avengers age of ultron concept art

Only time will tell whether these educated guesses about upcoming movies are right or wrong.

One of the reasons I’m (mostly) ambivalent about “spoiler culture” is that, professionally and for fun, I follow the production of movies so closely that I often end up hearing details about various films so early in development that it hasn’t even been decided that certain elements are spoilers. Imagine if every movie was based on a book, and you were one of those people who reads every book — it’s sort of like that.

You don’t generally hear huge scoops in passing — i.e. some development exec casually barking into his phone “…and at the end, it turns out he’s been a ghost the whole time!” — but if you follow the “right” sources on social media, know “certain” people personally and keep an ear tuned to the chatter of the industry you start to see things take shape. Basically, you’re guesses get better.

With that in mind (and without much else newsworthy to report on as of this earlier-than-usual-because-Bob-is-traveling-to-ConBravo writing) here are 6 predictions about big upcoming future movie projects that I feel are varying degrees of plausible. Just so we’re clear: None of this is based on me already something as a fact and treating it like a guess to be cute — if I knew any of this to be fact, I’d just report it as news for crazy-big traffic boosts. 🙂

So, the predictions (in no particular order):

1. THE AVENGERS WILL DISBAND AT THE END OF AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
If blockbuster movie trilogies have a rule (and while Avengers as a franchise has no intention of stopping after three films, it’s widely expected that Part 3 will be the last-hurrah for the original team) it’s this: Part 2 Has The Sad Ending. Han gets frozen. Gollum resolves to betray Frodo. Kirk dies. Jack Sparrow dies. If Avengers 3 is going to be the ultimate triumph, it’d be helped tremendously by starting off with the characters at their lowest.

So. A few weeks back, HitFix’s Drew McWeeny drew some professional flack for (seemingly) giving up a major, major, MAJOR spoiler about the (possible) fate of one of the key Avengers. (Seriously, think twice before you click that.) The spoiler in question mostly drew attention because of how it mirrors a major recent comics storyline focused on one specific character but said storyline was significant in another way: As a precursor to Marvel’s controversial 2006-2007 publisher-wide event Civil War, in which a tragic disaster led to a government crackdown on superhero activity and (nearly) all active heroes choosing to side with either Iron Man (pro-government registration of heroes) or Captain America (anti-registration). Whatever else Ultron’s story involves, leaving The Avengers in a similar position (ideologically divided, one side now obligated to treat the other as fugitives or worse) would make the stakes for Part 3 that much more immediate.

Now, does that mean I’d imagine that Part 3 would be Avengers: Civil War? No — but I could easily see a Civil War-esque situation being the “background” of the Phase 3 movies, i.e. “Why aren’t The Avengers all hanging out together in Thor 3 or Captain America 3?” Well, half the team hates the other half now, for one thing.

superman promo

2. SUPERMAN WILL “DIE” IN BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
There’s a photo going around from the outdoors shooting of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice that purports to show a group of people assembled in front of a green screen looking like they’re supposed to be attendees at a funeral. Not hard to see the conclusion people are jumping to — especially since it’s also a plot-detail of a now-debunked phony script.

I think it’s a pretty solid guess.

Here’s the thing: While the idea of a “DC Movieverse” may only have taken shape recently, Warner Bros. has been developing projects like BvS and Justice League for well over a decade with many of the same “top” producers involved — and they like to re-use ideas from almost-made projects (I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, to see Batman and Lex Luthor both using Kryptonite power-armor like they were intended to in the unmade 90s “versus” movie). The one project Warner Bros “Superman department” has been keen to film for the longest time? Doomsday, aka The Death of Superman.

A possible scenario: Superman will seemingly be killed by some new threat (possibly the work of Lex Luthor, but maybe a first-strike by whoever the villain of League will be) at the climax; and the presence of this new threat that not even the Man of Steel could stop, will bring the other DC heroes (remember: along with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and maybe Nightwing are expected to make cameos) out of the woodwork and serve as their rationale to team up and form The Justice League. Superman will then be resurrected as part of the Justice League movie’s plot, thus solving the “why do we need the others when we have Superman?” problem and answering why an actual Man of Steel 2 isn’t slated until 2018.

doctor strange comic cover 350

3. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WILL PLAY MARVEL’S DOCTOR STRANGE
This is the one I feel the least confident about, for the record — I’m mostly putting it on here because if it turns out to be correct I’m going to look pretty swag for a couple of minutes there.

But, these are the facts: It is widely assumed that Marvel Studios have already decided on an actor for Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange movie, and that they will announce the casting as part of their big panel on the last day of San Diego Comic-Con 2014. In-demand actor Benedict Cumberbatch is scheduled to attend SDCC, but it’s somewhat unclear as to why. Officially, he’s there to promote Dreamworks’ Penguins of Madagascar, in which he has a voiceover role, but it’s hard to believe a busy actor would make the trip just for that. He’s not (officially) scheduled to appear at the BBC’s Sherlock panel or Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies presentation as a surprise… except since he’s already going to be at the show that doesn’t really seem like a surprise worthy of keeping a surprise.

But “Sherlock joins that Marvel Universe?” That’s the kind of headline-generating, internet-exploding reveal that SDCC attendees have come to expect from Marvel presentations — and they’re going to need one to help minimize the Ant-Man-sized elephant in the room. Nevermind the fact that Cumberbatch is an actor without a blockbuster franchise to call his own yet, was on Marvel’s known “short list” of actors sought for the role (though he’s on all those lists, to be fair) and would be pretty damn good casting — especially since he’d bring with him a sizable substrata of geek-audience (read: female, BBC/Who/etc-adjacent) that Marvel hasn’t actively courted yet.

4. EITHER MASTER SPLINTER OR THE SHREDDER WILL BE APRIL O’NEIL’S FATHER IN THE TMNT REBOOT
The TMNT reboot trailers have all included the same bit of dialogue where William Fichtner’s evil businessman Eric Sachs (originally thought to be The Shredder but as of the full trailer seemingly a guy working for him) implying to Megan Fox’s April O’Neil that he and her (unseen and apparently uncast) father had collaborated on scientific experiments that may have created the Turtles, the Foot Clan or both.

Since nothing is allowed to be a coincidence or even just not connected to a single continuity of cosmic predetermination in genre franchises anymore, the moment I first heard that I figured that odds were pretty good in favor of Master Splinter turning out to be April’s (now-mutant) father, but now that the most recent trailer appears to confirm that Sachs is not Shredder himself and that the actual Shredder’s face is hidden in shadow (implying that what he looks like should be a surprise of some kind); I’d say it’s equally likely that he could be the babydaddy himself.

5-A. MS. MARVEL HAS ALREADY BEEN CAST — AND THEY’LL CALL HER THAT, NOT “CAPTAIN MARVEL”
Full disclosure: I’ve seen and heard more than a few iffy to decent sources call the notion that Marvel Studios is already planning a Ms. Marvel movie and has already picked their actress for the part (and sworn her to absolute secrecy). It’s the worst-kept secret in Hollywood right now (yes, I hear a lot of names bandied about, no Katie Sackoff doesn’t appear to be one of them). But since none of that would fall under a sure thing, this is still just a hunch.

Here’s the issue: Marvel/Disney know that they’re perceived as having a diversity problem, particularly as The Avengers are concerned. They also know that the preponderance of recent female-led blockbusters (Gravity, Frozen and Maleficent just to name a few) threatens to make the male-heavy superhero genre look a touch behind the times. They know that rival studio Warner Bros. is likely going to make headlines revealing Wonder Woman’s movie-look (and maybe footage) at their SDCC presentation, and they’d like to not be caught without an “answer” to that — in fact, ideally, they’d really to be able to say, even as just a technically, that Carol Danvers “beat” Wonder Woman to the screen.

carol danvers captain marvel

So not only would it not surprise me if they’ve already got their actress, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’ve already picked an actress. I’d call it a good bet that if they have she turns up as part of Age of Ultron — especially since, if my guess that half or more of The Avengers will be “on the outs” at the end of that film, it’d make sense to have high-power characters like her on-hand to step in and fill the void. Imagine, for example, if the entire “old” team all fled for whatever reason and whoever is in charge post-S.H.I.E.L.D. designates Ms. Marvel, Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as the “new” Avengers?

As to the name: I know Carol Danvers is now “Captain” Marvel in the comics and that’s a cool development. But I just can’t picture Marvel/Disney A.) Running two concurrent franchises in the same genre (and same continuity!) with “Captain” as the first word in the title, nor B.) not taking the chance to wring maximum visibility and credit out of her being their first solo female franchise by keeping her gender in the title — the “Ms” is the next best thing to calling it: Of Course Marvel Thinks Girls Can Be Superheroes — The Movie.

5-B. MS. MARVEL HAS ALREADY BEEN CAST, AND SHE’S IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Guardians of the Galaxy is being described as Marvel’s riskiest film because it doesn’t have any strong direct connections to the other, more established characters. Thus far, its only known link to the Avengers cycle is via Thanos and The Collector, and even they’re only connected to the other movies through post-credits bonus scenes.

And while Marvel is apparently committed to letting Guardians opening weekend stand on its own merits (both for practical reasons and as a test of just how much of a hitmaker their brand-name really is) let’s face it: If it came with one of Marvel’s signature post-credits bonus scenes that featured an explicit tie-in between the events of that film and the broader Marvel Universe or even Avengers 2, it’d help with sustaining the box-office re: people deciding they can’t wait-and-see after all.

One possibility? Well, in case you’re not 100% familiar, Ms. Marvel’s comic backstory involves her being an Air Force pilot who absorbed a blast of energy by being too close to a battle involving the original Captain Marvel, a Kree alien. A simplified-for-the-movies version of that would likely just leave Mar-Vell (his real name) out of the equation. And since Kree aliens and their shenanigans are a big part of Guardians, I don’t think it’d be a big reach for a post-credits this or that MacGuffin-ish piece of the film’s plot winding up on Earth… and Carol Danvers being onhand to find it.

Star Wars: Han Solo & Chewbacca

6. HAN SOLO WILL DIE IN STAR WARS: EPISODE VII
Right now, my read of Star Wars: Episode VII (incidentally: pretty sure bet we learn the full title at SDCC, right?) is that they’re making a feature-length Original Trilogy fan-film. JJ Abrams’ best talent as a director thus-demonstrated is imitating old styles, they’re reportedly planning on using models and practical effects to a much greater degree than almost any other recent blockbuster (possibly to make it look even more like the OT?) and Luke, Leia and Han are coming back for one more bow. Bottom line: They want the prevailing reaction from the first teaser all the way to opening day to be that not only is Star Wars “good again,” but that it’s good in exactly the way the originals were. If there’s something Disney can do to this movie to get one more Gen-X movie critic to collapse into the nostalgia-version of a food coma, they’re gonna do it.

BUT! They also have to know that you can’t build the entire action-heavy movie — to say nothing of an entire new trilogy — on the adventures of a trio of 60-70 year-old actors. Instead, one imagines they’ll probably each get a “big moment” or two in the first film before largely passing the torch to the new, younger leads: Leia will grab a gun and blast a bunch of guys, reminding everyone what made her so groundbreaking as a “princess” heroine in the original. Luke will bust out his lightsaber and be Boss Jedi one more time. But Han? Well…

Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to die in Return of The Jedi, that’s a well-known part of Star Wars production lore. Whoever the new villains are, we’re going to need a reason to A.) hate them and B.) consider them at least symbolically a threat similar to that of Vader or The Sith (assuming it’s not simply just “More Sith”). What would accomplish that handily? Have the new baddies kill one of the original three leads. And since it can’t be Luke (too obvious) or Leia (you can’t kill one of what often seems like the only women in the galaxy), so Han is the obvious choice.

It’d be a big moment, it’d catch people off guard, it’d make things “personal” for longtime Star Wars fans without having to contrive an unlikely connection between the new threat and Vader etc; and it would give Harrison Ford the freedom from being asked about sequels to movies he made a lifetime ago he seems to desire more than life itself.

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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