LOS ANGELES: With the astounding and epic “Infinity Saga” wrapped up, fans have been wanting to know, what’s next for the the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)? Over a two-hour period Saturday afternoon at Comic Con International, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios revealed not just the next six films in MCU but also announced five new shows on the equally new Disney+ streaming service.
One thing that stuck out was how incredibly diverse the MCU was getting. Here are some of the big announcements that showed how far they’ve come from starting with four white male heroes (Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor), and how far they’re hoping to go.
1. “The Eternals” cast was presented first and it was a true taste of what’s to come.They were: Angelina Jolie (Thena), “Game of Thrones”’ Richard Madden (Ikaris), Pakistani-American actor and comedian Kamail Nanjani (Kingo), African American actor Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek (Ajak), 12-year-old Lia McHugh (Sprite), “The Walking Dead’s” Lauren Ridloff (Makari), and “Train to Busan’s” Korean American breakout star Don Lee aka Ma Dong-Seok (Gilgamesh). Ridloff also happens to be deaf.
“The Eternals” is being directed by 37-year-old Beijing born Chloe Zao. In the words of Salma Hayek, “Chloe is a strong woman. It takes a strong woman to do a movie like this…a movie that is going to be for all the people who never felt represented in superhero movies. I’m proud to have a diverse family.”
2. Marvel is finally doing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” with Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu (“Kim’s Convenience”) and the quintessential Hong Kong actor Tony Leung as the real Mandarin. Awkwafina from “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Ocean’s 8” and the critically acclaimed “The Farewell” is in this too in an undisclosed role.
Director is Destin Daniel Cretton from Hawaii who has Japanese American Irish and Slovak roots.
Let’s not forget Ben Kingsley played the fake “Mandarin” in “Iron Man 3.” It seems the real Mandarin is not too happy about that. Apparently if we look closely at some scenes in Iron Man and Ant-Man, there are tattoos and other signs of the Ten Rings we may have failed to catch.
3. Elizabeth Olsen brings back the female hero Scarlet Witch in a Disney+ series called “WandaVision” where she will be paired again with Paul Bettany (remember the two characters have become an item in the movies). Wanda will get really busy as she crosses over into “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
Remember Monica Rambeau who we met as a little girl in “Captain Marvel?” Well that was 1995. She’s all grown up now and will be played by Teyonah Parris who will be joining “WandaVision” cast.
4. While it was Jeremy Renner who walked through the crowd to make it to the stage, the new “Hawkeye” series for Disney + will focus on Kate Bishop. The role of Kate has not been cast yet.
5. “Thor: Love and Thunder” doesn’t just reunite Chris Hemsworth with “Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi, we also have Tessa Thompson coming back as Valkyrie — now ruler of Asgard. According to Thompson, Valkyrie’s “first order of business” as King is to “find a Queen.”
If that isn’t exciting enough, guess who gets to wield Mjolnir? Jane Foster! Natalie Portman says she will work out to become “The Mighty Thor” (not to be mistaken with ‘Dad Bod Thor.’)
6. After “Captain Marvel,” the next female superhero to get her own film is Black Widow. Apart from Scarlett Johansson in the title role, the film also stars Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz. It will be directed by Cate Shortland.
7. Mahershala Ali is now on board as Blade! I just re-watched Guillermo del Toro’s “Blade II” with Norman Reedus, Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman.
Is veering away from the traditional white male superhero a risk or sure thing for Marvel? I’d like to think with Marvel’s huge global audience, and with America genuinely being a melting pot — representation is a step in a good direction.