This review is part of Consequence’s Marvel Pop Culture Week, examining all the ways in which the MCU invokes our world’s pop culture and — more importantly, in this case — creates its own.
Creature of the Dark Galaxy. The Shadow Warrior 2: Voyage of Time. Finding Wakanda. All of these are intriguing titles for movies — the bad news is that none of them exist for real. Instead, they’re films that exist only within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside a collection of other strictly fictional projects spanning the worlds of theater, film, and television.
Earlier, as a part of Marvel Pop Culture Week, we cataloged all of the “real” pop culture to which MCU films and TV shows have referred over the years. But it’s these fictional media properties that also help to make the MCU feel like its own distinct entity as a storytelling universe.
A lot of the fictional pop culture created within the MCU may or may not be fully canon, as we’ll get into below. This also, as with our previous guides, does not include pop culture created for non-Disney+ series (sorry about that, Trish Talk and the filmography of Whitney Frost).
The key aspect is the fun of this — those working behind the scenes on these films and TV shows clearly take great pride in creating flawless fake posters, trailers, and sometimes even fully-staged excerpts for these projects, and it’s a pleasure to appreciate all their hard work. Thank you, prop makers, designers, and Tony-winning composers, for your service.
Peter Parker’s In-Flight Viewing Options
Medium: Film, TV
Introduced By: Spider-Man: Far From Home
When Peter (Tom Holland) and his fellow students head to Europe for an epic class trip, Peter fires up the in-flight entertainment system to peruse the available options, including…
The Snap: Thanks to the poster referring to it as “A Paul Greengrass Film,” we know that in the world of the MCU, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and United 93 took on this seismic historical event with a feature film. And you know that if it’s a Greengrass film, it’s very likely leaning hard on shaky handheld cinematography and real-life actors. (Man, that actually sounds kinda good.)
Nova: Einstein Rosen Bridges with Dr. Erik Selvig: Nova is of course the long-running science program airing on PBS since 1974; per the official website for the show in our universe, though, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) has never hosted a special episode devoted to our scientific understanding of the phenomenon which makes it possible for Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to travel from Asgard to Earth.
Heart of Iron: The Tony Stark Story: Hard to glean much in the way of details from this title alone, but let’s just note that it’s not the only project mentioned in this article to take a stab at covering the life and times of Iron Man the man.
Finding Wakanda: Presumably a documentary about the only-recently-revealed African country. Though, here’s another idea — unofficial sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun?
Hunting Hydra: Tracking Down the World’s Most Notorious Criminals: Continuing the trend of connecting Hydra with Nazis, this is 1000% a title you’d expect to see on the broadcast schedule for the History Channel, in an alternate universe where something like Hydra exists.
It’s also worth noting here that Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) had originally planned to spend the flight playing the also-fictional video game Beast Slayers with Peter. Instead, he ends up sitting next to Betty (Angourie Rice), who is not a fan of the game — but does end up becoming Ned’s girlfriend, for a short time, so it seems to have all worked out.
The Bollywood Films of Kingo
#Kingo through the decades.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) November 12, 2021
Introduced By: Eternals
In 2021’s Eternals, we’re first introduced to the large “family” of super-powered aliens tasked with keeping the Earth safe from other aliens during the early days of human history; it’s only a bit later into the film that we see how these characters are living in a post-Blip world.
The most meta of the reveals is the fact that Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), the MCU’s first South Asian superhero, has spent the past 100 years or so working in Bollywood as a film star. (He’s managed to keep working, despite never aging, by pretending to be his own son/grandson/great-grandson: “I’m part of the greatest dynasty in the history of Bollywood”!)
An incomplete list of Kingo’s Bollywood output includes The Shadow Warrior 2: Voyage of Time, Son of Sarosh, Shadow Warrior 3, Phantom Gun, Galikota, Khel, and The Legend of Icarus. (Presumably, at some point, there was a Shadow Warrior 1.) We also see Kingo’s valet Karun (Harish Patel) making a documentary about Kingo’s return to superhero work, though given how often Karun’s cameras keep getting broken, it’s uncertain at this time as to whether or not he ever finished it.
The Hollywood Films of Simon Williams
Introduced By: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
In a deleted scene from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writer/director James Gunn not only fulfilled his part of whatever ancient curse requires him to cast Nathan Fillion in all of his movies, but created an epic filmography for the character of Simon Williams.
In the comics, Simon Williams eventually takes on the identity of Wonder Man; as embodied by Fillion, the character is only seen in a series of movie posters for films entitled Tony Stark, Arkon, Haxan 2, Oh, Rebecca, Dead Before Arrival, and Toxic Janitor 2. Because this is a deleted scene (one that in fact isn’t currently streaming anywhere), hardcore nerds won’t consider Simon Williams’s appearance to be officially canon, but it’s still fun to check out all the posters and connect them to “our” world.
Tony Stark, for example, features a minimalist design and Fillion in a black turtleneck, a clear homage to Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, while Toxic Janitor 2 serves as a tribute to Gunn’s longtime inspiration/collaborator/mentor Lloyd Kaufman’s own The Toxic Avenger. Perhaps the ultimate winner is Haxan 2, just for the spooky design and the intriguing catchphrase: “You’ll Witch You Never Met Him.” (So many questions!)
The Tragedy of Loki of Asgard
Introduced By: Thor: Ragnarok
The little play being performed when Thor makes his initial return to Asgard in Ragnarok features a star-studded cast (Sam Neill as Odin! Liam Hemsworth as Thor! Matt Damon as Loki!) retelling the events of Thor and Thor: The Dark World — from a very specific point-of-view, one which celebrates Loki as a great lost hero of the realm. Naturally, it’s revealed, Loki himself is the true author.
Introduced By: The ad campaign for Ant-Man
Created initially to promote the 2015 release of Ant-Man (with Season 2 devoted to promoting Captain America: Civil War), WHiH Newsfront is a fictional news program hosted by Tony Stark one-night-stand/professional lady reporter Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb). Released digitally (and thus arguably not canon), the series spoofs modern-day cable news programming while adding some backstory for both Scott Lane (Paul Rudd) and another infamous MCU character…
Trevor Slattery’s Hollywood Legacy
Medium: Film, TV
Introduced By: It’s complicated…
Thanks to the WHiH Newsfront news ticker at the bottom of the screen in Season 2, Episode 2, we learn that among the many things happening in a pre-Captain America: Civil War universe, an albino panda was born at the National Zoo, and also there’s a TV movie being made about a failed actor-turned-fake terrorist: Man or Mandarin: The Trevor Slattery Story. Two episodes later, the news ticker reveals, there’s a competing TV movie being made, entitled 10 Rings To Rule Them All: The Trevor Slattery Story.
Neither of these projects exists outside of these lines of text at the bottom of the screen, but the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King (2014), starring Ben Kingsley, offers up a little extra information about Trevor Slattery’s days as a struggling actor: Specifically that he once starred in a mid-’80s CBS pilot called Caged Heat, which Slattery described to a reporter as being about an “avenging Russian police cop with anger issues let loose on Los Angeles.”
All Hail the King features an excerpt from Caged Heat, including a scene where Trevor’s Caged Heat character drinks at a bar with a monkey in a little Russian outfit. The clip also credits legendary composer Mike Post (the man responsible for Law & Order‘s legendary “chung-chung” musical sting) for doing the music, and in fact, in the full credits for the short, Post is credited with writing “Theme From Caged Heat 1985.” (He also gets a “special thanks” credit.)
Rogers: The Musical
Introduced By: Hawkeye
As Hawkeye showrunner Jonathan Igla explained to Consequence last fall, the inspiration to create a full-fledged Broadway musical for the Jeremy Renner-starring series came from regularly spotting a Hamilton poster on his way to work each day. The end result, featured initially in the season premiere as a brief excerpt and then presented in full as a post-credits scene for the season finale, is a four-minute-long musical number entitled “Save the City.”
“Save the City” features a singing and dancing Captain America and friends during the Battle of New York/the Chitauri invasion, previously documented with a lot less musical flair in 2012’s The Avengers. In the context of the musical itself, this song is intended to be a rousing end-of-Act 1 number, according to composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, with Shaiman adding that the inclusion of Ant-Man (who of course was not present at that battle) was a Marvel Studios suggestion that worked because “whenever there’s a movie or a musical or something, there’s always something that’s a little wrong, or the truth is stretched.”
Other recent MCU properties have featured Rogers: The Musical billboards on screen; like Hamilton, one can only assume that Rogers will have a very long and very profitable Broadway run. Hell, there’s always the chance it could become an actual musical here in our universe. After all, here in the year 2022, sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can get pretty painfully blurry.