I've been working hard at my day job, but my mind's wheels have been spinning for so long that I decided I wanted to try to get some of the crap in there out and see what the thoughts are out there for what Marvel has in front of them.
Some of the particulars of Phase 3 are beginning to take shape. We've known for some time now that there'd be a third Captain America film on May 6, 2016. While we aren't sure that the other tentatively scheduled 2016 date will go to Doctor Strange, it certainly seems like it might given Marvel's relatively steady track record of putting a creative team together roughly 2 years ahead of the start of production. Throw in the fact that Marvel has been actively searching for the right man to fill the role of the Sorcerer Supreme and it's sensible to believe we could see Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange fill the July 8, 2016 slot.While it has not been officially announced, it's extremely probable that a third Thor film will be one of the 2017 films since Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost were hired to start putting together a screenplay for it some time ago and it certainly seems that Marvel is intent on giving each of their original Avengers' franchises a denouement. A substantial amount of rumors exist about the possibility of one of Marvel's other Phase 3 films being a sequel to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Several outlets with great track records have indicated that the Hulk will end up in outer space in the wake of Avengers: Age of Ultron and that he will meet up with the Guardians before making his way back to Earth in Avengers 3 to help take on Thanos. While there is no timeline given for that film, it might make sense in some regards to have it be the final film before Avengers 3 which would mean that the cast of the Guardians sequel could transition right into filming for Avengers 3. If that's the case, we could possibly see both in 2018, which would mean moving Avengers from it's traditional early May date, or 2017 might be the year Marvel goes to 3 films a year with Thor filling the May 5, 2017 date another film (Captain Marvel/Black Panther?) sometime in July and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 getting a November/December release giving the fans a little cliffhanger headed into Avengers 3 in May of 2018. Obviously just irresponsible speculation on my part, but it's possible at least one of those options is viable.
If Avengers 3 is going to see Thanos come to Earth, and it seems like it will, there are some essential questions that have to be asked and answered.
1. Is Avengers 3 going to be an Infinity Gauntlet type of showdown with an omnipotent, omnipresent Thanos OR is it going to be more of an Avengers vs. Thanos type showdown in which Thanos does not have all the Infinity Stones but is after one in particular?
2. Given either of the scenarios above, is there enough fire power on the side of the Avengers to stop Thanos?
3. Depending on how you answer question 2, will Phase 3 be about adding pieces to the board so that Earth has a chance?
While it seems like the Infinity Gauntlet story line is the way to go, I'm going to remain open to the option that Avengers 3 might only be the first of several meeting with Thanos in the MCU. It is possible that, with films planned for the next 14 years, Marvel may have plans of drawing out the Thanos' story arc even longer than they already have. For those of you who haven't read it, there was a nice arc that ran through several titles (Captain Marvel and Warlock among them) in the early 70s that introduced Thanos to the Avengers and Earth. Thanos did not have all the Infinity Stones in that arc, but he did have the Cosmic Cube, the Tesseract in the MCU, and was omnipotent. He was, as he always is, eventually defeated. Again, that's just one option for how the Avengers might face off with the Mad Titan in 2018, though it's much more likely and certainly the expectation of most, that Thanos will have collected the Infinity Stones by then. While I feel that's an awful lot of work to do in just 5-6 more films, it's certainly something that could be accomplished.
Regardless of which route Kevin Feige and crew chose to go down to introduce Thanos to the Avengers and Earth, it's very debatable that the current set of heroes is capable of doing much damage to Thanos. The 2 heavy hitters, Hulk and Thor, have never proven to be much of a challenge for Thanos in the comics. If we're being honest, nobody is ever much of a challenge for Thanos; his defeat is almost always his own doing. So, what other pieces could be added to the board that would help. I've been told repeatedly that Black Panther will get his film in Phase 3, though I'm very skeptical about that. Despite being one of my favorite characters and capable of so much, T'Challa alone is not powerful enough to tip the scales against Thanos. Doctor Strange has almost always been a part of the Avengers' Cosmic battles and I expect he will be here. If the rumors about the Hulk heading back to Earth with the Guardians is true, that will be a big help as well, but it might be even more helpful if they didn't come alone.
One HUGE missing piece to any battle with Thanos is Adam Warlock. While he's been hinted at in Thor: The Dark World and may be hinted at again in Guardians of the Galaxy, he's not of much use when he's not on screen. His inclusion in the MCU seems like a must if there's going to be large scale Cosmic battles, but it's impossible to know if/when he'll show up.
Another character that adds some heavy firepower that I'm sure will be a part of the MCU as early as Avengers: Age of Ultron is Captain Marvel. While I'm not sure we'll ever see any version other than Carol Danvers, I have been told that there might be some Mar-Vell Easter Eggs coming to the MCU in the near future. I'm certainly not sold on the idea so we'll see how it plays out, but I do know that we will see Captain/Ms. Marvel and I think that's a great move for Marvel and absolutely necessary if the Avengers are going to have to take on Thanos.
Outside of Danvers, where do the rest of the pieces come into play? Warlock is an interesting character. He could easily be introduced in Doctor Strange or could be a big part of the plot of the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and if I were to guess today, that's where I'd see him coming in. Let's also not forget that there's a thread left dangling from The Avengers and that it's very likely that at some point Loki is going to have a reckoning at the hands of Thanos. That's a very interesting situation which has yet to be resolved that might be a part of either the third Thor film or the third Avengers film or both. There's one other potential Cosmic power that I'd love to see go up against Thanos, though the chances seem slimmer by the day that Richard Rider will be a part of the MCU. Rider, when in possession of the full Nova Force, can certainly keep Thanos' hands full and would be happy to fight for his home planet. However, while I've been hoping for a long time that one of the stingers in Guardians of the Galaxy would be Richard Rider's Nova origin, it isn't a sure thing and even if he does show up, it's hard to imagine having a Nova solo film in Phase 3 that could explain away enough to make him valuable in Avengers 3. It's also entirely possible that Marvel skips Rider altogether and goes with the current comic book Nova, Sam Alexander though it is interesting that Richard Rider is returning to the comics at this time.
So, in one sense a big part of Phase 3 has to be about preparing for the battle with Thanos, some of it might have to be about preparing for the future. We know Marvel has plans beyond Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. They have too many movies on their slate not to be thinking beyond those characters. Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and the Black Panther will all get their own films in Phase 3 or 4 or so...then you have Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Iron Patriot and the Vision who while they may not have solo films, will certainly play into future phases. I've been told by more than one person that Marvel has been developing a New Avengers pathway for some time. Interestingly enough, it seems like the Avengers have started some sort of training program for younger "heroes" by the time Avengers: Age of Ultron comes around. The possibilities of this program, if that's what it is, are endless. We could see any number of young heroes from the New Warriors, Young Avengers or Avengers Academy titles. Imagine a team of Speedball, Justice, Stature (Cassie Lang who we'll likely meet in Ant-Man),White Tiger and Power Man or something similar. Joss Whedon and Kevin Fiege, for all the incredible work they've done creating the MCU, are only just getting going. Phases 2 and 3 are going to plant so many seeds for potential future cultivation that it's going to be tough to keep track. For instance, if the rumors about how Age of Ultron ends are true, not only does that put Hulk in space, it also puts Ultron in space. You know what happens when you put Ultron in space? You get Annihilation: Conquest, one of the most expansive pieces of Cosmic material in Marvel's history.
Bottom line: there's so much going on at Marvel right now that it hurts. I can't wait for Comic-Con to get here and see what shakes out. For the record, though I've made it pretty clear that I'm skeptical about what I've been told, info shared with me points to Cap 3 and Thor 3 getting subtitles, Doctor Strange being announced and the Sorcerer being introduced to the audience and Black Panther (been told Chadwick Boseman IS the guy they want) and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 being announced but not to expect a Guardians subtitle as it may be too revealing. No mention was made of any Avengers 3 announcement and that makes sense. I've also been told to expect something from Ant-Man and something on the Netflix shows, including some footage from Daredevil. I had a hard time believing that one, but then it was revealed it's been filming for over 2 weeks. So, we will see what shakes out with all this but I want to reiterate that I am highly skeptical of the info and that, at least for me, proof is going to be in the pudding.