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One thing that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe enjoy is speculating on the future, whether it’s a couple months from now or in the coming years. The next film set for release is Avengers: Age of Ultron, but many geeks are already attempting to predict what happens in Avengers 3 and beyond, using only the clues Marvel has given to us and deductive reasoning. Of course, with all the curve balls Marvel has thrown us over the years, it’s difficult to ascertain what’s coming up next, but we may get a glimpse of that soon. While on The Late Show with David Letterman this past week, Robert Downey Jr. implied that Marvel has a plan that will eventually be announced. What could it be?
Let’s look at what we know so far about Marvel’s post-Phase 2 plans. The movies that have officially been announced include Ant-Man, Captain America 3, Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. There’s also many untitled films they’ve snagged dates for, and logical choices for these features include Thor 3 and Avengers 3, the latter of which may be split into two films. Then there’s the unofficial rumblings of characters that Marvel is eager to use, like Black Panther, Captain Marvel, the Inhumans, etc. Fans are looking forward to these characters appearing in the MCU, but it won’t be much of a surprise when they show up because we’ve been begging to see them. It’s like when you’re a kid and ask your parents for a bowl of ice cream. You’re excited that you got it, but it’s not surprising because you finished your dinner and behaved yourself... ideally.
To attempt to understand the scope of what Marvel might have planned, we need to think outside the box. Think back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While the MCU has been quite successful, there have been few surprising twists. Those moments that left you uttering "Whoa," like Thanos’ cameo in The Avengers. However, The Winter Soldier gave us one of Marvel’s biggest twists when it not only revealed the Hydra conspiracy, but dismantled S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of the movie. It was huge! It not only changed the game for Captain America and the gang, but also shifted the status quo of the entire MCU, which is currently best exemplified on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While Avengers: Age of Ultron will assuredly be packed full of shocking moments, Captain America 3 is being touted as the next movie to deliver another "Whoa" moment; maybe even bigger than The Winter Soldier.
What might that moment be? We have big ideas.
Writers Joe and Anthony Russo have said that Kevin Feige, the puppet master of the MCU, has had a title planned for Captain America 3 for years, and the movie will be part of a bigger plan. They also said the movie would feature a lot of Marvel characters, citing Secret Wars, an 80s crossover event that featured many of Marvel’s superheroes, as one of their inspiration.
However, if the Russos were to use Secret Wars or the 2006 crossover Civil War as inspiration, it would be difficult considering the ownership issues with several of those series prominent characters, most notably Spider-Man (although that may change in the future). Regardless, this still doesn’t mean that Cap 3 won’t have enormous repercussions on the MCU. The Winter Soldier destroyed a global organization, but what if the Cap 3 plot affects the U.S. or the entire world. Maybe a devastating event that changes how the world looks at superheroes. This may be the reason that Cap would hang up his costume and become America’s Super Soldier, like he did several years back in the comics, albeit this time working directly for the U.S. government. Or, while they may not use Civil War primarily, perhaps its consequences will echo in Cap 3, namely the passing of the Superhuman Registration. That would certainly be a game-changer.
Of course, whatever Marvel is plotting, it may not just involve the Star-Spangled Avenger. Yesterday, Downey stated on Ellen that Iron Man 4 was in the works, although his "Yes" seemed more like trying to get DeGeneres off his back. Later that night on Letterman, Downey backtracked on this statement and said that while Iron Man 4 isn’t being made, Marvel "does have a plan," and Downey "would do other stuff." After Avengers: Age of Ultron, Downey is only contracted for one more movie, which will likely be another Avengers flick. However, going off the word "stuff" (this is meticulous analysis right here), what if Downey is involved in more than just one post-Phase 2 movie? He may want to work on non-Marvel projects, but still be involved in a smaller, but important capacity.
Here’s a thought: is Marvel setting Tony up as the leader of the relaunched S.H.I.E.L.D.? Tony gained control of the organization in the comics at the end of Civil War, so a leadership position isn’t unprecedented. This would effectively make Stark the new Nick Fury. That’s not to say that Samuel L. Jackson wouldn’t appear in more Marvel films, but Downey would be the new guy to appear in the post-credits scenes, and there wouldn’t be as many physically demanding scenes. He’ll eventually have to put the armor back on for Avengers 3 or whenever the climactic showdown against Thanos occurs, but in the meantime he can bring his unusual expertise directing an organization that has been slowly been rebuilding. Plus, this could give Downey the opportunity to share more scenes with Clark Gregg, who he enjoys working with immensely.
Whatever is in the works from the House of Ideas, it’s like Downey said, they will announce it, and perhaps we’ll get a snippet this weekend. The New York City Comic-Con begins today, and while people are already anticipating news on the Daredevil Netflix series, perhaps they have something up their sleeves on the movie front. If you’re at a Marvel panel during the next couple days, pay close attention, because they may drop something huge, and where better to do it than Marvel’s home city...which should probably be abandoned in the comics at this point considering all the super-villain attacks.