Marvel Studios ‘NOVA’, Part 3: The Narrative Frame
In considering what it would take to set Marvel Studios Nova film apart from its prior Cosmic offerings and prepare Richard Rider to ascend as the studios greatest Cosmic hero, I’ve found myself challenged over the past several days. The character of Richard Rider isn’t hard to crack, but there’s more to a film than its lead. Instead of trying to write up a script (I’m no script writer), I’m instead going to try to roll out a series of pieces explaining how I would chose to tackle some of these challenges I’ve encountered while imagining the Nova film.
In Part 1 (which you can read right here), I took a crack at solving the problems surrounding the Xandarian Worldmind, the Nova Force and Richard’s kid brother, Robbie. In Part 2 (which you can read right here) I tackled a whole new set of problems surrounding the Human Rocket including his origin, why he wasn’t around during the events of Avengers: Endgame and what it is about him that makes him human enough to make mistakes and learn from them.
Something that became clear to me fairly early on in the process of writing this fan fiction was that I was crafting the origin story of a character who would ultimately participate in 5 or 6 films over a decade and ultimately leave his mark on the MCU as one of its greatest heroes. To me, the legacy of Richard Rider, the last great Nova Prime, had to be bulletproof and it had to be a story that could be told forever; in that way, it could never be told by an emotional being. That line of thinking took me pretty quickly to the only answer as to who would be narrating my Nova triology: Recorder 451.
Recorder 451 was created by one of my all-time favorite comic book writers, Kieron Gillen, and first appeared in issue #6 of his 2013 Iron Man. Gillen has said 451 was based on legendary sci-fi droids C-3PO and HAL-9000 among other influences. 451, as it turns out via Gillen’s retcon, has a whole lot to do with the Stark family and much of that is because he had a glitch in his AI that turned him against his very nature. Recorders were built by the Rigellian Empire to do explore the universe and record their observations; however, 451 decided to get a little too hands on in the comics and became something else and a very bit part of the Stark legacy. It looks like we won’t be getting that relationship here now that Iron Man is no more, but I love the character and, thanks to George Lucas, I may have found a way to sneak him in even it means changing him up.
In the 2014 book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, George Lucas told the book’s author, Chris Taylor, about what he called his “ultimate framing device.” The mythology Lucas developed for his Star Wars universe was incredible and while much of it never made it to the screen, it gave depth to films by providing a “lived-in” world. Par of this mythology was the Journal of the Whills, essentially a record of the events in that galaxy far, far away (the original title of Star Wars was Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars) According to Lucas, the stories were recounted to the keeper of the journals all by the one and only entity there to see it all (in 2014 and in Lucas’s mind, there were only 6 films): R2-D2. Yep, when you watch Episodes I-VI, what you’re supposed to be getting is the story as told to the keeper of the journals by that feisty astromech droid. That tidbit of information has really stuck with me and as I searched for a way to tell the story of Richard Rider, I determined that this was it and that Recorder 451 was going to be my R2-D2.
This is a choice that really sets the film apart from any other MCU entry because Recorder 451 would be both narrator and participant in the Nova trilogy with all 3 films employing a “story-within-a-story” narrative style. So while we would first meet Recorder 451 in the opening moments of the film, we would also watch as he entered into Rich’s life in the main narrative.
The opening scene of the first Nova film takes place in the year 3007. Recorder 451 stands in front of a group (no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop imagining Harrison Ford’s lecture in Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with the girl blinking here “I love you” eyelashes at Indy. In this case, Recorder would certainly find it curious.”
“Richard Rider was born on Earth at a time when the planet’s greatest heroes, either by birth, by accident or by choice, possessed incredible powers. In that way, Richard Rider was entirely insignificant for he had none of these. I did not know Richard Rider in his youth, but when I met him he told me he left Earth because he had no place there. Today, we begin our study of Richard Rider, the greatest and last Nova Prime who, until he gave his life to save the universe, set himself apart from all those who came before him and have come and gone since because of two things: a willingness to fly headlong into danger and deep and righteous anger that fueled him.”
At this point, we cut to Rich watching the destruction of New York in 2012 (detailed in Part 2) and get some other flashbacks to his youth. It was always key to Rich’s personality in the comics, and it will be here, that he never felt he was good enough, so we need to see that. We also need to give Rich a little bit of an edge physically for what’s coming (it’s so weird to right this out in parts knowing you guys don’t know what I mean) and I wanted to ground him in the types of things I think a typical kid his age who felt angry and underappreciated might do so I settled on having him take up a hobby that I see a lot of boys his age show interest in: mixed martial arts. Rich will need to be able to both take a punch and kick some ass down the road (I’ve always thought he has a little Rocky Balboa in him that way). We’ll then get to the Zorr origin also described in Part 2 and to the the snap.
Right here is where Part 4 would be really nice, but here’s what you need to know as it relates to Recorder 451: once Rich gets into space, his first mission with the Nova Corps, which has been rebuilding its ranks on Xandar since the 2018 attack by Thanos, will take him across the galaxy on a ship with a team that includes the first Rigellian to ever join the Nova Corps: Tana Nile. Many of you know this should be Irani Rael, but James Gunn used her up already and we’re unlikely to find a good use for Tana in the MCU so here we are. As the first Rigellian in the Corps, Nile is assigned a Recorder, 451, to observe and record her historical missions. And now you know how 451 and Rich come to know one another and how their lives become intertwined until the end.
“In this way, Nova Prime Rider preserved the Worldmind and prevented a wave of terror from spreading across the galaxy. Of course, as was seemingly always the case in the short 5 years Richard Rider served the Nova Corps, another, greater threat loomed right around the corner.”
“The Annihilation Wave?”
“No, Corpsman Maats. The Annihilation Wave, unknown to us at time, had only begun its work in the Negative Zone. What came next was, more terrifying, in a way, than the Wave because the Wave did not think, it only acted. The Universal Church of Truth, however, well that was an entirely different matter altogether.”
Richard Rider will return.
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