It’s Done: Disney-Fox Asset Acquisition in Effect Today

As Tony Stark mentioned in the first teaser released for “Avengers: Endgame” next month, “Part of the journey is the end.” An epic journey began in December of 2017 when Disney announced its bid to buy the major media assets of 21st Century Fox. On Wednesday midnight, said journey ended.

Effective 12:02 AM (ET) of March 20, entities such as 20th Century Fox, Fox TV Group, National Geographic, Fox Networks, stakes in Endemol and Hulu and more, are now merged with the larger umbrella of Disney. That not bad for an acquisition value of $71.3 billion, even as the remnants of 21st Century Fox is now reorganizing into Fox Corp.

Analysts from Wall Street agree that the megadeal goes a long way in providing Disney with more media content, especially as it primes to launch its exclusive digital streaming platform Disney+. Marvel fans might be gladdened to know that the film rights for “X-Men” can potentially be transferred by Disney from Fox to Marvel Studios, reuniting the two major labels of the superhero publishing brand.

In a press release, Disney CEO Bob Iger named the newly-finalized Fox acquisition as an “extraordinary and historic” moment, adding, “Combining Disney’s and 21st Century Fox’s wealth of creative content and proven talent creates the preeminent global entertainment company, well positioned to lead in an incredibly dynamic and transformative era.”

And as seen above, the header image for the official Walt Disney Company website now includes Fox franchises in the image montage: “Simpsons,” James Cameron’s “Avatar” and “Deadpool” among others. Speaking of Deadpool, despite the R-rating of its Fox films starring Ryan Reynolds, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige is sure that the Merc with a Mouth still has a place for himself in the MCU.

While many are celebrating the conclusion of the asset merging, none perhaps can approach the hilarity level of actor Reynolds himself, posting his impression of how great it is to have his character under Disney.

The first few months following the megadeal going through will be spent integrating the new Disney subsidiaries in the greater organization, as well as addressing the inevitable layoffs that will take place in its wake.

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Marvel Studios Head Gives Blanket Name to First 3 Phases of the MCU Franchise

It can’t be stressed enough how next month’s Marvel Cinematic Universe film “Avengers: Endgame” can be considered a storyline ending. It’ll wrap up most ongoing plot threads and myth arcs from this and the previous 21 films of the franchise. Ever since Thanos appeared in the last MCU Phase 1 installment, “Avengers,” this was expected.

In the latest issue of Empire Magazine devoted to “Endgame” and the conclusion of this initial MCU narrative, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige revealed he has an overarching name to give the 22 MCU films from 2008’s “Iron Man” to “Avengers: Endgame” this coming April.

He’s denoting MCU Phases 1 to 3 as the “Infinity Saga” of the franchise, which isn’t much of a surprise. While not all the films in the era involved the cosmic-bending Infinity Stones sought by Josh Brolin’s Thanos, they were the driving force in many of the previous movies’ plots (in different, alternate forms even).

Feige notes that calling the first 22 MCU films as the Infinity Saga collectively also helps in establishing finite durations for the franchise’s arcs. “Harry Potter had an ending because there were only so many books,” he explains. “Lord of the Rings, too. But we thought, 22 movies in, wouldn’t it be fun to bring some finality to the storyline?”

Real-life considerations might also factor into the saga branding. Many of the top stars for the Phase 1-3 MCU films will be bowing out after “Endgame,” necessitating perhaps new characters to become the faces of the franchise, like Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel.” She could perhaps front the MCU following the departure of the likes of Robert “Tony Stark” Downey Jr. and Chris “Steve Rogers” Evans.

Whatever the case, “Avengers: Endgame” is premiering on April 16. Don’t miss it to catch one ending of the MCU’s Infinity Saga. Worry not, the franchise will continue with new adventures when Phase 4 begins.

MCU’s “Black Widow” Film Project to Potentially Cast Florence Hugh

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to take even more shape after July’s “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” Aside from recently announced films (and the return of a director), new casting additions have been made for long-discussed projects. In particular, a potential “Black Widow” solo movie may have just gotten an antagonist character.

Variety reports that Marvel Studios may have started discussion with actress Florence Pugh for a role in the “Black Widow” movie starring Scarlett Johansson. Her potential casting appears to have gone full circle, as she was among the first names to be dropped for the “second lead” role to Johansson, but was kept on the back burner while Marvel Studios considered other possible candidates, before ultimately setting back on her.

The decision to take on Pugh may have been due to positive reviews for her lead outing in “Fighting My Family” from MGM. She also has prior experience playing a spy of sorts in BBC and AMC’s “The Little Drummer Girl.” Scant notes about the probable plot of “Black Widow” would have Pugh’s role be that of a rival agent to Romanov, if the movie being a prequel rings true.

Jac Schaeffer has been tapped to write the story for MCU’s “Black Widow” delving into the origins of SHIELD operative Natasha Romanov, who in her original comic book source began as a Soviet KGB agent. Florence Pugh might portray Yelena Belova, a post-Soviet Russian spy that trained in the facility that produced Romanov and also used the Black Widow moniker.

Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland will direct the movie, which might be released as part of MCU Phase 4 but with no definitive premiere date yet.

James Gunn Rehired to Direct “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

One factor for the unlikely box-office success of 2014 MCU film “Guardians of the Galaxy” can be attributed perhaps to the inspired direction of James Gunn. He was able to repeat that triumph with the 2017 sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Unfortunately, work on a “Vol. 3” was stalled by some unfortunate circumstances.

When social media in 2018 floated old tweets (2008-2012) by Gunn, filled with jokes regarding touchy subjects like rape and pedophilia, Disney cut ties with him. This action upset MCU and “Guardians” fans even as he was hired by Warner-DC to pen a script for a possible “Suicide Squad” sequel/reboot.

Ultimately however, as CNN tells it, Disney decided to take James Gunn back. On Friday, March 15, Marvel Studios has reinstated him ad director for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” a possible installment in the upcoming Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

This is great news for fans of more adventures by Star-Lord and friends. Gunn had already finished a script for “Vol. 3” before he was fired in July 2018. Disney-Marvel decided not to actively pursue a replacement director and event moved back the film’s production to 2021. Now, development could pick up from the break.

But not immediately; Gunn is already committed to working on the new “Suicide Squad” film for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. He will be resuming work on “Guardians” afterwards, though Disney has given no further comment beyond confirming Gunn’s reinstatement.

The initial axing of Gunn from Marvel Studios was met with criticism by fans and pushback from both “Guardians of the Galaxy” cast members and sympathetic celebrities. It was pointed out that the director’s old offensive tweets were recovered by ultraconservatives in retaliation for Gunn’s criticism of US President Donald Trump, and that Disney’s action was caving to political pressure.

Both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Vol. 2” combined earned Disney-Marvel a $1.6 billion take in the international box office.

Points of Discussion for Latest “Avengers: Endgame Trailer”

The Disney umbrella is busting out cinematic trailers like nobody’s business this week. Mere days after Disney Pictures itself sort of “redeemed” scary blue-skinned Will Smith by releasing a longer trailer for “Aladdin,” now we have another for their next Marvel Studios blockbuster, “Avengers: Endgame.”

While the previous teasers have focused on the current events of the MCU following “Avengers: Infinity War,” this trailer decides to dip in the past. In doing so it reminds viewers that “Endgame” is going to resolve myth elements of the first ten years of the saga, and the 21 films that came before. Let’s go list some trailer stuff that makes for good discussion.

  1. Reminders of the past: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in his last recording to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) talks of his origin story. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) recalls his “Winter Soldier” conversation with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) remembers his father Odin and his home Asgard.
  2. How did Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) go from secret agent archer to samurai-like vigilante? A seeming flashback with his daughter from “Age of Ultron” seems to be a hint; said daughter even visually resembles the second/female Hawkeye (named Kate Bishop) from the source comic books. And vigilante-Clint has a Mohawk.
  3. Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) does get out of the Quantum Realm (from “Ant-Man and the Wasp”) as seen in one of the previous teasers. He’s seeing a lot of missing posters in his neighborhood. Did something happen to his family?
  4. Steve’s recently meme-worthy line: “I keep telling everybody they should move on. Some do; but not us.” To this, Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) adds the following, “Even if there’s a small chance, we owe this to anyone who’s not in this room to try.”
  5. The surviving Avengers and other heroes prepare for their rematch against Thanos (Josh Brolin) in their own way; at least the ones on Earth are.
  6. Eventually, Tony’s own group of stranded space survivors makes it to Earth. And they go off to find Thanos wearing identical uniform spacesuits. These were spoiled in official LEGO sets.
  7. Post-titles, Thor tests Carol Danvers/Captan Marvel (Brie Larson) by summoning his Stormbreaker axe close to her head. She doesn’t react; he approves of her nerve.

“Avengers: Endgame” premieres April 26.

Planned MCU Film “Shang-Chi” Gets a Director

Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is already on the verge of being done, now that “captain Marvel” has premiered and “Avengers: Endgame” follows next month. The following “Phase 4” also has its start well in hand, as “Spider-Man: Far from Home” premieres July.

What isn’t set fully in stone yet are what other films will come out for MCU Phase 4. No less than seven specific movies have been mentioned to be in early development and only two of them (“Black Widow” and “The Eternals”) have start of filming dates mentioned. A third, “Shang-Chi,” might soon approach that level of prep now that Marvel Studios found a director.

The Hollywood Reporter has it that Destin Daniel Cretton has been picked by Marvel Studios to be at the helm for the production of “Shang-Chi.” This in-development MCU installment could become the first movie of the franchise to have an Asian main character (and lead).

Marvel Studios actually had a pool of potential directors for the film. Other directorial names that were considered before the final choice of Cretton are:

  1. Justin Tipping (“Dear White People”)
  2. Alan Yang (“Tigertail”)
  3. Deborah Chow (“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” on Netflix and “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” on Disney+)

Incidentally, Destin Daniel Cretton has worked with two MCU cast members. His current film project “Just Mercy” actually has him directing Michael B. Jordan (from “Black Panther”) and Brie “Captain Marvel” Larson herself.

The Marvel character “Shang-Chi” is a highly skilled Kung-Fu master if un-powered ordinary human, with a(n immortal) Chinese father and Caucasian mother. He has been a member of several Marvel Comics teams including the Avengers.

An interesting fact about his character history is that Shang-Chi originated from licensed properties. His first comic title came about after Marvel failed to get a license to adapt the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu.” Furthermore, his father is the stock Chinese villain Fu Manchu. A later Marvel storyline ret-cons this person into an original immortal character who only used “Fu Manchu” as an alias.

Marvel’s “Shang-Chi” already has a screenwriter with Dave Callahan (“Wonder Woman 1984”) while Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Jonathan Schwartz are executive producers. Perhaps the next step is to cast a (preferably Asian-background) lead actor.

Meanwhile, the current MCU installment “Captain Marvel” is still showing.

“Captain Marvel” Overcomes Controversy and Trolling to Make Strong Opening Weekend

The road to premiere for Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” had not been smooth. The attempts at meaningfully putting the titular character’s feminist spin from the comics in promotions have been ill-received. Online trolls retaliated by maliciously tanking the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes before it even released. But come March 8 and the following weekend, the box office positively vindicates.

Entertainment Weekly reports that “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson has established a solid beginning for its cinematic run in US and Canadian. From its Friday premiere across 4,310 theaters to Sunday, the movie has racked up $153 million, becoming the first big release of 2019.

With those numbers, the penultimate chapter of the MCU’s long-running Phase 3 is now the second-biggest debut of the franchise, trailing only behind last year’s epic “Black Panther” ($242.1 million). It’s a notable triumph for Ryan Fleck’s co-director Anna Boden, the first female in charge of an MCU film, and starring a woman to boot.

Outside North America, “Captain Marvel” made $302 million in the rest of the world for a total $455 million global first weekend. Part of that take is the first-day gross in China: $34 million, the third-biggest opening of any MCU film in the country. In a way, it proves the film can do what “Wonder Woman” did for Warner-DC in 2017, to confirm that female-led superhero films can earn big.

“Captain Marvel” sees Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a half-human half-alien superhuman agent of the Kree Empire, who must protect Earth from becoming a battleground between Kree and Skrulls. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, and Ben Mendelsohn.

New Release Date for “Maleficent” Sequel, and List of All Disney and Related Major Film Releases for 2019

If fans of Disney and its connected film studios are paying attention, they’d realize that this 2019 is turning out to be one of the most release-heavy years for the media giant in terms of movies. It’s easily shaping up to be one of their most packed schedules yet devised.

For instance, Disney has three remakes of their classic Animated Canon (two in live action, one live-action-looking). Their second-busiest filmmaking arm (Marvel Studios) matches that output. And let’s not forget new animated pictures, and “Star Wars.” If you think that’s bloated already, then apparently Disney thinks one more won’t hurt.

According to Vanity Fair, Disney’s sequel to “Maleficent,” the 2014 live-action remake (more like retelling) of “Sleeping Beauty,” has been moved earlier from its original May 2020 premiere to this coming October. Now it’s like almost every month there will be a Disney production debut.

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To better illustrate this weighty schedule, here’s a list of all Disney and related-studio films coming this 2019. Fox isn’t included for now, because as of this writing the acquisition deal isn’t even finalized yet. Only major cinematic releases count:

Disney Pictures

  1. Dumbo (March 29) – live-action remake
  2. Aladdin (May 24) – live-action remake
  3. The Lion King (July 19) – “live-action” CGI remake
  4. Jungle Cruise (July 24) – new “based on Disney theme park attraction” live-action movie
  5. Artemis Fowl (August 9) – live-action based on children’s urban fantasy adventure book series by Eoin Colfer
  6. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (October 18) – sequel to “Maleficent” (2014)

Disney Animation Studios

  1. Frozen II (November 22) – sequel to “Frozen” (2013)

Pixar

  1. Toy Story 4 (June 21) – fourth installment, following end of “trilogy” in 2010

Marvel Studios

  1. Captain Marvel (March 8) – prequel set in the 1990s
  2. Avengers: Endgame (April 26) – last part of MCU Phase 3, and “end” of overarching storyline from Phase 1
  3. Spider-Man: Far from Home (July 5) – first part of MCU Phase 4

Lucasfilm

  1. Star Wars: Episode IX (December 20) – last part of Sequel Trilogy and conclusion of Skywalker family story

That’s 12 movies in all. Starting from March, at least one will be premiering every month except for September. That’s just incredible. Disney really dominates in 2019.

List of Hollywood Stars that Almost Got Cast in the MCU

When you’re dealing with a brand company as big and long-lived as Disney, you’d know that there are many parts of its storied history where something could have happened, but never did. We once covered the subject of Disney theme parks that never got off the planning stage. Here we something else, focused on one of their subsidiaries: Marvel Studios.

Marvel Studios of course had been the filmmaking arm of Marvel Entertainment prior to acquisition by the House of Mouse. It was then spun off into an entity of its own, all the while adapting characters and stories from Marvel Comics to create the MCU.

They too have their share of “what could have been” instances. Usually that involves some Hollywood stars and celebrities that have been considered for various roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only for the canon castings to be chosen instead.

TIME made a list of some of the more prominent actors and actress who nearly became MCU regulars. Our format goes: name, most iconic or recent film/TV show, and character they almost got to portray:

  1. Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”) – auditioned to be Agent Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in “Iron Man 2;” also considered for Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in “Captain America: The First Avenger”
  2. John Krasinski (“A Quiet Place”) – Emily Blunt’s husband almost landed the role of Steve Rogers/”Captain America” (Chris Evans)
  3. Sam Rockwell (“Vice”) – well, he played Justin Hammer in “Iron Man 2;” but back when the first “Iron Man” was still in development, Rockwell was called to audition for Tony Stark by director Jon Favreau; Robert Downey Jr. got in before he did though
  4. David Duchovny (“X-Files”) – was close to being picked as the second actor to portray Bruce Banner/the Hulk after Eric Bana in the pre-MCU 2003 movie; Edward Norton was cast instead for “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
  5. Joseph Gordon Levitt (“The Dark Knight Rises”) – was offered the role of Peter Quill/Star-Lord for “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014); he instead picked the lead role in “Sin City: A Dame to Die For” and Chris Pratt was cast as Star-Lord
  6. Jason Momoa (“Aquaman”) – yes, AQUAMAN (or his actor at least) was almost part of the MCU, twice; one time he auditioned with Chris Pratt for “Guardians;” the second time was when he was invited to talks with MCU directors the Russo brothers (probably around the time of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) for an unspecified villainous role
  7. Joaquin Phoenix (“Gladiator”) – had been in talks to play the titular “Doctor Strange” before the role was awarded to Benedict Cumberbatch
  8. Timothée Chalamet (Showtime’s “Homeland”) – the young Oscar-nominated French-American actor had just the right teenage looks to be considered to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man starting from “Captain America: Civil War;” needless to say we know Tom Holland got that honor
  9. Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) – a fellow Brit like Tom Holland, and also got called in for the Peter Parker audition; Butterfield actually had an advantage over Holland due to being born and growing up in New York City itself;  ultimately he thinks Marvel chose well with Holland

Rumor also has it that Tom Cruise was approached for Tony Stark, but the actor himself has debunked that story.

List of MCU Actresses that Have Discussed an All-Female Super-Team Movie with Marvel Studios So Far

As moviegoers wait for the arrival of “Captain Marvel” in cinemas this Friday, its star Brie Larson has been talking a lot about how she sees her character and her place in the MCU’s future. In a way it jives with what Marvel Studios has been working on regarding future adaptations of comic book characters.

The studio’s CEO Kevin Feige has noted last year that at the rate of introduction, there may soon be more super-heroines in the MCU than super-heroes. With that in mind, Larson has added her own voice to the notion that a future movie in the franchise will feature a superhero team of all female members.

“I’m scared and I don’t know what the future holds either,” remarks Larson to Screen Rant at a recent “Captain Marvel” premiere press event. “We’ll see what happens…I love all the female characters so much…I’m super into an all-female Avengers movie. Yeah, I think that would just be, it would just be cool to see all of them interact together.”

She’s not the only MCU actress to have proposed such an idea. Several of them have reportedly pitched the all-female Marvel team film to Marvel Studios already. Here’s a list of the actresses who spoke for the project, and their corresponding roles in the MCU:

  1. Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) – “Thor: Ragnarok”
  2. Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/”Captain Marvel”)
  3. Zoe Saldana (Gamora) – “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies
  4. Karen Gillan (Nebula) – “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies
  5. Pom Klementieff (Mantis) – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
  6. Scarlett Johansson (Agent Romanov/Black Widow) – “Iron Man 2” and “Avengers” movies

To be fair having all these actresses in their roles, as members of the proposed all-female team, will need explaining. Not to mention that there’s still the buzz of Marvel Studios trying to find a place to fit a solo “Black Widow” movie for Johansson in the MCU schedule.

And yes, curious fans will still have to wait how “Avengers: Endgame” in April will resolve the availability of the characters above (whether they’ll survive, or if the ones who have already died can come back somehow).

One thing’s for sure, with the actors currently portraying the lead MCU characters soon to retire from the franchise after “Endgame,” Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is the most likely to front the Avengers going into Phase 4. Whether that Avengers will become all-female, or will be another team entirely, remains speculation for now.