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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Panel Vision - 8 Films to Expect From Marvel Phase 4

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Edited by Robert Beach

About 13 months ago, I made a prediction on ten possible films Marvel might have scheduled for the year 2020. While some of those names still stand, and we’ll get to them, I feel the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the entire film landscape has changed SO much over this past year. It’s time to revisit that issue.  

For one, Marvel has announced several new projects coming to TV like New Warriors, Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Punisher show that confirm those characters aren’t open for cinematic adaptation. All of that pushes Marvel closer and closer to being out of viable heroes for cinematic adaptation unless you think folks like Stingray or Darkhawk are ripe for film. 

Meanwhile, several of Marvel’s key heroes are close to finishing their runs in key roles while others have been secured following Marvel Studio’s split with Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmutter. It’s a different time is my point. And different times call for different solutions, so here are 8 Marvel movies we might see in 2020. 

I’m starting with some of the repeats to justify their place on this list. Nova is today every bit the possible cash cow franchise for Marvel that it was back in 2015, possibly more so now that Sam Alexander has been thoroughly cemented as the new Nova.  

I’ve already covered most of this character’s history in previous articles, but for a quick refresher, I’ll quote his creator and say that Nova is what you get if Spider-Man and Green Lantern were the same hero. What’s more, the current Nova Sam Alexander is also Marvel’s only prominent Latin superhero now that Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) has been shipped off to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As Marvel moves into phase 4, the question of how many of their old stars will return looms large over their upcoming productions, so getting a hero like Nova on the scene would be a good way to hedge their cosmic bets. We know the Nova Corp exists in the MCU, and they’ll be targeted by Thanos during the events of the Infinity War. There’s already a key set-up for an origin story. 

Additionally, if Chris Pine ever decides he’s done with Guardians of the Galaxy or they want to give the franchise a rest, they’ll have someone to keep Marvel’s cosmic tip up and handle stuff out there for whatever big storyline is following up the Infinity Gauntlet Saga. Plus, DC’s Green Lantern Corp is coming out in 2020, so Marvel would do well to have something cosmic to compete. 

Another repeat, at this point, this is probably closer to wishful thinking than an actual prediction. For those who forgot, Sebastian Stan, the Winter Soldier actor, was signed a six-movie deal with Marvel. 2 of those films in the deal are now complete with Winter Soldier and Civil War out of the way. He’ll probably show up in one or both of the upcoming Avengers films along with the Black Panther movie, but that will still leave 1-2 films left on his contract. Given that, getting Stan into his film seems pretty inevitable, though there are three major possibilities on how they might do that. 

If Marvel’s smart and willing, they could just give us a straight, stripped down, gritty spy thriller set in the MCU starring the Winter Soldier. It’d be easy enough to dredge up some Hydra ancillaries for him to hunt down or even pit him head-to-head with Baron Zemo again as revenge over Civil War.  

This makes the most sense to me as Marvel’s other two big espionage heroes, Black Widow and War Machine, are spent.  Johannson’s contract is nearly up, and I’m not sure how much longer she wants to keep slipping into the catsuit while in-universe War Machine is paralyzed. To be clear, either of them could still carry a film; it’d just probably be easier for Marvel to send the Winter Soldier to the big screen instead. 

Alternatively, Marvel could have Bucky pick up the shield and dawn the mantle of Captain America, especially after Steve Rogers sheds it for the new Avengers films.  This will probably only be the case if Rogers is one of the casualties of the Infinity War. Even then, I’d hope Marvel would let Sam Wilson (the Falcon) take the role like in recent comics. However, much like with the spy movies, it’d probably just be easier to get Stan to take the mantle as Bucky’s honestly accrued a more dedicated cinematic fanbase. 

Finally, they could send Winter Soldier into space as a pre-emptive cosmic assassin like he was in his most recent solo comic. This strikes me as the least likely turn of events, especially given they already have more marketable cosmic heroes at the ready. If Marvel is desperate for “Space Punisher,” it’s at least an option. 

First new entry of the list, and it’s a serious doozy, one that would require a lot of legwork from Marvel. It’s by no means impossible. The Thunderbolts, for those who don’t know, are Marvel’s answer to the Suicide Squad. They’re not the same as the Thunderbolts have served several purposes and been led by a ton of different people whereas Sucide Squad has been exclusively black ops work for Amanda Waller. If you want a team of villains working for the law, it always comes back to the Thunderbolts. 

Aside from a useful group to compete with Suicide Squad’s shocking success, the Thunderbolts were pretty heavily foreshadowed in Captain America: Civil War. Their home base, the Raft, made an appearance as the film’s superhero prison, and two of the team’s many leaders, General Ross and Baron Zemo, were brought back into the MCU fold by that film. The big problem would be finding villains to populate the team with. Some of the characters needed are already around, just in a different medium. 

Elekta, Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, and Punisher have all served on the team at one point or another as well as Doc Samson, who did appear as a supporting character in the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie. Other members we’d probably see include Iron Man foe Ghost, the reformed villain Songbird, the Winter Soldier himself, and even Spider-Man’s archenemy Green Goblin. 

In case you don’t know her, Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel is probably the greatest superhero success of the modern decade.  Appearing in 2013 as a Captain Marvel supporting character before barreling into her own comic in 2014, Kamala has become a major success story as a Pakistani-American super girl from New Jersey (my home state, so I approve) with shapeshifting powers.  

People have been straight up demanding she gets a movie since her rise to prominence in 2015, which is honestly a little short-sighted given how mercurial comic book success can be. Even now, I feel like three years of success might STILL be a little too soon to proclaim the new Ms. Marvel a confirmed hero. By 2020, I’d say she’d be locked into place. 

Ideally, she’ll have more of a nemesis to go up against and a more solid mythos, but even without those things, Kamala’s set-up is pretty cinematic. Her role as a marginalized teen trying to do the right thing without all the help of Tony Stark and the Avengers would be a good chance to get back to basics with a Marvel film and set a new tone for phase 4.  

Alternatively, she could be framed as an extension of the Captain Marvel mythos, someone taken under the wing of Carol Danvers, though still trying to establish her identity. There’s more than enough material there to make a solid movie. The Marvel comics are crawling with possible bad guys to menace her. 

This one’s a serious maybe as, ultimately, Blade seems like he’d be more at home in Marvel’s Netflix stable alongside the likes of Ghost Rider or Moon Knight. Still, Blade did have a trilogy of blockbuster movies, and there is a ton of nostalgia for both the films and the era that birthed them. Marvel would be foolish not to capitalize on that and a new movie isn’t outside the realm of possibility. 

It is questionable whether or not we’d see Wesley Snipes back as the daywalker, though that seems likely given how much modern reboots tend to rely on retro stunt casting. Last year, Marvel announced plans for a new Blade comic revolving around his daughter, so if Marvel was feeling ambitious, they could try and adapt that set-up, with Blade himself positioned in the role of Whistler and his daughter doing most of the staking. 

Aside from capitalizing on Blade nostalgia, the other big reason I could see Marvel going this route is if Universal’s monster movieverse takes off. We’ll see how things start out for Universal’s stab (Heh) at long-term success outside animation and the Fast & Furious films with next year’s Mummy. At the very least, they’re assembling a slate of movie stars for their film universe. If they end up with several big hits on their hands, I could see Marvel deciding to push their collection of monster heroes (Frankenstein, Dracula, the Living Mummy, the Golem, Son of Satan, Manthing, Manphibian, etc.) as part of phase 4. 

This is more of a rights issue than anything else. In case you didn’t know, Marvel has regained the rights to one of their first superheroes Namor, Prince of Atlantis.  Namor has always been a pretty popular character for Marvel as he’s essentially anti-hero Aquaman.  

Given that even Aquaman now seems to be an anti-hero version of himself, there’s good reason for a Namor flick. More than just sticking it to DC, the character has a lot of versatility. Aside from fitting into the wide array of angry environmentalist stories people tend to ascribe to sea characters, Namor’s mythos is rich with dark surrealist fantasy elements while he has powers that rival Marvel’s strongest. 

Unlike Aquaman, Namor’s always been immensely powerful with the strength and invulnerability to fight the Hulk one-on-one and the power of flight. What’s more, he routinely has to deal with giant monsters rising from the briny depths as well as Marvel’s version of Monster Island.  

A Namor movie has the potential to be part Superman and part Godzilla with a wide array of deadly and imaginative super monsters. Marvel has pretty much canceled the Inhumans movie, so this would be a pretty solid stand-in option. 

If you’ll forgive a bit of speculation, it’s looking more and more likely that Marvel has probably regained the Fantastic Four rights. Aside from the fact that any moment towards a sequel to the 2015 film has dried up entirely, Fox’s crop of television offerings indicates they’ve reached some understanding with Marvel.  

For those not up on their Hollywood red tape: Fox owns the film rights to the X-Men mythos and the Fantastic Four mythos, but Marvel owns the TV rights to those characters. This means that Fox can’t produce a TV show out of any of those properties without Marvel’s explicit agreement, which Marvel seems to have given to Fox’s new Legion show and its planned X-Men show. Given that, many have speculated Fox has reached some form of a deal with Marvel over the various character rights Marvel wants back. 

If Marvel has gotten the Fantastic Four back, they seem like the perfect franchise to slot into the beginning of Phase 4. The truth of the matter for Marvel at this point is that their biggest guns are more or less exhausted. Even if they plan to recast Tony Stark or Thor, they could use some other major franchises to lean on in the interim.  They’ve already got Spider-Man to give them cover, but a rich mythology like that of the FF could be a real masterpiece in their hands and a solid stand in for their other team films like Guardians of the Galaxy or even Avengers. 

Speaking of heroic replacements, if the recent set photos from Thor: Ragnarok are any indication, it’s looking more and more like the end for the Thunder God in this iteration. While it’s possible Marvel could revamp Thor for a 4th installment, maybe bringing in someone new to wield the hammer or catapulting him into space for more cosmic adventures, I think it’d be far easier to get a Hercules movie off the ground, letting the Olympians take the place of the Norse Gods. 

This particular pitch has been percolating with me for a long while, ever since it was revealed that a scene where Thor dismissed the Olympian pantheon in Age of Ultron was cut out for mysterious reasons. Combine that with Doctor Strange’s commitment to bringing in full-on magic rather than “weird science,” the Olympians start to look like a real possibility. 

Adding the Olympians would also work as a way to expand the Marvel Universe into full-on mythic fantasy rather than Thor’s tendency for science fantasy. Adding a whole other pantheon of Gods would ground the film in a sword and sandal aesthetic and open the door to other possible pantheons and heroes like Gilgamesh or the Egyptian Gods. Finally, Hercules would be Marvel’s first major queer hero in his own movie as he’s canonically bisexual, so at the very least, it’d be a nice progressive addition to Phase 4.  

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