Comic Book Movie Roundup: Doc Strange ditches Tibet, Ant-Man goes international and…Red Hulk?


Let’s face it – there are a lot of comic book movies out there these days, and they can have a tendency to dominate the conversation. With Comic Book Movie Roundup, Flixist hopes to consolidate some of the nerdy news of the last few weeks that might not warrant their own news posts (or might have fallen through the cracks) in a digestible, bite-sized format.

GENERAL ROSS WILL BE ‘MUCH DIFFERENT’ IN CIVIL WAR: In an interview with IGN, William Hurt – set to reprise his role as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross next year’s Captain America: Civil War – which offered the slightest bit of insight into how the character might fit back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Hurt, Civil War‘s Ross will be “a new version” of the character moviegoers first met in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, and that he’ll be “much different.” Hurt said he likes the change, but hasn’t “had a lot of time to understand it.”

Civil War‘s massive, ever-growing cast, Ross’ inclusion was perhaps the biggest head-scratcher. It’s part of the MCU, but The Incredible Hulk is sort of the black sheep of the family – it’s lackluster success compared to the first Iron Man and Edward Norton’s split with Marvel after the film’s release means references are kept to a minimum. After 10 movies of that, why bring back one of Hulk‘s primary antagonists? 

What’s most interesting about this little bit of news isn’t Hurt’s vague statements themselves, but the rampant fan speculation surrounding them. See, for the last few years, Thunderbolt Ross has gone under a different alias in the comics – Red Hulk. As a part of his pathological desire to destroy Banner, he turned himself into the very thing he hated – something one might call “much different.” So naturally, Hurt talking about “a new version” of his character is now has fans going crazy. Might Red Hulk find his way to the MCU? With no solo Hulk projects on the horizon and with Civil War packed to the gills with characters and villains already, it seems unlikely; then again, a few years ago Marvel fans would’ve said the same thing about Guardians of the Galaxy or even Avengers.

Watch the Japanese trailer for Marvel's Ant-Man

INTERNATIONAL ANT-MAN TRAILER HAS LOTS OF NEW, SPOILERY FOOTAGE: In a few weeks, we’ll know whether the beleaguered Ant-Man is a gamble that paid off for Marvel and whether Paul Rudd will launch a fun new franchise or if he’ll be relegated to bit parts in other characters’ movies for his whole contract. In the meantime, we’ve got one last trailer to pore over, and it’s got tons of new footage. Well, at least that’s what we’ve read. We’re avoiding this thing until the movie comes out – watch at your own risk. 

NEW SPIDER-MAN WILL FEATURE A NEW VILLAIN, A JOHN HUGHES VIBE: Kevin Feige is on record as saying the next Spider-Man movie will return Peter Parker to high school; the recent casting of youngster Tom Holland seems to bear that out. Talking to Devin Faraci of Birth. Movies. Death. during press events for Ant-Man, Feige took that a step further and compared the vibe of the new film to the greatest high school movies of all time: John Hughes.

“Just as we hadn’t seen a heist movie in a long time, or a shrinking movie in a long time, we haven’t seen a John Hughes movie in a long time,” Feige said. “Not that we can make a John Hughes movie – only John Hughes could – but we’re inspired by him, and merging that with the superhero genre in a way we haven’t done before excites us.”

In that interview, Feige also revealed that Marvel is “interested in villains we haven’t seen before.” That’s an interesting way to go – and probably the best route to take. That said, between five movies, a lot of the bigger, better-known villains have been taken off the board. Spider-Man has one of the best rogues galleries in comics, though, so there are still a bunch of baddies Marvel could use. You’ve got Mysterio, Chameleon, the Spider-Slayers, Kraven the Hunter…the list goes on. We’re voting for Hydro-Man, ourselves. 

FEIGE TEASES BLACK PANTHER’S CIVIL WAR ROLE; AVA DuVENAY MAY DIRECT SOLO FILM: Ant-Man press events lead to loose lips, it seems – again speaking with Devin Faraci, Kevin Feige discussed Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and how that character factors into next year’s Captain America: Civil War, explaining where he fits into the superhero rumble:

The reason we introduced him in Civil War is because we needed a third party. We needed fresh eyes who wasn’t embedded with the Avengers and who has a very different point of view than either Tony or Steve. We said, ‘We need somebody like Black Panther… why don’t we just use Black Panther?’ That’s how it went in the development process.

This indicates that T’Challa will play more of a mediation role rather than taking a position in the debate over superhero registration, which will divide the Avengers and pit Tony Stark against Steve Rogers. Feige also discussed why, up until now, T’Challa and the Wakandans have been relatively silent in the MCU, despite a number of earth-shattering events depicted in the movies:

 Today, pre-Civil War, post-Ultron I think he and his father are saying, ‘A bunch of vibranium just got out of here and wreaked a lot of havoc. Maybe we can’t stay behind these borders anymore, maybe we have to stick our heads out and make at least an attempt to be a part of the rest of the world right now, while at the same time protecting our people.’

Feige also implied that Black Panther will see T’Challa as a relative newcomer to the role, having inherited the mantle from his father, T’Chaka. 

Speaking of that solo outing, the rumor mill really got rolling last week when MCU Exchange reported that Ava DuVarnay had officially signed on to direct Black Panther. This follows weeks of rumormongering that the Selma director was in talks with Marvel to direct an upcoming feature, with most speculation leaning toward Black Panther or Captain Marvel. If true, this is extremely welcome news – the MCU has a desperate need for more diversity both in front of and behind the camera, and Black Panther needs a strong director if it’s going to show moviegoers why T’Challa has long been a major player in the Avengers. That said, MCU Exchange’s report comes with no attribution whatsoever, and no official announcement has been forthcoming in the days since the post went live, so take this with a huge grain of salt.

DOCTOR STRANGE WILL AVOID THAT WHOLE ‘TIBET’ PROBLEM: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original run with the Sorcerer Supreme in the pages of Strange Tales in the early 1960s is weird and trippy and insane in all the best ways, and we’re so excited to see how Marvel adapts that to the big screen with Doctor Strange. That said, the character’s origin isn’t the most…let’s say culturally sensitive. The place where Stephen Strange gains his mystical abilities – a place called Kamar-Taj, steeped in stereotypical Tibetan mysticism – was a collection of Generic Asian Caricatures common to the time, and it’s one of the those things that’s hard to look back on without some wincing.

That’s certainly true of Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One, who in the original comics was the epitome of a racist stereotype. This explains Tilda Swinton being cast in the role (although there are issues of white-washing there), which Kevin Feige discussed with, yes, Devin Faraci. Feige said that Marvel tried to approach the Ancient One as a “mantle rather than a specific person:”

The sorcerers have been around for millennia, protecting us from things we didn’t know about until this story. There have been multiple [Ancient Ones[, even if this one has been around for five hundred years, there were others. This is a mantle, and therefore felt we had leeway to cast in interesting ways.

When asked point-blank whether Tibet will play a role in the film, Feige said, “Not Tibet. Strange leaves New York in search of something and heads east.” Presumably an “east” that’s a little more realistic and more culturally sensitive than the original comics.

GUILLERMO DEL TORO LEAVES JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: Bad news for anyone who was looking forward to the film based on DC Comics’ darker and more mystical elements – Guillermo del Toro, who was attached to direct Justice League Dark, has left the project, The Hollywood Reporter revealed this week. The announcement comes as part of a larger shuffle of some edgier DC properties from Warner Bros. to New Line.

This isn’t too surprising – del Toro has a tendency to bite off more than he can chew, which leads to periodic, heartbreaking announcements when he decides its time to clear the decks a bit. Del Toro has been a fan favorite for projects like this ever since he proved he could tackle weird monster comics adaptations like this with Hellboy, so even though this could have been predicted it still stings a bit. Oh well – at least we have Pacific Rim 2 to look forward to.