Marvel had a rough year in 2023. Many of its properties underperformed, and they lost their big villain due to Jonathan Majors being fired. Looking forward to their upcoming slate, comic fans have been excited about some of the studio’s projects over the next few years. Will these films help Marvel regain control? The upcoming Thunderbolts film has been one that fanboys have been hoping to see since the MCU started. With some recent news about the property coming up, it seems like the right time to break down what we know about the production.
Who Are The Thunderbolts?
The team first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1997 in an issue of The Incredible Hulk. They seemed to be a new group of superheroes that had arrived on the scene and gained acclaim very quickly. The reader was informed that the group was actually a group of supervillains led by Baron Zemo. They were posing as new heroes to gain the trust of other hero teams and S.H.I.E.L.D. to gain access to all their secrets. This would allow them to sell them to the highest bidder. Eventually, some team members felt they should try to become heroes, and the group would fall apart.
Other versions of the team would appear throughout the years, but the version that the MCU seems to be leaning toward was a government-funded strike team. It would be filled with reformed supervillains looking to reduce their imprisonment sentence or redeem themselves for their past crimes. This is comparable to DC’s Suicide Squad. In the past, it has been led by characters such as Norman Osborne, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.
MCU Team Members
For the MCU version of the team, we have seen Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, appearing in multiple projects to recruit team members. She first appeared in Falcon And The Winter Soldier to ask disgraced Captain America replacement John Walker to join her team.
We would then see her show up in a post-credits scene in Black Widow to put Yelena Belova on Hawkeye’s trail, saying he was responsible for her sister’s death. Then, in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she is revealed as the new head of the CIA. This puts her in the perfect position to run the team in the future. Thaddeus Ross, previously played by William Hurt, is supposed to be in the new film. With Harrison Ford taking over the character, speculation is we could finally see him turn into the Red Hulk who has been part of the team in the comics.
So, who will we see on the team? As mentioned, John Walker and Yelena Belova have already been recruited to the team. Some other familiar faces will be joining them. Red Guardian and Task Master from the Black Widow film will be showing up alongside Yelena. I’m sure she has some issues with her fake father that she would like to work out.
Then, Ghost from Ant-Man And The Wasp will be joining the group. With her phasing abilities, it should add some fun to the team. In a team leader role, we may see Bucky Barnes, The Winter Soldier. The team dynamics should be interesting. The talk is that the Thunderbolts will be brought together to take on the powerful character The Sentry.
Who Is The Sentry?
Back in 2000, then publisher for Marvel Joe Quesada announced that they had discovered a long-lost Marvel character that the company had completely forgotten about. He pre-dated Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee was interviewed and said he remembered the character being created by a couple of writers, but they never did anything with the character.
Marvel said they were bringing him back into their current continuity and pushed him almost as Marvel’s version of Superman. He could fly, had super strength, and had a giant S on his belt. When his first miniseries concluded, fans discovered the whole thing had been a lie. Part of the character’s story was that this hero had disappeared, and no one in Marvel continuity remembered him. This whole thing had been a marketing ploy to introduce this new character.
On the surface, he seemed like a wholesome character like Superman, but it was revealed he was mentally unstable and threatened to destroy the entire Marvel Universe. The story was well received, and the character was believed to have a short shelf life. However, he was brought back for numerous Avengers storylines and became a compelling character in Marvel comics.
In the upcoming film, Steven Yeun was cast as the character. He had been very vocal about how excited he was to play the character and has been a fan of the MCU since it started. When the strikes happened over the summer of 2023, it was revealed that film production would have to be pushed back until they were over. Once those ended, it was put back on the schedule, which now caused issues with Yeun’s schedule. He had to drop out but hopes to return as another character at some point in the MCU. The role has not been officially recast, with Lewis Pullman being linked with the part. The Bear breakout star Ayo Edebiri also had to leave her role due to scheduling conflicts, with the reshoots. Geraldine Viswanathan of Drive Away Dolls will now be taking her place in the unidentified role.
When Can We See It?
Well, we will be waiting a while before we get to see the team in action. Principle photography hasn’t started yet. Cameras are set to roll this spring. With some characters showing up in the film Captain America: Brave New World, it looks like there will be some setup in that film. Harrison Ford and Sebastian Stan are both in it. Hopefully, it will lay the groundwork for how they end up in Thunderbolts.
The official release date has been set for July 25, 2025. Marvel only has one film set for release in 2024 with Deadpool 3. After that film is released, expect to learn more about this film. Until then, we’ll have to see what the MCU has to offer in its Disney+ series. Four shows are set to be released before the end of the year. The WandaVision spinoff Agatha: Darkhold Diaries, Eyes Of Wakanda, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and Marvel Zombies are all scheduled to hit the streaming service before year’s end.
Will this hold fans over? The break on the films may help Marvel refigure its film strategy after the lackluster response of 2023. Most of the series won’t factor much into the current direction of the MCU. Fans should be able to skip over anything they don’t find interesting. The question will be if they will be back in 2025 to continue on the theatrical side of things. Fans have wanted a Thunderbolts film for a long time. Hopefully, they haven’t jumped ship just as they are getting what they hoped for.
Are you excited for Thunderbolts? What do you think of the direction of the MCU? Let us know in the comments.