Last week I wrote an editorial about all the woes both fans and moviegoers have leveled against the DC Cinematic Universe – a universe we’ve barely seen anything of – and whether fans need be worried. Today I hope to turn the table on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a universe we’ve seen plenty of output from, and dissect what’s still to come, specifically with Phase Three. The MCU has now become the highest grossing franchise of all time. Please be aware this article may at any point spoil one of Marvel’s many already released films up to Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as any television series connected to the MCU (including those on Netflix), and will present potential spoilers and rumors that may or may not prove true at some point down the line. If you’re interested in catching up on all things MCU, here is my chronological timeline.
A little background, for those of you who aren’t wholly in the know, Marvel’s Phase One comprised six films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and these all culminated with The Avengers. Phase Two also stands to be six films: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. Although the first Phase clearly marked the beginning of the metahuman hero presence and the subsequent gathering of earth’s mightiest heroes under the team banner of ‘The Avengers’, the second Phase showcases the continuing necessity of that team banner whilst dealing with their more personal issues.
One can assume that Ant-Man, which arrives July 17th domestically, should be the lead-in film to Marvel’s Phase Three, as it arrives after the second Avengers film. However Kevin Feige has stated that Ant-Man is very much a Phase Two movie. If this is the case, what distinction is made with the third “Phase?”
Why Phase Three?
I believe we’ll see that Phase Three will showcase the evolution of the Avengers team, proving to the audience that an Avengers lineup doesn’t have to be the core team of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, etc. I believe that by the time the first Avengers: Infinity War movie arrives, we’ll have an entirely new set of Avengers. This theory is lent credence in part by the last few minutes of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Again, spoilers. Thor goes off on his own, back to Asgard, to discover whatever it was his hallucinogenic dream entailed for the future. Tony Stark decides to hang up his hat, which gives the impression he is done with the Avengers for the long haul. And Hulk is flying a plane… somewhere. Captain America and Black Widow hold a meeting with a new Avengers team, perhaps instituting a new training regiment not previously seen with the original team. This team includes all metahuman heroes thus far introduced to the series, including War Machine, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Vision.
I think, in some ways, this next Phase of Marvel’s impressive project will be about the recruitment of new players on the scene. Whether that be S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap, Black Widow, etc., searching for these heroes, and getting them to join the Avengers initiative, we don’t know yet. Does this mean we’ll see less origin stories? Or will an Avenger or two show up near the end, or in a mid/post-credits scene? These are questions we’ll likely have answered in the near future.
Why are they filming Avengers: Infinity War so soon?
Filming for Captain America: Civil War began two days ago on May 7th, so we’ll certainly be getting a ton of news on that front in the coming months. We’ll likely receive our first full trailer by the time Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters. We’ll get back to who or what we can expect of Captain America: Civil War later in this post. Just know it will film for the next three to four months in Germany, Puerto Rico, Iceland, but primarily in Atlanta. Joe and Anthony Russo will direct, as they did for the second Captain America flick, The Winter Soldier.
Recently it’s been revealed by none other than Chris Evans that filming picks back up again in the Fall of 2016 for the back-to-back shooting of Avengers: Infinity War, parts 1 & 2. This shooting block will cover the better part of a year. 9 months worth of filming is pretty hefty, but realistic to film two Avengers films. But why are they doing it so soon? What could that possibly mean?
For one, it could herald the exit of some of their long-term actors – those who’ve signed on for 6+ movie deals. That could include Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and so on. But why would this herald the end of their contractual obligation? Many of the actors signed 6 film contracts. Let’s take Robert Downey Jr. as an example. Before it was announced that he’d signed a contract to appear in the third Cap film, he was adamant amongst the press junket that Avengers 3 would be his next and last appearance as Tony Stark/Iron Man, making his contractual obligations only 6 films. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, its announced that, not only will he star in Avengers 3 & 4, he’ll also show up in Captain America 3. Thats an 8 film contract, at the very least. One can only assume that this additional-movie contract was shared throughout many of their A-List actors. And how would they swing that with all of them? They film the majority of these films back-to-back, thereby fulfilling their extra-contractual agreements, allowing them to move on at Marvel/Disney’s earliest convenience.
This is only one way to interpret it, of course. Hopefully I’m far from correct, but that seems to make sense to me. Either way, this is quite early. What does this mean for Marvel’s other Phase Three lineups? Well, I’ll bet my last dollar they’ll have each of their subsequent movies casted and in the pre-production phase by then, if not already filming. It is widely believed that Avengers: Infinity War, Part One will not feature the majority of the Avengers cast we now know to expect, but a completely new crew. I mentioned this earlier, and I expect it to hold true. That being said, I think the original team will be involved in some fashion, not being completely forgotten – perhaps preoccupied elsewhere.
This also means Marvel is totally gung-ho about their movie lineup, and layout. To film the Avengers sequel(s) to many of these films before the rest even start filming? That’s got to take some pretty stellar planning.
Will the directors be able to make the films they want?
This isn’t an easy question to answer, because it’s only an inference. But one with some background. Last year we saw the departure of Edgar Wright from the directorial position on his long-time labor of love project, Ant-Man. This was a movie he’d been working on for over 7 years, and Marvel had finally given him the “okay, show us what you got.” Joss Whedon, director of both the Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron movies, told an interviewer that Wright’s script for Ant-Man was the best Marvel script he had yet to see. But unfortunately Edgar Wright parted ways with Marvel and Disney, as their visions couldn’t come together as they would’ve liked.
This begs the thought that, “oh, maybe it is just Disney pulling all the strings, and the CEOs are really running the show.” With each movie, Marvel continues to put out exceptional quality, and each film gets more connected than the last to the overarcing endgame plot. So I really don’t think Marvel will allow filmmakers to, from this point on, micromanage their own films without sticking their own hands into the mix. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, as it could produce something truly impressive, but it’s a shame these directors won’t be able to fully present the films they wish to.
Joss Whedon, the guy that helped Marvel break that $1B box office for the brand, too had some difficulty managing his sequel from up above. It’s been widely reported that he and some of the head honchos at Marvel butted ideas back and forth, and in the end Joss gave way. Much of Age of Ultron was scrapped – a third of it! If he can’t get his way, likely it’ll start to become harder for other directors as well.
Will Phase Three be the end of the MCU?
From the beginning the guys over at Marvel, particularly Producer Kevin Feige, have toted their 3-Phase plan for their universe. Well, Phase Three is almost here. Will Infinity War be the end-all-be-all conclusion? No. But it would be a smart move on Disney’s behalf if they chose to market it as the end. It’ll be a trilogy of phases, and trilogies sell well.
What is likely to happen, if their current actors decide it’s time to move on to other things, is that they just recast the roles, without having to reboot their entire canon. It’ll be similar to James Bond in that respect. Mark Ruffalo has already replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodey/War Machine. It will be harder to let go of their bigger actors, and likely some will stay on to play their characters longer. But not all of them.
Marvel is also smart enough to realize that rebooting their franchise(s) isn’t necessary. They’ve had the privilege of watching from afar other Studios struggle to keep their audiences caring about their rebooted heroes, and know it’s not the way to go. There’s also the fact that they will have all these new franchises starting in Phase Three that they’ll wish to do more with. It only makes sense to keep the ball rolling.
And trust me, they already have an outline for what to do next. A few years back Kevin Feige said that with the addition of new franchises, they’ll begin releasing 3 movies a year. And then potentially 4. Well, 2017 sees the first shift to 3 MCU films a year. I expect that by 2020 there will be 4 per year.
Let’s go through the films of Phase Three individually, and try to make some sense out of the constant influx of information.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
The first film of the bunch takes its title from the 2006-7 comic book arc of the same name. Civil War pits earth’s mightiest heroes against each other, as they duke it out over differing ideals on the Superhero Registration Act – which requires all masked heroes to register their true identity with the government. This will likely have something to do with the events of Civil War. The main warring factions? Iron Man and Captain America. This film is going to be huge. Many have already gone to calling it Avengers 2.5. Don’t expect to see either Thor or Hulk in it however.
The film will introduce both Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (as played by… well, we don’t know yet, but probably some kid named Asa Butterfield). This will be the first instance where Sony teams up with Disney to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. In the comic series, Spider-Man teamed up with Stark – even revealing his identity as Peter Parker to the public. Whether this will also happen in the film? Who knows. He hasn’t officially been announced in the cast list yet (but he is so gonna be there). One thing that really marked Civil War in the comics as a “war,” was the fact that there were so many heroes on either side of the Cap and Iron Man tug-o-war. Initially I was a bit worried, because there simply aren’t even half the amount of heroes in the MCU as there were in the comic arc. I think Marvel has us covered though.
Other characters featured in some fashion: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Bucky/The Winter Soldier (Sebastien Stan), Vision (Paul Bettany), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Interestingly, Nick Fury (as played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are absent from the list. They’ll undoubtedly show up also. Martin Freeman is to appear as a non-masked hero type character – potentially the Black Panther villain Everett K. Ross. Emily VanCamp is to return as Agent 13. A surprising casting return is William Hurt as Gen. Thaddeus Ross, someone we haven’t seen since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk film (no, we aren’t going to see the Red Hulk). Daniel Brühl plays the film’s antagonist Baron Zemo. We might even see Charlie Cox’s Daredevil make an appearance, but this is not confirmed.
Joe and Anthony Russo should have no problem whatsoever with wrangling up most of Marvel’s heroes with this film. With all the political intrigue that’s sure to go down with this one, I feel their entirely up to the task. At least 15 minutes of the film will be shot with IMAX and Arri’s newest 2D camera, so that should be pretty stunning.
Many may remember that in the aftermath of Civil War, Captain America actually does die. Whether this is to also happen in the movie or not, we don’t honestly know. Chris Evans himself says that he’s involved with the nine month filming block for Infinity War. He could go into a coma-like state at the end of this film and then pick his shield back up for Infinity War – Part 2, which I could definitely see happening. This would likely mean that The Winter Soldier would take up his mantle, as he does in the comics.
Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)
Doctor Strange is Marvel’s lynchpin character between the the physical and cosmic realms of the universe. Stephen Strange is a former neurosurgeon, and now the Sorcerer Supreme.
This film was originally slated to begin filming in May 2015, but is still in pre-production. Benedict Cumberbatch has been tapped to play the character, and it will likely not be an origin story. As Strange is one in tune with the mystical arts, he will come in very handy when it comes time for the Avengers to deal with Thanos in Infinity War. Scott Derrickson will direct.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
Guardians 2 was inevitable. The first was the splash hit of 2014. The superhero film nobody knew what to expect from, and a superhero team that even the die-hard Marvel fans knew nothing of. But how will this film be different?
Over the past couple years fans have been clamoring for a Planet Hulk film. Licensing issues, timing, the money involved, as well as a fickle franchise are the main causes as to why we’ll never truly see a Planet Hulk film made. BUT. We do know that Hulk takes the jet to fly off somewhere at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. We also know that Guardians of the Galaxy are a space-faring crew. Could Guardians 2 be a backwards way of getting that Planet Hulk film we’ve always wanted? I really hope so.
James Gunn will be back to direct the Guardians. He’s also stated that the film’s soundtrack “Awesome Mix 2” is even better than that of the first film. So we have that to look forward to.
Untitled Spider-Man Film (July 28, 2017)
The team-up we all thought could never happen. Sony and Disney have finally merged the rights to co-finance the Spider-Man character so that, although still a Sony owned entity, the character can be used within the MCU. The film will likely star Asa Butterfield, as I mentioned above, and the character will likely not have another origin story. The plan is to cast a young actor so that it’s a believable high school experience. And with Marvel’s guiding hand, they could totally make this work.
Naturally many were quick to bash the fact that this is the third actor to play Spider-Man in less than a decade, and the second reboot in five years. Although I feel terrible that it couldn’t have turned out better for Andrew Garfield and friends, I’m excited to see what they do with the character this time around. The film has a rumored title of Spider-Man: The New Avenger.
We might even see some of the Avengers cast make a cameo in this one, to help sales a bit.
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3, 2017)
We don’t know a lot about Thor: Ragnarok, besides what is teased in Thor’s dream in Age of Ultron. Heimdall appears with glowing eyes, in the midst of a chaotic party. He tells Thor something along the lines of “you’ve sent us all to Hel.” Yes, I spelled that correctly. Hel is one of the seven realms in Norse mythology, where most of the background of the Thor comics and film derives, (and where we get our English word for hell). Ragnarok, in mythological terms, literally means ‘twilight of the gods’ – or the end for the likes of the Asgardians. The primary villain is widely believed to be the hellish Surtur.
It’s also been reported that by the end of the film Thor may be imprisoned, and thus unable to help out in the first Infinity War movie. Another thing to remember is that Loki is pretending to be Odin currently, so that will have some major impact on the third film in the series.
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 (May 4, 2018)
And so it begins. As I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout the post, it’s likely the original cast won’t appear for the majority of this film. Iron Man is probably all depressed and tired for whatever he does in Civil War. Hulk is off on another planet. Captain America will probably be in a coma, as his buddy Bucky takes up his mantle. Thor will probably be imprisoned. But this is okay. Because we’ll have a new batch of heroes to call our own.
Spider-Man, War Machine, Ant-Man, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Doctor Strange, etc., could all take up the arms against the mad-Titan Thanos. What do we know of Thanos?
He’s in search of the Infinity Stones. 6 Infinity Stones to be correct. We know of 4 currently. The other two will most likely show up in Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, although nobody would be surprised if one shows up in Doctor Strange. These 6 stones will collect in the Infinity Gauntlet, a device we see Thanos wearing on his left hand in the mid-credits scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is not to be confused with the right-handed Infinity Gauntlet we see on display in Odin’s trophy room. To get them all, he’ll probably have to kill the Vision, as he wields the Mind Stone in his head.
We also don’t know if Marvel’s Netflix series will be included in the action. By the time Infinity War – Part 1 hits theaters, we’ll have already seen all four of the Netflix original series (Daredevil, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) as well as the team-up miniseries The Defenders. This would make sense to include them here, as it is the biggest event in the MCU thus far.
Both Infinity War movies will film back to back. Joe and Anthony Russo have been confirmed to direct, and these two films will utilize the new IMAX and Arri 2D camera system to the fullest – being completely filmed in that medium. This will truly be an event-type moviegoing experience.
Black Panther (July 6, 2018)
Does Infinity War parts 1 and 2 end on a cliffhanger, or does it end with a “Thanos will be back. We’ll be prepared,” speech? This is an important question to ask because we don’t know whether Black Panther will take place before the events of Infinity War – Part 1, during them, or in between parts 1 & 2. Perhaps this will be the story of what’s going on with T’Challa in Wakanda as Thanos ravages the universe.
Have we already seen Wakanda? The Avengers take a detour in Age of Ultron so that Hulk can destroy a city, essentially. The real life city is Johannesburg, although never called so in the movie. If this is Wakanda, it’s quite a bit different than what we’ve seen in the comics, which happens to look like a futuristic Egypt – a proper merging of fantasy and SciFi.
Ulysses Klaw is likely to return in some fashion also, as he was recently seen in Age of Ultron. The fact that he got his arm chopped off by Ultron is a reference to his name “Klaw.” He often uses Vibranium-made weapons, a metal only found in Wakanda.
Black Panther will be played by Chadwick Boseman.
Captain Marvel (November 2, 2018)
Our first female-led Marvel film, Captain Marvel will be about… We don’t really know much about this one actually. But it will feature the Carol Danvers version of the character. Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve have been tapped as writers.
We’ll likely find out who will play the role of Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers by early-to-mid 2016, as she’ll likely have some role in Infinity War, which will film before Captain Marvel.
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 (May 3, 2019)
The culmination of everything Marvel’s been aiming for, Infinity War – Part 2 will likely feature Thanos return. But it will also probably see the original Avengers crew return to take the mad-Titan head on.
The comic that this is likely taking the majority of its inspiration from is Jim Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet series, wherein Thanos becomes all powerful. I don’t think, in this day and age, the story that played out in the comics will make it entirely to the screen. It’s too-extra dimensionally weird and out there. And I don’t foresee the different galactic entities stepping in like they did in that either.
We may see Adam Warlock make an appearance, a pivotal character in the fight to free the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos. We’ve actually already seen him – or rather, his cocoon in the Collector’s Vault in Guardians of the Galaxy/Thor: The Dark World. Director James Gunn has indeed confirmed that green cocoon contains Adam Warlock.
The Guardians of the Galaxy will likely show up to bring the heat near the end of the film. At least that’s where it would make sense to put them to me. That would also entail bringing Hulk back to earth.
Inhumans (July 12, 2019)
Nobody really knows what’s happening with the Inhumans to be honest. They might show up in Infinity War, but it’s unlikely. We’ve already introduced some of the Inhumans throughout the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. program, if you’ve been watching. Their very own Skye has turned out to be a character named Quake. Will this series be an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. film spinoff? Or the initiation of a new team?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D./Agent Carter/Netflix
There’s a ton of stuff going on within the television side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been picked up for a third season, and Agent Carter has also been given another season. There was news about an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series happening, starring Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki), but ABC has decided not to head in that direction.
Daredevil is now the most watched program on Netflix, and was quickly picked up for a second season. A.K.A. Jessica Jones is filming currently, and should arrive later in the year. The cast includes Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, and Rachael Taylor.
“Ever since her short-lived stint as a Super Hero ended in tragedy, Jessica Jones has been rebuilding her personal life and career as a hot-tempered, sardonic, badass private detective in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Plagued by self-loathing, and a wicked case of PTSD, Jessica battles demons from within and without, using her extraordinary abilities as an unlikely champion for those in need… especially if they’re willing to cut her a check.”
Daredevil and Jessica Jones will team up in 2017’s The Defenders miniseries, also featuring Iron Fist and Luke Cage (who will each also receive their own Netflix treatments).
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If I’ve left anything out of my summary of what may or may not come to pass, please let me know. If you have any thoughts, be sure to contact me in the comments below. The Captain America: Civil War concept art was provided by El Mayimbe. All predictions, expectations, or rumors are, unless otherwise stated, just that: predictions, expectations, or rumors. This is not a scoop. Merely an editorial on what Marvel’s future could hold for us.