With the possibility of dramatic changes looming over the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fifth Avengers movie will need the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studio President, Kevin Feige, as well as the co-directors Avengers 3 & 4, the Russo Bros, have teased world-rending after Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. There will be blood, and, more importantly, the MCU will become a very big place – we're talking intergalactic big. And that’s where Marvel’s “first family” comes in.
Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox’s movie and television rights opens things up for mutants and anything Fantastic Four-related. In particular, fans are looking forward to finally getting a true-to-form film about Marvel’s cosmically-powered team. Even before their solo movie enters preproduction, though, the MCU will need the team's expertise. A new host of allies and enemies are heading Earth's way, including heroes like Adam Warlock and Silver Surfer, as well as archfiends like Doctor Doom, Kang the Conqueror, and Annihilus.
Infinity War will be the first time the Avengers meet a challenge on such a massive scale. We have no doubt they're capable of handling it, but they might need some serious help. To wit, super-scientist and inventor Reed Richards and his squad are just what the doctor (Strange) ordered.
A Cosmic-Focused Marvel Needs the Fantastic Four
The Marvel Cinematic Universe had a jam-packed slate even before landing the MCU. The fact that only a few films have been announced into “Phase 4” – aside from movies that constitute obvious spoilers – doesn’t mean Disney's shooting schedule isn’t laid out already. Still, Feige undoubtedly had a plan in place, though, were Disney to regain the rights to any or all of their major wayward properties. He might have even placed an Easter egg in Spider-Man: Homecoming, with respect to Avengers Tower changing hands. His backdoor nod would be the perfect way to introduce Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm... and given the circumstances, none too soon.
Infinity War and its sequel will probably kill off a key character or two, requiring a fresh infusion of heroes. Thanos' assault on Earth will also make Hela’s Asgardian takeover and the Chitauri invasion look like sandbox games in comparison. And the Mad Titan is just a small taste of the countless dangers lurking beyond our solar system. With possible Skrull incursions in Captain Marvel and a new batch of galactic threats, the fate of the planet could depend on the Fantastic Four’s outer space savvy. Cosmic Marvel will also play a much larger role in the next batch of films, thanks to the popularity of Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the introduction of Brie Larson’s high-flying Colonel, Carol Danvers. Now that Earth is on the galaxy's map, the Four should fit snugly into Marvel’s next “Phase.”
When Exactly Will the Four Arrive?
With movies in the MCU tightly scheduled, a solo film might not be in the cards until the tale-ends of the fourth phase (whatever it’s called) or even the beginning of the fifth one. Of course, Marvel will probably rearrange things, as they did with Spider-Man: Homecoming, to introduce the stellar family. Even if the Fantastic Four don’t debut in full, there’s no reason Marvel has to keep them out of sight. In particular, Spider-Man: Homecoming's sequel, Black Panther 2, Ant-Man 3 (if it happens), or even Captain Marvel would all make perfect places to establish the super crew. Other cosmically inclined films like GOTG3, especially if the Guardians wind up stranded on Earth during the Infinity War cycle, also constitute great intro spots.
More importantly, Marvel’s villain problem will probably force them to introduce new heavy-hitters acquired in the FOX deal. Not only would these characters require a special response from the Earths space-hopping team but several are intricately entwined within their narrative. In particular, Victor Von Doom, Galactus, and Annihilus are all characters directly introduced in Fantastic Four comic book storylines – hence the reason FOX Studios owned their rights.
The fifth Avengers film also has to be much larger and more elaborate to compete with the epic scale of Infinity War and its nearly 40 superheroes. Its unnamed sequel will unquestionably surpass the excesses of its predecessor. Much like many of the comics that came before it, when a major cosmic threat dropped by, the superhero community invariably consulted with the Fantastic Four. Including the team in the fifth outing also sets up some fan-favorite storylines.
The Fantastic Four’s Importance to the MCU
The Avengers and Marvel’s first family are deeply intertwined. Suffice to say, both squads have saved each other’s butts on countless occasions. But they've also butted heads from time to time, especially Reed and Tony Stark. Not to mention that Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben were all card-carrying Avengers at one point or another (although rarely at the same time). This collaborative dynamic would be a perfect way to interject them into the distant Avengers sequel while also laying the groundwork for one of Marvel’s most fascinating recent superhero team-ups.
The Four’s presence in MCU could link into the formation of Illuminati, which might informally assemble during Infinity War. The secret think tank, created by Brian Michael Bendis in New Avengers #5 (2005), was founded by Doctor Strange, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Professor Charles Xavier, among others, after the shapeshifting Skrull invasion. Their primary task was preparing for threats on a macrocosmic level. More importantly, their collaboration, or the fallout from it, could lead to an intense, MCU-shattering event, such as a loose adaptation of the second Secret Wars (2015).
Even if Marvel keeps the Illuminati in soft focus, it’s clear the Fantastic Four should have an integral role in Disney's next film cycle. Knowing how hard Feige and company worked to regain them and their mutant cohorts, it would be surprising if the Four didn’t enter the picture, sooner rather than later.
At this point, the ink has barely set on the Disney-FOX deal, and the Fantastic Four’s feature-length reboot could be a ways off. Nevertheless, audiences should expect to catch glimpses of the team as the third phase ends and the fourth one gears up. By the time the next major cosmic menace rears its ugly head in Avengers 5, they’ll be ready to meet the challenge head-on, as only the Fantastic Four can.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019