Spoilers for Captain Marvel.
Spoilers for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe??
Eh ... maybe.
This past weekend's release of Captain Marvel has unleashed a new wave of speculation over the post-Avengers: Endgame future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now just over a month away.
The new round of educated guesses is likely due to the unforeseen curveball the Brie Larson-starrer threw close observers of the MCU - more or less removing the Skrulls from the equation as the next big malevolent force.
Prior to this weekend, fans had many reasons to suspect the Skrulls were being set-up as a formidable villainous presence moving forward. They are one of the oldest, most well-known and well-regarded villains in Marvel Comic history, and their powers are inherently cinematic. For our own part, Newsarama was convinced the 1990s time period would result in Marvel seeding a secret sleeper Skrull agent already known to MCU fans in the contemporary films.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Skrulls secretly invading Earth … as per Captain Marvel, they don’t seem the least bit interested, not to mention capable.
Using comic book readers knowledge and expectations against them, Marvel Studios smartly pulled the rug out from under us all, revealing the Skrulls are simply a race of refugees hunted by the Kree, without even a hint of apparent malice in their shape-shifting bones.
Sure, the film hints at other faction of Skrulls out there in the universe, but if Marvel Studios has any intent to introduce a more nefarious sect or even a single evil one, they didn’t take any opportunity in Captain Marvel and this is the studio famous for seeding hints and narrative throughlines years in advance. And it'd be an odd change in direction if they did.
If anything, for our part Newsarama half-expects Talos to heed the call in helping defeat Thanos in Endgame.
But even if that doesn’t happen, as of Captain Marvel it looks like Marvel’s next Big Bad … if Marvel even has a next Big Bad, will be someone else.
Some speculation has turned to the Supreme Intelligence, the for-now unseen leader of the Kree. The sometimes blue, sometimes not race have been clearly positioned as the biggest d***ks in the Marvel universe, though audiences haven’t been given any real motivation for their menace other than their exaggerated belief in self.
And we've kind of been there, done that with Ronan already.
Marvel has also done a better job of late introducing antagonists that aren’t just world-conquering nihilists. Michael Keaton’s Vulture, for example, was simply a wronged businessman and a husband and father trying to make ends meet, albeit in a sociopathic murderous way.
Josh Brolin’s Thanos was elevated from a more cartoonish standard cosmic despot in his early appearances to a much more nuanced presence in Infinity War. His mission was yes, twisted, but at least had an internal rationalization and Brolin nailed transforming him into a more fully-realized character though the motion capture process.
Perhaps the best recent example is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger in Black Panther whose socio-political agenda was less about self and more about a cause taken to extreme levels.
Now whether or not Marvel Studios even tries to recreate the Thanos-Infinity Stones dynamic after Endgame remains to be seen. The Disney shingle is arguably the only Hollywood studio to have pulled off the serial-ish ‘shared universe’ thing long-term, and there are legitimate questions to whether they should even try to replicate their own model. Endgame may be their opportunity to move forward in a different direction.
We may be in for an MCU that isn’t bound together with a common element or villain, just because of how hard it might be for a future villain and/or plotline to capture the same success.
But if the next decade of the franchise does involve a common enemy, Marvel Studios would probably be wise to stay out of the cosmic realm looking for him or her.
Galactus, Annihilus, the Supreme Intelligence - all of these characters will either pale against or too closely resemble the threat of Thanos.
The oft-suggested Kang has more of a time travel than cosmic tip, but since the far future is involved, they’re not that effectively different.
So as opposed to another threat from another world, it’d make a certain amount of sense to keep things closer to home and with an entirely different flavor, while still leaving open the possibility of involvement from Marvel’s cosmic properties.
Earth, which in the MCU seems to be regarded as something of a backwoods planet of little significance (which maybe explains why some Infinity Stones were hidden there), is quickly inserting itself into the galactic scheme of things, which them makes it all the more logical that the next great potential threat to the universe should come from Earth.
And once you start putting those puzzle pieces together then the choice becomes obvious …
We weren’t trying to surprise you here.
Arguably Marvel Comics greatest supervillain (and almost universally regarded in the top two or three), Doom also just so happens becomes the property of Marvel Studios later this month.
Marvel has already laid the groundwork for fictional Eastern European countries and given established MCU history, Latveria being transformed into Sokovia shouldn’t be out of the question.
Yes, Captain America: Civil War’s Zemo covered that ground a little bit already, but we’re flexible here.
Doom’s ambition to rise from the dictator of a small country to ruler of Earth to at times ruler of all reality plays perfectly to Earth’s rising profile in the universal scheme of things. He dabbles in the three main sources of MCU power - super-science/technology, magic, and cosmic sources of energy. And while yes, he is mostly a single-minded conqueror for conquering sakes, he also has something of a tragic backstory and an internal sense of nobility and ethics that can be emphasized to render him a more three-dimensional adversary.
And he’s plug-and-play for any direction Kevin Feige & co. want to go. Want to keep things more grounded and focused on Earth for a change of pace - he's your man. Want to elevate the magic realms into the next big thing - he can go there too. Want him to threaten the entire universe ... again - not out of the question.
And hell, Marvel Studios can use their newly-recovered IP to immediately begin righting one of the most glaring Marvel movie wrongs - the god-awful adaptations of Doom that fans have been subjected to in the Fantastic Four films.
How not once, but twice, anyone conflated Doom’s origination of his powers with the Fantastic Four’s is a total mystery.
And of course it goes without saying, where there is Doom, the FF will precede or follow, which may be the thing MCU fans are most excited about in regards to the Fox-Disney acquisition.
So there you are Marvel Studios, your next … should you so choose … Phase Future unifying Big Bad.
Consider this one on us.