Oh, Those Marvel-ous Walls

Last week, I went to the special IMAX presentation of Marvel’s latest TV series, The Inhumans. And, like I said in my review, I was mostly “whelmed” by the experience. Not over-, not under-, just plained whelmed. It was a perfectly serviceable superhero TV show with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. It’s not anything I’m excited about yet, but once its knocked the kinks out of its system, it could turn out all right. But as I left the theater, I had two random thoughts that I want to share.

First of all, I’m beginning to worry that perhaps superhero media has reached the point of over-saturation. Every other month, we have a new superhero movie hitting the theaters. ABC is airing two superhero shoes. Half of the CW’s programming seems to be the Berlanti-verse. I am concerned that we’re reaching the point where the whole superhero industry will collapse under its own weight.

Now if that happens, I don’t think that it will be the complete end of the superhero story as a genre. It’s sort of like what happened with the Western. For many years, that’s what dominated Hollywood, both the big and small screen. Eventually, there was so much that the general public got sick of it (and, if Stinky Pete the Prospector is to be believed, Sputnik had a large part in the genre’s demise). But it wasn’t a complete extinction, just a dialing back. After the inevitable collapse, we’ll still get superhero movies and TV shows, just at a much slower pace.

But that wasn’t the only thing that bugged me as I stepped out of the Independence AMC and mulled over the adventures of Blackbolt and his family. I think that Marvel isn’t fulfilling one of the premises that their Cinematic Universe was built upon. Marvel Studios have erected some walls that I really think need to be torn down again.

Now it might surprise some of my long-time readers to see me criticize Marvel at all. I’ve been accused of being a Marvel fanboy, especially when it comes to the debate about the MCU vs. the DCCU. Cards on the table, I’m more of a DC fanboy when you take all things into account: I prefer DC comics over Marvel, I think DC does a better job on their TV shows and their animated features. I do think that Marvel is king when it comes to the movies, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not hoping that at some point, DC will get their act together (big step forward with Wonder Woman, IMHO).

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe first got started, we were promised a gigantic, interconnected reality. The movies would be connected to the TV shows (all of them) and vice versa. And while that’s still true in theory, I don’t think they’ve put it into practice all that well.

Take Agents of SHIELD, for example. In the early seasons, there was definitely a connection. The events of Captain America: Winter Soldier saved that show by giving SHIELD an enemy to fight. It was awesome when Lady Sif dropped into the show and hey, remember how Nick Fury popped into the end of one episode? That was awesome!

But as of late, it seems like SHIELD just kind of exists in its own little world, one largely unconnected from the MCU in general. Take this last season, for example. The mystical world came crashing into the world of SHIELD in the form of the Darkhold (which, as an aside, looked so stupid! It looked more like a middle school boy’s journal than an evil book of spells).

Someone got a C for this in Home Ec.

Now I get why they went this direction: Doctor Strange was coming out in theaters and they wanted to establish that magic existed in the MCU. Fair enough. But my question is this: if this book is so nefarious and so evil, why didn’t Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme show up at some point to reclaim it? Wouldn’t it have been awesome if, at the end of the season, Dr. Strange had popped into SHIELD’s HQ and said, “Yeah, I’m going to need that book back now.”

I guess one thing that I’d like to see is more cameos from the cinematic side on the TV side. Pay Benedict Cumberbatch a hundred thousand to get dressed up in his costume and pop in for a hello. Or Tom Holland. Or someone. It’s great when they namedrop. It reminds us that everything is connected. But make it more than lip-service.

I’m also hoping that, with The Inhumans, we see crossovers with Agents of SHIELD as well. I know, Agent Coulson and company are apparently in space right now, but with these new superpowered individuals showing up in Hawaii, you’d think that SHIELD would send a few suits over to the islands to see what’s going on. Hopefully they have this in the works already, but I for one would love to see a full Inhumans/SHIELD crossover event at some point. Maybe it’s in the works already. I guess I’ll just have to tune in and see what develops.

But what’s truly problematic for me is how the Netflix series tie in (or, more exactly, don’t). Now I get that there’s a bit of a challenge here. Tonally, the Netflix series are way different than the rest of the MCU. I’m good with that. But right now, it’s almost like the Defenders are occupying their own little alternate dimension rather than being part of the MCU proper. Aside from some winking references to “The Incident” and “the green guy” and stuff like that, we don’t ever get the feeling that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and (shudder) Danny Rand are on the same stage as the Avengers and everyone else.

If they are, though, there should be more play back-and-forth. For example, given that Jessica and Luke both have powers, shouldn’t they be getting a visit from some dark-suited agents to encourage them to sign on to the Sokovia Accords? Shouldn’t someone accuse them of being an Inhuman at some point? Since Rand Enterprises is headquartered in New York, the same location as Stark’s empire, shouldn’t someone at least mention Tony? Maybe even say that he was going to drop by to see Danny or one of the Meachums?

Okay, so maybe having the rest of the MCU invade Hell’s Kitchen would be a bit too much. The tonal difference would maybe be too much to overcome. But why can’t it work the other way around. For example, earlier this year, I heard a rumor that someone from the Defenders was going to show up on Agents of SHIELD. And I started salivating, because in my mind, there was one match up that had to happen: the Punisher vs. Ghost Rider. Two embodiments of revenge, showing up at the same time? Sign me up!

Or if not that, then why not have Foggy show up to represent an Inhuman at some sort of trial? Why not have Phil Coulson ask Jessica Jones for assistance with a particularly tough case? I’m not saying that we have to put everything in a blender and hit frappe. But crossovers are always good!

And that brings us to the last kind of crossover that I’d like to see: from the TV shows to the movies.

I know, I know, I know, the logistics of this are severe and seemingly insurmountable. I fully acknowledge this fact. It’d be very difficult for the folks who wrote the upcoming Infinity Wars to include Blackbolt since, when the script for the movie was being written, the role of Blackbolt hadn’t been cast yet. The cast of a TV show can change in the interim as well, meaning that someone who died on TV could suddenly pop up in a movie.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for that kind of crossover to happen. To see what I mean, all we have to do is look at Rogue One.

The folks who made Rogue One seeded in all sorts of little Easter Eggs from the Star Wars Rebel TV show. If you watch some of the space battles closely, you can spot the Ghost (the titular rebels’ starship). One of the soldiers shouts “Karabast!” during the battle, a “curse” word that was first used on the show. And, during one scene on Yavin 4, you can even spot the rebels’ astromech Chopper rolling by:

This is the sort of cameo that Marvel could do. They probably couldn’t give a TV character a major role in a movie (as cool as that would be), but could you imagine how the Internet would explode if a keen-eyed fan spotted Luke Cage standing in the crowd of superheroes getting ready to fight Thanos in Infinity Wars? Or if, in a future movie, we saw SHIELD’s Fitzsimmons conferring with some extras in the background at Avengers’ headquarters? I’m not asking for Daredevil to partner up with Spiderman in a future film (as cool as that would be!), but if the movies acknowledged the various TV series somehow, that would be awesome too.

At this point, I’m starting to think that maybe the DCCU handled things better by keeping the TV and movie properties separate. The movies are their own reality, the Berlanti-verse another, Gotham another. It certainly makes it less complicated. But if Marvel would be willing to punch some holes in their walls, I think we could all have some major fun with it.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. And if you want to spark some debate…

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One Comment:

  1. Agree, but I think the opportunity for crossovers is over, at least between Avengers and Defenders. (That might have been cool and tonally appropriate earlier on — i.e. in Daredevil — I think.) I haven’t seen any Avengers in a long time, so maybe this new Inhumans thing might be able to deliver on some of what Avengers failed to deliver?

    Defenders has its own very good mythology, and the connections between the Hand/K’un Lun mythos and the Guardians of the Galaxy verse seems pretty shaky. I’d rather believe in each of these mythologies on their own terms, and sweep their connection under the rug.

    And I guess that these properties probably have different fanbases. Me, for instance. The Defenders micro-franchise is pretty much the only thing in mainstream entertainment I’ve been following.

    To be honest, I haven’t seen Jessica Jones or Luke Cage either. So, in case that invalidates my opinion, I’ll just leave saying that I appreciate these reviews, very interesting, thanks.

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