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Marvel Phase 3: All You Need to Know


Here’s how you know you’re the hottest player in Hollywood today. You manage to pack a theater full of salivating fans who are not there to see your latest film, or even a trailer for your next big blockbuster, but who are there just to find out the titles of films you plan to do years down the line.

A few weeks ago, Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, did just that. A week earlier, Warner Bros. and rival comic book company DC Comics had announced their slate of future films including movies featuring Wonder Woman, the Justice League, and even a rebooted Green Lantern. In an “All right, let’s see whose balls are bigger” response, Marvel Studios held a mystery event for fans and press at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where Feige announced Marvel’s slate of upcoming films, exploding the minds of every fanboy and girl while leaving reporters wondering how to correctly spell T’Challa.

But for those who don’t frequent the local comic book shop every Wednesday, it can be confusing as to whom some of these characters are, and how they will inevitably tie in to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). So for those who haven’t attained the rank of Permanent Marvelite Maximus in the Merry Marvel Marching Society, we here at Sound & Picture are giving you an inside look at each film and how we believe they’ll tie in to the overall vision of the studio.

To start, here’s the list of titles and premiere dates announced at the event:

Captain America: Serpent Society Civil War    May 6, 2016
Doctor Strange                                               November 4, 2016
Guardians of the Galaxy 2                              May 5, 2017
Thor: Ragnarok                                               July 28, 2017
Black Panther                                                 November 3, 2017
Avengers: Infinity War Part I                           May 4, 2018
Captain Marvel                                               July 6, 2018
Inhumans                                                       November 2, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War Part II                          May 3, 2019

Our first impression is that this Phase 3 is really Act 3 in the MCU saga. If Phase 1 was introducing the world to non–Spider-Man Marvel properties, and Phase 2 was pushing them to their breaking point, Phase 3 seems to raze everything to the ground and piss on the ashes, only to somehow patch our heroes up enough to culminate in perhaps the biggest possible climax Marvel has to offer with Infinity War Parts I and II. To see what we mean, let’s start with…

Captain America: Civil War

civilwar3No, it won’t be Captain America: Serpent Society, despite the false title treatment Feige showed during the presentation. Instead, claiming the Serpent Society idea didn’t seem big enough, he offered the true title of the film, Captain America: Civil War.

The third installment of Captain America films finds a way to raise the intensity of our star-spangled hero’s solo adventures by tackling a story that shook the Marvel comic book universe to its core. In 2006’s Civil War miniseries, Captain America and Iron Man led opposing factions of the superhero community when the U.S. government tried to force super beings into registering not only their powers, but also their identities. While Tony Stark thought this to be a necessary step to check the growing powers of the super community, Cap felt it was a violation of the heroes’ civil liberties and refused to sign. Heroes fought against heroes, and an all-out war began between those who felt it necessary to obey the law and those who thought the law was unjust and un-American. We won’t ruin the ending for you, but to say the status quo for both Cap and Iron Man changed would be an understatement. In fact, if the movie follows along the same path as the comics, there’s a chance that at least one of our heroes won’t be around to help out in Avengers: Infinity War.

Comic book source material:
Civil War (2006), a seven-part miniseries by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.

How it connects:
At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. disbanded and Nick Fury was on the run. There is no secret council, no Fury or Maria Hill, no one to control the Avengers. So it’s easy to see how the U.S. government would get a little antsy with these super-powered gods and monsters running around with no one to hold them accountable. And at the end of Iron Man 3, we saw Tony Stark pack up his screwdriver and leave the California coast, presumably, for New York and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But after that, we guess Mr. Stark heads down to Washington, D.C., just in time for Civil War. With Robert Downey Jr. rumored to have signed on for a large role in Cap’s third film, Civil War may not just be Captain America 3, but may also be considered Iron Man 4.

Doctor Strange

doctorstrange1Stephen Strange was a world-class surgeon, narcissist, and drunk until a car crash left him with permanent nerve damage in his hands, rendering them useless for surgery and destroying his career. One night, after losing himself in a bottle once again, he hears rumors of a mystic who has the power to heal any injury. Desperate to regain his lost career and life, Strange travels deep into the Himalayas searching for the mysterious Ancient One. Strange actually finds the sorcerer, but the Ancient One denies Strange’s request to be healed and instead offers to let Strange stay on as his student. Strange eventually accepts, and after the Ancient One’s passing, takes on the mantle of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.

Comic book source material:
It’s hard to pick one Doctor Strange story that encapsulates the hero and would make a great movie, but if we had to bet, we’d say at least part of the movie will be based on the eight-page story in Strange Tales #115 called “The Origin of Dr. Strange,” by Spider-Man co-creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

How it connects:
Our best guess? It won’t. Not in any real way, at least, not yet. We think Marvel will go the Guardians of the Galaxy route with Doctor Strange, keeping the film insulated from obvious crossovers into the rest of the MCU to let the film stand on its own and find a fan base before integrating the Doctor into the wider overall storyline. That said, Strange is a member of the Avengers in the comics and was also on a different team, the Defenders, with the Hulk. So there are connections to be made from characters from the other films. But Marvel’s M.O. has been to create a genre film that happens to have superheroes in it. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a spy thriller and Guardians of the Galaxy was a sci-fi spectacle. Doctor Strange could be a supernatural thriller with a protagonist who happens to live in the same world as Iron Man.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

guardians2They are Groot and audiences are hooked. 2014’s blockbuster of the year stars a talking tree and a psychopathic raccoon, and was popular enough to spawn a sequel set for 2017. Two questions come to mind about GotG 2: First, given their box-office success, will the Guardians find a way to connect to the rest of the MCU at large, or will the cosmic misfits stay on the other side of the galaxy until it comes time to deal with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War?

Second, will there be any new Guardians added to the mix? Specifically, will any of the original Guardians from Marvel’s comics show up? In the comics, Star-Lord, Drax and the others were not the first group of people to be known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. The first group to use that name were warriors from the 31st century whose members included characters like Vance Astro, Charlie-27, and Yondu, who was played by Michael Rooker in the first film.

Comic book source material:
Given the heavy hinting at Star-Lord’s father in the first film, we think the sequel may look toward the recent issues of the current Guardians of the Galaxy series, written by Brian Michael Bendis, where Peter confronts his father and doesn’t like what he finds.

How it connects:
As we said before, the question is really, will it connect to the other films? There are at least three other Infinity Stones (more about those later) loose somewhere in the MCU, so it’s possible Marvel could use the Guardians to find a different stone in the sequel. In the comics, Iron Man decides he needs to clear his head and joins the group for a time. It’s possible that after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man makes the same decision to get away and there’s no farther “away” than on the other side of the Galaxy with Rocket and Groot.

A third possibility, and maybe the most intriguing, is that the Guardians do add a new member: Captain Marvel. A lot of fans think that Captain Marvel will be introduced in Avengers: Infinity War Part I, then show up in her own spinoff film two months later. Doesn’t that seem a bit fast, even for Marvel, to give a film to a character that audiences have only known for two months? We’re going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe Captain Marvel shows up in GotG 2, giving her over a year of exposure to audiences before starring in her own pic. After all, in the comics she is currently a member of the Guardians…

Thor: Ragnarok

thorragnarokOf all the films announced, this one was the biggest surprise to us. Thor: The Dark World was merely a modest hit by Marvel’s standard and didn’t leave anyone clamoring for another sequel. We’re not sure if the appearance of another Thor film on this list is a sign of Marvel Studios’ faith in its overall plan, or just stubbornness in trying to force audiences to care about Thor as a solo act. It’s possible that this film is needed in order to remove Thor from the MCU chessboard, so to speak, and let other Phase 3 heroes take the spotlight and save the universe without depending on the God of Thunder. Given the film’s title, Ragnarok, also known as the Twilight of the Gods, it’s entirely possible Thor may not even be around to help out in Avengers: Infinity War… though not very likely.

Comic book source material:
While we’ve seen some sites speculate that the film will focus on Ragnarok, a clone of Thor created by Iron Man during the Civil War storyline, we think that’s highly unlikely. Marvel has shown time and again it understands that above all else, it needs to please the fangirls and boys. To suggest Marvel is going to center an entire movie around a clone of Thor that was so universally loathed by comics readers that he was dubbed “Clor” – and easily destroyed by the real Thor – seems like a reach.

A more intimate knowledge of the Marvel comics beyond just a quick Wikipedia search suggests that instead the movie will focus on Sutur, the fire demon, whose coming heralds the end of the gods (a.k.a. Ragnarok). If that’s the case, odds are the film will look to the storyline that ran in Thor #337 through #353, considered by many to be the seminal Thor story, written and drawn by Walt Simonson.

How it connects:
Whereas Cap and Iron Man’s films became more integrated with the MCU in their sequels, The Dark World was actually more of a standalone film than Thor’s first solo outing. This trend could easily continue if Thor: Ragnarok follows Simonson’s story, which focused less on Thor’s place in the Marvel Universe and more on the dynamic between Odin, Thor, and Loki as they united to fight against Sutur. We think the strongest connection to the MCU will come in the form of Twilight, Sutur’s Sword of Doom. In the comics, Twilight has mystical properties, and is powered by magic. But we suspect Twilight may be powered by one of the Infinity Stones in the film.

Black Panther

blackpanterIn the northeast of Africa lies a country that has never been conquered. A mysterious land whose technological advances rival, and even surpass, those of any western nation. A kingdom that, for as long as history can remember, has been protected by its king, known only as the Black Panther.

A creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Black Panther was the first black superhero to appear in mainstream American comics, showing up for the first time back in Fantastic Four #52 (1966). Black Panther is actually a title given to the ruler of Wakanda, typically passed down from father to son, but dependent upon the son proving he is worthy of the title. If the son (and in some cases, daughter) is able to face down the Panther god and form a bond, the Black Panther will gain superhuman senses, reflexes, speed and strength. Take Captain America’s abilities and combine them with Batman’s resources and attitude, and you have the Black Panther.

Comic book source material:
Depending on how much background information Marvel will want to give audiences who won’t be familiar with the Black Panther, the film may use some material from Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.’s 2005 story “Who Is the Black Panther?,” especially given Feige’s statement after the presentation, in which he said, “I’ve known Reggie [Hudlin] for many many years and he’s a great guy. I think I’m meeting with him again shortly, but we will do what we’ve always done, which is hire the best people to write the films and direct the films.” However, writer Christopher Priest is widely regarded as having the best and most influential run with the character, so we foresee elements of his 1998 series showing up in the film, especially the idea that the Black Panther will join the Avengers as a spy. It’s a cool scenario and one that fits well with the mistrust that will be sown during Civil War.

How it connects:
Speaking of Cap’s third film, Feige also told reporters, “I’ll just clarify, [Black Panther] is definitely a big part in Civil War. We will meet him for the first time in Civil War, in costume.” So the Black Panther will be in Captain America’s third outing, leading into his own film.

There is also the Vibranium connection. In the Marvel Universe, Vibranium is a metal that is able to absorb and reflect any impact. In a cinematic universe without the X-Men–related Adamantium, Vibranium is the hardest metal available. Cap’s shield is made of it, Iron Man probably has some in his suit, and there’s a shot of Ultron running his hand under what we guess to be molten Vibranium in the trailer for Age of Ultron. Guess which tiny African nation has the world’s only supply? And which Panther god–powered superhero ruler will do anything to protect it?

Beyond that, the Black Panther is a member of the Avengers in the comics, so odds are he’ll be involved in the Infinity War films. With Captain America’s Chris Evans looking to spend more time behind the camera as a director, the Black Panther may be given a larger role as a co-leader of the Avengers while fighting Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War Part I

We’ll hold off on this for now.

Captain Marvel

captainmarvelNot to be confused with the “Shazam!”-shouting Captain Marvel and his recently announced film starring the Rock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) over at Warner Bros./DC, this Captain Marvel is a female officer in the Air Force whose human DNA is mixed with that of the alien Kree (like Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy), giving her the powers of super strength, flight, and the ability to absorb and redirect energy. She has a no-nonsense, by-the-book military attitude and the ability to zoom around the cosmos… the perfect soldier to take orders from Captain America in the Infinity War.

Comic book source material:
Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, has had a bit of a rocky past as far as finding a definitive story, or even settling on a superhero name for herself. When she first appeared, she fought evil under the guise of Ms. Marvel (and yes, she was introduced in the ‘70s.) Then she changed outfits and wanted to be known as Binary, then another costume change and she became Warbird, then back to Ms. Marvel for a while and now, finally, after another costume change, Danvers is known in the Marvel comics as Captain Marvel. Given that often-confusing history, it’s hard to find material that would be ripe for the film, but odds are, filmmakers will look to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s recent issues as Danvers tries to figure out her place as the cosmic Avenger.

How it connects:
As we said earlier, we think Danvers’ first appearance in the MCU won’t be in her own film, or even in Infinity War Part I, but in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. From there, we think she’ll then join the Guardians and Avengers in fighting Thanos in Infinity War Part I, and the events of that film will spin her off into her own solo picture.


InhumansIn a perfect world, this film would be titled X-Men, but since 20th Century Fox stubbornly continues to make X-Men films, thus retaining the rights to the property, Marvel was forced to expand its universe in a different direction. Meet the Inhumans: a society of genetically engineered superhumans who have been living in secret for thousands of years. When they come of age, each Inhuman is exposed to the Terrigen Mist, altering their genetic structure and often granting the person incredible powers. Led by their silent king, Black Bolt, and his queen Medusa, the Inhumans live in seclusion away from humans who would fear their powers and hunt them down.

Sound familiar?

Marvel is clearly looking to place the Inhumans in the slot the X-Men would fill in the MCU. However, Gorgon and Maximus the Mad don’t have the name recognition of Wolverine and Magneto, so it waits to be seen how impactful their introduction into the MCU really will be.

But, as we said before, if Marvel Studios can make a dancing tree and gun-toting raccoon household names, there’s no reason to believe they can’t do the same for the Inhumans.

Comic book source material:
While some material may come from the Inhumans’ first appearance in Fantastic Four #45 from 1965, the movie can’t follow the comic too closely, as the Fantastic Four are with the X-Men over on the 20th Century Fox lot. We guess a lot of inspiration will come from the 1998 Inhumans series written by Paul Jenkins, with stunning art by Jae Lee. This series refocused the Inhumans back toward their cosmic origins and judging by the slate of films Marvel announced, cosmic is the direction the movies are going in. But we think the actual story, especially If Marvel is really looking to make the Inhumans the MCU’s version of the X-Men, will come from the Infinity miniseries written by Jonathan Hickman and the current Inhumanity series, written by Charles Soule. In these series, the gene-altering Terrigen Mist has been unleashed on the entire planet, and anyone with a hint of Inhuman DNA is transformed into an Inhuman. Suddenly, just like with the X-Men, super-powered people are living among us, triggering anger and fear.

How it connects:
In the comics, the Inhumans are closely associated with the Fantastic Four, more than any other heroes. That actually makes this film a bit of a surprise, since the Inhumans’ film rights would presumably be tied to the Fantastic Four franchise over at 20th Century Fox, similar to the Silver Surfer. But since they’ll be joining the MCU sans the Fantastic Foursome, the Inhumans’ closest connections will take the form of the new members of the Avengers, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, both of whom will join the heroes in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the comics, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are mutants, but with that word tied to the X-Men franchise, we think they’ll be labeled as Inhumans in the MCU.

With this film coming out after Avengers: Infinity War Part I, we think that – not unlike the aforementioned Infinity miniseries – Thanos will be involved in detonating a Terrigen Mist bomb into Earth’s atmosphere, causing the rise of the Inhumans and spinning them off into their own film.

Finally, and this may be a bit of a reach, if only because there is such a long time between now and the 2018 release of Inhumans, but current episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have Agent Coulson going a little bit crazy and carving a design into walls, his desk, whatever he can get his hands on, ever since he was injected with Kree blood. In the comics, the Kree are the ones who started the genetic engineering that led to the Inhumans, and don’t you think the design Coulson is carving seems reminiscent of the design of the costume worn by Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans?

Avengers Infinity Wars Parts 1 and II

avengersinfinityThis is it. These two movies are what the MCU has been leading up to since we saw those five seconds of Thanos at the end of Marvel’s Avengers, causing every fanboy and girl to squeal with delight while everyone else let out a big, “Um… what?”

Thanos is an ultrapowerful cosmic being from Saturn’s moon of Titan, who, like everybody else, wants to conquer the entire universe (admit it, you do too). In order to achieve this goal, he has been collecting the six Infinity Stones, each with their own incredible power. There is the Space Stone, the Soul Stone, the Power Stone, the Time Stone, the Reality Stone, and the Mind Stone. Once all the stones are gathered together, they will grant the bearer near omnipotence. So far we’ve seen three (maybe four?) of the Infinity Stones in the MCU. The Tesseract from Captain America: The First Avenger and Marvel’s Avengers is the Space Stone, now on Asgard. The Power Stone is what was in Peter Quill’s orb in GotG and is now with the Nova Corps for safekeeping. The Reality “Stone” is the Aether from Thor: The Dark World that Sif gave to the Collector in an end-credits scene, and we think the Mind Stone may be Loki’s scepter from Avengers. At the end of GotG, it was revealed that HYDRA’s Baron von Strucker is in the possession of the scepter on Earth. The last two will show up soon enough, maybe as a mystic artifact in Doctor Strange or as the Twilight Sword in Thor: Ragnarok.

Comic book source material:
While some sites, with all of their hastily Wikipedia’d information, seem to think the films will follow the Infinity War miniseries from 1992, they fail to realize that Infinity War is actually a sequel to the story the films will really be based on, the 1991 six-issue miniseries Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin. We’re guessing the name change is simply a marketing decision.

How it connects:
Um… how does it not? The Cosmic Cube/Tesseract from the first Captain America and Avengers films. The Aether from Thor: The Dark World. The Power Stone from Guardians of the Galaxy. Loki’s scepter from Avengers. Thanos. Even the Infinity Gauntlet itself was seen in the original Thor film. This is the event the MCU films have been leading up to since Captain America: The First Avenger and maybe even the original Thor. Feige has always said there was a master plan in place for all of the these films, and now they all seem to lead up to Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet, and an all-out war to prevent the end of the universe.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see any, or all, of these films? Were we way off on our guesses as to where it all leads? Join the conversation and let us know what you think in the comments section below.


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