Marvel Studios changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever with the world-shaking events of AVENGERS: ENDGAME. For the last couple years we haven’t known much about what will follow the big battle with Thanos, and the aftermath as seen in SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME. The company’s universe-expanding plan was revealed at San Diego Comic Con, as Marvel president Kevin Feige took to the stage in Hall H to announce five new movies that will be released through 2021 — and he hinted at even more.
Marvel’s massive Phase Four slate will give us a new Thor, thrust Black Widow into a leading role in her own movie, and introduce an Avengers-sized collection of new heroes. The next two years will expand the scope of the MCU. Here are all the new Marvel movies that are racing towards theaters in the next two years.
Marvel has been promising a BLACK WIDOW movie for years, and it is finally happening! The film is already shooting, with Scarlett Johansson returning as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. There have been suggestions that it might be a prequel, but that is only sort of true. BLACK WIDOW is set shortly after the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, as Black Widow goes on the run following her adventure with Captain America and Falcon. As she evades capture, she’ll also have to deal with ghosts from her past. She ends up in Budapest, which connects the plot of this movie hints we've had about Natasha's life, such as the dialogue mentioning Budapest in AVENGERS: ENDGAME. There, she meets Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh (MIDSOMMAR, FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY). In Russia, Yelena is basically Natasha’s successor as a state assassin, which might lead to complications between the two women. Footage shown at Comic Con confirmed that Black Widow will also have to face off against the villainous Taskmaster, who can learn any combat moves used by any opponent.
This is an interesting way to open Phase 4, given how Black Widow fared in ENDGAME. But there’s intense speculation that BLACK WIDOW could be all about establishing a legacy for Natasha Romanoff. In the comics, Yelena Belova remained in the shadows for years after her introduction, before becoming inspired to become a hero after Natasha Romanoff’s death. It’s possible she’s being introduced in order to set her up for a major role going forward. Cate Shortland (BERLIN SYNDROME) is directing.
ETERNALS will bring a brand new franchise into the MCU. In the comics, the Eternals are an evolutionary offshoot of humanity, created millennia ago by an alien race known as the Celestials. The Eternals are tremendously powerful – in fact, Thanos himself is descended from the Eternals, which has led to some supposition that ETERNALS will serve as a Thanos origin story. The film could also reveal the ancient origin of the Infinity Stones, as the Celestials are connected to the history of those powerful objects. (Recall that, in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the Celestials were said to have used the Power Stone in order to judge entire worlds and civilizations.)
And while many audiences have no idea who the Eternals are right now (just as they didn’t know the Guardians a few years ago), Marvel has assembled an all-star cast to ensure that we all pay attention. Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjani and Brian Tyree Henry are all on board, as are Richard Madden, Don Lee, Lauren Ridloff and Lia McHugh. Chloé Zhao, who made the acclaimed film THE RIDER, is directing.
We’ve met Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme; now we get to see the Master of the Mystic Arts. Simi Liu stars as Shang-Chi, a character created for Marvel Comics in the 1970s. On the page, Shang-Chi is the son of a Chinese crime lord named Fu Manchu, but things will be changed up a bit in this new movie. As the title suggests — remember mentions of the Ten Rings all the way back in the original IRON MAN? — SHANG-CHI will introduce the real Mandarin, played by the great Hong Kong actor, Tony Leung Chiu-wai (HARD BOILED, INFERNAL AFFAIRS).
Marvel famously presented a fake-out version of the classic Iron Man villain in IRON MAN 3, played by Ben Kingsley, but this movie will pull back the curtain on the one true Mandarin. SHANG-CHI will be Marvel’s first film with Asian actors in the primary roles, and and the first martial arts movie in the MCU. Destin Daniel Cretton (SHORT TERM 12) is directing, while Awkwafina will also have a role that is yet to be announced.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) got to play a huge role in the last two Avengers movies; now he’s back to star in DOCTOR STRANGE 2. Even better, the film’s proper title — DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS — is possibly the wildest moniker Marvel has bestowed on a movie to date. If you think that sounds like it could be a horror movie, you’re not far off. Experienced horror filmmaker Scott Derrickson, who also made DOCTOR STRANGE, returns to direct, and this time he’ll get to put more of his genre bona-fides to work. “We’re going to make the first scary MCU movie,” the director announced at Comic Con.
Story details are as elusive as faces in a dream, but we know a few things. Benedict Wong will return, and Elizabeth Olsen will also appear, reprising the role of Scarlet Witch. That lead trio will journey to new dimensions and alternate realities. In the comics, Scarlet Witch is often associated with a powerful force called Chthon. Will the MCU have to reckon with this demonic entity?
THOR: RAGNAROK director Taika Waititi is returning to make the fourth Thor film, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. This, by the way, officially makes Thor the MCU’s longest-running solo superhero franchise. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will return as Thor and Valkyrie, but there’s a big surprise in store. They’ll be joined by Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, the greatest love of Thor Odinson’s life. AVENGERS: ENDGAME planted the seeds for Jane’s return to the MCU, and now she’ll be more important than ever before. Jane Foster won’t be merely a supporting character; this time she’ll wield the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, and with it the power of the Mighty Thor. That’s right — a female Thor! How’s that for a shake-up?
That isn’t all Marvel has planned. Towards the end of the Comic Con panel, Feige teased a whole set of additional sequels, and a few big new MCU additions. “We didn’t even mention that we’re making BLACK PANTHER 2,” he said. “We didn’t even talk about [how] GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 is coming. We didn’t have time to talk about CAPTAIN MARVEL 2. I didn’t even have time to talk about the Fantastic Four. And there’s no time left to talk about mutants and how mutants come into the MCU.”
Those last two mentions are massive, as they represent character sets that have been housed at 20th Century Fox for many years. We don’t know when the Fantastic Four, aka Marvel’s First Family, will appear on screen, but there are hints that ETERNALS will help explain how mutants will pave the way for mutants such as the X-Men to roar back to the big screen.
Kevin Feige did have one final bombshell announcement, however. Two-time Oscar® winner Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT, GREEN BOOK) will star in a new Blade movie. We don’t know who is directing BLADE, but we do know that it will arrive after Phase Four is over. Seeing all the other great films we get in the meantime, however, that doesn’t seem like long to wait.