Marvel has been pretty quiet in the past few months, relatively speaking. Despite setting the box office record and reaching a $1 billion with Spider-Man: Far From Home, their next step has been kept relatively quiet. Now, this is fairly unsurprising, considering they just culminated an eleven year, 23 film experiment unprecedented in cinematic history. But it’s been years since we didn’t know what film in the MCU would come out next. However, in a lavish spectacle at this year’s Comic-Con, producer Kevin Feige introduced the world to Phase 4, the post-Avengers Marvel Universe, including what films and shows would be released, which actors would be joining, and how the MCU will be changing in the coming years.
Ed. Note: Oh, and in case you somehow missed the highest grossing film of all time, assume that there will be spoilers for Avengers: Endgame
So let’s start with the immediate future, in the year 2020. Marvel will be kicking off Phase 4 with the only project it has previously announced to date, Black Widow. The project has been in the works for years, despite Scarlett Johansson having been the longest-serving member of The Avengers outside of Robert Downey Jr. And with her character’s tragic sacrifice in Endgame, the opportunity to tell her story is kind of now or never. Marvel is passionate to tell her story, and they made this clear on the Hall H stage, introducing director Cate Shortland and the supporting cast, which includes David Harbour, Florence Pugh, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz amongst its supporting roles. Marvel also provided a trailer that has not appeared online, but said trailer did confirm that the film will take place in 2016, in the interim between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, and focused on a fight between Johansson’s Agent Romanoff and Pugh’s Agent Belova. Black Widow will be in theaters May 1st, 2020.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 2020, Marvel will kick off its partnership with Disney+, the company’s upcoming streaming service, to launch its string of television tie-ins. This way, they can officially complicate the MCU by making it multi-platform, as opposed to one straight timeline with TV counterparts on Netflix and ABC (hi, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D!). This partnership will kick off with The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, the buddy team-up series starring Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes. Supposedly, the series will focus on the aftermath of Steve Rogers’ retirement and subsequent naming of Sam as the new Captain America. Apparently, the government isn’t too happy with that decision, which they will make abundantly clear. However, there won’t be too much time to argue the semantics, as Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo will be returning to wreak havoc on the world, this time in a comics-accurate costume (Brühl, of course, being the only good thing about Captain America: Civil War). It’ll be up to Wilson and Barnes to team up to defeat Zemo’s threat, along with assistance from the long-awaited return of Emily VanCamp’s Agent Sharon Carter. No directors have been announced, but the series will be written by John Wick scribe Derek Kolstad, and will premiere sometime in the fall of 2020.
The end of 2020 will bring around one new film to the Marvel canon, this time directing by Chloé Zhao, the terrific indie director who will be fresh off of The Rider and Nomadland. Zhao will be directing The Eternals, Marvel’s riff on the Greek Gods as Alien Superheroes. Inspired in format by Guardians of the Galaxy, the film will follow the group’s quest to protect the Earth from The Deviants. As dumb as that all may sound, the real draw here is the cast that Marvel assembled for this project. Leader Ajak (based on Ajax The Greater) will be played by Salma Hayek, Thena (Athena) will be played by Angelina Jolie, Ikaris (Icarus) will be played by Richard Madden, Makkari (Mercury) will be played by Lauren Ridloff – making her the first deaf superhero – Phastos (Hephaestus) will be played by Brian Tyree Henry, Sprite (um, Sprites) will be played by Lia McHugh, Gilgamesh will be played by Don Lee, and in the biggest twist, beloved fame-hog Kingo Sunen will be played by acclaimed comedian Kumail Nanjiani. I’m a huge fan of the weirder Marvel films, and I can honestly say that I am all aboard on this one. The Eternals will be released November 5th, 2020.
With Disney+ and Phase 4 well into the swing of things by 2021, you can bet Marvel will be making it the biggest year in their history. And given that we’ll most likely be coming off an election year that will have people infuriated one way or another, perhaps Marvel’s brand of escapism is for the best. Certainly they couldn’t ask for a better kickoff than their first Asian-led Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the genius behind Short Term 12 and may have an Oscar for Just Mercy by this time, Shang-Chi will follow Shang-Chi, a martial arts master who develops the power to duplicate himself, as he battles the infamous Ten Rings cult, led by The Mandarin (the real Mandarin, not the hilarious fake terrorist played by Ben Kingsley). Mostly-unknown Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu will play the titular role, and future Avenger, while beloved Chinese actor Tony Leung (of In The Mood For Love, Chungking Express, Hero, Hard Boiled, and Infernal Affairs) will take on his first American role as The Mandarin. Furthermore, Awkwafina will take on an undisclosed role in the film, coming off her fantastic string of hits including Ocean’s Eight, Crazy Rich Asians, and The Farewell. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released February 12th, 2021 – the same time frame as billion dollar grossers Black Panther and Captain Marvel.
Meanwhile, Spring 2021 will bring about two Disney+ miniseries that fans have been clamoring for since 2012. The former, and most secretive, is Tom Hiddleston’s spinoff Loki. While no one quite knows the plot of the series – technically Loki is dead as of Infinity War, but his character escaped into the multiverse in Endgame – Hiddleston’s portrayal of the trickster god has been one of the series’ highlights to date, and I can only imagine the series will give him the spinoff he so richly deserves. Meanwhile, fans will also have a chance to take in WandaVision, the Paul Bettany/Elizabeth Olsen romantic superhero film focusing on the series’ greatest star-crossed lovers. Not much is known about WandaVision, other than it takes place after the events of Endgame. This is something of a challenge for the series, as Bettany’s Vision is definitely dead as of Infinity War. We’ll see how that all works out, as well as how Teyonah Parris’ portrayal of Monica Rambeau, the young girl from Captain Marvel, fits into the equation. Oh, and we do know one more thing…
We know that WandaVision will lead directly into the most exciting project on this lineup, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness. That’s right: not only will Scott Derrickson’s follow-up to the terrific 2016 hit Doctor Strange feature Benedict Cumberbatch teaming up with Olsen, but it will be a Lovecraft homage! Marvel is officially making a horror movie, and I cannot be more excited about this premise. Derrickson is responsible for the terrifying 2012 horror film Sinister, so I’m sure he’ll be cooking up something truly terrifying with this outing in the MCU. What’s more, the film will play with ideas of the Multiverse, a notion that has taken off in pop culture in recent years (Rick and Morty, The Good Place, Community, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, etc.), and which I find utterly fascinating. With the exception of perhaps one other film on this list, it’s hard to see any film outside of Doctor Strange emerging as the most anticipated project on this lineup. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness will be released May 7th, 2021.
Summer and Fall 2021 will bring around the next phase of the Disney+ television universe with two projects of varying degrees of excitement. The latter show, Hawkeye, will give fans the project they’ve…what’s the opposite of been clamoring for? I kid, I kid, but I’m surprised that Disney has chosen to give Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye his own series. He’s notorious for being a bow-and-arrow sniper that kind of just shows up to say, “Wait, why am I here? There’s an invisible green monster right there!” Still, Renner’s been a fantastic part of this series, and seeing as how the show will focus on his passing the bow over to Kate Bishop (aka Hawkeye 2 in the comics), it could make for a cathartic moment for fans. Meanwhile, Summer 2021 will bring about a far more exciting project: What If…?, based on the comic series of the same name. What If…? is a sort of Twilight Zone-esque interpretation of famous moments in the MCU universe, where The Watcher (played here by Emmy and Oscar-winning actor Jeffrey Wright) follows alternate timelines where these moments went…differently. A famous example involves Peggy Carter undergoing the super soldier serum as opposed to Steve Rogers, making her Captain America instead. What’s interesting – and exciting – about this project is that most actors from throughout the MCU, whether they are still with the series or not, will be reprising their roles throughout. This will be made easier thanks to the show’s animated format. What If…? is currently slated for Summer 2021, while Hawkeye will premiere in the late Fall.
And finally, two of the biggest scoops from the Hall H presentation, all wrapped into one. In a stunning twist, Taika Waititi, the visionary director who finally made Thor interesting in Thor: Ragnarok, will return to the series for Thor: Love And Thunder. He will be reuniting Chris Hemsworth’s Thor with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, whom Thompson joked is now “looking for a queen” in the aftermath of her coronation in Endgame (or perhaps…not a joke? We’ll see!) However, none of this is what got fans talking about the announcement. Now, what has fans excited is Waititi’s confirmation that not only will Natalie Portman be returning as Jane Foster – Foster will prove herself worthy of wielding Mjolnir, and become Lady Thor! Portman has been given the short shrift in previous films, famously quitting the series after Thor: The Dark World over the bad writing her character has received. If she’s coming back, Waititi has cooked up something special, and I can’t wait to see the series finally utilize Portman correctly. Thor: Love and Thunder will arrive in theaters November 5th, 2021, four years after Ragnarok. And hopefully Thor will still be fat.
And The Rest
While Feige made sure to stick only to the immediate future with the films and shows he’s slated for release – he didn’t even schedule Guardians 3, Black Panther 2, or Captain Marvel 2, or a new Avengers film, going as far as to say The Avengers are “currently dormant” after the deaths of their three leaders – he did drop a few bombshells for eager fans to munch on until Phase 5. For starters, Fantastic Four will be coming back, finally done right after two garbage iterations (although one did give us Chris Evans). And in the most exciting bit of news, Kevin Feige delivered audiences a fascinating story that built up to one of the convention’s biggest announcements. Shortly after winning his second Oscar in three years, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Green Book) set up a phone call with Feige. Apparently, Ali wanted Blade to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And not only was he going to help produce it, but he would be willing to bring his two-time Oscar-winning talent to the titular vampire hunter. This is an exciting revelation, and I can’t wait to see what Ali will do with the project.
And that concludes Marvel’s presentation! I’ve gotta say, while I’d like to see a few more continuations of recent hit films (I want more Samuel L. Jackson playing with cats, dammit!), there’s still a lot to look forward to in the coming years. I for one can’t wait for Shang-Chi, The Eternals, Doctor Strange, and Thor. But until Phase 4 kicks off, feel free to comment below with which films and shows you’re looking forward to, as well as which Marvel movies you’re most excited to see announced in the future (i.e. Black Panther 2, Ant-Man 3, etc.)!