The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Thoughts on the Current Slate of Films


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As of this week’s announcement of Disney’s upcoming slate of films through 2020, this is what the next several years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is looking like:

2016:

May 6: Captain America: Civil War

November 4: Doctor Strange



2017:

May 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

July 28: Marvel Studios co-produced Spider-Man film (Sony)

November 3: Thor: Ragnarok

2018:



February 16: Black Panther (new date)

May 4: Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1

July 6: Ant-Man and the Wasp (new addition)

2019:

March 8: Captain Marvel (new date)



May 3: Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2

July 12: Inhumans

2020:

May 1: Untitled Marvel Studios film (new addition)

July 10: Untitled Marvel Studios film (new addition)



November 6: Untitled Marvel Studios film (new addition)

I’m just going to start at the top and go down the list.

Several of the podcast team, myself included, were able to attend the “Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios” panel at this years D23 presentation. During the Marvel section of the presentation we were all delighted by a surprise guest appearance of Captain America and the Falcon, Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. Along with these two gentlemen, we were also treated to a first look at Captain American: Civil War. It was quite a lengthy preview as well for a movie that was still almost a year away from release. I have to say, it looks amazing! I would also say that Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man steals the show at the end of the trailer. I look forward to them (hopefully) continuing to utilize that character and Rudd’s talent. If Civil War is even remotely on the same level as Captain America: Winter Soldier, I’ll be thrilled. The Russos are directing again so I have faith. Plus this film is going to mark the debut of the Black Panther as well as the first appearance of the new Spider-Man! Lots to look forward to here.



Following the Captain America: Civil War presentation, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, showed us a video from Benedict Cumberbatch discussing Doctor Strange. The video also showcased some beautiful looking concept art. There was a strong emphasis in the video on the fact that Doctor Strange will be the movie introducing the mystical elements to the MCU. They really want to drill that idea into the audience’s heads so they’re not surprised I suppose. I have no reservations when it comes to this. They handled the space opera so well with Guardians of the Galaxy I’m at the point where I’d say, “the weirder, the better.”

Next on the slate and the first film of 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. I am so excited for this movie. Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and The Avengers are the three best films to come out of the MCU thus far. (I’d say Iron Man 3 would be a close 4th.) What’s great about those three films is how different they are, yet how united they feel. I just hope the studio lets James Gunn, the director of both Guardians films, just do his thing again. They picked the perfect director, with the perfect cast, and a perfect story for them. I’m sure the sequel will live up to its predecessor. Chris Pratt has already seen an early draft of the script that apparently made him cry!

Next is the curve ball. The co-produced Spider-Man film. Sony struck a deal with Disney/Marvel so that Spider-Man can actually become part of the MCU, while Sony still holds the rights to the property. This is the first deal of its kind since Disney has owned Marvel Studios. If there is one thing Disney does well, it’s tell a story. If there is one thing that Sony does not know how to do with their Spider-Man franchise of late, it’s tell a story. Seems like the two working together will be for the best in regards to our favorite friendly neighborhood wallcrawler. We’ve already been promised “no origin story” and told that this incarnation of Spider-Man will be the youngest yet. He returns to high school and will be played by Tom Holland this time around. The new film will be directed by Jon Watts who has no real major studio directing credits to his name. At this point, I don’t care. Just give me a good Spider-Man movie. I’m still a bigger fan of the Sam Raimi trilogy of movies over the more recent two. I know the third one was awful but it’s a great example of studio meddling and I still think the studio should not have pulled the plug on the fourth. I would have liked some closure to the story before they rebooted. Then they went and did the same thing to us again!! I do think the two Marc Webb movies got some things right, Garfield and Stone being the two biggest. I still found the movies to be less enjoyable then the Maguire and Dunst-led outings. That’s my personal opinion and I will debate it for days as Spider-Man (2002) is one of my favorite movies, but that is an article for another time. Onward!



Rounding out 2017 is Thor: Ragnarok. I don’t know how to feel about this film. I love Chris Hemsworth as Thor but I haven’t loved either of the films. I do feel the first was better then the second, but I’ve also been realizing lately that the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings-type fantasy may not be for me. I do appreciate it for being around and mixing things up in the MCU. The fastest way that these superhero movies get old is through monotony. This third outing in the Thor franchise will be delivering a new director in the New Zealand native filmmaker, Taika Waititi. If you get nothing else from this article, I hope you will look up this man’s film, What We Do in the Shadows. It’s brilliant and one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Actually, stop reading and order a copy on Amazon right now. You won’t be disappointed. I can wait…

…Okay, now that your movie is on its way, back to Thor. I am not familiar with the Ragnarok storyline from the comics, but have read that it deals with the Norse apocalypse. The big rumor swirling around right now is that Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk may be making an appearance in this film as well. Both Thor and the Hulk will supposedly be absent from Captain America: Civil War, though it was originally rumored that the Hulk would be making an appearance until Ruffalo confirmed that the scene or appearance had essentially been cut from the film. Perhaps his inclusion into the Ragnarok storyline is what prompted the characters’ exit from the Civil War storyline. I personally would love to see some more Marvel movies that include a one or two character team up without it getting to be Avengers-esque proportions but being more prominent than say (MINOR SPOILER) Falcon in Ant-Man. Something akin to Nick Fury and Black Widow in Winter Soldier. One thing we need from Ragnarok for sure, and I’m positive most everyone will agree, is more Loki. Tom Hiddleston is apparently signed on. I mean, he kind of has to be with how the last Thor movie ended.

The Black Panther film kicks off 2018 in an unusual February time slot, pushed back three months from its original date of November 2017. I believe the earliest a Marvel film has bowed thus far has been April when Captain America: Winter Soldier debuted in 2014. In fact the release of all three of the films this year is a little first-half heavy. I like when there’s an early film, say April/May, then a mid to late summer film, late July/August, followed by a November/Holiday release. It feels less crowded this way and I enjoy getting a Marvel film close to the holidays. It’s like a present from the studio.

We will be getting our first look at the Blank Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, in action when he, along with Spider-Man, make their MCU debuts in Civil War. We did catch a glimpse of the character in costume during the Civil War presentation at D23 and I have to say he looks pretty awesome. I’ll be interested to see where they go with this film. I hope they bring back Andy Serkis’s Ulysses Klaue character as he is one of Black Panther’s main antagonists. Serkis portrayed this character in Avengers: Age of Ultron this summer. You’ve got to love those threads Marvel plants along the way for future films. On that note, listen closely to a conversation between two characters on the rooftop in Captain America: Winter Soldier and you may hear a “strange” name mentioned. (It’s Doctor Strange. That’s the name they mention.) As of right now, Black Panther has to yet to lock in a director, however F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) is currently rumored to be in the running. He did just accept the director’s chair for Furious 8, which is due in 2017, so we’ll see if that impacts his opportunity with Marvel or not.

Come May, the time will have arrived for the ultimate culmination of the MCU to date, Avengers Infinity War – Part 1. The Russos are already slated to direct both Part 1 and Part 2. Marvel has really invested in these two since the critical and commercial success of Winter Soldier. It’s with good reason too. Winter Soldier was an amazing film, let alone an amazing Marvel film. As to what Avengers will make their appearance in the film, nothing is clear yet. I would assume Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye at the very least. However, with Robert Downey Jr.’s contract negotiations, the fate of the Hulk being unknown, and other various story elements, we really have no clue who will make it into the film or which film for that matter. Some could be in Part 1 and bite the dust. Some could show up to help save the day by Part 2. Will Daredevil make an appearance? Will the Guardians help out? We just don’t know anything. I’m sure that Marvel has somewhat of an idea that better be coming clearer as this movie is suppose to be shot back to back with Part 2 and pre-production is about to begin in the near future. One other thing to be noted about the making of these films – Part 1 will be the first movie to be completely shot in the IMAX format. The studio and Russos decided to go for big in all meanings of the word. That is showing in the budget as well, which is rumored to be $1 billion, making it the most expensive movie in history. I’m certain the box office returns will not disappoint as we have yet to see a superhero of such magnificent proportion. It will be the first and most ambitious of its kind.

Unfortunately, Ant-Man and the Wasp have the difficult task of following up Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1. I’m sure the Ant-Man sequel will do just fine, but I imagine the overwhelming inevitable success of Infinity War will be pushed right up against the release of Ant-Man and The Wasp. Nothing is really known about the sequel other than that Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are set to reprise their roles of Scott Lang and Hope van Dyke. Even as I write this and look up that information I start to wonder if this film could actually end up being a prequel about Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym and his late wife Janet in their earlier years as Ant-Man and the Wasp. That would be interesting and plausible if this film wishes to avoid the task of taking place in the events following Infinity War – Part 1. That’s where things get confusing.

There are two Marvel films in between Part 1 and Part 2. Myself and many others, I’m sure, are curious as to the timeline of the two films in between. Will they be period pieces? That would allow for an Ant-Man prequel film to have a timeline untouched by the assured devastation that the Infinity War will have on the planet and the characters involved in the story. That would also allow Paul Rudd’s character to be a part of the current Avengers team and free up that character. At the same time, Paul Rudd makes the character for me, so as much as I’d be interested in seeing the earlier set Ant-Man, I’d find myself longing for Rudd’s inclusion, so that may be a storyline best saved for a Marvel one-shot or perhaps a side story in the sequel. Whatever the case may be, I look forward to seeing Evangeline Lilly finally suit up as the Wasp!

Now we enter 2019 and finally will see the first Marvel movie centered around a female hero. (Sorry, Black Widow. I’m still rooting for you!) Captain Marvel will finally be making her debut in March of 2019. Not much is known about who is going to play Carol Danvers in her big screen debut. Emily Blunt was rumored to be having discussions with Marvel at one time as well as Katee Sackhoff. (I’d be happy with either of these two.) More recently Ronda Rousey, the UFC Champion fighter, has publicly stated that she’d love the chance to play Danvers. I’m sure we’ll start to see some movement on this project in the near future. Hopefully this film will help open the door to some more female heroes getting their time to shine. As not much is known about this film, we still can’t even begin to speculate how it will fit into the Infinity War storyline. Will Captain Marvel be making an appearance in Part 2? Do we meet her as a consequence to the plot of Part 1? So many questions!!

Then this brings us to the closing chapter of the Avengers: Infinity War. This has the undesirable job of actually living up to the hype of being the be-all-end-all superhero movie of a lifetime. I mean this movie is years and years in the making as well as having billions of dollars invested into it. It’s going to be the Gone With the Wind of the Marvel Universe. It has the job of both closing the door to the universe we’ve come to know while also opening another door to the future of that universe. It has to cap and close some stories while leading us to new ones to explore in the future. It’ll be interesting to see if it can be pulled off. If the complaint was that Age of Ultron had too many side stories that made it confusing (*cough* studio meddling *cough) then I can’t imagine how this behemoth will fare. I’m rooting for it. Whatever happens it will be a spectacle not to be missed in theaters, especially IMAX, as this film again will be shot entirely on 70mm film. Go big or go home!

We close out the year with Inhumans. Anyone currently watching Agents of Shield will recognize the “inhumans” name, as it is currently a major storyline on the show. By the way, if you aren’t watching this show, you really should. I know the first half to three-fourths of the first season were blah, but once the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier impacted the storyline, the show took off like crazy and never stopped. In fact, there is currently a rumor going around that the Inhumans film may end up getting scrapped in the long run and that’s why the show was allowed to pursue the story line. With the strained relationship between the MCU and the television folks it wouldn’t be a surprise. It just seems that this film has become very low priority for Marvel at this time. In a few years they may feel as though Agents of Shield exhausted the storyline and there is no need to bring it to the big screen at that point.

Finally, we enter a new decade and what will surely be a new phase in the MCU. There are currently three unnamed films in the 2020 line up. (Spread out in the way I like to view them, I might add.) These could just be space holders for now. Many times studios will make announcements to claim calendar space at the box office so competing studios know not to make plans for that date.

I would bank some money on one of the films from 2020 being a Spider-Man sequel…but I don’t know if Disney would have included that in their announcement since it’s a co-produced venture with Sony. I also wouldn’t be surprised if one of the 2020 movies is another Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. I have my fingers crossed that it is!! Assuming Doctor Strange does well and doesn’t bite the dust in Infinity War, a sequel would be overdue by 2020. It seems that two to three years is the mark for a sequel in the MCU. That would also put a Black Panther sequel right on track for that time frame as well. Marvel Studios is beginning to mine and explore more and more of their obscure material and assuming their current success rate continues, I would not be surprised if we may be seeing another expansion in the number of Marvel movies produced a year. With the success of their obscure properties like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, sequels as well as more of these type of new franchise builders look to be on the horizon so an expanded movie slate is eventually inevitable. As long as they keep doing what they’re doing and we keep going to see what they’re doing, I think that we, as an audience, are in for full and rich experience at the cinema that has no end in near site.



*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.

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