Marvel’s Next Avengers Film #3: Luke Cage and Iron Fist

It's time for the third thrilling chapter of our search for Marvel's next potential Avengers member, with a streetwise mercenary duo making a compelling case...

With €œThe Avengers€ sequel officially confirmed by Marvel/Disney, comic book fans the world over will be contemplating which of the publisher€™s other heroes could be added to the line-up, potentially getting their own solo movie as soon as 2014 €“ filling the popularly acknowledged gap in the schedule alongside Captain America 2 that summer. Of course, we have to bear in mind that Marvel Studios do not own the film rights to characters as key to their comic book universe as Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wolverine or the Fantastic Four €“ all of whom have allied with or become members of the Avengers at one time or another €“ but with that consideration in place, here is another suggestion for Marvel€™s Next Avengers Film:

Power Man (Luke Cage) and Iron Fist (Daniel Rand)

Why?: Because they are an awesome pairing and, whilst both characters could easily sustain their own solo movie, a combination of the two could lead to either a) a buddy comedy of sorts: mixing action and humour in much the same way Joss Whedon's script for The Avengers has done to such winsome effect or b) a slightly darker exploration of Marvel's seedy criminal underworld. The introduction of Luke Cage into the Avengers would also provide the one thing the current team sorely lack: a non-white member (seriously, if they don't bring Cage, Black Panther or Falcon next time, they should at least invite Don Cheadle's War Machine along!). I'll say right off the bat that my exposure to Luke Cage and Iron Fist has come via recent spells with Brian Michael Bendis' New Avengers rather than through the original 1970s blaxploitation/Kung Fu-spolitation title Heroes for Hire, or even their perennial appearances in the world of Daredevil. The upshot is that I don't honestly know very much about Luke Cage as the open-shirted tiara-sporting Power Man (above), a moniker that he has largely abandoned of late, with the character existing in my mind as a thoroughly down to earth (and intermittently reluctant) family man: romantic partner of Jessica Jones (AKA Jewel) and father of their baby daughter. To me Cage is - like Captain America - a natural born leader and an earnest man of principal, albeit of vastly different background. For instance, he fought tirelessly - and at great personal cost - against Tony Stark and super human registration even after the events of Civil War and has led the New Avengers for the best part of their existence to date. Unlike Cap, Cage is a punch-you-in-the-face-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy - arguably the sort of hothead element missing from the movie Avengers at present. Before he was an Avenger, Cage was a street level vigilante operating with his own agency Heroes for Hire - a group whose extensive membership roster could easily rival that of The Avengers, but whose most best known members include the Asian samurai warrior Colleen Wing and the Afro-sporting Misty Knight (both of whom would make appealing supporting characters in any Luke Cage and Iron Fist movie). You could even use this movie to introduce the popular Moon Knight as a member of their gang. Cage's most famous ability is unbreakable skin, which is combined with a Wolverine-style rapid healing and super strength. Power Man's long-term partner in anti-crime and best friend is Daniel "Danny" Rand, the Iron Fist - another of Marvel's billionaire, playboy, philanthropists, but this one boasts mastery of martial arts and the, um... power of the iron fist instead of a high-tech suit of armour. As a sort of B-team Tony Stark, Danny would make an interesting addition to the movie Avengers: perhaps forming a personal rivalry and begrudging Stark's greater success. Rand's back story is - even by comic book superhero standards - very bizarre indeed and involves the existence of the mystical city of K'un-L'un, which is a secret realm hidden in a pocket dimension in the mountains of Tibet, inhabited by a feudal society which draws heavily on elements of ancient China. Danny is the rightful ruler of this land from which he takes his magical fighting powers and title. Story?: You couldn't realistically add both Luke Cage AND Iron Fist to the Avengers sequel as this would increase the group from six members to eight - making the already difficult task of doing each character justice and keeping the plot straightforward even harder. Instead I see Luke Cage as the senior member here and the character who would graduate to the next mash-up. This makes sense for several reasons. Firstly, in the original comics Iron Fist joined Power Man's long running series, entering as the secondary figure (if not quite a sidekick). Secondly, Iron Fist has been an inconsistent member of Cage's New Avengers, appearing every so often to help out but mainly struggling to keep his company afloat. Why is this important to the story of their solo vehicle? Because we've determined that Luke Cage is the senior partner in this movie. He's the star and the film will focus on his origin story and emphasize his leadership of Heroes for Hire. This is not to say Danny would not be ever-present and vital to the plot, but he would be the funny, interesting, charming "best friend of" guy and not the dude carrying the picture. As I've already suggested above, this film would forgo the usual world domination scheming supervillains in favour of tackling urban street crime, with a small-scale but very cool villain like The Hood as the antagonist. Don't forget that the mercenary Heroes for Hire must by definition find themselves hired - at least at first (they would inevitably make the Han Solo leap from self-interested scamps to more conventional good guys). So perhaps an existing character from the cinematic universe could be forced to call upon them? Maybe Tony Stark hires them to track down a gang that's stealing some of his old weapons tech and selling it on the streets of New York? Perhaps S.H.I.E.L.D. require the duo's connections and unique expertise? Or perhaps Bruce Banner asks them to do something he can't - lest he unleash the Hulk on New York city (again) - finding the men who murdered a former colleague thought to be on the cusp of a cure for Banner's condition? All fun options, I hope you'll agree. Likelihood?: Jessica Jones, the aforementioned girlfriend of Luke Cage, supposedly has a TV series in development at present, so perhaps Marvel's plans for these two reside on the small screen where they have already featured in animated form on Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (above) and Ultimate Spider-Man. Meanwhile the only real talk of getting a Cage movie on the big screen has come via the extremely optimistic bloke from the Old Spice aftershave ads who made this trailer promoting his suitability for the role. He doesn't look all that bad in fairness, but I somehow can't see an A-list movie career happening. I think Marvel/Disney - with cosmic adventure Guardians of the Galaxy strongly hinted as their next original project - probably have a long list of heroes begging to reach cinemas before these two get their day in the sun. Which is a shame. Casting?: As alluded to above, charismatic Old Spice spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa has already thrown his hat into the ring. But a more realistic/less inherently ridiculous suggestion of an actor to play Luke Cage was offered by commenter BryanAllenSays, who opined that Terry Crews would be the man for the job. Whilst Crews is admittedly also an Old Spice ad-starring former NFL athlete of limited serious movie experience, he has at least starred in The Expendables and had bit parts in films as big as Bridesmaids and Terminator Salvation. Futhermore he looks allot like Cage as drawn in recent comics (see below and judge for yourself). It's also worth bearing in mind that the top black movie stars have either already been in a Marvel movie (Terrence Howard, Don Cheadle, Idris Elba) or would be far too expensive for the notoriously penny pinching studio (Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy) - not that I'm suggesting any of those would be suitable candidates. Just saying that Crews current low level of stardom might not be a stumbling block given the options. Not only has BryanAllenSays given us a superb candidate to play Mr. Cage, he's also been a vocal champion of TV star Zachary Levi as Danny Rand. I'm only familiar with Levi's voice work in Tangled (never having seen Chuck), so you'll have to chime in below to let me know whether or not he's called it right. Personally my pick for Danny Rand - as the comic buddy of my above plot synopsis - would be Steve Zahn. He's very funny, underrated dramatically and is in nowhere near enough movies. And, although he's almost exclusively in crap, Matthew McConaughey would also fit the bill nicely here. Director?: Spike Lee would be my fantasy choice to make this movie: a serious and acclaimed filmmaker famous both for his depictions of New York's black neighborhoods as well as proper, cliche free black characters. But that's never going to happen. Forget the fact that the famously outspoken director is probably considered far too much trouble by the likes of Disney, and the fact that the highly politicised Lee would probably not want to make a film for Disney, he's also not made a commercial hit for some years. Given the hiring of prolific HBO TV series director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Deadwood) as director of Thor 2, perhaps another credible choice might be somebody of a similar background. For instance Anthony Hemingway worked his way up on episodes of high quality TV dramas like The Wire and Treme before cutting his feature filmmaking teeth as director of George Lucas' WWII dogfight-fest Red Tails. Alternatively Brad Furman, who gave a grimy, streetwise vibe to The Lincoln Lawyer, could make for an inspired choice. Likewise Limitless director Neil Burger might be a decent fit. Let us know your thoughts about a Luke Cage and Iron Fist movie in the comments below and check back soon as we reveal more candidates for Marvel€™s Next Avengers!If you missed it, here are our first two entries in this series:#1: Ms. Marvel#2: Doctor Strange
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A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, GamesIndustry.biz and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.