Sebastian Stan discusses the Thunderbolts’ position in the MCU, saying his character Bucky Barnes and the others aren’t heroes or villains.
Sebastian Stan, the actor for Bucky Barnes, reveals whether the Thunderbolts are villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The lineup for Phase 5’s Thunderbolts movie was announced last weekend at the D23 Expo. The film will feature David Harbour’s Red Guardian, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Stan’s Bucky Barnes, Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost, Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Val).
While all these characters have appeared in other MCU properties, their stories have mostly been those of villains, anti-heroes, or antagonists rather than the straightforward heroes that usually head up MCU movies. The Red Guardian and Yelena were introduced in 2021’s Black Widow, forming part of Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) twisted adoptive family. Taskmaster served as an antagonist in that film, though not the main villain. Ghost was introduced as the villain in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, while Val and John Walker showed up in 2021 Disney+ series The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. By far the most heroic name on the list, Bucky first showed up in 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger and has appeared in many MCU projects since. By featuring a line-up of shady and morally grey characters, Thunderbolts has the potential to deliver a rich new MCU story.
In an interview with ExtraTV at the D23 Expo, Stan offers a tease about the Thunderbolts’ status in the MCU. Though not all the characters on the list are totally villainous, they’re not exactly heroes either, and Stan alludes to that contrast. Check out what he has to say below:
Well again, maybe that’s what the movie is going to answer, right? It’s always interesting when you as an audience member have to maybe decide whether we are villains or heroes. But I think that’s what compelling about the movie: it’s very unconventional like that. So it starts out a little bit like ‘Who’s really the protagonist or antagonist,’ I guess.
Thunderbolts has a similar, though less extreme, setup to DC’s The Suicide Squad, in that many of its characters have taken on villainous roles in the franchise’s past installments. Stan’s comments imply the characters will continue their morally grey ways in the film, counting on the audience to decide for themselves who to root for. Bucky’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier arc continued his decidedly heroic path, so perhaps the events of Captain America: New World Order, which directly precedes Thunderbolts, will throw his allegiances into question. After Bucky’s history in past MCU films fighting alongside the Avengers, it will be interesting to see the trajectory that leads him to join with this shady team of anti-heroes.
Thunderbolts has the potential to seriously change the MCU by centering traditionally antagonistic characters and offering them more than a third-act redemption arc. By creating a new life for the complex antiheroes, Marvel is paving the way for more villain-centered projects like Disney+ series Loki, which is Marvel’s most-watched series thus far. Thunderbolts is currently set for a summer 2024 release. Hopefully, a trailer will be released soon to offer fans additional plot details for the film.