Despite being officially announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Marvel has quietly been setting up its Thunderbolts movie for years. Interestingly, it was confirmed that the Thunderbolts movie will end the MCU Phase 5, with it set for release on July 26, 2024. Absolutely nothing else was revealed about the upcoming project, however, including plot details or cast. It was earlier confirmed that Black Widow scribe Eric Pearson is working on the script and Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank, Lodge 49) is set to direct.
In Marvel comics, the Thunderbolts are somewhat akin to DC’s Suicide Squad. When the Avengers were all killed, a new team named the Thunderbolts stepped in to take their place. However, unknown to the world, the Thunderbolts were really Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil in disguise. Zemo’s plan was to use their newfound public trust to gain access to top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. files and government agencies, then topple everything from within. But when his team discovered they actually liked being heroes, they turned on Zemo. Since then, there have been different iterations of Marvel’s Thunderbolts, with the team usually tasked with doing the dirty, black-ops jobs the Avengers can’t.
While the Thunderbolts news has seemingly come out of nowhere this summer, Marvel has been planting the seeds for the team in the MCU for a long time. In fact, the earliest rumors of a Thunderbolts project first started circulating a whopping seven years ago (via The Hashtag Show). Back then, the rumor was that Netflix was reportedly developing it as a TV show that would fit into the darker world of the Marvel Netflix universe. Even in the MCU, however, the Thunderbolts movie has been set up for a few years now.
When Marvel First Started Setting Up A Thunderbolts Movie
The earliest mention of a Thunderbolts movie in the MCU was back in 2018 when Ant-Man and the Wasp star Hannah John-Kamen mentioned she’d love for her character, Ghost, to appear in a Thunderbolts movie one day. Chatter continued to pick up in 2019 and through 2020, with it being rumored that a Thunderbolts movie was in development for MCU Phase 4, with Hulk nemesis The Leader allegedly set to be the main villain of the movie. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean Marvel wasn’t clearly assembling the pieces.
Baron Zemo being one of the rare villains left alive by the end of his debut movie, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, hinted that Marvel didn’t want to kill him off as they had future plans for him. The MCU has also long had other characters who have been in the Thunderbolts in the comics, such as the aforementioned Ghost, Tim Roth’s Abomination from The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, and especially the Winter Soldier. None of the MCU’s storylines directly indicated a Thunderbolts team was being assembled, but some of the pieces were there.
Things really picked up for a potential Thunderbolts project in MCU Phase 4, however, which kicked off in early 2021. With Phase 4, it’s been clear that the ground was being laid for Marvel’s antiheroic team to make its live-action debut. Marvel has long grappled with themes of government oversight and accountability vs. the autonomy of superheroes ever since Civil War. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made it clearer than ever that the idealized missions of the Avengers weren’t realistic in today’s world and that a more morally gray team like the Thunderbolts is needed. In that series, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, otherwise known as Val, made her first appearance and quickly began recruiting heroes with a darker past. Those included John Walker/U.S. Agent, and shortly thereafter, Yelena Belova. That same show set up Sharon Carter, now the Power Broker, as another potential player, and revealed that Zemo is still pulling strings even from prison. Who will appear in Thunderbolts has yet to be seen, but with Val and Zemo putting plans together in the background, it’s certain the team will be formidable.
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