Black Widow, a new Blade, a female Thor, oh my!
Let’s just face it—we live in a superhero world. Over the last few years, there’s been a steady rhythm: one Marvel movie barely leaves theatres before another one rolls in. And if the latest announcements from Marvel Studios are anything to go by, we’d better get used to it. While Marvel’s hegemony isn’t necessarily what we want for the future of the film industry, there is some good news: the studio seems to be making a concerted effort to push for a more diverse array of stories, bringing indie film directors on board as well as a slew of talented women and actors of colour.
Over the weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studio’s Kevin Feige unveiled a slate of new movies and projects as part of the franchise’s “Phase Four.” (Quick recap: Phase One introduced its marquee hero vehicles, including Iron Man, Captain America and Thor; Phase Two expanded the universe with Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy; and Phase Three began brought forth more diverse stories like Black Panther and Captain Marvel.) By the looks of it, Phase Four is going to be the MCU’s most diverse and boundary-pushing undertaking yet. The announcements—and accompanying hysteria—were major: Mahershala Ali! Angelina Jolie! The franchise’s first Chinese superhero! Its first openly queer superhero! Read on for all the biggest announcements out of SDCC this year, and what you can expect to see hitting your screens over the next few years.
Canadian actor Simu Liu cast as the lead in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
In the ultimate example of wish fulfillment, Kim’s Convenience’s Simu Liu tweeted at Marvel in December 2018 when news of an Asian-led superhero film first broke, throwing his hat in the ring. Half a year later, the Canadian actor/stuntman has been announced as Shang-Chi, a character often referred to as a master of Kung-Fu in the comics. Awkwafina and Tony Leung are set to co-star, and if that weren’t exciting enough, Marvel has tapped indie director Destin Daniel Cretton (whose previous works include Short Term 12 and The Glass Castle, both starring Brie Larson) to helm the film. Liu, who screen-tested for the film in New York just two days before SDCC, still seemed slightly in shock. “I feel like I was kind of this social experiment,” Liu told the crowd. “Like, ‘Let’s just take this guy, this ordinary guy living in Toronto, let’s tell him he’s going to be in the next Marvel movie, and give him, like, four days to prep for it.’”
Thanks for getting back to me https://t.co/FFRuM03p20
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) July 21, 2019
Natalie Portman takes over as the new Thor
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will both return for Thor: Love and Thunder but in a surprising twist, it turns out Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster will take over as the titular character. Fans of the comic books would have seen this coming, though, because as Variety notes, a 2014 comic-book storyline saw the astrophysicist (and Thor’s love interest) taking on the title of Thor, Goddess of Thunder, when she’s deemed worthy of the superhero’s legendary hammer, Mjolnir. “We love the story—it’s one of the best comic runs recently,” said Feige. “[Director Taika Waititi] would flip through and read that run while he was doing Ragnarok. And I think when he agreed to come back and do another Thor, he was like, ‘How do we–?’ This is a very big movie that’ll be folding in a lot of elements. That is a huge important part of it. He pitched it to us, and we were totally in. We loved it. We’d been in touch with Natalie. She’s part of the MCU family and we put [her] and Taika together. It took one meeting and she agreed to do it.”
Mahershala Ali is the star of the Blade reboot
It’s been over 20 years since Wesley Snipes appeared on our screens as Blade, a superhero who protects humans from vampires. After two more films with Snipes at the helm, the torch is now being passed on to Mahershala Ali, who will play the protagonist in the upcoming resurrection of the cult film. While the two-time Oscar winner was their “dream casting” for the role, it turns out it was actually Ali who approached the studio, giving Marvel a call shortly after his Oscar win for Green Book. “When Mahershala calls, you answer,” Feige told The Hollywood Reporter. At a subsequent meeting, Ali expressed his interest in taking on the role, and well, here we are.
Tessa Thompson as MCU’s first openly queer superhero
It looks like Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, a character who’s already been established as bisexual in the comics, is finally going to be out and proud on screen. ICYMI, Valkyrie inherited the King of Asgard title from Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in Avengers: Endgame and over the weekend Thompson revealed what might be next on her agenda. “First of all, as new King, she needs to find her queen, so that will be her first order of business,” she told a room full of screaming fans.
Tessa Thompson on Valkyrie: “First of all, as king, she needs to find her queen.” #MarvelSDCC pic.twitter.com/XR1I2wsUNR
— Ryan Gajewski (@_RyanGajewski) July 21, 2019
The Eternals reveals a star-studded cast
“We wanted to do our big ensemble like we did in Phase Two with Guardians, and that’s what Eternals is,” Feige told CNN. The cast boasts some serious heavy hitters including Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden and Kumail Nanjiani. It also stars Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry and Lauren Ridloff, who will portray the franchise’s first deaf superhero. Beijing-born indie director Chloe Zhao, whose last film The Rider was hugely acclaimed at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival—is on board to direct.
Lauren Ridloff joins #Marvels ’Eternals’ as the first deaf hero in the MCU #SDCC https://t.co/UE88MhaVbt pic.twitter.com/0HS0dePClR
— Variety (@Variety) July 21, 2019
The Black Widow prequel is finally confirmed
After years of rumours, the Black Widow prequel outlining the Russian assassin’s origin story has been confirmed. Starring Scarlett Johansson (as a human, though, not an animal or a tree), Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and Stranger Things’ David Harbour, the film will explore Natasha Romanov’s shrouded-in-mystery past. “I think you’ll learn about what Natasha is afraid of, and I think you’ll learn about what parts of herself she’s afraid of,” said Johansson at the panel. “You really see her in, like, a pretty broken-down place, and she kinda has to build herself back up and pull all the pieces together in this film. It gets kind of gnarly, but good gnarly.”