What next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

As I stated in my discussion on Captain America: Civil War, the movie’s ending raises more questions than it answers, and in the wake of what should be a game-changing shakeup for the MCU in the shape of the Sokovia Accords, what can we expect next from Marvel?

With the slate of upcoming Marvel films it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting much in the way of Tony Stark or Steve Rogers until Infinity War rolls around in 2018. That’s a hell of a long time to wait,  but in the meantime there’s a whole slate of releases and we have some (completely not) expert theories on what to expect as the now-established universe gets to explore some of its lesser-known but equally beloved characters.

 

Doctor Strange

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Just around the corner this 4th November 2016 we’ll see the next Marvel film featuring the oddball wizard Doctor Strange. One of the most powerful Marvel characters ever, Strange sits out the Civil War in the comics as he feels that his intervention would be unfair. However in this case it looks like Strange’s origin story will be the focus of this film and that he only becomes a hero after Civil War has occurred. We don’t know much about the movie yet, but Benedict Cumberbatch leads an extremely talented cast and seems perfect to play the ’brilliant but arrogant’ surgeon-turned-sorcerer.

In terms of wider context, Strange’s overwhelming power will be both interesting and problematic in his interactions with other heroes and there will need to be a good explanation as to why the Ancient One and other sorcerers have remained hidden so far in the MCU. With Bucky’s psychological state still volatile to the point that he willingly entered stasis at the end of Civil War, the future doesn’t look too promising for the Winter Soldier. Perhaps Strange will be the one to fix Bucky’s mind once his power is realised. In this case Bucky’s cryogenic sleep may not last all that long and could be a great post-credits-scene for this film.

The teaser trailer, which you can view below, looks very positive despite the understandable backlash at the casting of Tilda Swinton in the role of the Ancient One as ‘whitewashing’ of an Asian character.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

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The first Guardians was a high point for Marvel. Introducing a relatively unknown group of heroes they managed to pull off one of their best and most entertaining films whilst vastly expanding the size and potential of the MCU as they moved into new realms of the galaxy. Coming May 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will again be directed by James Gunn.

Whilst we don’t know too much about the plot as of yet, it seems protagonist Star-Lord/Peter Quill’s father will be a focus, building upon the end of the first film. It has been confirmed that the father will not be the same as in the comics. Adam Warlock would most definitely make sense considering his easter-egg inclusion in Guardians of the Galaxy and his pivotal comics role in the Infinity Watch, linking very nicely into the wider Thanos story. Either way, we know that Kurt Russel has been cast to play Star-Lord’s father, meaning that whoever it ends up being we should be in for a good ride. This would also be the perfect chance to introduce the hero Nova seeing as his Nova Corps were already set up in the first Guardians film. However we may have to wait to see this further down the line.

Meanwhile each of the other Guardians has plenty of potential conflict and struggle to face. Groot, having all but been destroyed at the end of the first film, may not even be fully regrown yet whilst Gamora will undoubtedly have to face the consequences of turning on her ‘sister’ Nebula and ‘father’ Thanos. Nebula is likely to make a significant appearance in an antagonistic role which is more than welcome given Karen Gillan’s fantastic performance. Unfortunately we still won’t see Thanos take centre stage as the arch-villain we all know him to be, despite his ever-lengthening shadow since his introduction in Avengers Assemble.

This ensemble film has perhaps the widest potential and greatest mystery of all as there are so many directions they could go. For that reason it’s one of our most anticipated upcoming films.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

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The third scheduled Marvel film, Homecoming is scheduled for July 2017. The title Homecoming may refer to a number of things, not least this Peter Parker’s high school age and ‘normal kid’ troubles. Robert Downey Jr. is confirmed to be making an appearance which makes sense given his role in recruiting Peter to his cause in Civil War. This could be the best time to explore the way Civil War changed the MCU. By this time in the continuity Tony Stark could have created a new S.H.I.E.L.D. with the help of the conspicuously-absent-from-CivilWar Nick Fury. Given Tony’s mentor-like role for Peter it would be unsurprising to see Parker joining or working for S.H.I.E.L.D. under Tony’s guidance, having to juggle his new responsibilities with school life; just like the Ultimate Spiderman cartoon series.

It cannot be a coincidence that the term ‘Homecoming’ is also one of the code words used to brainwash and manipulate Bucky into his Winter Soldier exploits and whilst we have no idea how these things could be linked we wouldn’t put it past Marvel to have a plan here.

Tom Holland’s charisma rapidly won the hearts of fans in Civil War but we know little about other Spider-Man specific characters. Will Mary-Jane Watson or Gwen Stacey be involved as love interests? Who will be the villain? Spider-Man has long fought against one of the most varied and strongest villain rosters so this will be vital to creating a successful solo outing.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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The third Thor film, Ragnarok will see the Norse god return to our screens almost exactly a year after Dr Strange’s debut on 3 November 2017. With the seeds sown for the Ragnarok story through a vision Thor has during Avengers: Age of Ultron involving the infinity stones, Thor is the first hero to begin to understand the stones’ power and this revelation will likely be central to Ragnarok. It has recently been confirmed that parts of the Planet Hulk comic storyline are going to be adapted for this film. This was expected to be coming at some point given Bruce’s choice to disappear and leave earth at the end of Age of Ultron, but we honestly did not expect it to be coming quite so soon! Cate Blanchett plays villain Hela whom we can only assume is working towards the world-ending Ragnarok of the title. Just how this ‘buddy movie’ between Thor and Hulk will play out is uncertain but seeing Planet Hulk-style battles with multiple other alien Hulks is enough to get us 110% excited for this movie.

New casting news includes Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, another powerful Asgardian hero and the first black Marvel heroine to feature in the MCU, as well Karl Urban as Skurge, yet another Asgardian with a bone to pick with Thor. Meanwhile the always-whacky Jeff Goldblum plays the Grandmaster, something of a cosmic trickster who likes pitting characters against each other, making for a very interesting and varied group of characters.

Thor has endeared himself to many with surprisingly humorous moments, and under the guidance of comedy director Taika Waititi we might see many more entertaining moments between two of the MCU’s strongest characters. Many fans will be hoping for the return of favourite Loki and this needs to happen given his position at the end of Thor: The Dark World. However in what is already looking to be quite a packed film we’re not sure how great a role he’ll be given. With its galactic consequences, Ragnarok is also likely to give at least some time to Thanos and act as a significant bridging point towards the Infinity War extravaganza with some significant development on the whole infinity stone situation.

 

Black Panther

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By this point we’re really getting into uncharted territory. Scheduled for a February 2018 release, Black Panther’s first solo movie is really an unknown entity. But T’challa was set up as such a fantastic character in Civil War that this will continue to be a highly anticipated film for the next few years. Chadwick Boseman will return as the titular hero as he is forced to fight to keep the nation of Wakanda together and defend it from threats and enemies such as Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaw (another character who has been introduced laterally through previous movies).

Perhaps more exciting than anything though is the possibility of seeing an awesome (albeit fictional) technologically advanced African country. Wakanda is known for being super-advanced and entertainment media has been in dire need for a non-stereotypical non-third world depiction of Africa for years and years. With so much to come before Black Panther it’s really quite difficult to guess just what kind of world T’Challa will be faced with by this point and as the last film before Infinity War takes over there will likely be further links to the wider MCU.

 

The Avengers: Infinity War Part I

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On 18 May 2018, The Avengers: Infinity War Part I will finally be upon us. This is the big one. No matter what tensions or restrictions remain upon Cap and friends on earth, Infinity War will be the catalyst that forces everyone together again. Thanos’ intergalactic threat eclipses anything the Avengers have faced as of yet and Steve and Tony will have no choice but to throw aside their grievances to protect the universe from the destructive power of the infinity gauntlet. The Vision will play a pivotal role here as he has possession of the Mind Stone, one of the six infinity stones that have long been shaping the MCU and that Thanos so craves.

Every hero so far established must have a role to play here, bringing the Guardians of the Galaxy into play alongside The Avengers for what will likely be the biggest superhero movie event yet. If Civil War was to change the world of superheroes on Earth, Infinity War will have impact upon the whole galaxy. We’re so excited for this it almost hurts having to wait for two more years, but there’s so much to come in the meantime that we can’t be too upset.

 

After Infinity War we’ll see another Ant-man film, Captain Marvel and more so it’s clear that the MCU is only going to keep growing. When you look at the little details, it’s truly amazing how Marvel have created such a successful and interconnected movie franchise and they have to be commended for holding everything together whilst producing so many fantastic film experiences.

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