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We don’t always know what Marvel Studios is planning. We think we know, and we make educated guesses as to what’s on the comic-book studio’s long-term agenda. But until the studio steps to the mic and confirms what’s actually on its slate, these possibilities are pie-in-the-sky dreams of feature films that may (or may not) happen. And we realized that after Marvel laid out its entire Phase Three in one massive sweep.
While the movie-going world celebrated new movies for Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel, we couldn’t help but think about the Marvel characters who waited in the wings, hoping for a moment in the spotlight that – at least until 2019 – isn’t going to happen. We’re not saying that Marvel couldn’t make changes to accommodate films based around these characters at some point. But now that Phase Three has been mapped out, and all of those choice release dates claimed, here are the 10 characters who lost big once all of the Marvel dust had settled.
HawkeyeJeremy Renner fanned the flames a bit while working the media on behalf of Kill the Messenger, suggesting first that he’d love to do a solo Hawkeye movie, then backtracking to admit that the arrow-slinging hero works better as part of a larger ensemble like The Avengers. And while I hold out hope that Marvel will separate James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) from Tony Stark so that he and Hawkeye can launch the West Coast Avengers film franchise, a standalone Hawkeye movie is not in Marvel’s cards for Phase Three.
The Incredible HulkThere were SO MANY rumors, from a Planet Hulk movie to a teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. That second one might still happen, as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 moved up to an earlier release date, but the absence of a solo Hulk movie on Marvel’s Phase Three slate was more than a little surprising. Mark Ruffalo owned the dual role of Bruce Banner and The Hulk in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, and we have been hearing a lot about his increased presence in Age of Ultron. But Kevin Feige explained that Hulk’s presence will be part of a different movie. Which one, we don’t yet know.
Black WidowAs it turns out, the first solo Marvel movie led by a female hero will NOT be Black Widow, but rather, will focus on Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel. While Marvel figures out who will step into this coveted role, we will lament the lost opportunity for loyal soldier Scarlett Johansson, who filmed Age of Ultron while pregnant, and has been around since the "glory" days of Iron Man 2. A Black Widow movie should happen at some point. The character’s back story is too rich not to explore. But it won’t happen before 2020, so be patient.
Ant-ManWhen a Marvel movie connects with a larger audience, the studio typically likes to follow up with a sequel. (See: Guardians of the Galaxy) So what happens if Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly strike comic-book gold with Ant-Man next summer? Well, the best we can guess is that the hero (and his love interest) will fight for screen time in subsequent Avengers movies, because there are no available release dates on the Phase Three calendar for Ant-Man 2. That’s an odd corner Kevin Feige has painted himself into, seeing as how Guardians scored its second movie BEFORE the original even came out. Blocking an Ant-Man sequel this early in the game seems strange.
The Amazing Spider-ManI wrote at length about the Spider-Man reveal that wasn’t, about Marvel’s inability to strike any sort of deal before the El Capitan presentation. I don’t know if Marvel and Sony were even close on a deal that would allow Peter Parker to swing through the MCU. I don’t know if those conversations even started. But I do know that the Civil War is happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and despite what happened in the actual comics, Spider-Man isn’t part of it at the moment. This could change. As of this morning, it has not.
BladeA while back, Marvel scooped up the rights to a few characters who had been lingering at rival studios. Blade was one of those overlooked heroes, and fans held out hope that the vampire killer could get a new lease on life. Wesley Snipes even kicked that ball a little further down the field, suggesting that he’d relish another spin in Blade’s sunglasses. Blade 4 may happen (someday), but the character won’t find his way into the proper MCU… at least, not during Phase Three. There’s always a fourth Expendables Wesley. Call your agent!
The PunisherFrank Castle needs a proper treatment. The closest he came was Punisher: War Zone, though nobody checked that film out. Like Blade, The Punisher recently returned "home" to Marvel, and now it’s up to the studio to figure out how best to use him. If I had to guess, I’d say that The Punisher will show up on the Daredevil Netflix series, as the Man Without Fear frequently clashed with the angel of vengeance, Frank Castle. But a little part of me clung to hope as Kevin Feige revealed Phase Three titles, wishing one of those cards said "The Punisher" instead of "Inhumans" or "Doctor Strange."
Ghost RiderBecause Nicolas Cage needs to be in the MCU. Duh. And also because Ghost Rider is one of those Marvel characters with an incredible history, one that could sustain so many interesting stories if handled properly on screen. Knowing how Ghost Rider operates – with one foot in the occult and another in the supernatural – I’m thinking that Marvel is holding on to the Rider for a Phase Four movie. Because by then, the adventures of Doctor Strange will have opened that door to the supernatural side of the universe. And a motorcycle-riding demon won’t feel quite as unusual in the hands of a film studio who knows how to bring characters like talking raccoons and walking trees to life on screen. Just, no Neveldine and Taylor. OK?
NamorThis is a studio rights issue, once again, with Universal holding the keys to Sub-Mariner’s kingdom. But with Warner Bros. and DC putting together an underwater universe for Aquaman, I’m thinking that Marvel will want to answer – in some way – with a proper Namor movie. This, also, can happen in Phase Four, when the makeup of the Avengers team is totally different, and the studio will have to pluck characters from the depths to entertain. Namor will have to swim over from Universal at some point. It just isn’t happening in Phase Three.
The DefendersThis is the announcement that I thought was going to land where the Inhumans did. Because Marvel has said that they want to begin exploring the supernatural, I figured they’d assemble a team of outsiders known for battling mystic forces. Plus, key members of The Defenders were starting to surface at Marvel, from Doctor Strange to The Hulk. (It’s another reason why you’d need Namor.) But Marvel’s plans for The Defenders will be limited to the small-screen Netflix deal, and will not branch over to the MCU. Yet.