In February 2020, Marvel Studios proclaimed "the universe is expanding" ahead of their extension of original content on Disney+. The pandemic would put those plans on pause, but once 2021 rolled around, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would dominate social conversation for the full calendar year. Even during the theater drought, the success of shows like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier allowed for the MCU to remain at the top of Hollywood's hierarchy.
Marvel Studios will continue their streaming surge in 2022, as the franchise is set to debut shows for rookie characters like Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight and Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel. Before those originals hit the small screen, the Marvel branch of Disney+ is getting a significant boost of new content.
The House of Mouse announced that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, The Punisher, and Agents of SHIELD will migrate from Netflix to Disney+ on March 16. While it's unclear whether these seven shows will be under the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" or the "Marvel Legacy" tab, most of them will be under parental restrictions, an update revealed by Disney+'s official press release:
Updates to Parental Controls in the U.S.
When opening Disney+ for the first time on or after March 16, all subscribers in the U.S. will be prompted to update their Parental Controls. This includes the option to select content ratings restrictions for each profile as well as to add a PIN to lock profiles. Those that choose to keep their settings the same will continue to enjoy Disney+ as they always have within a TV-14 content rating environment, with the option to make changes at any time under Profile settings.
These restrictions will go into effect on March 16 and will prompt all U.S. subscribers to set parental controls for these TV-MA programs, including locking profiles behind a password.
With past projects prompting updated parental controls, future originals could follow suit.
Marvel's R-Rated Future
Mr. Feige, you've become part of a much more mature universe, you just don't know it yet.
Disney+'s integration of the TV-MA Marvel Netflix shows opens Pandora's Box in regards to future content possibilities. Regardless of whether they are classified as MCU canon or not, their very existence invites more similarly-toned original projects to enter the universe.
As of this moment, Marvel Studios does not have any TV-MA originals in development, but they do have one movie centered around a foul-mouthed mercenary on the way.
The Wade Wilson Variable
The lone (confirmed) survivor of the 20th Century Fox / Disney merger is Ryan Reynolds's Deadpool.
It's unclear whether Patrick Stewart's Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be the same version from previous X-Men films, but fans know for certain Wade Wilson is getting a direct sequel to Deadpool 2 under Marvel Studios. And yes, it will be Rated-R.
The status of Deadpool 3 remains vague, but Reynolds is promising a "batch of updates" coming "sooner rather than later." Whenever that threequel hits theaters, it will likely undergo a traditional Marvel Studios marketing campaign. That means trailers, TV spots, and a batch of Disney+ promotion with it, such as Deadpool-centered episodes of Marvel Legends and Marvel Studios: Assembled.
With that kind of marketing, it only makes sense that both Deadpool and Deadpool 2 would arrive on Disney+ around the time of Deadpool 3's first trailer, to ensure fans can catch up on the franchise before the threequel's theatrical debut.
While Deadpool 3 retaining its rating is simply a continuation of the established franchise's tone, the integration of Marvel Netflix indicates Marvel Studios is open to developing new titles that embrace the violence.
Marvel Netflix migrates on March 16, and two weeks later Disney+ embraces the chaos.
As one of Marvel Comics's most violent characters, many were somewhat surprised to see Moon Knight be given a TV-14 rating, or the television equivalent to a theatrical PG-13. Even though it isn't classified as TV-MA, Moon Knight's rating still gives the show the chance to deliver on the "brutal" action and "tonal shift" promises.
Pushing the limits of TV-14 could serve as a precursor to the MCU fully welcoming mature audiences. The MCU has never been about doing violence for violence's sake but considering their upcoming lineup, they have plenty of characters that warrant the darkness.
The spooky side of the MCU is reaching new heights thanks to Doctor Strange 2 and will dive even deeper with Mahershala Ali's Blade reboot. It has long been speculated that characters like Blade and Kit Harington's Dane Whitman would lead to an MCU adaptation of the Midnight Sons, a faction of Marvel's most supernatural characters.
If Marvel Studios wants to do something like Midnight Sons with the chains completely off, Disney+ now provides that outlet. Restricting darker projects like that or the upcoming Werewolf by Night behind parental controls allows MCU directors the creative freedom that previous talent didn't have.
The Appeal of R-Rated Marvel Content
That talent pertains to Marvel Studios' past, present, and future.
Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson notably departed Multiverse of Madness over "creative differences" between himself and the studio. Those contrasting visions were never elaborated on, but given Derrickson's horror background, it's likely that he wanted to take the character in a scarier direction that may have pushed Disney's family-friendly limits.
Derrickson dipped from Doctor Strange 2 over two years ago. The MCU he was a part of then is not the same MCU that exists now. With more tonal freedom, Derrickson could have his vision for a spookier MCU project realized.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has already seen unprecedented success with his R-Rated comic book projects. Both The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker were a critical success, with the latter breaking HBO Max streaming records.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is likely Gunn's last Marvel Studios project in the immediate future, but the temptation of directing a TV-MA MCU series could be enough to get him on the books once again.
As for the future, those possibilities are endless. Could acclaimed directors that typically do R-Rated projects, like Jordan Peele and Neil Blomkamp, enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe? What does a Tim Miller-directed MCU movie look like? After exiting Ant-Man, could this be what gets Marvel Studios to see eye-to-eye with an Edgar Wright vision?
Time will tell how willing Marvel Studios is to embrace the chaos of TV-MA, but for fans of mature content, this is a big step in the right direction.
Daredevil, The Punisher, and four other TV-MA Marvel Netflix shows arrive on Disney+ on March 16.