The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get a whole lot grittier with the arrival of the Thunderbolts. In June 2022, Marvel Studios confirmed that a Thunderbolts film is in production. According to Deadline, the film currently has Jake Schreier in the director's seat and Black Widow writer Eric Pearson as the head writer. But unlike a faction like the Eternals who can justifiably appear in their own standalone film, the Thunderbolts draw from existing villains in the Marvel pantheon.
Who are the Thunderbolts originally? More importantly, what could they look like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Who are the Thunderbolts in Marvel?
"What, we some kinda... Thunderbolts?"
For anyone who remembers the 2016 Suicide Squad film, that's the general feel for the Thunderbolts. Similar to Task Force X from DC Comics lore, the Thunderbolts are typically comprised of reformed villains who are brought on to perform some dirty heroic feats. Many active Thunderbolts seek redemption for their past transgressions, or if nothing else, try to reach a deal with the government in exchange for their temporary servitude.
In the original comics, the Thunderbolts are organized by Baron Helmut Zemo, the son of Baron Zemo. Helmut initially recruits a band of supervillains to pose as heroes in the absence of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Once they won over the public, Helmut plans to gain access to SHIELD secrets and use them against the world. However, his recruits turn on him after realizing that they preferred being heroes.
The name "Thunderbolts" has been used several times since.
The Thunderbolts are typically comprised of B-List Marvel villains. However, later iterations of the team would include members like Black Widow, Taskmaster, Venom, Ant-Man, the Winter Soldier, and Elektra. One particular incarnation of the team sees NYC mayor Wilson Fisk creating his own Thunderbolts team, comprised of villains like Rhino. Even America Chavez was a member of a Thunderbolts squad led by Hawkeye.
Who could be part of the Thunderbolts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
For the most part, films and shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to feature villains who get beaten and/or killed by the end of two hours or so (six to eight episodes, for Disney Plus shows). However, there are still a number of active — if not incapacitated — villains or otherwise shady characters who could fill out the roster for the film. Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) could easily fill in a slot for the creator of the Thunderbolts.
Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) are two reputable assassins who certainly qualify for the job. We also know that Abomination (Tim Roth) will reappear in the new She-Hulk series, so he's in the running. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and the US Agent (Wyatt Russell) could also join. Fans who remember Daredevil should also note that Bullseye (Wilson Bethel) and Elektra (Elodie Yung) are still very much in play.
As of writing, Thunderbolts doesn't have a release date.