I mentioned in my review of Guardians of the Galaxy that Marvel dug pretty deep into it’s roster to find their latest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the time it felt as if Guardians was Marvel taking a big gamble on an unexplored property. Now, though, it’s evident that it was never a gamble…it was an experiment.
Today Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige took to the stage in front of selected industry journalists and the public for a ‘Special Event’. Following the early leak of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, all bets were off as to what would be revealed. New Avengers footage? A Doctor Strange casting announcement? Any updates on those rumours of an agreement with Sony to share the Spider-Man license onscreen? Although none of these came to pass, it was still a worthwhile event. What was revealed was the entire Phase 3 line up of Marvel pictures over the next five years. Let’s go through the announcements as they were revealed:
The ones we already knew about…
Feige started things off with a few release date confirmations. Doctor Strange has a newly confirmed release date of November 4, 2016, as has been anticipated so far. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 has a new release date being bumped almost three months forward from its original July 28th, 2017 release and now scheduled to come out on May 5th, 2017. Both of these movies have already been long since confirmed for production but the first official announcement came in the form of Thor: Ragnarok, the third feature in the Thor series. Although never technically confirmed, it’s long been expected that the titular Norse god would receive at least a trilogy capper (especially given the state of Asgard at the end of The Dark World) but now it’s official that Odinson will return and he’ll do so on the Guardians old date July 28th, 2017.
The new characters…
From here, Feige started to break out new characters to the MCU starting with Black Panther which will debut on November 3rd, 2017. From his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52, Black Panther has held the title of the first black superhero in mainstream comic-books and, although we had confirmation of a Luke Cage Netflix series last year, it seems that T’Challa will be the first black superhero to get his own feature film. Panther will be played by Chadwick Boseman (who has earnt considerable praise across the pond for his portrayal of the late James Brown in Get On Up) who will be introduced in the upcoming Captain America 3…but more on that later.
The next feature announced is Captain Marvel which will feature Marvel’s first female-led feature. Although Captain Marvel was originally a male character, in more recent years the mantle has been taken up by the former Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers and Feige confirmed that this movie will revolve around her. This is sure to be a relief for all the fans out there who have frequently criticised Feige and Marvel for failing to follow up on their promises of a woman-centric movie and although it might not be a film focusing on fan favourite Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff played by Scarlett Johannson) it at least begins to address concerns of at least passive sexism. Little else has been announced yet, other than that Captain Marvel will be comandeering cinema screens on July 6th, 2018.
As if The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t filling out enough cinema screens (not to mention the upcoming Defenders mini-series airing on Netflix at some undetermined future date), Marvel are putting their money where they mouth is with another superhero group with Inhumans. Originally appearing in 1965 (again in an issue of the Fantastic Four) the Inhumans have been through a considerable number of roster changes over the years so it’s very difficult to put a finger on which new heroes will be introduced. Feige has promised a lot of new faces with new powers will be showing up on November 2nd, 2018 which should be a nice celebration for Marvel’s 20th movie. Although if you’ve been keeping track, you might realise that based on current announcements and previous releases, that ’20th movie’ comment doesn’t make sense. And that’s because…
Things just got crazy…
We all knew that Captain America 3 was happening. The Russo Brothers were rehired to direct before Cap 2 even saw a theatrical release and a few weeks ago it was confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. was confirmed to co-star. After a release date confirmation of May 6th, 2016 under the joke title Serpent Society, Chris Evans and Downey Jr. took to the stage to hype up their impending rivalry in the officially titled Captain America: Civil War. Ever since Iron Man was confirmed to appear in Cap 3, online scuttlebutt has pointed heavily at Civil War as a likely story arc and this title confirms as much. Civil War is one of the biggest crossover events in the past few decades of comic-books which placed Cap against Iron Man in battle of ethics, with Captain America standing against a proposed Superhero Registration Act and Iron Man supporting it. It’s evident now that Marvel is getting far more interesting as all evidence points to Tony Stark effectively acting as the bad guy for this feature which should shake up both the universe and fan loyalties. It’s worth noting that during the original comic-book arc, Black Panther was on Cap’s side, so don’t be surprised if T’Challa and Steve Rogers team up in this flick somewhere along the way.
Finally, we got some news about where the Avengers are going to be heading after Age of Ultron. Speculation was that Avengers 3 would take the May 4th, 2018 release slot as that fits the pattern so far. It turns out that such estimation was only half correct with Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 taking that slot and Part 2 taking the May 3rd, 2019 date a year later. This tells us that despite further guesswork that Captain America 3 would set up the Civil War story arc for Avengers 3. it’s much more likely that Infinity War will wrap up the ongoing Thanos story arc with a mammoth two movie, year long event. Seeing as Thanos had a hand in the events of Guardians of the Galaxy, is it possible then that Infinity War has been split in two to accommodate multiple superhero posses getting involved in the action? It’s far too early to say for sure at this point but it’s the sort of thing that Marvel must have considered whether it turns out that way or not.
With all of this information coming hot off the heels of Warner Bros. and DC’s announcements of a Wonder Woman movie, a Shazam movie involving Dwayne Johnson and a two part Justice League movie, it’s difficult to say how much of this information is a direct response to those announcements of diversity and multi-feature commitments. To the contrary it’s possible that DC’s announcements were based on rumblings heard from Marvel’s camp. Either way, Marvel has proven itself as a steady hand at balancing projects and these announcements have already more or less ‘won the internet’.
We’ve been calling Marvels efforts a ‘Cinematic Universe’ for a while now but today is the first time we’ve seen enough distinct growth to back up that label. If this franchise really is a universe, today’s event might just have been the big bang.
Header image rights; Evalopa