Marvel’s Universe-Expanding Phase Four Plan
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 first stages of the company’s universe-expanding plan was revealed at San Diego Comic Con in 2019, 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! Scarlett Johansson returns as Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in a story that is set shortly after the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Black Widow ends up in Budapest, where she meets Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh (MIDSOMMAR, LITTLE WOMEN). Yelena (above) is basically Natasha’s successor as an assassin, but they are more like sisters than enemies. Meanwhile, 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. BLACK WIDOW could be all about establishing Yelena Belova, who, in the comics, became 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. Beyond that, the specifics of the story are a total mystery right now.
And while the Eternals are new to many audiences (just as the Guardians were 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.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
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 for the the title — 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, and Awkwafina (THE FAREWELL) will have a role that is yet to be announced.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
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. 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.
Master horror filmmaker — and the man who first brought Spider-Man to the big screen — Sam Raimi will direct.
Untitled Sony Spider-Man Sequel
While Marvel and Sony had a period of disagreement about whether the two companies would work together on a third Spider-Man movie starring Tom Holland, affairs were soon put right. Holland's third Spidey movie is still untitled, but we know it will arrive following DOCTOR STRANGE 2 — and since the end of SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME left Peter Parker and Spider-Man in a pretty terrible position, we're as excited to see what happens next as you are.
Thor: Love and Thunder
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?
Black Panther II
That isn’t all Marvel has planned. While THOR 4 is technically the end of Phase Four, Marvel is already planning the story cycle that will follow. 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 II,” he said. Director Ryan Coogler and star Chadwick Boseman will return for Black Panther's second solo outing — but at this point we don't know anything about the planned story.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
All we really know about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL 3 is that, after a brief split with Marvel Studios, James Gunn is on track to write and direct the movie. Presumably that means that the core GUARDIANS characters and cast — Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) — will return as well. And will Thor (Chris Hemsworth) still be tagging along? While we don't have a release date for the movie, Marvel has staked out three 2022 weekends that could all be the GUARDIANS 3 release date: February 18, May 6, July 29 and October 7.
Captain Marvel 2
As with GUARDIANS 3, we know that CAPTAIN MARVEL 2 is happening, and that's about it. Megan McDonnell ("WandaVision") is writing, but a director is yet to be announced. We presume that Brie Larson will star once again as Carol Danvers, whose cosmic powers make her one of the most formidable characters in the MCU. Lashana Lynch may return to play Danvers's friend Maria Rambeau, and sinceTeyonah Parris will play a grown version of Rambeau's daughter, Monica, in the series "WandaVision," she may well have a role in this sequel, too. Expect to see CAPTAIN MARVEL 2 land on one of the other 2022 dates Marvel has claimed.
Last but very far from least is that Marvel is rebooting BLADE, with two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT, GREEN BOOK) set to star. We don't know who is directing, nor do we have any story details. But since BLADE is all about a half-vampire anti-hero who hunts creatures of the night, that October 7, 2022 release date seems like a pretty good guess as to when we'll see the movie.
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All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.