We're right on the cusp of a glorious Phase 2 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with their ambitious two-year plan that kicks off with Iron Man 3 and continues with Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy (YES!) and closes with the already drool-inducing-possibilities-filled The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Two Marvel movies a year for the next two years; that's like Christmas twice a year (well, plus actual Christmas)!
But what happens after that? A crushing comedown? Nights lying awake staring at the ceiling in a cold sweat, squirming with withdrawals? Hell, no. We have Phase 3.
So far the kickoff for Phase 3 is the planned Ant-Man movie, which although it's labeled as "planned" already has a release date for November 6, 2015. There's also the pretty much foregone conclusion of The Avengers: Infinity War, and the strong possibility of , a Hulk Sequel (aka Planet Hulk) and so much more that I can only, in my excitement, assume there must be a Phase 4 in the works.
Here are some ideas I've been throwing around with my fellow writer Will and, our Editor-in-Chief Dustin, trying to take the awesome possibilities and put them in some kind of realistic running-order. Remember folks, this is fangirl/fanboy speculation and damn, is it ever fun.
The End of Phase 2
To start us off, let's just set the tone with what we might see at the end of Phase 2. Since we all know that so far, every phase has ended with an Avengers and the credits scenes in MCU movies are critically important (and also awesome), let's jump right to the end of Phase 2 with The Avengers 2. Whether it's the actual plot or just an Easter Egg in the credits, there is no doubt that what plays out here is the set-up for the beginning of Phase 3.
Cue memories of The Avengers post-credits scene. Thanos is still around, and is rumored to show up in Guardians of the Galaxy, so he will definitely play a part. Perhaps the Thanos-Loki connection might be retconned into a hybrid plot device that involves the Cosmic Cube, which has been all over Phase 1 and 2? Or maybe the Infinity Gauntlet that's been hanging around Odin's weapons room, that we got a glimpse of in Thor, and might play a bigger role in Thor 2? In the comics Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange are together in the Defenders, and at one point they go up against the Avengers to get the Evil Eye of Avalon. Sprinkle on some more retcon magic, and you have Thanos and Loki getting some form of the Defenders together to get back the Cosmic Cube or the Infinity Gauntlet, and bringing Sub-Mariner and Doc into the fold.
We also know that Ant-Man is due to show up somewhere. Perhaps the credits scene of Avengers 2 is the place? Despite the ongoing talk about Hank Pym, I somehow keep envisioning Scott Lang finding the Ant-Man suit in S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters and taking it.
Ok, so that brings us to Phase 3. Imagine if you will, Ant-Man, Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Strange are on our radar. There will most likely be the requisite Captain America 3 and Thor 3, too, since those would give some great setup to anything to to with the Infinity Gauntlet, what I think will be the prize of choice come Phase 3.
Ant-Man marks the start of Phase 3. The script here is kind of a wild card. He's not a major tentpole character, so they can't really rely on existing MCU popularity to drive him. Since Iron Man has shown up 3 times in Phase 2 already, and Ant-Man and Iron Man could potentially have links via Iron Man 3's credits scene (hey, it could still happen, we'll see soon enough) and possibly (and this is conjecture here) Guardians of the Galaxy, it might be that Shellhead might sit Phase 3 out as a stand-alone, and Ant-Man would sub in.
We could still get our Iron Man fix in the beginning of Planet Hulk. Imagine Hulk being punished for being a loose cannon. Iron man, as a member of the Illuminati (along with Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange), decides to send Hulk into space and thus, we get our Hulk stand-alone. The Illuminati could also be further explored in Doctor Strange and Sub-Mariner movies, too. This would be perfect as a lead in to Avengers 3
Remember my theories about Avengers 2 leading to Civil War? Here's where we'd get that hero-versus-hero struggle, Captain America against Iron Man. Read up a bit to see what the seeds of the war would be. When the Illuminati reunite to ostensibly support Iron Man in the Superhero Registration Act, they are a supergroup divided, and split up during the Civil War. Enter Black Panther, who sides with Captain America in the conflict, and the start of the superwar to end all superwars. Falcon could show up here again too.
End Phase 3.
Black Panther has a huge amount of fan support for getting his own movie, he gets nods all over the place with mentions of Wakanda sprinkled throughout Phase 1 (see Iron Man 2). If the Civil War story-arc would start off in Phase 3, this would be the perfect segue for him to have his own feature in Phase 4, based around the events of the Civil War. He even goes on a peace tour with Sub-Mariner.
This might also be where we have an Iron Man 4 a Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or a Sub-Mariner or Doctor Strange feature come in if they don't make it into Phase 3.
Oh, and don't forget the chance to have World War Hulk. I can't even begin to wrap my head around that one, but it would be so good.
I'd also like to give a shout-out to the Runaways, who have had whispers of their own movie out in the ether. They have a part in the escalation of the Civil war, and if that arc is broken up over multiple films, this would be a great way for them to have their own movie without it feeling contrived.
Of course the possibilities are endless, and I've thrown in loads of guesswork and fantasizing in here. That's how story-lines come about in the first place. Did I miss something or do you have your own theories? Let me know in the comments!