While Marvel Studios has various teams in play like the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, the franchise hasn’t yet tackled the idea of a group featuring a roster of darker and more villainous characters before. This could come into play someday with the Thunderbolts, Marvel’s classic group of antagonists from the comics, and rumors have hinted that they may be in line for a starring role in Phase 4 or later.
The Thunderbolts, in the simplest of terms, is similar to DC’s Suicide Squad - a team of reformed villains brought together to do something for the greater good. Warner Bros. has already delivered two Suicide Squad movies from David Ayer and James Gunn, and fans have wondered when that concept would transfer over to Marvel’s side of the industry.
Well, as it turns out, the day for the Thunderbolts' arrival may be coming sooner rather than later.
Marvel's Own Villain Team-Up Film
Deadline's Justin Kroll reported that Marvel Studios has hired Jake Schreier as the director for an upcoming Thunderbolts movie set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Widow co-writer Eric Pearson is set to pen the villain-focused script.
Schreier's biggest work to date came as the director of the movie adaptation of Paper Towns with Suicide Squad's Cara Delevigne, although this would qualify as the first true blockbuster movie of his career to date.
Pearson is credited for work on nearly a dozen MCU projects, including as a writer for four Marvel Studios One-Shots and 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. He also was an executive story editor for the Agent Carter TV series that ran on ABC from 2015 to 2016.
Kroll revealed on Twitter that while there is no talent officially attached, Marvel sees this movie as their own version of DC's Suicide Squad. Characters like Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, Wyatt Russell's U.S. Agent, and Daniel Bruhl's Zemo could be in line for roles in the plot:
"The film is technically still in development so no talent have closed deals yet but Marvel sees this as their version of SUICIDE SQUAD and some characters you can probably expect on team include Yelena, Taskmaster, US Agent and Zemo among others"
While the search for a new Fantastic Four director has made recent headlines, even with discussions for that job only in the early stages, Marvel has flown under the radar with its work on Thunderbolts. Schreier's pitch to the studio in recent weeks reportedly "blew away" executives, which ultimately won him the job.
The new film is reportedly set to begin shooting in Summer 2023, and sources say Marvel is already in contact with some current MCU stars to make sure they're available to shoot in that window.
Thunderbolts Becoming a Reality in the MCU
Looking at some of Marvel Studios' recent plot choices in various movies, it seemed inevitable that the Thunderbolts would find their way into the story eventually.
It seemingly started when Julia Louis-Dreyfus first played Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as she teased something dark in the works with Wyatt Russell's eventual US Agent. She returned in the post-credits scene of Black Widow alongside Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, which eventually led to the reveal of Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin in Hawkeye.
There is no doubt that Marvel has sown the seeds for the Thunderbolts for most of the last few years. The big question now is who exactly will be on the team of villains and when it will come together.
The most challenging part will be figuring out how to fill the shoes of Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, played by the late William Hurt unless Marvel looks to recast the role (an unlikely decision). Val could certainly be in line to take a leadership position with a team like that in an "Amanda Waller from the Suicide Squad" kind of way, which then leaves the mystery of who will be on the roster.
No matter how that group comes together, Marvel is taking some bold steps by bringing this team together in what could potentially be one of the darkest movies the MCU has ever seen. And while Schreier has never directed anything similar to this kind of story, he should be well-equipped to add a new dynamic to the expanding Marvel Studios narrative.