In a special event at the end of October last year, Marvel made a big announcement regarding their plans for “Phase 3” of their film franchise (Phase 2 will end this year with Ant-Man). We now know exactly which movies the studio will be releasing through to 2020. Although confirming the titles of their movies this early has killed a bit of the excitement that comes with speculating on a studio’s next moves, Marvel made a shrewd choice in revealing their hand early, as it’s given fans a lot to ponder in the meantime. Five years is a long time in the entertainment world and the Marvel universe of today is going to look a lot different once Phase 3 reaches its endpoint. The titles of the films have been revealed, but just what is going on in the Marvel universe over the next five years?
9. When will Thanos become the central villain?
Ever since he appeared in the post-credits tag of 2012’s The Avengers, comic book fans have been waiting and speculating as to when Thanos, one of the Marvel universe’s most powerful villains, would make his presence known to Earth’s mightiest heroes. Thanos made his second appearance in last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy, now voiced by actor Josh Brolin, but his appearance amounted to little more than a cameo that really just served to remind viewers that he’s still around. Now, with Marvel’s Phase 3 plans revealed, we know Thanos will feature prominently in The Avengers: Infinity War, but will he make another appearance before 2018? It remains to be seen, but the safe bet is that the Mad Titan will play a larger role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which is due for release in 2017.
8. What will happen to The Hulk?
One of the more disappointing and surprising revelations to come out of this big Marvel reveal is that no standalone Hulk movie was announced. However, given the enormous popularity of the character in the first Avengers film, it’s likely that the character will be featured in one or more of the upcoming films – but how so? After the events of The Age of Ultron, The Hulk’s fate has been left unanswered after he disappeared in a jet. Many people previously believed he would leave Earth entirely, along the lines of the Planet Hulk storylines. Could this event happen sometime in Infinity War? It’s extremely disappointing that Marvel currently does not have the rights to a standalone Hulk film for Phase 3, as it means that Hulk will continue to be a supporting player in other characters’ storylines. However, given the popularity of the character, fans can rest assured that The Hulk isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
7. When will the Cosmic heroes truly interact with the Earth Heroes?
There are essentially two major “universes” within the Marvel films: the characters and events taking place on Earth, and pretty much everything else – the cosmic, if you will. There has been interaction between these two worlds already, most notably with Thor, but for the most part, the earthbound and cosmic stories have been separated from each other. Of course, the ongoing events in these movies have been building to the point where these two worlds will merge together fully and it’s pretty much guaranteed that this will happen in Phase 3 with the collective threat of Thanos and his world-destroying Infinity Gauntlet. There are quite a few films between Avengers 2 and 3 however, begging the question: when will the cosmic heroes truly interact with Earth’s heroes? Will Star-Lord be hanging out with Iron Man in Guardians of the Galaxy 2?
6. Who joins what side in Civil War?
Iron Man and Captain America are set to face off in 2016 but no war is fought alone, which raises the question of whose side the other Marvel heroes will join. As the movie and comic universes are very different, it’s essentially useless relying on the comics to figure out who joins what side. Right now, it seems likely that Iron Man will have War Machine on his side and Cap will have his buddy Falcon, but all the other heroes could fall on either side of this war, which is an exciting prospect. As it stands right now, it’s difficult to even know for sure what exactly will lead to the rift between Cap and Iron Man, meaning that most of the heroes could fall on either side of the conflict.
5. Will Captain America die in Civil War?
Anyone familiar with the famous Civil War crossover event in the Marvel comics already knows that the Civil War depicted in the next Captain America movie is going to look quite a bit different from the comics. As such, the storylines of the films are developing organically while picking some familiar beats from the comics and one particularly famous storyline that seems likely to be adapted in some way is the death of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. There are some elements that suggest this shocking event could take place in Civil War, most notably in the form of Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Solider, who is still kicking around and takes over the role of Captain America for his best friend in the comics. Of course, Steve Rogers also doesn’t stay dead in that same storyline, so it is highly unlikely that Cap will stay dead in the movies.
4. What will the Avengers look like in Infinity War?
The great thing about having a shared universe across all its films means that Marvel has to let the events that happen between its big, crossover event films (The Avengers, in this case) impact everything else that is going on. Basically, the roster of The Avengers in the third movie is going to look quite different from 2012’s team or even the Age of Ultron team, which already sees some new additions. By the time Avengers 3 rolls around in 2018, there will be over a dozen characters that could easily be part of the team. Marvel isn’t going to have every hero in its stable be a member, as this would make the film too cluttered, begging the question of who will make the cut. Don’t be surprised if a few current members of the Avengers aren’t part of the main group anymore in 2018.
3. Will Spider-Man show up?
It’s no secret that Marvel has wanted the rights to one of their biggest characters back for some time and thanks to the disappointing review scores and box office numbers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 last year, it is looking more and more likely that Sony Pictures is willing to come to an agreement with Marvel that would allow them to use Spidey in their films. There was speculation that an agreement had been reached allowing Spider-Man to appear in 2016’s Civil War (the character has a significant role in the comic book storyline) but it has been confirmed that he will not be appearing in that film after all. That being said, there is still plenty of time for an agreement to be made and as Sony continues to struggle with where to go with the character next, it’s increasingly becoming not a question of if Spider-Man will come back to Marvel, but when.
2. Will some roles be recast after Avengers 3?
There have been a few roles re-cast so far in the Marvel film universe – Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as The Hulk and Don Cheadle filling the iron boots of War Machine after Terrance Howard’s departure are the most significant so far. Characters get recast all the time but Marvel hasn’t had to recast any of their major franchise characters yet (The Hulk only really became popular after Ruffalo took over and War Machine is a supporting player in the Iron Man films). Right now, it looks like all the actors in major roles are signed on up to the end of Phase 3, but how will Marvel deal with the inevitable departures of the likes of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans? Both actors’ contracts are up after Avengers 3 and they have each been vocal about wanting to get out after that film. It’s hard to say at this point how audiences will respond to the roles of Iron Man and Captain America being recast when they have been embodied so well by these actors.
1. How long can this franchise last?
Nothing lasts forever, which means that eventually this ridiculously successful franchise has to falter – but when? Given the enormous success of Guardians of the Galaxy last year – a film based on characters hardly anyone was familiar with – it feels as if the Marvel brand can make a hit out of anything. It’s unlikely that Marvel has anything to worry about when it comes to the success of Phase 3. Sure, it’s likely that one or two of the more risky ventures in their catalogue, like Black Panther or The Inhumans, won’t live up to expectations given that most of Phase 3 is built around very obscure characters. However, given their enormous success already, Marvel will likely be able to weather the occasional misfire as long as most of their films remain hits. It’s safe to assume that this entire franchise isn’t going away for a long time.