Marvel Studios NOVA, Part 5: The Hero’s Journey
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. Part 3 (which you can read right here) took a step back from the main plot to set up the story around the story and introduce Recorder 451, the bard of Rider’s legend. Part 4 (which you can read right here) introduced the film’s antagonists in the treasonous Super Novas and set up the long game of the MCU with a few surprising character introductions.
Saving Rich’s story for the end is a little odd and this series has certainly been very non-linear, so hopefully after reading this you’re able to piece the film together in your head. Rich’s hero’s journey is going to begin in 2023 when the Hulk snapped him, along with everyone else back to life. Many of you will remember from Part 2 that Rich was snapped away by Thanos shortly after putting on the helmet of Rhomann Dey and briefly interfacing with the Worldmind. Much like we saw in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Rich is going to pop back up right were he was when he disappeared and jump right back into that uncomfortable interface with the Worldmind. I envision this as some pretty serious psychological trauma. While it would take Rich time to notice the changes around him, his connection to the Worldmind means he’s uploading 5 years of pretty horrible news instantaneously. As soon as his helmet restores the connection to the main node, Rich’s mind is overloaded with information. As it hits him, he begins to panic and experience some very real anxiety and it’s now that we hear the Worldmind say for the first time, “Richard, it is critical you pay attention at this time” before Rich passes out in the street.
Rich is awakened shortly by the Worldmind and once he begins to hear the voice again, he quickly removes the helmet and, full of the knowledge that he has been gone for 5 years, heads for home unsure of what he’ll find. Try to think of his race home as similar to Luke Skywalker heading back to his home, only when Rich gets there his parents aren’t on fire. However, when he bursts through the door, the first person he sees is his brother, Robbie, now 17 years old, just like Rich. The sweetness of the reunion with his family is made bitter to Rich as he he hears all about Robbie’s accomplishments, including his acceptance into MIT and his work on quantum computers. Though they are all happy to see each other, Rich begins to believe that everyone moved on just fine without him and it begins to chip away at his already fragile mental state. Though there’s some tension with Robbie, Rich is proud of him and once he describes what’s happening with the alien helmet, Robbie begins to inspect it. After putting it on himself, he becomes aware that he’s dealing with a quantum node and thus becomes, as you’ve read in other parts, a huge part of Rich’s story and takes his first steps into his own.
The rest of the first act of the film will see Rich continue to struggle to reclaim his life on Earth while experimenting with the helmet. Though initially hesitant, given the fact that putting on the helmet allows Worldmind to interface directly with his brain, Rich grows comfortable with the conversation and with the powers granted to him. After briefly flirting with doing some superhero stuff on Earth, including teaming up with Spider-Man, the call to adventure of heading into space with the ability to prevent the type of invasions Rich experienced in the past is too much to turn down and Rich heads to Xandar courtesy of our first Nova stargate!
On the way to Xandar, Worldmind downloads the history of the Nova Corps into Rich dating all the way back to the first Nova Prime, Tanak Valt. Aware that Rich will be put at ease by meeting more human looking members of the corps, Worldmind arranges for him to be met by Centurion Gabriel Lan and his first officer, Denarian Pyreus Kril, who we first met in Part 4 and who both have their own destinies ahead of them as Air-Walker and Firelord, Heralds of Galacuts! Lan and Kril will pass Rich off to the Corpsman responsible for his initiation: Millennian Qubit. Qubit will introduce Rich to his fellow new recruits: the Rigellian Tana Nile, the Kakarantharan Fraktur, the Mephistoid Morrow, the Shi’ar Malik Tarcel and the blue-skinned Kree Ko-Rel that Rich can’t quite seem to take his eyes off of.
It’s incredibly important that Rich is the only human in the group. I want his interactions with his core group to feel strange to the audience so that we understand what Rich is feeling. I think it’s important to flip the sci-fi script here and rather than have the aliens follow the “oh another stupid human” trope, have Rich struggle with their acceptance of him. Also, as we follow the archetypes of the hero’s journey, Ko-Rel plays the innocent temptress and it’s his attraction to her that begins to break down the walls of his xenophobia. While the core team will go forward with Rich, you might remember from Part 4 that they don’t all make it. Ko-Rel and Qubit are on the 6-man team that take the mission to Cygnet VII along with Rich, Nile, Lan and Krill and, unfortunately, neither of them make it back. The rest of Rich’s team will arrive as part of the huge strike team that finally takes out the Super Novas after Rich disables their hack. Ko’Rel’s death will stay with Rich for the entirety of his MCU journey and, as in the comics, she will become the avatar of the Worldmind when Rich interacts with it in person.
After surviving the adventure, Rich’s takes the final step of the hero’s journey, the return home. A very different person from when he left just a few short weeks earlier, Rich has the joyful reunion he should have had with his family when he first saw them post-snap. He and Robbie reunite and share a much more brotherly hug. Rich gives Robbie the helmet and as he interfaces with Worldmind we see a broad smile emerge on his face: Robbie is going to space (but you read Part 4 and you already knew that). After being briefly home, Rich and Robbie board the Way-Opener and head back to Xandar destined to take on the Universal Church of Truth, the Fraternity of Raptors and the Annihilation Wave.