Audiences first poking their noses into Captain America: The First Avenger probably had a limited idea about the full scope of Marvel’s plans. After nearly 10 years and over a dozen movies, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is just hitting its stride. Launching with Hulk and Iron Man way back in 2008, Marvel rapidly expanded beyond comic book and popcorn movie fans’ wildest dreams, as legendary heroes and massive, overarching storylines spilled over from theaters into the cultural milieu.
You Know What They Say, 3rd Phase is the Charm
Phase 3 officially kicked off with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 rounding out the early leg. The sequel to Marvel’s startlingly popular answer to Star Wars won’t merely be another foray into space – it may also be a gateway drug to a vast, cosmic future for their shared universe.
Of course, establishing a (relatively) grounded presence at first was vital to Disney. Transforming superheroes from a nebbish pastime into a billion dollar blockbuster industry already took quite a bit of effort. Despite comic book movie role reversal, dropping spandex into space might have turned off all but the most dedicated fans of comics and science fiction, at least right away. That’s why a toe-in-the-water like Guardians of the Galaxy was so important.
Now that the comic book world has been so completely transposed onto the screen, the Mouse House is finally ready to expand their turfs from terrestrial fantasy into the realm of horror (Doctor Strange) and intergalactic exploits. Of course, this doesn’t mean Marvel is moving away from their earthier endeavors, especially with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther on their way, but many of Marvel’s remaining Phase 3 flicks are trekking through the stars.
Supposedly, Thor and Hulk will barely even set foot on Gaia in Thor: Ragnarok, unless the publisher’s alternately spelled personification drops by. The upcoming superhero super-collider of Avengers: Infinity War also includes one of the greatest threats in Marvel Comics: Thanos, the Mad Titan. His “Infinity Gauntlet” comic book tale is told across the expanses of the galaxy, and his defeat comes at the hands of Adam Warlock, one of Marvel’s most out-of-this-world heroes.
Space also brings an end to the agonizing wait for a female starring role in the MCU. It’s all but guaranteed that Captain Marvel will show up in Infinity War. Colonel Carol Danvers, who gained her powers after an alien device blew up in her face, spends much of her time gallivanting around the stars and defending Earth from pesky ETs. Not only will the House of Ideas finally have a powerful (if very white) female hero on their roster, but her solo film will probably dig (albeit briefly) into her origin story and may deal with her cosmic associates.
Plus, assuming Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige isn’t pulling our space suit legs, Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity Wars will flip a space switch on the MCU, meaning Phase 4 will continue fleshing out the intergalactic side of its superheroes. And it’s all the Guardians’ fault.
If You Build It…
GOTG introduced some of the basic building blocks for Marvel’s cosmological segment, including a galactic Elder, The Collector (and the relative fleshing out of main baddie Thanos), the space police force of the Nova Corps, and popular Marvel aliens the Kree, space pirates the Ravagers, in addition to fun Easter eggs like Howard the Duck and Cosmo the Dog.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also promises to impact the space race even further (perhaps fueled by or fuelling the X-Men’s next out-of-this-world adventures in X-Men Supernova). Not only will the second entry introduce more of offbeat characters like Mantis and Peter Quill’s movie father, Ego the Living Planet. More importantly, the sequel will introduce Ayesha, leader of the golden-skinned “perfect people” The Sovereign. Presuming Marvel sticks to the script, source-wise, Ayesha is also the counterbalance to aforementioned cosmic hero/troublemaker Adam Warlock.
Now, it all comes full circle. Very clever, Marvel.
Even though Mr. Warlock hasn’t made audiences’ acquaintance thus far, a suspicious cocoon did appear in The Collector’s vault, urging super-fans to dream big. If Guardians 2 establishes an entire race of his people, it could be a very key link between the infinite universe and Earth-based superheroes, since the threat of Thanos will bring the space misfits to the planet, perhaps with Adam in tow.
Space is the Place
There’s also another possible set-up at work: Despite claims to the contrary, Marvel Studios might still be angling for a deal with Fox to secure the rights to the near-disastrous Fantastic Four franchise and their associated characters. Perhaps if they sweeten the cooperation pot with some quality TV and a long-term assurance that the lucrative X-Men aren’t going anywhere, Disney could pull classic celestial heroes and villains like the Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Galactus, and Doctor Doom to their comic book stables.
Why is space the place for the MCU? Because it offers infinite possibilities. The first three phases were confined, for the most part, to our solar system. Now that classic heroes like Black Widow and Iron Man and Captain America have been established, the House of Ideas can galavant into the stars, explore strange new worlds, so to speak, and introduce classic interstellar heroes like Nova and Quasar. Maybe even Howard the Duck can redeem himself cinematically.
Marvel’s remaining third and fourth phases promise to fly old school fans and cinema-goers into skies twinkling with infinite possibilities. As long as the studio keeps their characters relatively relatable, their worlds fantastic, and ups their villainous game (since their adversaries are their weakest sauce at the moment), the future of interstellar comic book movies looks very starry-eyed indeed.