MCU ’22 Pitch 12: Warlock & The Infinity Watch

The Deal: I pitch movies set in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. Also other things. This pitch follows on directly from Nova 2, which is a direct sequel to my Nova 1 pitch.

Warlock & The Infinity Watch: Taking place after Guardians 3. I’m assuming, for the moment, they won’t be decimated, and will co-anchor this movie with Warlock and Captain Marvel; even if they take casualties, whoever survives can be in this.

We start on Vormir. Red Skull is devastated. We think he’s talking to the embodiment of death. He’s upset that Steve Rogers is gone- he’ll never be able to kill him. That he could have been content to be a specter, so long as the possibility that he could one day torment Rogers existed. But now… he has to just let his hate die. And what is the Red Skull without his hate? The soul stone falls into his hand. He wasn’t speaking to death at all, but a Kang variant, who may need a universe with infinite stones, but doesn’t mind him using one in the interim (really, he’s expecting Red Skull to soften the universe up for him).

Adam Warlock, and I’m making educated guesses, here, but he’s largely a good guy. He shows up on Earth, shortly after the events of WandaVision. We see her studying the Darkhold, but when there’s a knock on the door, she comes to it in a wool shirt with a mug of cocoa. She doesn’t know Warlock, but his golden skin is striking. “Wanda Maximoff. I am known as Adam Warlock.”

“Oh, um… I don’t really train people in the mystic arts. But I probably have the number for Dr. Strange, if you’d like to come in.” (Yes, this scene is set before the events of Dr. Strange 2)

“I’m not here for that. I’m here with this.” He holds out one of the infinity stones, and she reaches for it. “Aren’t you concerned it could harm you?” He’s somewhat taken aback by her haste to seize its power. “Or that its great power might corrupt you?”

“It doesn’t seem to have harmed you, and my powers came from one of the stones. I always assumed I was immune to them.” Adam reads her aura.

“There is a darkness in you, Wanda Maximoff. You cannot aid in my quest, and I would beg you, to abandon your own, for it will rend your soul in half.”

“Could I use it?” She asks. “I see you, now. I know what you are. And I could no more take the stone from you than survive ripping loose the energy of the sun. But if I could hold it, for a moment. I could bring them back. I could give my boys life again, and make Vision… make my family whole again.”

“I’m sorry, Wanda. You are not whole, and while that remains true, you will be unfit to wield an infinite stone- and unfit to reclaim your family.”

“You bastard!” she unleashes a blast, but Warlock is already gone, flying at speed away from the Earth.

He makes it as far as the atmosphere before Captain Marvel collides with him, hitting him so hard he impacts on the surface of the Moon. They fight, briefly, before Warlock puts up his hands, realizing she isn’t a threat. “I mean you no harm, and, I believe, you mean but to protect your homeworld. There is no reason for violence between us.”

He explains that his cosmic senses allowed him to notice the reintroduction of the stones by Kang, and he means to protect them. However, he has a darkness in himself, one that cannot be tamed, and certainly cannot be trusted with the stones. So he needs others to safeguard them in his stead. She seems worthy, if she would stand by him. She accepts, if only so he’s not carrying two stones alone anymore.

She also mentions knowing a crew that might be able to help- people who have stood for the galaxy when others did not. “I would be eager to meet such heroes,” Warlock says.

“I… wouldn’t call them heroes, exactly…”

Needle drop, in a colorful corner of space. Drax and Groot are staring out the window at space. I’m going to assume by this point Groot is back to an adult floral colossus. “I do not understand, tree,” Drax says dryly.

“I am Groot.”

“I have never heard the contradiction of sentient life more poetically expressed.”

“He got that from a fortune cookie,” Rocket says, shoving between them.

“There were cookies?” Drax asks, walking towards the cabin.

“There were,” Nebula says, and pops the last one into her mouth whole.

“You’re eating the fortune,” Peter says.

“Why is there paper in my cookie?” she asks, pulling it out of her mouth.

“Mine wasn’t worth anything; let alone a fortune,” Rocket says. “Just some human gibbering.”

“The fortune’s, it’s a saying, something philosophical, or portentous,” Peter says.

“I saved you one,” Gamorra says, tossing it to Drax. He catches it, and crushes the cookie in his hand. He removes the paper, then crudely mashes the dust into his face.

“Thank you, assassin.” His fortune, which he drops but which we linger on, says, “Your daughter is alive.”

Drax takes one of the containers of food, and begins to shovel into his mouth with chop sticks. Suddenly the ship lurches.

“We hit something?” Gamorra asks.

“Hit, no,” Rocket says. “But if you want I can gun the engines.” Rocket points where Captain Marvel and Warlock are floating just on the other side of the ship’s windshield.

They walk through the forcefield in the rear of the ship. Warlock is less impressed, since he’s met the Guardians before, and expected… more. They get to talking, and it turns out they’re all headed to Knowhere. The Guardians are uneasy about assembling the stones. Isn’t that just making the job easier for the next Thanos? On the other hand, if the Infinity Watch train in the use of the stones, and coordinate, it’s likely the next Thanos wouldn’t be able to take them at all.

They fly to Knowhere, or what’s left of it after Thanos’ fight with the Collector. Oddly, the stone is back with his collection.

Next they travel on their ship to the wreckage of the realm of Asgard. I honestly kind of like the idea that the battle between Hela and Surtur continues in the background- a permanent Ragnarok on an increasingly small chunk of rock (alternately, as in my unrelated Thor 5 pitch, Hela could go to Hel and take over).

They find Beta Ray Bill, who found one of the remaining weapons from Odin’s vault (essentially the prototype for Mjolnir), which granted him Thor-like power, along with an infinite stone (unless of course either Hemsworth or Portman Thor want to guest- contacted by the Guardians- and then we’ll bring in Bill for the sequel/credits).

They go to Xandar. One of the stones is there. Red Skull finds the second stone, and begins to wreak havoc, using the two stones he possesses to transform the locals into his minions. As set up in the credits scene from Nova 2, The Nova Corps, led by Richard Rider and his brother Sam, are looking for the stone, too, leading a Nova contingent. They hold Skull off long enough for Warlock and the Guardians to arrive. He can hold back any one of them, even using the stones, hitting Peter Quill so hard he drops the stone he was holding, which is picked up by Richard Rider. The heroes without stones hold back the possessed Xandarians, while the four watchpersons, Warlock, Captain Marvel, Beta Ray Bill, and Nova, attack him as a team, essentially hitting him one after another in a round. Finally, they join hands, channeling the stones together, to stop Skull; during this, subtly, Magus tries to assert control of Warlock. Skull uses his teleporting stone to open a portal, and gets knocked into it, losing his stones.

We do an epilogue aboard the Milano, the heroes deciding to form the Infinity Watch, to take the stones to the opposite ends of the Universe.

Mid Credits Scene: Gamora and Peter are in an elevator. “I’m just saying, the last time we gave up an infinity stone, I lost you,” he says. “I don’t think I could survive that again.”

“It took a Thanos to kill me the first time- and he’s gone. And she died because the two of you trusted the Xandarians. I’m not just giving this stone to the most advanced power in the universe, but to its greatest warrior.” The elevator opens. We pan across the majestic Shiar throne room, before settling on Gladiator. Back to credits.

End Credits Scene: “I’ve already given up one infinity stone.” Strange says. We’re in his Sanctum Sanctorum.

“That’s why I trust you.” It’s Warlock, handing him one of the stones. “Because I don’t want you to keep it. If my other self…”

“Your other self?”

“The Magus. He knows what I do. He tried to assert control when we were fighting Red Skull. If he knows where the stone is, he’ll take it, first thing. And the Magus with two stones… he’d be harder to stop than Red Skull. Perhaps unstoppable.”

Strange takes the stone. “Have you thought about stepping down? Giving away both stones?”

“It’s my burden. At least for now. Unless you’re offering to take it on?”

Strange touches his third eye. “I’m not sure I’m the right man for the job. I’ve seen who Stephen Strange becomes with too much power. But I can make some inquiries.”

Jurassic Park Franchise Challenge

Note: I haven’t seen the latest Jurassic World sequel. I haven’t heard great things. So I truly don’t know if Colin Trevorrow saying Jurassic Park was unfranchiseable is a mea culpa about how bad his sequel came out, or if he means that he spun gold out of chaff.

The first question you have ask is “What is this franchise?” The simple answer, as with most Crichton and even most Sci Fi of a certain vintage, is that technology is scary and we aren’t thinking it through and it’s going to devour us all.

So the first sequel is pretty obvious. Hammond is forced out of the dinosaur business by the courts, the insurance companies and his investors. They’ve lost faith, so he has to sell, though he retains a seat on the board, as well as remaining the friendly face for the public, and InGen retains some stake, but far from a controlling one. The mysterious Dodgson organizes a buy out of the Jurassic Park IP and research, in part by being willing to share the genetic data with medical companies to pursue pharma research. With the purchase, Dodgson discovers the second island, Isla Sorna, the research and production island. The new investors realize they can get a much faster turn-around on their investment by retrofitting Isla Sorna, rather than focus on rebuilding Isla Nublar. They believe the first park fell due to industrial sabotage, and so beef up security, hiring an army of questionable mercenaries to lock down the island and prevent another debacle. Hammond protests. There’s no way to retrofit the kinds of safeguards the first Jurassic Park had; a new park needs stronger safety mechanisms, not weaker ones. The board basically says this is a proof of concept, that if they can run the park for a few years while they rebuild Isla Nublar, they can be profitable within 3 years, instead of year 8. The board vote to let shareholders decide, and they approve the plan, because shareholders don’t share liability, all they care about is profit and stock valuation.

For a while, it works. The retrofitting goes on without a hitch. Dodgson uses deniable assets; contractors from poor neighboring countries, mostly solo workers. Deaths are mostly covered up by the mercenaries, so the official figures look much rosier for the board and stockholders. They train up staff, and finally have their test run, an Investor Day for board members, VIPs, and shareholders.

Of course, the problem with have a mercenary security team is you’ve already established what they are- the only question is whether or not you’re the highest bidder. The mercenaries break the park, stranding the VIPs in with all of the dinosaurs. I think for now, they open the doors between cages, essentially penning the VIPs in.

Meanwhile, Hammond skipped the opening; he didn’t know there would be sabotage, but he did expect things would go badly. He also lured our heroes from the first movie. They know they’re meeting a VIP for dinner to accept a large grant for their research- large enough to get them to fly short notice to the Caribbean, but were lied to about the identity of the VIP. Ian, Alan, and Ellie are surprised to see one another. After the events of the first movie, things between Ellie and Alan are strained; they haven’t broken up, per se, but when opportunities for digs in separate locations happened, they leapt at them, and have been seeing each other less and less. Ian’s skeptical, even pissed. Hammond assures them the offer is real- for brunching with him, they’ll receive the money promised. Ian accuses him of having something else up his sleeve, and Hammond says he hopes more than anyone that they can share a quiet, uneventful brunch. Hammond receives a call, and requests the checks. “You’re not even going to feed us, John?” The staff bring out doggy bags. Hammond tells them he’ll give them each ten times what he promised to get into a helicopter and hear him out, that if they refuse, the helicopter will deliver him and return them to the airport. Ellie is the one intrigued, and the other two follow her.

Hammond offers each of them five million dollar grants. He explains that the board are trapped with dinosaurs, that they are the only people who could possibly get them out of the park and end this madness for good- that in particular he needs them to secure the board members who voted against reopening so haphazardly. That’s enough for Ian. He’s had nightmares since the T-Rex attack. This might be the only way to face his fears- or at least prevent their fruition- of a world overrun by dinosaurs. Ellie hesitates; she knows Alan will go if she does, and despite their problems, she doesn’t want to risk him. That’s when Hammond drops the bomb: his children are on the board. They were part of the hostile takeover. And they brought his grandchildren to the opening.

That seals it. Hammond tells them that they’re only part of the plan. He never completely trusted the mercs; they were always too beholden to Dodgson, and just as importantly, their security was opaque; he didn’t have access to their background checks or anything of the sort. So he quietly partnered with the Costa Rican Civil Guard. Basically, he’s been assembling a force of recently retired guardsmen who can call on the resources of the Civil Guard for logistics and weapons. He has his own army, essentially, who will fight to take back the island. They should be able to draw away the mercenaries, and should even work to distract most of the predators away from their mission.

But the mercenary’s mission is actually two-fold. Stealing research and information is one prong; the other is crippling Jurassic Park. That means aiming for maximum bloodshed, it means ensuring that the board in particular are slaughtered. Which means that rather than just penning in the VIPs with the dinosaurs, at a certain point they just open up all the doors, and all hell breaks loose.

I think Hammond had a man inside the security team. But it’s a lone gun, essentially waging geurilla warfare to sabotage the mercs and whittle them down. Yes, we’re essentially doing Die Hard in Jurassic Park as a B plot. She’s the reason the mercenaries only damage the park, instead of completely destroying it. I imagine she’d also provide a love interest for Ian.

Our heroes wend their way through dinos to save the kids and the other VIPs, as Hammond’s army retake the island, and the Civil Guard shoot down the mercenary’s helicopter, ending their theft of data. Unfortunately, the board members who wanted the slower, safer path forward die in greater numbers than the more reckless ones, so plans move full steam ahead.

JP3: The mercenary leader survives the downing of his helicopter. He sold what little honor he had, and is now completely burned even in gun-for-hire circles. And he blames Hammond, as well as the shadowy figure who clearly sent him in without enough intel who he assumes is Dodgson. He sees the opening of Jurassic Park (still the lousy sequel park) as Dodgson rolling with the punches. So he does a reverse Die Hard, one determined, skilled foe trying to weaponize the park and its animals on the park’s first day open to the public.

Ian, Alan and Ellie are all here as the twice-over saviors of Jurassic Park. They’re now essentially spokespeople. Alan is uncomfortable, because he feels they’ve been bought, that by being paid off and especially paid in stock, their judgment is compromised. Ellie counters that by working within the system they’ve successfully advocated for revisions; that while the park opened without the beefed up safety, it’s been guaranteed to them, in writing, and their recommendations will be a part of the fully re-envisioned park.

So they work to keep as many people safe as our security hero from the last movie goes after the merc to finish the job.

JP4: Dodgson wasn’t the merc’s backer, and they finally emerge, who we’ll call Mersk. The conglomerate that bought JP after 1 is struggling. Cost from lawsuits from all of the wrongful deaths keep mounting, and the promises the 3 heroes extract for safety are leading to even greater cost overruns for construction. Their accelerated timeline for profit is gone; they’ll be lucky to turn a profit with both parks open within fifteen years. Against that backdrop, another company mounts a hostile takeover. The guard unionize, and are convinced to walk out when their contract demands aren’t met- a tactic that was organized by the same diamond-mine inheriting plutocrat behind the hostile takeover. He basically walks through their automated security- his company designed a lot of it, often through shells and cutouts, and where they didn’t, he purchased schematics or otherwise engaged in espionage. So he basically strolls into the heart of their R&D, steals one of the drives backing up their data and a set of embryos. A few of the security staff refused to leave the park completely unprotected, and catch him- he has a doomsday device, essentially letting him control the park’s security with his phone, and he opens all the dino doors.

Our heroes are in the park doing more promo work. They get caught up in the shenanigans. They can either save people or go after the Bond villain. It probably doesn’t matter how you split the characters up. It ends when the villain uses a drone to fly the drive and embryos off the island. He’s confident he’s above the law. He moved all of his holdings to countries that don’t cooperate with extradition and international seizure- and if they shoot him his satellites will capture it, and their lives will be over. They walk away. The security woman says it’ll take care of itself. She couldn’t shoot him- but that didn’t make her obligated to tell him about the raptor at his 4 o’clock. He’s eaten.

JP5: We start on an underground research facility, think the one from the first Resident Evil. The place has already been through hell, windows smashed, blood, bodies. Maybe we intercut security footage of a dinosaur attacking scientists. The gist is that this is where the villain from the last one sent the embryos. His scientists weren’t nearly as cautious as they should have been, and so the dinosaurs have gotten loose.

Lex went undercover into the facility, hoping to find a way to shut it down before something like this happened- either through legal or other means. She’s trapped herself inside the facility’s panic room. But it has limited supplies, including batteries that will drain and open all the electronic locks. So our heroes, with her brother, mount a rescue. In case regular dinos are boring, they’ve been taking a far more aggressive approach than Hammond, adding different DNA pretty willy nilly and trying to force faster development, leading to some pretty crazy mutations. We can add a mutated form of ‘dino-rabies’ and do some light zombie work, if we want. If we absolutely need a park in these next two, then a B plot can involve working on methods of dealing with the dinos/plague using scientists at one of the two parks.

JP6: They get Lex out, only to find that the dinosaurs have taken over the entire city above the facility, finally fulfilling the promise of the series (seriously, they hint in the first book that the dinos escaped the island). So our heroes have to escape the city overrun with dinos. I imagine there are some shenanigans with car chases through a mostly deserted city, in part because there’s a ticking clock. The U.S. Army (that’s right, this is taking place on US soil) is poised to nuke the city because of the threat dinosaurs pose to the ecological balance. We’re not just talking the threat poised to humans; they’d crowd out hundreds of species, leading to mass extinctions, which would disrupt food chains humans depend on and lead to a dustbowl and massive starvation. Hammond is able to stall them initially, by pointing out the chemical dependence his scientists bred into the dinos should limit their potential spread. If we need to sweeten the pot, dino genes have become a trendy ingredient inside of all kinds of things, not just pharmaceuticals but beauty and hygiene products. There’s a concern that the those who have used these products could be far more susceptible to this ‘dino-rabies,’ with some government scientists suspicious that exposure can make spread through the air possible. They test a dinosaur killed at the perimeter the Army is maintaining around the city, and find that these bootleg dinos don’t have the chemical dependence that would limit their spread. So the nuking plan is back on. Ultimately the heroes escape, leading a cache of survivors out with them.

JP7: Hammond is dragged before Congress. They want to hold him and the company liable for the loss of an American city. He and his lawyers are able to successfully argue that their tech was stolen, that they alerted the authorities, and that they failed to follow up, leading to a terrorist assault with weaponized variants of their products. Finally out from under a cloud, the new and improved Isla Nublar park is finally allowed to open. The Congressman who lost face at the hearings, who orchestrated blaming JP because the Bond villain’s company is one of his biggest donors, and because some of the alternate energy pioneered for the parks (the islands use turbines churned by the tide, or maybe heat from underwater vents) threaten his coal producing donors, too, isn’t done with Hammond yet. He orchestrates an invasive series of inspections from the UN Environment Programme, stemming initially from accusations their alternate energy scheme threatens endangered wildlife, but expanding to the point where a joint UN/Congress task force arrives for inspection, giving the congressman an opportunity to sabotage the operating park. Someone remarks that Jurassic Park is like NASCAR; people come in part hoping to see somebody die. Our heroes were there to gin up good will by leading the tour. They’re attacked by the Congressman as shills, because they own stock in the company, and are being paid to be there. One of them hits back that he’s a shill for big oil and gas companies, that he’s being paid to be here in part by right-wing groups that undercut the very laws and agencies he’s trying to use to harm a potential competitor of his donors. His sabotage is rather ingenious, because it utilizes little-understood weaknesses in the park’s design itself- essentially the kind of thing that would have failed over time anyway without maintenance that had never been even considered, let alone scheduled, giving him complete deniability. In fact, within the story, only WE will even know he did something. So yes, another crisis. Dinos eat people. The heroes have to save the Congressman as part of getting free, and because we’ll keep him around as a foil.

JP8: The Congressman launches a Presidential bid, and claims that the dinosaur attack was an assassination attempt, and spins tales of his own bravery in saving people from the dinosaur attack that was meant to end his public advocacy. He promises as one of the planks of his platform, investigations and sanctions to cripple the park and the companies that own it. Knowing that there are witnesses, and likely footage that would disprove his lies, he accuses the park of operating a propaganda factory, pumping out deepfakes of its enemies, blackmailing everyone who stands against them, and disappearing those who can’t be intimidated. “But I can’t be intimidated, I can’t be blackmailed, and I can’t be bought.”

A right-wing militia, taking its cues from his demagoguery, sneak weapons into the park. They inadvertently set dinos free while demanding access to the nonexistent propaganda factory, trying to wipe any manufactured evidence. But this point our heroes know their way around this park. It takes some doing, but they manage to pen in the militia with the dinos, and retake the park. But here’s where the story finally comes full circle.

Our heroes are alone in the control room. They see video from across the park of carnage, including their cardboard standee in the lobby covered in blood. Dodgson pleads with them; he says they can cash out; he’s already found a buyer, someone who will give them a premium on their stocks, who can clean house and start fresh. It’s Ellie who coldly asks him about the safety enhancements that were the reason they’ve agreed to work with the park all these years. She reminds him they have access to all of their schematics from the control room- that he would be a fool to lie to them. He comes clean. Their demands couldn’t be profitable. The maintenance required, the amount of time the dinos would have to be off-exhibit, he could never figure out how to make the numbers work, and while he impressed their concerns on his buyer, they couldn’t make those numbers work, either. “Again and again, it’s profits over people.”

Our heroes solemnly corrupt all of the Jurassic Park server data, and sabotage the controls so that the dinosaur enclosures will no longer be operable, meaning they’ll function as pens, but can’t be used in a functional park anymore.

The sole exception is the video server. That they upload to the cloud. We cut to the news, filled with horrific, graphic scenes of deaths at Jurassic Park, and the news that it is closing indefinitely, and editorial comments that it’s not likely to ever reopen. “But the park wasn’t the only thing that’s all wet,” the anchor transitions. Part of the upload included the crooked Congressman from the previous film, including trying to feed a child to a raptor to escape, and then later him pissing himself and being saved by that same child making noise to intimidate a different dino away. They also finally see his subtle act of sabotage, and the internet starts cutting together videos compiling all of the deaths that he caused in the park.

Our heroes retire. I’m saying the four main leads, maybe the two kids, now adults, from the first one, are on a beach. Some of them are troubled, about their complicity. That they made people feel safe- even when they couldn’t make them safe. Others argue they tried to make them safer, and saved plenty of people others endangered. One of the kids tells them that ultimately they did the right thing, and shut the park down for good. Ian points out how truly heroic that was- his stock had been worth millions of dollars- not grant money, but money that was his. One of them mocks him about how many completely black outfits he could buy with that kind of money. One of the others points out they got out with enough- that they could live on a beach like this for the rest of their lives, if they wanted. We pull back, flying over the water until our heroes are a speck on the beach before the camera dives under the water. A shark swims by the camera, and we think the message is that there are still plenty of prehistoric predators out there, but the shark is swallowed whole by a large aquatic dino, and we cut to credits.