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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 4 October 2013

Marvel Phase 3: Tahiti is a Magical Place

So what is up with Phil Coulson?
He's stabbed through the heart, then he's starring in Agents of Shield, with the only explanation as to what happened in between is reference to Tahiti as "a magical place" to recover in.  
If you care at all about the character - and thanks to a brilliant portrayal by Greg Clarkson and some great writing (in no small part thanks to Joss Whedon), people DO care about him.  We want to know what happened.

We'll get to Phil in a second; first (and related) let's step back and look at Marvel's cinematic strategy for a bit.

Marvel has cleverly built their rollout around phases designed to slowly reel audiences into the Marvel Universe.  It's a complex place, that universe, with imaginary countries, aliens, sentient robots time travel, parallel timelines, etc.  But it also has more relatable street-heroes like The Punisher.

The phased-in strategy makes that reeling an organic process.

PHASE 1: A Realistic Entry
 To hook audiences, Marvel started their film odyssey off with Iron Man - a rich guy with cool toys that more-or-less makes sense in our world.  They also had Captain America, a hero whose powers are muted (there's really nothing he can do that Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford haven't done while playing John McClane or Indiana Jones); his stand-out strengths are his humility and leadership skills.  We admire the guy - we feel comfortable following him on his journey.  Let's hope Cap just doesn't jump the shark while Nuking the fridge.

 Phase 1 also introduced Thor - an alien/god who went through a very archtypical journey from Arrogant Bully to Empathetic Leader.  It's a story everyone knows and is comfortable with; given the real-world experiences Thor went through, we can relate to him, too.  Cleverly, there was a reference in Thor to magic and science being "one and the same" in his world.

Phase 1 culminated in The Avengers, which saw Captain America forced to come to terms with a strange new world in much the same way that Marvel's audiences are.  The film ended with a huge battle between Heroes and Aliens and introducing Thanos as the Big Bad, officially transitioning into Phase 2.

PHASE 2 - Going Sci-Fi

Now that the wall between our world and the sci-fi one has been broken, Marvel is starting to fill in the extra-terrestrial part of the map for us, notably with Guardians of the Galaxy which will use a Captain America-like character to organically guide us into that space, too.  Marvel's got a lot riding on GOTG, because if it isn't that successful they'll have a harder time pushing other sci-fi properties forward.
 Thor: The Dark World will also help with this, though, as it brings an even stronger sci-fi presence to earth than did his first outing.  If you're a fan of the shared universe Marvel has created, you're going to want to see how all the threads connect; more lines simply provide more hooks.

We know that Phase 2 will end with Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron, which is another sci-fi related theme; a sentient robot (possibly an evolution of Iron Man's Jarvis program) will threaten the world with The Avengers saving the day.  How Thanos will fit in to the picture leading towards an Avengers 3 confrontation remains to be seen.

But what of Phase 3?  If it's to have a unique theme and pull back the curtain on an even more fantastical Marvel realm than the last phase, what could it be?

PHASE 3: Tahiti is a Magical Place

Marvel has a whole world of magic to explore as well.  It's a bit of a stretch for American Ganster-loving audiences to go that far without a bridge, but bridging worlds in Easter-Egg like fashion has been a hallmark of Marvel's strategy.
There's been lots of talk around a Dr. Strange movie - a big character in Marvel but a hard one to deliver in a way that has mass appeal.  If there's a subtle transition from sci-fi to fantasy, though, audiences will have an easier time following through.

Which brings us back to Coulson.

We already know that SHIELD has a jump on the general public when it comes to what's going on in the world - there are countless references to that fact in all of Marvel's properties.  We also know that not every SHIELD agent is in on the Big Picture - they have to get to Level 7 to see how many of the sci-fi pieces connect.

Yet when Maria Hill and Sheppard Book talk about Coulson in the Agents of Shield pilot, they refer to our hero as not knowing what happened to him and that "he can never know." If there are things Coulson isn't in on, could that imply a Level 8?

Tahiti is a magical place, indeed.  I can't wait to see what we find when Marvel takes us there.

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