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Thunderbolts - What We Know So Far

Leading up to the 2022 D23 Expo (Disney's biennial fan event which functions like a second SDCC in terms of massive media reveals), the Online Discourse was vocally adamant that, amongst the trailers for long-awaited sequels and previews for upcoming musical adaptations, there would be a casting announcement for one of Marvel's most anticipated future projects — "The Fantastic Four." Well, the D23 Expo is over, and we're no closer to confirming whether or not John Krasinski only signed on to "Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" for a one-off bit. More agonizing still, the same Online Discourse insisted that the news would include an MCU entrance for Henry Cavill as the infamous Doctor Doom. This, too, is, as yet, unconfirmed. 

Instead, Marvel fans were treated to more "Daredevil" content with an appearance from both Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio. This, however, was not designed to be Marvel's biggest reveal of the night. No, that honor lay with "Thunderbolts," a new team comprised of morally gray, familiar faces. It was an odd choice to rely upon as the cornerstone for marketing buzz, but, hey, we're talking about it right now, aren't we? Here's everything we know about "Thunderbolts" so far and what fans can expect with Marvel's version of "The Suicide Squad."  

What's the release date for Thunderbolts?

Thanks to the 2022 San Diego Comic Con, as noted by Coming Soon, we already know the answer to this one. "Thunderbolts" will release July 26th, 2024, and will serve as the final entry in Phase 5, which is a mostly arbitrary segmentation process that Kevin Feige uses to measure the Marvel Cinematic Universe's story. While it's possible for that to change (Marvel has switched the lineup around before, after all) this is set in stone ... unless it isn't. Welcome to Hollywood, friends. Everything's made up and the dates don't matter. 

Now, one of the many reasons that it's surprising for Feige and Marvel to be leaning on "Thunderbolts" for buzz is that there are, ostensibly, far more exciting projects officially scheduled before AND after "Thunderbolts." An argument could be made that "Guardians of the Galaxy" originally faced a similar lack of interest, but at least James Gunn's space bandits were entirely fresh to cinematic audiences when their first film dropped in theaters and, as we mentioned earlier, the "Thunderbolts" team is comprised entirely of familiar faces. 

Who's in the cast of Thunderbolts?

Kevin Feige made a show of disclosing the primary lineup for "Thunderbolts" one by one. As to emulate that energy would require a number of additional, unnecessary slides; forgive us if we simply list them all here. The headliners, as recorded by Deadline, are Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka the Winter Soldier aka the White Wolf, and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) aka ... we're not sure, actually. Technically, she is a Black Widow, just like her sister, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansen), but she's never indicated that she wishes to be monikered in the same way. Fulfilling the same role for the Thunderbolts as Nicholas Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for the Avengers, there's Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), aka the Contessa. 

The team is rounded out with Alexei Alanovich Shostakov (David Harbour), aka the Red Guardian, John Walker (Wyatt Russel), aka U.S. Agent, Antonia Dreykov (Olga Kurylenko), aka Task Master, and Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen) aka Ghost. For clarity, this is the confirmed cast of characters for the TEAM known as the Thunderbolts, and not inherently the entire cast of the movie "Thunderbolts" in which they will appear. There will undoubtedly be more new, and possibly more familiar, faces involved. 

Unfortunately, there's no word as to whether Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), aka Baron Zemo, who heavily features as part of the team in the comics and is currently active(ish) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will appear. 

What is the plot of Thunderbolts?

The short answer is that we don't know. The slightly longer answer is entirely speculative. In the comics, the Thunderbolts were named after Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), but this isn't likely to happen as Hurt passed away earlier in 2022. That besides, the Marvel Cinematic Universe altered their Red Hulk (Ross has a wild resume in the comics) so much that he only shares his bad attitude with his 2D counterpart, and his nickname was never really used. Further, it seems like the Contessa will be the progenitor of the Thunderbolts within the MCU, while Baron Zemo created the Thunderbolts in the comics.

On the page, the Thunderbolts were a facade — Baron Zemo wanted to fool the public into thinking that he'd become a hero so that he could continue doing nefarious things. As he isn't even acknowledged to be part of the movie (yet, there's still hope), it's possible that the origin will be entirely changed. From the little that the MCU has provided for the Contessa to do so far, it's speculated that the Thunderbolts will be a slightly more family-friendly version of DC's Suicide Squad, but considering how she sent Yelena to assassinate Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) aka Hawkeye, even that is suspect. 

More confusing still is how none of the confirmed cast is actively framed as "villains." These characters, like Bucky and Yelena, seem to be searching for redemption, and it's incredibly unlikely that they're weak enough — or dumb enough — to be imprisoned in the same way as DC's villain crew. Again, we just don't know what to expect, but maybe that's why "Thunderbolts" has so much potential.