Marvel Studios has announced five new untitled films scheduled in the window between July 28, 2017 and May 3, 2019. These are in addition to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014), the Phase 2 finale [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) (May 1, 2015), the publicly troubled Phase 3 opener Antman (July 17, 2015), and the third installment of Captain America (May 6, 2016), as well as two existing untitled films (July 8, 2016 and May 5, 2017). This brings the total upcoming slate to a staggering eleven films between now and May 3, 2019. *UPDATE* Marvel has announced an additional Untitled Film scheduled for May 4, 2018.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: August 1, 2014
- Avengers: Age Of Ultron: May 1, 2015
- [Ant-Man](movie:9048): July 17, 2015
- Captain America 3: May 6, 2016
- Untitled Film: July 8, 2016
- Untitled Film: May 5, 2017
- Untitled Film: July 28, 2017
- Untitled Film: November 3, 2017
- Untitled Film: May 4, 2018
- Untitled Film: July 6, 2018
- Untitled Film: November 2, 2018
- Untitled Film: May 3, 2019
This is no doubt exciting news to Marvel and comic book movie fans, as the sheer volume of new titles on the horizon leaves room for much speculation as to which new worlds and stories the MCU may explore. The beauty of Marvel's connected film universe is that every single title has the potential for crossover events, franchise wide repercussions, or in the very least: loads of easter eggs and nods to the greater Marvel canon for eagle-eyed fans to find. Since the phenomenon that was the Avengers, the films and fledgling television series have begun making strides towards an increasingly integrated universe; the lines between individual character story lines have begun to blur. This allows for phase wide overarching themes and plot threads that can determine the direction of the movies as a whole.
Here I will discuss where the MCU is right now, and what the future may hold. Spoilers for the MCU so far, as well as some rumours about future films ahead!!
The Marvel Cinematic Universe turns its gaze to the cosmos in less than two weeks with the debut of the whacky, dysfunctional team of space outlaws in [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073). This is the first new property since the Avengers in 2012, and a risky one at that. Every franchise sequel so far has managed to out do it's predecessor and with hit after hit, it seems like Marvel can do no wrong. I am a firm believer of the ability of this movie to be a success with critics and audiences alike (see my glowing impressions of the 17 minute preview here) and am extremely excited to see the film. I have no doubt that Guardians has franchise potential, and if it performs well next week you can bet a sequel is on the way (Gunn is contracted to return if Guardians 2 gets the green light).
This foray into the colourful and outlandish worlds of deep space looks to begin to introduce and flesh out some of the bigger picture elements of the MCU, namely Thanos, whose ominous presence has been hanging over the film universe since his post credit debut in the Avengers (or even arguably since the Infinity Gauntlet easter egg in the Asgardian vault in Thor). The inclusion of The Collector, along with his post credit scene in Thor: The Dark World confirms the likely direction of the MCU towards the Infinity War comic storyline. This extremely common theory has lead many to speculate on what characters and stories may be introduced between now and the eventual clash with the Mad Titan himself. With the Tesseract and the Aether both confirmed to be the Space and Power Infinity Stones respectively, and the the "mysterious orb" MacGuffin of Guardians of the Galaxy almost certainly set to be another, how the rest will be introduced and incorporated is a largely still a mystery. More on that later.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is shaping up to be the biggest Marvel film yet, and possibly one of the biggest movies ever. With Comic-Con quickly approaching, story details, official photos, and rumours about Joss Whedon's follow up to the third highest grossing film of all time have begun to emerge. What we do know is that Ultron will not be a creation of Hank Pym like in the comics (who won't show up until Ant Man releases in Phase 3), but rather of Tony Stark. This is an appropriate change considering both Tony Stark's central role in the MCU so far on screen and Robert Downey Jr's massive popularity and bankability for the studio. Whedon has told us that Stark (now filling the gap left by the recently dissolved SHIELD by bankrolling the Avengers and creating a system for Privatized Global Security) will create Ultron as an AI to direct his army of Iron Legion like drones worldwide to maintain the world peace. Seeing as Iron Man 3 left the hero destroying his suits as a symbolic gesture, I'm sure this decision to step out of the suit will come back to haunt him in the form of his sentient rogue creation's rebellion against his "father". This is a fitting and logical next step in Tony's character arc, as the idea of accountability and the question "does the suit make the man?" have both been big themes throughout the Iron Man trilogy.
Tony Stark hasn't been alone in his identity crises. Much of Phase 2 has revolved around the idea of the dangers of technology, as well as finding identity; from Thor's decision to turn down the throne of Asgard, to Cap's struggle to hold to morals in a world that looks increasingly less black and white, to our upcoming ragtag outlaws, the Guardians of the Galaxy's realization that sometimes "it's really OK to give a sh*t". This will come to a head in Age of Ultron, where I think accountability will be a main issue. The following is pure speculation.
We've been told that we will see at least 3 versions of Ultron in the film, just as he continually upgrades himself in the comics. Chances are that Ultron will eventually seek Vibranium (which has been introduced as the extremely rare and durable element from which Captain America's shield was made) in order to make himself nigh indestructible (in favour of Adamantium which does not exist in the MCU). As many comic fans know, the largest and sole store of Vibranium in the Marvel Universe is in the fictional African country of Wakanda, which is ruled by the Black Panther. The fact that Age of Ultron has been shooting in South Africa combined with the heavy rumours of Black Panther's eventual introduction into the MCU make a reference or cameo by the Wakandan ruler pretty likely to be in the Avengers sequel. If Ultron were to raze uber-isolationist Wakanda for it's precious Vibranium, there would certainly be consequences in the form of retribution by the highly defensive and proud monarch. Fans have been clamouring for T'Challa's inclusion for quite a while, and while Kevin Feige has expressed interest in adapting the character, no official announcements have been made. With Comic Con next week, expect an official announcement on the future of the Black Panther. I think this would be an awesome addition to the MCU, both in terms of expanding the global presence of the Avengers, as well as diversifying the oft criticized largely white central cast. The Black Panther has a large role to play in the future of the MCU, especially as some characters get phased out and new characters are introduced. My money is on Black Panther releasing July 28, 2017, right in the height of the summer movie season; this is a safe choice for Marvel to introduce a new character and matches up with the usual production timelines.
As Baron Von Strucker so aptly stated in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier post credit scene:
"It's not a world of spies anymore. Not even a world of heroes. This is the Age of Miracles, doctor. There is nothing more horrifying ... than a miracle."
With the impending arrival of the Twins in Age of Ultron, and the all-but-confirmed Doctor Strange movie in the pipeline , the MCU looks to be soon exploring the interdimensional and supernatural side of the comics. So how does this fit into the greater picture? We have been told that the Chitauri sceptre wielded by Loki in the Avengers does not contain another one of the Infinity Stones. That being said, the sceptre appears to have given powers to the Maximoff Twins (forgoing the mutant origin of the comics due to rights issues) due to Hydra experimentation. Where this will lead in Age of Ultron remains a mystery for now, but it's safe to say the purely sci fi based world of the MCU is about to dive into the arcane, and there is no better way to introduce that world than through the story of the Sorcerer Supreme, AKA Doctor Strange.
For an unannounced movie, Doctor Strange (now with Deliver Us From Evil director Scott Derrickson and Prometheus writer Jon Spaihts attached) has been steadily making headlines as casting rumours have begun to come in, including the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jared Leto, and Edgar Ramirez. Kevin Feige has been a huge fan of the Sorcerer Supreme and has very publicly wanted to do a Doctor Strange movie for many years. The Eye of Agamatto was included as an easter egg in Thor (in the same vault as the Infinity Gauntlet) and Steven Strange got name dropped in this year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but now that pre production is actually beginning, expect Doctor Strange to be officially announced at Comic-Con next week as a shoe-in for the July 8th, 2016 untitled slot, along with an official casting statement (fingers crossed for Jared Leto). This would be in line with Feige's purported strategy of releasing a new property alongside a sequel every year, as Captain America 3 is set to release two months prior on May 6th, 2016.
As a major player in the Infinity War comic storyline being the guardian of the Soul Stone, it seems big things are in store for Steven Strange. While his entrance to the MCU will probably serve mostly as an origin story about his journey from being an arrogant surgeon to a wise and magically gifted protector of the universe, you can bet that before the lights come on in the movie theatre, we will have seen another Infinity Stone (most likely the Soul Stone, though the comics could be twisted slightly to give him the Reality Stone instead). Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange will open the door to many new characters and stories for the expanded film universe.
The following year will be a big one for Marvel, as there are currently THREE films scheduled for 2017. I already explained why I think Black Panther will take the July 28th, 2017 slot, which should be right on track assuming we get the official announcement at Comic-Con next week. But what else will we see in 2017? At this point, the glaringly obvious inclusion will be the inevitable third Thor movie. Marvel's second most bankable character is sure to return, as Chris Hemsworth is contracted to return for at least Age of Ultron, a third Thor film and the eventual Avengers 3. Marvel has already picked out writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost to pen the script which is rumoured to be an adaptation of the Ragnarok storyline from the comics. Part disaster movie, part epic myth, the apocalyptic events of Ragnarok will make for a fitting end of the Thor trilogy and a one hell of a ride. How they handle the fates of the main characters will be interesting, as traditionally Thor, Loki and Odin are all slain during the Norse apocalypse. As a big fan of the fantasy soaked Thor movies, which have what is in my opinion, the best character drama (every scene with Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Chris Hemsworth together is absolutely electric - no pun intended), I have high hopes for the climactic finish. Last we left them, Loki was on the throne of Asgard posing as Odin, whose current whereabouts are unknown. Expect an epic finale ripe with tragedy, giant serpents, wolves, and a certain fiery demon king.
My best bet for Thor 3 would be the May 5, 2017 slot. May is a big month for Marvel, with both of their other third installment franchise films opening that month (Iron Man 3 on May 3rd, 2013, and Captain America 3 set for May 6, 2016). Talk about starting off the summer blockbuster season with a bang!
After Thor 3 and Black Panther, what is the third movie for 2017? As I said earlier, assuming Guardians of the Galaxy performs well this August, Marvel will be keen on James Gunn heading up the sequel ASAP. Whereas a lot of people saw Guardians as the least likely property to succeed, I think it's going to be a smash hit, both in the theatres and merchandise/toy sales. Every little kid is going to want a Rocket Raccoon backpack for this school year, and father-son/Groot-Rocket duos are going to be majorly popular Halloween costumes. Having seen some of the movie, I firmly believe Guardians is as much franchise material as any other film series Marvel has released thus far. Trust me, Guardians 2 is a surefire candidate for November 3, 2017 and seeing as there are already certain rumours about a Guardians/Hulk crossover following Dr. Banner's rumoured exile from Earth and subsequent launch into deep space after the events of Age Of Ultron, it seems pretty likely. This would let them take some story elements from the favoured Planet Hulk storyline (which would be really hard to sell in live action seeing as Hulk never transforms back into his human form during that entire story) while giving Mark Ruffalo another chance to shine as Bruce Banner with the already charismatic and interesting cast of the Guardians. This also could set up more threads leading to the highly acclaimed World War Hulk comic storyline where an enraged Hulk returns to Earth from exile with an army and absolutely wrecks sh*t. The Sakaraans who played a major role in Planet Hulk will be introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy, so it's clear that the groundwork for a crossover is there.
Another big selling point for a Guardians sequel is that it would allow them the chance to introduce more important cosmic characters from the Infinity Gauntlet storyline like Nova and Adam Warlock, and thus the opportunity for the introduction of another Infinity Stone. This also gives more time for Thanos to be fleshed out as the evilest big baddie in the MCU. Although he is rumoured to be only featured in a limited "Emperor Palpatine-like" role in Guardians of the Galaxy, the slow build up to his eventual debut as the chief villain can be best achieved by increasing his presence over the films leading up to Avengers 3.
This is where things get tricky. At this point, there will have been six films in Phase 3. If the next movie was Avengers 3, that would bring Phase 3 to a total of seven films, compared to the Phase 1 (six) and Phase 2 (five). Having Avengers 3 on July 6, 2018 would be a solid summer release date for what will probably be the hugest film of all time assuming Marvel can maintain their current momentum. That being said, Avengers 1 and 2 both had May release dates, so Avengers 3 could very plausibly be pushed to the May 3, 2019 date. This would leave the two additional films in Phase 3 before Avengers 3, bringing the total to nine! If Marvel is indeed working towards the Infinity War storyline for Avengers 3, there are still plenty of stories to be told that would greatly benefit the overall weight of the arc. Plus all the Infinity Stones haven't been accounted for yet, and knowing how Marvel likes to weave their brands together, I would be surprised if each of the Infinity Stones hadn't been on screen at some point or another before Avengers 3.
*UPDATE* Marvel has added an additional Untitled Film slot for May 4, 2018. If this is not the new slot for Avengers 3, it very well could be the presumed dead Iron Man 4 movie. Recent comments from Marvel Chief Guru Kevin Feige and poster boy Robert Downey Jr have somewhat dispelled the previous assumptions that RDJ would never return to the role of Tony Stark after his contractual obligations of Avengers 2 and Avengers 3 were complete. Could Tony Stark be up for one last solo adventure. Is the Bleeding Edge armour on the way? Could this be another movie entirely? Developing...
Thus far, even though the inclusion of Black Panther would help to diversify the brand by adding some needed colour to the MCU roster, there is still one huge absence. There has not been a single solo character movie with a female protagonist. Although Black Widow has been totally kickass in every movie she's been in, she has still been relegated to a side character. With upcoming roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and an almost guaranteed spot in Captain America 3, Natasha Romanov definitely isn't going anywhere. Marvel's television programming is also moving in the right direction with Agent Carter debuting this fall. That being said, the MCU is sorely missing another strong solo female character. Enter Ms. Marvel.
Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman, Carol Danvers AKA Ms Marvel (or more accurately now, Captain Marvel) is basically a walking metaphor for the empowered woman. Deriving her powers from accidental genetic exposure to Kree technology, Danver's abilities may seem a little far out for what we are used to seeing in the MCU, as she can fly and create energy blasts with her hands. However, by 2018, I think that the MCU will have left the relatively grounded heavy sci-fi of Phase 1 behind. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show has already started to explore the surface of some of the more fantastical cosmic aspects of Marvel's canon, including the GH.325 serum created from, you guessed it, a Kree corpse named GH. They called the top secret project "Guest House", which is presumably where the initials come from, however a famous Kree character shares those initials: Geheneris HalaSon, better known as Mahr-Vehl. Yes that's right, the original Captain Marvel from whom Danvers receives the mantle has technically been introduced in the MCU already if rumours are to be believed. Considering the GH.325 exposed Coulson and Garret have showed peculiar behaviour...
Not to mention the mysterious parentage of Skye and her apparent immunity to the less pleasant side effects of the GH.325 serum. Could she be of Kree descent? Is she the future Ms. Marvel? Guardians of the Galaxy features Kree characters as well, and so maybe we will start getting hints as to how the GH corpse made it to Earth and what it means for the future of the MCU. By 2018 there will have possibly been four new seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if the show continues to improve and provide effective MCU integration while standing on it's own as a legitimate program. As the prevalence of cosmic threats to Earth increases, we may even see the introduction of the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, better known as S.W.O.R.D. as the next logical step.
Either way, the circumstances for Carol Danvers' acquisition of powers is by no means too "out-there" for the MCU, and so the question is more "When will we see Ms Marvel?" than "Will we see Ms Marvel?". This guy says July 6, 2018 on the big screen. Do it Marvel.
The last Phase 3 movie before the massive Avengers 3 will have to be a big one in order to maintain the momentum that has been built up thus far. To me this has to be the long rumoured Inhumans movie.
Marvel Studios is restricted by different sets of property rights from using certain characters and stories that are owned by other studios. The apparent ones are of course Spiderman (owned by Sony) and the X-Men and Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox). Because of the tricky nature of these copyrights, Marvel Studios can't even use the term "mutant" to describe a meta-human as it is technically owned by Fox. This will be apparent when the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch make their first MCU appearance in Age of Ultron next summer. Although they are famously the children of Magneto in the comics, and have a large role in the famous House of M storyline concerning the role of Homo sapiens superior (Mutants) in the world, none of this backstory can be addressed in the MCU. It sounds like they have found a new origin for the twins in line with the established cinematic universe canon, but the real bummer is that there are so many other awesome mutant characters that are completely off limits. The answer to this problem is the Inhumans. The Inhumans are the result of genetic experimentation on humans by, guess who, the Kree race. This created a race of meta-humans with extraordinary powers who maintained their own society on the hidden city of Attilan. Basically, this is a loophole to vastly increase the number of super powered characters in the MCU, including Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans Royal Family and guardian of another one of the Infinity Stones. The perpetually non-speaking leader was also a major member of the Illuminati alongside Tony Stark, Black Panther and Doctor Strange among others. Black Bolt is a long time fan favourite and has even been associated with Vin Diesel despite any actual official announcements about a possible Inhumans film. With the introduction of the Inhumans as well as some of the other new characters and the multiple incoming Netflix series, there should be enough meta humans to eventually adapt the famous Civil War storyline if that was ever even in the cards. Will we see Black Bolt and the Royal Family on the big screen in 2018? Will the Terrigen Mists be introduced? It's hard to say, but one thing's for sure, November 2, 2018 will be a big one for the MCU, knowing the next film will be.
It all comes to this. May 3, 2019. The 21st film of the MCU will be a milestone in more ways than one. Besides the probable $1.5+ billion box office take, the massive worldwide pop culture phenomenon will see the contracts of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth all expire after this movie, meaning the "Big Three" of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor may not be on screen again for a while (unless they are immediately recast which is a terrible idea). The long gestating Infinity Gauntlet storyline will finally be realized on the big screen, as Thanos assembles the power of God. The Mad Titan's obsession with death will be apparent as we will probably see many heroes fall by his cruel hand. Assuming Steve Rodgers even makes it to Avengers 3 and isn't assassinated by Crossbones in Captain America 3, his chances of survival here are slim. With Sebastian Stan's nine-film contract, good ole Bucky will be positioned to pick up the shield of his fallen best friend after his inevitable death. Tony Stark faces possible annihilation as well, though Marvel might not want to let him go as a character, even after RDJ departs. It would be a shame to lose both Cap and Iron Man though, especially if we ever wanted to see that Civil War storyline on the big screen. Either way, it will surely be an epic and gratifying experience to see so many separate plot threads come together. After eleven years of shared universe superhero action that started in an Afghan desert and will have traveled from WWII Europe to the farthest reaches of deep space to mystical inter-dimensional worlds... expect large resounding changes to come to the MCU in the wake of Avengers 3. After all it does't end in 2019; with films reportedly planned through 2028, we're just getting started.
When Marvel Studios acquired the rights to Iron Man in 2006, no one would've believed that just a few years later there would be a big budget Guardians of the Galaxy movie enamouring audiences worldwide, or a Doctor Strange film mesmerizing entire sold out theatres of fans.
The Age of Miracles indeed...
- Guardians of the Galaxy: August 1, 2014
- Avengers: Age Of Ultron: May 1, 2015
- Ant-Man: July 17, 2015
- Captain America 3: May 6, 2016
- Doctor Strange: July 8, 2016
- Thor 3: Ragnarok: May 5, 2017
- Black Panther: July 28, 2017
- Guardians 2/Hulk 2: November 3, 2017
- Iron Man 4: May 4, 2018
- Ms. Marvel: July 6, 2018
- Inhumans: November 2, 2018
- Avengers 3: May 3, 2019
What do you think of my predictions for the future of the MCU? What characters would you like to see introduced? Sound off in the comments below and happy Comic-Con to everyone!