Tag Archives: avengers endgame

Can Marvel Crossovers Ever Escape the Infinity Saga?

Thanos threatens the cosmos once more in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.
Image: Nintendo

This month, nearly a decade to the month after the release of its predecessor, Nintendo released Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, a return to the beloved ARPG Marvel gaming series that takes comic book crossover mania to a team-based beat ‘em up conclusion. But it also serves as a reminder that…god, things were so different back when Ultimate Alliance 2 was coming out, weren’t they?

In September 2009, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still just a glimmer in Kevin Feige’s eye. We had accepted that upstart newcomers Marvel Studios might be on to something with the release of Iron Man the year prior (who would’ve thought that gamble casting Robert Downey Jr. as some B-tier comics character would pay off?), and at that point, only what is still the green-skinned stepchild of the MCU, Incredible Hulk, had joined it. The First Avenger, Thor, Iron Man 2, they had all yet to come—and above all, no one going to a movie theater outside of comic book diehards knew what an Infinity Stone was. There were murmurs of the Avengers, sure, after Samuel L. Jackson made us sit in a movie theater a little longer than we were used to (the audacity!). But Thanos? A gauntlet? Nada.

Holy hell, remember this?
Image: Activision

We also had the release of Vicarious Visions’ Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, which unlike all those lame-looking superhero movies we were being inundated with in the ‘00s, looked kind great. The follow up to a surprise 2006 hit and an adaptation of the then-recent comics event superseries Civil War, Ultimate Alliance 2 presented an intriguingly gamified take on a blockbuster storyline: Superhero vs. Superhero! Privacy vs. Protection! That Guy you kind of know from a movie but he’s weirdly even more of a giant asshole vs. that guy with a shield they’re thinking of casting Jim from The Office as!

MUA2 was an unfiltered window into the world of Marvel’s comic book output as it was directly in 2009 which, in the context of everything has happened since, becomes a fascinating time capsule to reminisce over. It was a time when X-Men and Fantastic Four icons could stand alongside the Avengers and no one would bat an eye, because that’s just what happens in comics. A time when no one knew what an Infinity Stone was. And they were Infinity Gems, if you did.

In June 2019, by contrast, we were coming off the back of the release of something as bonkers as Avengers: Endgame. Over a decade and nearly two-dozen movies, the Infinity Stones haven’t just become part of pop culture lexicon at large, they have been gathered, used, re-gathered, and re-used. Thanos lived, rose up, and now died (twice, technically!), long live Thanos. So has Tony Stark, although the large shadow he cast over the MCU that Iron Man helped create all those years ago will continue to linger without him, thanks to the indomitable legacy of Robert Downey Jr.

At last, the cinematic version of the Infinity Saga is at an end—and here stands Nintendo and Team Ninja with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Which is…a quest. To gather the Infinity Stones. And stop Thanos before he does so!

At least Proxima Midnight (and her friends, I guess) get a better due here than they did in Infinity War.
Image: Nintendo

And look, here are your familiar cinematic faces in a roster of Marvel heroes now considerably less esoteric than the one in Ultimate Alliance 2—filled with characters slightly ajar enough to be comics-inspired, but close enough to basically be the characterization of their movie counterparts. Here is the Black Order, aka Those Guys With About 10 Minutes Max of Infinity War and Endgame Screen Time, to find them! Here’s Ultron, please remember that movie that most people thought was just kind of okay! Here is Daredevil making a joke about hallway fights with other Netflix-Approved Heroes!

Here is…an ill-advised push to make the Inhumans a Thing People Care About that fails in doing exactly that! See, just like the MCU you know and love.

To be fair to Ultimate Alliance 3, it wears its inspirations on its sleeve—it does not mask its pretty direct connections to that giant movie you (and what feels like the rest of the planet) have just seen to the tune of a gabillion dollars, as if they were something worth masking in the first place. Marvel Cosmic Bullshit is just as good an excuse as any to smash all these heroes together, and smash Ultimate Alliance 3 does with an earnest abandon. It, thanks to the comics, can even go one better than the films, adding beloved comics heroes like Ms. Marvel—well, Kamala Khan, specifically, now that Carol’s had her well-earned promotion to Captain Marvel—and Spider-Gwen, alongside familiar names from the movies.

There are even X-Men characters and a whole level set at the X-Mansion! As if this game didn’t already serve as a reminder of what a long, strange decade it’s been, this marks the mutants’ first major foray back into Marvel tie-in media since that whole awkwardness with Marvel attempting to blacklist mutants and the Fantastic Four in its gaming spinoffs over a spat with Fox, who owned the movie rights for them. Well, up until the point Disney grew tired of the charade and absorbed the film studio into its giant, Mickey-ear-adorned mass earlier this year. At least we can play as Wolverine again?

They may look more like their usual appearances in the comics, but this is unequivocally an MCU-inspired lineup.
Image: Nintendo

But as fun as it is from a “I can play as Scarlet Witch and Elsa Bloodstone smashing up faceless bad guys for several hours” perspective, Ultimate Alliance 3 is still about smashing up those faceless bad guys in a saga we are now intimately, tiredly familiar with. Not just thanks to the movies, either, but because it seems like the Infinity Stones have been the catch-all reason for any Marvel crossover outside the comics lately—including other recent games like Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.

A decade in the waiting, I wish it had been bolder—to take more direct inspiration (not even necessarily like its predecessors) from a particular arc of comics, and to embrace the idea behind why we love these superheroic crossovers at all in the first place. To do something silly, and wild, and zany to match the candy-coated Spandex it otherwise revels in thanks to its thankfully-comics-inspired-aesthetic.

We have had a decade of Infinity Stones. There’s so much more Marvel can be, whether it’s on the big screen (where we’re finally getting an intriguing glimpse of such a thing), in its comics, or in games like Spider-Man, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the upcoming Avengers game, and beyond. Perhaps, after one last indulgence in this familiar well, its time to put the Infinity Gauntlet away for a good long while.


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Source: Kotaku.com

The Challenge of Making and Marketing Spider-Man: Far From Home, When No One Could Know What It Was About

Wait, what just happened? That should be the face for everything in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Photo: Sony

Spider-Man being dead wasn’t a huge problem. One would think killing the main character of a movie about year before its release would be exactly that but, for the team behind Spider-Man: Far From Home, it was not. Instead, it was just the first part of a long-in-place plan to raise the stakes for not just one movie, but at least three.

“I was one of the lucky few people who knew what was going to happen in Infinity War and Endgame a long time ago,” Far From Home director Jon Watts told io9. “So this movie was developed knowing that we would be dealing with the immediate fallout of the events of those films. It was always a part of the story but it is a little stressful knowing those kinds of spoilers and not being able to tell anyone for a really long time.”

To recap, in May 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, Peter Parker disappears from existence when Thanos uses the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the galaxy. A year later, in May 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, Peter would be brought back, only for him to witness the death of his mentor, Tony Stark. All of those events were crucial building blocks for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which was being released mere weeks after Endgame.

“Because Infinity War and Endgame had been developed over so many years and had been shooting earlier, it was pretty much set,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told io9. “So the notion of the sacrifices, of Tony, the blip, all of that was pretty well set for a long time. So we brought Amy [Pascal, producer] and Jon Watts and our writers Chris [McKenna] and Erik [Sommers] up to speed on it to start developing the movie.”

Spider-Man swinging with a few of his friends in Avengers: Endgame.
Photo: Disney

In Watts’ first Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker leaned heavily on the mentorship of Iron Man, Tony Stark. That relationship then carried over into both Avengers movies. Now though, with Tony dead, it was crucial for Far From Home to use those emotions to guide Peter, but not become too beholden to them.

“We had to deal with the events of Endgame and especially how the loss of Tony Stark is going to affect Peter,” Watts said. “But we had to also maintain the fun, high school tone we had established in Homecoming. So that was part of the challenge. But loss is such a big part of what makes Spider-Man who he is in the comics. So there was definitely a way to embrace those iconic stories from the comics and find a way to bring them to life, just in a slightly different way by using Tony’s death instead of Uncle Ben.”

So that’s how the story was conceived on the creative side, but there was also a whole other problem.

“It was always like, how are we going to market this movie?” Watts said. “How do you make the first trailer when the character is still dead?”

New suit, who dis?
Photo: Sony

The answer, according to Watts, was, “Very carefully.”

The task fell to the team at Sony, a studio Far From Home producer Amy Pascal used to run. And Pascal told io9 that, again, though you may assume it was a huge problem to market a movie with a dead main character based on an ultra-secretive mega-franchise, it wasn’t that at all. (The spoiler-free first trailer is below.)

“It wasn’t a balance at all because we knew what the story we were going to tell was from the beginning,” Pascal told io9. “Tom [Rothman, current studio head], everyone at Sony and everyone at Disney, it was something that we all did together. Obviously, it was really important to protect Endgame and not come out with anything before that movie came out. But I think it worked out great for both movies because, obviously, Endgame was great for Spidey…It worked out for everyone.”

It certainly did. There’s little doubt the shocking cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War helped drive Avengers: Endgame to become one of the highest grossing movies ever. And the momentum from that is almost certainly going to roll into Far From Home, which will be the first place the aftermath of that heroic victory will be seen and felt.

Jon Watts and Tom Holland on the set of Far From Home.
Photo: Sony

On the other hand, this movie isn’t called “Avengers: Far From Home.” While the impact of Endgame is crucial for a bunch of reasons, it couldn’t be the whole movie. It’s a movie about Spider-Man. Feige gives full credit to Watts for figuring out the perfect way to link everything in a short, sweet, Spidey way.

Some minor spoilers from the film, which opens tomorrow, follow.

“[It was] the genius of Jon Watts tapping into the great ‘A Film by Peter Parker’ at the opening of Homecoming, which brings you up to speed after [Captain America:] Civil War,” Feige said. “He was like ‘Well, this is a ton of stuff. Let’s just do the school news at the beginning that gets it out in a fun and engaging fashion but tells the audience what they need to know based on Endgame.’ And it seemed like a gift to be able to have that conceit he had established in Homecoming come in very handy post-Endgame. And, obviously, Peter Parker dealing with the loss of his mentor and he needs to step out of the shadow of that and become his own hero became the backbone of the story.”

Which leads us to Spider-Man’s new mentor, Mysterio, but that’s a story for another time.

Spider-Man Far From Home opens July 2.


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Source: Kotaku.com

That Video Game Scene In Avengers: Endgame

Ever since Tony Stark exclaimed “That man is playing Galaga!” during the first Avengers movie, gamers have been waiting for another video game reference to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Okay, not really, but Avengers: Endgame sure did give us a big video game scene, right? Let’s talk about it.

The first chunk of Endgame shows the Avengers finally confronting Thanos, who is relaxing post-victory in his new intergalactic summer home. Our heroes tell him they want the infinity stones back so they can undo the damage Thanos did, but the big purple Titan tells them that he’s already destroyed the stones. Before anyone can fully react to this horrible news, Thor swings down his axe and chops Thanos’s head off.

Then we get a “five years later” title card. None of the Avengers have been faring well in the intervening time, Thor perhaps the worst of all. He is depressed. He’s got a sizable beer belly (Chris Hemsworth is wearing an unconvincing fat suit). And he’s a gamer now. Specifically, he plays Fortnite.

Thor’s descent into depression, and his weight gain, is presented as a joke. Rocket tells him he looks like melted ice cream. In a later scene, his mother tells her son to “eat a salad,” a hollow quip that inexplicably follows an otherwise supportive pep talk. The extent of the thunder god’s downfall is also shown in his hobby of choice, which is gaming. He doesn’t fight in the real world anymore; he fights in a virtual one.

He’s not even very good at Fortnite. There’s some kid who keeps beating him. In frustration, Thor picks up his headset and screams into it that he’s “Thor, the god of thunder,” and that he could totally kick that kid’s ass in real life, if he could only find him.

Thor turning to games when he’s in a dark place, and also his unhealthy, though characteristic reaction to failure does more to illustrate his downfall than the bizarre and unfunny fat jokes ever could. I’ve turned to video games in times of defeat and depression—it’s not an uncommon panacea. It’s also a pastime that still requires you to learn how to deal with failure. This scene shows us that Thor still hasn’t figured that out.

Thor had already lost in real life by the time he confronted Thanos. Chopping off Thanos’s head presented the illusion of achievement, but not a satisfying one. Seeking a more tangible reward, Thor turned to video games. Maybe sometimes he wins. But this Endgame scene highlights a moment in which he loses, and refuses to accept that he has lost. It’s a moment that’s both funny and sad in the exact way that it needs to be.

In his real life, Thor hasn’t actually lost as much as he believes that he has. Some of the Asgardians are still alive. Valkyrie is right outside, doing the leadership work that Thor refuses to do. And the rest of the Avengers have cooked up a cockamamie plan to get the infinity stones back after all. But Thor is busy playing video games. And he can’t even do that right.

It’s too bad that this poignant scene happens in the midst of a collection of tired stereotypes of gamers: fat, lazy, surrounded by chip bags. Thor’s plotline almost manages to speak to some core truths about depression and turning to games in times of darkness, but then it whiffs the landing in favor of tired fat jokes. Still, though, it’s a lot better than that one Galaga reference.

Source: Kotaku.com