Once announced as the Phase 5 capper, the crossover event movie is now set to arrive on July 25, 2025, a date that's becoming more and more unlikely as days pass and the production start date remains unclear. The most recent hires to captain the ship are director Jake Schreier and screenwriter Lee Sung Jin, both of Beef fame. That's now an Emmy-winning show. Thunderbolts should be legit great, right? Well... We still have our doubts.
If anything, Marvel boss Kevin Feige and his team landing those two creatives reminds us that Marvel Studios still excels at chasing the heat and knowing who in Hollywood is about to explode in popularity. The problem is that Phase 4 and 5, across movies and TV, have already had plenty of impressive directors and writers on board, but only a portion of the many projects put into development during the post-Endgame era have actually yielded the results everyone expected.
To be fair, Marvel's Infinity Saga run wasn't perfect either, as great and shiny as everything feels from a distance and right in the middle of a franchise slump. For example, Alan Taylor's work on 2013's Thor: The Dark World remains one of the dullest we've seen in the MCU despite the director's huge Game of Thrones curriculum and last-minute Joss Whedon rewrites. On the other side of the spectrum, however, the unexpected hiring of the Russo Brothers to spearhead the second Captain America movie resulted in the most successful directing duo that's served Feige and the Disney overlords. No one can explain what happened after they departed the Marvel house though.
At first glance, Jake Schreier and Lee Sung Jin seem like perfect fits for the Thunderbolts material; Beef is both hilarious and gut-wrenching, which is the exact kind of balance and energy you'd want for a compelling cinematic take on Marvel's answer to DC's Suicide Squad. Moreover, the clean character arcs and the banter between the major players in Netflix's latest hit series is a highlight and lands really close to the DNA the MCU's 'golden era' was known for. It all sounds ideal on paper, but we've been burned far too many times since 2021, and getting excited for upcoming MCU projects is becoming harder and harder in spite of some recent wins.
While many rival cinematic franchises would kill even for Marvel Studios' median level of quality during Phase 4 and 5, things are far from where they should be, and scorching 2023 flops such as Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, the truly dreadful Secret Invasion limited series, and The Marvels have piled up and made the once mighty kingdom of Feige an online running gag of sorts (and that's without even getting into the real-life drama of some key actors). Is this the beginning of a definitive fall or just a bad couple of years? Deadpool 3 might clear things up later this year.
Back to Thunderbolts, and to wrap this brief opinion piece up, there's no reason to think that Jake Schreier and Lee Sung Jin can't crack a killer big-screen Thunderbolts adaptation, but despite undisputable wins such as Loki and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Hawkeye, Spider-Man: No Way Home, or even the second Doctor Strange movie, the MCU has never felt more impersonal and 'franchised to death' as the machine wasn't briefly turned off and reset when problems started to arise. Middling installments and unfulfilled post-credits scenes once were the exception, and now they're the norm. No matter how many attractive names are attached to this project, it's hard to muster up excitement before seeing a convincing change in the overall direction of the universe we still desperately want to love.
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