By George Bate
To resounding crowd reception, Kevin Feige announced that Phase 5 of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe will conclude with Thunderbolts. For those unfamiliar with the comics, the Thunderbolts were the antithesis of the Avengers in many ways. Originally designed to be a new superhero team to fill the void left by dead Avengers, the Thunderbolts eventually revealed themselves as an assembly of Marvel villains. In some ways, the Thunderbolts can be considered as Marvel’s equivalent of the Suicide Squad, a team of supervillains brought together for a higher-up with a purpose.
So, how will Thunderbolts translate to the big screen?
Well, the MCU has already laid the foundation for a Thunderbolts movie with various teases and Easter eggs. In the post-credits scene of Black Widow, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Valentina Allegra de Fontaine appears to Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, stoking her desire for revenge against Hawkeye for his part in the death of her sister Natasha.
Valentina reappeared in the final episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, similarly appearing to entice a vulnerable hero to the dark side. This time she approaches Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, a.k.a. U.S. Soldier, who has fallen from grace come the end of the season.
While Yelena and Walker are the two most likely candidates to appear in Thunderbolts, there are a number of others who could too.
Daniel Brühl first played Baron Zemo in Captain America: Civil War, before playing a somewhat villainous role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Zemo is one of Captain America’s greatest enemies from the comics, but hasn’t really had his chance to shine in the MCU yet. As Zemo leads the Thunderbolts in several iterations of the comics, his appearance in the film adaptation feels likely.
Another villain would could appear is Abomination, who first appeared in the MCU all the way back in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Despite being off the radar for a while, more recent appearances in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings and She-Hulk: Attorney At Law signal the Hulk villain may return to the fold in a bigger way.
Speaking of Hulk villains, General Thunderbolt Ross could play a role in Thunderbolts. In the comics, Ross becomes Red Hulk. William Hurt’s passing means this character would likely have to be recast.
Other possibilities include existing MCU villains like Ghost, who was the main villain in Ant-Man and the Wasp, or Taskmaster, who was played by Olga Kurylenko in Black Widow. Hannah John-Kamen was a highlight of the second Ant-Man film and seeing her character reappear in a larger role would be interesting. Meanwhile, the MCU’s Taskmaster has been a stark departure from source material so far, meaning a role in Thunderbolts could prove redemptive.
Thunderbolts will release July 26, 2024.