The Marvel Universe is an expansive place, covering dozens upon dozens of comic book properties and now film, television, and streaming entities. At this point, The Defenders, such as Jessica Jones and Daredevil, look after the small screen, while their comrades like Captain America and The Hulk protect the big screen. Since the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Netflix and TV, Marvel fans have been clamoring for a massive superhero-mashup in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
The real question is: how likely are we to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and their Defender cohorts battling Thanos and his band of supervillains for the fate of the universe? Co-director Anthony Russo’s answer might not be exactly what fans are hoping for.
Like a vague relationship status on Facebook, Russo mentioned "it’s complicated," while promoting Captain America: Civil War at São Paulo, Brazil's Comic-Con (CCXP). Although his response wasn’t exactly the affirmation many fans were looking for, it doesn’t discount the possibility of a potential crossover. He went on to explain in detail about the challenges facing any sort of long-term integration of the vast Marvel property:
"The films are controlled by a group led by Kevin Feige, so they function as a unit. Other products, even if they are from Marvel, are controlled by others. Then there is the possibility of a crossover, but it's more complicated... Fox holds the rights to some of Marvel's most popular characters, as does Sony and others. As storytellers, we only have control over what happens in Marvel movies, but everything is possible, Spider-Man (whose rights were held by Sony) became possible!"
With properties scattered across a varied group of companies, bringing together the entire cinematic and streaming imprints would take immense cooperation between studios, which isn’t likely to happen. Russo’s comments also hint at a slight disconnect between Disney’s film branch and those masterminding the smaller screen projects. Feige and his universe builders already have a massive undertaking on their hands just keeping track of the cinematic aspects. It would seem that integrating the two wings into the Infinity Wars isn’t a top priority.
Still, Russo leaves open the possibilities (and yes, Spider-Man is even on the table) for a massive Marvel superhero conglomeration. While the complications of combining non-Disney Marvel properties could prevent us from watching the X-Men and Deadpool duke it out with Thanos and Loki (maybe), as The Defender's popularity grows and they expand into the film worlds, we may yet see some familiar faces from the streaming/small screen universe like the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. come to Earth’s defense.
Still, between Russo’s comments and the disjointed story arcs between the film and small screen universes, scripting such an ambitious crossover could prove difficult. Without a clearly beneficial motivation to combine them, Marvel may choose to keep things simple and leave The Defenders to their own devices, at least for now.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Spider-Man on July 28, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Black Panther on July 6 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019 and Inhumans on July 12, 2019.