How will Marvel’s Phase Three movies fit together?

Where do Captain Marvel, Inhumans and Black Panther sit with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and more? Let the speculation begin

There’s no doubt that it’s an exciting time for people who are fans of titles and release dates. That’s because the current trend of pairing titles with release dates has hit a new high with Marvel Studios announcing its film slate through to the distant space year of 2019.

But what secrets do these titles reveal about the contents of the movies, and how might they tie together? Where do they all fit together in the Marvel cinematic universe? We’ve used our best Marvel-Fu to try and unpack what it all means.

May 6th 2016: Captain America: Civil War

Spoiler: this entry talks about a major plot development in the Civil War comic story that you may want to skip.

Robert Downey Jr’s presence coupled with that rather revealing title indicates that Tony Stark is going to be making big waves in the third (and final?) Captain America movie, which will be set after Avengers: Age Of Ultron and loosely based on the Civil War crossover comic source material from 2006.

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So what’s this story about? The short version is that the US Government decides that superheroes need to be registered and licensed, which includes them revealing their identities to the US government, receiving special training, and effectively being drafted into SHIELD. Not everyone agrees that this is a good thing. Captain America argues against registration, Iron Man argues for it. And fighting ensues between previously close allies.

Although the comic version of the story was a big crossover between two huge factions, it’s probable that the movie version will strip things right down to the core and make it a largely Captain America vs Iron Man fight, with Robert Downey Jr. doing a heel turn as Tony ‘Iron Gestapo’ Stark.

But here’s the thing: Civil War ended with Captain America’s death. It’s widely known that Chris Evans wants to phase out his acting work once his Marvel contract ends. This movie might be a bigger beat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than it first appears. If Captain America dies, Stark might hang up the armor in shame, and that effectively takes two of the Marvel Universe’s biggest stars off the board so that a new generation can take over.

We have much more about How Civil War impacts the Marvel Cinematic Universe right here.

November 4th 2016: Doctor Strange

He’s already officially part of the Marvel cinematic universe thanks to an Easter Egg in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but there’s a lot of work to do to make Doctor Strange, a character so overtly magic-based, fit into a world where even Thor is cast as a super-advanced alien. But let’s assume Marvel can do that. Strange is a character who, once established, can fit in anywhere as the representative of magic in anyone’s franchise, and that means potential cameos galore for the lucky actor who ends up playing him (Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to be confirmed soon).

But of the established (and indeed, announced) Marvel cinematic universe characters, Strange fits most closely with Thor. They deal with similar fantasy territory, and threats to Asgard may also pose similar threats to Earth. That said, Strange is potentially the most powerful of all of the announced Marvel cinematic universe characters. You may not see him again before Avengers: Infinity War, but if he doesn’t turn up in that we’d be very surprised.

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[related article: Where Do You Start With Doctor Strange Comics?]

May 5th 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The first Guardians Of The Galaxy film ended with some very pointed material about who Peter Quill’s father might be. In the comics, it’s J’son, King of the Spartax empire, which builds in a very clear Pauper-to-Prince narrative for Star-Lord and his band of misfits. But at the same time, director and co-writer James Gunn has also said that Star-Lord’s father in the Marvel cinematic universe isn’t the same at the comics, which leaves us asking who else it might be. All we know (from the first movie) is that it’s a race more ancient than the Nova Corps have encountered before.

Now, here’s where we make some guesses. The Asgardians might qualify, but the Nova Corps are likely to be familiar with them given that the Collector was. The Inhumans are relatively young as far as races go, and Quill’s lack of any visible powers would seem to rule that out. If we had to guess, we’d say that his father might be an Eternal. The Eternals were a race created on Earth by the Celestials before humanity was established, and some established a base on Titan. In the comics, it was on this colony that Thanos was born and raised, and we all know he’ll be back for Avengers: Infinity War, if not Guardians Of The Galaxy 2.

Quill being part-Eternal would give him a tie to the Guardians’ nemesis that he otherwise lacks, so while it’s far from certain, it’s a safe bet based on what we know so far. Whatever Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 does, it’s sure to be the best place to find a lead-in to Avengers: Infinity War. Expect Infinity Stones, Thanos, and for the film to end with a threat targeting to Earth that can’t be stopped by the Guardians alone.

[related article: 50 Characters Who Could Show Up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2]

July 28th 2017: Thor: Ragnarok

In case you’re not up on your Norse Mythology, Ragnarok means the death of the gods and the fall of Asgard. It is, essentially, the Norse Apocalypse. In the Marvel comics there have been several iterations of Ragnarok (it’s cyclical, with the gods rising and rebuilding after each occurrence) but it’s most likely that the version we’ll see in the film involves a confrontation with Thor’s most powerful enemy: the fire-giant Surtur, who lives in the hellish realm of Muspelheim.

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If the comics are any indication, expect this film to involve Surtur and the fire giants attacking Asgard, killing huge numbers of the Asgardian Aesir and destroying the city itself. Loki will of course be back (played by Tom Hiddleston once again), posing as Odin and probably engineering the attack in return for some level of immunity. If Chris Hemsworth was looking to leave his contract we’d suggest that the film would end with him sacrificing himself, clearing the board for a recasting opportunity – but that doesn’t feel like the case at this point. It’s more likely that we’ll get a final resolution of the Thor/Loki relationship so that Thor can pop up once again in Avengers: Infinity War without any dangling character threads.

November 3rd 2017: Black Panther

We don’t know much about the long-awaited movie for the Black Panther movie beyond a date and lead actor (Chadwick Boseman). But you can bet two things: it will be set largely in Wakanda, the hyper-advanced African nation, and it will get the Black Panther primed for a spot on the Avengers roster in one form or another.

In the comics, the Panther is a sometime team-member of the Avengers, but he’s more recently associated with the self-proclaimed ‘Illuminati’ – a team of elder superheroes who act as a secret council to co-ordinate and deal with large threats. We can certainly imagine a post-credits scene where the Panther gives Stark a call to see whether they can stay in touch…

Kevin Feige has already said that there are Black Panther hints on display in Avengers: Age Of Ultron which makes it look likely that Andy Serkis is playing the part of Panther villain, Ulysses Klaw. It’s been promised that we’ll see Black Panther make his debut in Captain America: Civil War, but we wouldn’t rule out a post-credits apperance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, either.

May 4th 2018: Avengers: Infinity War Part I

We’ve speculated about this one so often that we’re starting to sound like a broken record, but, come on. Thanos. Infinity Stones. You know the drill. It might have the title of one the lesser-regarded sequel to Infinity Gauntlet, but Avengers: Infinity War is going to mean nothing less than the assemblage of every Marvel Hero, new and old, as they face the threat of Thanos as he comes to Earth looking to unite the Infinity Gems. A threat so big, they have to spread it over at least two movies. Which leads us on to…

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July 6th 2018: Captain Marvel / November 2nd 2018: Inhumans

We say Marvel will have to spread Avengers: Infinity War across “at least two movies”, because here’s the thing. Captain Marvel and Inhumans are both properties that are connected to the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. If there’s a war taking place across the galaxy, you can bet these movies will reflect it. And what better way to introduce new characters than by spinning them out of a big event? The comics have been doing exactly that for years.

For those that don’t know, Captain Marvel is the story of a test pilot who is imbued with super-powers thanks to exposure to Kree DNA. She’s one of the Marvel universe’s premier super-heroines and one of the few characters who’d be at home on both the Avengers roster and hanging out with the Guardians Of The Galaxy. Indeed, she’s currently a member of both teams. We can’t say for certain that the Guardians would turn up in a Captain Marvel movie, but if Marvel is planning some kind of four-part Infinity War epic, it’d be hard to justify not including them.

As for Inhumans, the race was originally created by Kree experimenting on early humans, and the most recent version of the concept involves people around Earth discovering that they have Inhuman lineage and manifesting super-powers when exposed to the Terrigen mists. This film could easily be based entirely on the classic Inhuman ‘Royal Family’ of Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Maximus and company – but it could just as easily introduce newer Earth-bound Inhuman characters like Ms. Marvel (note: not the same as Captain Marvel!).

Again, though, if it’s going to tie in with Infinity War, there’s one Inhuman we’d fully expect to see: Thane, the long-lost son of Thanos. Thanos’ estranged children have a habit of coming back to fight him, so we can fully imagine Thane, Nebula and Gamora teaming up to deliver some blows to Thanos’ that’ll hurt him more than a solid beating alone could.

[related article: Inhumans – 14 Essential Marvel Stories]

May 3rd 2019: Avengers: Infinity War Part II

And then there’s the big finale. The conclusion to Phase 3. At this point we’ve speculated so much that we’ve got no idea what to expect, but we’re certain it’s going to be absolutely huge and will probably act as a last hurrah for the original generation of Marvel actors, if not their characters. Robert Downey Jr. will be pushing 55 when this movie comes out. That gives Marvel Studios five years to figure out who could possibly take the reins as Tony Stark for a future Iron Man picture. And, of course, to start picking characters for Phase Four.

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Any takers for a Force Works movie?

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