While Marvel Studios doesn't have an Avengers movie set to arrive in Phase 5 of the MCU, that doesn't mean there's no team-up effort whatsoever. The prime example of this can be found in 2024's Thunderbolts, featuring a team of past MCU villains with a couple of key heroes all thrown into one group and set to cause some mayhem in a post-Avengers: Endgame story.
The big question with this movie is whether the core team is looked at as heroes or villains, with characters like Ghost and the U.S. Agent coming in with questionable and dark moments in their past. Top that off with the group being led by a shady figure in Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina Allegra di Fontaine, and there are real concerns about how the Thunderbolts will be presented to the MCU's general public.
Well, thanks to the first official public showing for Thunderbolts, the main man behind the MCU teased that very question being a focal point of this new movie.
Thunderbolts - Superheroes or Supervillains?
During Marvel Studios Hall H Presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige shared a few teases for 2024's Thunderbolts.
While the Avengers aren't around the way they used to be in Phase 5, Feige noted how the Thunderbolts take over that team-up duty, even though they're "not...as lofty" as Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Coming in as a "ragtag bunch" of characters, this team will come together for the first time to close the Multiverse Saga's middle Phase:
“You know, one thing in the Captain America film is that there currently is a world without the Avengers. Sam Wilson finds himself as Cap at a time where there’s not an organization of Avengers. But just because there’s not an organization of the Avengers doesn’t mean there’s not a group of superheroes in the MCU. Not a group, perhaps, as lofty as The Avengers but there’s a group and they’re called the Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts are finally coming through the screen and they are a ragtag bunch.”
He even joked around that this is a team where Sebastian Stan's Winter Solider is "the most stable" member of the team - a feat in and of itself:
“I think it lets you tell us all you need to know about the Thunderbolts when when beloved Winter Soldier is the most stable among them.”
Following the presentation, Stan joined co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus for an interview, looking back on Feige's quotes about Thunderbolts.
Louis-Dreyfus backed Feige's "ragtag" comment, while Stan teased that the movie will answer the question about whether it's a group of heroes or villains. The Winter Soldier actor noted that this is what will make the story compelling with the question of whether its characters are good or bad:
Louis-Dreyfus: “Well, Kevin described us as ‘ragtag,’ so we’ll go with that.”
Stan: "Well, again, maybe that’s what the movie’s gonna answer, right? It’s always interesting when you as an audience member have to maybe decide whether we are villains or heroes. But I think it’ll be interesting, I think that’s what’s compelling, I guess, about the movie, is sort of that it’s very unconventional like that. It sort of starts out a little bit like ‘who’s really the protagonist or antagonist,’ I guess."
How Will Thunderbolts Join the MCU?
DC first brought the idea of a team of bad guys to light with the company's two Suicide Squad movies, comprised of iconic DC villains like Harley Quinn, Peacemaker, Deadshot, and more. While that movie made it unquestionably clear that this was a team of bad guys, Thunderbolts will bring some more mystery to that question in the MCU.
As Feige mentioned, Bucky Barnes is unquestionably the most stable member of the group, and this is a man who literally suffered decades of mental torture and mind control under Hydra as the Winter Soldier. Even having seemingly moved past that nightmare, he still has demons he's worked to fight through, which was highlighted as he returned alongside Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The team also includes another victim of mind control in Taskmaster while Hannah-John Kamen's Ghost was largely out for revenge and closure after Hank Pym's work accidentally got her parents killed. And with two key pieces of the Black Widow legacy in tow with the Red Guardian and Yelena Belova, there will certainly be plenty of red gushing from this team's ledger.
But considering how only two of these characters have been pure villains before in the MCU, this team's dynamic will be something to follow as many of them meet and interact for the first time. Fans will watch for how they are introduced to the world as well, especially with a shady figure like Val backing them, as they find out what new mission they'll have to tackle.
Thunderbolts will release in theaters on July 26, 2024.