Aside from Black Panther, which I’m certain will be a fantastic film, many of Marvel’s most interesting films for the future will actually be outside the MCU.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the last decade of comic book movie making.
They struck the winning formula for their movies early on with the truly fantastic first Iron Man film: a magnetic and relatable lead character with an easily digestible storyline, that never ventures into too dark a tone or too serious an ending.
Since then, they’ve made sure to replicate this formula with their most successful movies and across their immense and continuously expanding connected universe. It’s a strategy that has helped them rake in almost 11 billion dollars worldwide.
And while this formula continues to be profitable 10 years out, more recently it’s simply given us a string of unambitious films with recycled storylines that are, ultimately, largely forgettable.
Instead, in the last few years, it has been Marvel’s forays outside of its shared cinematic universe that have yielded more unique and engaging films.
After years of attempting — and largely failing — to mimic the MCU’s success, Fox seems to have finally found its niche by deviating from the MCU formula completely, instead moving to telling R-rated stories meant solely for the adult crowd.
Logan and Deadpool are both hard-R rated movies, the former earning its rating with pure violence and the latter with its combined adult humor and violence.
And because they weren’t bound by the MCU’s exhaustive shared universe and guiding vision, they were able to tell a more self-contained and intimate story, and to likewise deviate from the MCU’s established tone.
Moreover, rather than taking the MCU’s approach and fitting their heroes into one prescriptive comic book movie mold, Fox has instead merged each their comic book heroes to different storytelling genres.
Logan — which was the stellar send-off that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine deserved — was a gritty Western, whereas Deadpool embraced its status as an action (decidedly adult) comedy that had no qualms about poking fun of itself and the superhero genre as a whole.
Emboldened by the success of their last two superhero outings, Fox’s next few superhero films look to be following this newly established formula for success.
Deadpool 2 will hopefully be the same unique mix of comedy and action that the first gave to us. The addition of Josh Brolin as Cable, one of my all-time favorite X-Men characters, and Zazie Beetz as Domino, whose superpower of being exceptionally lucky is one that we’ve not really seen on screen before, makes this one of most interesting comic book films of 2018.
However as much as I’m looking forward to the next installment of Deadpool, it’s Fox’s upcoming X-Men movie New Mutants that really makes me excited.
The cast is half who’s who of young Hollywood — with Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams and Stranger Things‘ Charlie Heaton as mutants Wolfsbane and Canonball, respectively — and half relative unknowns/up-and-comers.
While I’m thrilled to see Maisie Williams and Charlie Heaton on the big screen, it’s the newcomers I’m most excited about. Henry Zaga will play Brazilian mutant Roberto da Costa/Sunspot, while Blu Hunt will play Danielle Moonstar/Mirage, who is a Native American mutant from the Cheyenne tribe.
While this kind of representation is thrilling all on its own, rumor has it that the movie will adapt the comic book arc of ‘The Demon Bear,’ which would place Blu Hunt not just as a sidekick or a minor character – but as the leader and main character of the movie.
Additionally, director Josh Boone has talked about making his New Mutants film very different than what we’ve seen before from other superhero films, giving us a movie without costumes or supervillains and instead making a “full-fledged horror movie within the X-Men universe.”
And while Sony’s latest iteration of Spider-Man had the MCU stamp all over it, the rest of the Spider-Man universe will exist independently of the broader MCU.
Though I know this is disappointing to many who wanted to see Tom Holland’s Spider-Man interact with his well-known Spidey universe, I’m actually quite pleased to see what Sony might come up with when it’s unfettered by the MCU brand.
So far, I’m impressed with the steps they’ve made.
Their first announced film is Venom, with Tom Hardy playing the iconic Marvel villain/anti-hero (depending on the storyline), and Riz Ahmed is confirmed as a yet unknown character.
Venom would be a departure from the MCU for a couple of reasons, first among them being the fact that it’s rumored to also be an R-rated sci-fi horror film.
Secondly, we’d be hard-pressed to really call it a ‘superhero’ film since Venom is one of Spider-Man’s most notorious supervillains. Even if he has sometimes dipped into anti-hero status in the comics, the rumor is that the movie would draw more from his villainous origins and storylines.
Knowing this, it makes sense that the confirmed villain for the film is Carnage, a violent serial killer who merges with the alien symbiote; in order to have a convincing antagonist for a character who’s already known as a supervillain, you have to bring in someone who is a straight up psychopath.
While it’s not confirmed whether the utterly talented Riz Ahmed will play Carnage opposite of the equally talented Tom Hardy’s Venom, having these two actors play off one another on the big screen can only be all sorts of awesome.
However, it’s Sony’s second installment of its shared Spidey universe (Spidey-verse?) that I’m really looking forward to.
Although we don’t know much about it yet, Sony’s Silver and Black film is already so exciting to me on so many different levels.
First off, it already has a director attached to it who I am absolutely thrilled about: Gina Prince-Bythewood, known for directing and writing Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees and Beyond the Lights.
Secondly, I absolutely love the way she described her vision for the film in a recent Variety interview – as a buddy film similar to Thelma & Louise (though with anti-heroes/villains).
“I wanted to tell the story of two damaged women who are at war with each other but need each other to survive,” she continues on in the interview, describing a film I can’t believe I have to wait at least two years for.
Third, whereas the MCU will have taken 19 movies to get to its first female-fronted comic book film, Sony’s shared universe will feature two female leads in its second movie.
Silver Sable is a killer for hire, whereas Black Cat is one of the world’s most notorious jewel thieves. This means that the story will center around a female anti-hero and female villain.
We haven’t ever really seen two women in either role in a comic book movie, and certainly not as the main characters or with the amount of nuance and depth that I’m sure Prince-Bythewood will imbue in their characters.
The MCU’s success has long made it seem — to both studios and general audiences — that there was only one way to make a successful Marvel comic book film.
However, the overwhelmingly positive response to Logan and Deadpool, which both lie far outside the MCU’s parameters for movie making, refute that decade-old belief and have spurred Fox and Sony to create more unique genre movies with beloved Marvel comic book characters.
For the first time in years, I’m once again looking forward to seeing Marvel comic book characters on the big screen — they just won’t be the ones in the MCU.