Marvel Phase 3 – The Shape of Things to Come
By Louis Rabinowitz.
This article contains major spoilers for the ending of Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you haven’t seen the movie, click away now!
Avengers: Age of Ultron is in cinemas worldwide, racking up millions of dollars in the time it takes to ask ‘why did Joss Whedon leave Twitter?’ – with the sequel on track to reach a billion dollars worldwide before long, it’s safe to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has never been healthier. However, while things are ticking along as normal in the real world, Age of Ultron saw the MCU shaken up with the Avengers roster completely transformed, ensuring that the status quo will be very different indeed for the next batch of MCU movies. Thankfully, the path to the next Avengers (and even a little beyond) has been laid out already…
With a whole lot of movies on the way before the team assembles again, here’s a preview of Phase Three of the biggest franchise in history, with some facts and plenty of speculation:
Note: Due to the fact that it’s part of Phase Two, and there’s been enough revealed to not make speculation worthwhile, Ant-Man isn’t included here. It is, however, here in spirit.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6th 2016)
Director(s): Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of The Winter Soldier and newly crowned overlords of the MCU
Starring: It’s a little bit of an Avengers reunion, with Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (the Falcon), Don Cheadle (War Machine) and Paul Bettany (the Vision) all starring. Only Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth are sitting this one out, given that both the Hulk and Thor are out of the picture for the time being. Paul Rudd will appear in some capacity as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, with Chadwick Boseman making his debut as new superhero Black Panther ahead of his movie in 2018.
Winter Soldier stars Sebastian Stan and Emily VanCamp return as Bucky/the Winter Soldier and Sharon Carter respectively – and on villain duties, there’s Daniel Bruhl as HYDRA nutcase Helmut Zemo, and Frank Grillo returning as fried and crispy goon Crossbones (this time fully suited up). In a return practically no-one expected, William Hurt is back as general Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross for the first time since The Incredible Hulk, finally elevating that movie above a near-exile from Marvel canon. As for mystery roles – there’s a major actor without a character (Martin Freeman), and a major character without an actor (Spider-Man). Don’t worry; the ‘starring’ lists will get shorter later on.
What’s it about? Based on the 2006 comics event, Civil War sees former buddies Steve Rogers and Tony Stark pitted against each other by a new government act, the Superhero Registration Act, which forces superheroes to register their identity in order to go about their business. This causes a bit of a moral divide, with the two heroes splintering into opposing factions depending on their stance towards the Act.
Other notes: Civil War has been said to act as a set-up for the other war coming in Phase Three, with most of the Avengers popping up in some form. If it follows the comics, then expect a big twist towards the end (Google is your friend if you want to know more) that will have major repercussions for the rest of Phase Three. It also marks the first appearance of Spider-Man in the MCU, cast this time as a young teenager once again in high school – but thankfully, there’s not going to be any origin story to sit through in either this or his solo movie. The whole Winter Soldier story will continue on – so this is still very much a Captain America movie, despite all the indications that it’s not really.
Doctor Strange (November 4th 2016)
Director: Horror movie director Scott Derrickson will helm this one, indicating that this will have a horror-ish slant.
Starring: The ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch plays the central role of Stephen ‘Doctor’ Strange… and that’s all we know so far. See, I told you the starring paragraphs would be shorter!
What’s it about? If this follows the comics’ origin, Doctor Strange sees arrogant, Tony Stark-esque neurosurgeon Stephen Strange lose the use of his hands in an accident, taking up sorcery to make up for this slight inconvenience, donning a slightly unfashionable outfit and learning the ways of the mystic arts in order to defeat a slew of mystical enemies (this will be a pretty mystical movie, if you hadn’t figured that out).
Anything else? It’s still a while off from filming, but we’ve been promised that Doctor Strange will be a slightly trippy experience featuring multiple dimensions. It’s speculated that another Infinity Gem will pop up here, but time will tell.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5th, 2017)
Director: Director of the first movie, James Gunn, returns for more wacky space adventures.
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Dave Bautista will all be back as the titular Guardians. Michael Rooker is likely to return as rogue father figure Yondu, with Karen Gillan also likely donning the blue make-up again as Nebula.
What’s it about? The sequel will orbit around the idea of fathers, with the mystery about Star Lord’s father from the first movie taking centre stage. The Thanos plot will almost certainly rear its purple head again now the purple-headed bad guy supreme is getting a little more proactive. What isn’t likely is an appearance from any Avengers, with that rumoured Hulk appearance kiboshed by the ending of Age of Ultron, which saw Hulk still in our atmosphere.
Anything else? With the Guardians almost certain for an appearance in Infinity War, some set-up for the two-part extravaganza is to be expected. Also, probably, another vintage soundtrack of classic hits.
Spider-Man (July 28th, 2017)
Director: Unknown, but circulating names include Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies), Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) and Jared Hess.
Starring: Reports indicate that 18-year old Ender’s Game star Asa Butterfield is in negotiations to don the red and blue outfit – aside from that, no casting has been revealed as of yet, though it’s likely that a familiar MCU face will pop up somewhere.
What’s it about? As mentioned above, we know what it won’t be about, which is Spider-Man’s origin story – this solo movie will pick up with Peter Parker in high school and suited up as the webhead. As for villains, it’s unlikely that the smorgasbord of bad guys The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel served up will appear here due to the fairly embarrassing failure of well, all of them, so at a guess Kraven the Hunter and/or Mysterio could be facing off against Spidey here, given that they’re two popular villains who haven’t made an appearance in any of the five Spider-Man movies.
Anything else? This is the third attempt to portray Spidey on the big screen in just over a decade, so expect some major differences to the Maguire and Garfield versions of Spidey to be made in order to keep things fresh.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3rd, 2017)
Director: Unknown at this point – however, it’s almost certain that Dark World director Alan Taylor won’t be returning.
Starring: Most of the Thor regulars have been confirmed, including Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston and Jaimie Alexander (Sif). Reports have indicated that the movie might not even take place on Earth, so there’s a bit of a question mark over the return of love interest Jane Foster.
What’s it about? Ragnarok means ‘the end of all things’, so expect plenty of apocalyptic action to be going on, with Asgard presumably needing a bit of a redecoration once the dust has settled. All-round inconvenience Surtur the fire demon is likely to be the villain given his connection to Ragnarok in the comics. The strange cliffhanger from Dark World, seeing Loki taking the throne of Asgard disguised as Odin, will almost certainly be touched upon, with Loki presumably up to his usual mischief.
Anything else? Kevin Feige has hyped this as the equivalent of The Winter Soldier for the character of Thor, so big changes are a-coming for the lightning god.
Black Panther (July 6, 2018)
Director: Nothing confirmed, but directors Ava DuVernay and Rick Famuyiwa are circulating either this or Captain Marvel.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman will headline here as T’Challa/Black Panther after his appearance in Civil War, with Andy Serkis likely to pop back up again as arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, first seen with a nifty South African accent in Age of Ultron.
What’s it about? T’Challa is an African prince of the fictional country of Wakanda, an isolationist state cut off from the modern world which possesses a fairly massive stockpile of MacGuffin material vibranium (the stuff that makes up Captain America’s shield, and helped create the Vision). It’s likely that this solo movie will see T’Challa’s ascension to the chief of the primary tribe in Wakanda, if the comics are any indication.
Anything else? Kevin Feige hinted that Black Panther may focus on the introduction of Wakanda to the world, and what happens when the isolationist country is exposed to the media.
Captain Marvel (November 2nd, 2018)
Starring: Also TBA (see, I told you the starring paragraphs would get even shorter!)
What’s it about? Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, Captain Marvel focuses on Carol Danvers, a US Army officer who is given incredible powers after an alien bomb blows up on her. And by incredible, I mean that Danvers really lucks out with her powers, with her powerset including super-strength, super-speed, flight and energy manipulation.
Anything else? Coming in between the Infinity War movies, Captain Marvel might feature some tie-ins to the cosmic goings-on in the two-part movie.
Inhumans (July 12th, 2019)
What’s it about? The Inhumans are a group of beings that were originally scientific playthings of the Kree – though they’re born dormant and powerless, their powers can be unlocked through exposure to Terrigen Mist, which triggers a process called Terrigenesis. If you’re familiar with all of this, it’s because a group of Inhumans are currently playing a major role in Agents of SHIELD, so they’ve actually been introduced to the MCU already. The Inhumans the movie will focus on, however, will probably be the Royal Family that includes Black Bolt, a superhero with a voice so damaging it’s a bit of a safety hazard.
Anything else? Inhumans was recently pushed back until after Infinity War part 2, so it’s unlikely that any Inhumans will make an appearance in either of the movies – but who knows?
Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1: May 4th 2018, Part 2: May 3rd 2019)
Director: Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of Captain America movies The Winter Soldier and Civil War, will helm both parts.
Starring: A lot of people. It’s the grand finale to this extremely prolonged trilogy of the MCU, so you can expect every Avenger who isn’t dead by this point, both from the old and new line-ups, the Guardians of the Galaxy, some of the solo heroes introduced between now and then such as Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, plus a motley collection of supporting characters from across the MCU. Reports have even suggested that the Defenders from the Netflix shows will pop up (Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) – and a few old villainous faces might make a return. It’s more a case of who will appear when, with the possibility open that Part 1 will see a collection of the newer heroes introduced in Phases 2 and 3 before everyone and their mother appears in the final movie. Anchoring the inevitably gargantuan cast will be Big Bad Thanos himself, played by Josh Brolin.
What’s it about? With Thanos on the hunt for Infinity Stones himself as of the end of Age of Ultron, at least Part Two of Infinity War will see Thanos with a fully stocked Infinity Gauntlet, which in the comics gave him omnipotence and the ability to destroy galaxies with the snap of a finger (so, you know, he might be a little bit threatening). Facing him will be the aforementioned small army of superheroes mentioned above – but with Infinity War probably seeing the final bow for the titans of the MCU such as Iron Man and Captain America, there will definitely be plenty of blood spilt by the time the credits roll.
Anything else? With two movies and nine planned months of shooting, it’s safe to assume that Infinity War won’t begin with Thanos with all six Infinity Gems in his gold glove of infinite destruction, and it might just be Part Two where the events speculated about above take place. That leaves Part One as something of an enigma – it could be a set-up for the big event, or be focused on something more tangential to Thanos.