Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, knows that they have a busy few years ahead as Phase Three tries to wrap the story of Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones. He debuted in Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" in 2012 and will finally launch a direct assault in "Avengers: Infinity War" come May 2018. However, the "Ant-Man" sequel and "Captain Marvel" will follow the latter to lead into the fourth Avengers film, which is set to conclude The Mad Titan's crusade.
This is the movie Feige said will change the landscape of the MCU, as there may not even be a Phase Four after it. "Iron Man" started Phase One in 2008 and, since then, things have gone cosmic ("Guardians of the Galaxy"), as well as supernatural ("Doctor Strange"). With the winds of change coming, CBR decided to look at 15 things we want to see if the MCU goes all-new!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for several MCU movies
15 LESS AVENGER-CENTRIC STORIES
The MCU doesn't have to revolve around the Avengers all the time. A prime example is how "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" shaped the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the re-emergence of Hydra. The Russos kept the Avengers out of this movie with just Cap, Black Widow and Falcon taking on Bucky Barnes in full-on assassin mode. Even though this had ramifications on the entire MCU, it still felt like something displaced from the Avengers, as opposed to "Captain America: Civil War" which had to tie everyone back in.
What we'd like is more stories, maybe even team-ups, that don't need or force that Avengers spin, as per "Iron Man 2" (which really forced hints of the Avengers initiative). Imagine seeing Steve Rogers and Bucky on covert missions, as renegades in the shadows trying to suss out the remnants of Hydra or tackling something Arnim Zola left behind. Bucky's shady past alone could make a great brothers-in-arms film and even prep him for taking over Cap's Shield, as per the comics.
14 MORE COSMIC MOVIES
The entire cosmic scope of the MCU shouldn't just hinge on what James Gunn is doing with the "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise. With the sequel already garnering praise, Feige has locked him down for the foreseeable future and, while that's awesome, we still want other galactic stories to mix things up. This will keep the space-faring fresh, as it's always good to get some new perspective in, not just visually, but in terms of sound, characters and feel.
Players that deserve a shot include Nova (in fan-favorite Richard Rider) and the rest of his corps, to give them the gritty war stories that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning shaped. Darkhawk and the Fraternity of Raptors (seen in "Realm of Kings") are also an option, all so that the MCU could expand to things like the Cancerverse and the Revengers, making it a full-on cosmic horror. Even the Kree empire in space could get its chance for a proper fleshing out, as there's a movie gap since the "Inhumans" were transferred to television.
13 DON'T DRAG OUT THE BIG BADDIE
It was jaw-dropping when Joss Whedon unveiled Thanos as the person who gave Loki the Chitauri army for "The Avengers," but that was in 2012, and since then all we've got was teasing. There's only so much smirking Thanos can do in the shadows. "GotG" gave him more screen time after Josh Brolin signed on, but all he did was talk. It takes away from the movies when we know Thanos is the final-level boss who's waiting for us ten movies down the line.
"Infinity War" will see him finally unleashed, but when Feige and his architects run the gauntlet post-Phase Three, let's hope they keep it simple and don't make it such a comic-like event. Every movie doesn't need to hinge on one main villain pulling the strings, as per the current setup. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" showed Thanos in the mid-credits scene, putting on an Infinity Gauntlet to do things himself, but it didn't have the desired impact as we knew we would have to wait a while to see him spring into action.
12 MOVIES FOR KIDS
Marvel and Freeform announced "New Warriors" going straight to series, with the only confirmed team member being Squirrel Girl (a.k.a. Doreen Green), a character that isn't necessarily known for being part of this team. She'll (likely) join Craig Hollis (Mister Immortal), Dwayne Taylor (Night Thrasher), Zack Smith (Microbe), Robbie Baldwin (Speedball), and Deborah Fields (Debrii), but this feels like a missed opportunity for the kids. Doreen's one of the few Marvel characters who could truly be a draw for younger audiences.
With that said, another option could be "Power Pack." They were rebooted from the '80s and focused on four siblings who kept their powers a secret. In the old books, they tackled stuff like bullying and other teen issues, while the revamp saw them cross paths with several Avengers, as well as the Fantastic Four. Brian Michael Bendis' "Takio" is another comic under Marvel's Icon imprint that could be interwoven into the MCU as a fun sibling-rivalry film, dialing things back from the Earth's mightiest and more towards Earth's cutest heroes.
11 DON'T GET REPETITIVE WITH VILLAINS
Loki is one MCU villain that had a long-winded run which we're hoping wraps in "Thor: Ragnarok." He's been re-used and recycled so much, with this movie being his third franchise outing in the "Thor" franchise (not to mention he was the main villain in Whedon's debut). We've seen him evil, redeemed, and then faking it as a hero, so we're ready to move on. When Phase Three ends, hopefully we don't have to endure this again. No matter how interesting a villain is, two films should wrap their arc.
Klaw will be in "Black Panther" after arriving in "Age of Ultron," but he isn't as big a name as Loki, so it's unlikely he'll be rinsed and repeated thereafter. Marvel Comics has a vast array of villains per hero or team, so let's get to exploring. If the villain disappears for a bit, then we wouldn't mind a return, as with Red Skull who went missing after the first "Captain America" film, but let's take it easy on consecutive appearances. This will help prevent the property and overall story from going stale.
10 ANIMATED TIE-INS OR SHORTS
There is a lot of material in the MCU to cover and rather than show glimpses on-screen or flashbacks, why not produce some animated tie-ins? In "GotG," we saw hints of the Celestials, so this alone is rich enough for an animated movie on the early universe and the background into the Infinity Stones' origins. Howard the Duck and the Collector are also two figures who would be pretty interesting to explore, maybe even in a team-up flick.
Howard's detective dynamic could be a fresh update on his 1986 live-action flick, which remains a cult-favorite to this very day. What about the history of the Nova Corps or how the Maximoffs were actually experimented on by Baron von Strucker? Maybe some old missions with Black Widow and Hawkeye? All the tidbits that our minds filled in in the MCU could be brought to life here and give us not just new characters, but insight into the old ones we've already seen on the big screen.
9 PERIOD PIECES
"The First Avenger" and "Agent Carter" were period pieces that shed light on the old days of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their mission to save the world, but the MCU could go even bigger and more exotic with something like Jonathan Hickman's well-received "S.H.I.E.L.D." -- which focused on the days of Leonardo da Vinci and other key historic figures, when they were part of the secret organization and saving the world from earthly and otherworldly threats.
Hickman covered several stalwarts in history (with artist Dustin Weaver) fighting off dangers through their knowledge and inventions, through stories of enormous spectacle over many eras in time. The MCU could also make "Agents of Atlas," a '50s piece focusing on battling injustice in the early days. This team was led by Jimmy Woo and boasted an eclectic group of individuals, including the Atlantean Namorita, in a bunch of action-oriented tales which usually had a vintage feel to them. Their operations often came off as spy-thrillers, as they operated very unconventionally, which could make for great cinema.
8 BRING BACK THE HORROR
"Doctor Strange" was a decent ride to open the mystical realm of the MCU, but it wasn't filled with much horror. It was a bit campy and lacked that scare factor, as seen with the final battle with Dormammu. Hopefully, director Scott Derrickson gets back into some scare tactics and really takes us for a spine-tingling spin in the sequel. The MCU could also look at reviving the "Blade" franchise to bring the vampire and werewolf drama back, not to mention characters like Daimon Hellstrom and Satanna.
Man-Thing is another monster that could pop up here, as well as Werewolf By Night. Brother Voodoo was hinted at in Derrickson's first film as his brother, Daniel, was killed by the villains, so there's potential to explore that story there too. The most desired horror, though, could come in a rebooted "Ghost Rider." Robbie Reyes popped up in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." but we're hoping the stories of Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch are explored to extinguish the Nicholas Cage movies of old. Imagine seeing them tangle with Mephisto and other supernatural monsters!
7 R-RATED FLICKS
Fox have done well with R-rated properties such as "Deadpool" and "Logan," but Feige has said that the MCU is not focused on such gory or profane stories. That said, it's tough to see Netflix doing "The Punisher" without such a tone, as it can't be denied that some Marvel characters do fit this style. If the MCU does manage to go R-rated at some point, "Moon Knight" is one movie we'd love to see, as it would focus on Marc Spector's split-personality disorder, his violent vigilantism and his supernatural conflict with Egyptian god, Khonshu. It's a dramatic yet, very resonating story waiting in the wings.
Others, apart from The Punisher, who fit such adult-themes would be characters such as The Hood and Bullseye. Instead of pushing them into the Netflix television pocket, why not give them a shot at cinema? It doesn't have to be gratuitous violence because these figures do have a lot of depth and backstory to them, so maybe the MCU could open up to taking such a risk. Once you understand the background and essence of these characters, it won't be considered gratuitous violence.
6 LESSER-KNOWN PROPERTIES
When Fox decided to make "Deadpool," it stunned fans, as he's wasn't very well known by casual movie goers. To some extent, the same applied for Warner. Bros and "Suicide Squad." However, their box office turnovers showed that obscure properties, or budding ones, have an audience. "Kick-Ass" and the "Kingsman" adaptations also proved this. The MCU should look at the less-popular properties as well, starting with the "Captain Britain and MI13" franchise. Paul Cornell's modern update of magical superheroes has action-packed potential and would appeal to the European market.
"Thunderbolts" is another film to look at, as this mercenary team has so many iterations that can appeal widely. The MCU could even dive into a Sokovian team rescuing Helmut Zemo after "Civil War" or just do one of the several other incarnations we saw in the books stemming from the Raft. Maybe General Ross could be the mastermind behind this, similar to what Amanda Waller does for DC Comics. Either way, smaller properties, like "Ant-Man" for example, can always be pleasant surprises.
5 VILLAINS GETTING SOLO FILMS
The MCU has a lot of villains that can hold a solo film. Sadly, they don't access to Doctor Doom and they've already botched the Red Skull, but Baron Mordo exploring mystical genocide after "Doctor Strange" is one that could be a hit. His journey is filled with philosophies against magical hypocrisy, so it's more than him simply turning on Doctor Strange. Kang the Conqueror is another time-traveling despot who could hold his own. He often clashes with the Avengers, but in traversing so many eras in time on his quest for power and control, we could see new dimensions to the MCU we never even fathomed.
We're not sure how Sony's "Venom" movie will be, but it's unlikely to be a cerebral film as the potential ones we mentioned above, which gives Marvel Studios the opening to break this ground. Mephisto and even the Sentry could be intriguing villains to explore, as the former would dive into the realm of horror fully, while the latter could dissect the Gods of Egypt (as Bendis wrote), as well as a schizophrenic meltdown which saw him used as the muscle in "Dark Reign" and "Siege."
4 STANDALONE NARRATIVES
Standalone movies work better sometimes, as we don't need everything to be interconnected. This allows for better character development, not just for heroes, but for villains as well. This was best seen in Netflix's debut season for "Daredevil" and, most recently, with "Logan." It also gives filmmakers the chance to tell their own story in a story that really feels unrestrained.
Connecting things naturally limits writers and when it comes to some comic book movies, we just want to stay immersed in the current story at hand and not think about the bigger picture linked to another franchise or a sequel. "The Winter Soldier" did this well and rather than tie in to some larger narrative during the movie, why not just wait until the post-credits? Give our heroes time to breathe and ease up on convoluting things. We want the likes of Ant-Man and Doctor Strange to feel free to do their thing and then, at the very end, entertain the Avengers setup.
3 MORE DIVERSITY
When the MCU starts looking to the new guard, diversity should be at the forefront of things. The "Champions" title is a great place to start, not just because it has a group of young superheroes saving the world, but because it brings to light heroes of color and the new generation. Kamala Khan, as the Muslim Captain Marvel (and an Inhuman), is a great person to introduce to expand horizons and breakdown borders.
Amadeus Cho as the all-new Hulk, America Chavez and Miles Morales as Spider-Man are all heroes that should be featured as well, to properly make way for the future. These stories connect with newer audiences at a time where the world is painted with a broader palette of color than it was even a decade ago. Marvel smartly positioned these characters to pave a way forward, while not replacing what existed before, so maybe the MCU could look at this formula and focus on mentors, as opposed to swapping characters out.
2 SHARING WITH OTHER STUDIOS
The MCU could do with some of the bigger faces we've loved from decades of reading Marvel Comics. There are so many crossover events such as "Avengers vs. X-Men" and "Secret Wars" that utilized everyone in true blockbuster fashion and we're hoping the same can be done for the movies, as per Sony and Spider-Man. If Fox and Marvel can work out a deal to share the X-Men and Fantastic Four, it would really benefit everyone.
Fox would get more characters to use, allowing them to stick to comic-lore and shape a better continuity, while the MCU would gain key assets to reinvigorate things and go bigger than before. Sony got access to Iron Man and it's clear they're working with Marvel to craft stories to benefit both studios, which could only strengthen Fox if they follow suit. This would start the all-new MCU with a bang because we would finally be able to see all the heroes crossing over that we yearned for so long. We didn't get this in "Civil War." but it's never too late as Marvel has so many stories to adapt to film.
1 MORE FEMALE SOLO FILMS
We're still waiting on that Black Widow solo film Joss Whedon said he wanted to work on. The stalemate resulted in Whedon now helming "Batgirl" for Warner Bros. instead, as MCU fans are left wondering why they need to wait until 2019 for "Captain Marvel." "Wonder Woman" will be out later this year, so that pegs the MCU even further behind. The Wasp will be joining the "Ant-Man" sequel, but that's also after "Infinity War" so it still doesn't feel as if the Marvel females are being treated right or in a timely fashion.
We're still hoping that Black Widow will make they solo big-screen debut, but apart from Carol Danvers, fans would love to other female heroes as well. For example, a movie with She-Hulk as a lawyer and gamma-powered superhero, or the new female Thor locking horns with Chris Hemsworth's character over who's worthy to wield Mjolnir. We want to see Marvel's leading women, not just at the forefront of books, but in films as well, because it's about time cinemas get the chance to show young women how fearless female superheroes can be and just how important they are in the grand scheme of things.
Thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments what you'd love to see when the MCU goes all-new!