This Is Marvel’s Phase 3 Line Up [UPDATED]

“For the reason above I can’t see a Cap 3 in Phase 3 unless Cap 2 is a huge global smash. He’ll be back in Avengers 3.”

That’s what I wrote back in August. Well it turns out Cap 2 is indeed a huge global smash!

When I first write this feature I was really thinking that Cap 2 would likely be the last Captain America film due to the solid but moderate box office of the first film and various other factors outlined below.

Well guess what, Marvel has now announced as has been rumoured for the pats few weeks that not only is Captain America 3 in development, it is now set to release on May 6 2016!

In this case I’m happy to be proved wrong because Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a phenomenal film and I’m very pleased about its success thus far. The Russo Bros really knocked it out of the park and managed to meld great action with an intriguing plot, great character moments realised by a superb cast bringing its A-game and ended with a major shake up of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a very brave move by Marvel.

We can only speculate at this moment what the film will be about but surely Crossbones, Falcon, the Winter Solider and those rotters at Hydra will feature heavily.

As for that release date? For those keeping track that was the date Marvel bookmarked with “Untitled Marvel Studios film” last year and the same date which Warners Bros later moved their delayed Batman vs. Superman movie.

This is a very bold move by Marvel and shows how confident they are in their MCU. These characters may have once been perceived as B-list, but now Marvel Studios has made each and every one of them major box office draws. On paper it would seem like an unfair fight: the two most recognisable superheroes vs. a less known character.

But remember Thor 2 a supposedly minor character compared to Superman made just $24m less worldwide than Man of Steel and with a much lower production and marketing budget! Which in effect indicates it was more profitable than MOS. And now Cap 2 is looking at a total gross that could even exceed Man Of Steel.

Combined with a post Avengers 2 bump, Captain America 3 should be a very worthy competitor to Batman vs. Superman. At this point Marvel although playing risky game can afford to take the hit but Warner Bros. are out of their minds if they release on the same date. They have everything it loose, whereas Marvel knows if Cap 3 does (however unlikely) underperform they still have plenty of other big budget, much-anticipated superhero movies waiting in the wings.

DC just can’t afford to take the risk. If BVS underperforms in any way it will put a massive dampener on their plans for a cohesive and connected DC movie universe. They have traditionally had much success in mid July so why not move to their home date and let Marvel keep their long-established May date?

I expect one of the films will eventually move despite execs from both companies claiming they are sticking to their guns. Whatever happens we are gearing up to a very exciting 2016 move season for comic book fans!

This is now what Phase 3 looks like and what I think will make up the rest of the phase and in what order:

o Ant-Man (July 2015) OFFICIAL

o Captain America 3 (May 2016) OFFICIAL

o Dr Strange (2016)

o Thor 3 (2017)

o Black Panther (2017)

o Avengers 3 (2018)

o Inhumans / Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (2018)

I will update the list as we find out officially from Marvel what the next Phase 3 films are. I can imagine a good number of these will be revealed at Comic Con 2014 with hopefully some juicy plot details too.

You can read my original theory below. For what its worth I think the others will still hold true!


An In-Depth Logical Look At Marvel’s Phase 3

Marvel Phase 3

At this Summers’s Comic Con 2013 event in San Diego, Marvel once again stole the show with a knockout panel that kicked of with Tom Hiddleston in character as Loki introducing footage from Thor 2 (incidentally I think he may be the most popular Marvelite after Robert Downey Jr), an exciting Captain America 2 panel, an even better Guardians of the Galaxy panel and then finally  Joss Whedon causally sauntering out to reveal that Avengers 2 will be titled The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

And of course last month we get our first look at Marvel’s plans for TV domination with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.

But what we didn’t get and what a lot of people were hoping for were  details of what films would make up Marvel’s Phase 3!

Quick recap. Phase 1 was all about the road to The Avengers and comprised:

Marvel Phase 1

  • Iron Man (2008) Distributed by Paramount
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008) Distributed by Paramount
  • Iron Man 2 (2010) Distributed by Paramount
  • Thor (2011) Distributed by Paramount
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Distributed by Paramount
  • The Avengers (2012) Distributed by Disney under the Paramount banner

The success of the films (Incredible Hulk wasn’t a smash but still did ok) and especially with the gobsmacking success of The Avengers meant Marvel now under the Disney could push ahead with their master plans for Phase 2 and beyond.

The Phase 2 line up was revealed at Comic Con 2012:

Marvel Phase 2

  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
  • The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

But what comes next?

Edgar Wright’s long in development Ant-Man (and I mean long – it was first announced in 2006) will finally come out Summer 2015 and kicks off Phase 3 right after Avengers 2. This got me thinking about what the other movies could be and after a lot of ruminating I’ve narrowed it down to the following:

This is Marvel’s Phase 3

  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Dr Strange (2016)
  • Thor 3 (2016)
  • Black Panther (2017)
  • Inhumans / Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (2017)
  • Avengers 3 (2018)

And here’s the reasoning.

Phase 1 had 6 movies in total, Phase 2 has 5.

As Marvel is an increasingly important part of the puzzle for Disney, we can assume the bare minimum for Phase 3 will be 6 movies.

Recent failures from other Disney production partners (John Carter in 2012, and this year’s Lone Ranger which led to the separating of ways to an extent of long time hitmaker Jerry Bruckheimer) have highlighted just how successful Marvel has been under Kevin Feige.

So we can assume that’s six films to come.

Let’s get the easy ones out-of-the-way.

Ant-Man & Avengers 3

We know Edgar Wright is kicking things off with Ant-Man and we know Avengers 3 is also on the way as confirmed by Robert Downey Jr’s recent contract renewal. As is tradition, Avengers will cap off the phase and in my opinion will be a Thanos-centric film. And I’m pretty sure Thanos will be played by Vin Diesel… you don’t get a star of that level just to do mo-cap for a tree – even if he has been practicing!:

He’s mentioned a merging of brands – I believe this to mean GOTG and the Avengers vs. Thanos. I think Groot is subterfuge for him playing the big bad in Guardians Of The Galaxy and beyond.

Thor 3

Next up is Thor 3. Note how in comparison to Cap 2, Thor: The Dark World (see the trailer) feels a little restrained.

Captain America: The Winter Solider looks like its going all out. A huge villain, the man-out-of-time plot and loads of SHIELD characters including Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L Jackson. If anything Cap 2 looks like the closest thing we’ll get to Avengers 2 before Avengers 2 comes out!

Watch The Captain America: The Winter Solider Trailer Now

And the reason is because I think this’ll be the last Captain America film we’ll see for a while. The first film was a solid hit but still made about $100m less than Thor worldwide. Captain America is a great character but I guess he’s just not as popular internationally, especially in countries where there is an anti-USA sentiment.

Also factor in Chris Evans’ 6 film contract. We’ve already seen him twice and with Cap 2 and Avengers 2 that makes it four. If he pops up in other things (lets say for example a “One Shot” short film) then that only leaves one slot left on his contract. And Marvel will want to save that for Avengers 3.

Chris Evans is great in the role but he doesn’t seem to love it and inspire love in the same way as some of this fellow Avengers cast. I remember when reading interviews for Cap 1, he kept mentioning how he turned down the offer so many times before Marvel convinced him. It doesn’t sounds like Chris Evans is that enamoured with Captain America and I don’t think Marvel is that enamoured with Chris Evans. So when his contract is up, Marvel might not necessarily be in a great rush to re-sign him. That means Cap 2 will likely be the only Cap sequel for a while (and also why Cap 2 looks like a huge balls-to-the-wall-leave-everything-on-the-table move!)


captain america 2 nick-fury

So back to Thor. The Dark World looks good yes, but there are still so many major characters and plots we haven’t seen yet including Balder the Brave, Beta Ray Bill, Executioner, Enchantress etc. It feels like Marvel is saving the big guns for Thor 3!

And Marvel knows Chris Hemsworth is, thanks to them, a big star. Since Thor he’s headlined a number of films and has worked with the likes of Ron Howard, Michael Mann and one day perhaps, Steven Spielberg on Robopocalypse. And this is largely thanks to the role of Thor. Marvel will want a return on their investment – they made him a star – so they’ll want to keep using him! Thor 2 feels like an expansion of the world and perhaps a lead-in to something even bigger. That’s why Thor 3 is a dead cert (assuming Thor 2 is a hit of course).

Dr Strange

Kevin Feige has all but confirmed Dr Strange is on the way – he’s a big fan and has talked up his desire to expand in to the magic / fantastical realm of the Marvel universe for a while – much in the same way as Thor and Guardians opened up the cosmic elements. So that’s another slot taken and I’m betting summer 2016.

Dr Strange is a new property so Disney will most likely want to partner it with an established franchise in the same year hence Thor 3 also releasing in 2016.

Black Panther

Black Panther is also a likely pick. In 2011 Marvel hired documentary maker Mark Bailey to develop the character and Black Panther is a key component of the Avengers as is Wakanda, the fictional African state that boasts huge reserves of Vibranium (the material used in Captain America’s shield). It also means a more diverse slate of characters which will benefit Marvel at the global box office. On that note surely the first female-led Marvel movie has to be part of Phase 4?

Inhumans / Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy is going to be a huge hit. There I said it.

A combination of the team based fun of the Avengers, the appeal of the new with the familiarity of the Marvel brand, the space setting, the visually arresting characters, James Gunn’s skewed comedic sensibility, one of the most original and fascinating casts in recent memory, Marvel’s pure force of will and of course a TALKING RACOON will all conspire to make GOTG a smash! I’m sure of it!

We haven’t really seen a big space set film from Marvel and the merchandising potential alone will be enough for Disney and Marvel to work overtime and make sure by summer 2014 we all know who Groot, Rocket Racoon, Star Lord etc are. They might deflect the comparisons but this is angling to be Marvel’s own Star Wars. And that is money.

What will work against it? Well a few of the reasons listed above! The source material is little-known and it might just be too out-there for some. And that August release date doesn’t help – it’s usually reserved for the last dregs of summer – though it does mean it’s kept well away from the bigger films that season. This is a gamble for Marvel, but if it pays off, it will pay off big.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Now assuming GOTG is a hit, Marvel will of course want to leverage this new success and set up a sequel straight away. With only a limited number of slots available GOTG 2 should be a lock for 2017. And again that will mean an established franchise partnered with a new on in 2017.

And if GOTG isn’t a hit? Then that’s when Inhumans comes in to play. It gives Marvel another chance to have a team based franchise that mixes up the cosmic sci-fi side of things. It must hurt not having the rights to the A-list X-Men but Marvel has plenty of other teams in the rafters and Inhumans is ripe with cinematic flair. Now what if GOTG is a hit? Do they do Inhumans as well? There are similarities between the two and it could be confusing to the mainstream audience to have two esoteric space-based teams.

It’s in development to some extent – the fact Feige has talked about it means they have some plans for it. But if GOTG is a smash, my money is on an Inhmans debut in Phase 4.

So that’s my reasoning for Phase 3. If that’s not enough Stan Lee himself has hinted that Dr Strange, Black Panther and Inhumans are next up.

Marvel Universe

Here are the other possibilities and why I’m ruling them out… for now:


Ironically this was in development a few years ago and was written by British writer Drew Pearce who went on to co-write Iron Man 3 to huge success. And it’s also ironic as it was originally planned to come out in 2012 – the same year as Joss Whedon’s Avengers. Joss Whedon who of course had a lengthy run on the Runaways comics!

It feels like Runaways has been side-lined for the time being in favour of the bigger Avengers characters. I think Runways would be a better fit for TV and now that Marvel is making forays into TV it makes more sense to go that route. I’m sure previously attached director Peter Sollett has his fingers crossed!

Captain America 3

For the reason above I can’t see a Cap 3 in Phase 3 unless Cap 2 is a huge global smash. He’ll be back in Avengers 3.

Iron Man 4

This is a tough one. RDJ recently re-signed with Marvel but they only mentioned appearances in Avengers 2 & 3. But Iron Man 3 made $1.2bn. Good enough to be the 5th highest grossing film of all time. So here’s the quandary. Does Marvel make another Iron Man film even though they really wrapped up the characters arc in Iron Man 3? And even though it means shelling out for another bumper pay-day for RDJ? Would RDJ even want to come back and if not would Marvel dare re-cast so soon? We’ve seen Marvel recast other roles but RDJ is hugely popular and practically the face of Marvel Studios so I don’t think they’d risk recasting so soon. I wouldn’t rule out an Iron Man 4 with Robert Downey Jr but I think it will be strictly post Phase 3.

Luke Cage / Heroes For Hire

I would love to see this happen (and I have a great pitch if Marvel is reading!). Last I heard the writer of xXx 2 was working on it (seriously that guy?) and a little street level action would be much appreciated. Many think this would work as a TV show or incorporated into Agents of SHIELD and yes they could but I still think Luke Cage and Iron First could easily hold their own cinematically – it just needs the right angle. Phase 3 is already pretty crowded and Marvel has other priorities at the moment but Phase 4? Hell yeah.


We were this close to getting a new Daredevil film. This close! But at the last-minute Fox couldn’t get everything lined up and despite a very evocative concept video by director Joe Carnahan (see below) the production was scrapped. But Fox’s loss is Marvel’s gain as the rights to the Man Without Fear reverted back home.

The problem with Daredevil is that like Luke Cage it’s a very street level world. A great world, but one that Marvel isn’t focusing on at the moment. It is also arguably tonally grittier and harder than what Marvel is doing right now. I don’t know how well the dark tales of Daredevil would sit alongside the bright family-friendly Avengers movies.

Plus the bad taste of Mark Steven Johnson 2003 Daredevil is still fresh in people’s minds. No, I think a better route for Daredevil would be TV (Again I have a great pitch – seriously Marvel what are you waiting for!?). It would allow for long-form story telling which would benefit a more understated street-level character and allow the character to be part of the MCU but removed enough to offer darker content. Cable isn’t even necessary based on what network shows like Hannibal are doing. You just need the right team on board and again the right angle.


Also now back at Marvel. Last we heard it was in development for TV on FOX. Based on the tepid box office of the recent movies that’s a better fit. The MCU so far is strictly a PG-13 family friendly affair. So don’t expect Frank Castle to show up blasting bad guys in the head anytime soon.  But even on network primetime TV you can get away with quite a lot. I would suggest using him as a recurring character in existing shows.

Like The Hulk in the Avengers use him sparingly – I think that would work well and help get audiences interested again for the character’s eventual return to the big screen.


Reportedly still with Universal. I don’t see how seeing as it was never greenlit or seemed to be in active development? But Feige says it’s not at Marvel so despite the slight tease in Iron Man 2, Namor is not happening yet.

Hulk 2 / Planet Hulk

Rumours rumours and more rumours. So we all though this was gonna happen when it was rumoured in early 2013. I like the idea. Planet Hulk is a cool story and has already had a decent animated adaptation.

Gladiator + Spartacus x Marvel? Yes please!

But let’s take a closer look. Whedon and Feige flat-out denied the rumour started by Latino Review and following the success of Hulk in Avengers and more specially the love for Mark Ruffalo I can’t see Marvel Studios launching a Hulk film where Banner is totally absent. Sure they could shoehorn in Ruffalo / Banner but then that would defeat the purpose of a Planet Hulk Film! And remember this would also be a practically non stop CG film so would be pretty expensive to do right.

No this is something best saved for another day. If this does happen (and it could one day) it seems more timely after Ruffalo’s on-screen contract is winding down and when interest in the Hulk starts to wane. Because after epic inter-planetary shenanigans it’s very hard to then go back to the current regular guy on the run vibe!


After Iron Man 2 there was a lot of buzz around a SHIELD movie – maybe an origin story for Nick Fury. And after Avengers maybe an origin story for Hawkeye and Black Widow. It seems redundant though now that Agents Of SHIELD is airing.

Everything they would want to do could conceivably be done in Agents of SHIELD and with more room for a complex long-form level of story letting. People are getting their SHIELD fix on TV so if there is a SHIELD movie it won’t be in Phase 3, that’s for sure.


So that’s my two cents.

We’ll find out soon whether any of this is right – most likely Comic-Con 2014 but I have a feeling that the line up of Ant-Man, Dr Strange, Thor 3, Black Panther, Inhumans / Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 & Avengers 3 is what we’re gonna see.

And I for one am looking forward to it!

What do you think? Am I crazy or am I onto something?

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5 responses to “This Is Marvel’s Phase 3 Line Up [UPDATED]

    • Thanks for your feedback! I hope so too. I think Phase 3 could be the best one yet. There are still so many untold stories and unexplored characters in that universe

  1. DC Comics is screwed…With Marvel coming up and they releasing dozens of heroes,DC is gonna fade…Their only hopes were Chris Nolan,and he did his job pretty well…End of story,and now they should find more heroes and stories….

    • Hi Rithwik, I really wonder how and if DC can compete.

      They seem so far behind. I love the Nolan movies but they feel very separate to the rest of the DC Universe and the reaction to Man Of Steel was mixed and the web buzz of the sequel is not great.

      Also the Captain America 2 early reactions are that it is amazing so it looks like Marvel’s hot streak thanks to Feige will run and run!

      What films do you think will make up Phase 3?

      • Phase 3? Lemme guess….A fresh Reboot for Hulk,Hawkeye-Black widow film,Ant-Man,GOtG 2 maybe,Avengers-GOtG crossover….

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