MCU Theory: Thunderbolts Will Bring Back the Sokovia Accords

Marvel Studios returned to San Diego Comic-Con in 2022 to deliver a staggering slate of movies and television shows that will comprise the next two phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From a beautiful trailer for the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to the announcement of Avengers: Secret Wars, Kevin Feige let fans in closer than ever on the future of the Marvel Universe. Along with many truly unexpected announcements, one reveal was all at once shocking and inevitable: a Thunderbolts film is in the works. While it’s surprising — and potentially exciting — that an entire film will be dedicated to this controversial super-team, they may be the key to addressing one of the MCU’s biggest plot holes: the Sokovia Accords.

While building up Kang the Conqueror, the multiverse, and a new age of heroes, Phase Four has been carefully assembling a team of villains and anti-heroes to comprise a Thunderbolts team. For casual fans, the Thunderbolts are a bit similar to DC Comics Suicide Squad in that it’s commonly a rotating roster of reformed or otherwise coerced super villains often operating at the behest of the American government. The Thunderbolts are also loosely tied to the nefarious Avengers team, the Dark Avengers, which is comprised of evil analogs of Avengers members. While Phase Four made the Thunderbolts a possibility with the inclusion of U.S. Agent, Abomination, Yelena Belova and other potential anti-heroic faux-Avengers, the official confirmation of this team hammers home a missing element of Captain America: Civil War.

Captain America: Civil War very loosely adapts the vast Civil War Marvel Comics event. The film took the concept of a “Superhero Registration Act” and scaled it down to more appropriately fit within the smaller MCU via the Sokovia Accords. A question that became quickly relevant in the film (though never answered in full) is who will be responsible for apprehending rogue superheroes? In the comics, the answer was the Thunderbolts. During the Civil War event, Baron Zemo led a team of Thunderbolts under the watch of Tony Stark and the U.S. Government. Thus, it’s possible that something similar is true for this MCU film.

The name itself is a clue in this direction. In the MCU, the only context for the name “Thunderbolt” is former General and Senator Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, the father of the Sokovia Accords. Actor William Hurt passed away in 2022, so it’s likely Ross will not appear in the film; this could mean that — within the universe — the name was chosen to honor the possibly late Senator Ross as they work to continue his goal of keeping superheroes in check. The film’s proximity to Captain America: New World Order is also potentially telling; after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s doubtful Sam Wilson is going to end his ominously titled solo film on good terms with the government. Thunderbolts could even be a secret sequel to New World Order, with the team tasked with bringing in Captain America himself. Either way, it’s likely that New World Order will upset the status quo for superheroes, which could pave the way for the Thunderbolts to become the nation’s government-sanctioned superhero team.

While it’s certainly not the only choice for a Thunderbolts movie, having them hunting down superheroes in violation of the Sokovia Accords could be interesting. Aside from bringing back an important MCU plot point and distancing the franchise from Suicide Squad comparisons, it could also provide an interesting character arc for presumptive team leader Baron Zemo. His story thus far has been defined by his need to keep power in check; a position on the Thunderbolts would all at once enforce and challenge the core of Zemo, possibly changing him for good. In any case, it’s exciting to know for certain that the Thunderbolts are on the way, and fans can look forward to the film at the end of Phase Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To see how the film plays out, the Thunderbolts movie is set to hit theaters on July 26, 2024.

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