Allen Christian on the expansion of the MCU on Disney’s upcoming streaming service…
More than a year ago at this point, Disney announced the coming of its own streaming service. Little is known about the service apart from some vague ideas of planned programming based on current Disney properties (including a host of baffling film remakes and a series based on High Fidelity), that Disney wants to price the service below the cost of Netflix, and that the planned launch is sometime in late 2019. We also know that Disney has been winding down its deals with other streaming services, specifically Netflix.
Recently, we learned that Disney has tapped Jungle Book and Iron Man director Jon Favreau to develop a new Star Wars series for the upcoming service. Unsurprisingly, it seems that they are looking to capitalize on their Marvel properties as well, but in an unconventional way. In a report earlier this week, we learned that a wave of television series involving minor and supporting MCU characters such as Loki and Scarlet Witch will be coming to the service. These plans directly involve the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and seek to maintain the already established cast of the expansive film series, thus they will fall under the jurisdiction of Kevin Feige’s Marvel Studios, and not Jeph Loeb’s Marvel Television branch.
If you don’t quite understand the difference, the short version is that in late 2015, Feige essentially staged a coup that brought Marvel Studios directly under the control of Walt Disney Studios, and out from the notoriously miserly control of Ike Perlmutter’s Marvel Entertainment, where the television and animation divisions would remain. If you’ve wondered why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Netflix shows seem to have distanced themselves from the greater MCU over the past couple of years, there’s your answer.
While that is certainly old news, it is fairly essential in understanding why this is a somewhat strange move. While reports sound as if these will be more limited miniseries type events than ongoing concerns, it still appears to be widening the gap between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television, and raises more questions than it answers about the future of Marvel TV and its product.
Where does this leave the Netflix shows? Are they to remain with Netflix, which Disney’s Bob Iger claims to be winding down licensing deals with? It’s important to note that those statements pertain entirely to Disney properties that are licensed to the service after the fact, and not those produced in conjunction with the service. According to a quote from Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos on Deadline earlier this year, shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage are owned by Netflix and can be produced for the platform for a very long time to come.
That aside, the prospect for the hands-on hypercontinuity we were sold and expecting from those previous television offerings seems to have been given new life on the upcoming Disney digital platform. While it seems unlikely that we will see much, if any, of the headlining MCU characters in these series, the ability to tell unconventional stories with a handful of fan-favorites, and the ability to actually interweave plot lines between film and serialized live-action opens up the potential of the MCU in a big way.
Aside from the aforementioned Loki and Scarlet Witch properties, and given that many of the B and C-tier heroes are already locked up over on Netflix, what other characters does that leave for the streaming service to tap? Let’s have a look…
Long has there been talk of a new Hulk television series tying in with the MCU. With the lackluster performance of both of the Jade Giant’s cinematic outings, and given the complicated rights issues the solo cinematic rights are tied up in with Universal, a TV series has seemed like the perfect choice for a long time. Now, it’s unclear where the television rights lie, but all mentions of the rights being with Universal have referred specifically to theatrical films. The likely reason the shows hasn’t moved forward despite being bantered about as far back as the beginning of the Marvel Television division probably had a lot to do with the breakdown between Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment. With this new avenue open, it’s very possible that the MCU can side-step both the inter-company turmoil and the messy rights issues and finally provide us with a solo story featuring Mark Ruffalo in the starring role.
Long discussed as a prospect for a Netflix series, and even more recently discussed as a possibility for a film adaptation, Moon Knight isn’t exactly a heavy hitter and might fit more comfortably on the smaller screen.
This one might be a little bit more of a stretch, but hear me out. Tony Stark hasn’t been the only person to suit up. He’s not even the only person to suit up in the MCU. With the very real possibility the Robert Downey, Jr. will not be returning to the role post-Avengers 4, there is a very real possibility that Marvel might want to slip the criminally under used Don Cheadle into the red and gold, just as his character James “Rhodey” Rhodes did in the 80s. It’s also possible that this is an avenue that could introduce us to the character of Riri Williams, Tony Stark’s protégé who takes on the mantle of Ironheart.
Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
While we’re on the subject of protégés, Spider-Man: Homecoming has already introduced us to Aaron Davis (played by Donald Glover), the uncle of Miles Morales who references that his nephew lives in the neighborhood. While it would likely be a better idea to save all of this material for the films, Marvel might find the prospect of introducing the character and detailing his origins in a miniseries to be an alluring concept.
The Marvel mutants are pretty much a universe unto themselves. It’s hard to guess at what plans Marvel Studios have in store as they bring the X-Men into the fold, but it seems inevitable that the expansive X-titles will see some small screen representation as they are fleshed out in the MCU.
With the Fantastic Four properties reverting back to Marvel along with the X-Men in Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox, the bundled-in rights to the Silver Surfer fall back into Marvel’s lap as well. The Silver Surfer is a very well-known character for Marvel, and a multi-part cosmic odyssey might be just the thing for him. Perhaps a detailed account of his origins to accompany a film where the Fantastic Four encounter the Surfer as the herald of Galactus, and then a continuing series detailing his torment of being stranded on earth. Of course, we’d have to hope that the creators looked more to the material by Jim Starlin, or more recently by Dan Slott and Mike Allred, as Stan Lee’s original 18-issue run was cancelled for a very good reason.
This one might just be a pipe dream on my part, but with the Fantastic Four, and thus the Thing back in the hands of Marvel, adapting the old team-up comic book into a team-up series featuring Ben Grimm and a revolving door of other Marvel characters, maybe even including some of the A-list heavy hitters could be an absolute homerun.
What do you think? What characters would you like to see get their own series? What Marvel plot lines have you always wanted to see that just never seemed quite suited for the big screen? Sound off in the comments below!
Allen Christian – @FourColorFilm