At Comic-Con on Saturday evening, Chris Hardwick, who also moderated the DCEU’s panel earlier in the day, welcomed Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to the Hall H stage, but not before an extended video introduction in which Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Michael Peña (a key member of Ant-Man’s crew, Luis) give a cursory glimpse of every MCU film so far—overtly avoiding The Incredible Hulk (“I actually never saw The Hulk,” admits Rudd) and completely skipping Iron Man 2 altogether. It was hard to tell if a joke confusing Citizen Kane with Citizen Ruth landed amidst the constant din of the audience’s elation.
The lengthy intro, turning the camera to reveal that Rudd and Peña were actually explaining the plot to someone rather than to an audience who knows full well what’s up, in its last moments emerged as a back-door big casting announcement for Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel: Michelle Pfeiffer will play Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp and wife to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).
Flashes of unfinished teaser footage from the film offered up a whole lot of Giant-Man since his introduction in Civil War, joined by the Wasp as the two use their size-shifting abilities to upend SUVs or otherwise obliterate engine blocks. (Is it just me or is there is a lot of car flipping in the MCU?). One shot in particular seems to have taken a cue from Steven Spielberg’s The B.F.G. in Giant-Man’s attempt to hide in plain sight behind a building.
Feige then filled in a few more details: Laurence Fishburne is set to play Dr. Bill Foster, in the comics a colleague of Hank Pym’s who used Pym particles to become Black Goliath. Randall Park will be Agent Jimmy Woo, (presumably) a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who may or may not be linked to Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), and Hannah John-Kamen will be Ghost, the film’s potential villain.
Feige also updated what he could of 2019’s Captain Marvel, to be helmed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Sugar, Mississippi Grind): It will be set in the ’90s, before Iron Man, and will feature a two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). More potentially cataclysmic, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who will supposedly be the most powerful hero the MCU’s ever seen, finds her foes in the Skrulls, a shapeshifting race which, at least in the comics, provided a threat equal to Thanos. Some concept art didn’t offer much in the way of the tone of the film—Larson looks formidable, rendered in muddy, ochre hues—but the Skrulls seem to be relatively faithful to their comic depictions.
No news on whether or not that means FOX is finally giving up on the Fantastic Four (as the Skrulls are popularly linked to that team), though Noah Hawley also announced at Comic-Con that he’ll be in charge of the studio’s new Doctor Doom flick.
With that business out of the way, Feige signaled to the whole cast of Thor: Ragnarok to come on stage, demonstrating that, yes pretty much, Marvel brought the whole cast. This meant director Taika Waititi, Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk, who Ruffalo revealed and the new trailer later confirmed, will finally get to talk in a Phil-Hartman-as-Frankenstein’s-Monster-type diction), Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Karl Urban (Skurge) and Rachel House (an actress Waititi described as “amazing,” someone he’s included in almost every one of his films) as an assistant to Grandmaster.
The problem with any panel as star-saturated as this is that certifiable geniuses like Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum have very little time to say much of anything, even if it’s only to describe their character, as Goldblum did.
Cue very Jeff Goldblum voice:
Yes I’m the Collector’s brother, Benicio Del Toro…uh uh…we’re very old, we were, we were, uh, we’re Elders of the Universe, we came about shortly after the Big Bang…Yeah, we’re the oldest living creatures in the universe, yeah, oldest living, uh, race, they call us, I think, we were here shortly after the Big Bang, Grandmaster, and, um, my brother the Collector that’s right..heh heh…and now I rule on this planet Sakaar and put together games, mostly, games…I love games…and uh fighting games, and I put together, I don’t want to give anything away, but the great, great match between Hulk and the new Thor, for your entertainment…
By “new” Thor he might mean one shorn of his golden tresses. Meanwhile, the rest of the panel proceeded accordingly: Hiddleston did that thing he always does, which is to tell a long and seemingly complex story that goes absolutely nowhere, or maybe it did, I don’t know, because at some point during all of this stimuli your brain just sort of shuts down and allows all bloodflow to your sensory organs only. And Karl Urban—more than one “Dredd!” issued from the audience—stoked the ancient feud between New Zealanders (Urban, Waititi and House) and Australians (Hemsworth).
Though there was nothing much but love on the stage, Waititi joked that he came on board the franchise when he noticed that Hemsworth was “a friend in need,” inevitably pretending to make out with Hemsworth, to which Hardwick screamed, as if the phrase had been gestating in his brain for millennia, “MAKE BABIES.”
Waititi, who, like many superhero directors lately, made the big budget leap from small, independent features to a tentpole, described his approach as a process of compartmentalizing, keeping his shit together by knowing that, whether there are five or 50 people behind you, all that matters is within the relatively small confines of the screen.
And if the footage we were shown was any indication, Thor: Ragnarok is going to be a blown-out, beautiful, hilarious piece of pop art, anchored by obsessively odd characters and the same kind of borderline improvisational wit Waititi so comfortable wielded in What We Do in the Shadows.
In the exclusive couple of minutes, Thor, hammer-less, travels via 2001-esque hyper-dimensional tunnel (replete with soothing Siri voice) to Sakaar, where he’s brought before the Grandmaster by Valkyrie, who knows she’s owed some serious moola for nabbing such a contender. House’s character can barely contain her disdain for Valkyrie, tension which Goldblum navigates with the same kind of happy aloofness that we’ve come to expect form the actor, explaining—or not?—that Thor will compete in the aforementioned games against their reigning champion. Thor is then brought to his prison quarters, where he meets another prisoner warrior, Korg (Waititi in motion capture), a congenial rock man who doesn’t have much hope for Thor against the champion. We know from the trailers that champion is Bruce Banner; Ruffalo clarified that the Hulk has refused for some time to return back to his Bruce Banner-y form, instead satisfied by his newfound fame and power on Sakaar.
The scene then smoothly transitioned into a premiere of the brand new trailer:
Not that we had any reason to expect any less, but what we were shown was all so joyous and hammy and blissfully colorful, one can’t help but watch stuff like this and know exactly why the DCEU seems to always be sourly lagging behind the MCU, even with Wonder Woman’s well-earned success.
Stage emptied, Hardwick refilled it with another onslaught of gorgeous, talented people in the cast of Black Panther: director Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Daniel Kaluuya (Hardwick took some time to compliment him profusely on his role in Get Out), Forest Whitaker (who suffered the same fate as Blanchett, by just being there and being great and not having much to say), Letitia Wright (Shuri, “the technological wiz of Wakanda”), Winston Duke (M’Baku) and Andy Serkis (not in motion capture, yet still somehow totally transformed as the psychotic Klaw, first introduced in Age of Ultron). The crowd, nerds one and all, chanted, “Andy, Andy,” because Serkis is having a hell of a year. Will his directorial debut will carry the same poindexter cache? No.
“This comic book in particular…means everything to me,” Coogler said, remembering his childhood love for the medium. “As I got older I wanted to find a comic character who looked like I did.” He went on to detail what was important to him to capture in the film:
The best thing about the comic book was that T’Challa was someone who got his power from the people around him, from his history—and history is something that’s incredibly important to me and my family…incredibly important to African culture.
Danai Gurira (known for playing Michonne on The Walking Dead) characterized Okoye as a super-spy of sorts, tasked with both protecting Wakanda’s secrets from the outside world and obtaining the secrets of what the outside world has to offer, if anything, to make sure Wakanda stays on top.
What I love about her is that it’s all connected to the fact that this woman is here for her love for her nation, for her people, and the beauty of Wakanda is that it is this place that is the most successful, the most advanced nation…and it’s on the CONTINENT!
Upon Gurira’s proclamation, the crowd went wild.
Next came brand new footage that even the cast hadn’t seen yet, a quick action set-piece in a seemingly illicit casino where T’Challa and his retinue of guards, the Dora Milaje (Nakia and Okoye), attempt to intercept Klaw in the midst of a vibranium deal with Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross. The deal is of course interrupted by a scuffle between Okoye and some thugs, Klaw basically opening fire on the crowd in order to escape. He’s caught by a staircase-leaping T’Challa, who violently discovers that Klaw’s got some heavy firepower literally hidden up his sleeve—as well as in his fake arm.
One thing the scene made clear: Holy shit can Ryan Coogler direct an action scene. More than just mine an intuitive sense of momentum, especially in an otherwise confusing room where a lot of chaos is unfolding at once, Coogler knows how to keep his physical space cogent, so that when T’Challa bounds after Klaw, you understand where everyone is in the room and the ways in which action—hand-to-hand or otherwise—has consequences. Cause and effect: maybe an obvious idea, but one that so many action directors fumble.
The scene switched immediately into a new trailer (which apparently Marvel doesn’t plan on releasing yet, as opposed to that of Ragnarok), offering more of what you already know: T’Challa becomes king in the wake of his father’s death in Civil War, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger doesn’t think that T’Challa is ruling correctly, the Blank Panther suit is a nano-tech wonder, a whole lot of cars flip through the air, Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” kicks in (“I got loyalty / Got royalty / Inside my DNA”), the audience pees their pants in ecstasy and Coogler undoubtedly has a hit on his hands.
Ant-Man and the Wasp premieres in July 2018, Captain Marvel sometime in 2019 between the third and fourth Avengers movies, Thor: Ragnarok in November and Black Panther comes out next February.