Marvel held a special event yesterday which sent social media into meltdown for awhile, if you follow the geekier spectrum of people. The big news is that Marvel Studio President Kevin Feige outlined Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which is everything between Ant-Man and the third Avengers movie, spanning the next five years. I say "big news", but that's an umbrella term for a whole menagerie of surprises and revelations. Read on!
Here's how the MCU Phase 3 is scheduled to roll out, after Ant-Man on 17 Jul 2015:
16 May 16: CAPTAIN AMERICA - CIVIL WAR. The Russo Brothers will return after helming Cap 2, this time adapting a popular Mark Millar-written storyline from 2006 that pits Captain America against Tony Stark. These events will be setup during The Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. Black Panther will appear in this film, ahead of his standalone film in 2017... maybe in a post-credits sequence?
4 Nov 16: DOCTOR STRANGE. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is strongly rumoured to have won the part of Marvel's goatee'd 'Sorcerer Supreme', but there was no official announcement so he's yet to sign on the dotted line.
5 May 17: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2. The sequel to this summer's surprise hit; which was formerly the riskiest Marvel project to date, but has now been bumped forward because of its incredible success. James Gunn will return as director. This film's release is also the vanguard of Marvel's increased release schedule, with three MCU movies now capable of delivery every year.
28 Jul 17: THOR - RAGNAROK. Marvel promised this sequel will reinvent Thor, similarly to how Cap 2 reinvented Steve Rogers. Tom Hiddleston's villain Loki will be involved. In the comics, Ragnarok was a cyborg clone of Thor introduced in the Civil War storyline—which is the basis of Cap 3, hmmm.... so a seed could definitely be planted there. Or they could just be using the cool word in Norse mythology for an apocalyptic event.
3 Nov 17: BLACK PANTHER. Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up) was revealed as the titular superhero, aka C'Tullah, who was the first black superhero in U.S comics. Marvel also released some concept art for his appearance. Ooh!
4 May 18: THE AVENGERS - INFINITY WAR (PART 1). Another superhero team-up blockbuster-in-waiting, but it will be a different line-up than we're used to after the events of Age of Ultron. I predict Doctor Strange and Black Panther will rudely oust the likes of Black Widow and Hawkeye... although Feige did mention Black Widow's importance in the MCU shouldn't be underestimated. This is almost certainly the moment the MCU's earthbound and intergalactic heroes meet, so I would put money on the Guardians of the Galaxy turning up to help The Avengers fight Thanos.
6 Jul 18: CAPTAIN MARVEL. Having faced criticism for a lack of female superheroes, that will change with the release of Captain Marvel. They'll be adapting the female iteration of the character, Carol Danvers. No actress has been cast yet. Who would be a good fit? Margot Robbie?
2 Nov 18: INHUMANS. Following the success of GotG, Marvel are hoping audiences will embrace this new group of intergalactic superhumans. They're like the X-Men without being the X-Men.
3 May 19: THE AVENGERS - INFINITY WAR (PART 2). Yes, this movie will be so epic Marvel have split it in half. Thanos will be the villain, after severals years of build-up—most notably with his role in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. This is speculated to end the current Avengers saga.
All of this was exciting news for Marvel fans and those who simply enjoy their brand of colourful, fun, comic-book filmmaking, but what was missing?
1. Well, it looks like Iron Man 4 won't be happening for five years minimum, although Captain American 3 is a stealth Iron Man film given its storyline. And he'll likely appear in The Avengers: Infinity War two-parter, unless Age of Ultron has a big surprise in store. Robert Downey Jr will be 54 by the time Infinity Wars premieres, so maybe it'll be an ideal time to bow out from the role? The death of Tony Stark would certainly be a brilliant conclusion to Phase 3, let's face it.
2. There was no mention of a sequel to Ant-Man, but he could perhaps be part of The Avengers: Infinity Wars ahead of a standalone sequel during Phase 4? Ant-Man's considered a risk by the studio, and it hasn't helped that the many fans were upset Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) had to leave the project over creative differences and was replaced by Peyton Reed (Down with Love). Maybe they're unsure if Ant-Man will be enough of a success to warrant revealing a sequel before it's proven itself.
3. There's no sign of a Black Widow movie for Scarlett Johansson to headline, which I know some people are clamouring for after her performance in Cap 2. Ditto Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, but less people care about that. Anyone suspecting Marvel will be developing standalone films for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will be disappointed, too. All of those superheroes are definitely supporting characters Marvel don't intend to focus on. I would expect a few to cameo in later movies, however. Scarlet Witch not turning up in Doctor Strange would be a big surprise to me, and there's a comic-book precedent for Quicksilver to be involved with Inhumans.
4. Rumours that Marvel may adapt Planet Hulk for Mark Ruffalo to headline will have to remain as such, but who knows what Phase 4 has in store. Ruffalo would be in his early-fifties by then, of course.
5. Marvel would dearly love the rights to Spider-Man back from Sony, but that's not happening anytime soon. Sony are pressing ahead with their own Spidey spin-offs, 2016's The Sinister Six and 2017's Venom Carnage, presumably before The Amazing Spider-Man 3 in 2018/19. If any kind of deal is cut, it's many years off, although rumours persist that Sony may "loan" the use of Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War for a cut of the takings. I can't see it happening, myself!