Long before Vin Diesel was officially attached to voice the lovable Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, he had openly talked about his meetings with Marvel Studios and how he’s potentially going to be up for a lead role in a “fresh IP,” one that he says will “potentially launch the third phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. See, when he initially met with them, it wasn’t for Guardians, but for a lead role in a 2016-17 film that Diesel described as “merging of brands.” He got to play Groot as a quick way for him to get involved sooner for his fans, a way that wouldn’t involve much time out of his busy schedule, but he was still in talks for that other, bigger role.

For us, that immediately evoked imagery of Vin Diesel suited up in costume as the character Black Bolt, leader of The Inhumans – a team-based property Marvel Studios president of production and producer Kevin Feige has namedropped many times over the last few years as another team-up film he is confident in. With Guardians breaking box office records in its August release (a traditionally less-lucrative box office month), there’s evidently more confidence than ever in The Inhumans.

When asked over two years ago if he was allowed to make the Marvel films he wanted to, Feige responded:

“We have! I mean, there are certainly others like Guardians [of the Galaxy], like Inhumans, like Doctor Strange that we haven’t yet, but I am confident that we will.”

GOTG is now out. Doctor Strange has a director, new writers and is expected to cast its leads soon for a production start next year, and according to Collider, Marvel Studios is doing what we all expected and knew they were doing – moving ahead with the script they have for The Inhumans. We thought The Inhumans was going to be announced with a release date and logo at Comic-Con last month, but like Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Studios played it safe this year and didn’t unveil what their upcoming unannounced features were, instead focusing on the immediate future with Guardians of the Galaxy which at the time, had yet to open in theaters.

Black Bolt

Now it’s out. And now Vin Diesel is already starting to do what he does on his Facebook page, the largest Facebook page in the world. He’s teasing the Inhumans. And the timing is not a coincidence since Collider claims that Marvel is happy with the current screenplay for The Inhumans written by Joe Robert Cole and is ready to bring in a filmmaker. This is a similar situation to how Guardians of the Galaxy was developed, first having a script written by Nicole Perlman, a member of a now-defunct Marvel screenwriters program, used as a basis for a story that fits the big picture plans of the entire franchise. Director James Gunn was later brought in and rewrote the entire script to fit within vision, but the core story remained intact.

We can expect similar for The Inhumans and it wouldn’t be surprising to see something official regarding future Marvel Studios productions in the near future. Feige had said we can expect announcements this year and Doctor Strange will likely be the first of them. So far, we know that after The Avengers: Age of Ultron opens next May, Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will kick off with Ant-Man in July 2015, followed by Captain America 3 in May 2016 and what we believe is Doctor Strange in July 2016. There are an additional three release dates in 2017, one of them reserved for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in July. We expect Thor 3 to be one of the other two, meaning The Inhumans could be the other if Marvel wants it out before The Avengers 3 in 2018.

Putting The Inhumans back-to-back with James Gunn’s Guardians sequel in 2017 would follow what Vin Diesel teased a year ago, and could serve as that bridge between the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy and Earth-based stories. That or like the first Guardians, the first Inhumans film could simply be an introduction to another new team for later use, but Marvel may need to get them to the screen sooner rather than later, since the leading theories surrounding certain key plot points in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC and the origins of the superpowers of new characters Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron may directly tie-in to The Inhumans. “It’s all connected” is the tagline.

The Inhumans

For those not familiar with the property, The Inhumans essentially represent Marvel’s X-Men since on the film side of things, Marvel Studios cannot use any X-Men or mutant characters from Marvel Comics. In fact, they cannot even use the term “mutant” which makes it tricky for writer and director Joss Whedon introducing a pair of mutant characters in The Avengers sequel. The Inhumans are a superpowered sub-species and secret society of people on Earth, the result of experimentation on early humans by the Kree empire – the blue-skinned aliens we met in Guardians of the Galaxy. The Inhumans are highly advanced and well-hidden, but like most Marvel Studios properties getting the film treatment, they’ve been getting major spotlight attention in recent crossover events and stories in the comics.

In fact, even the Avengers NOW! comics relaunch this fall, which sees Falcon become the new Captain America and a new female Thor, includes Inhumans on The Avengers roster. That’s not a coincidence. The Inhumans are coming and it could be sooner than you think.

From what Kevin Feige told us about their release schedule plans of starting each year with a sequel to an established property, the soonest we would see The Inhumans is November 2017. He also hinted to me at Comic-Con that The Avengers 3 is coming in 2018 (and not their May 2019) date so it’s possible that Inhumans is the last film before we get a potentially major crossover event on Earth in The Avengers 3.

More: 40+ DC/Marvel Movies in Next 6 Years

The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America 3 on May 6 2016, and unannounced films for July 8 2016 and May 5 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on July 28 2017, November 3 2017, May 4 2018, July 6 2018, November 2 2018 and May 3 2019.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

Source: Collider

Inhumans cover art by nebezial.