New Information Comes To Light Regarding ‘Thunderbolts’ Replacement

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Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova

Credit: Marvel Studios

New information has been reported regarding the new Thunderbolts* movie that is set to release next year.

A group of seven superhero characters, known as the Thunderbolts, stand in a dramatic pose against a dark, starry background. They are dressed in various costumes, ranging from futuristic armor to black tactical gear. The characters exude a sense of readiness and determination.
Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios is 15 months into its Phase Five. After Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) wrapped up Phase Four–the sequence that began with WandaVision and Black Widow (2021)–earlier than first expected, Phase Five of the Multiverse Saga began with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023).

The third outing from director Peyton Reed failed to land a home run at the box office and cemented fears that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was declining in both reputation and reliability. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) was a bright spark in the muddled year, but The Marvels (2023) saw the MCU once again come crashing down.

Paul Rudd looking exasperated as Ant-Man
Credit: Marvel Studios

Amid this MCU activity, returning Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger has been increasingly vocal regarding his own views on Marvel boss Kevin Feige’s billion-dollar franchise. Iger has questioned Marvel’s use of the same characters (only sequels were released across 2022 and 2023) and criticized the notion of audience fatigue.

The CEO also challenged Marvel’s television output, which, up until recently, opted for a feature film-style creative process. Now, as both Feige and Head of Streaming Brad Winderbaum have recently shared, a more traditional process is now in place for the TV arm, with the latter also confirming that the studio will develop more than it produces.

Kevin Feige at D23 Expo
Credit: D23

All this chatter has led up to Iger declaring that Marvel Studios will not release more than three movies and two TV shows per year. In addition, the TV projects will now fall under two banners: Marvel Animation and the returning Marvel Television. Alongside Marvel Spotlight, the studio now has key areas in which to develop, produce, and promote new content.

There are some big projects coming down the line. Presently, only one sequel is on the slate, not including the upcoming Avengers 5 (2026) and Avengers: Secret Wars (2027). Captain America: Brave New World (2025), starring Anthony Mackie as the MCU’s new Captain America, will open next year’s movie run in February.

Anthony Mackie looking down at the Captain America Shield as an old Chris Evans looks on
Credit: Marvel Studios

Following that, Thunderbolts* (2025) will close out Phase Five before The Fantastic Four (2025) and Blade (2025) take audiences into Phase Six.

Footage from CinemaCon 2024 shows Captain America: Brave New World returning to the more grounded world of the MCU and positioning Sam Wilson/Captain America (Mackie) in cahoots with the President of the United States, the former General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by MCU newcomer Harrison Ford, who replaces the late William Hurt in the tenured franchise role.

Anthony Mackie looks at the Captain America shield in Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Credit: Marvel Studios

One notable absence from Captain America: Brave New World will be Mackie’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier co-star Sebastian Stan. Stan’s Bucky Barnes, AKA Winter Soldier, will not appear in the fourth Captain America movie but will be appearing in its successor, Thunderbolts*.

At one time, the movie was called simply Thunderbolts. Then, Kevin Feige revealed that this title would be replaced with a new one. Now known as Thunderbolts*, Feige claimed that the asterisk would only be explained after the movie airs next May.

Wyatt Russell as John Walker (L) and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes (R)
Credit: Marvel Studios

As shared a few years ago, the MCU’s Thunderbolts squad will consist of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova/Black Widow, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, Wyatt Russell as John Walker/U.S. Agent, Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost, Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov/Taskmaster, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier.

But while this may seem like a true ensemble affair, new information has come to light that signals Thunderbolts* may actually be more of a sequel to a contentious Phase Four movie.

Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
Credit: Marvel Studios

Director Cate Shortland introduced Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova as Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) sister in 2021’s Black Widow. Belova reappeared in the Hawkeye Disney+ series and will next star in Thunderbolts*.

Black Widow was not universally well-received but did stumble due to its delayed debut, which was further delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. That said, Shortland’s movie positioned Pugh’s Black Widow character as one of the new stars of the MCU.

scarlett johansson as natasha romanoff (left) and florence pugh as yelena belova (right) black widow on bike
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Directors Weigh in on ‘Winter Soldier’ as Marvel Reveals Sebastian Stan’s Replacement

“Pugh, 28, earned an eight-figure payday for two Marvel films, first the Scarlett Johansson-led Black Widow, then Thunderbolts, where she will be at the top of the call sheet,” writes The Hollywood Reporter.

A new report also corroborates this. Alex Perez writes that Thunderbolts* is “just a Black Widow sequel the same way Civil War was a Captain America sequel… Yelena’s handling Red Room remnants and then gets sidetracked with Thunderbolts,” via Comic Book Movie.

Florence Pugh and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Yelena Belova and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in 'Black Widow' (2021)
Credit: Marvel Studios

No plot description has been shared by Disney or Marvel, but placing a current Hollywood star at the center of the movie could be the magic that pulls a wider audience in.

Pugh filmed some behind-the-scenes footage from the set of Thunderbolts*, suggesting that the production is keen to give the charismatic actress as much space as possible. Earlier this year, the Little Women star was on the press tour for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two (2024). Will Marvel want to replicate the successful marketing of the Warner Bros. movie?

Florence Pugh smiling while stirring something in a pot, with a bottle of sauce visible on the table.
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Actress Walks Away From ‘Captain Marvel’ Leaving MCU Future Shattered, Addresses Exit

Thunderbolts* is written by Eric Pearson, Lee Sung Jin, and Joanna Calo and directed by Jake Schreier. It is set to be released on May 2, 2025.

What do you think will happen in Thunderbolts*? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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