For fans of all things geek, the centerpiece of the yearly celebration at San Diego Comic-Con International has become the Marvel Studios presentation held late on Saturday in the cavernous Hall H.
In the 11 years since the then-nascent film studio presented its first film — the 2008 release Iron Man — at Comic-Con 2006, its Comic-Con presentation has become a must-attend event for Comic-Con attendees.
It’s where the Avengers were first unveiled (along with director Joss Whedon) in 2010. It’s where producer Kevin Feige and director James Gunn surprised everyone with an incredibly early look at 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy a few days into its shoot back in 2013. And it’s where Brie Larson was announced as Captain Marvel, the studio’s first woman superhero to headline her own film, in 2016.
In 2017, it might have seemed as though the studio didn’t have a ton to reveal. Its upcoming slate is pretty set in stone, with little room to add new films. But that didn’t mean Marvel forgot to bring Hall H fans their annual gifts.
Here are five big presents Marvel unwrapped to the ecstatic “oohs” and “ahhs” of the assembled faithful.
1) Michelle Pfeiffer is playing a legendary Marvel superhero
After 2015’s Ant-Man did everything it could do to hide the face of Janet Van Dyne — the first woman to wear the suit of the Wasp (and, consequently, a hugely important figure in Marvel’s superhero history) — it’s been clear the studio was hoping to cast an A-lister to star alongside Michael Douglas, who plays the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. (The films also star Paul Rudd as the current Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as the woman who will become the Wasp in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.)
What was sneaky about this announcement was that Marvel unveiled this biggest surprise at the very beginning of its presentation, with Rudd and Ant-Man co-star Michael Peña riffing on the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — only to reveal it was all information they’d been sharing with their newest costar, Michelle Pfeiffer, who will step into Janet’s estimable shoes.
Though Ant-Man and the Wasp has just begun filming, Marvel also brought a full suite of concept art and a few finished shots to Comic-Con (including one of a giant Ant-Man peeking out from behind a building). The studio also revealed that Randall Park and Laurence Fishburne will be playing Jimmy Woo and Dr. Bill Foster, respectively. Bill Foster, in particular, is a hero known as Black Goliath in Marvel’s canon. It remains to be seen whether Fishburne will step into that role as well.
2) Captain Marvel is a period piece
The ‘90s are hot right now, as are films about woman superheroes set in the past (thanks, Wonder Woman!). So why not combine the two and set Captain Marvel, which won’t be out until 2019, in the ‘90s? Who wouldn’t want to see Carol Danvers feeling bummed as the music of Stone Temple Pilots plays?
Feige revealed only a very little bit about the upcoming Captain Marvel film, which hasn’t even started shooting yet and only recently acquired its directors (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the indie auteurs behind movies like Half Nelson). But flashing back to the ‘90s will allow Carol to hang out with a version of Nick Fury with two eyes, so Samuel L. Jackson won’t have to wear that eyepatch all the time.
Oh, and the villains in the film? They’ll be the Skrulls, alien impersonators from outer space who played an important role in the Marvel crossover Secret Invasion, which is hotly rumored to play into the still-untitled Avengers 4, which is slated for release in 2019. The presence of the Skrulls in Captain Marvel suggests that may well be the case.
3) Thor: Ragnarok looks like a hoot and a half
The common criticism of Marvel Studios is that its overarching mission — make a whole bunch of films that occupy the same universe and that can feature crossovers and plot twists that impact other movies — means that filmmakers aren’t allowed to put much of a personal stamp on the company’s films. And, uh, that’s not an unfair criticism, really. The studio’s movies are pretty cookie-cutter.
But Marvel sure seems like it’s trying to shake this criticism. It’s given James Gunn pretty much free rein over the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and for November’s Thor: Ragnarok, it’s recruited the quirky but brilliant Kiwi director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) and an eclectic cast that seems more like it belongs in an Oscar hopeful than a Thor movie. (It includes Marvel newcomers Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and up-and-comer Tessa Thompson, for God’s sake.)
The footage Marvel screened during its panel — including a lengthy sequence where Thor first meets Goldblum’s character (with a terrific reference to, of all things, “World of Imagination” from Willy Wonka), followed by his first encounter with a soft-voiced rock monster who helps Thor understand the gladiator planet he’s landed on — was met with laughs, as was the film’s newest trailer (embedded above), which promised epic grandeur but with a thumb of the nose. That tone has gotten the sometimes-too-jokey Marvel in trouble before, but it’s also right where Waititi lives. Here’s hoping he delivers on all of this promise.
4) Black Panther looks so, so, so cool
Maybe I’m biased because Black Panther is filled with so many of my favorite actors and is directed by the hugely promising young director Ryan Coogler (who made the very good Fruitvale Station in 2013 and the excellent Creed in 2015). Maybe I’m biased because it looks like it’s going to be a James Bond-style spy thriller (one of my favorite genres). Maybe I’m just biased because Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead’s Michonne) fights a bunch of people with a giant spear. But Black Panther’s footage was so good it overshadowed nearly everything else that happened during the panel.
The footage focused on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the Black Panther himself, as he and his friends enter a casino to watch over a trade between characters played by Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman (both Marvel vets). It featured everything from Gurira whipping off her wig and hurling it at a guy in the middle of a fight to Boseman, cat-like, springing between pieces of tumbling furniture to give chase to the bad guys.
That it was followed by a trailer that had plenty of scenes in common with the earlier trailer, but also teased some bigger, bolder action beats (mostly involving Gurira and her spear), only made it seem all the more impressive. Black Panther doesn’t come out until February 2018, but it seems like Coogler and company have the bones of something very good indeed.
5) Avengers: Infinity War looks huge
Arriving in May 2018, Avengers: Infinity War is going to be the biggest Marvel production yet, featuring basically every major character the studio has introduced over its 10-year history so far.
That’s so many characters to service in one movie, and when you consider how overstuffed 2015’s Age of Ultron (a movie I really like) could feel, there’s certainly reason to feel concerned.
But Infinity War still looks massive. The trailer concludes with Thanos — the big bad guy that everything has been building toward — throwing a moon at our heroes. It features Thor colliding against the windshield of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s spaceship. It has Doctor Strange throwing up magical platforms so Star-Lord can run atop them, firing his blaster at the enemy. (And, yes, if you’ve read accounts of the footage screened from this movie at D23 — Disney’s pseudo Comic-Con for Disney properties held the week before Comic-Con — it sure sounds like this was the same exact trailer.)
But Marvel is certainly behaving as if Infinity War is the culmination of everything it’s done so far. The panel featured two separate ruminations over the company’s almost-decade of released films, first with Rudd and Peña at the beginning, and again before the Infinity War footage. And the sheer scale of everything shown — from Infinity War right down to the beard on Captain America’s face — screams, “SERIES FINALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!”
Of course, we know Marvel will keep making movies after Infinity War — but to watch the footage from the film, you might second guess as much.