So what does Marvel need to do in it’s phase 3 of films to keep the quality high and secure it’s future for a phase 4? First let’s consider what’s in phase 3…
Marvel’s Phase 3 Line-Up is currently as follows:
Age of Ultron (May 2015)
Ant-Man (July 2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017)
Spiderman Reboot (Title currently unknown) (2017)
Thor Ragnarok (2017)
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 (2018)
Black Panther (2018)
Captain Marvel (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 (2019)
Don’t recognise half the titles on there? I wouldn’t be surprised – unless you’re an avid comic book fan, chances are you don’t what half those films will be about. Why? Marvel’s now used up all it’s most well known superheroes (which it still has the rights to!) so it’s starting to take more gambles. Hey, it worked with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is currently my third favourite MCU film (after Cap 2 and the Avengers). But as their supply of bankable names is running low, and DC are finally offering up some stalwart competition with their ‘Justice League’ universe, what should Marvel do now?
1. Be bolder: The Marvel movies so far have never been bad (I’d give the weakest ones – the iron man sequels – 3 out of 5) but they’ve consistently missed greatness compared to the Dark Knight Trilogy, which delivered 3 films of continuous (or thereabouts) near-perfection. Why do i prefer these 3? They were bolder – there was always a sense of foreboding throughout all three films. Why? They were dark and weren’t afraid to kill off characters: love interests, popular villains, they all brought it at some point – which made it possible to believe Bruce Wayne’s apparent death in TDKR – whereas i never for a second thought Stark would die in the Avengers’ climax or Nick Fury in Cap 2. Who has actually died in a Marvel film so far? A load of second rate villains (looking at you Malekith and Iron Monger), secondary characters like Frigga (who we barely knew and thus didn’t care about) and Coulson (who got resurrected and given his own TV series). No one is afraid of Marvel characters dying anymore – so it’s about time someone (important!) did to pull the rug out from under the audience. Age of Ultron, Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War all have the potential to pull a few nasty surprises – given the absurdly high threat level that should be in those 4, it’ll be unforgivable if everyone makes it out alive. If i had to guess who? I wouldn’t put good money on Hawkeye surviving – he’s easily the most depensible avenger – but if Marvel really wanted to be bold it should be someone like Loki (whose storyline hasn’t got far to go) or Captain America (with Bucky waiting in the wings to replace Steve Rogers?). A character exit like that would surely shake up the MCU a bit. It doesn’t have to be a character death of course – the boldest plot twist Marvel’s had so far was when SHIELD was destroyed in Captain America 2. Of course you can’t pull that off again, but who’s to say Asgard won’t suffer a heavy price in Ragnarok…
2: Find a new lead character: After Infinity War, phase 4 will (hopefully) begin – but it’s highly unlikely that Robert Downey Jr. will still be playing Tony Stark or Chris Evans Captain America (arguably the two lead figures in the current line up) and Thor will probably go as well – so the MCU needs a new man/woman/team to rally around for phase 4 and beyond if Marvel want to keep going – options for characters in phase 3 they should build around?
The Guardians – given how successful the first film was, who’s to say the Guardians couldn’t lead the charge in later films? As a popular ensemble group they could easily match the avengers! Problems? Well they aren’t very earthbound – so it’s harder to cross over with other characters.
Black Widow – So deserving of a solo film – the character was kick-ass in Iron Man 2, one of the most important in the Avengers and surprisingly fun in Cap 2. Plus it’s Scarlet Johansson – we can’t really get enough of her – but will she still want the same role in 5 years time?
Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch – he could easily fill Downey’s shoes as a lead name (he’s already a better Sherlock…) and Doctor Strange is arguably the best-known newcomer in Phase 3 – does Cumberbatch have enough time to commit to so many films though?
Spiderman – Bear with me here. Spidey’s been drafted into the MCU for a joint production with Sony in 2017. It’s probably another bloody reboot but there is a good reason to centre phase 4 around him – he brings a lot of villains to the table and he is already incredibly popular – but can Marvel and Sony’s alliance hold together long enough for that to happen?
3. Find some villains who match Loki!
I’ve already done an article on this so i won’t go into too much detail – Age of Ultron, Civil War and Infinity War should have this covered but Marvel’s record suggests the various origin stories (Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel etc.) will have pretty forgettable villains. If they can avoid this or deliver a memorable new villain in Guardians 2 or Thor 3 it would be a great step forward.
4: Infinity War:
Thanos. The Infinity Stones. Everyone (Guardians, Avengers, maybe even Loki etc.) uniting in a two part finale. This should be the best (two) films in the MCU so far – details are sketchy atm but phase 3 ultimately lives or dies or whether it’s centrepiece lives up to the hype. I hope it does.