Summary

  • Marvel Studios reportedly altered
    Thunderbolts’
    ending to avoid killing off team members, perhaps addressing a major MCU issue.
  • Thunderbolts
    film production faced delays and script rewrites, but recent developments indicate major progress.
  • Thunderbolts
    can give neglected MCU characters more attention, and set up some heroes as major parts of the MCU’s future storylines.



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Marvel Studios has reportedly changed the ending of Phase 5’s upcoming Thunderbolts, proving that one major MCU problem might actually be being solved. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige confirmed the development of a Thunderbolts movie in 2022, with the Jake Schreier-directed project set to bring back reformed villains and antiheroes from the MCU’s past to form a new superpowered team. In lieu of any Multiverse Saga Avengers projects, Marvel Studios’ Thunderbolts will mark the first major crossover event since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, though the fates of the Thunderbolts team members were almost very different to those of the original Avengers.


Thunderbolts has had a tumultuous production period, plagued by script rewrites, major delays and 2023’s disruptive – though necessary – WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. However, a recent article by The Hollywood Reporter seems to hint at production moving in the right direction now, as Marvel Studios has hired The Bear’s Joanna Calo to work on Thunderbolts’ script alongside Beef’s Lee Sung Jin. However, The Hollywood Reporter also suggested that previous drafts of the script for Thunderbolts featured the team members’ deaths, which would have strengthened a long-lasting issue with the MCU, but it seems this problem may have been avoided.

Marvel also hired Joanna Calo, the showrunner of acclaimed FX series
The Bear
, to work on the script for
Thunderbolts
,
The Hollywood Reporter
has learned. The film will begin shooting in March in Atlanta. Her hiring adds a flair of prestige to the project, which stars Florence Pugh and — according to a source who has read previous drafts of the script — centers on villains and antiheroes going on a mission that was supposed to end with their deaths.


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Some Of The MCU’s Most Neglected Characters Are Returning In Thunderbolts

Since kicking off with 2008’s Iron Man, the MCU has become known to neglect some of its smaller characters. While this allowed the franchise’s bigger names, including Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, to shine, it meant that many of the MCU’s supporting or side characters were left underdeveloped. Several members of the MCU’s upcoming Thunderbolts team have previously fallen victim to this trend, meaning Phase 5’s Thunderbolts will provide the opportunity to finally give them their own time in the spotlight, but this would be meaningless if Thunderbolts ends with their demises.


Most notably, Hannah John Kamen’s Ava Starr, a.k.a. Ghost, and Olga Kurylenko’s Antonia Dreykov, a.k.a. Taskmaster, are two of the MCU’s most neglected former villains. After having received criticism following their debuts in Ant-Man and the Wasp and Black Widow, respectively, Ghost and Taskmaster will get more substantial roles in Thunderbolts, allowing them to be better fleshed-out. This is also the case, though less so, for David Harbour’s Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. Red Guardian, Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, a.k.a. US Agent, and even Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ mysterious Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, each of whom need to be better established in the MCU.

Bucky Barnes’ Death In Thunderbolts Would Have Wasted His MCU Redemption

Bucky Barnes recovering in Wakanda at the end of Black Panther


Some could argue that Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes making the sacrifice play at the end of Thunderbolts could be the perfect conclusion to his MCU redemption arc. However, it would be a shame to eliminate Stan’s long-lasting MCU character so soon after all the work he’s done in recent years to break free from his HYDRA conditioning and become a powerful ally to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. 2021’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier saw Bucky Barnes finally become a bona fide hero in the MCU, so he needs some time to really settle into this role in future MCU projects.

Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes has been teased to become the de facto leader of the Thunderbolts, mirroring Steve Rogers’ role as Captain America among the original Avengers.


Currently, Sebastian Stan is one of the MCU’s longest-running actors, having portrayed James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Initially depicted as Steve Rogers’ closest friend, Bucky returned in 2014’s The Winter Soldier as the titular HYDRA-controlled villain, but has put in a lot of work to break free from this brainwashing and become a productive member of the MCU’s roster. All this work would be for nothing if Bucky dies during Phase 5’s Thunderbolts, as he has been given the potential to become one of the MCU’s primary heroes in the Multiverse Saga and beyond.

Thunderbolts Can Now Prepare Characters For Bigger MCU Superhero Teams

Yelena Belova listening to Clint Barton at the end of Hawkeye

One of the most neglected heroes in the history of the MCU was Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow. Romanoff often faded into the background in the Infinity Saga’s Avengers projects, sacrificed herself in Endgame, which meant that she couldn’t take part in the epic final battle against Thanos, and only saw her first solo MCU project after her demise – which wasn’t massively well-received anyway. One of the best parts of Black Widow’s MCU timeline was the introduction of her legacy heroes, two of whom will appear in Thunderbolts: the Red Guardian and Yelena Belova, Romanoff’s surrogate sister.


Related

Yelena As The New MCU Black Widow? Hawkeye Makes It Her Perfect Future

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Florence Pugh debuted as Yelena Belova in 2021’s Black Widow, and reappeared in 2021’s Hawkeye series on Disney+, but will next be seen among the Thunderbolts team in the MCU’s Phase 5. Marvel Studios seems to have set Belova up to replace Romanoff as the MCU’s Black Widow, which could tease her future as a member of a new Avengers team after her experiences with the Thunderbolts. If she dies in Thunderbolts, however, this wouldn’t be possible, and Natasha Romanoff would have been given yet another insult in the MCU. Without her demise, Yelena Belova’s MCU future is incredibly exciting.

The Thunderbolts Don’t Need To Die For The Line-Up To Change


Those such as Bucky Barnes and Yelena Belova could be set up for bigger roles in other MCU superteams, and some members could simply leave, clearing up space for a new Thunderbolts line-up.

It could be assumed that Marvel Studios wanted to kill off the Thunderbolts in order to establish a new roster, but the team’s change doesn’t need to be this extreme. The Thunderbolts roster has changed many times since their Marvel Comics debut in 1997’s The Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #449, and the same can be done in the live-action MCU without killing any of the team’s members. Those such as Bucky Barnes and Yelena Belova could be set up for bigger roles in other MCU superteams, and some members could simply leave, clearing up space for a new Thunderbolts line-up.


Potential future members of the MCU’s Thunderbolts team include the likes of Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo, Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky, a.k.a. Abomination, Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo, Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector, a.k.a. Moon Knight, and even Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher, following his debut in Daredevil: Born Again. There was some confusion about why some of the MCU’s most iconic villains and antiheroes weren’t included in the first line-up of the team, but they may be saved for future iterations. Marvel Studios doesn’t need to end Thunderbolts with the team’s deaths for this to be the case.

Marvel’s Thunderbolts

Marvel’s Thunderbolts is a superhero movie based on the comic team of the same name. The movie acts as a part of the MCU’s fifth phase of films. The film sees the likes of Bucky Barnes, Yelena Belova, Wyatt Russell, the Red Guardian, and more as an unlikely group of heroes and villains brought together to fight for good.

Director
Jake Schreier

Release Date
May 2, 2025

Writers
Lee Sung Jin

Key Release Dates

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