S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson is still alive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after his seemingly untimely demise in 2012's The Avengers and the secretive organization that he now runs still operates after the crushing events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Coulson's team assists The Avengers; meanwhile, Inhumans are surfacing across the globe with superpowers and more and more vigilante superheroes are emerging in Hell's Kitchen, New York.
All of these important events are happening but none of them are being addressed in the connected Marvel Studios movies - at least not yet. It was one of the more notable issues with Avengers: Age of Ultron and certainly a point of contention for its writer and director Joss Whedon who was very vocal about some of the obstacles he faced in developing the Avengers sequel and the MCU's first television program, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Speaking at an event last night to celebrate the in-home release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Kevin Feige - now the top boss at Marvel Studios - admitted that the TV shows will have an increased role and will be referenced more in the movies down the road.
"I think that's inevitable at some point as we're plotting the movies going forward and they're doing the shows."
With Phase 3 Marvel Studios has had a clear plan from the beginning, one that was flexible based on whether or not they could gain the rights to certain characters (i.e. Spider-Man). They know the production schedule and release slate from now until summer 2019 and with that in mind they can plan ahead in deciding which Marvel TV properties they desire to pull over.
To date, it's been a challenge to take advantage of the TV stuff partly due to the scheduling of these productions. TV episodes are made relatively quickly and can react to the larger events of the films, which in turn must enter development far before they release in theaters. As Feige put it:
"It's easier for them. They're more nimble and faster and produce things quicker than we do, which is one of the main reasons you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron in the show. Going forward and certainly as they begin to do more shows and cast them with such great actors as they have -- particularly Daredevil -- that that may occur. A lot of it is by the time we start doing a movie, they'd be midway through a season; by the time it comes out they'd be done with the second, starting the third season. Finding timing on that is not always easy."
We interviewed Kevin Feige while he was promoting the theatrical release of Avengers: Age of Ultron back in April, the same week Daredevil released on Netflix. At the time, he said there had been discussions with the TV division and its head Jeph Loeb and that the plan would be to establish these TV show characters and their origins first - and then find out where they could make appearances in the films.
Before that, when unveiling the Phase 3 schedule at a fan and media event in October 2014, Feige spoke during a Q&A briefly about the Netflix shows and said there are opportunities for crossovers - but reiterated that his own interests and focus is strictly on the films. That's been an ongoing issue we've reported on since the beginning of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since we know the film creatives pretty much ignore its existence. Joss Whedon, who created it and helemd Avengers 1 and 2, even said Marvel didn't want him to do the show and we know from our own chats with the writers, producers and directors of Ant-Man, Captain America 2 & 3, Thor 2, etc. that they don't even watch the series.
Knowing that, the TV characters and stories aren't - or at least, haven't been to date - in their minds when planning ahead, but things are beginning to change thanks to the critical success of Daredevil. We can argue that Marvel TV was better than the Phase 2 films. With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season 3 premiere earning much praise last night, and continuing to improve in quality and in its relevance in the MCU, there's still a chance some of these characters would one day make an appearance in the movies even if it's a minimal cameo.
We wouldn't be surprised that like the comics, some of the TV characters eventually serve as Avengers. Netflix's Defenders characters (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) all fit the bill and even on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we're seeing potential Avengers in Quake (Chloe Bennet), Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki) and Deathlok (J. August Richards). And it doesn't just apply to the heroes. When asked if someone like Kingpin (Vincent D'Onforio) could make for a good Spider-Man movie villain, Feige responded with "That would probably be the cool thing to do."
Are you hoping to see more crossover between the films and TV shows? What Marvel TV characters deserve movie appearances?
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man– July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.