This is going to be a rather extensive examination of everything Marvel — official news, rumor, suspicions, and speculations. Strap in. It’s a rather lengthy article.
Tuesday, October 28th, was a big day for Marvel fans, as Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige revealed the Phase 3 plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, Feige laid out what could be the most ambitious slate of films yet, with some confirmation of rumors and some surprises in the mix. The event followed the leak of the first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was scheduled to run during Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Instead, fans got a modified trailer that included the “Who can pick up Mjolnir?” scene shown at San Diego Comic-Con. The new version of the trailer also included footage of Black Widow looking at a picture of Loki’s staff on a datapad screen, something that was not in the version that leaked previously.
The HYDRA Conspiracy?
— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) October 22, 2014
With a cheeky post on Twitter, Marvel blamed HYDRA for the trailer leak. Many speculated that the studio was scrambling to recover and salvage the S.H.I.E.L.D. night reveal. But — and this is pure speculation — what if the whole thing was set up from the beginning?
Possible scenario: Marvel leaks the trailer through proxies, then reacts with the HYDRA tweet. The internet is all abuzz for days prior to Marvel’s announcement that they’re going to release additional footage Tuesday night during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And in the meantime, Kevin Feige will host a gathering of press at the El Capitan to share some new information.
Not only does this get more focus on Marvel for over a week, but it also gets more talk about the trailer, more speculation about the “new footage”, and it sets up Tuesday as a “Marvel Event” that eclipses any of the recent DC Comics announcements. Plus, Marvel gets a chance to satisfy fan demands for a wide release of the San Diego clip. How many birds does this kill with one stone?
Granted, this is pure speculation, but it makes a good deal of sense from a marketing perspective. If this is the actual scenario as it was designed, then Marvel got over half of its publicity machine for free in the form of fans on social media.
The Kirby Connection
The other “suspicious” point in this is the recent suspension of hostilities between Marvel and the estate of Jack Kirby. On a recent episode of Level Eleventy-Seven, we speculated that one of the reasons for a delay in certain characters showing up in the MCU may have been the legal wranglings going on behind the scenes. Now that all of that is over (and Kirby is getting included as a co-creator in the books now), it clears the decks for characters like Black Panther to finally get screen time.
The timing is rather convenient, and paves the way for more use of Kirby’s creations now that the legal challenges are all over and done.
During the Q&A session, Feige shared that Marvel had wanted to make these announcements at San Diego Comic-Con, but that certain pieces were not in place yet. Most notably, Black Panther and Civil War. According to Feige, T’Challa plays “a big part” in the on-screen Civil War story, and given that Black Panther is a co-creation of Jack Kirby, could it be that Marvel felt they couldn’t quite move forward with announcements without settling the dispute with the Kirby estate?
Also at the Q&A, Feige addressed the question of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, along with rumors of a deal involving the use of Spider-Man. To both, his response was that if he didn’t make an official announcement, it’s either not true or just a rumor. He did not flat out deny either story. He also noted that there are still on-and-off discussions about Runaways, and that there’s a solid draft of a script, but “you can’t make ’em all”.
So, what follows is what we know about both Phase 2 and Phase 3, coupled with what we think we know:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015)
The gang’s all back — Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanov, Clint Barton, Thor, James Rhodes, Maria Hill, Nick Fury — with the addition of the Ultron robot, Vision, and Wanda & Pietro Maximoff. Written and directed by Joss Whedon.
Yahoo Movies confirmed that the other person at the party is Claudia Kim, who is playing an as-yet-unknown character, although BuzzFeed theorizes she could be playing cyberneticist Suzi Endo, who helps Stark and Banner develop Ultron. It should be noted that Endo’s alter ego is Cybermancer, who was arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D. during the Civil War. So could Marvel be playing a long game with her? Will Claudia Kim also appear in Captain America: Civil War?
Stark’s line, “We don’t know what the Maximoff kid showed him” seems add fuel to the possibility that Wanda Maximoff induces hallucinations among the Avengers, which could be the “flashback” scene involving Steve Rogers that we see in the trailer. Tony’s line about “a guy without a dark side” implies that the visions must be something that involves emotional pain, guilt, or anger. And Rogers saying, “I don’t know what she showed you. I just know it made you do something stupid.” would further the possibility. Given that, it’s likely that Scarlet Witch does something to set off Bruce Banner, causing him to Hulk out and necessitating the use of the Hulkbuster armor in Johannesburg.
Mark Ruffalo, talking with Marvel.com about Banner, says, “The essential struggle that he’s having is that he does have this destructive side of him. You know that’s never going to go away. That power is really destructive. I think it’s a matter of management control at this point, rather than just shutting him down completely.” Certainly from certain pieces of the trailer, it appears that Banner is the worse for wear. On Wanda: “She’s able to bring out the worst in us.” Which could support the idea that she triggers a Hulk event.
In an interview with The Guardian, Idris Elba confirms he will make an appearance in Age of Ultron along with Tom Hiddleston. Although he also allows that playing Heimdall is “torture” for him, after coming back to shoot a scene for Thor: The Dark World just a day after playing Nelson Mandela:
“I’m actually falling down from a spaceship, so they had to put me in harness in this green-screen studio. And in between takes I was stuck there, fake hair stuck on to my head with glue, this f—— helmet, while they reset. And I’m thinking: ‘24 hours ago, I was Mandela’. When I walked into the set the extras called me Madiba. I was literally walking in this man’s boots. [Within] six months, the crew, we were all so in love with this film we had made. I was him. I was Mandela, practically,” he insists.
“Then there I was, in this stupid harness, with this wig and this sword and these contact lenses. It ripped my heart out.”
Is it possible that Loki and Heimdall are part of the vision Thor sees?
Ant-Man (July 17, 2015)
The longest gestating project in the Marvel Studios slate, Ant-Man has been in development long before there was even a Marvel Cinematic Universe. Originally the brainchild of Edgar Wright, who left the project over creative differences just as the movie was about to being shooting. After several weeks searching for a new director (candidates included Adam McKay, who ended up doing a polish on the script with input from Rudd), the studio settled on Peyton Reed.
And for those concerned that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is completely ruining the origin of Ultron by making it a Tony Stark project, consider this bit from the official synopsis:
When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.
Which suggests Ultron could still be a Hank Pym invention resurrected by Tony Stark.
Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, the second man to wear the Ant-Man costume, with Michael Douglas set to play Hank Pym, the inventor of the suit and related “Pym Particles”. Evangeline Lilly is on board as Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym (and potential love interest for Lang?). Corey Stoll is playing Darren Cross/Yellowjacket.
Cross, in the comics, runs Cross Technological Enterprises. In the movie, he apparently makes a bid to take over Pym’s company, Pym Technologies, in an effort to obtain the Pym Particles and become Yellowjacket.
At Comic-Con 2014, Stoll talked with Clevver Movies about the project:
“He is not a villain in the vein of Thanos or Loki, who are villains that know it. [Cross] is a guy who is not that dissimilar from Michael Douglas’ character, Hank Pym. A brilliant scientist, who is not ethically pure. I think a great thing about the whole movie is that everybody in this movie is in those shades of gray a little bit. I think it will be a fun character to create.”
According to some rumors, Janet Van Dyne could be dead in the Cinematic Universe. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Douglas said, “I’m an entomologist. I’m also a physicist and I discovered in 1963, a way, a serum to reduce a human being to the size of ant maintaining the strength. But unfortunately during this process, a tragic personal accident happened with my wife.” Which has many fans crying “foul”, as Janet “Wasp” Van Dyne was one of the founding members of the Avengers.
Of course, with Ant-Man being billed as a more light-hearted heist movie, and given the nature of Hank Pym’s relationship with Janet, it’s likely Marvel is sidestepping the question of whether or not to portray his occasional status as an abusive husband.
Photos from the set appeared on the web site Just Jared. Click through if you’re not allergic to spoilers.
UPDATE: Latino Review has confirmed that Hayley Atwell will reprise her role as Agent Peggy Carter in Ant-Man, most likely in the same scene(s) that involve a “Young Hank Pym” reported to be on the casting calls.
One of those casting calls is for a stand-in and/or body double for Atwell:
Haley Atwell Stand-in Casting Call
NLC is searching for an experienced stand in for Haley Attwell. She is 31, 5’7″, 112 lbs. This will work in November on a Sunday. Please submit to email@example.com with your headshot, age, height, weight and sizes. Must have experience. Thanks.
The film is currently shooting in Atlanta.
Serpent Society Civil War (May 6, 2016)
Joe & Anthony Russo are back to write and direct, with Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. both confirmed to appear. This is in addition to Downey’s original deal, and the actor has allowed for the possibility that the number of times he plays Stark could be in the “double digits” (he told Entertainment Tonight at the 2014 Britannia Awards in LA). The two showed up “in character” to talk about picking sides before Downey brought on Chadwick Boseman, who will make his first appearance as Black Panther in Civil War. Boseman told the two, “I’m blessed to be a part of this Marvel Universe, and to work with you both, and I look forward to making magic together.”
Speculation on the message boards is that he may take the place of Spider-Man as the “moral compass” in the movie. The story is loosely based on the comic book event of the same name, which centers around the Superhuman Registration Act, basically a “we can track your every move” law that ends up dividing Stark (for) and Rogers (against). The seeds are planted in Age of Ultron, as Stark realizes what a danger superheroes can pose to the rest of the world.
Again, Feige did not confirm or deny the possibility that Marvel Studios and Sony were working on a deal for shared custody of Spider-Man, so at this point, he’s not in Civil War, even though Peter Parker has a big role in the comic. Given that most of the MCU heroes don’t have secret identities, it may not have that much impact to do without Spider-Man.
Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)
“The idea of this film is to open up an entire new corner of the Cinematic Universe…We have our Earth-bound heroes. We have our cosmic heroes. We now want to enter through, with Strange, this world of parallel dimensions.” Does that hint at a possible visit to the Ultimate Cinematic Universe? Or crossovers to the Fox and Sony universes?
Scott Derrickson is directing from a script by Jon Spaihts based on a draft by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, with Feige producing.
Dr. Stephen Strange, a brilliant neurosurgeon, suffers an accident that ruins his ability to perform surgery, so he goes in search of any way to restore his skill. And that involves the Mystic Arts. Doctor Strange will introduce the magic elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe much like Guardians of the Galaxy did for the cosmic side of things.
According to Deadline, Marvel is in final negotiations with Benedict Cumberbatch to play the Sorcerer Supreme, but as Kevin Feige didn’t make an official announcement about it, it’s still a highly-sourced rumor at this point. After front-runner Joaquin Phoenix backed out of the project due to his rumored concerns about the effects work, the search continued and circled around such actors as Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Hardy.
Cumberbatch, of course, is a hot property right now, with Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a possible Oscar contender in The Imitation Game.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
Feige shared a video from writer-director James Gunn, who’s been in Tokyo on a film festival jury. Gunn announced the move from July to May 2017, and that he’s currently working on the script. Nothing about the story yet, or which characters will make an appearance. But figure Rocket and Groot will definitely be back. Gamora’s inclusion would probably depend on Zoe Saldana’s availability, given that at some point she’ll be working on the next set of Avatar movies.
Thor: Ragnarok (July 28, 2017)
“This is a very important movie for us in our Phase Three timeline. As the Russos did so well reinventing Captain America in The Winter Soldier and changing everything that would come after it, that is the plan for Thor: Ragnarok, to take Thor to another level of his own franchise and, in fact, picks up right after we leave him in Avengers 2, and will impact everything to come afterwards.”
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, of course, along with Tom Hiddleston as Loki.
When last we saw the trickster brother, he had assumed the throne of Asgard, pretending to be Odin. No word on the fate of the Allfather, but Feige confirms that Loki will play a part in Infinity War, so it’s likely Ragnarok will deal with the Asgardian apocalypse involving one of Thor’s greatest enemies, Surtur, leader of the Fire Demons of Muspelheim. This is one of the realms we saw in Thor: The Dark World, as all of the realms were collapsing in on each other.
During the 1980s, Walt Simonson was writing and drawing Thor for Marvel, and included “Surtur’s Saga” beginning in issue #337. The climax, beginning in a double-size #350 and going through #353, was called “Ragnarok and Roll”. This was the battle with Sutur’s demons and is considered one of Simonson’s best stories in his run on the book. This is likely the source material for the new movie, but in order to tie in with the rest of the MCU a possible scenario could be that Loki has lost the scepter containing one of the Infinity stones, and somehow it’s come into the possession of Baron Von Strucker (this we’ve seen at the end of The Winter Soldier). Loki sets events in motion on Asgard that cause Ragnarok — a war with Muspelheim that somehow spills into Infinity War.
Of course, it could also have a connection with Ragnarok the Thor clone, created by Tony Stark in Civil War #8 to help enforce the Superhuman Registraion Act.
Note, too, that “Ragnarok and Roll” featured the debut of Beta Ray Bill, and there was an Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy with Peter Quill picking up a skull that looks like it belonged to a Korbintie, and a possible cameo by Bill himself in a cage in the Collector’s shop.
Black Panther (November 3, 2017)
Calling T’Challa one of the most interesting characters in the print medium, Feige says they want to do the same with the character in the films, and also hinted that he’d already shown something that leads directly to the Black Panther. No doubt, this is a reference to Andy Serkis’ appearance in the Age of Ultron trailer looking very much like Ulysses Klaw, the enemy of T’Challa.
Following his debut in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman will star in the follow-on, which will no doubt also star Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaw.
Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four #52 (1966), and was the first black superhero in mainstream comics. T’Challa is chief of the Panther clan in the small African nation of Wakanda, the only source in the world for vibranium. This is the substance that makes up Captain America’s shield. T’Challa has advanced degrees from Oxford, in a noted inventor, and at one point was married to Storm from the X-Men.
Wakanda has already shown up as points on a map in both Iron Man 2 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and will likely figure into Age of Ultron as well.
Chadwick Boseman is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson alongside Harrison Ford in 42, and most recently as James Brown in Get On Up.
Captain Marvel (July 5, 2018)
“I want to make it very clear that this Captain Marvel is Carol Danvers.”
According to Feige, Captain Marvel went into development about the same time as Guardians of the Galaxy, with the challenge of figuring out what to do with it and how to develop it to fit the MCU. Her origins being Earth-bound while her power set makes her more of a cosmic character. With the success of Guardians, Marvel has been able add to that corner of the universe.
Fans have been clamoring for Captain Marvel for a while now, specifically Carol (see the CarolCorps on Twitter), so it’s no surprise we won’t get Mar-Vell first. It’s possible he could appear in the film, given his ties with the Kree (he’s a white Kree disguised as a human) and the fact that US Air Force vet Carol Danvers got her powers when she absorbed some of Mar-Vell’s DNA in a radioactive explosion. She first appeared as Ms. Marvel in 1977, and many recognize the familiar lightning bolt on the black leotard among cosplayers. She became Captain Marvel in 2012, taking over for Mar-Vell.
No cast or creative announcements on this one, although Katee Sackhoff has been a fan favorite for years to play Carol. Other suggestions include Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim), and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), among others. Sackhoff was even rumored to be in discussions with Marvel at one point, although that never went anywhere beyond speculative talk.
Inhumans (November 2, 2018)
The twentieth film on the slate, this one has the potential to tie in with the developing story in the current season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Feige even hinted that Easter eggs will start to show up early, and given what’s going on with the S.H.I.E.L.D. story line involving Coulson, Skye, and the Kree body, it seems likely that the show is the place to start laying those Easter eggs to start a long burn in introducing the concept of genetically-altered humans fighting in a war between the Kree and the
In the comics, the Inhumans — created in 1965 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — were the result of genetic splicing between the Eternals and Cro-Magnon homo sapiens, resulting in a race of beings with a wide range of powers to be used in the Kree-Skrull war. Eventually creating their own society, the Inhumans settled in a remote area of China, building the city of Attilan and isolating themselves. They also began experimenting with Terrigan Mist, a substance designed to further alter their DNA. Terragin Mist is deadly to humans. Our speculation has it that the obelisk, now called “The Diviner”, on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., may be the entry point for Terragin Mist to be introduced. Skye and Coulson both have Kree-based chemicals in their systems, and the show recently opened the door to the possibility Skye could have alien DNA, and given that she was found in a remote province of China, there is strong evidence to support the notion that she could be an Inhuman.
The Kree have been introduced in both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Chitauri are the Ultimate Universe answer to the Skrulls, who can’t appear in Marvel projects because the rights are tied up with the Fantastic Four. The Inhumans were also introduced in the pages of FF, but Feige confirms they belong solely to Marvel Studios.
Vin Diesel has teased the possibility that he would be involved in this project, in addition to voicing Groot. Back in August, he posted a photo of Groot on his Facebook page along with “I get the strange feeling that Marvel thinks I’m Inhuman… Haha.” This has fueled speculation that Diesel could be playing Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, who is a character that never speaks, as the power of his voice is such that it’s extremely destructive.
Avengers: Infinity War (Part I – May 4, 2018 Part II – May 3, 2019)
“The culmination of everything that’s come before” is how Feige describes it, putting to rest(?) the question of whether or not there was an overall plan in place as far back as Nick Fury’s first visit to Tony Stark in Iron Man.
Feige also says Loki will play a key part in Infinity War, which is probably based on the Jim Starlin mini-series from 1992, but the story will have to be re-tooled for the MCU. This Infinity War will likely be the same kind of adaptation as Civil War, using themes and concepts while executing with completely different details.
Despite warnings against recording the session, there’s video of Feige’s presentation online. (For as long as it lasts):
Feige also participated in a Q&A session after the presentation:
And while there’s some considerable consternation that there’s no solo films for Black Widow, Hawkeye, or The Hulk, Feige did say they (especially Natasha) were integral to the story playing out in Avengers. And he also didn’t limit their appearances to any particular titles.
So while this puts a big chunk of solid information out in the Nethershpere (and there are already comparisons to the way DC did theirs…), there are still questions left unanswered: Planet Hulk? Skye as Ms. Marvel? Spider-Man and the Avengers?
Stay tuned, True Believers.