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Movie-Pitch Mondays! [Early Bird Special] Marvel Studios “Dark Reign”

Recently Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying that he believes that the Superhero genre will eventually “Go the way of the Western”. There is probably a good deal of truth to that statement. As people tire of the same old song and dance studios will be forced to make more creative, and riskier, filmmaking choices. Personally this excites me even more so than what is currently being produced because it means really niche films within this sub genre will flourish just as some storylines and characters already have begun to do so, such as “The Guardians of The Galaxy”.  Marvel in particular will have to deal with these reprecussions sooner than DC purely because they’ve been doing it longer. In turn as Marvel takes more creative risks DC will have to play ball in order to keep audiences returning in droves to see their particular spectacle over their competitors. The consumer wins yet again.

One of the storylines that I think Marvel would greatly benefit from adapting is that of the “Dark Reign” comic book event that took place in print after the fallout of Captain America and Iron Man’s “Civil War” and the “Secret Invasion” event where the shapeshifting aliens known as the Skrulls were making a move against Earth’s heroes in plain sight. As the movies have taken a slightly, and understandably, different turn with their series of events than their published predeccesors things will obviously have to be different. First and foremost Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin of Spiderman nemesis fame for all you, albiet few, uninnitiated out there) needs to be, at the very least, a presence in the new Spider Man film. He is integral to the storyline as his power play is the source of every involved hero’s problems.

What is key to this “Dark Reign” pitch is that it is not any one hero’s story, it’s just an event that is taking place within their universe. Not everyone is a part of it, but it is widespread enough to include many characters. In the comics it is Norman Osborn who unexpectedly kills the Skrull Queen at the end of the Secret invasion after Deadpool accidentally sends pivotal information to Osborn instead of Nick Fury. Osborn is then thrust into the heroic spotlight afterward as he is seen by the public as their savior, not the superheroes. He uses this public opinion advantage to garner himself power, and lots of it. He even becomes the president of The United States for a while, donning some Iron Man knock off armor to boot. This being the star spangled Iron Patriot armor, to be specific, that we’ve already seen Don Cheadle’s War Machine wear in the movies.

So, yes, as it begins it’s already a bit muddled when comparing the potential, and past, storylines. After this it gets very interesting as the core storyline involves many characters that Marvel Studios either has the rights to, or has recently gotten back from competing studios. There is a rich potential to be mined here. What we need to set this all into motion is a timetable for these movies and what needs to happen, and when, to set up this event. As far as any of us can tell the Skrull invasion probably isn’t going to be an active storyline right away, Kevin Feige has to save something for Phase four anyhow, right? (besides Kang the conqueror) So, we have to replace Osborn’s public redemption event somewhere pivotal. I’m thinking in the second half of the Infinity War movies. It doesn’t have to necessarily be Osborn that hits the kill switch to become the “hero” and save everybody, he just has to at least be seen doing some good, fighting off alien hordes, or something of that ilk. Anything that can be spun in a sensational fashion to get him positive public support. From there it’s all about his cabal of evil.

Norman Osborn starts his takeover by forming the Cabal. An alliance of powerful villains that all have ties to particular heroes, and other organizations. In the comics Osborn’s Cabal consisted of himself, Loki, Doctor Doom, Namor, The Hood, Emma Frost, and Ms. Victoria Hand. In my version, I would have his Cabal enlist the efforts of the Kingpin, Loki, The Hood, The Real Mandarin, and a few other smaller characters of use that were in both versions: namely Justin Hammer of H.A.M.M.E.R. industries and Bullseye, the assassin that never misses. In case you’re curious, yes, the real comic-book character version of the Mandarin does exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just check out the Marvel One Shot that accompanies the Thor 2 home video, “All Hail The King” that focuses on Trevor from Iron Man three in prison being interrogated by what turns out to be a representative of the real Mandarin who is furious at a pretender to the throne using his moniker openly. Fun stuff.

Norman Osborn utilizes these people as pawns in his war against the superheroes. He sends the Hood after Frank Castle (The Punisher), orders Bullseye to impersonate Hawkeye and go after Daredevil, and he utilizes a lot of energy trying to kill Spiderman, obviously. The Hood by the way is connected to Doctor Strange’s world of Mysticism, “Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Kyle Hotz and Eric Powell, The Hood first appeared in his own self-titled MAX limited series in 2002, which featured his origin, as a character who possesses a cloak and boots stolen from a Nisanti demon, which grant him invisibility and limited levitation ability, respectively….Since Bendis gained control of the character, he has not appeared with his boots, and the Nisanti demon, a tie-in to Vaughn’s Runaways series, was revealed to be a disguise for the Doctor Strange nemesis, Dormammu.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hood_(comics) ).

The excellently gritty Netflix show “Daredevil” has opened up a world of possibilities to the realm of the MCU that can be greatly utilized here. Not only will the show have evolved to the point to be near where the comics have placed Matt Murdock by this time, but it will also be another pertinent connective tie to all corners of the MCU, plus it will be great to see Charlie Cox on the big screen with everybody else, he already deserves it. Here’s the info on that, “After a group of black-clad ninjas kill a group of crooked cops and lawyers, Osborn turns his attention to the Hand and their new leader, Daredevil. Sending Bullseye out in his old suit along with H.A.M.M.E.R. agents, Bullseye and Daredevil clash. The two duel until they make it to the top of a condemned building that is about to be demolished. Bullseye announces that the building will be destroyed, but the 107 people inside refuse to leave. When Daredevil does not help the people, the building explodes and kills all of the people. Bullseye then retreats and Daredevil is shocked. It turns out later that the ninjas were led by Lady Bullseye and the Kingpin, and were used to set up Daredevil.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Reign_(comics) )

With this beyond excellent cast of villainy there obviously has to be a great counter balance. In the comics Osborn essentially blurs the playing field by confusing all of his separate opponents in tandem by utilizing their weaknesses. Loki uses Osborn’s help to make Thor kill Bor (Odin’s father), and cause Thor’s banishment. The Hood, who has an unholy alliance with Dormammu (a larger-than-life Dr. Strange villain), is made to hunt down Frank Castle and kill him. Kingpin’s resources are used as constant threats to both Spiderman and Daredevil as usual. While in this pitch version I would have the real Mandarin force a retired Tony Stark out of the shadows to face his greatest enemy yet. Black Widow, Black Panther, and Banner could all be utilized in certain scenarios as well, possibly to showcase the extent to which Osborn is willing to take things. The character that really brings it all together in the end is Spiderman/Peter Parker. Eventually he does his journalistic duties and hunts down corroborating evidence against Osborn and reveals him to be the Green Goblin to the public and thus begins Osborn’s unraveling. If Chris Evans’ Captain America is still alive by this point it would be a fitting role pairing the two together in the face of insurmountable adversity, to do the right thing. These two characters (in my opinion) best represent that superhero factor, plus it would just be a wonderful interaction between the two characters. I imagine Daredevil, Punisher, Hawkeye, Iron man to be prominent figures in this storyline as well. It is possible this could be a two-parter movie, but if there is adequate set up in a sprinkling fashion throughout the other movies, and even TV shows, first then it could be a fascinating three hour event that encompasses many of the existing Marvel Studios properties in one form or another. Which is exactly what they will need to do to keep people interested. Especially after the two part Infinity War movies.

At one point I had considered trying to tie in the Red Skull with the Cabal, and he would be an excellent addition, but I feel as though he would just be thrown in for added measure and not be as essential to the storyline. The Mandarin might also fall into this scheme, but ever since Iron Man three I’ve curiously wanted to see this character’s power and presence felt in the MCU if possible, and the studio has already made enough effort to nod and wink knowingly at fans that want the real macoy, so, obviously the character has potential to pop up sometime down the road. I recognize there are a lot of angles you could take with this pitch, but that’s sort of the beauty of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you have clashing characters, but with that comes the world colliding tonal shifts, especially when combining the likes of Spiderman and say, The Punisher. In fact if I was pressed to squeeze this idea under one title character’s name, or banner if you will, then I’d have to go with Spiderman, maybe this could be his sequel of sorts, although it does cover a lot more than just his actions. It ultimately is his villain that focuses most of the attention, and he would be the one to make the biggest move against Osborn that unravels his power scheme. If it did go this way it would have to be similar to what “Captain America 3: Civil War” is shaping up to be. A movie that has that respective main character heavily utilized, but not always being focused on. Giving up a larger role to serve the wider machinations of the story.

So, that’s my movie pitch for this week. Have any questions or comments? Feel free to bring them up in the comments section! Oh and yes, I’d be okay with that rumor of Matthew McConaughey starring as Norman Osborn, I think he’d have fun with the role, and it might challenge him in ways a single film role might not be able to do. Anyways, thanks for reading!

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