It might be a little late, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have something on D23 Expo 2022 for you, TMR readers. I was fortunate to attend the D23 Expo 2022 and also have the benefit of having been able to poke around in the aftermath of D23 Expo 2022 on some of these items. The idea for this column is to run down three focal points for three different categories. I’ll run down What I Saw, What I Heard, and What I Think for TV, Film, and Games. Each section will get the same treatment and we’ll look at what we know in addition to what was revealed that day. See! I told you we had something.
MCU FILMS – What I Saw
The panel was packed with information on upcoming Marvel films, including footage we had never seen before. The biggest thing we were shown, or at least the thing that had the greatest impact on me, was a scene from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Most fans will be familiar with it by now, but I highly suggest reading my piece for BSO Entertainment where I break down the footage from that film, but I’ll summarize it below.
A panel of Western leaders is meeting to discuss Wakanda and Vibranium needling Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) about Vibranium’s potential as a weapon of mass destruction. These leaders very condescendingly tell Wakanda that they could do a lot to “improve their standing” by sharing their Vibranium with Western powers, who could use it to help enforce democracy. Of course, while French & American leaders are BS”ing Ramonda, the French DGSE (CIA) and their special forces soldiers are breaking into a Wakandan research facility to take whatever they want.
As Queen Ramonda tells this panel of leaders that she knows exactly how they think. She tells them that they see an African country with a dead leader and a dead protector holding a substance they know nothing about and is clearly superior to their own technology; in their minds, it’s the perfect time to strike and take whatever it is they want. Unfortunately for these soldiers, the door they force the Wakandan “doctors” to open actually holds the Dora Milaje, and the doctors are actually soldiers themselves.
The cocky Western leaders assure people watching the panel that they would never do that to a country that was their ally, only to see their soldiers marched in butt-ass naked by the Dora with their hands bound behind their backs, no Vibranium to show for their efforts. Once again, Wakanda proves that the Western world will act militarily no matter what, and these soldiers are proof that weapons are what they seek. Ramonda leaves the room by telling them that Vibranium isn’t the weapon of mass destruction; it’s them.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is going to be one powerful and emotional journey. The scene I told you about is on the same level as Erik Kilmonger’s quote at the end of the first film. It has a lasting effect and is sure to be one of the most talked about moments of the film. It’s another example of director Ryan Coogler rewarding the black culture that props this film up lasting moments of impact in cinema. I promise you won’t want to miss this film.
The other film we got the best look at was Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and the introduction of Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror proper in the MCU, not the variant we saw in LOKI, though they very much are the same being. This time around, Majors suffered no fools in his appearance. The clip was brief and didn’t really show much, but there was a great moment where Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang proudly says that he’s an Avenger, only for Kang to ask if he’s killed him before.
We know that Kang is absolutely going to steal the show in this film. The actors for the film came on stage to show the scene, and pretty much everyone agreed that it was unlike any Ant-Man film we’ve seen before and that Majors was a big reason why. For a character that traditionally occupies a very small corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his solo outings, this film is set to be much larger and feature a lot more by way of action, cameos, and story. From the little we were shown, it’s hard to disagree with any of the statements made at the D23 Expo 2022. That’s on top of the fact that we got official confirmation on the appearance of Hannah John-Kaman’s Ghost will return in Thunderbolts.
The last bit of film we saw was from Nia DaCosta’s upcoming MCU debut, The Marvels. We saw a scene in which Monica Rambeau, Carol Danvers, and Kamala Khan all keep trading places with each other when they use their powers. They seem to be baffled as to why and the inclusion of Kamala’s parents insisting Carol explain to them where their daughter was seemed to be a clip specifically shown to highlight the amazing Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur’s inclusion in the film.
MCU FILMS – What I Heard
For those who know me, I’ve been telling every person who will listen that Thunderbolts was going to be a centerpiece for the MCU going forward. It felt good to get that official confirmation from Marvel head Kevin Feige while also being given the full cast and antagonist. We all know there will be more surprises to come, but Julia Louis-Dreyfuss will reprise her role as Contessa Valentina Allega de Fontaine, AKA Madame Hydra. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes and will be the leader of a team composed of U.S. Agent Jon Walker, Yelena Belova, Red Guardian, Taskmaster, and the aforementioned Ghost, with all the actors responsible for the roles returning to reprise them for the new Marvel franchise.
The next announcement came related to Thunderbolts, and that was the announcement of a fourth entry in the Captain America franchise, but the first with Anthony Mackie heading the franchise. Captain America: New World Order was announced, and fans were given the surprise return of Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns, AKA The Leader, on stage at Hall D23. While Joaquin Torres and Isaiah Bradley will also return from the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Nelson’s return as Sterns got an incredible reception and deservedly so. This is one I’m incredibly excited about and think will deliver in a big way.
MCU FILMS – What I Expect
It’s hard to speculate how these films are going to do when some of them haven’t even begun filming yet, but sometimes a little knowledge of the characters and the roles they play can give you a sense of whether the film is a one-off, an idea that could become more, or a tentpole franchise. Then there’s the fourth category of Marvel films, and those are sequels for long-running franchises like Captain America or Ant-Man and the Wasp. Each one carries its own weight and expectation.
I think the project that’s going to have the hardest time generating any interest is going to be Thunderbolts. Right now, it’s listed as a film intended for theaters, but don’t be surprised if this changes as more comes and we get further removed from pandemic guidelines being enforced in most places. The franchise already has a hard time finding firm footing in print, and now it’s going to be compared to James Gunn’s Suicide Squad because the idea behind the franchises is pretty much the same and James Gunn is also an MCU director. It might not be fair, and there’s no guarantee the film will even go in the same direction, but that’s going to be the hardest part of marketing the franchise.
I also think there’s going to be pushback against Captain America: New World Order because it’s one hero officially replacing another, and that hero is black. It’s not something I think should matter at all, but people are going to use it against Mackie as a means to discredit the film, I can see it already. I bring this up now because a little space from D23 Expo 2022 has allowed us to see another black actor stepping into the role of an actor previously “played” by a white person, and Disney did so very little to defend that actor following D23 Expo 2022 that it makes me wonder if they will offer Mackie any support when the bigots turn their attention to him.
MCU TV SHOWS – What I Saw
The television side of things was a little lighter than the film side, but that doesn’t mean we were short on content. The feature show for the entire Expo was easily LOKI. Not only was merchandise for the show everywhere to be found, but it was also clear that Marvel knew they had to come packing something in the way of content. After trying to initially trick us into thinking that they brought nothing, Feige and the cast showed some footage from the show and announced that Morbius and Sofie Laufeydottir would be central characters for the second season.
The other major project on the way is Secret Invasion. This one promises us a total spy thriller featuring Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos at the center of it all. The clip we have shown features a small weenie-measuring contest between Fury and James Rhodes in a restaurant setting. Fury should be known for these contests by now, but this one was particularly memorable because it shows us the first time we ever see Fury on the back foot. In this one particular measuring contest, Fury comes up short. This time Rhodes has all the answers, and it’s Fury’s turn to listen.
We also got a look at Alaqua Cox’s upcoming show, Echo, which featured subtitles when it was shown at D23 Expo 2022. The show’s first and primary obligations are to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Native/First Nations cultures. It showed right out of the gate that those two issues would be front and center for the show, not some after-the-fact neato aspect of her character. There would be a real focus on issues surrounding access for DHH individuals and Native/First Nation struggles. But Marvel being Marvel, they couldn’t help but sneak in the return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk at the very end of the clip. Echo looks like it’s going to be a wild ride, and I always love seeing some of the lesser-known characters get their shine.
The final show we got a look at was less a show and more of a Marvel Special Presentation. That’s the official name for Marvel’s upcoming Halloween special Werewolf By Night featuring Gael Garcia Bernal. I could try to sit here for the next hour and describe the footage we were shown, but not only could I never do it justice, I don’t even know where I would begin. The best I can say is that this Special Presentation promises to pay homage to the monster horror flicks that inspired modern horror films. Director Michael Giacchino has done something incredible with this film; watch the footage below to understand what I mean.
MCU TV SHOWS – What I Heard
Marvel has a lot of ideas on the horizon, and they’re also exploring sequels to show that we’ve already seen. There’s still a possibility we’ll see a second WandaVision season, and we know that we’ll see Agatha: Coven of Chaos, previously House of Harkness, as that was one of the projects we were informed of during the presentation. This series will focus on Agatha Harkness and how she came to be, giving actress Katherine Hahn a chance to be amazing one more time.
We were also given an update on Armor Wars. We were told that the show is still in the works, and they’ll have more to share down the line. We haven’t heard much about this show since it was announced, so it was cool to finally get something on this. We weren’t given much, but we were told it’s going to surround Stark armor being released out into the public and how they deal with that.
We also got a great update and a trailer for the upcoming Ironheart series and found out that Riri Williams will be making her debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I keep saying it, but the foundation that film is going to lay for the future of Marvel cannot be understated. If you see one last Marvel film before you retire from superhero films, make it Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. You won’t regret it.
MCU TV SHOWS – What I Expect
I truly do think that the shows for Disney+ have greatly improved as they’ve progressed. LOKI truly was their first runaway hit, but they’ve since shown that they can truly do incredible things with other projects. Where Moon Knight might not have been everything people wanted, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Hawkeye have shown that they listen to criticism and know how to improve. While their animated shows really lack, I’m sure they will also catch up given enough time, creativity, and money. The way Disney+ shows are closing Phase Four is a long way away from where they began, and that’s all to their credit.
I think that Ironheart is going to be a show that grabs a ton of attention. Will the same tech crowd that helped bolster Iron Man glom onto Riri and her wonderful use of futuristic technology? One can surely hope so. This is one of the key projects for Marvel as they move forward. If they can get people on board with Riri Williams, getting them to believe in other similar variants to familiar characters might not be so difficult going forward.
The other key project was one that was mentioned but had nothing to show. It’s already been announced that Daredevil: Born Again will be on Disney+ going forward, but Charlie Cox was on hand to talk a bit about it and assured fans it would be familiar but excitingly new because they were home. They could now play around in ways they previously could only dream of with Netflix. The fanbase for this show is absolutely unreal; they have quite a bit of living up to, but the show begins with a pre-cooked fan base, and that’s a nice advantage others won’t have.
MISC – What I Saw
There wasn’t much outside of film/television for Marvel, but they did have a few surprises up their sleeve. Marvel announced their first-ever musical endeavor with a live production of Avengers: The Musical via a special performance at D23 Expo 2022. I can’t wait to go see this, and I suspect musical fans everywhere are going to have tons of fun with this production. It’s guaranteed to have a wonderful cast and a hilarious on-point budget that comes nowhere near their film budgets but somehow still delivers in every possible way. I’ve had “I Can Do This All Day” stuck in my head since the Expo.
The other big treat was the announcement of an upcoming video game from Skydance New Media. The untitled game was given a teaser trailer showing the game is set in World War II and is a narrative-based spy thriller featuring Captain American, Azurri the Black Panther (T’Challa’s grandfather), a Wakandan War Dog, and an American Howling Commando soldier. The story will unfold over the course of the game and will somehow tie all of our hero groups together by the end. It’s being directed by Amy Hennig at Skydance New Media. No name or release date was given.
MISC – What I Heard/Expect
I poked around on this one and what I was told was pretty much what everyone knows. Amy Hennig was brought over from Naughty Dog because Skydance New Media had some projects in the works, and they wanted Amy’s style of directorship to helm these projects. It’s only now that we’re finding out that in addition to the Star Wars project they brought her over for at first, there’s also a Marvel project, and it’s similar to Uncharted, too. The game is going to have a sprawling narrative that features plenty of twists and turns as the spy-thriller plot unfolds. Enemies turn out to be friends, friends turn out to be enemies. There will be incredible set pieces in the game and plenty of fan service. In other words, everything that Avengers was not. I don’t know if this game will be Game of the Year, but it should be another solid entry in the Marvel gaming world.