Marvel’s Next Avengers Film #7: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver

Not the easiest characters to work into a feature film, but Marvel do have the film rights to these mutant children of Magneto and long-time Avengers...

With a sequel to The Avengers 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:

Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff)

Why?: The Avengers were founded in July of 1963 due to the growing popularity of superhero teams in the wake of DC's Justice League (1960) and Stan Lee's own Fantastic Four (1961), with their first line-up consisting of characters who had struggled to make an impression selling their own books up to that point in time. Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and Wasp united with the Hulk in order to thwart a scheme of Loki's. Though a founding member, Hulk got fed up and left the team during issue #2 - instead becoming a recurring problem for the group - with Captain America emerging from the ice to become their leader as of issue #4. But this classic line-up would not last long, in fact by issue #16 (May, 1965) only Cap would remain to recruit a second wave of Avengers dubbed "Cap's Kooky Quartet" (below). Enter Wanda Maximoff, Scarlet Witch, and her twin brother Pietro, Quicksilver. Being inducted into the ranks of The Avengers alongside the mercenary Hawkeye meant all three newly recruited members of the group were reformed villains. The Maximoff twins had been members of the terrorist organisation the Brotherhood of Mutants, acting as reluctant sidekicks under their father: Magneto. These three would also be among the longest-serving and most popular members of the team, with Scarlet Witch in particular playing a pivotal role in the group's history up to the present day - with major events like Disassembled and House of M structured around the character, and dozens of storylines exploring her relationship with synthetic husband Vision (try making that work in a movie). As far as abilities go they are complete opposites: Quicksilver boasts one of the simplest power sets in the Marvel Universe, in that he's able to move at superhuman speed, whilst his sister boasts perhaps the most complicated of all: probability manipulation and reality alteration. These gifts do whatever writers say they do, but most commonly she flies around zapping enemies with "hex bolts". As I understand it these pink blasts represent her altering the reality of a given object or person - meaning she can inflict harm on opponents with these as though they were a more traditional, physical beam of some sort. But her most notorious episodes have involved the ability to alter reality for everybody on the planet, something that doesn't combine well with her (to put it lightly) mental instability. The most notorious case of a Scarlet Witch flip-out occurred in the aforementioned House of M crossover event, in which she de-powered the majority of the world's mutant population by simply saying the words "no more mutants". And that was after changing all of reality and memory for everyone on the planet, briefly resurrecting some characters from the dead (Gwen Stacy, "Uncle" Ben Parker), permanently restoring Wolverine's memory, and turning Captain America into a frail old war veteran. She's arguably the most powerful of all mutants. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are the only characters available to both Fox and Marvel Studios in terms of movie rights. Fox owns them as part of the X-Men franchise, owing to their mutant heritage and relationship with Magneto, whilst Marvel Studios retains their rights as key members of The Avengers. The upshot of this is that Marvel are free to use both characters, so long as they don't refer to them as mutants or reference their magnetism manipulating father. Provided writers can work around that, there is plenty of potential for these characters on-screen - both in their own solo vehicle and as future members of the Avengers ensemble. Story?: Conventional logic says you start a new superhero story with an origin but, given the problems surrounding mentioning the heritage of this duo, perhaps the history of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver should be left fairly enigmatic. The fact that writers can't mention Magneto is of less significance than you might think: for a long time the characters themselves didn't know their origin. More problematic is the fact that Marvel won't be able to explain their powers as the results of genetic mutation. Captain America was injected with super soldier serum, Iron Man invented a suit, Thor is a god, but there is not yet any precedent in the cinematic universe for human characters who just randomly have super powers. They could be explained away as magic (in fact, for the longest time, Wanda's powers were referred to as chaos magic) but that side of the Marvel Universe is best explained by the probable Dr. Strange movie. So, the question we have to ask ourselves is: can Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver just have powers without too much exploration of how? If the answer is "no" then I'd question the viability of making a movie about these guys at all - at least as long as there remain various rights issues. It's difficult to imagine credible alternate ways for them to gain their abilities. An accident or experiment origin wouldn't make sense for the simple reason that it wouldn't explain why they have such wildly different powers. You could have Quicksilver's abilities given to him via Scarlet Witch's reality manipulation, thereby only needing to explain her powers, but that would annoy fans of the comics. For the sake of this article I'm going to assume it'd be OK to depict them as gaining their abilities during puberty (the time when mutations manifest themselves in Marvel comics), but without ever saying "mutant". Whether or not this is possible depends on whether Fox owns the concept of mutants or just the word. For now let's assume it's the latter. The identities of their parents a mystery, Pietro and Wanda are poor, gypsy street children in a remote village on fictional Mount Wundagore, located somewhere in Eastern Europe. They know their mother died during childbirth but otherwise know nothing about where they came from. On the cusp of adulthood they begin showing signs of strange superpowers and attract the suspicions and intolerance of people in their village who drive them out violently. It is then, on the run, that they learn of the events in New York - The Avengers defeating an alien invasion - on the TV and decide they must head to America where there are others like them. Once there they find themselves poor immigrants again distrusted and on the run from the authorities. At some point Pietro can't stand it any more and takes to crime in order to make a better life for himself, reasoning that lesser humans have no right to stay in his way (implicitly echoing the rhetoric of Magneto). He becomes Quicksilver and Wanda assumes the identity of Scarlet Witch in an effort to stop him from hurting anybody. They fight each other until they attract the attention of S.H.E.I.L.D. who send Captain America and Hawkeye to intervene. Cap and Clint are beaten by Wanda who becomes protective of her brother, before eventually making her see reason and taking them both into custody. Nick Fury gives them the chance to become heroes and - as in the comics - they are delighted to be able to change their image and put their powers to good use. They then head off with Hawkeye and Captain America to fight some climatic evil (something bad Wanda caused by messing with reality whilst trying to put right Quicksilver's crimes: an inter-dimensional demon or something), giving us the chance to see that great mid-60s Avengers line-up united on a movie screen. Likelihood?: I really can't see this one happening. As detailed above, the origins of these characters might prove too difficult to credibly explain without establishing the existence of mutants. Producer Kevin Feige has mentioned the characters in passing, explaining the situation with the rights, but it's not likely he's planning a movie at the present time. However, if Fox and Marvel can co-operate to some degree, perhaps the cinematic universe could span studios in some limited form. Why couldn't Fox re-boot X-Men in a way that ties in with what Marvel are doing? Maybe Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver could be the unlikely brokers of that deal, with the film being a co-production with both sets of rights in effect. Not likely but also not impossible. Casting?: The idea of having Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver as young people just discovering their powers necessitates the casting of younger actors than Marvel have gone for so far. For Pietro I think Tom Felton (below) would be an excellent choice. The Harry Potter baddie also featured in last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes to great effect and would no doubt be able to convey Quicksilver's arrogant, superior side whilst seeming conflicted - ultimately desperate to prove himself and do good. Alex Pettyfer might also be a sound choice, especially after doing the villain thing in sci-fi thriller In Time, lending weight to the heroic, leading man persona displayed in films nobody saw (Stormbreaker, I Am Number Four, Beastly). Or, if you staged the early years stuff in flashback, an older version of the character might be played by David Tennant. Scarlet Witch is a difficult one but in Alia Shawkat (below) - so brilliant in Arrested Development and Whip It - I think there's a relatively unsung young actress who has the required charisma and acting chops. See also Mary Elizabeth Winstead. But if you want someone older, how about the versatile and capable action heroine Eliza Dushku? Or even Zooey Deschanel, with the kookiness played as mental instability? Director?: Wanda's reality-altering powers give rise to the interesting possibility of appointing somebody a little experimental and strange, like French director Michel Gondry. Gondry's movies - such as Be Kind Rewind, The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - are endlessly clever and inventive in terms of trick photography, imaginative in-camera effects and such, whilst the fact his troubled Green Hornet movie proved far from the critical and financial disaster many predicted (in fact it was pretty good) shows he can do superheroic action. I think if anyone could get away with depicting the full-blown craziness of the Scarlet Witch on the big screen it's a director long obsessed with exploring the inner workings of the human brain through the bizarre blurring of fantasy and reality. Let us know your thoughts about a Black Panther movie in the comments below and check back soon as we reveal more candidates for Marvel€™s Next Avengers!If you missed them, here are the first six entries in this series:#1: Ms. Marvel#2: Doctor Strange#3: Luke Cage and Iron Fist#4: Ant-Man and Wasp#5: Black Panther#6: Namor
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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.