doctor doom movie

At San Diego Comic-Con last year, Fargo and Legion showrunner Noah Hawley revealed that he was developing a Doctor Doom movie for 20th Century Fox. This news was met with excitement from fans who feel that the live-action Fantastic Four movies up to this point have done a disservice to the character of Doom — arguably Marvel’s greatest super-villain. Recently Hawley talked a little about his vision for the film as a political thriller along the lines of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet the proposed acquisition of Fox by Disney — which could fold the Fantastic Four and X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — could also complicate matters insofar as it may see some projects that were in development before the acquisition fall by the wayside.

The second season of Legion is now underway on FX and the show has allowed Hawley to carve out his own weird yet worthwhile corner of the X-universe on television. The show’s first season introduced one notable Marvel villain in a way that made him truly scary, and there is evidence now from the second season that Hawley may be crafting a Breaking-Bad-like origin tale for another such villain right under our noses. It just goes to show: he’s the perfect guy to tackle Doctor Doom.

Willfully Weird

If Legion’s ratings are any indication, then the show’s willful weirdness may have turned some viewers off early on. Like Hannibal, Season 3, and Twin Peaks: The Return, the show does, at times, seem bent on being as “out there” as it possibly can. Season 2 has only upped the avant-garde quotient, adding female androids with mustaches, a silent admiral who wears a basket over his head, rooms full of people with chattering teeth, and more elaborately choreographed dance numbers.

The dance numbers, in particular, are a stylistic indulgence that can be explained if not always justified as a kind of quirky visual representation of the various forces asserting their influence over the mind of David Haller, the show’s main character, played by Dan Stevens. Shot like a music video, a dance-off in the season premiere staged itself more clearly as a contest of wills between David and the characters Oliver and Lenny, played by Jemaine Clement and Aubrey Plaza, respectively. It’s just one way that Legion has chosen to eschew the form of traditional action sequences. In the next episode, the show used a wrestling match to express the contest of wills.

With this show and Fargo, Hawley has shown himself to be adept at matching the style of a show to its content. For its part, Fargo did have at least one baffling moment in the form of a deus-ex-machina UFO encounter in its second season. Yet even that moment was of a piece, arguably, with the season’s paranoid ‘70s time setting and the affected, truth-is-stranger-than-fiction air that infused the Mike Yanagita scene in the original Fargo movie.

The resulting effect of the scene as filmed is debatable, but for Hawley as a showrunner and storyteller, it was at least a creative decision that proceeded from a logical foundation. On the whole, his instincts have otherwise served Fargo well, turning the questionable concept of a Coen Brothers TV remake into a rich and rewarding anthology series that managed to remix the familiar beats and calling cards of the Coens’ work into something that felt like it could still inhabit the same zany “Minnesota nice” crime world.

Likewise, you could make a case that Legion’s offbeat style is a natural byproduct of its unreliable narrator, David, who started out the series as a patient confined to a mental hospital. When you have a main character who cannot trust his own sanity or the nature of the reality he perceives, it’s understandable that strangeness might find its way into his orbit and even start building up around him like an accretion disk. Yet in Legion, there are enough pearls of lucidity to be found among the bizarre, style-over-substance moments that it does merit viewing, especially for comic book movie fans who consider the show an extension of the X-Men movie universe.

In recent years, it’s been interesting to see that universe stretch outside the comfort zone of PG-13 superhero films with titles Deadpool and Logan. However, even those films have not been quite able to crack the villain problem that has plagued the MCU and other superhero movies outside of it. That is where Legion stands apart. Indeed, those who stuck with the show through its first season were rewarded with an unusual treat: namely, the terrifying screen depiction of a classic comic book villain (who was not the Joker).

From here on out, there will be potential spoilers for everything up to episode 11 of Legion.

The Shadow of a King

When Legion Season 1, started teasing us with glimpses of the Devil with Yellow Eyes — a frightening blob in tattered clothes — the character’s visual design almost made me wonder at first if David Haller was trapped in the Mojoverse and this was supposed to be Mojo, the X-Men villain. Mojo, however, holds closer ties to the hero Longshot than he ever did David Haller; and as it turns out, what we were seeing on the show was a different villain. 

As anyone who watches the show knows, the Devil with Yellow Eyes turned out to be the Shadow King: a powerful mutant telepath who had become disembodied and attached himself to David’s consciousness as a psychic parasite. The entity’s bloated appearance was the result of him growing engorged on David’s abundant psychic energy. On television in 2017, there was perhaps no more terrifying image than that blob with demonic eyes turning an all-white room red as he stalked David’s girlfriend, Syd, played by Rachel Keller, over to a bed at the end of episode 5.

This was Legion’s first victory: doing justice to the Shadow King. Even when he was just being embodied by David’s old psych-ward buddy, Lenny, there was still an evil-eyed, slinking menace that Aubrey Plaza brought to the character.

As a reader of ‘90s comics, my first exposure to the Shadow King came in Uncanny X-Men #279, the issue where he takes over the metallic body of the X-Man Colossus and chases Professor X across the X-mansion. I mention that here only because I think being aware of comics history might give some indication for where Legion is headed next and how it could actually be bringing not one, but two X-Men villains to the small screen.

Other comic book readers may remember that David Haller played a key role in two important X-Men storylines. “The Muir Island Saga” fed into the launch of X-Men #1, the best-selling comic book of all time. “Legion Quest” led directly into the landmark Age of Apocalypse event. In both of those stories, David Haller was portrayed as a troubled antagonist. On trading cards, he was actually classified as a super-villain.

Obviously, Noah Hawley is striving to create characters that are more than just one-dimensional baddies. On this week’s episode, as David interacted with the Shadow King in his original human form, that of a man named Amahl Farouk, we actually got to hear Farouk deliver a speech that made the conventional Shadow King/Professor X dynamic seem a whole lot more relative, morally, than it was in the comics:

This word — villain — do you know where it comes from? C’est francais. It means, originally, “one who lives in a village.” A peasant. Do I seem like a peasant to you? … No. This is important. Language. The meaning of things. You called me a villain. Me, the king. King of Kings. His majesty, the wise. For decades I rule over my country. I’m a good king. Strong, but just. My people, they prosper. And then, your father, a white man — which is, you tell me, important? — he comes. Does he speak our language? Does he know our customs? And he decides what? That my people should have better? That he knows better? Who is he to make such choices?

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