Comprehensive Theory on MCU Plans Leading to Phase 4 - Illuminati & More | Fanboys Anonymous

Comprehensive Theory on MCU Plans Leading to Phase 4 - Illuminati & More

Posted by Anthony Mango Wednesday, October 29, 2014
HD Marvel Studios font red poster
Today was one blockbuster announcement after another as Marvel Studios rolled out the lineup for the next 5 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The slated films are as follows:

2015 = Avengers: Age of Ultron + Ant-Man

2016 = Captain America: Civil War + Doctor Strange

2017 = Guardians of the Galaxy 2 + Thor: Ragnarok + Black Panther

2018 = Avengers: Infinity War Part I + Captain Marvel + Inhumans

2019 = Avengers: Infinity War Part II

Release dates for Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three movies
Kevin Feige stands in front of a line graph representing billions of dollars

Also, don't forget about the three television series that will be going on during this time period: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and of course the multiple connective Netflix shows that will all lead to The Defenders and will feature Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.


Some information about these movies has been confirmed or damn near been confirmed out of pure logic. What we know so far (or what we can be confident in assuming):
  • Age of Ultron—Tony Stark will create Ultron as a means to make up for the lack of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • At the end of Age of Ultron, the Avengers team will split with Captain America and Iron Man on opposing sides.
  • This will lead into Captain America: Civil War, which will pit Steve Rogers and Tony Stark against each other. Somewhere in the mix, Black Panther plays a part.
  • Everything is leading up to Thanos kicking ass with the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers: Infinity War.
So what's going to happen to lead us to Infinity War Part II, and what will happen after that in Phase 4? Fasten your seat belts, 'cause this is going to be a bumpy ride and your brain is going to bounce all over the place.

Let's get some more details out of the way. Andy Serkis is obviously playing Ulysses Klaw in Age of Ultron, which will at least in part feature Wakanda. If he's not, then by all means, rip this post to shreds in the comments, because that will mean all logic has been thrown out the window, including the sheer fact that he looks exactly like the character in more ways than one.

Black Panther Avengers Age of Ultron Wakanda Scene
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron

More than likely, when the team splits up and sends various members across the globe, the one who will be sent off to the mission in Wakanda will be Captain America. This will connect him to Black Panther to allow for his presence in Civil War, where T'Challa will probably replace Peter Parker as the middleman between Rogers and Stark before having his solo film later on.

Doctor Strange was mentioned in The Winter Soldier. Woo! Easter eggs! Clearly, he's been a potential threat for a while if he had already been on the radar back then. Marvel has actually even said that Doctor Strange won't be an origin film, so while I'm sure we'll see flashbacks that explain his origins, it won't be done according to the standard operating procedure, where the movie is entirely about his rise to become Sorcerer Supreme. Likely, he'll have already achieved that role by the time the movie starts, or at least he'll be close and achieve it at the end of the film. Magic is going to be explained in the MCU as a manipulation of quantum mechanics, grounding it more in science, similar to how the Thor series has explained Asgard as a dimension, the gods as aliens, and so forth. There is no sequel to Doctor Strange slated, so his inclusion must be more supplemental rather than instrumental in the events that will come. Cameos over the next few years will suffice rather than having another solo film be a necessity.

For that matter, notice how Ant-Man has no sequel. Marvel had sequel plans for Guardians of the Galaxy well in advance because they knew it would be a hit. Clearly, the same confidence is not there for Hank Pym. Oh wait, excuse me, I mean Scott Lang, because Hank Pym's being pushed aside for the lesser character in this clusterfuck of a movie that could be more of a nuisance than a benefit to Marvel. Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 have their detractors, but Ant-Man could be the first true failure if the way things have gone so far are any indication. The only production that has seen as many or more problems in comparison is Fantastic 4, but we'll talk about that later.

Marvel's Ant-Man sequel logo wallpaper
An even bigger joke than Captain America: Serpent Society

We know that, unlike the comics, Hank Pym will not be the creator of Ultron. That role is going to Tony Stark, which neuters the purpose of Ant-Man to begin with. If you are a big fan of that series and you were hoping that out of the blue, you'd get an announcement that Pym plays a big part in Age of Ultron and the MCU in general, you're going to be disappointed. The best you can hope for is a decent movie that doesn't get completely pushed aside when the bigger movies dominate it. After all, what the hell is an elderly Hank Pym going to do when the majority of the films coming out are cosmic in nature?

Marvel Cinematic Universe Inhumans Terrigen Mists MutantsLet's backtrack some more, because we have some non-humans to talk about. In The Avengers, Loki is wielding a staff that has some sort of gem inside it. Fans have been trying to figure out whether this is the Mind Stone or something else ever since. One theory is that it may be a Terrigen Crystal, as it's supposedly used to grant powers to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch on behalf of Hydra as evidenced in The Winter Soldier. In these plans for the next few years, no spinoff was announced for the twins. However, Inhumans was. In the comics, Quicksilver uses the Terrigen Mists to restore his powers. More importantly, the Inhumans race is tied in with the Mutants of Marvel lore because they are an offshoot of homo sapiens as well. Could the twins show up in Inhumans, potentially as the protagonists or at least in a cameo to help establish a connection and get some more screen time out of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen?

In the Q&A from this press event, Kevin Feige was asked how Marvel will introduce the Inhumans without the use of the Fantastic 4, as they aren't under their control. Feige said that there have been seeds planted and that an answer to that will happen sooner than many fans will expect.

Captain Marvel will be the other film along with Inhumans to take place between Part 1 and Part 2 of Infinity War. Current rumors point to Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel herself) showing up in some fashion during Age of Ultron. Since that movie is a few years away, I wouldn't bet on her having her powers at this time. She'll likely be just Carol Danvers and either a former (or current, depending on how you look at it) member of S.H.I.E.L.D. or just thrown in the mix of the Avengers Academy somewhere. We've seen the Kree built up in Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (if that's truly the direction for where the blue alien and the GH.325 serum that resurrected Coulson is leading).

Captain Marvel GH.325 from Marvel Cinematic Universe
When I tagged this as "topless", I didn't mean the blonde bombshell Carol Danvers. Sorry.
Since Captain Marvel's powers are Kree-based, less work needs to be done to set these events into motion. In fact, there may be a lot of ties between Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Captain Marvel, considering the use of Ronan as the villain in the first film. Perhaps GOTG 2 will not only feature Adam Warlock, but will also establish more about the Kree Empire in preparation for Captain Marvel and even be the vessel-film for Carol to get her powers. Kevin Feige made it a point to reiterate that although Carol's powers are alien based, she still has roots to Earth. A plotline going on in the Guardians of the Galaxy series is Peter Quill's father and the connection between alien heritage/environments versus Earthbound origins. You can see where I'm going with this.

Then again, that's not the only film that balances Earth and the extraterrestrial. Thor: Ragnarok is obviously going to take place at least partially on Earth. Ragnarok is the end of all things (or at least the gods) and there are three villains that everyone should bet on seeing:

Loki—Obviously, Loki will be a villain in this story. If you didn't see what happened at the end of Thor: The Dark World, then what are you doing reading this article?! Loki usurped Odin's throne and, as much as fans love him, the people within the MCU aren't friendly with him. He's an evil, manipulative force who will undoubtedly be the driving force of the events in this movie as a puppeteer to the following two names.

Thor villain Surtur in Ragnarok Twilight of the GodsSurtur—There aren't too many primary Thor villains who we haven't seen yet. The Wrecking Crew is a low-level threat. Ulik the troll…please. Amora the Enchantress and Skurge the Executioner are cool, but they haven't had a purpose yet.

When it comes to a character that is a necessity with the Ragnarok storyline, Surtur is at the top of the list. He is the ruler of Muspelheim, which we have really yet to see outside of some quick glimpses here and there. For those who don't know, Muspelheim, while not the underworld itself (which would be Hel), is basically what everyone pictures as Hell with endless caverns of fire and brimstone.

If you have Ragnarok, you have Surtur, because there isn't much more that signifies the end than a big-ass fire demon. Look at this mother fucker! Look at that sword that he's carrying!

No wonder he is instrumental in "the time when you should shit yourself because you and I and everyone else are totally screwed."

Jormungand—Also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent, this enemy is inextricably tied into Thor's fate. A prophecy states that Thor will battle this creature during the events of Ragnarok. He will be successful in killing Jormungand, but after the fact, Thor will walk nine steps and then die from his wounds and the deadly poison from the Midgard Serpent.

Thor Midgard Serpent in Ragnarok Marvel Cinematic Universe
Not your average garden snake
All of the events of the MCU as far as Thor is concerned have been leading to his rise to become king. At the beginning of Thor, he reveled in the idea that he would take the throne, before learning humility. By the end of the movie, he knows that he's not ready to rule, but Odin reassures him that he will be a wise king eventually. During Thor: The Dark World, Thor actively circumnavigates attaining the position and gives it up willingly to spend more time on Earth, but that results in Loki being able to take Odin out of commission. With Frigga's death and Thor on Earth, nobody is there to stop him. Thus Thor will be forced to man up and put an end to Loki's scheme, stop Ragnarok, and become the true ruler of the Asgardian realm at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. His new position as one of the most powerful beings in the universe will come into play heavily for Infinity War. Not only will his responsibilities be magnified, but who's to say that this changing of the guard isn't itself a catalyst for some of the bad events coming to the MCU? Any time the regime changes, there are plenty of risks. The new people are confused and not sure what to do while they're adjusting to their positions, which is a vulnerability Thanos can exploit if not just to break into Odin's vault and steal the Infinity Gauntlet.

Thanos cameo Thor Infinity Gauntlet Easter egg
Odin and Thanos love their bling

Speaking of rulers, we are dangerously close to The Illuminati in the MCU as well. While we don't have a representative for the Mutant race in either Professor X or Beast, that's okay, because they don't exist in this series and the films have never attempted to be direct adaptations. We're missing Reed Richards and Namor (at least for now), but we'll have Black Bolt, Tony Stark, T'Challa, Stephen Strange, and we could easily throw Thor in there to represent Asgard due to his position of power at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. These are the people that are responsible for overseeing the Infinity Gems in the comics. Coincidence?

Infinity Stones Illuminati Marvel Cinematic Universe know...screw Professor X, Namor, and Reed Richards

By the end of Infinity War Part II, we'll see an absolutely enormous cast of characters interacting with one another. Naturally, the Illuminati will be overseeing the convergence amongst this giant team. Assuming none of them perish in the process, we could have a lineup of these heroes, if not more:

Original Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Phil Coulson, Skye, Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons, Melinda May, and the rest of the cast of the television series

The Defenders: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist

Guardians of the Galaxy:  Star Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket Racoon, Drax, Adam Warlock, plus the entire Nova Corps

New Avengers from Phase 2 & Phase 3: War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, The Vision, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, The Inhumans (a team?), Doctor Strange, and possibly even Wasp

…all against Thanos. The most fun thing about this? They're still horribly outmatched when fighting the Mad Titan!

Let's just emphasize the holy shit scope of this once again. All of these movies and all of these television shows are interconnected. Agent Carter is a prequel that will help set up the back story for certain plot elements we've already seen, such as the butler version of Jarvis showing up as the inspiration for the J.A.R.V.I.S. system, which of course becomes The Vision in Age of Ultron. Obviously, events that transpire in something like Jessica Jones aren't going to be the biggest factors for Infinity War, but the presence of The Defenders will no doubt have implications on the Superhero Registration Act in Civil War. Everything matters. Everything. Tony Stark says in Age of Ultron that it is the end of the path that he set them on, but this goes well beyond the events of Iron Man. Chronologically, this goes back even further than Captain America: The First Avenger or even the beginning flashback of Thor. This all started with the Celestials as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. We are dealing with threats not just to Earth, not just to the galaxy, but to the entire universe when Thanos wields the strongest sources of power in existence—unless, of course, Marvel decides to toss the Heart of the Universe into things, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Thanos becomes God after merging with Heart of the Universe
Translation: fucked.

That's all assuming that this is it and we're not getting anything else.

Spider-Man is in a weird position. While I personally thought The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a fun film (albeit flawed in several ways), audiences did not gravitate to it as Sony had expected. Now, the movie that had originally been intended to set in motion a series of spinoffs including Venom, Sinister Six, possibly a Black Cat film and of course The Amazing Spider-Man 3, may be going a different route. Speculation has been running rampant for weeks that Sony is retooling their plans or possibly even getting rid of them entirely. There's more talk than ever that Spider-Man could end up back in the possession of Marvel Studios, which would be absolutely huge.

Don't forget about Fantastic 4, either. As rough of a time as Spider-Man is going through right now, Marvel's first family has it even worse. The previous two films were heavily chastised for being just awful, requiring a reboot for this new film to distance itself as much as possible. However, Fox seems to be distancing itself from more than just those two movies. This new film has been criticized for the entire cast—not especially Michael B. Jordan, which annoyed many fans who don't like the dynamics of the team being changed up by not having Johnny Storm and Susan Storm as full-blooded siblings. On top of that, there have been so many missteps in promotion that it's hard to find any positives about this project. Remember when people were stating that the comics have almost no influence on the material in the film? That's how you win back those fans who are mad that you're changing things. Everything from the tone of the movie to the rushed production spells disaster, and it doesn't help that Marvel itself has essentially washed its hands of it within the comics industry. Even the blind can see that this movie is being killed off before it makes its way to theaters.

The biggest problem with Spider-Man and Fantastic 4 being tossed into the mix is that there is no room for them. Marvel has enough balls in the air to juggle, and if the box office receipts are any indication, those two entities are not needed for Marvel Studios to succeed. On top of this, how do you add them into the continuity without causing too many problems?

That is where this whole post is leading, and I applaud you for battling through it to this point.


The comic book industry is no stranger to flexible continuity. Every couple of years, a new event takes place that changes certain elements. It's a necessity to keep things going. Tony Stark used to be tied to the Vietnam War as opposed to being captured in Afghanistan. Captain America was originally able to go through the Cold War, but in the MCU continuity, he had to be thawed out well beyond that. How many times have people been killed and brought back to life (other than Uncle Ben)?

With the Infinity Gauntlet, there is an opportunity for Marvel to do a soft reboot of sorts. Marvel would be stupid to stop the stories after Infinity War Part II, but by that time, so many of the actors are going to be too old to continue playing their roles. They've recast characters in the past, but this will be a chance to do a big sweeping change. We'll have the proper deus ex machina to allow people to alter the events of the MCU within the continuity itself by reshaping elements of the plotline to fit into whatever scenario is necessary for Phase 4 to move along. Marvel has said in the past that while they have no plans to change the actors any time soon, they're looking at the characters in the same way the James Bond franchise operates, where you can recast and you don't have to fully reboot. The MCU has more connectivity than the 007 franchise, sure, but that doesn't matter. What happened when Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodey in Iron Man 2? Nothing. The stories just kept being told. An even better indication of what could happen is how Marvel handled The Incredible Hulk, which could be described as a "requel" to Ang Lee's Hulk film. It did not keep the same continuity by being directly tied to that movie, but it did work under the assumption that fans had already seen it. Instead of redoing the birth of the Hulk character, some quick flashbacks reestablished that the basic idea of the first Hulk film happened, but only certain elements.

No movies have been announced for the point beyond Avengers: Infinity War Part II in 2019, despite Marvel releasing three films per year. That is because by the time that movie comes out, it will have been 11 years in the making. That's more than enough of a reason to take a breath of fresh air and reset things a bit.

Don't be scared—this doesn't mean that the next film would have to start all over again. On the contrary, there are plenty of stories left to tell. Thor can fight Amora the Enchantress and Skurge, or even Ulik or the Wrecking Crew. Red Skull was obviously teleported instead of killed in The First Avenger, so he could show up, or maybe Cap faces the Serpent Society as was playfully joked about during this press conference. Hell, maybe he fights Flag Smasher? Red Hulk hasn't been on screen yet, nor has Madame Masque or MODOK or a multitude of other characters.
Advanced Idea Mechanics MODOK in Marvel Cinematic Universe
On second thought...let's not do MODOK

Thanos Heart of the Universe Marvel the EndIn the comics, Thanos actually sort of wins both times he's in a position of power. It's a rare situation where the heroes are completely outmatched and do indeed fail to an extent. In particular, what happens when Thanos merges with the Heart of the Universe? He realizes that there is a fundamental flaw in the universe and the only way to repair it is to destroy the universe and reconstruct it. In the emptiness of nothingness, Thanos contemplates that The One Above All (Marvel's version of God) orchestrated the entire event to fix this flaw as he sacrifices himself to restore the universe.

While it may not go down exactly like that in Infinity War Part II, that does sound like quite an epic ending and a perfect means to do a soft reboot of the films, does it not? From then on, new actors can play the parts that have been associated with Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., and so forth for a decade. Minor continuity problems can be fixed by having been erased from the timeline (such as the Fake Mandarin fiasco). And maybe—just maybe—by this time, Marvel will have acquired the rights to Spider-Man, Fantastic 4, and possibly even the X-Men characters. One can hope, right?

Even if Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon, and everyone else in charge of the MCU don't currently have a plan for what to do after the events of Infinity War are over with, they will figure one out eventually, and it will be marvelous.

What are your theories and predictions for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
How do you think everything will end / continue?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! 

Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and podcast host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, fiction writer and more. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.