Following the wild success of Marvel Studio’s “Iron Man” in 2008, the popularity of superhero films, TV shows, comics and video games has increased dramatically. Of course, there were plenty of fans of superheroes and comic book characters prior to the release of the first Iron Man movie, but by putting fan-favorite characters such as Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk on the big screen, Marvel Studios made superheroes much more visible and accessible to a far broader audience.
As of 2017, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or “MCU” for short, consists of sixteen fantasy and science fiction films starring big name actors and actresses and featuring superhuman protagonists and antagonists. The DC Extended Universe, or “DCEU,” and the X-Men films are two of the other big superhero-centric cinematic franchises. Currently, the DCEU has only three films released and the X-Men film franchise has nine (counting “Deadpool,” which has in-film references and ties to the events of the MCU, but hasn’t officially been counted as part of the MCU canon.)
With the overwhelming popularity of films based on superheroes, it’s not surprising that big entertainment corporations, such as Marvel Studios and DC, have a number of highly anticipated superhero films set to release in the next year. For fans of the characters, or just of the genre, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about the next phases of the DCEU and MCU. Without further ado, here are five of the most highly anticipated superhero films coming to theaters in 2017 and 2018.
1. Thor: Ragnarok
“Thor: Ragnarok” will be the seventeenth film in the MCU canon, and is set to release in the U.S. on November 3, 2017. Starring Chris Hemsworth as the titular Thor, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and Cate Blanchette as Hela, Goddess of Death, “Thor: Ragnarok” is the third installment in the “Thor” film series.
According to a poll taken by Fandango, Marvel Studio’s “Thor: Ragnarok” is the fall’s most anticipated film, even beating out DC’s “Justice League.” One highlight from the film’s trailer shows Thor in a gladiator-esque fighting pit, facing off against the Hulk (who has been missing from the MCU since the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) in what seems to be a fight to the death. Meanwhile, Hela, Goddess of Death, plans to destroy the Norse Gods’ city of Asgard and rebuild it in her image. To save Asgard and prevent Ragnarok, the end-times in Norse mythology, Thor must work with the Hulk and his half-frost-giant brother, Loki (who has caused his share of problems for the Avengers in the past), to stop Hela and save Asgard.
2. Justice League
After “Thor: Ragnarok,” the next superhero film set to release in 2017 is “Justice League,” which comes out in the U.S. on November 17, 2017. Unlike the other four films on this list, “Justice League” is set in the DCEU and features heroes from the DC universe. “Justice League” is an ensemble superhero film, meaning it features a team of primary characters that have had or will eventually have their own films. The film’s stars are Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as Flash and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.
Fandango lists “Justice League” as the second-most-anticipated film of the fall, according to a survey of movie-goers conducted this summer. Gal Gadot, the actress playing Wonder Woman in “Justice League,” was ranked in the same poll as the actress whose return to the big screen is most anticipated by Fandango costumers this year. This isn’t surprising, since the “Wonder Woman” film released earlier this year easily crushed records at the box office and continues to make an astonishing amount of money months after its initial release.
The plot of “Justice League” picks up where “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” left off. Basically, Bruce Wayne (Batman) teams up with Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) to assemble a group of superhumans and metahumans to face the catastrophic threat posed by an evil army led by the supervillain Steppenwolf. Their team, the Justice League for which the film is named, consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Superman, Aquaman and Cyborg.
3. Black Panther
Set to release in the U.S. on February 16, 2018, Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther” will be the eighteenth film in the MCU canon. “Black Panther” stars Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa, the titular Black Panther, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger and Danai Gurira as Okoye, head of King T’Challa’s all-female special forces unit.
(WARNING: Spoilers for Marvel’s “Civil War” ahead!) Introduced to the MCU in “Captain America: Civil War,” King T’Challa, also known by his superhero alias “Black Panther,” has already gone through some intense on-screen character developments. After his father was killed in an explosion during a United Nations meeting, T’Challa ascended to the throne of the fictional African country of Wakanda. During “Civil War,” his character arc is primarily driven by his desire to avenge his father’s death, but he eventually realizes that killing the man who killed his father isn’t the right path. Instead, he turns the villain, Zemo, over to the authorities, making sure that he is locked up for his crimes.
Actor Chadwick Boseman managed to bring so much depth and character to T’Challa in the short amount of screen time he had in “Civil War,” so it’s incredibly exciting to think what he’ll be able to accomplish as the primary lead in “Black Panther.” Currently, there isn’t an overly-detailed description of the upcoming film’s plot, but apparently the threat that Black Panther and his allies will be facing is an “old enemy” that will threaten the fate of Wakanda, as well as the world.
4. Avengers: Infinity War
The third “Avengers” movie (not counting Marvel’s “Civil War,” which included the entire Avengers team but wasn’t officially an “Avengers” film) is set to release in the U.S. on May 4, 2018. It stars a huge team of big-name actresses and actors, including Chris Evans as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Paul Rudd as Antman, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Holland as Spiderman, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and many more.
Like Marvel’s “Avengers,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” is highly anticipated because it will bring so many incredibly well-developed and beloved characters together in one epic, action-packed film. Unlike the other ensemble films in the MCU so far, “Infinity War” takes the team dynamic one step further: In addition to bringing the Avengers team together again, new players such as Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy will be joining the Avengers’ efforts to stop the Mad God Thanos from collecting the Infinity Stones and gaining ultimate power over the universe.
5. Deadpool 2
“Deadpool 2,” the twelfth installment in the X-Men film franchise, finally has a set release date: June 1, 2018. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Josh Brolin as Cable, Zazie Beetz as Domino, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Morena Baccarin as Copycat.
Because it’s still over nine months until the film is out, there is no solid information concerning the film’s plot currently available. However, the cast list and trailer have already been released, providing hints at what could come next for Marvel’s invincible and foul-mouthed mercenary mutant.
While Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin), didn’t display any super-human traits in the first “Deadpool” film, the fact that she’s referred to as “Copycat” in the second film’s cast list suggests she might assume that title in “Deadpool 2.” In the comics, Copycat was a shapeshifting mutant hired by an arms dealer to spy on the mutant known as Cable (played by Josh Brolin in “Deadpool 2”) by assuming the physical form and appearance of another mercenary named Domino (played by Zazie Beetz in “Deadpool 2”). Depending on how much of the comics’ storyline the film decides to use, elements of this arc could appear in “Deadpool 2.”