SDCC: The Many Movies of Marvel – Predictions & Hypotheses

It should come as no surprise that comic book movies are a hot commodity right now. There are currently over 10 superhero movies that have already been announced, including new additions to the Avengers, Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four franchises. Marvel Studios is looking to add to that number in a big way this week after announcing six new untitled Marvel films (adding to the two they already had slated). There’s a ton of thought and consideration that goes into picking dates for these big blockbuster films and it has become commonplace for a studio to “claim” a particular date for one of their upcoming releases (it doesn’t always work, however – Warner Bros pushed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice back to May 6th, 2016 after Marvel had already claimed that date for a film that ended up being Captain America 3. Both films are still scheduled to be released on that date, which is insane.). It’s crazy that Marvel Studios has now claimed eight separate dates for films we know almost nothing about, but Warner Bros. is expected to release their upcoming slate of DC Comics films this weekend at San Diego Comic Con and many see this move as Marvel’s opening salvo. If DC is planning to official announce six movies this weekend, Marvel’s going to announce seven. It’s crazy, but fun.

As soon as Marvel announced these dates, everyone scrambled to predict what these films could possibly be, and being who I am, I was excited to joined the fray. Here were my initial predictions after Marvel first announced five new dates (the first three were already confirmed):

May 2, 2015: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
July 17, 2015: “Ant-Man”
May 6, 2016: “Captain America 3”
July 8, 2016: “Doctor Strange”
May 5, 2017: “Thor 3”
July 28, 2017: “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”
November 3, 2017: “Ms. Marvel”
July 6, 2018: “Avengers 3”
November 2, 2018: “Inhumans”
May 3, 2019: “Iron Man 4/Reboot”

I was fairly confident and happy with this list. Of the seven unknowns, I was positive about at least four of them and I had a good feeling about the rest. Then Marvel screwed it all up. Remember how I was talking about film studios reserving dates way ahead of time? A while back, when Amazing Spider-Man 2 was still in production, Sony announced that Amazing Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 4 would be released on June 10, 2016 and May 4th, 2018, respectively. Well, things have not been looking good for the Amazing Spider-Man franchise as of late, and it was announced that Amazing Spider-Man 3 would be vacating it’s 2016 spot for a date in 2018, meaning Amazing Spider-Man 4 would be abandoning its May 4th date. Surprise, surprise, Marvel swooped in and planted a flag on this date for another, as-yet-unannounced film, a mere five days after doing so with five other dates. So I had to re-evaluate my predictions to include this extra film:

May 2, 2015: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
July 17, 2015: “Ant-Man”
May 6, 2016: “Captain America 3”
July 8, 2016: “Doctor Strange”
May 5, 2017: “Thor 3”
July 28, 2017: “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”
November 3, 2017: “Ms. Marvel”
May 4, 2018: “Avengers 3”
July 6, 2018: “Inhumans”
November 2, 2018: “Black Panther”
May 3, 2019: “Iron Man 4/Reboot”

I feel slightly less confident about this list for various reasons, which I will get into, but first we have to talk about an image that “leaked” online at some point on Thursday. I have no idea where this image came from. I can’t find any reliable source of any kind, yet people on Twitter are going crazy over it. Personally, I think it’s BS, and I’ll explain why. Here it is:

Marvel's SDCC Movie Slate

Pretty interesting, but most likely fake. That isn’t to say that parts of it aren’t correct – I’m positive that nine of those films will actually exist at some point and in some form (five of them have already been officially announced) and I think that a lot of the dates are correct, but there are few things in that image that I’m just not buying. I’ll explain as I attempt to elucidate why I made the predictions that I made.

Three of my predictions were super easy to make – we already know that Thor 3, Doctor Strange, and Avengers 3 are definitely coming. Both Thor 3 and Doctor Strange have screenwriters attached, but only the latter has a director in Scott Derrickson. Between the two of them, Doctor Strange seems like the furthest along and has long been rumored to be the second 2016, hence why I put it first and slotted Thor 3 into the May 2017 spot. As for Avengers 3, assuming Marvel keeps to that franchise’s release schedule, it’ll be out in 2018, which is the date many have expected since Avengers: Age of Ultron was announced for 2015. Initially, there was no May date set for 2018, which struck me as odd considering Marvel Studios has released a film on the first Friday in May for 5 of the last 7 years and they’ve got that spot locked down for 2015, 2016, and 2017. Many thought that Disney might have been saving the May 4th, 2018 spot for a Star Wars film, since the first six were all released in May and May 4th is unofficially known as “Star Wars Day” (May the Fourth Be With You). As it turns out, they just didn’t want to release on the same day as Amazing Spider-Man 4, and as soon as that date was vacated, they pounced. So I moved Avengers 3 up from the July spot, because it just makes more sense. That leaves five more unknown films.

It was rumored earlier this year that Marvel was so happy with Guardians of the Galaxy that they’d already started planning a sequel. More recently, some very spoilery rumors regarding Avengers: Age of Ultron have surfaced that seem to confirm this development. A July 2017 release date gives them three years to turn this film around and positions it less than a year away from Avengers 3, which many believe will feature the villain Thanos, who was teased at the end of the Avengers and will factor into the events of Guardians of the Galaxy in a big way.

That leaves us with one more date in 2017, which I think will go to a movie centered around Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. Ms. Marvel is a character that Kevin Feige has been talking about for a while and she’s a character that many fans have been clamoring for. It makes sense for a lot of reasons. First off, people are ready for a female-led superhero film, and Marvel has traditionally been pretty good with featuring a diverse line-up of characters (the current Ms. Marvel in the comics is a Muslim teenager, and just this week Marvel announced that the new Thor would be a woman and that the Captain America identity would be taken up by the Falcon, a black man). Rumor has it that DC is planning on announcing a solo Wonder Woman film for 2017, so it would be crazy for Marvel not to have their own female hero ready for the same year. It’s quite possible that this film and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 could switch places to better position a Ms. Marvel movie to go head-to-head with Wonder Woman. So apart from reasons regarding diversity, why else does this movie make sense? Well, Ms. Marvel got her super powers from a Kree superhero named Captain Marvel. Who are the Kree? They’re a blue-skinned alien race found in the Marvel universe. The main protagonist in Guardians of the Galaxy is Ronan the Accuser, a member of the Kree race. There was also a blue alien featured in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season that many believe could be also be a Kree. The groundwork is already being set. Ms. Marvel is also an Avenger. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe delves deeper and deeper into the cosmic side of things, it makes sense to introduce more characters who can tie the cosmic side of the universe in with the more grounded side, especially if this is all leading up to a big showdown against Thanos in Avengers 3. Need more convincing? In the comics, Ms. Marvel has taken up the mantle of Captain Marvel and is currently a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and I just predicted that earlier in 2017, we’ll see a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. They could even use it to introduce her. It just makes so much sense that Marvel would be crazy not to do it. Some believe that if Marvel is going to take the “risk” of releasing a superhero film starring a female character, they’d go with Black Widow, since she’s a known quantity, but that’s not really a risk at all. Black Widow has starred in three of the biggest superhero films of all time. Marvel wants to have a female-led superhero movie that introduces a new female character. They want someone they can add to the Avengers to increase the amount of female members. I truly believe this film will be announced on Saturday. 100%.

Carol Danvers Captain Marvel Ms. Marvel
Coming to a theater near you in 2017.

Still with me? We now have release dates for all of Marvel’s Phase Three films – Ant-Man, Captain America 3, Doctor Strange, Thor 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Ms. Marvel, and Avengers 3. But what comes next? There are still three dates left. I believe that those dates will be filled by The Inhumans, Black Panther, and Iron Man 4 (which could either star Robert Downey Jr. or recast the character). Now you’re wondering who The Inhumans and Black Panther are. Well, for starters, they’re two properties that Marvel Studios has been name dropping for YEARS. Kevin Feige has wanted to make these movies for as long as I can remember. It was only a matter of time. Black Panther tells the story of T’Challa, the king of a fictional African country known as Wakanda who also happens to be an Avenger (Wakanda is the country that Vibranium, the metal used to create Captain America’s shield, comes from). He was the first African superhero in mainstream comics and Marvel would love to have him be the first African superhero in mainstream comic book movies (No, Steel does not count). Remember what I said about Marvel loving diversity? I swear, if they announced a Ms. Marvel movie AND a Black Panther movie this weekend, they’d have enough goodwill to sail on for years. As for the Inhumans, well, Marvel has been trying to make them happen for ages. The Inhumans are a group of humans who were experimented on by… can you guess? The Kree. Yes, those Kree. The ones who appear in Guardians of the Galaxy and give Ms. Marvel her powers. Can you see how this is all fitting together? It’s like a puzzle, and once you’ve got one piece, the rest start falling into place. It has long been rumored that Marvel would try to use the Inhumans in place of the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the Marvel comics, anybody can develop a superpower. When this happens, it’s called a mutation and that character is referred to as a mutant. Unfortunately for Marvel, Fox owns the rights to the X-Men franchise, and that includes the use of the word “mutant” (which is why Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, two well-known mutants in the comics, were referred to as “miracles” in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier). This presents a problem for Marvel, as it limits who can gain powers in their cinematic universe. The Inhumans present a way out of this problem for Marvel. They’ve got a substance known as the Terrigen Mist which can be used to unlock the hidden potential in a human. This Mist could pave the way for a whole slew of new superhumans (and supervillains) for Marvel to use in films. Plus, the Inhumans are currently getting a huge push from the publishing side of Marvel which usually happens when a film is being set to release. You know who else is getting a huge push? Ant-Man. And Doctor Strange. Are you connecting the dots yet? As for Iron Man 4, well… I don’t really have a good reason for this guess – I just think it’s time. When May 2019 rolls around, it will have been six years since a stand-alone Iron Man film. Most people are expecting the main Avengers to be re-cast and/or killed off post-Avengers 3, although lately Robert Downey Jr. has been expressing interest in continuing to play Tony Stark, so who knows what will happen? The timing just seems right. Phase Four will already be well underway by the time 2019 rolls around, but Iron Man was the film that started this whole world and it makes sense for Iron Man to be a crucial part of the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, every Iron Man film was released in May.

Marvel Avengers NOW! SDCC
Entertainment Weekly released this Marvel Comics promotional image before San Diego Comic Con which illustrates which Marvel characters will be emphasized in the coming months and years. You’ll notice that most of them are characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (right down to Deathlok, from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and if they’re not already (like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man), they will be soon.

So there you have my rationalizations. Now by this point you may be saying “But Andrew, it looks like whoever made/released that fake image of the upcoming Marvel slate agrees with you!”, but you would be wrong. The first thing I noticed when I looked at that image was the absence of the May 4th, 2018 date. Granted, it was only announced two days ago, but still – it’s not like Marvel just grabbed the date with absolutely no idea of which film to put into that slot. Seems odd to me that if this were truly the official upcoming slate, it wouldn’t include that crucial date. There’s also no mention of Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel, which I think is absolutely ludicrous. The other thing that bothers about this image are the titles of the films. There’s nothing wrong with Doctor Strange, Black Panther, or The Inhumans. I also think that “Thor: Ragnarok” seems like a fairly likely title, especially if this is going to be the last Thor film for the foreseeable future, but “Captain America: The Fallen Son”? Yes, this is the title of a comic book storyline involving Captain America, but it’s the comic book storyline where Captain America dies, and if he does (although it’s pretty much a matter of “when” at this point), it’ll be in Avengers 3. The same thing worries me about the “Ragnarok” title, which pretty much implies that Asgard and the Norse Gods would be facing their version of the apocalypse, and in the comic book storyline, they didn’t survive it. At the same time, they could just be using the titles of comic book storylines that really have no resemblance to the comic book storylines they had previously been used for. For example, Avengers: Age of Ultron borrows its name from a recent comic book event that features an alternate future in which Ultron takes over the world. Suffice it to say that that is not the plot of the movie. It’s a nice little piece of brand synergy, but anyone who goes into Avengers: Age of Ultron looking for something that resembles the comic book event is going to be disappointed. “Guardians of the Galaxy: War of Kings” also falls into this trap – “War of Kings” is the title of a Marvel Comics event, but that storyline heavily features the Shi’ar, an alien race that Fox currently holds the rights to (that storyline also features The Inhumans, who wouldn’t have been introduced yet).

The sub-title that bothers me the most, however, is Avengers: Civil War. The Civil War storyline was huge at the time, garnering national attention. In the story, a superhero team called the New Warriors was the subject of a reality TV show in which they hunted down supervillains. During the filming, one of the villains, a living-bomb named Nitro, detonates, destroying a number of city blocks, including an elementary school. 600 people are killed and public sentiment towards superheroes plummets. Tony Stark spearheads a “Superhuman Registration Act”, requiring all heroes to register with the government. One of the big turning points was when Stark convinced Spider-Man to unveil himself as Peter Parker on live television. While Iron Man and Spider-Man embraced registration, Captain America takes an anti-registration stance, believing the act to be a violation of civil liberties. A superhero civil war then ensues, with Captain America leading his anti-registration forces against Iron Man’s pro-registration forces. It’s an epic, politically charged storyline that, in theory, could make for a great film. There are a number of problems, however, the first being that this storyline requires an expansive cast. There simply aren’t enough superpowered heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to pull this off. If Avengers 3 is Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man against Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Doctor Strange, it just won’t have the same effect. I also believe that the Civil War storyline works much better when there is a lot of history involved. It’s hero vs. hero, friend vs. friend, and I don’t think two Avengers films are enough to really make that rivalry work. Then there’s the fact that Marvel doesn’t have the rights to some of the necessary character. Spider-Man was a huge part of the storyline and I’m stumped as to who you could use to replace him. Who in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has an important secret identity? Currently, no one. The Fantastic Four and the X-Men also played large roles in the storyline. It would obviously have to be adapted to have a smaller cast, but I really don’t know what you would do without Spider-Man. Oh, and there’s another problem – whatever happened to Thanos? Ever since the first Avengers film, Marvel Studios has been setting Thanos up to be the big bad that everything is supposedly leading up to. Thanos has absolutely no place in a Civil War adaptation. I suppose there’s the chance that they borrow the name “Civil War” without actually adapting the Civil War storyline, but then what’s the point? I think a much more likely title is “Avengers: Infinity”. This is also the title of a recent Marvel Comics crossover, but this one actually involves Thanos. It also works with the inclusion of The Infinity Gauntlet, the super-powered glove that is used to house all of the Infinity Gems, which Marvel Studious has been seeding throughout its films (the Tesseract from Avengers and the Aether from Thor: The Dark World are both Infinity Gems – you’ll be hearing a lot more about those in the coming years). By using this title, you’re also driving home the point that the Avengers will always be around, even if all of the characters die or all of the actors are re-cast. It works from a story standpoint, a thematic standpoint, AND a marketing standpoint. No, “Avengers: Civil War” is not happening. I would bet money on it. Likewise with “World War Hulk”.

Ignoring the fact that Kevin Feige has reiterated multiple times that they have no plans to make “Planet Hulk” or “World War Hulk” into movies, it wouldn’t make sense to release an Avengers film the same year as a World War Hulk adaptation, because in order for World War Hulk to work, it would pretty much need to be an Avengers film. For those unfamiliar with the storyline, prior to the events of Civil War, a secret group of Marvel superheroes known as “the Illuminati” collaborated to fire the Hulk off into space following a rampage in Las Vegas that resulted in 26 deaths. While they intended to send Hulk to a peaceful, uninhabited world, something went wrong and the Hulk found himself on a hostile planet in which he was enslaved by a dictatorial ruler called the Red King who forced him to compete with a number of other aliens in gladiatorial battles. Once the Hulk frees himself, takes out the Red King, and becomes ruler of the planet, he falls in love and finds out that his queen is pregnant with the Hulk’s child. Of course, the Hulk isn’t allowed to find peace and the shuttle that he arrived on ends up self-destructing, destroying both his wife and unborn child, along with a good portion of the planet. Enraged, Hulk enlists his new alien allies, loads them up on a ship, and hurtles back towards Earth, ready to wage war on the Illuminati, whom he blames for the whole ordeal. Yeah, both of these storylines would make for really awesome films, but it’s not happening, especially not in 2018, mere months after a full-fledged Avengers film. Those aren’t the only reasons, but I can’t get into the rest without going into spoiler territory. You can look up Avengers: Age of Ultron spoilers if you really want to know.

So there you have it – my predictions, along with rationalizations as to why I believe they’ll happen. We’ll all see how close I am when the Marvel Studios panel is held on Saturday night in San Diego.

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