HERO SEASON: Summer ‘17 will be nothing short of ‘super’

Joshua Lloyd, Staff Writer

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Marvel’s most spaced-out super team returns on May 5, backed by the timeless tracks of “Awesome Mix Vol. 2.”

 

     This summer will be a hot one, especially if you wear a spangly costume for a living and spend your nights pounding supervillains instead of ice cream.

     2017 could easily be comic book cinema’s most sensational year yet, and this summer will be a major stage for the industry’s biggest players. It’ll also be a proving ground for any future endeavors in their respective franchises.

     Marvel has three new films ready to roll between now and November, more than any previous year for the makers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 2016 was a learning curve for the DC Extended Universe, so here’s where it gets its shot at redemption. Oh, and Captain Underpants makes his big-screen debut in June.

     Marvel Studios has been the gold standard of superhero cinema for close to ten years now, and Phase Three is in full swing as “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” brings its space-trekking team and endlessly groovy soundtrack back to theaters on May 5.

      The cosmic adventurers wiped out Ronan the Accuser and secured an Infinity Stone for the Nova Corps in 2014, but now a new force is on the rise with the alien race called the Sovereign. Under the leadership of Ayesha, these gold-toned baddies are on a mission to cleanse the universe of all its weaknesses, and it’s doubtful that the Guardians will be spared from their wrath.

     While the dysfunctional band struggles to stick together, de facto team leader Star-Lord seeks the truth of his parentage. Marvel hasn’t been shy about revealing the details, with Kurt Russell starring as Ego the Living Planet, who also happens to be Peter’s dad.

     The first “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a smash-hit for the MCU, branching off into otherworldly realms and adding a new layer of depth with a team that could play foil to Earth’s mightiest heroes. Expect more eye-popping visuals, big laughs on behalf of Drax, epic outer-space showdowns and loads of adorableness from little baby Groot.

     Back on Earth, far from the grandeur of the Guardians’ adventures, Peter Parker is living the life of an average high schooler: bored out of his mind and eager for something more fulfilling. He’s got the suit, the skills and the determination, but Tony Stark seems intent on keeping him grounded.

     Enter the Vulture, a high-flying menace with a vendetta against the social elites of the world. One of Spider-Man’s most prolific villains (they first tangled in “The Amazing Spider-Man #2” in May 1963), he makes his first cinematic appearance with a cruel turn by Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton (which is ironic, considering that Keaton got his Oscar nod for “Birdman” a few years ago).

     Spidey has been a fan favorite among Marvelites for decades, but he spent a good chunk of his screen time in “Captain America: Civil War” attached to Iron Man’s hip. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is where the web-slinger will come into his own.

     On the DC side of things, a princess is busy learning the warrior ways of the Amazons on the island of Themyscira. Her sheltered life in paradise changes forever when an American fighter pilot crash-lands just offshore. The War to End All Wars is consuming the outside world, and Diana wants to put her godlike battle prowess to good use. She might pay the price for defying her Amazon sisters, but Diana knows she’s destined for greater things and jumps headlong into the ravages of World War One alongside the Allied forces.

     DC’s “Wonder Woman” is, in fact, the first comic book movie with a female hero in the starring role. Diana (Gal Gadot) will show the world what heroines are capable of this June, as she carves through the deadly battlefields of the Great War.

     The super storytelling won’t end when the air gets cooler, though. “Thor: Ragnarok” is set for release in November, and from what fans have heard and seen so far, it could be the biggest and baddest Marvel film to date. Chris Hemsworth will return as the Norse god of thunder, who finds himself trapped in the gladiator pits of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).

     Bereft of his home, his hammer (yeah, evil Cate Blanchett broke it) and his signature blonde locks, he faces off against his former brother-in-arms, Bruce Banner in full rage mode. Any sort of Avengers bromance seems to be out of the question, because Hulk charges straight at Thor to begin a potentially world-breaking (too much to ask for?) main event.

     Only one of the six Infinity Stones remains to be revealed in an MCU film. The first chapter of “Avengers: Infinity War” is looming large for May 2018, so if the stone doesn’t show up during the Guardians’ intergalactic travels, it’s all but certain it’ll find its way into “Thor: Ragnarok,” or maybe even in “Black Panther” next February.

     Of course, there’ll be just enough time left in the year for DC to match up to Marvel’s trifecta of new releases. In the long-awaited premiere of “Justice League,” Bruce Wayne unites the top dogs of the DC Extended Universe to defend the world from the coming onslaught of evil. If the extended scenes from “Batman v Superman” are any indications, Steppenwolf will be the one to challenge Wayne and company as they battle for control of the Mother Boxes, travel-sized supercomputers full of devastating power.

     Warner Bros. and DC face the same challenge that Marvel did when the Avengers assembled in 2012: introducing a host of new individual characters while keeping the story as coherent as possible. Since then, it’s been total Marvel Studios domination. How will DC’s dream team measure up?
The next several months will be a crucial time for both franchises as DC builds towards “Justice League” and Marvel assembles its top names for “Avengers: Infinity War.” Who will rise and who will fall as comic book legends take their battles to the big screen? All will become clear as their stories unfold in the hazy summer heat.