Perhaps the most anticipated batch of announcements from the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con came out of Hall H. Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige laid out the blueprint and timeline for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you can expect, it left us with plenty of things to talk about.
First some general thoughts. It shows how confident they must be to lay out very specific plans so far in advance. They’ve done it before but never quite to this degree. But money speaks volumes and the MCU movies have made a ton of cash. So it makes sense that they would be full steam ahead.
It also shows just how much of the box office landscape Disney will own in the coming future. I’m not an alarmist but think about how many moviegoer dollars will be going into their pockets via the MCU, Star Wars, Pixar, Avatar, live-action remakes, etc. It will be interesting to see how and if this effects the earnings and number of screens available for other films outside of the Disney umbrella.
But back to the MCU, Feige had some major announcements, many of which were for the big screen but just as many for Disney’s upcoming streaming service due to launch on November 12th. It sounds like the movies and the numerous streaming series will all play key roles in the MCU giving us even more content to consume. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen.
Now onto what they actually announced:
- On the movie front “Black Widow” was finally confirmed after tons of rumors. It’s set to release on May 1, 2020 and takes place between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Infinity War”. A truly stellar cast was introduced. In addition to Scarlett Johansson, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, and Rachel Weisz are onboard. It’s a great kickoff to Phase 4.
- Next up is a more iffy choice. “Eternals” hits theaters November 6, 2020 and follows these lesser known band of super-powered protectors. How far they will stick with Jack Kirby’s original and relatively obscure creation remains to be seen. Could be good or it could be Marvel finally betting too high on itself.
- First up on their streaming platform will be “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. I’m really excited for this one. As a huge Captain America fan obviously I have an affection for his two best friends. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are back and Daniel Brühl will be reprising his role as Baron Zemo. Sold!
- 2021 will be a busy year for the MCU starting February 12th with the big screen release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. Talk about an announcement out of left field. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the Master of Kung-Fu. But this certainly seems like an out-of-blue choice. Still I’m intrigued especially when it was revealed that the Mandarin would be the villain. Maybe the MCU will get him right this time.
- WandaVision hits Disney+ next and it sounds really interesting. Feige kept saying it would be “weird” which I’m guessing was intentional. We also learned that Paul Bettany reprises his role as Vision and the series takes place after “Endgame”. So Vision lives? Oh, and the series will directly connect to their next announcement.
- In theaters May 7th, 2021 is “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”. The title alone lets you know that this thing could be pretty gonzo. What was most interesting was hearing director Scott Derrickson call it “the first scary MCU movie”. We also learned that Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlett Witch will have a big part. I think it will also open the door for another announcement we will get to in a moment.
- Three Disney+ series will drop in Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2021. Tom Hiddleston is back as the glorious god of mischief in the simply-titled “Loki”. “What If…?” will be an animated series with a massively impressive voice cast. And “Hawkeye” sees Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) shepherding his successor. Hmmm.
- November 5, 2021 brings the biggest question mark yet. “Thor: Love and Thunder” brings back writer-director Taika Waititi who apparently plans on covering a ton of new ground, none of which especially sells me on his movie. Chris Hemsworth is so good as Thor and seeing him leave that role behind is a bummer. Tessa Thompson has yet to show the charisma to make her version of Valkyrie remotely interesting. And Natalie Portman as the new Thor? I’m sorry, but while Portman has grown into a good actress, seeing her as The Goddess of Thunder feels like a huge stretch. This could be a mess.
- And then two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali walked out. His new character doesn’t appear on the Phase 4 timeline but he’s certainly on the way. Marvel is bringing Blade into the MCU and I can’t think of a better actor to play him. And with Doctor Strange’s movie delving into horror, that opens the door for Blade’s special brand of justice.
Perhaps most exciting is what they tossed out at the end but didn’t show. “Black Panther 2”, “Guardians of the Galaxy 3”, and “Captain Marvel 2” were safe bets but good to have confirmed. The biggest confirmation came when Feige playfully mentioned the Fantastic Four and “mutants” (aka X-Men).
I don’t know about you, but after seeing the Phase 4 lineup I think the MCU needs the X-Men and Fantastic Four sooner rather than later. Yes, these announced movies will still make money and yes, they will still set social media ablaze. But for many of us it’s hard to see any of these newcomers filling the shoes of such iconic superhero characters like Tony Stark’s Iron Man, Steve Rogers’ Captain America, or Bruce Banner’s Hulk. And it’s especially hard to find the same excitement we felt building up to the Avengers.
The MCU will need to lean heavy on Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Guardians until the new heavy hitters get on their feet. And what about the villains? We know of a couple but creating compelling antagonists have proven to be tough. This just adds more questions to a growing list.
In a nutshell, Marvel has some work to do.