It is the end of the era for the MCU. Far From Home concluded the Infinity arc. And naturally there are already people calling doom and gloom on the MCU. But despite all the claims of “comic book fatigue” the MCU is still in full swing. Hell, the audience is currently so into Comic book movies, Venom and Aquaman blew all box office expectations right out of the water.
And by now the MCU has laid out some of its plans for the next years. Which makes it an odd timing to do an article about the future of the MCU, but, well it is pretty much always an odd timing for this. No matter when one writes an article like this, there always seems to be some news which just dropped or is right behind the next corner. So I’ll start with some random observations regarding the announcements, continue with some speculations what Marvel might be aiming at narratively and finally finish with some sort of personal wish-list.
1. The Announcements
Well, the MCU has laid out its slate for the next three years and there were little surprises in it. Sure, nobody expected that Natalie Portman would be back, but overall, those were mostly projects which were already rumoured. Still, by having at least some definite idea in which direction the MCU will move, there are some conclusions to be made. And there was at least one news, which didn’t please the fans at all.
1.1. Spider-man no more?
That was the “shocker” between all the news which dropped in the last weeks. But it is not one I intend to discuss at the moment because I am personally convinced that the last word about this hasn’t been spoken yet. I am sure that the MCU will manage to with or without Spider-Man, I am equally sure that it would be a win-win for everyone if they would work even closer with Sony than beforehand and I am deeply sad about the notion to lose Tom Holland in the role. In any case, I am still in a “wait and see” mode. I am not in the mood to jump the gun and make a list of predictions about something which might be old news next month, no matter how much Sony currently insist that the deal is over.
1.2. What wasn’t mentioned
Before I get into what was announced, I have to point out that what wasn’t mentioned was maybe just as interesting. I.e I was kind of surprised that they didn’t announce a Captain Marvel sequel but then, I am pretty sure that one is in planning and they don’t see a reason to put themselves on the clock. Announcing projects for the next two to three years might be smarter than bragging about what one plans to do five years in advance. I was not surprised by the lack of date for GotG Zun3 (I have no idea if they will call it that, but until there is an official title, I will use that one), because the project was thrown out of whack and they now have to figure out a new schedule for it. The lack of Ant-man related announcement worries me, though. Ant-man is currently the lowest grossing franchise the MCU has, but I would still be sad if they just end it without a proper conclusion. I would really like to explore how the years of the snap affect the man who wanted nothing more than be there for his daughter, but ended up missing most of her childhood.
1.2.1. The Fantastic Four
To be fair, I didn’t really expect any announcement related to the Fox-properties just yet. There is no need to rush it. But if Marvel had mentioned something, I would have thought that it would be The Fantastic Four. After all, they keep saying that they want to go cosmic, and The Fantastic Four is a very cosmic property. So I keep expecting an announcement which is somehow Fantastic Four related within the next year or so.
1.2.2. The X-men
Again, I didn’t really expect anything X-men related just yet, but I am also not sure if there will be anything related to them anytime soon. The X-men are an oddity in that the last X-men movies didn’t really do all that well, but there is still a high demand for the characters turning up in the MCU, at least from comic book reading fans. Thing is, I don’t think that they would be a good fit into the current time-line of the MCU. Due to the fact that the continuity in the MCU is way tighter than in regular comic books, it would be nearly impossible to sell the general audience the notion that the same world which has the Avengers is also hunting mutants with giant robots. The only way to include the X-men into the current MCU would be if you toned down the whole “mutants are second class citizen idea”, but then you run into the problem that the very centre of X-men lore is lost. I honestly think that they would better off in their own time-line and universe. I mean, it is not like this would preclude Marvel from doing a dimension hopping cross-over event town the line, and it would allow the X-men way more freedom to be what they are meant to be.
1.3. The role of the Disney Plus shows
Let’s be honest here, the announcements for Disney Plus are currently just as if not more exciting than the movie announcements. Which somewhat worries me. Disney is currently pulling all the stops in order to get as many people as possible subscribed as fast as possible, hence it looks as if they put a decent budget into all of those shows. But what will happen when the first “boom” of subscribers stops? Eventually they will have every MCU fan who would and can afford the service on board. Since people are less likely to jump ship once they have a subscription, will Disney eventually do less Marvel shows (just enough to keep people interested) or cut the budgets? Hard to tell now.
The is also the fate of the “other” Marvel TV shows to consider. They are left kind of in the lurch. But then, most of them are ending anyway or have already been cancelled. What is left is only Runaways and maybe Cloak and Dagger. And they seem to exist in their own little universe anyway. But there is also a Ghost Rider show announced (which I can’t wait to see) and I am also hoping that Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. might morph into a new show. I am certainly not ready to say completely good-bye to those characters.
Meanwhile though, it looks like Marvel intends the Disney Plus shows to be tighter connected to the MCU than the previous Marvel shows, with characters not just going from the movies to the streaming shows, but their action there also impacting the movies. It will be interesting to see if that works, but I am positively salivating about the possibilities. In this format, they can basically mix and match characters at will. We already had this in some degree in Phase three, when Ironman guest starred in Homecoming and Hulk paired up with Thor in Ragnarok, but I expect to see more of it. We already know that Scarlet Witch will play a role in the Doctor Strange movie. There are also persistence rumours that Namor will turn up in the next Black Panther movie. I believe this when I see it, since fan wishes have created rumours before, but it is certainly possible that Marvel will use established franchises to introduce new characters.
A lot about the role of the streaming show will depend on how successful Disney Plus is, and how many people end up watching them. It is difficult to tell, because Netflix tends to be stingy with numbers, but the convenience of being able to watch a movie on a flexible schedule at home seems to lead to a bigger audience. It is entire possible that in a few years we will perceive the cinematic movies as something we watch in addition to the Marvel streaming shows instead of the other way around. Though there is a danger that the audience will feel overwhelmed eventually. On the other hand, the trick of the MCU was always that you don’t really have to watch everything which is a part of it. But once you start, there is always the feeling that you have to seek out all of it, and streaming makes this process very convenient. Having the complete MCU at one place will help to keep people in the loop and interested.
2. But what next?
What the MCU needs, though, is something new to work forward to. In phase one it was the notion of a big crossover event. Then it was the threat of Thanos. Now for the first time we are largely without a clear direction. There are certainly a few options Marvel could pick, but I have picked the three I consider the most likely.
2.1. The Kree/Skrull War
Considering how much importance they assigned to Captain Marvel going forward, all this talk about the MCU going cosmic and the teases we got in Far from Home, I think it is save to predict that we’ll get something involving the Kree and the Skrull in the future. And regarding this particular conflict, there are a lot of comic book stories which involved either the Kree, the Skrull or both to draw from. Having heroes we know involved in this conflict could be a good way to raise the stakes without the need to destroy a city on earth every other movie. And the option are endless, including having fractions within those two groups going up against each other. Or a secret invasion.
2.2. The Young Avengers
Is it just me or is there an effort to work towards some sort of “next generation” set-up? Spider-man aside, they have aged up Cassie enough that she could become Stature or Stinger any time, the Hawkeye series seems to be about him training his replacement and there is a Ms Marvel series in the making, too. Then there is WandaVision which could potentially be used to set up Wiccan and Speed as characters. I can also think of a way or two to explain the presence of Hulkling in the MCU, with a few tweaks to his backstory, naturally. In short, there are now a lot of options to introduce young characters and a cross-over event with them could cause an excitement similar to the excitement about the first Avenger movie. Provided, naturally, Marvel manages to make them just as popular from the get go.
For those who don’t know, the Thunderbolts are a team of villains who under the leadership of Zemo decided to act like heroes for a while for their own gains, but then some of them started to like being heroes and switched sides for real. There is actually little reason to think that Marvel will go there outside of them using Zemo again in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While the survival rate of Marvel villains has been slightly improved, it would be difficult to put a team of them together. Still, I would be very surprised if the idea isn’t at least thrown around in Marvel’s writer’s room. There have been multiple hints that the world is looking for a new version of The Avengers in Far From Home, so this would be the perfect moment to present a version of an Avenger team which has gone (or always was) bad, thus mixing ideas from the Thunderbolts with ideas from the Dark Avengers.
3. My not so small wish list
Honestly, I am pretty much open for whatever comes next in the MCU. In general, I hope that there will be new genres, which are explored, and new characters introduced. Those which are constantly talked about by the fandom will most likely turn up sooner than later. My own wish list is a little bit more obscure.
2.1. A Silver Surfer Origin Movie
The Silver Surfer in itself is not THAT obscure, but my specific wish is. I don’t want him to be introduced as a side character, I want to see specifically him starring in his own origin story, simply because he has one of the most tragic origin story out there. Usually those are about a flawed character raising to heroism. But his story is about an already heroic character managing to rescue his planet but also paying a high price due to being perverted into a tool of destruction, dooming multiple planets in order to rescue one. This is a movie which has to happen. If for no other reason than that it would make any clash between him and the heroes we know and love so much more suspenseful.
3.2. Amadeus Cho
Between all the young heroes which are currently waiting in the woodwork, there has been no mention of Amadeus Cho so far. But he is a character I really want to see. No his Hulk version, no, I want the overly smart team who manages to fight with his mind alone. I just like the idea of a character who doesn’t have specific powers or weapons but still manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful people in the world because he knows how to use the abilities her does have to full advantage.
3.3. A Silverclaw movie
Now, this is a character really nobody is talking about. But they should. Because there is so much potential in the character. For one, her powerset is completely different from what we have seen so far, and could create some cool visuals and unusual battle scenes. Two, her backstory is a little bit more unusual than most. I certainly wouldn’t mind a movie about someone reclaiming their cultural heritage. And three, she does represent a minority which is currently nearly invisible in the MCU, and I am always for more diversity. Not in order to fulfil some sort of invisible checklist, but because it makes things more interesting in my book. Different perspectives open up new story options which in turn helps the MCU to stay fresh.
3.4. Exploring the Savage Land
Honestly, why isn’t Savage Land already a franchise? This is a comic book property which features freaking dinosaurs. Considering how well Jurassic World did one would think that Marvel would take it into consideration at the very least. The only explanation I have for no movement on this front so far is that the rights might have been in the grey area between Marvel and Fox, but that is just a suspicion on my part. Hutch Parker once stated that both Marvel and Fox could have made a Savage Land movie, but I take throwaway statements like this with a grain of salt. In any case, while Ka-Zar and Shanna aren’t the most compelling of characters, and there are some potential minefields in using either of them, the world itself is practically made for a big screen adventure. Just the opportunity to throw together a bunch of prehistoric creatures without having to worry about the question if they actually existed around the same time would be a lot of visual fun.
Yes, I know, I said that I expect Marvel to wait with the X-men. But then, I don’t think that Dazzler necessarily needs to be a mutant. To me she fits better into the world of the Avengers than the world of the X-men anyway, considering how openly she uses her power from the get go. And that is part of the reason why I really want to see a movie featuring her: Usually we get to see characters who want to use their newfound abilities for good. It would be kind of refreshing to see a character who uses it for her career, without having any ambitions to be an actual heroine. Plus, she is the perfect character for a musical which isn’t crack.
And this was my obligatory “thoughts about the MCU” article. Maybe it is time to talk about something else for a while. I love the MCU, but it is not the only franchise out there. So, which one of my series should I continue? More By the Book? More Double Takes of Disney movies? Maybe something more lyrics related? Or something completely different? I am open for wishes and suggestions.