As the Marvel Cinematic Universe readies for its Phase Three finale — the culmination of what will end up being a 22-film run of interconnected feature films, starting with 2008’s “Iron Man” and concluding with its still-unnamed fourth Avengers feature, set to open on May 3, 2019 — the multi-billion dollar blockbuster machine is already looking to the future.
But even with a pair of “post-Phase Three” films already on the docket, including a Spider-Man sequel and a third Guardians of the Galaxy film, the future of the MCU still looks overwhelmingly male, and Marvel’s bent towards superhero (not heroine)-dominated features doesn’t seem to be changing directions. Yet.
Before Phase Three wraps, the MCU will finally roll out its first superheroine-centric feature: the Brie Larson-starring “Captain Marvel,” which will open just before that final “Avengers” film. The long-rumored feature will also mark another sea change for the company, as it’s co-directed by female filmmaker Anna Boden, alongside her filmmaking partner Ryan Fleck, making it the first MCU film to have a woman behind the camera (while Lexi Alexander directed the Punisher sequel “War Zone” in 2004, it’s not considered a part of the MCU). The film will also be the first MCU title to be entirely scripted by a female screenwriter, with Geneva Robertson-Dworet taking over full duties after Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve had to leave the property in August of this year.
But in a post-“Wonder Woman” world, one that has handily proven both the appetite for female-led superhero films and the ability of talented directors like Patty Jenkins to helm them, that’s not quite enough. When asked about how the MCU will grow to to accommodate such demands, Marvel president Kevin Feige assured fans to look to the future.
“There are a lot of discussions, they all focus on the post-Phase Three, ‘Avengers’ 4 film, so nothing that we’ll get into publicly,” he recently said in an interview with IndieWire. “We’re really focusing on ‘Captain Marvel’ and the work that Anna and Ryan are doing. It’s going to be a big part of heading towards this epic conclusion and epic finale of 22 movies over the course of 10 years. That is focus for the next six movies we have to finish and get out.”
“Captain Marvel” doesn’t start shooting until March, but Larson will appear in that untitled fourth “Avengers” film, and Feige hints that Captain Marvel’s story will tie directly into the action that plays out in that long-planned finale. Feige said, “Really, the focus now is on delivering ‘Captain Marvel’ and then bringing Captain Marvel’s story into the finale of everything we’ve started thus far.”
But it’s not as if the rest of the MCU is lacking for female firepower, from Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill, all of whom will likely have big roles in the upcoming Avengers films, just as they have in past incarnations.
Also on board the next two Avengers films: The Guardians, which includes Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as her sister Nebula, and new addition Pom Klementieff as Mantiss. Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is no longer alive in the MCU, but her plucky great-niece Sharon, played by Emily VanCamp, is still kicking (and itching for a bigger role). And what about Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, who has been mostly absent in recent films, though she did pop up in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” hinting at a bigger return (and what about that little matter of her going through the Extremis process in “Iron Man 3”?).
When asked about the impact of “Wonder Woman” on their post-Phase Three planning process, Feige said, “Where we go from that, we have ideas, we have dreams, we’ve had internal discussions. Everything you’ve mentioned is a big part of that.” For Feige, the post-Phase Three world seems to be the most ripe for female-centric stories, but he may be holding back just a bit, as recent MCU entries have provided evidence for an MCU filled with more compelling women.
“Thor: Ragnarok” features two female characters in major positions of power: standout Tessa Thompson plays Valkyrie, a badass former Asgardian warrior who eventually joins up with Thor, while Cate Blanchett plays Hela, the goddess of death (and the franchise’s first major female villain, though “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” did offer Elizabeth Debicki a baddie role, and one we bet we haven’t seen the last of).
Before “Captain Marvel,” there are at least two more MCU films that will feature women in prominent roles, hinting at future that’s decidedly more female.
Next year, Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” promises a slew of new heroines to work alongside Chadwick Boseman’s eponymous hero, including Lupita N’yongo and Danai Gurira as Nakia and Okoye, two members of the all-female Wakandan special forces group Dora Milaje. (In some Marvel storylines, Nakia becomes super-villain Malice, and while that doesn’t appear to be part of “Black Panther” and its storyline, the implications of her place in Marvel history sure are interesting.) Letitia Wright is set to co-star as Black Panther’s sister Shuri who, in later comics, adopted the superhero identity for her own crime-fighting aims. Even better, both Gurira and Wright are listed as part of the cast of “Infinity War.”
Elsewhere, the upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp” will shine a greater light on Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp (and with Michelle Pfieffer on board as her mother, Janet Van Dyne, a deeper dive into the origin of the Wasp identity seems assured). At least Lilly’s role is big enough to get her character title billing, and director Peyton Reed has been forthcoming about her expansion as both a character and a hero. He told Entertainment Weekly in April that the film’s team is “so excited about now being able to show her fully formed and what she is as a superhero.”
Although Feige is focused on finishing out Phase Three, he does admit to looking forward to the future, one that will likely involve still more female heroes, with “Captain Marvel” just the beginning of a literal new phase in the MCU mythos.
“I’m very superstitious,” Feige said when asked about the future. “I think the minute you sit and rest on your laurels, it’s over. So we don’t do it.”