Story Pitch: Marvel's Thunderbolts

Source ("Justice, like lighting!")
"No law. No order. No heroes." What happens when the most dangerous criminals in existence are all that is left in a world overrun by monsters? In these four post-apocalyptic, caper films, six super-villains reluctantly work together with thirty-six other evil-doers to battle horrors that are worse than any of them combined. But can they trust one another enough to not murder each other? Based on the Marvel Comics property of the same name, these films will carry the same colorful vibe that all Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have had for a decade, while being more mature and darker in tone and approach, and also giving some spotlight to less-renowned characters.

That was the short version of this pitch, and if you are still interested, read-on! Welcome to Dateline Movies, and this is our pitch for a film series for Marvel's Thunderbolts!

Also, since I only have a few ideas for this pitch, and I just basically wanted to share it with all of you, this will be a particularly shorter post in contrast to recent pitches. In addition, I will save the commentary for another post.


Source ("Dormammu, I've come to bargain.")

Setting and placement in the MCU timeline

The world continued to thrive under the protection of superheroes, but even with the large number of budding crime-fighters and costumed vigilantes, crime, either intergalactic or local, either mystical or technological, still remains a constant problem.

As the years go by, as the technology grow superior, as the humans and super-humans evolve, things take a sharp turn for the worse when "The Mandarin" makes his presence known. Though initially thought to have been a work of fiction, the real Mandarin had only been waiting for the right moment to take over the world.

With enough knowledge on occultism thanks to his background as a former Master of the Mystic Arts, The Mandarin decided to set his sights on the mythical nature of the Dark Dimension, a terrifying netherworld where time does not matter, and where sinister monsters reside. With his new power, Schmidt allows for more paranormal activities to take place on Earth, and allowing for more Dark Dimension dwellers to roam the world unchecked by creating smaller, undetectable portals. The ruler of the Dark Dimension, the dread Dormammu, takes an interest in his power, and recruits The Mandarin as his second-in-command, with The Mandarin being promised to have Earth as his own personal, private domain.


Source (About seven decades in space is probably enough to still make a a bad guy ... a bad guy.)
A newly reassembled "Advanced Idea Mechanics" (AIM), formerly branded as a notorious criminal think tank responsible for several terrorist attacks on United States soil, decided to take an interest in weaponizing the Dark Dimension creatures, much like how they weaponized the Red Skull, who returned from his exile from space. This was going to be a part of the organization's first Thunderbolts Initiative, where experiments and projects are done to create new weapons of mass destruction to keep the world safe from other threats. As such, The Mandarin took advantage of this opportunity to further his goals by making use of the group's experiments to strengthen and tame the monsters, and no one at AIM was the wiser.

The world eventually descends into chaos as more monsters destroy everything on sight, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process. In a desperate attempt to save people as Earth becomes a complete part of the Dark Dimension, the Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange fights Dormammu. As Dormammu fought him on Earth, where time does matter, Strange had no choice but to kill the dark lord with forbidden spells, absorbing Dormammu's supernatural powers to prevent Earth from becoming nothing but raw energy. With Dormammu technically possessing Strange, Strange becomes convinced that by letting the monsters reside on Earth, not only will he be able to keep the world safe from external threats, but it would also control the population through fear. 


Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5 (From top left, then bottom right)
Twenty years later, the remaining members of human civilization are forced to reside in five "domed cities" for their protection, all monitored by AIM, in partnership with The Mandarin himself, who sees wisdom in Doctor Strange's newly discovered idealism. These five cities included ...

"Pleasant Hill", an AIM facility with the appearance of a seemingly normal suburban lot that serves as a prison, training ground, and experimental testing site for the forty-two most dangerous criminals in the world, which consist of numerous successful subjects of the Thunderbolts Initiative, as well as The Mandarin.

"Technopolis", a collective name for three separate space stations orbiting the Earth's ionosphere where the most psychotic and bored, bloodthirsty elitists, who are forced to wear Iron Man duplicate armors for self-defense and for murder sports, and who believe are smarter than all of AIM combined, reside almost peacefully, and is managed by a nigh-immortal Justin Hammer.

"Mandarin City", the largest, most powerful domed city that mixes both Babylonian and Chinese architecture, is notable for occupying the entirety of the Eurasian corner of the globe, and it is the urbanized fortress of The Mandarin. It is divided into ten different districts, each ruled by ten of The Mandarin's most trusted disciples and children.

"Spider-Island", a semi-rural, isolationist, and technological domed city that occupies the entire Manhattan Island, and is overseen by an older, much more powerful Spider-Man, with assistance from his army of mechanized "Spider-Slayers", and his own personal research and development enterprise known as "Parker Industries". And ...

"Wakanda", formerly the most advanced and most powerful nation in the planet, complete with the most state-of-the-art equipment in the world, the domed city is now but ruin after Ulysses Klaue detonated two nuclear warheads, leaving the entire place to be haunted by numerous Dark Dimension dwellers and to be Klaue's personal Vibranium mine.

Source (Avengers: Standoff! had a decent premise, and a not-at-all decent execution. Just saying.)
Premise

"Marvel's Thunderbolts" is told over a span of four different movies. Each installment focuses on the exploits of forty-two super-villains that are brought under the latest version of the Thunderbolts Initiative. Here, criminals are exiled far and away from the secured domed cities, and are tasked to reclaim as much territory as possible from the Dark Dimension monsters, while also rescuing as many civilians as possible. Each of the villains are free to do whatever evil deed that they please, as long as none of which will strictly violate specific rules and regulations that are provided beforehand. 

The recruits for the initiative are relocated to Pleasant Hill. Though it was established by The Mandarin to train more super-humans for his personal army, as well as to punish those who question his authority by forcing them to scavenge the wasteland for additional resources, Pleasant Hill is made to train the villains to assassinate The Mandarin. The goal of the whole operation would be to take over the world from The Mandarin, and lead society to a more utopia-like rule. The place is monitored by the reformed AIM, a group of the greatest minds on Earth who not only acts as the governing body in Pleasant Hill, but for all of the other domed cities in the world.

The chronological order of movies, each bearing an original title akin to the James Bond film series, are as follows ...
  • "Assault on Pleasant Hill" - The inmates of Pleasant Hill, with the assistance of the newly enhanced Red Skull, take control of the facility in an attempt to be free of AIM's control, and continue to do their villainous activities, but their actions ultimately result in dooming the entire prison to numerous hordes of Dark Dimension dwellers in the process.
  • "Quantum Sunshine" - In order to recapture the Red Skull, who plans to murder everyone with a massive black hole after sensing the majority of the world's pain and misery, the villains are sent to the space community "Technopolis", which is occupied by seemingly normal people permanently stuck to Iron Man duplicate armors, to retrieve M.O.D.O.C.
  • "The Hands of the Mandarin" - The Mandarin reveals that he is manipulating the Red Skull to be his energy tuning fork, as a means for him to conquer the universe, but the villains each debate on whether or not they should allow the Red Skull to either perform a planet-wide mercy kill, or use him to put everyone else under mind-control.
  • "Brave New World" - With The Mandarin killed, the villains rise-up to rebuild Earth into a utopia in the Dark Dimension by making use of the Red Skull's warp-generating powers to unleash an energy wave that brainwashes everyone, but when an unexpected enemy threatens the villains' success, they realize that they are not as strong as they seem.
The four flicks would be tackling the themes of justice, morality, and redemption. Specifically, all aim to answer one question: "Can the villains do a better job in making the world a safer place than the heroes could ever do?"

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5, Source 6, Source 7, Source 8, Source 9 (From top left to right.)
Cast of major characters

The four installments would be focusing on the following main characters, with the six main villains originally being retrieved from cryogenic incarceration for their respective crimes in the past ...
  • Helmut Zemo
  • A Sokovian colonel-turned-terrorist and assassin, who wants to rid the world of super-humans. The main antagonist of Captain America: Civil War, previously played by Daniel Brühl (The Cloverfield Paradox), Zemo would be struggling to adapt to a world that is dominated by super-powered beings, while fighting to keep his "humanity" in-check. 
  • Ava Starr / Ghost
  • A corporate saboteur and master thief who can become intangible after being caught in a "Quantum Anomaly". The main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp, previously played by Hannah John-Kamen (Tomb Raider), Starr would be coping with her increasing inability to maintain a stable body, while also dealing with her inevitable death.
  • Samuel Sterns / The Leader
  • A cellular biologist and disfigured, genius telepath exposed to a blood sample of Bruce Banner / The Hulk. A side-character in The Incredible Hulk, previously portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson (Minority Report), Sterns would be struggling to overcome his insecurities, as well as his never-ending lust for power and world domination.
  • Helen “Hallie” Takahama / Jolt
  • A teenage, power-hungry and socially awkward wannabe super-villain who can turn her body into pure electricity. A new character introduced in the film series, Takahama debates with herself on whether she wants to become the monster that everyone already deems her to be, or be a superhero instead.
  • Emil Blonsky / The Abomination
  • A Russian-born soldier injected with a recreated version of the Super Soldier Serum, who can become a powerful monster. The main antagonist of The Incredible Hulk, previously portrayed by Tim Roth (American Ultra), Blonsky would be dealing with his increasing lack of touch with his own humanity, as well as his ever worsening damaged, war-torn psyche.
Source (With the heroes gone, who can you trust?)
  • Melissa Gold / Songbird
  • A disgraced S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who can create solid sonic-based projections and fly with a pair of artificial vocal cords. A new character introduced in the film series, Gold attempts to redeem herself after singlehandedly dooming an entire operation that resulted in the deaths of everyone residing in the Wakandan domed city, including former King T'Challa.
  • Arnim Zola / M.O.D.O.C.
  • A presumed deceased Swedish scientist formerly affiliated with H.Y.D.R.A., who personally spearheaded S.H.I.E.L.D.’s downfall. The secondary antagonist of both Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, previously portrayed by Toby Jones (Capote) Zola is now a cyborg with a database of weapons designs.
  • Elizabeth “Betty” Ross / Scientist Supreme
  • A scientist formerly studying gamma radiation, and the newly appointed leader of the re-purposed think tank AIM. A side-character from The Incredible Hulk, previously portrayed by Liv Tyler (Armageddon), Ross struggles with her newly obtained regenerating powers, as well as her own unresolved grief from her past relationship with Bruce Banner / The Hulk.
  • Leonard "Len" Samson / Doc Samson
  • A psychiatrist currently wed to Elizabeth "Betty" Ross, who gained super strength after exposing himself to gamma radiation and a version of the Super Soldier Serum. A side-character from The Incredible Hulk, previously portrayed by Ty Burrell (The Skeleton Twins), Samson serves as the team's psychiatrist and physician, and also Betty Ross' aide.
Source (The Avengers of the Future?)

The main antagonists per movie

The following characters are to be the primary, and ironically villains of each installment ...
  • Johann Schmidt / Red Skull - (Assault on Pleasant Hill)
  • The former leader of the modern incarnation of HYDRA who was exiled to space for his abuse of an Infinity Stone, the Red Skull is now reduced to a paranoid, bulky, warp-making cyborg. Originally the main antagonist of Captain America: The First Avenger, he was played by Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge) in the latter movie, and previously played by Ross Marquand (A Lonely Place for Dying) in Avengers: Infinity War.
  • Justin Hammer / Crimson Dynamo - (Quantum Sunshine)
  • The founder and CEO of Hammer Industries, and formerly a rival to Tony Stark / Iron Man, Justin Hammer, equipped with a lightweight suit that absorbs and reverts kinetic energy, became the founder and proprietor of "Technopolis". Originally the secondary antagonist of Iron Man 2 and a minor character in All Hail the King, he was previously played by Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) in both films.
  • "The Mandarin" - (The Hands of the Mandarin)
  • The morally ambiguous and immortal emperor of "Mandarin City", which dominates the vast majority of China, who is a former Master of the Mystic Arts who left the order to rule the world himself with his own sinister army. Originally teased all throughout Iron Man 3, many initially believed him to be a myth, after the discovery that an impersonator was taking his place in the past.
  • Saxton Smithers / Blackheath - (Brave New World)
  • The brainwashed and quasi-lobotomized African-British eco-terrorist, who became the unwilling host to a plant-based Dark Dimension dweller, resulting in him gaining the ability to manipulate all botanical life. A new character introduced in the film series, Blackheath was originally made a prisoner of "Technopolis", as well as being the community's ultimate source of food, until he was freed by the Thunderbolts.
Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5, Source 6, Source 7, Source 8, Source 9 (You know they're bad.)
Other Thunderbolts who appear in cameos only

The following are characters that also operate as Thunderbolts, and are ones that I personally thought would be interesting to include in the roster, but are all regulated to minor roles ...
  • Abigail Wright / Mercy
  • A mysterious, mute teenage girl who can manipulate air, earth, energy, fire, and water based on her finger and hand movements, and the leader of an uprising in "Technopolis".
  • Arthur Parks / Living Laser
  • A genius scientist turned mercenary, whose attempt at recreating Tony Stark / Iron Man's arc reactor technology resulted in him becoming a being of pure energy.
  • Chen Lu / Radioactive Man
  • A human mutate who can generate and absorb lethal amounts of radiation, and can create energy blasts with his own bare hands, while also carrying the potential to be a walking nuclear bomb.
  • Claudia Carr / Chemistro
  • A scientist and smalltime criminal obsessed with fortune, who commits various robberies with her alchemy gun, a weapon that can turn anything that it comes in contact with to gold.
  • Francis "Frank" Payne / Constrictor
  • A psychotic former SHIELD agent who lost both of his arms from a botched operation, and were replaced with mechanical limbs, who makes use of snake-themed gadgets to commit crimes.
  • Jerome Beechman / Mandrill
  • A host to a malevolent Dark Dimension dweller, who gained not only the appearance of an actual Mandrill, but also managed to gain the abilities of enhanced strength and sex-based control pheromone secretion.
  • John Falsworth / Baron Blood
  • A supposedly ancient vampire-like super-villain and heir to a rich family's fortune, who gained the abilities to fly, heal rapidly, and fight with ease after coming in contact with a Dark Dimension dweller.
  • Jonathan "Johnny" Horton / Griffin
  • A host to a malevolent Dark Dimension dweller, who became disfigured and looked strikingly similar to an actual griffin, but managed to get the abilities of flight and super strength.
  • Paul Pierre Duval / Grey Gargoyle
  • A saddened scientist whose attempts at experimenting with the Dark Dimension dwellers resulted in him gaining the power to have anything that he touches turn to stone.
And that is where we conclude our latest movie pitch! Again, we apologize for the very lengthy delays. Most of the reasons being school, and of course, college entrance exams. Hooray, what fun, right? In the meantime, while you wait for us again to post some new content, and for the next MCU film to come around, do enjoy this fan-made concept trailer for Avengers 4, made by YouTuber "Mr. Krepshus". Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies! 

Source (Get ready for some annihilation!)

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