Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Infinity Stones are Paperweights: How actually will MCU's future be like?

One more time, MCU's writers have just simply proved to what extent screenwriting can go to do wonders. Marvel Studios has set a legacy of 12 years. And over this period of time, the films in the franchise have set the bars high in terms of defining their world. This includes how powerful, significant or crucial any character in it. When Tony Stark/Iron-Man was declared as the alpha male of the entire universe, by the final sacrifice he makes for the greater good, it was evident that there could not be anything to overdo that. This is where I wondered how the creators would manage to pull off a better future over the existing epic past.

But MCU, apparently, found a successor to this alpha male through Spider-Man: Far From Home. The film was actually a mirror image of 2008 Iron-Man which was the very inception of the universe. In a world that hasn't witnessed any superhero save the day, Iron-Man became the hope for humanity. Captain America, Thor, Captain Marvel, who were in the universe before Tony, joined the club only after Tony exposed his identity via the iconic line 'I'm Iron-Man'.

Now when we look at Spider-Man: FFH, the storyline starts after the death of Tony, post blip. Now the world again is stocked out of superheroes. Peter is told Thor is off the radar, Captain Marvel is out of the world and he becomes the only hope, just like Tony. So, Peter has to step up. But he's not ready yet. Even in Iron-Man, Tony wasn't in the zone of saving the world initially. But he is subjected to pain. He gets cornered and has no other go than to become Iron-Man, in a cave. So is Peter, who wants to enjoy his trip, propose MJ and lead a normal life. Eventually, he gets cornered in Europe where he has no other go but to fight back the catastrophe.

In both films, the protagonists experience betrayal. One from, a long-term friend and colleague. While the other is cheated by a mentor figure (can't spoil). And finally, the films end with a revelation. The world gets to know Tony is Iron-Man and Peter is Spidey. Since this kind of revelation is very unusual for a Spider-Man film, the makers played a little trick. When one wants to replace an iconic character played by a legendary actor, there needs to be a lot of adroitness. So, the whole Spider-Man sequel was built on Tony's legacy. Peter is mourning Stark's death, Happy is standing by him, EDITH is passed to him, the villain originates from Tony's past and in the centre of it, Peter becomes Tony himself. So the audience is convinced by the succession plan of the writers.

Similarly, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier did something in the franchise. It's very well-known that the character Sam Wilson/Falcon grew in the shadow of Steve Rogers/Captain America ever since he was introduced in Captain America: Winter Soldier(2014). However, the unpopular opinion is that the same happened with Anthony Mackie who played as the prime sidekick of Cap, donned by Chris Evans. It was in 2011 Captain America made his debut in 'The First Avenger'. It's been 10 years since Chris has earned a star value through the iconic Super Soldier role.

In these ten years, Steve got to fight crime, fall in love, fail the same, lose his best friend, then find him after 70 years, fight him, change him, reunite with him, find a loyal sidekick, head Avengers, encounter a break-up in the team, fight with his own former-colleagues/friends and finally head a whole lot of superheroes from across the universe to beat a Supervillain. Steve's character arc and how Chris managed to carry it over a decade has been so intense.

When he finally hands over his symbol, the Shield, to Sam, it organically creates pressure on Falcon and the actor who plays it, Anthony. I really wondered, how Anthony would summon the star value of Chris for making Falcon the next Cap. Here's where writers of 'The Falcon and The Winter Soldier' made it a cakewalk for him.

I really love the way, Sam Wilson's character being explored and given depth in the series which makes me root for him completely. Though there are external factors like 'advantage Marvel' and the irritable New-Captain-America-John-Walker who makes Sam look even better, the makers have been even more careful in developing Sam Wilson as the undeniable successor of Steve Rogers. And I should say, Anthony has put his heart and soul into adding life to the writing. Looking forward to seeing more of him and why not, hear an 'Avengers Assemble' war cry from him in the franchise's future.

With that, the writers have ticked two checkboxes, Iron-Man and Cap. Now Thor is the only character left, from the supreme-trio of the MCU, and he's going to stay around in the franchise for some more time. Apart from that, we have She-Hulk, Hawkeye to carry forward the image of two others from the original six Avengers. And, as far as Black Widow is concerned, her stand-alone film is expected to show how her legacy is about to evolve in the universe. So succession plan is done.

However, a succession plan isn't just enough to match the epicness of the Infinity Saga. There was a super-villain who was after the infinity stones which is considered to be the most powerful singularities in the universe. And MCU has already exploited the potential of the stones in various films and we have seen enough of it. So there isn't going to be any more excitement in that arena. This is should have been the most exigent expectation from the creators. What next?

I infer this is the sole purpose of the Wanda-Vision and Loki series. On the one hand, both Wanda and Vision got their power from Mind Stone, while Loki, otherwise, was after the Tesseract (Space Stone). In the former series, we saw the true background of how Wanda got her power. It wasn't through the stone, but she had natural strengths, like a mutant. 

In fact, in the X-Men universe, she is a mutant. Likewise, we also saw a new upgraded version of Vision that exists without the stone, also is as powerful as the earlier Vision. Now both these powerful beings are going to evolve even more powerful without the stones (can't spoil).

Likewise, in Loki, the Tesseract-obsessed-protagonist is pushed into a phase of realisation where he is told the power of Infinity Stones isn't something that really matters. They're just paperweights in a Precrime organisation. I see this as a spiffing way to nullify everything that was established as a legacy and reboot something that is going to be greater than that. 

There are mightier superheroes like the Eternals, mightier villains than Thanos, to be revealed. And all MCU relies now upon is on its writers to take up this crucial task and do it elegantly. I'm just waiting to take more of this and get more excited.

- Santhosh Mathevan,

Chennai, June 15, 2021

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