Marvel Studios is launching Phase Three of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the release of Captain America: Civil War. It is hard to believe that less than ten years ago, the superhero film landscape changed forever with the 2008 release of Iron Man, considering he was not a top-tier character in the Marvel Universe. But, the film turned out to be much better than most expected and the very tail end of the film tantalized fans with the promise of a larger film universe when Nick Fury appeared and mentioned that not only were there other superheroes but that a team called the Avengers was planned. This was a spectacular, game-changing moment in superhero films. Never before had superhero films spawned a viable universe. Of course, the original Superman films and Daredevil had spinoff films but they were dead on arrival and seemed like afterthoughts.
Each successive film in the MCU built upon a shared-universe platform that culminated with The Avengers and continued on with the Phase Two MCU films that concluded last year. Now the Phase Three films of the MCU promise to up the ante in superhero madness that will conclude with the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. Most likely the MCU will have undergone an upheaval that will begin with Captain America: Civil War. How so? For starters, Spider-Man is now officially part of the MCU and is the grandest prize in Marvel Studios’ quest to regain the film rights to the Marvel Comics characters. As most people know Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the X-Men have their film rights owned by other studios. Ever since the success of Iron Man and other early MCU films, Marvel Studios has been methodically regaining film rights to their characters. Now that the webbed wonder is “shared” by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, who is next?
The most likely target is the much-maligned Fantastic Four. Currently, Fox has the film rights and by now it is clear that the movie studio does not know how to translate Marvel’s First Family into the big screen. The hot rumor going around the Internet lately is that Fox selling/trading the rights to the Fantastic Four back to Marvel is a done deal. Speculators point out that Fox being allowed by Marvel to go ahead and develop TV shows based on the X-Men franchise somehow proves this. It is believed that Marvel would not just give up the TV rights lightly. Some serious haggling must have occurred and short of giving back the X-Men to Marvel (maybe our grandchildren will live to see that happen), the only bargaining tool Fox had was the Fantastic Four. Doubters will say that both studios denied this, but remember that Sony and Marvel denied until last year that Spider-Man would join the MCU and we know how that turned out.
The thing to watch out for is the film slate for unannounced films after Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, especially now that the Inhumans film has been placed on hold. It is quite possible that Marvel wanted to make room for a potential Fantastic Four film after the Avengers or to kick off Phase Four. Nothing would thrill fans more than to see the FF make an appearance or even have an Easter egg in Avengers: Infinity War, Part II, which would set up a solo film nicely, just as it is happening now with Spider-Man. If this is going to happen, Marvel is not ready to reveal this, so as always, we have to wait and see.
Of course, this doesn’t help soothe any hurt feelings for anyone who eagerly anticipated Inhumans. Frankly, the property hasn’t taken off in popularity despite Marvel’s best efforts in the comic books and the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Inhumans were supposed to take the place of the X-Men as part of the turf war that Marvel is having with Fox. But with tensions thawing between the two entertainment giants, the Inhumans lost their appeal. A reason for that can be placed to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the show is spending a lot (or too much according to unhappy fans) of story time to the Inhumans and what has been shown so far about them hasn’t exactly captured the imagination when compared to the X-Men. Another reason based on more Internet rumor has to do with MCU honcho Kevin Feige no longer answering to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter. Allegedly, relations between the two were less than harmonious and now Feige is in charge of the film franchise while Perlmutter handles the TV properties. Since Inhumans have appeared first on TV, well…put two and two together. It’s just hearsay and we won’t get the actual truth for a very long time, but it is intriguing. Don’t fear for the Inhumans though. They’ll make their appearance on film one of these days. They can do so in a Fantastic Four film.
Enough with the speculating and let us concentrate on the confirmed menu coming our way. After Captain America and Iron Man finish duking it out, we finally meet the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange this November. Next year our favorite Guardians of the Galaxy return, Spider-Man will have his grand homecoming and Thor and Hulk have a buddy film. Afterwards in 2018, Black Panther gets his solo outing, Ant-Man returns with the Wasp and the Infinity War begins. Finally, Phase Three concludes in 2019 with Captain Marvel and the conclusion of the Infinity War. We fans certainly have a full plate!