is unable to utter even a single word.  Black Bolt is the king of a group of super-humans known as the Inhumans.  Long ago Kree scientists came to Earth and experimented on human ancestors, altering their genes and leaving them capable of gaining enormous and unique powers upon exposure to the Terrigen Mist, a natural mutagenic source discovered by Kree scientists.  After his exposure, Black Bolt gained the ability to manipulate the electrons in anything around him.  The ability, unfortunately, is linked to the part of his brain that makes speech possible, therefore, if he were to speak even a single work, he would be capable of destroying cities.  Kevin Feige has long wanted an Inhumans film and they would make a wonderful story.  Black Bolt, despite being kept mute, is a masterful strategist and leader and would be an impressive character in the MCU, especially when he does whisper a word and that around him is destroyed.

The third and final addition in this grouping is the one that may prove the most difficult: Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Prince of Atlantis.  Namor is a character with deep roots in the Marvel comics, having appeared in 1939 before Marvel was its own studio.  He returned in 1962 in issue number 4 of the Fantastic Four, Marvel's first comic book title under their own direction, and acted as an antagonist in his earliest days, teaming with the likes of Magneto and Dr. Doom, making him one of the original comic book antiheroes.  It was his arrogance and belief in himself to be superior to humans that drove him away from all alliances and has kept him, for the most part, from leaving Atlantis unless it is to protect it.  He has, notably, been a part of both the Illuminati and the Defenders, and served as a member of the Invaders during World War II.  Namor is genetically unique, even among mutants, in the Marvel universe.  His mother was an Atlantean, daughter of the Emperor, and his father a human and yet he possesses powers that are not explainable by even the advanced scientists of Atlantis.  He is a fierce defender of his people and notoriously stubborn.  While the rest of the Illuminati went along with the plan to send the Hulk into space, Namor left the group after voicing his dissenting opinion.  Namor's surface company, Oracle, which is devoted to cleaning the seas of pollution, has actually made Easter Egg appearances in each of the last two Iron Man movies and it is believed that Atlantis was one of several points marked on a map visible on a computer screen when Nick Fury met with Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.

With the cinematic expansion of superheroes and villains in the MCU and the growing threat from outside of Earth, a version of the Illuminati is almost a natural fit. The events of Phase 2 and Phase 3 may lead to the formation of this group and any number of story lines (Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Infinity Gauntlet) could act as a catalyst to forming the group.  Certainly the membership has to be tweaked since Marvel Studios is missing a few components, but they have shown the willingness to change  quite a bit to make things fit their cinematic visions.

Up next I will take a look at members of the Cosmic side of Marvel that just absolutely need to be on film.