Given that Marvel Studios’ 2023 offerings mostly failed to ignite, the team behind the newly-dated Thunderbolts are eager to point out its differences.
If there’s a film on Marvel’s slate that has the potential to persuade audiences to look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a different light, it’s surely Thunderbolts.
Why? It’s not a sequel, for a start. On top of that, it’s a team-up movie that is comprised solely of villains – or, at the very least, characters of a dubious moral nature. In a world where Marvel films and TV shows have begun to feel stale for many, this is something we definitely haven’t seen before (even if we’ve seen it more than once in DC-land on the big screen).
The project also faces a few hurdles, however – one of which is its new release date of July 25th, 2025. That’s seven months after its expected arrival date.
Yet another potential issue is the interconnectivity that this project brings with it.
After all, each of the characters in Thunderbolts hails from some other Marvel movie or TV show. That interconnectivity might have once been the ‘special sauce’ which made the MCU a success for so many years, but lately it seems to have become a significant part of the problem.
A growing segment of Marvel’s audience simply don’t want to have to ‘do the homework’ of watch everything MCU to know what’s going on. It’s an issue that was used to explain why the recently-released team-up sequel, The Marvels failed to set the box office alight despite getting decent reviews.
Still, at least the studio now seems to be aware of this issue and although it takes a while to turn the Good Ship Marvel, there does seem to be a calculated course correction towards making these projects more standalone.
The upcoming Echo TV show has been rebranded as ‘Marvel Spotlight’, a new label that is supposed to encourage audiences to see some of the TV projects as less connected to the ongoing larger MCU continuity. Then, there’s the slate of films that have been revised to exist on a more independent level.
That includes Thunderbolts, according to director Jake Schreier, who had this to say to Comicbook.
“I wouldn’t look at this as a sequel at all, and we don’t talk about it that way, and we’ve never really kind of approached it that way in any of the conversations we’ve had”, he said. “I think there’s a story to be told about a group of characters who can relate to each other in a certain way, or have gone through certain things, and we’re going to get into that.”
Schreier would go on to give the example of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova as an example, given that her character arc has developed already throughout the Black Widow film, then in the Hawkeye TV show. Won’t fans need to see these stories to understand how her character works in Thunderbolts?
“I think we’re all talking about making a movie”, he reasoned. “You can come, and if you’ve seen that stuff, then great. If you haven’t, there’s still going to be a complete story that’s being told in a movie that works on its own, for sure, while remaining part of the overall storyline.”
We’ll see how this approach pans out but after 15 years of building character and story across interconnected films and TV shows, it won’t be easy for Marvel to simply roll that approach back.
Still, a fresher take is most certainly required and we’ll see what the studio can do with Thunderbolts, but not until the summer of 2025 when it is set to release.