In 2018, interest in Hollywood adaptations of Marvel Comics has reached an absolute fever pitch. I should know because I am absolutely obsessed with the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, hitting theaters on April 27. To put this in context, this is the first movie that I have ever purchased advanced tickets for, way back in March when they went on sale. I know I’m not alone since the forthcoming blockbuster is outselling the last 7 MCU movies combined, including Black Panther. My virtual ticket counts down the days, hours, and minutes until that Thursday night, April 26 when I will arrive at the theater, grab my concessions, and settle down into my comfy, reclining seat for over 2-1/2 hours of Marvel Superhero action! I don’t know if it’s the culmination of ten years’ worth of story and development, but I don’t remember being THIS excited about the last two Avengers films. (Captain America: Civil War, maybe.)
Avengers: Infinity War (Disney Studios/Marvel Studios)
I also don’t even pretend to know what’s going on within the current pages of Marvel Comics, and it really isn’t important. The main storyline that is leading up to Avengers: Infinity War deals with supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his quest to acquire the six, all-powerful Infinity stones. This is largely adapted from the pages of the 1991 6-issue mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet, so yeah, I’m pretty much caught up with all of the backstories I need! With the recent worldwide success of Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster Black Panther, one needn’t wonder why these films are so successful. They are full of master storytelling, action, exciting visuals, and more character development than you can shake Dr. Donald Blake’s walking stick at! (Real comics fans will enjoy that one, everyone else just Google it!)
Avengers: Infinity War is set to feature 40 superheroes culled from the pages of Marvel Comics. Iconic characters such as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Dr. Strange, Black Panther, and many, many more. For all intents and purposes, it will be the biggest superhero film of all time. Whether or not the film’s grand scale is enough to best the groundbreaking Black Panther at the box office remains to be seen. The way I look at it, just chalk up another one for the team! For a film franchise that has featured 18 movies to date, and at least 7 more set to debut by 2021, it’s safe to say that comic book fans are seeing their dreams coming true before their very eyes.
Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox)
We also have to include into the equation the Marvel Comics film properties that are not controlled by Marvel Studios (a Disney subsidiary). Three weeks after Avengers: Infinity War is released, Fox will unleash Deadpool 2 upon the populace. This is a film that is guaranteed to be a success, following in the footsteps of 2016’s R-rated box office smash. Returning alongside Ryan Reynolds’ wisecracking antihero is a portion of the X-Men, particularly Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), each having figured prominently in the first film. However, what comics fans are really excited for is the introduction of Cable (Josh Brolin again), a bad-ass, time-traveling Mutant who has ties to the X-Men and X-Force, the latter team of which is being introduced in this film as well. In July, Marvel Studios returns to cinemas with Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man. Oddly, this film is set to take place BEFORE the events of Avengers: Infinity War, picking up the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) following the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
Two more Marvel properties will hit the screen by the end of the year, beginning in October with Sony’s Venom, starring Tom Hardy as the titular character’s alter-ego, journalist Eddie Brock. Many diehard fans of Spider-Man’s archenemy-turned-antihero balked at the teaser trailer’s complete disregard of the superhero himself, as Venom was nowhere to be seen. Industry experts attributed it to CGI not being finished yet. After all, absolutely no one wants a comic adaptation with sloppy CGI, just look at last year’s Justice League debacle from rival studio Warner Bros. and DC Comics concerning Henry Cavill’s digitally-removed mustache! (A development ridiculed to great effect in one of Deadpool 2’s trailers.) As for Venom, I’m sure when the movie officially arrives in cinemas, fans of the symbiotic antihero will be treated to a much better representation than was onscreen in Spider-Man 3 (courtesy of Director Sam Raimi and actor Topher Grace).
Venom (Sony Pictures)
It has also been confirmed that current Spider-Man portrayer Tom Holland was on the set of Venom for two days earlier this year. This most certainly suggests that the character of Spider-Man (or just Peter Parker) will make an appearance in the film. As Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige stated that Venom will not be a part of the MCU, it’ll be interesting to see how it will tie into Spider-Man’s story, shared between Sony and Marvel.Last, but certainly not least will be another Sony release, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This theatrically-released animated movie will debut in December and features the very popular character of Miles Morales, the first Afro-Latino web-slinger. We’ve only seen a teaser trailer for this film thus far, but the animation simply looks amazing. It’s also hinted by the trailer that we will, in fact, see an animated representation of Peter Parker onscreen as well.
Looking into 2019, Fox hits the cinemas first in February with the next chapter in the X-Men saga (no, I’m not actually counting Deadpool 2), X-Men: Dark Phoenix. This sequel to the critically-derided X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 has a lot of work to do to reinvigorate the franchise, especially since the last actual X-Men movie was a critical hit: 2017’s Logan. While I have some pretty high hopes for this film, which will see Sophie Turner recreate her role as Jean Grey from Apocalypse, I have to wonder what the real reason was for this film to get pushed back from its original November 2018 release date. One thing we do know for certain, this will be the first X-Men film without an appearance from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. The actor has made it very clear that Logan was his ninth and final appearance as the superhero.
Marvel Studios hits the board in March with Captain Marvel, the highly-anticipated origin film of one of Marvel’s strongest female Characters, a.k.a. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). This film will be set in the early 1990’s and undoubtedly lead up to the superhero’s inclusion in the untitled-as-of-yet, fourth Avengers movie, due out two months later in May. Speaking of…we now know next to nothing about this fourth installment in the Avengers film franchise, but will probably learn a great deal after April 27 and the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Also, if we go according to an interview with co-director Joe Russo given two years ago, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Captain Marvel will actually figure into Avengers: Infinity War, even if her inclusion is in the form of an end-credits scene.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (20th Century Fox)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix wasn’t the only Marvel/Fox property that was pushed back in the shakeup that followed the merger of Fox and Disney. There’s also The New Mutants, an X-Men horror hybrid that was originally supposed to come out in March 2018. Now, we’ll have to wait until August of 2019 to see how successful the merging of the superhero and horror genres will be. Rumor has it that nearly 50 percent of the film is being reshot to more resemble the horror tone of the trailer. Also on the Fox side of Marvel, we may finally get that oft-discussed X-Men spin-off Gambit starring Channing Tatum. The production has gone through a myriad of directors, having been attached to Rupert Wyatt and then Gore Verbinski, before reportedly being taken over by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow). This colorful, Cajun Mutant, a.k.a. Remy LeBeau, will most certainly be a hit in the State of Louisiana and the film is reportedly being shot here as well. Take that Georgia! You don’t have a monopoly on Hollywood South just yet! Well yeah, they do, but we can always dream of better days when we were hosting more films than Los Angeles.
I digress because sequels to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Black Panther are all expected to arrive by 2021. Other than that, the lineup for Phase 4 of the MCU doesn’t have a lot of information just yet. It’s safe to assume that more titles and release dates will become known as we get closer to the film that is now known as Avengers 4. Who knows? With the Disney/Fox merger expected to go through, we’ll probably see Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four (currently controlled by Fox), come home someday to the MCU where it belongs, if for no other reason than to wipe the taste of that 2015 film out of our collective mouths. This also hold true for characters like Deadpool and the X-Men. For Deadpool, there is no reason to fix what is not broken, but wouldn’t it just give you chills to see Hugh Jackman return one last time as Wolverine, but this time alongside the Avengers!? One can dream, right?
Worth mentioning on the Sony side, there was a lot of talk about Silver & Black, a 2019 film that is set to take place in a Spider-Man universe (of which Venom is the first installment) that the studio intends on creating for that character. Silver & Black refers to Silver Sable and Black Cat, two nemeses-turned-allies of everybody’s favorite web-slinger. Unfortunately, the film has been halted at post-production over reported script issues and has been delayed indefinitely. Guess this has a chance at becoming Sony’s personal Gambit, at the very least!
Regardless of the seldom shortfall, Marvel fans are most fortunate to have a chasm of material at the fingertips of the very people that are responsible for bringing these great characters and stories to the screen. If done right, this will lead to an endless supply of films, provided fans don’t get turned off from an oversaturation standpoint. I don’t envision that happening to me, but I’m also a film-only fan. Save for the first season of Netflix’s Jessica Jones and that God-awful Marvel’s Inhumans that aired on ABC last Fall, I have not viewed any of the other shows on any of the networks, including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m okay with that. Go big or go home, right? I will say, however, that previews of Jon Bernthal as The Punisher are rather persuasive. Whether I wind up watching it or not, it’s just another reason that Marvel is as popular as it is, and more power to them as long as fans are enjoying the product. And judging from the quality of most of their productions, that will be a long time indeed.