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FTN SPECULATION: The future of Marvel’s live action movies

July 25th, 2014 by Andrew Comments



So, in the world of live-action Marvel movies, we’re about to wind up Phase 2 with the soon to be released Guardians Of The Galaxy (read our review here), and then Avengers: Age Of Ultron next year, but what does Marvel plan to have in store for us after that, with Phase 3? Well, there’s some little bits of tidbits we know from the movies so far that I’ve been thinking about, coming up with some calculated speculations for what we might see next.

Marvel Studios haven’t just been lucky with their own series of movies, they’ve been cleverly planned from early on when they first brought Tony Stark to the screen in Iron Man, laying the foundations for several characters, and they’ve continued to do so in each further movie. So, do I know for sure what they have in store? No, but looking back at things so far, and if you know some things about the comics which they are largely faithful to, you can get an idea of where they may be intending to take us…


So, firstly to start, I’m going to go over some little bits of information that we know from the previous movies, behind the scenes interviews, production art and other miscellaneous sources, some of which are obvious, others which aren’t but there are there if you know where to look.

The first two phases of the Marvel movies has consisted of four or five standalone movies before wrapping up with an Avengers movie. These have on average been released approx two movies a year roughly six months apart.

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers (Avengers Assemble)

Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Avengers: Age Of Ultron

We also know from various interviews and articles that Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark) has a six movie contract, Chris Evans (Steve Rogers) has a six movie contract, and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) has a nine movie contract.

In the Captain America comics, in one storyline Steve Rogers was killed and Bucky Barnes took over his role as Captain America, so once Chris Evans has done a third standalone Cap movie (already confirmed to be one of the ‘Phase three’ movies), and has made his third appearance in the third Avengers movie at the end of that phase, his contract is up. This suggests that, unless his contract is renewed for further movies, Steve Rogers will either be killed or at the very least, step down to be replaced by Bucky Barnes.

We are currently mid-release of Phase two, with the following movies rounding it out (*please note that dates may be incorrect but are based on UK releases where possible):


Guardians Of The Galaxy (31 July 2014*)

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (24 April 2015*)

If Phase three  holds true to the other phases, each phase takes approx three years and will see three movies before the third Avengers movie, so:


Ant-Man ( 6 November 2015*)

Captain America 3 (6 May 2016*)

UNKNOWN TITLE TBC (possibly Doctor Strange or Thor 3 – 8 July 2016*)

Avengers 3 (unconfirmed date – 5 May 2017*)

If that is true, this would mean that there are potentially 5 titles to be released in PHASE four, given the dates that have recently been confirmed by Marvel:


27 July 2017*

3 November 2017*

6 July 2018*

2 November 2018*

3 May 2019*

If there were to be a fourth Avengers movie, given the previous dates this would normally be released roughly 2 years after the previous one with a April/May release date, on 3 May 2019. This would mean four movies between Avengers movies, an extra one than in previous phases. (unless this extra title will be standalone and not connected with The Avengers).

For my money, I suspect it will be Doctor Strange that rounds out the phase 3 line-up (we’ll get to my reasons for that later) If the as yet unknown movie in Phase 3 is not Doctor Strange, it will most likely be one of the following releases, and if Guardians Of The Galaxy is successful at the box office James Gunn has confirmed that he will direct a second movie. Given the time it would take to produce, this could take until at least 2017 to finish. So we can make a calculated guess that a fourth phase would consist of:


Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (if the first is successful enough)

Doctor Strange (if not part of Phase three)

Thor 3 (if not part of Phase three)

Possible Hulk movie (see below).

It’s at this point that I’m going to mention the Marvel: One-Shot series of short movies, usually attached to the Blu Ray release of each of the Movies.


The Consultant (Thor)

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer (Captain America: The First Avenger)

Item 47 (The Avengers)

Agent Carter (Iron Man 3)

All Hail The King (Thor: The Dark World)

With the more recent of these, the One-Shot often serves to setup and establish something else in the Marvel cinematic universe. Item 47 setup the potential for Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (it appears as if Lizzy Caplan’s ‘Claire’ and Jesse Bradford’s ‘Benjamin’ would be the template that would later become Fitz and Simmons on the television series). Agent Carter has now been commissioned as a full series along with the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

All Hail The King though, does not have anything in it that could necessarily be used in a series specifically (it is unlikely we will see the further adventures of actor Trevor Slattery who was the Patsy to Aldrich Killian’s supposed real Mandarin in Iron Man 3), but it does setup the potential that within the Marvel cinematic universe that there is a real Mandarin, and as we all know, The Mandarin is the arch nemesis of one Tony Stark.

Unfortunately it appears there will not be a One-Shot included on the Blu Ray release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to give us any further hints at future developments in the Marvel cinematic universe, but the fact that it has setup the potential for the ‘real’ Mandarin, who is enraged at his name being taken and used as a prop, means the possibility of a fourth Iron Man movie, especially since Robert Downey Jnr has confirmed he’s up ofr it. Yes he could appear in some way or form in the third Avengers movie, but we pretty much know that the villain of that will be Thanos, and after fan reaction at the use of the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, the fact that they have decided to say ‘there is a real Mandarin’ in this universe, means that they are listening to the fans’ grievances. So it’s unlikely after showing they can listen to what the fans want, that they would do anything with the Mandarin other than have him be the central villain of another standalone movie.

This does pose further queries over the possibility of Robert Downey Jnr’s return for another stand-alone Iron Man movie, as after Avengers 3 his contract will be done. Marvel Studio head Kevin Fiege has hinted that Iron Man, like James Bond, could be recast, but fans love Downey Jr in the role and it would be a risk to recast him. More than likely though, if Marvel gets him on contract for another Iron Man movie, chances are they would want to get him tied in for even more appearances, so if he does one more standalone, we could possibly see him tied in at least for a fourth Avengers movie (If a fourth Avengers movie is what Marvel has in mind at all).

Now, if you note above, I have suggested that one of the possible as yet unconfirmed movies could be a Hulk movie. In recent interviews with both actor Mark Ruffalo and Producer Kevin Feige, it has been hinted that Marvel Studios may be open to another Hulk movie since fan and audience interest seems to be increasing after his appearance in the Avengers. Though there’s been strong denial to the contrary, I believe that Marvel are indeed considering Planet Hulk in some way or form.

In Planet Hulk, the Hulk is banished to an alien planet where he must engage in gladiatorial fights. This could certainly be done with the Gladiatorial sequences having Hulk engage in battle, forcing Bruce Banner to transform and fight to save his life, whilst at other times remaining in human form to engage with other aliens and races, other aliens and races as seen in…

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Now, let me explain my reasoning for this. Guardians Of The Galaxy is a ballsy move by Marvel Studios. It’s such a random departure from all of the movies so far in phases 1 and 2 that it almost defies belief that it got made. Though we have yet to see the movie with its pending release in the future weeks, the only connection it appears to have with the Avengers storyline and the Marvel cinematic universe is that the main villain of Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) is in some way after at least one of the Infinity stones (as shown with the tesseract and the aether so far), part of the infinity gauntlet that will most likely come into play in Avengers 3. If so, then the only reason can be to expand the Marvel universe so that other movies in the future can take place there.

Why all of a sudden setup numerous other worlds and alien races in a movie that is so far removed from the established universe that we’ve seen so far if not to test the waters of audiences and see if they can accept it?

Guardians is by far the most ‘out there’ comic to be adapted yet, and seems a huge unexpected departure (and IMO a welcome one), that can only expand the universe and open up the possibility of characters from the avengers appearing in movies set on alien planets?

Marvel has continued to claim that they are not making a Planet Hulk movie, and I don’t believe them to be lying, I can understand their reasoning for this, as The Incredible Hulk has been the least successful stand-alone of Marvel Studios’ movies, with the scenes featuring The Hulk being perhaps less than captivating compared to the emotional scenes with the actors. The main issue with this being that in the Planet Hulk storyline the majority of the time Bruce Banner is in Hulk form, and if audiences find the Hulk difficult to engage with, Marvel would be foolish to make an entire movie featuring him front and centre. Only after Mark Ruffalo took over the role from Edward Norton in The Avengers did fan interest in a possible further Hulk movie increase and Marvel, cleverly, took notice, and in an interview with Total Film regarding his role in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Ruffalo commented “[My role’s] even bigger than last time, and it’s more complex and it has more layers and a bit more arc.”

I said I don’t believe them to be lying, they’re most likely not making a Planet Hulk movie. But I believe they are thinking about it, and the audience reaction to Guardians will be key in their decision whether or not to go ahead.

Other problems that arise from Planet Hulk, include the appearance of characters such as The Silver Surfer, who appeared in 20th Century Fox’s 2007 movie Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. As Fox are rebooting the Fantastic Four movie series, this may mean that they still retain the rights to the Silver Surfer character, meaning problems of ownership as to whether Marvel can use the character in their movies a la Sony and the character of Spider-Man being able to appear in The Avengers.


Marvel Studios has a way of successfully adapting elements from their storylines and changing them so that they work on screen where they may not have if transferred to appear on the screen 100% as they are on the page. It’s worth noting that Planet Hulk has been made into a feature length animated movie and in that Silver Surfer was replaced by Beta Ray Bill, so there’s always the chance that another character could be substituted and brought to the live-action universe.

It doesn’t have to be 100% exactly the same for it to be good, in fact creative changes can make an improvement – Just look in particular at Iron Man 3, which utilised strong elements from the Extremis storyline, but did not use it exactly as it was in the comic. The same can definitely be said of the Mandarin (though this was more of a cleverly intentional faux-pas on the part of writer Drew Pearce and director Shane Black). So if Marvel are clever about things, there is definitely the possibility of large elements of the Planet Hulk storyline being utilised for a stand-alone Hulk movie.

Another reason for the suspicion that Planet Hulk will happen in some form (most likely in phase four), is this production artwork from Avengers: Age Of Ultron:

We’ve already had it confirmed from preview footage that has been seen, that at some point Iron Man goes toe to toe with Hulk in his latest armour, the Hulkbuster in Age of Ultron. So, for some reason, Hulk and Stark turn against each other.

More than likely, given their characters, it will be the Hulk, and given the end-credit scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier where we saw Loki’s sceptre from The Avengers is still in play, we know this can be used to control or cloud the character’s minds. So, will we see Hulk under the control of the villains at some point? If so, chances are, there will be two options for how the Avengers will deal with the situation – Kill the Hulk (if even possible), or banish him (how exactly, who knows? But Thor will be present, and if anyone is going to send someone away to another dimension or another planet, he definitely has the knowledge and the means to do it).

This would also allow for the Hulk to maybe appear in a second Guardians Of The Galaxy movie (if the first proves successful), leading to his returning to Earth either alone or with the Guardians for a fourth Avengers movie. If so, then this would also allow for elements of World War Hulk – the follow up to Planet Hulk – to be used in an Avengers movie, with Hulk as a villain in some way, out for revenge on those who banished him.

Another reason for Guardians Of The Galaxy expanding the universe is that we still do not know what happened to Captain America villain the Red Skull. At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, we saw him somehow transported away into the universe by the power of the tesseract. Though it appears that actor Hugo Weaving is unwilling to return to the role due to his experience with the make-up effects, we’ve already seen with the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in The Avengers that Marvel is not above re-casting roles and, given the make-up, it would not be too difficult to buy another actor in the role. So, could we see the Red Skull make an appearance in a Hulk movie, perhaps manipulating the Hulk in order to return to Earth? Could we see the Red Skull being the main villain of a fourth Avengers movie?

This also brings me back to Doctor Strange, who has already been mentioned by name by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell shortly before his death, and we know he is getting an establishing movie of his own sometime. If the Hulk is banished at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, it means we’ll be down an Avenger, and a pretty powerful and useful one in a fight. We already know we’re getting Ant-Man in phase 3, but would he alone be enough as a new member of the team? This is why I suspect the Doctor Strange movie will fill the unknown slot of phase 3. While it would be easy to have a third Thor movie in between, it would mean that after Avengers 3, if none of Hemsworth, Evans or Downey Jr extend their contracts for further movies, Marvel would be losing three actors of their biggest established characters in one blow.

Further to that, the recent changes that have been announced in the comics regarding the character of Thor, show him without his hammer Mjölnir, which is now held by a new female character worthy of its use and of the name Thor. In the image the former Thor is now holding an axe, leading to speculation that he will do something that makes him unworthy of wielding Mjölnir. The third Thor movie could be four or five years away, possibly by design on the part of Marvel, who have made this change at this time to allow things to settle in the fans’ minds, in readiness to be able to continue with the character of Thor in the movies without the role being filled by actor Chris Hemsworth. If so, it would perhaps see the most up-to-date on-screen adaptation of a storyline from the comics, and allow for the casting of a female Thor to be added to the Avengers on-screen line up.

And so, coming towards the end of this piece, I move on to Captain America, and the third standalone movie following that character which has already been confirmed after the success of The Winter Soldier.

More than likely this will be a continuation from the end of that story, with Steve Rogers tracking down Bucky Barnes and helping him recover his identity. It’s unlikely that Bucky would be the main villain of a third movie, but one character who we did see survive at the end of the second movie, was Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), a villain from the comics known as Crossbones. It’s worth noting that in the comics at different times, Crossbones has been connected with the Red Skull and AIM – Aldrich Killian’s ‘think tank’ group established in Iron Man 3, and would not be infeasible for him to return as a new nemesis in the third Captain America movie, if not against Steve Rogers then at least as a nemesis to Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) as he would certainly have a grievance with Falcon after the last movie.

So there you have it, my suspicions of at least some of what we may expect in the future of the Marvel cinematic universe. I may be mad, but I’ve been right so far about my predictions of the universe , what do you think, anything to add?

Do you agree with this or have your own comments on what you think Marvel are planning? Comments and replies below, @NerdFollowing or on Facebook are welcomed below, though please, be kind.

Co-host of the Monday Movie Show, Andrew is a huge movie fan who is into all sorts of things movie related, as well as a fan of all things nerd. In his spare time he likes to work at script writing, that is when he's not spending it on something movie or nerd related!