The following is a case of writer brain.
Writer brain, for those of you who don’t know, is what happens when you rewire your brain to enter this profession. You cannot turn it off. You cannot correct it. You can’t smother it with a pillow. If I could have, I would have years ago, and had a quiet life as something like an electrician. It would have paid better and I could turn my brain off at will.
I don’t know what triggered this. Maybe it was the 20th Thanos meme posted online. Maybe it was YouTube videos critiquing the latest Marvel outing. No matter what started it, my brain started redesigning the MCU, with extremely minor corrections to some interesting results.
I’ve done this a few times. After Age of Ultron, and Guardians 2, and even Civil War.
So, if you want to see how writer brain works—typically in fits and starts and with WD-40—take a look.
Especially if you’re interested in another way they could have done the MCU.
One of Disney’s upcoming streaming Marvel shows is called What If…?
What if … the end of Phase 3 hadn’t gone so sideways?
What do I mean by sideways?
I mean Marvel delaying the emergence of Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy 2—and he was important to the comic book Infinity Gauntlet storyline. From what I heard at the time, that was put off for the introduction of Captain Marvel.
Maybe there should have been a Black Widow movie … you know, before they f***ing murdered her in Endgame. But from what I hear, the Black Widow movie was also put off for the introduction of Captain Marvel.
… I’m getting a theme here.
Hell, am I the only one who remembered there was supposed to be a Loki film? A Nick Fury film? Or even more “Marvel Galactic” films that weren’t Guardians of the Galaxy.
Now, while this is a writing post, I’ll try to factor in real world problems—like contracts, budgets, and Hollywood stupidity.
So some things had to happen, including certain character deaths.
But the major problems here I think can be pinned down to two big things.
They went big and stayed big.
Thanos was rushed
Now, I may not need to explain part A. Once we hit Phase Two, it felt like every other film was an extinction-level event. Ragnarok, obviously. Guardians 1 and 2. Doctor Strange had to face Dormammu his first day on the job (even in the comics, his first adversary was Baron Mordo). Even the upcoming Shang-Chi looks like a CGI mess because they’re trying to go even bigger.
Now, fine, Ragnarok happened (plot-wise) in order to prevent an Asgardian army from being sent against Thanos. But they could have done that with Thanos trashing the Rainbow Bridge on his way out, after raiding Asgard for the Tesseract…
What am I talking about? I’m talking about point two. Thanos was rushed. He was the Endgame of the MCU since he was a cameo in Avengers. (Whedon wanted Thanos for Avengers 2, but Marvel higher ups quashed it… which could have been a good thing if they played it right). Thanos had a few seconds in Avengers and Age of Ultron, a few minutes in Guardians, a mention or two along the way, and that’s it.
Am I the only one who remembered there was supposed to be an entire movie based around Loki? Like Inhumans, it was sacrificed to be turned into a TV show (Even the concepts of Inhumans was ruined by Agents of SHIELD, and the show wasted some good actors).
But remember that Loki speech from Avengers?
Loki: I've seen worlds you've never known about! I have grown, Odinson, in my exile! I have seen the true power of the Tesseract, and when I wield it...
Thor: Who showed you this power? Who controls the would-be-king?
Now, maybe we could have had a film about Loki doing all of that? Maybe showing him meeting up with Thanos? Then we could have had the god of chaos meet up with the ultimate nihilist, back before they turned him into just another Malthusianeco-terrorist?
Yes, you heard me. In the comics, Thanos was a nihilist. He strangled his own mother to death because she gave birth to him. He is literally in love with the female personification of Death; the plot of the Infinity Gauntlet comic book started with him wiping out half the galactic population in order to impress her.
Tell me that this Thanos and Avengers’ Loki wouldn’t have gotten along like a house afire.
Don’t like a Loki film for the expansion of Thanos? Well, Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to introduce Marvel Cosmic . Captain Marvel is the only one that sort of touched on it. How about Nova? Or Rom? Or Hell, a Howard the Duck movie for all I care. (Yes, I’m sure Rom is tied up in toy rights, but you get the idea.)
Anyway, with a Loki film (or pick a Cosmic-IP), we wouldn’t have needed to spend so much time in Infinity War listening to Thanos prattle on about his outdated, 18th century philosophy and disproven 1960s junk “science.”
Maybe we could have spent some actual time in Infinity War with character dynamics among the actual f-ing Avengers.
Let me see if I can spell out what I’m thinking.
The original MCU Phase Two is…
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
I don’t intend that we necessarily remove any of these movies. I’m not a fan of Ant-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy had to grow on me, but whatever.
Now, if we take our promised Loki film and have an earlier Black Widow, I’d put them in-between Iron Man 3 (preferably with an actual f***ing Mandarin) and The Dark World.
Loki sets up Thanos and fleshes out why Loki was so nuts in Avengers.
I would have even liked spending more time with SHIELD, which would have been with a Black Widow film—probably co-starring Hawkeye, and preferably explaining WTF happened in Budapest, maybe in the teaser.
(Come to think of it, am I the only one who remembers there was supposed to be a Nick Fury movie? Or do we call that Captain Marvel now too?)
Solutions: Go small
You may have noticed a theme in what I’m suggesting.
A Loki film would have been more centered on Loki.
A Black Widow film would have been a spy thriller.
A Hawkeye / Nick Fury movie would have been just as small to some degree.
Look at Phase 3 a minute.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Captain Marvel (2019)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
First, delete Captain Marvel. James Gunn could have been allowed to do Adam Warlock in Guardians 2 instead. Or, heck, if someone in production insists, drop Carol Danvers into Endgame without a backstory. It wouldn’t have been the first time Marvel introduced a new character mid-film. I think Black Panther had a better character arc in Civil War than in his own movie. More on that later.
What to put in place of Captain Marvel?
Wanda and The Vision, the film, set after Civil War and before Infinity War. Yes. All that relationship drama just dropped into Infinity War came out of left field, and required the entire audience to know of their marriage in the comic books. Imagine a movie where, post-Civil War, Wanda and Vision had a movie set during a clandestine meet, run into a mid-power threat that they can’t warn anyone about, because they’d be arrested after the Sokovia Accords stupidity that was the Civil War MacGuffin. Maybe a robot Doctor Zola unleashing swarms of cybernetic legions on … oh, Cairo.
Again, the solution is to go small. We get to show off Vision. We get to show off Scarlet Witch. They get to have chemistry and screen time.
The same thing with Black Panther. He had a solid character arc in Civil War. The film we got retread a lot of the same ground. Again, they should have stayed small.
Seriously, would it have been so difficult for the Black Panther film to take the spy thriller vibe of the South Korea sequence and keep Andy Serkis as the primary villain, saving Killmonger for #2? We didn’t need the badly rendered CG armies. They could have used the battle rhinos for Infinity War.
The same with Doctor Strange; he didn’t need an extinction-level event his first day on the job. Dormammu was … well, it could have been better. Though I did like the solution. “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain” was unique.
As for Ragnarok… again, we didn’t need to trash everything and slaughter everyone. Modify Hela to be more like her comic book counterpart so she’s not slaughtering the entire Asgardian army (my God, that was stupid). Heck, take Hela out of the picture entirely, and replace her with Thanos coming in with an invasion force to take the Tesseract. They could have kept their Planet Hulk plot with Jeff Goldblum (a little less stupid, please) and have Thor return to Asgard in time to save everyone from the invasion. Thanos nukes the Rainbow Bridge on his way out, therefore keeping most of Asgard out of Infinity War.
You know, like in the original Infinity Gauntlet storyline.
Loki can even have all of his character development in Ragnarok… and it concludes with Loki handing the Tesseract over to Thanos directly.
How does this change Infinity War?
With a Loki film, Infinity War would see Loki being a minion of Thanos. We’ve established that they’ve had a relationship, we’ve also seen Loki’s growth. And Loki could pretend to be a right hand the entire way…
Yes, I said “pretend”.
Sorry, but Loki trying to straight-up shank Thanos in the gut in Infinity War is very … un-Loki. Loki stabs people in the back after making them think he’s their best friend. In the Infinity Gauntlet comic storyline, Thanos’ only “minion” was Mephisto, who looks like Satan, and might as well be, no matter how many times Marvel says different. Mephisto kept making suggestions in order to throw Thanos off his game, in order to steal the Gauntlet while Thanos is fighting the rest of the Marvelverse.
Tell me that doesn’t sounds like a Loki-level long con.
And, as I said, with a Loki film, Thanos can be established, so we don’t need Infinity War to be about retread 18th-century philosophy (see endnotes).
But it’s still going to end with Thanos and “the snap.” It happened in the comic book.
How does this change Endgame?
Depends. Technically, you can keep the whole time heist angle. More on that in a minute.
First change? Make the time difference a question of months instead of years between the Snap and the rest of the film. Heck, make it a couple of weeks. (We didn’t need “five years later, everyone is depressed and suicidal.”) Thanos still has the gems and the gauntlet. Taking him on is suicide. If you like, enter Ant-Man, and collect the whole set like before in order to nullify Thanos. Or, if you prefer we do a different plan, with Loki contacting Earth and saying, “Hello, Brother. Of course I gave Thanos the Tesseract. He would have killed everyone if I hadn’t. How would you like to get the gems back?”
Pick a plan. Either one works as far as I’m concerned.
This corrects another big thing that we saw in the Endgame we got. Remember how Thanos had an army? After his retirement, where did all of them go? Were they all wiped out in Wakanda? If not, why didn’t he bring them along for security after the Snap? Obviously, the MCU writers wanted to skip straight to their time travel plot, but it’s a bit of a plot hole.
However, contracts make certain things obligatory.
Now, part of this is contracts. (Obviously, not with killing Gamora and resetting her entire character development… seriously, whose bright ideas was that?)
Robert Downey Jr was leaving the MCU.
Ditto Chris Evans.
Ditto Idris Elba. (Rumor has it he’s coming back, though)
It’s why I knew who was going to die going into Infinity War. There was no tension with Black Widow sacrificing herself — Jeremy Renner already had a Disney+ streaming show contracted.
Recasting? I don’t think they had that much originality. (Character death is always the simple, and simple-minded, solution for writers: look up Tasha Yar or Jadzia Dax in Star Trek.)
I also knew time travel was going to be a thing in Endgame because… again, I read the original comic book. In the comics, Thanos transcends his physical body … and leaves the Gauntlet behind; it is picked up by Nebula, who reverses time 24 hours so that everyone is alive again. But Nebula can’t control the Gauntlet. The rest of the comic is a three-way shootout between Thanos, Nebula, and the entire Marvel universe to get the gauntlet off Nebula…
I’m not sure if that translates to the screen, which is why the “time heist” is still an option.
Technically, they could have had Loki steal the gauntlet and reset … everything. It reverses time to before Infinity War, or into the middle of Infinity War’s time period.
What Makes You So Smart?
Now, there are people out there who are coming in from nowhere who are thinking “Who the Hell are you? I loved these movies!”
First, I enjoyed these films as mindless summer blockbusters. They’re not high art. They’re mindless fun. I even like some of the ones that are considered mediocre. To some degree, I’ll take The Dark World over Ragnarok, so I have no taste. (Okay, I hate Captain Marvel, I really do. And WTF was wrong with having a real Mandarin?)
That doesn’t mean I can’t see some glaring flaws. Usually I skip over these flaws with the fast-forward button, because that’s what DVDs are for.
Second, you’ll notice that I’m not exactly making big intuitive leaps here. We were promised a Loki film, and Thanos took up too much time in Infinity War, so smash them together. Sometimes, two problems solve each other. It’s not rocket science.
Third, I’m literally taking plot points from the comic books. I’m adapting the Infinity Gauntlet storyline into the film version. Keep in mind that the comics had a whole miniseries dedicated to Thanos getting the Stones in the first place. I’m suggesting giving him more screen time earlier just to develop, and bringing him in earlier onto the chess board. Again, not rocket science.
Fourth, I don’t even think this is 20/20 hindsight. I think they should have seen this coming. For example, I think that if they were going to set up Thanos as the MCU endgame, they should have set up Thanos as a character. Even without giving Loki a film, giving Thanos five more minutes in Guardians 1, or discuss him more in Guardians 2. Even if they had Thanos blowing up Xandar to pick up his first gem at the tail end of the credits for Guardians 2, it would have been an improvement. So, just some additional dialogue would have carried a LOT.
Where do we go from here?
This was how Phase 2 could have gone in order to repair some of the strange BS of Phase 3. There’s nothing really to repair what comes next.
To start with, I’m done with the Marvel. Endgame was game over. No one needs another film. We’re done. The end. Guardians barely kept my interest, and adding them to Thor 4 does nothing for me (this doesn’t even count what PR says they’re doing).
I don’t even think it’s comic book burnout. I just think they’re mishandling everything coming up. They burned too many bridges all at once in Endgame, and killed too many people. It was far too final.
Only two upcoming films have me curious; I suspect the first trailers will cure me of that. Who am I kidding? The Loki TV show and their multiverses are already turning me off Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and WandaVision didn’t help. And Spider-Man is threatening even more multiverse garbage.
Again, the key to a lot of the upcoming projects would be to go smaller.
But yikes, look at this list of “Phase 4.”
Black Widow (2021)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
The Marvels (2022)
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
Everyone knows Black Widow has had… mixed reviews. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings looks like a Hong Kong wire-fu movie that’s been overendowed with CGI, assigned with Iron Man’s villain. Eternals is… crap. Spider-Man and Doctor Strange I’ve already commented on. Ditto Thor 4.
We won’t even go into Black Panther 2 after Chadwick Boseman’s death; the word is they want to replace him with Shuri, and that’s a no. The Marvels?
Oh, f*** off Brie Larson.
Ant-Man 3 threatens to have Kang the Conqueror as the villain, supposedly introduced in Loki as a man in a bathrobe. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Not after James Gunn’s colorful pedophilia tweets.
And another Fantastic Four? BWAHAHAHA.
So, yeah, I don’t care about any of these films or people.
And these TV shows …
Is Disney making money hand over fist? Or are they hoping to? Because what I’ve heard about the subscribers for Disney+ (who seem to be mostly “I got this in a bundle”) versus how much money they’re dumping into these shows are…
“Marvel's Disney+ Shows Reportedly Getting Budgets Upwards of $25 Million per Episode.”
…. Wait. WTF? Really? Are you kidding? PER EPISODE?
Let’s do the math here.
The TV series
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
Loki season 1 (2021)
What If...? season 1
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Ten TV shows, an animated, plus a… Holiday special? That’s not ominous or anything. Assume an average of six episodes per season of the live action. That’s 60 episodes. Times $25 million per episode, equals…
Is my math correct? Those TV shows cost $1.5 BILLION? With a B? That’s… Insane.
Supposedly, Disney+ has 100,000,000 subscribers worldwide. Even at $80 for an entire year, that’s $8 Billion— assuming everyone stays (they tend to cancel when they see the shows they want), that assumes Disney gets the full $8B when it’s bundled (they aren’t) that assumes everyone is a paying subscriber and not a free trial with cable (they’re not). And that assumes that all of the money that comes in goes straight back into Disney+ profits, and not into paying off their debts, or keeping the lights on in theme parks.
Balance the theoretical $6.5 Billion profit against money they may lose on some of the films. (See: Black Widow. The film cost $200 million to make, multiple million-dollar ad campaigns jack the price up, and it has yet to “break even” in the Hollywood sense. “Breaking even” for Hollywood means it makes back double the money put into it).
But between TV and films, do you think they’re trying too hard in Phase 4?
So, how would you fix Phase 4?
Just to cut off the question: Again, they could have fixed this by going smaller.
A soft reboot would give characters introductions.
Just have the story of one person becoming a badass. Maybe less “a-hole to hero” and more “good person works hard and becomes super.”
But no, they’re not doing smaller. Have you looked at this stuff?
Shang-Chi isn’t a martial arts film, it’s CGI and magic.
The Eternals… doesn’t even have a plot.
Spider-Man may go small, but the trend doesn’t seem to indicate that.
Doctor Strange is going bigger, and threatens to make him a secondary character in his own film by making Wanda his sidekick.
Thor 4 is going up against Greek deities.
And no one can make me care about the next five films after that.
Something else they could have done? These films could have been loosely tied together like in Phase 1, mostly with Agent Coulson and SHIELD. It worked, and it didn’t require a lot of effort.
But since they blew up SHIELD, that only leaves a few options kicking around.
Doctor Strange: He is, after all, the consulting superhero.
Spider-Man: in the comics, Spider-Man works so well with others, there’s an entire comic book on his team-ups. Again, the problem is contracts: Sony still owns the Spider-Man IP.
Nick Fury: Can they afford Samuel L. Jackson for cameos?
But they’re not going to do any of these things. Which is good. Maybe my writer brain won’t have to burn so much daylight on it.
Anyway, I’m done. Writer brain is satisfied.
Be well all.
Illegitimi non carborundum.
Thomas Malthus was a late 18th century schmuck who insisted that everything wrong with the world was the fault of the poor having too many children. They were poor because they were breeding too much. How dare they? Modern day Malthusian BS includes The Population Bomb by Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, who predicted we’d all be dead by now.
Both Malthus and Ehrlich were wrong in large part because technology has surpassed the problem of resources…
Which is why Thanos’ STAR FARING CIVILIZATION running out of resources because of overpopulation is stupid, insane, and utterly impossible.
They blow up stuff all the time in the name of protecting the environment. But they don’t seem to care that the environment is to support, you know, the people they hate so much.
Okay, I have to admit, I forgot that Loki was supposed to have his own movie. I vaguely remember a lot of rumors flying around after The Avengers came out, but they didn't seem likely to materialize, so I ignored them. Now I wish I hadn't.
I honestly expected them to go with BP's original comic book story which had him facing M'Baku. The fuss there was over his villain name, which.... Why? Just call him M'Baku if you don't want to use his supervillain title. He'll still be T'Challa's main adversary and you won't have to worry about offending anyone. (And seriously, Shuri's the tech genius? That's her big brother's line. Shuri wanted the throne in the comics, and while I liked Letitia Wright's performance, I can't forgive them for how they treated T'Challa. Aggh!)
The only Phase 4 movie I'm kinda interested in is the Doctor Strange one. Everything else is meh at best.
As for Nick Fury, I hear the Secret Invasion series is supposed to be centered on him. Of course, Secret Invasion as a storyline isn't exactly "going small"