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Marvel’s future shines light on diversity

Photo courtesy of Disney Studios

A New Phase Begins

Before the weekend of July 20 and 21, Marvel kept all loose ends wrapped tight, shedding no light on the future layout of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Fans had to wait, salivating for the studio’s appearance at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. And to many fans, it was worth the wait.

On the evening of July 20, the first slate of films featured in the upcoming Phase Four were released. Starting in May 2020, Phase Four begins with Scarlett Johansson reprising her role as the notorious spy in Black Widow, Marvel’s second female-led film in the last year. Then in November comes The Eternals, starring Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Lauren Ridloff, the first deaf female actress to make an appearance in the MCU.

Considering that the first three phases were led by mostly white male actors (i.e. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Robert Downey Jr.), it was time to go in a different direction. Beginning in 2021, Marvel will introduce its first Asian-American superhero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Similar to how Black Panther was the first Marvel film to showcase foreign cultural aspects and consisted entirely of talented African Americans as the cast and crew for the blockbuster hit, Shang-Chi will reminisce that feeling, introducing another foreign adventure that stars Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and Awkwafina.

Maybe one of the biggest surprises of them all was later that night when Taika Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarök, stepped on to the stage, announcing the second upcoming film of 2021 as Thor: Love and Thunder. From a video released by ComicBook.com, the crowd roared with applause, and entering the stage was none other than Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster).

“For those of you who know that storyline,” Waititi said. “It’s incredible, it’s full of emotion, and love and thunder. And it introduces — for the first time — female Thor.”

Afterwards, Waititi knelt to Portman and passed the mantle of female Thor to her as he handed her Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. Portman will return to the big screen now as female Thor, making it eight years since her last physical appearance in Thor: The Dark World.

However, that wasn’t the end of it for the cast.

For a long time now, Marvel has been teasing the idea of an openly gay character being introduced into the MCU. And for many years, it was just a rumor. That was until Thompson was handed the mic on the stage.

“As new king,” started Thompson, who will reprise her role as Valkyrie in Love and Thunder, “she needs to find her queen. That will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.”

The future is bright. In a way that doesn’t feel forced, Marvel is trying a different direction in its upcoming set of films. From female-led superheroes, to diverse casts, and the finally, well-waited, representation of the LGBT+ community about to hit screens in the next couple of years, one can only hope for success from the studio that have already broken records in the past.

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