Stand up comedian - improviser - writer
  • The Pursuit of Quality: What Marvel's Phase 3 Plans Have In Store

    Thu 06 Nov 2014  ·  12:47AM

    POTENTIAL SPOILERS – Most of this is conjecture, but it’s based on existing clues and rumours, so some of it could turn out to be true.

    Let me open this post by saying that I love both Marvel and DC. My first exposure to superheroes was through the Lois & Clark TV Show when I was very young, and Dean Cain was the first iteration of Superman I ever knew, and I was hooked immediately on all things super.

    I came to Marvel a bit later (initially through the 90s Spider-Man cartoon), but now, I continue to be staggered by how Marvel are producing such great movies, in contrast to the – at best – average movies DC/Warner Brothers have produced recently (my previous post regarding my issues with Man of Steel can be found here).

    When DC revealed their upcoming movie slate – without any pomp or ceremony at their shareholders meeting – I was certainly intrigued, but not that excited. In my eyes, Warner Brothers are yet to prove that they can make a really successful, exciting, character-faithful superhero movie (that doesn’t involve Batman), and until they can establish that reputation, their upcoming slate, much like their presentation of it, is just a list of names, designed to appease the shareholders that expect them to be competing with Marvel. The trouble is, if any one of their movies fails, starting with The Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, then it puts the remainder of their slate in jeopardy.

    By contrast, Kevin Feige is now, probably, the most famous Studio Head in history. Most Studio Heads are money men, whose job it is to commission creative people to work on projects that will bring box office success. Feige actually is one of the creative people. He’s the man with the plan. He knows exactly what he wants the studio to work on, when to take risks, and most importantly, how to announce new projects. At the announcement event last week, with hundreds of fans present, Feige had the crowd cheering and applauding at the sight of logos. Not footage, not the actors present, not even the concept art (though all of those things were indeed greeted enthusiastically); the mere logos blew the roof off. That’s the power of a studio with a strong reputation for quality output.

    So, what about the slate itself, and what can we expect? Well, here’s some of my hopes and expectations for Marvel’s Phase 3.



    Originally announced as the start of Phase 3, Feige has confirmed that Ant-Man will now be considered the final movie of Phase 2. The film itself has received quite a lot of attention recently, due to Edgar Wright parting ways with the project, despite having worked on it since 2006. A lot of fans were disappointed that we won’t see Wright’s version of Ant-Man, but to be honest, I wasn’t that moved by his exit. Certainly, it’s a shame that someone’s who’s spent that long working on the project won’t get to deliver it, but I’m not a gigantic Edgar Wright fan, like many of my peers. If I’m honest, I didn’t really get Scott Pilgrim. It seemed like an odd premise, that was an excuse for a string of fight sequences, and based on a comic series that I’d never read. The Cornetto Trilogy, while undoubtedly containing some/many funny moments, tended to be more violent/gory than I seek in a movie, and Spaced past me by completely. So, the fact that Peyton Reed will now direct it doesn’t faze me at all.

    In all honesty, my biggest disappointment from the lead up to this movie is that it features an older Hank Pym, and no Janet Van Dyne (as far as we know). I wanted the first Ant-Man movie to feature the original Ant-Man and Wasp at their peak. When Paul Rudd was cast, I immediately thought, “he’d be an awesome Hank Pym”, and I’d heard a rumour that Rashida Jones was being pursued for Wasp, and that combo sounded awesome to me (their chemistry in I Love You, Man was clear). However, that’s not to say that the idea of Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Pym, and Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyme (Pym’s daughter and Wasp-on-occasion in certain versions of the comics) isn’t intriguing, and I am excited to see what they do. I just wish this was the Ant-Man sequel, and we’d got to see Pym, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner as contemporaries, first. Science Bros for the win!

    The remaining question becomes, when will we see Ant-Man and Wasp after this (if we see Wasp at all in this film)? Will we have to wait until Avengers: Infinity War, or will they appear sooner, in...



    The title of this film, would suggest that we’ll see appearances from a fair few Avengers’ characters. It’s adapted from one of the best – if not THE best – Marvel Comics events ever, featuring crossovers spanning almost the entire Marvel Universe.  We already know it’ll serve as the introduction to Black Panther (more on him later), but this film is also a quasi-Iron-Man 4. For that reason, I’m really surprised that they’re presenting the Civil War arc as a Captain America sequel, rather than its own event, for two reasons: A) We’ve kinda already had a civil war plotline in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (as SHIELD fought itself against the Hydra sleepers within its ranks), and B) I’d have thought that Marvel’s Civil War would’ve attracted an equally large audience, if not bigger. The problem with Captain America: Civil War, is that it immediately paints Steve Rogers as the hero, and Tony Stark as the enemy. Had the title not made reference to either of them, it might’ve been easier to play the whole “whose side are you on” card as part of the publicity. This way, the decision seems to have already been made for us.

    Still, there are bigger fish to fry here. In the comics, The Civil War ultimately ends with Steve Rogers being assassinated, and this has led some to the belief that Captain America will actually be the first MCU hero to die. I expect that’s probably true (as it would certainly up the stakes, and give Bucky Barnes the chance to step up as the new Captain America), but, in true comic-book fashion, I don’t think it’ll be the last we see of Steve Rogers (and not just because Chris Evans is contracted for another Marvel film after this one).

    I hope this film will include a reconciliation between Cap and Bucky (aka Winter Soldier) – possibly just moments before Cap is killed – as it would be a shame to abandon the plot thread left dangling at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’d also like to see Falcon’s iconic red suit (perhaps adapted from his Tactical Suit seen in CA:TWS), Hawkeye and Black Widow appearances, plus a film debut for Adrianne Palicki’s Mockingbird (who I’m already in love with after just two appearances on Agents of SHIELD).

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this film also results in the return of an officially sanctioned SHIELD, and therefore the cinematic return of Agent Coulson. In the comics, with Captain America arrested, and Nick Fury hiding, Tony Stark is made head of SHIELD. We’re already seeing elements of that in the MCU now, as we know from Maria Hill, that Stark is attempting to privatise global security (which will lead to the events in Age of Ultron). Plus, it’d be nice to have Clark Gregg mixing it with the Avengers again.



    Long rumoured to be coming – and a known passion-project of Kevin Feige’s (not to mention his name-check in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) – the announcement of Doctor Strange was perhaps the least surprising aspect of Phase 3.

    Very little is known about what this film will involve, and I don’t really know enough about Stephen Strange’s history to speculate too much, but I will say this: most Marvel movies (with the exception of Iron-Man, who is still yet to feature the Mandarin-proper) have featured the characters’ primary comic antagonist in their first movies: Thor got Loki, Captain America got the Red Skull, Hulk got Abomination, The Avengers got Loki (again), etc... So I’m expecting Doctor Strange to be up against Dormammu, the Lord of the Dark Dimension, and probably a number of Mindless Ones too.

    I also think this will be the next movie to introduce a new Infinity Stone. We’ve seen four out of six so far (The Tessaract, the Aether, Loki’s Sceptre, and The Orb), which have each come from quite different locations. With Strange opening up the magical side of the MCU, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stone #5 was hidden in the Dark Dimension or somewhere similar.

    Finally, though it’s not confirmed yet, it seems pretty likely that Benedict Cumberbatch will be cast in the title role. Some have described him as a “safe choice”, but sometimes you’re the safe choice because you’re the “best choice”. Cumberbatch is brilliant; he’s got range, he can play arrogant while remaining likeable, he commands the screen, he’s the darling of Tumblr, and he’s engaging out of character too (a huge asset for Marvel, who’ll want to use him for publicity purposes in a similar way to Robert Downey Jnr, Tom Hiddlestone, etc – just imagine his Comic Con entrance next year). His face is, perhaps, a little narrow compared to most comic portrayals of the character, but that’s a minor gripe, and I hope he’s officially announced soon.



    Moved up from its original release date due to the mega-success of the first one, Guardians 2 will be fascinating. When Iron-Man was first announced, many people said “it’ll never work”, or “Marvel are resorting to the B team”, only for the movie to prove them wrong. Guardians was the first film since then to face similar criticism, and yet, it’s arguably Marvel’s best to date. But where do you go from there? People will say that Iron-Man 2 fought against unreasonably high expectations (a movie that I actually like, by the way), and now Guardians 2 potentially has the same problem. However, unlike Iron-Man, Guardians finished with several open plot points to follow up on. Karen Gillan’s Nebula remains alive, Yondu clearly knows who Peter Quill’s father is (and that he’s not dead), and the Nova Corps are now in possession of an Infinity Stone, that Thanos will inevitably want back.

    Will we see new members of the team? There were suggestions that Adam Warlock’s cocoon (for want of a better word) was spotted in one of the Collector’s cages, and the first movie introduced the Nova Corps, without any mention of either Richard Rider or Sam Alexander – will we see the Nova in the sequel?

    The one thing I’m really hoping though is that Hulk WON’T appear in this movie, as some rumours might suggest. Let the Guardians be the Guardians for now; The Hulk would pull too much focus.



    Perhaps a bit of a surprise announcement this. Some thought Feige might move Thor to the back-burner after The Dark World didn’t set the world alight (again, I really liked The Dark World, and was surprised to hear that some people thought it was a letdown – I think it’s actually a better Thor movie than the first one was, but there you go...).

    Feige claims that Ragnarok will change the MCU’s course in Phase 3, in the same way that The Winter Soldier did in Phase 2. I suspect that this will be caused by the destruction of Asgard, or at least, it being moved to another plane of existence, possibly trapping Thor, and preventing his return to Earth.

    Ragnarok is also likely to mean that Surtur will be the villain – I was in the camp hoping that The Enchantress & The Executioner would be the villains this time round, but I’m ok with this. It suggests that we can expect a huge Asgardian battle, as Thor attempts to keep Surtur from his goal, of drawing the sword that will end all things. So, you know, sounds like a laugh...



    One of the newly announced projects I’m most excited about (second only to Captain Marvel), Black Panther will feature Marvel’s first black lead, but also, one of the most interesting premises. Wakanda is an isolationist, technologically advanced, African country, led by their King, T’Challa (the latest Black Panther). It’s also one of the richest African nations due to being situated on top of the world’s largest Vibranium mine (the metal Captain America’s shield is made from).

    Black Panther is a great character, a key Avenger, and actual reigning royalty (unlike Thor, who can’t make up his mind about whether or not he wants to rule Asgard).

    Chadwick Boseman has been cast in the title role (I don’t know very much about him yet, but I hear he’s incredible in the recent James Brown biopic), and will debut in Captain America: Civil War. Wakanda however, is rumoured to be appearing even earlier, with long-time Black Panther villain Ulysses Klaw believed to be Andy Serkis’s character in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

    Whether Klaw will therefore be the villain in Black Panther remains to be seen, but that seems easily possible if they’ve already got him set up. Another choice might be Man-Ape and the White Gorillas. The only thing we know for certain at this point though is that the concept art for Black Panther’s suit looks incredible.



    And now things get interesting. Rumour has it that, at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America will assemble a new team of Avengers. Whether that team will feature in Captain America: Civil War, remains to be seen, but if not, I’m willing to bet that they’ll feature in this film. The only question will be, will Captain America still be alive or not to lead them.

    Expect a new look team here; potentially no Thor, Iron-Man, or Captain America at all. This will be a chance for the new guys to get a run out. I’d guess War Machine, Vision, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange are likely, and perhaps Mockingbird, Ant-Man, and Wasp too. Why’s this? Well, Marvel’s famous multi-picture deals will be close to running out by this point; Robert Downey Jnr will have one picture left, as will Hemsworth and Evans, so if I were Marvel, I’d save them for a mega-showdown with Thanos in Infinity War (Part 2).

    From what I’ve heard, the original title for this film was going to be Avengers: Infinity GAUNTLET, which would’ve been followed by Avengers: Infinity War the following year. Therefore, I expect this movie will feature Thanos attempting to collect all the Infinity Stones, so as to assemble them as one weapon. The New Avengers will fail to stop him achieving that goal, but will succeed in saving the Earth from a secondary threat in the process. That would set up a nice cliff-hanger leading into Infinity War (Part 2).

    I believe this film will mark the debut of the sixth and final Infinity Stone, which the New Avengers will be attempting to stop Thanos taking possession of. I also think that this film’s post-credits scene will feature the Time Stone being used to resurrect Steve Rogers, just in time for the all-out war against the full might of Thanos (assuming he does get killed in Civil War, obviously).



    I’m so excited for this one. Carol Danvers is one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU (besides the Hulk – the strongest hero there is, obviously); we’re really talking about the Marvel equivalent of Superman here, and even better, she’s a woman. This film’s really going to give young girls a great icon, while still being a character that guys will enjoy too.

    It’s worth noting that Carol Danvers originally went by the moniker “Ms Marvel”, until only a few years ago (it’s also quite amusing that this will come out in 2018, one year before DC are due to release Shazam; a character that was – until a few years ago – known as Captain Marvel).

    Before this change, the best known Captain Marvel from the comics was a Kree soldier called Mar-Vell, whose powers were transferred to Carol during an explosion. Mar-Vell, in a rare move for comic books, later died from cancer – something his powers couldn’t prevent; a rare human moment for an alien superhero. I’ve often thought that, were I adapting Captain Marvel as a movie, I’d include that sub-plot, so that by the end of the film, Mar-Vell has died, and Carol has replaced him as the new Captain Marvel. If Marvel were to do that in this film, I think it’d be something really special, as that’s completely unexplored territory for a comic book movie. The only thing would be that they’d have to find a way to keep Carol as the main protagonist; Mar-Vell can’t snatch the spotlight away from Marvel’s first female lead.

    Partially for this reason, I hope this film WON’T be Carol Danvers’ first appearance in the MCU. I’d love to see her appear (possibly without her powers) on Agents of SHIELD, or in Captain America: Civil War, or perhaps even as Ms Marvel in Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1). That way, when she’s introduced as Captain Marvel, the audience already has a relationship with the character, and feels pride in her ascendency.

    The one thing I do feel is most important with this film though, is that they cast an unknown. Lots of people online are calling for Katee Sackhoff, Katheryn Winnick, Yvonne Strahovski, or Jessica Chastain, all of whom would do a good job, I’m sure, but, I think this character has the potential to make somebody’s career, and Marvel haven’t really picked a complete unknown since Chris Hemsworth was cast as Thor. It would be a tremendous display of faith in the character by the Studio, to say, “Yes, here’s our first female lead, and we believe she’s awesome enough that we don’t need a headline name to convince you to come and see it. You’ll love this movie on its own merits.”

    However, if they’re not going to do that, I’d go for Yvonne Strahovski – she’s beautiful, of course, but I fully believe she could beat me up! Plus, she’s a little bit younger than the other contenders being mentioned, and this movie is still four years away.



    Again, the Inhumans are an aspect of the Marvel universe that I’ve only come to learn about quite recently, so my knowledge is not as complete as it likely will be by 2018.

    What I do know, is that Inhumans are people who have been transformed by exposure to the Terrigen Mist, which unlocks latent powers. For example, the king of the Inhumans is Black Bolt, who never speaks, as a mere whisper of his voice has sufficient resonance to destroy a city.

    The effects of the Terrigen Mist lead me to assume that the Inhumans will likely be used as proxy-mutants (since Fox has the film rights to the X-Men), and consequently, I think several examples are already circulating in the MCU. I believe Agents of SHIELD has probably shown four Inhuman characters already (Skye, Donnie Gill (aka Blizzard), Raina, and Kyle MacLachlan’s “The Doctor”), and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will likely be identified as Inhumans once Avengers: Age of Ultron rolls round next year.

    Kevin Feige has already said that this film will introduce dozens of characters, so in addition to Black Bolt, expect debuts for Medusa (can use her hair as a weapon), Gorgon (has incredibly powerful legs with hooves instead of feet), and Karnak (peak physical and mental condition, plus the ability to detect the stress point in any object or person around him).

    In the recent Infinity comic arc, another Inhuman was introduced, Thane – the son of Thanos, who actually went on to trap his father in a state of “living death” (inside a block of amber). It’ll be interesting to see if Thane appears in this movie, especially when you consider that it’s sandwiched between the two parts of Avengers: Infinity War.

    Not much casting news exists at this point (again, as I type, we’re four years away from this being released), but the one prevailing rumour is that Vin Diesel is in line to play Black Bolt. This would make sense, as he has the right build and look to play the character (Black Bolt, too, is bald), plus, with Diesel having already lent his voice to Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, it makes sense for him now to provide his body to a character that doesn’t speak!



    Ok, and now, things get really interesting. Let’s assume Thanos has indeed gathered all the Infinity Stones in Part One, in which case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the synopsis for Part Two read something like this:

    All of existence comes under threat when Thanos, armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, heads to Earth in order to destroy the Cosmos at its weakest point: Midgard – the heart of Yggdrasil. But standing in his way, are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; who will win the final battle of Marvel’s Infinity War?

    Or something like that.

    Let’s be honest, what we really want to see in this film is everyone called in to face off with Thanos, and by this point, that’ll be quite some army. The complete Avengers roster would include:

    -          Iron-Man

    -          Captain America (assuming he’s not dead)

    -          Thor

    -          Hulk

    -          Black Widow

    -          Hawkeye

    -          Black Panther

    -          Vision

    -          Ant-Man

    -          Wasp

    -          War Machine

    -          Quicksilver

    -          Scarlet Witch

    -          Mockingbird

    -          Falcon

    -          Doctor Strange

    -          Captain Marvel

    -          Winter Soldier

    -          Daredevil

    -          Luke Cage

    -          Iron Fist

    -          Jessica Jones

    -          Deathlok

    -          Star Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket, and Drax

    -          Several Inhumans

    -          and The Nova Corps.

    Quite a big movie, I’m sure you’ll agree. Alas, I’m almost positive that it’s not going to happen that way, but it’s nice to have a dream. Whatever happens in this film, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Thanos will be defeated by the end of it.

    The real question is who will be directing this two-part behemoth? Will Joss Whedon want to return? There’s a rumour going around that The Russo Brothers will get the job, but they’ve already got Captain America: Civil War on their plate for Phase 3, so they might not get/want to helm three movies.

    I’m sure that the fan favourite would be for Joss to stay on, as he is current reigning King of Comic Con, after all. I believe the fans love having Joss write/direct the Avengers because he’s one of us. He’ll take care of the characters that we love, because like us, he NEEDS these movies to be good. Part of me thinks that after Avengers: Age of Ultron is done with, he’ll want to walk away from it and work on something else, but there’s another part of me that thinks the reason this slate of movies is so big, is because it buys Joss two years before he’d have to start working on the next one. Two years, in which he could, say, make his version of Hamlet, work on Doctor Horrible 2, and toy with the other passion projects he wants to make.

    If he does walk away from it, then I’m sure Marvel will get someone great, and whatever Joss does next will surely be awesome... Buuuuut – I’d really like to see his take on Infinity War, so I hope it is that, and as Joss apparently had a hand in the casting of Josh Brolin as Thanos, I suspect Kevin Feige would like that too.


    So, what WASN’T announced for Phase 3? Well...



    Hulk will, apparently, feature heavily in Phase 3, but he won’t be doing so in his own movie. He’s still perceived as a problem character by the studio – presumably, because they’ve been burnt twice by Hulk’s solo outings, and they don’t want to risk that again. However, I think the problem with the Hulk stems from the fact that they keep portraying him as a mindless, out of control monster, leaving any/all emotional depth/growth to be provided by Bruce Banner. This isn’t the way to do it.

    In the comics, and in the brilliant Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, the Hulk can work with the Avengers, Banner can work with the Avengers, but the Hulk and Banner can’t work with each other. That’s where the conflict has to be if the Hulk is ever to develop as a character; the Hulk ruins Banner’s life, and Banner fights to keep the Hulk inside – both resent each other, but both can work with the rest of the team. The first step of this would be for the Hulk to have an actual conversation with, for example, Captain America, rather than just grunts.

    In the same way, as The French Connection and Three Days of the Condor, inspired Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if I was making a Hulk movie, my inspiration would be a Boxing movie like Rocky III or Raging Bull.

    "The Hulk, who has been growing in popularity due to his association with The Avengers, is knocked down a peg when the Abomination seemingly escapes from prison, and the two smash up Midtown New York. The fight is broken up by the appearance of a mysterious Red Hulk, who saves a building from collapse, as well as subduing and detaining the Abomination.

    Later, General “Thunderbolt” Ross insists that Banner be locked up for the Hulk’s crimes, in order to protect the people from further city-razing incidents, but Banner refuses to turn himself in, more interested to know how Blonsky escaped his Cryo-cell.

    Ross receives permission to arrest Banner, sending a team of Hulkbusters to attack him while he meets his cousin, Jennifer Walters, to seek legal advice. Walters is badly injured during the assault, as the Hulk fights off the Hulkbusters. The Red Hulk arrives, and beats the Hulk into submission.

    When Banner awakes, he’s locked in a gamma cell at The Cube, and is told by General Ross that Walters survived, but they had to use Banner’s blood for a transfusion. Banner is immediately furious, concerned by what effect his gamma-infused blood will have on his cousin, but the gamma cell prevents him from transforming.

    With Banner locked up, Red Hulk sets about replacing him as a hero, and seems far less reckless in his methods than Hulk had ever been.

    Betty Ross discovers that her father never received government permission to arrest Banner, and he also staged the Abomination’s escape. She goes to the Cube to have Banner released, but the guards deny her entry. Betty insists, but still they won’t let her in. Betty attempts to force her way in, but a guard pulls out a pistol, and is about to shoot when a green hand grabs the gun, catching the bullet in its palm. We see She-Hulk for the first time, in her hospital gown, clearly just awoken from her treatment at the Cube.

    She-Hulk and Betty release Bruce from his cell, and carry him out of the prison. The Red Hulk is waiting for them, and She-Hulk tries to take him on, but – as Jennifer’s not trained in combat yet – he defeats her with ease.

    Bruce transforms, and after a lengthy battle, Hulk defeats the Red Hulk (with a distraction from Betty and She-Hulk), and locks him in the gamma cell. The Hulks are surrounded by Hulkbusters, just in time for them to see Red Hulk transform back into... General Ross.

    Ross is arrested by his own men, and Bruce, Jennifer, and Betty are released.

    In the post credits scene, someone (Nick Fury, maybe?) arrives at the Gamma Cell to talk to Ross. “You’re looking at a long time in this cell, General; unless you’d be willing to earn your way out.”


    “We’re putting together a covert ops team, and from what I’ve heard, you’ve always been something of a Thunderbolt...”"


    And there you have it; a solo hulk movie that introduces Red Hulk and She-Hulk, plus sets up a Thunderbolts movie, which should be easy, as by then Elektra, Punisher, Red Hulk, Crossbones and Bullseye would all be available characters.



    The other missing film, that many people thought would happen, was a Black Widow solo movie. Feige has said that Black Widow will continue to be a major character moving forward, but, like Hulk, will be best used as part of a team. I’m ok with this, to be honest, as Black Widow isn’t really a superhero, so much as she is just a highly skilled assassin, so if Marvel are doing their first female-led Superhero movie, I think Captain Marvel was the right character to start with.

    However, if I was doing a Black Widow movie (and don’t worry, I’m not going to write a treatment as long as the one for Hulk, above!), I’d probably do a prequel to The Avengers, called The Widow & The Hawk. It’d be the story of Hawkeye recruiting Black Widow, rather than killing her, and would feature Natasha’s rise through the KGB ranks, and feature several of the deeds Loki listed in Avengers, including the event in Sao Paulo, the hospital fire, and the assassination of Drakov’s daughter. All this would culminate with a standoff in Budapest between Black Widow & Hawkeye, and an army of KGB agents, intent on stopping them both.

    It’d be great fun, and a real spy thriller; SHIELD versus the KGB.


    Still, both of those, and potentially Iron Man 4, could appear in Phase 4, but for the time being, we’ve got five years of awesome Marvel television and movies to look forward to, and I genuinely hope DC’s slate makes good. It’s an exciting time to be a comic book fan, so bring it on!