So basically any time in the last five years that someone was like “hey, maybe Spider-Man will be in one of the Avengers sequels”, I’ve been pretty quick to shut them down with the hard fact that Sony owns Spidey and aren’t giving up the rights any time soon. But Kevin Fiege (head of Marvel studios) has said on record that he would be open to negotiating a deal, and Sony could definitely use the kickback from letting Spider-Man appear in a couple MCU movies. Now, there have been mutterings that Avengers 3 could actually be the Civil War. For those of you who don’t know, the Civil War storyline from the comics is when a superhuman registration act is implemented by the government, and the entire Marvel universe becomes divided on the issue of whether or not superhumans should be forced to reveal their identities, with Iron Man leading the pro registration side and Captain America leading the anti registration side. Seeing the two of them go up against each other is both the saddest and coolest thing ever. A Civil War movie would be awesome. But it has previously seemed like an unrealistic hope.
See, Spider-Man is the third most important character in that entire story arc. He starts out on Iron Man’s side, even going so far as to reveal his secret identity to show his support, but then eventually has a change of heart and pledges allegiance to Cap. What makes his role so pivotal is that both Iron Man and Cap have been great idols and mentors to him. It’s like a kid having to choose between his parents in a divorce. He may not seem on the surface like the most vital character, but without Spidey, the Civil War just isn’t the Civil War. So with Marvel’s need for Spidey rapidly increasing, Sony continuing to lose money, and the two studios being on pretty good terms with each other, it suddenly seems like a very legitimate possibility that Avengers 3 will be a Civil War movie, with Spider-Man in it. Which would be totally awesome. But if you’ll allow me to speculate one step further: There have been a number of rumours flying around about the ending of Age of Ultron (potential spoilers ahead).
The rumours are basically that almost every major character dies, or leaves the team, and the movie will end with Captain America assembling a new team of superheroes. Which could lead to a Captain America 3 in which he leads this new team, which in the comics he does under the title of “the Secret Avengers”, which is my official guess for the Cap 3 subtitle. Now, we’ve been expecting the Cap 3 subtitle reveal for a while now, and the Russo brothers, in addition to assuring us that the title would be a huge game changer, have also said that one of the reasons they’re hesitating to reveal the name is that they’re waiting for certain deals to come through. Could that mean certain deals with sony? Could Spider-Man be a member of the Secret Avengers in Captain America 3, setting him up to play a major role in Avengers 3: Civil War? If that’s true, could we even see him make an appearance as soon as Age of Ultron? Maybe in a post credit sequence, or cameo towards the end? Sony has pushed the Amazing Spider-Man 3 back to 2018, and apparently he’s not going to be very heavily featured in the Sinister Six movie, which means that both Andrew Garfield and the character are free to appear in the MCU without interfering with the solo Spidey movies. This may all be just speculation based on rumours, but it does all fit. And if it is true, all us comic fans are in for a real treat.
The only real flaw in the theory is that the Marvel movies have so clearly been building towards the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, but who says that has to involve the Avengers? With the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s obvious they want to build the cosmic side of the universe, and a great way to do that would be to have the Guardians go up against Thanos. We could see the whole infinity storyline play out in space while Avengers 3 gives us the civil war down in earth. We could even have major characters like Iron Man or the Hulk be involved in both events. All I’m saying is just because an Infinity Gauntlet is inevitable doesn’t mean that it will be Avengers 3. And Guardians was a success, but if Marvel really wants to create a cosmic branch of their universe that’s as strong and compelling as what’s going on down on Earth, they’re gonna need some heavy hitting bad guys and story lines, and Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet seem to fit perfectly. We can have the Guardians and more soon to be introduced cosmic characters up in space playing out the unfolding Thanos arc, and we can have The Avengers and Spider-Man building to a Civil War down on Earth. The only real missing piece is the Hulk.
The plain and simple fact is that Marvel missed their window on a sequel to the Incredible Hulk. The set up a lot of threads in that movie, and I’m sure a follow up would have been great, but it’s just been too long. The movie’s already six years old, and even if it were still fresh in our minds and they hadn’t fired all the actors, a story that small in scope is simply no longer where the universe and character are at right now. If they gave the Hulk another solo movie, it would have to be something major. Something like World War Hulk. World War Hulk, in the comics, directly follows another storyline, Planet Hulk. In Planet Hulk, the Illuminati (a secret organization composed of Marvel’s smartest minds) decides that Hulk is too dangerous to live on Earth, and stick him on a spaceship heading for a distant and uninhabited planet. The ship veers off course, however, and land him on a gladiator world where he’s forced to fight in tournaments against alien monsters for the amusement of other alien monsters. Eventually, he defeats all the alien monsters and becomes the new King of the planet, even taking a wife and having a son. World War Hulk then deals with him coming back to Earth with an alien army and waging war against basically everyone.
World War Hulk seems like a logical step for the character. But for World War Hulk, you need Planet Hulk, and for numerous reasons both Kevin Fiege and Mark Ruffalo have said that a Planet Hulk movie is impossible. (Mainly just because between Hulk and aliens the movie would be basically all CGI) But we now go back to another couple of rumours that have been circling the youtube internets for a while now; one, that Hulk will at some point towards the end of Age of Ultron find himself stuck in a ship heading for deep space, and two, that this will lead to him having a supporting role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Which is obviously exciting because everyone wants to see Hulk buddy around with Groot and the rest of the gang. But put yourself in Kevin Fiege’s shoes: you really want to make a World War Hulk movie, but you can’t make a Planet Hulk movie, and you’ve got a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel on deck that you’re really hoping will continue to help solidify them as part of the rest of your universe. What do you do? The incredibly obvious answer that’s been smacking me in the face ever since I hear these rumours is this: tell the story of Planet Hulk as a B-plot in Guardians 2.
So that’s all the pieces laid out: Age of Ultron will leave us with a disassembled Avengers and a space bound Hulk. Captain America 3 will see Cap form the Secret Avengers and introduce Spider-Man into the universe as somewhat of a protege to the Captain, while the rest of phase three will continue to set up new character such as Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and hopefully Black Panther and Ms. Marvel. Meanwhile, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will also serve as a Planet Hulk movie. Then Avengers 3 will take the original Avengers, Spider-Man, and all the new character and throw them into the Civil War, ending with the final showdown between Iron Man and Captain America. That will cap off phase three pretty nicely and probably see the departure of a lot of major characters. Going forward after that, we’ll see the cosmic universe continue to expand, and eventually lead to the Infinity Gauntlet, possibly in Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Then eventually, possibly in the form of Avengers 4, we’ll get World War Hulk. And that is my official prediction for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which is probably completely wrong. But on the slim chance it is right, I’ll get to say I told you so a lot in the next few years.