The MCU’s movie bad guys are all teaming up in Thunderbolts – arguably Marvel’s version of DC’s The Suidice Squad. But there are no aliens or strange beings here. Most of the characters who make up the team of misfits are misunderstood or were under some form of influence during the life of crime.
There’s no Killmonger. No Green Goblin. No Mandarin. No Yellowjacket. No Kaecilius. No Obadiah Stane. No Yon-Rogg. No Ivan Vanko. No Red Skull. Most of these characters are dead or in space. What we’re left with in the MCU’s Thunderbolts movie are the not-so-bad baddies.
What is Marvel’s Thunderbolts?
Marvel’s Thunderbolts is an upcoming (release date is already set for the 26th of July 2024) MCU superhero team-up movie based on the Marvel comics team of the same name. The film will be the sequel to Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Widow, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It will be the 37th in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be the final instalment of Phase 5.
Deadline reported on the 9th of June 2022 that Thunderbolts (2024) is finally in development with director Jake Schreier set to direct the MCU film and Eric Pearson (who also wrote Black Widow) penning the script with the help of Kurt Busiek.
They also reported that the Marvel film was scheduled to begin production in the summer of 2023, that the cast would most likely consist of those already established as MCU characters, and that Marvel Studios has begun to take steps to secure the availability of some of the actors.
The Thunderbolts movie was then officially announced by Marvel Boss Kevin Feige at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, where he discussed their involvement in Phase 5, and the official roster was announced at the D23 Expo as well as many of the actors that will be involved in the project. It was also revealed that the film will effectively act as a spin-off of Black Widow, seeing a few of its characters returning.
Thunderbolts marks the MCU’s first supervillain/anti-hero team-up and has often been compared to DC’s very similar concept, Suicide Squad.
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Thunderbolts Film Cast Vs The Comics
The cast that has been announced for Marvel’s Thunderbolts is not the same as those that have been chosen for the team throughout the comics. The list of characters that have joined the Thunderbolts throughout comic history is extremely long, with most supervillains, anti-heroes and even some heroes filling their ranks throughout history, even some that have been counted amongst the Avengers in the past.
The Thunderbolts in the comics:
The Thunderbolts were originally formed as a part of a plan for world domination under Baron Zemo that was brought about after several members of the Avengers were killed in the Onslaught event. Zemo united the members of the Masters of Evil, a group of supervillains under him for something quite unexpected: to protect the world.
The group of villains took on new costumes and personas to gain the trust of the public and governments. Some members of the Thunderbolt started to enjoy their new roles as defenders instead of villains, which eventually brought about quite a divide within the team.
The roster for the comic version of the Thunderbolts is extremely extensive, as most of Marvel’s villains, as well as several heroes, have been affiliated with the team at some point in comic history. Many of the members of the original team have yet to make their MCU debut which may be the reason that Marvel is moving forward with a different cast of anti-heroes.
Many different heroes, anti-heroes and supervillains have led the team in the comics, including Bucky Barnes, Norman Osborn and General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross aka Red Hulk.
Ghost has appeared in many of the variations of the Thunderbolts teams, and seems to be included in the film as well.
Taskmaster is appearing in both the film and was a part of the Thunderbolts in the comics but appeared as Tony Masters who helped to train recruits to the team when it was run under Norman Osborn.
The comic book version formed under Thunderbolt Ross is made up of Punisher, Deadpool, Elektra, and Agent Venom. Some of these characters might have been left out of the roster for now because they have not been fully established within the MCU. For example, Deadpool has only recently been reacquired by Marvel Studios, Punisher has only appeared in the Marvel Netflix series that moved over to Disney Plus this year, and Agent Venom is a character that would technically be owned by Sony, as part of their Spider-Man pantheon of villains.
It is also, of course, possible that many of the characters that have previously made up part of the Thunderbolts will be debuted in the course of the movie. At this point, anything is possible.
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The cast of the movie has been announced and is so far made up of:
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
While Yelena Belova has not been introduced as a villain within the MCU, she started as a Russian Spy who originally graduated from the Red Room. This may be of little consequence as her sister, Natasha Romanov did the same but was accepted into the ranks of the Avengers.
Yelena appeared in Hawkeye going after Clint Barton believing that he and the rest of the Avengers were responsible for her sister’s death. Because of this, she is unlikely to join the Avengers but is being led toward the Thunderbolts.
It was confirmed at SDCC by Florence Pugh herself that she would be leading the Thunderbolts team.
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Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier
Having led the Thunderbolts team before in the comics, many Marvel fans were grateful to see some familiar faces in the lineup along with the new ones.
After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it was only a matter of time to see which of the two heroes would inherit the mantle of Steve Rogers and become the new Captain America as both have inherited the title in comic book history. Sam Wilson as the Falcon seems to be set to inherit the Captain America shield, and everyone was wondering what was going to happen to the one who didn’t.
As a reformed mass murderer who has been pardoned for his crimes, it seems fitting that Bucky is finding himself among the Thunderbolts.
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Wyatt Russell as John Walker aka U.S. Agent
This character initially entered the MCU as the U.S. Government’s replacement for Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier but proved to be less than heroic, actually turning out to be more of an antagonist to Sam and Bucky. He is later discharged from the military and ends up self-injecting with the super-soldier serum, turning out very unstable.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine approaches him towards the end of his appearance on the show, laying the pathway for him to join the Thunderbolts.
Interestingly, Walker was never a part of the team in the comics and fought against them on multiple occasions. It will be really interesting to see how the dynamic between John and Bucky plays out in the movie considering the tension between the two.
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Olga Kurylenko as Antonia Dreykov aka Taskmaster
This version of Taskmaster saw her debut in Black Widow and is a skilled mercenary that has definite ties to the Red Room in the MCU as she is supposedly the creator of the Red Room’s daughter. She can perfectly replicate any fighting style or move from any other character, the same as the comic book version of the character.
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian
Jokingly known as “Captain Russia” and made especially funny by the fact that Alexei perceives a rivalry between himself and Steve Rogers even though Steve has no idea who Alexei is.
Red Guardian was the first Soviet-made super soldier and sports similar super strength and the same patriotism and relatively wholesome interpersonal traits as Captain America, purely by coincidence.
Historically connected to the Red Room (having worked for them and raised Natasha and Yelena in preparation for the Red Room), Red Guardian is no stranger to the world of superpowered espionage.
He hasn’t shown up in the Thunderbolts comics before.
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr aka Ghost
Ghost was originally a covert agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. that was set up as a villain, but turned out to be more of a misunderstood anti-hero. With a bit of a tragic backstory, having gained her ability to render herself intangible after a quantum accident that killed both her parents, she was slowly dying due to a lack of quantum energy which she could not control.
The character has also found themselves a part of the comic book line-up.
John-Kamen had expressed an interest in being part of a possible line-up long before the announcement of Thunderbolts was ever suggested, and her character is regularly picked out as one that should be included more. Ghost is an incredibly intriguing and under-explored character, and yet she felt far too deep to only be used as a once-off villain, so it’s awesome to see her coming back in Thunderbolts.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Although she is not Thunderbolt Ross who is usually one of the orchestrators that are associated with the creation of the Thunderbolts team (hence the name), de Fontaine has been steadily creeping her way into canon throughout the last Phase. She appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to recruit John Walker, as well as to confront Yelena at the end of Black Widow at Natasha’s grave.
Her motives for collecting troubled heroes and anti-heroes are still unclear, along with whom she is operating on behalf of if anyone at all. With her extensive knowledge of the U.S. Government’s inner workings and the leverage that she has to manipulate media narratives, it seems that she is a formidable orchestrator.
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Marvel’s Version of Suicide Squad
Thunderbolts are widely considered Marvel’s version of Suicide Squad, even more so now with the movie adaptation.
The Suicide Squad is a DC group of villains and anti-heroes that are brought together by Amanda Waller, often nicknamed “the Wall”, as a defensive task force to save the world from a threat that she thinks superheroes won’t be able to save them from. In The CW tv show Arrow, she was the head of Argus, which is essentially DC’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D., and in the movies, she simply works for an unnamed government agency. She ‘recruits’ villains like Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Diablo, Killer Croc and Enchantress by controlling them with a miniature bomb set into their spines at the base of their skull that will explode when she chooses.
The Thunderbolts is a Marvel group of villains, supervillains, and anti-heroes that appear to have been brought together by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (in the movie). It is unknown whether she is working for a government agency or independently, however she does have plenty of resources and intel on each of the members she has recruited, suggesting a wider network. Although it is unclear just how she will be getting her task force to fight for her (she might go the same route as Waller, by threatening them, who knows).
After the deaths of many of the Avengers, and with the world now absent of many of its defenders, she is bringing these heroes together to defend the planet, the same as the purpose for the Suicide Squad.
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Thunderbolts without Thunderbolt Ross
Having starred as the great General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in The Incredible Hulk and returning to impose the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, actor William Hurt has left a lasting impression as his character in the MCU.
Unfortunately, he passed away in March 2022, leaving a great absence behind him as his character was never quite able to be fully realised as the Red Hulk. Whether the MCU will recast the character remains to be seen as he is usually the founder of the Thunderbolts (as his name would suggest).
Marvel Studios could always bring back Sam Elliot who played General Ross in the 2003 version of Hulk that predated the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s more likely that the title will be passed down to another handler (possibly the Contessa who is the current founder?) as there cannot be Thunderbolts without Thunderbolt Ross.
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Why The New Cast Makes Perfect Sense
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
The Contessa has been setting herself up as some kind of handler or orchestrator throughout Phase 4, slowly suggesting things to the anti-heroes we see making up the cast, really setting herself up for her role.
Thunderbolts is being written by the same writer from Black Widow and has been positioned as a spin-off from the movie, and Yelena is being positioned to take over her sister’s title as Black Widow, so it makes perfect sense that she would not only be involved with the film but would become the leader of the group from within the team.
Bucky Barned/Winter Soldier
In comic book history, Bucky has not only been a part of the Thunderbolts but is even led the group from time to time. Although his story is quite sad if you think about it in the fact that he was brainwashed into becoming a mass murderer, he is now reformed and has been pardoned for his crimes. Although pardoned, it might not be so easy for the government and the general public to be able to accept him into the ranks of a prestigious group like the Avengers, so he would fit perfectly into the Thunderbolts.
With her powers to become intangible at will, she is an extremely formidable anti-hero despite her terminal illness and would make an extremely great addition to any team. Having negative aliases like Baba Yaga, and the Boogeyman, and being feared amongst those who have heard of her and probably not willing to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. after they took advantage of her abilities, if she wanted to do some good, she would need to do so from within an organization like Thunderbolts.
Daughter of General Dreykov, Antonia suffered a grave injury as collateral in an assassination attempt on her father. He installed a chip in her which controlled her body and mind, giving her the uncanny photographic reflexes that allow her to mimic her opponents. Unfortunately, she has been controlled for the majority of her life and used as a weapon for the Red Room, and would imaginably not be able to integrate seamlessly into society. A team like Thunderbolts would be perfect to help her do some good and maybe help her decide on her morals.
John Walker/U.S. Agent
Having been rejected by the U.S. Government after proving not to be a suitable replacement for his intended predecessor, and unstable from injecting himself with the super-soldier serum, Walker was a perfectly primed recruit for the Contessa. Although having usually been a foe for the Thunderbolts, the character will be a perfect anti-hero within the group, possibly creating some dramatic tension between himself and Bucky Barnes whom he clashed in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
All groups need their muscle, and with super strength and a warm, bear-hug-like personality, Alexei is a great addition to the team and may fill the role of comedic relief. Being one of the oldest members to join the Thunderbolts team in the MCU, Alexei will bring some wisdom to the team, and is one of three characters that were originally connected to the Red Room, and serves as a father figure to Yelena Belova.
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The movie is a pretty long way off, but people have been talking about Thunderbolts for the MCU as far back as 2008. The MCU is famous for meticulously planning their movies in the MCU, now adding the Disney+ series to their ranks, and we cannot wait to see how Thunderbolts will add to the story so far.
In a strange turn of events, Marvel’s website seems to reveal a spoiler: The return of Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo in Thunderbolts.
Recasting General Thunderbolt Ross
With D23 having come and gone, fans were given a lot of details about upcoming films and shows from all over Disney and the actors that would be starring in them, but it seems a major bit of information was kept from fans at the insistence of Kathleen Kennedy (the president of Lucasfilm).
After General Ross’s (played by William Hurt) last appearance in Black Widow and the character’s very clear health deterioration, it seemed like Marvel was finally planning on introducing Red Hulk to the big screen. Unfortunately for fans, Hurt lost his battle against prostate cancer back in March and there has been speculation about what would be happening with his character ever since. It has been reported that the character was probably going to be recast, and Marvel was looking at Harrison Ford to take on the role.
Harrison Ford has just finished filming the 5th and final instalment of Indiana Jones, which is set to release in 2023. It’s big news for the franchise and something that Kathleen Kennedy wanted to keep fans focused on, which would not have been possible if Marvel had announced that they were bringing Ford into the MCU, so she put a stop to it.
A member from The Hot Mic podcast, Jeff Sneider, explained exactly why the announcement hadn’t happened:
“So what I initially heard is that this was a done deal for D23, that they actually wanted to announce him (Ford) as a cast member in Thunderbolts at D23 but they didn’t because Kathleen Kennedy put her foot down and said, ‘No, we’re going to keep the focus on Indiana Jones 5 content, I don’t want this to become Harrison Ford joining the MCU, we’re going to keep the focus on Indy 5 right now.”
Fans suspect that the push to delay Harrison Ford’s casting announcement is an indication of how large of a role the character will actually be playing in Marvel’s Thunderbolts and the future of the MCU. He’s a big villain in the comics and, with it already being confirmed that Thunderbolts is going to include a number of already introduced characters such as Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), the US Agent (Wyatt Russell), and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), it is clear that the film is building a more morally grey team. It’s going to be interesting to see how these characters will manage to work together, especially with a couple of them having previously fought one another.
The inclusion of General Thunderbolt Ross and Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has left fans extremely excited for the future of the film and the team that is definitely going to have more infighting than the Avengers ever did.
Bringing Ford in may be Marvel’s way of securing its success with fans who aren’t yet sold on the idea of Marvel’s Thunderbolts movie. While Indiana Jones 5 was reported to be Ford’s last run before retirement, bringing him in as General Ross will give audiences a chance to see the beloved actor on-screen for a little while longer.
Tell are you excited for the MCU’s Suicide Squad movie, Marvel’s Thunderbolts?