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As we wrap up another eventful year of cinematic superhero action, it's time to look at what's ahead in 2019. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has another three movies on the way, DC has both a DC Extended Universe entry and a complete standalone tale scheduled, and the seventh of the main X-Men movies will finally arrive after several delays. That's a lot to look forward to over the next 12 months.
Looking at the footage, pictures and information available, I've narrowed down which characters from next year's Marvel and DC theatrical stories are likeliest to steal the show and impress audiences. Starting off, let's look at someone whose favorite word you all definitely know and who at one point was even more popular than Superman.
The hero formerly known as Captain Marvel has appeared in numerous film serials, TV shows and video games, but it's only next year, 79 years after he was introduced, that he finally gets to lead his own full-length, theatrical feature film. Shazam! looks to be keeping the upbeat, lighter tone the DCEU is placing more emphasis on, which is appropriate given that it centers on a teenager who becomes a mighty adult just by saying a magic word. It's the superhero version of Big, with Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi as Shazam proper and both actors pulling off the infectious enthusiasm a child would have upon learning they have cool abilities.
Before Avengers: Endgame wraps up the MCU's Phase 3, it's winding the clock back to the mid-1990s to introduce Brie Larson's Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel (yes, Marvel and DC both have their own). She was teased at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, and Captain Marvel will show her origin story, i.e. how she became a half-human, half-Kree noble warrior hero. Carol has been touted as the MCU's most powerful hero, and as if seeing her lead a movie wasn't cool enough, she's also expected to play an integral role in Endgame less than two months later.
We've seen The Joker on the big screen four times already in live action, but the Joker movie, which is not part of the DCEU, is a different beast. Not only is Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck becoming the Clown Prince of Crime without Batman's involvement, but this movie has also been described as more of a character study than a traditional comic book movie, hence why it could be made with a smaller budget. The Joker isn't a character who has an etched-in-stone origin story, but the strange approach to Joker has us intrigued about how Phoenix's version of the villain will distinguish himself from his predecessors.
Between his distinctive appearance and his use of special effects, hypnotism and weird gadgets to produce bizarre illusions, Mysterio is a Spider-Man villain who's been begging to be used in a movie. He's finally getting his due in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but we learned a few weeks ago that rather than being featured as a typical antagonist, Jake Gyllenhaal's version of Quentin Beck will actually be helping Spider-Man during his adventures in Europe. I suspect that this Mysterio will still turn to villainy later in the story, but this partnership twist, plus finally getting to see that fishbowl helmet, has me sold.
You'll remember that I included Sophie Turner's Jean Grey on last year's list of Marvel and DC characters, but since then, Dark Phoenix has been pushed back to summer 2019. Nevertheless, I still believe we're in for something special with Jean's forthcoming turn to darkness. It's no secret that X-Men: The Last Stand failed to adapt The Dark Phoenix Saga properly, and while Dark Phoenix is definitely taking its own creative liberties, at least this time around Jean is the full focus rather than just a subplot. Jean's been underserved in the X-Men movies, but this latest installment looks as though she'll finally get to shine in just the right way.
It may seem weird including Iron Man on this list given that Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark has been the MCU's main anchor since the franchise launched in 2008, but Avengers: Endgame looks to be setting him up for an especially important arc. While not officially confirmed, it's believed that Endgame could be Downey's last appearance as Tony, meaning that the movie would finally close out the hero's long-running story. If that is indeed the case, or if Downey will make more MCU appearances, it's a good bet we'll be talking about his actions in Endgame for many years afterwards.
I'm including Captain America on this list for a lot of the same reasons from the previous entry. Like Tony Stark, Chris Evans' Steve Rogers has been around the MCU for a long time, and some have suspected that Avengers: Endgame could be a sendoff for the character, though co-director Joe Russo recently downplayed this idea. Whether Cap is getting a sendoff or not, judging by the Endgame trailer, Steve looks to be leading the charge on trying to undo Thanos' genocide, so you can be sure that he'll leave yet another memorable impression.
One of Billy Batson's new foster siblings in Shazam! is Freddy Freeman, played by IT's Jack Dylan Grazer. Freddy is a superhero enthusiast, so when Billy is chosen by The Wizard to be his new champion, he understandably confides in Freddy. In the comics, Freddy is also known as Captain Marvel Jr., and it sounds like he and the other members of this family will also get to be superheroes for a spell in Shazam! But even if that weren't the case, Freddy's knowledge about "this caped crusader stuff" and his funny personality means that he'll be a standout.
We have yet another longtime MCU character on this list, but Nick Fury actually has all of 2019 covered for the superhero franchise. First we'll see a younger Fury in Captain Marvel, back when he still had two working eyes, was a low-level bureaucrat and not nearly as cynical. Samuel L. Jackson technically isn't confirmed to appear in Avengers: Endgame, but considering that we saw Fury disappear at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, presumably we'll see his de-dusting. Then both Fury and Maria Hill will appear in Spider-Man: Far From Home to recruit Peter Parker for his European adventure. So yeah, Fury's going to be keeping quite busy next year.
Yon-Rogg (Jude Law)
It should be noted that officially speaking, we don't know yet who Jude Law is playing in Captain Marvel. When Law's casting was first reported in late 2017, he was said to be playing Mar-Vell, the first Captain Marvel from Marvel Comics. but the latest rumor states that he's actually playing Yon-Rogg, a Kree villain. Marvel's still keeping quiet about the identity of Law's character, and all we know about him for sure is that he's Carol's mentor on Staforce. Whoever Law's playing, with his acting chops, we expect he'll be a highlight of Captain Marvel.