On Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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It’s obvious enough from the title, really. Marvel has announced their third phase (I love how planned this all is) of movies, including fan favourites Doctor Strange, Black Panther (who’s to be played by Chadwick Boseman), and Captain Marvel (that’s the Carol Danvers iteration, specifically).

This is a pretty big thing all on its own really – recently, DC and Warner Bros announced a rather diverse cast for their own next set of movies, and they were rightfully commended for making that step. Marvel’s now doing the same, so that means that over the next few years, superhero movies (which have got to be amongst the biggest genre of movies currently around) are going to get a lot better for representation and diversity. That is, obviously, pretty important, and generally all round pretty great.

What’s also interesting though is what this might imply for the actual future of the MCU as a whole.

I think it’s fair to say that the MCU is pretty much unprecedented as a project and an idea. The crossover between films and television, the whole idea of a shared universe – that’s completely new. Innovative, even. Personally, I think it’s brilliant; the way that Marvel has taken advantage over the connectivity between movies, and beginning to tie in TV shows with the movies, has really given a level of depth to their films and the stories they’re telling that you don’t get with straight up sequels.

But, obviously… this has to come to an end at some point. Apart from the fact that, hey, superhero films won’t be popular forever, and there’s such a thing as market saturation, the actors themselves will want to move on soon enough. Chris Evans, for example, is talking about getting out of acting and becoming a director, and Robert Downey Jr is beginning to limit his involvement somewhat as well. Now, they’re both relatively key players in the MCU, so when they do eventually move on, or get too old – “Iron Man 7, coming to cinemas near you July 2030!” – where does the franchise go?

The idea of rebooting or recasting isn’t exactly an option, although it was done with the Hulk, because of quite how established everything is – you couldn’t have, say, Johnny Depp turning up in the Iron Man suit for Avengers 6 and expect no one to notice.

Personally, I think that Marvel should actually build an end into their plans; when they reach Phase 4, they should have ‘The Last Avengers Movie’. Bring the universe to a finite close, never to be reopened; wrap up all the character arcs, and end everything. Kill off some of them, give others a happy ending, and so on and so forth. If built towards properly, it’d probably be the cinematic event of the century – the only thing that could top the first Avengers movie is the last Avengers movie.

However, this announcement does suggest that maybe that isn’t quite necessary. The majority of the characters on this list aren’t exactly in the zeitgeist – they are, if you like, C-List characters in terms of the public eye and how knowledgeable people are of them. They aren’t exactly risks though despite that. Guardians of the Galaxy proved, more or less, that the Marvel name is enough on its own now; you don’t have to have the most popular heroes.

So perhaps the future for the MCU lies in expansion, rather than closure. Maybe the way forward is to keep going through the roster, and making all sorts of different films – when the time comes for Iron Man to be retired, who says Squirrel Girl or Moon Knight can’t take his place? In ten years time, we could simply have a whole new set of Avengers, rather than none at all.

Whether that’s for the best, I’m not sure. I still like the idea of an ending.

But it’d be pretty damn impressive if they made a Squirrel Girl movie.

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The Pseudo-Science of Doctor Who

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So, In the Forest of the Night and Kill the Moon recently have both got me thinking about science and realism in Doctor Who, and to what extent something actually has to be ‘correct’ within any given episode of the show.

I mean, Doctor Who is only science fiction in the broadest of terms really – how concerned it is with the science part of science fiction is rather malleable across the fifty years of the show. I think normally people would point to the beginning of the show, or Christopher Bidmead’s episodes as evidence of a time when Doctor Who was more concerned with actual, ‘hard science’, but equally you’ve got the Daleks and Maths Priests saving the universe.

It’s probably fair to say, I think, that Doctor Who is a show that uses the trappings of science fiction to present different forms of drama, and examine aspects of society.

The question is though, of course, to what extent does it matter how accurate the scientific trappings are.

Things like the TARDIS and other original ideas get a pass, I think, because they’re part of the suspension of disbelief. You accept that because no one really has a way to argue against a time machine, or a warp drive – if the narrative says “Aliens can do this” viewers are more willing to go along with this because it’s all fictional, and that’s inbuilt into the show.

But conversely, something like the Moon being an egg isn’t going to have such an easy time of it, because people know a lot about eggs. The problems with an egg increasing in mass, or the Space Dragon laying another egg identical in size to the one it just hatched from, are relatively self-evident to a pretty large amount of the audience.

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It kinda comes down to a quote from… I think it’s Community? Anyway, it’s “That sounds wrong, but I don’t know enough about it to dispute it.” In scenarios where you can easily debunk something, or you know that the writer could have solved the issue with a quick google search, it’s far more likely to be a problem. But when there’s nothing more than a sense of “Hmm-I-don’t-know-about-this”, which is where In the Forest of the Night fell for me, I think one is more likely to go along with it, albeit with some reservations.

Equally though, how much does that matter?

For me personally at least, it depends how much I’m enjoying the actual story. I’m far more likely to give errors a pass if the plot itself is engaging – if I’m bored or disconnected from the story, I’m more likely to notice mistakes, and that’s only going to take me out of it more. (Incidentally, I think much the same of plot holes.)

And sometimes there’s moments where the incorrect science is actually better for the story than something which would be more correct – right now I’m thinking of Robot of Sherwood in particular. In a Robin Hood story, it makes sense for the resolution to relate to the firing of an arrow; the fact it doesn’t actually make scientific sense is mostly not the point, because it makes story sense.

Ultimately, of course, it is down to one’s own particular tastes. I think with simple things that can be easily fixed, then yes, the writer probably should amend it.

But to go into Doctor Who expecting rigorous scientific accuracy is probably missing the point a little bit.

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