The Marvel Cinematic Universe - Phase 4 Breakdown


At San Diego Comic Con this year, Marvel announced their Phase 4 slate. The Infinity Saga ended with Avengers: Endgame, and Phase 3 ended with Spider-Man: Far From Home. So let's talk about what the future holds for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Black Widow


When: May 1, 2020

Format: Film

One of the OG Avengers is finally getting her own movie. Set to be a prequel, this will explore a side of Natasha Romanoff we haven't seen yet. While the brunt of it seems to be set after Captain America: Civil War, we were teased with flashbacks of Budapest, which has been referenced in other movies before.  David Harbour (Stranger Things) is also in the cast, who is playing The Red Guardian, which is a Russian version of Captain America.

I have mixed feelings on this. I feel a Black Widow movie would have been better suited in Phase 1 or 2. As a prequel, it could have hinted at a future to be tied in later, and that would give some urgency to the film. Now with us knowing her complete future, the movie has nothing to set up. Captain Marvel struggled because it was too beholden to the future that was built before it. I feel the same thing might happen with Black Widow, which is a shame. Being a comic book property, there is always a chance her fate is retconned in some way. But for now, while Black Widow is sure to offer a fantastically fun adventure, something will be lost in the grand scheme of things.

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

When: Fall 2020

Format: Disney+ TV Series

Marvel Studios first event series on Disney's new streaming service will follow both of Captain America's friends and sidekicks. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are returning, and Mackie confirmed that he will don his new Captain America suit in the series. Daniel Bruhl will return as Baron Zemo, who gets a more comic book-y makeover. 

This will be the first television series that ties directly into movies and is produced by Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige. Marvel's TV department, who do things like Agents Of SHIELD and the Netflix shows have no involvement. These event series will play like 6-8 hour movies. This does not mean we won't see these characters in movies anymore. Quite the contrary, in fact. This will set up the new Captain America, and deal with the loss of Steve Rogers. When the next inevitable team up movie happens, you best believe that the new Captain America will be involved. This will be an interesting experiment to see how long form storytelling works in the MCU proper. One thing is for sure - if you want the full experience, a Disney+ subscription is crucial. 

The Eternals

When: November 5, 2020

Format: Film

This will be the first Phase 4 property that general audiences will not be familiar with. They haven't been in any mainstream movies or TV shows. They have a following in the comics, but that has become a niche market now. But my take on that is: So were the Guardians Of The Galaxy and now they are beloved by your mother. With a cast that includes Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Game Of Thrones' Richard Madden, and Kumail Nanjiani, this movie is sure to delight the way Guardians did, and add another layer to the MCU that will allow for better, deeper storytelling in the future.

I am not that familiar with The Eternals, other than their concept. They are some of the first humans ever, who have been living on Earth for thousands of years. This means that they've seen all the events of The Avengers adventures. What will be interesting is how the film explores the reasons why they didn't get involved, and what they've been up to all those years. With such a charismatic and charming cast, the possibilities could be a lot of fun. I am looking forward to it.

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

When: February 12, 2021

Format: Film

This is the film that has my curiosity the most. "Comic Book Movie" is not the only genre you can classify MCU films as. That is the shell in which the real genre lays. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller. Ant-Man is a heist film. Guardians Of The Galaxy is a space opera. Thor: Ragnarok is a buddy-cop flick. The sub-genres in "Comic Book Movie" is where the magic of the MCU is. If Shang-Chi gives us a Bruce Lee-esque Wuxia style martial arts film, it will be really something special.

The big draw here though, seems to be that the real Mandarin will show up. The Mandarin was teased in Iron Man 3, and the Ten Rings have been referenced throughout the MCU. But for that entity to finally make its way into this universe properly, is an exciting notion. Shang-Chi is also an opportunity to shine some light on some talented Asian artists that are not in the mainstream movie machine. It is just a hunch, but I feel like this film will be the highlight of Phase 4 and will surprise a lot of people.

WandaVision

When: Spring 2021

Format: Disney+ TV Series

The Scarlet Witch and Vision have a long and storied history in Marvel comics. Only the surface of that history was scratched in the MCU. But now it is set to continue in this event series. What is interesting is that Vision is irrevocably dead as far as we know, and Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed this takes place after Avengers: Endgame

The Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe, and the series is rumored to take place in the 50s. So I can imagine that she is able to manipulate things to try and find a peaceful life with Vision. However, the 50s thing might not be true, because a grown up Monica Rambeau - first seen as a little girl in Captain Marvel will be part of the series as well. I like that connection quite a bit, I just hope it is introduced in an organic way. With the acquisition of Fox's entertainment properties, I do hope that the show can lean into Wanda's mutant heritage just a bit. The only thing I know for sure is that this will probably deal with the multiverse because it leads directly into the next movie.

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

When: May 7, 2021

Format: Film

As stated above, WandaVision leads directly into Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness with Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch appearing in this as well. So for those worried that having an event series means no more movies, fret no longer. Benedict Cumberbatch is returning to star, and Scott Derrickson is returning to direct. Hopefully the rest of the cast from the first film is returning as well.

While everyone thought Spider-Man: Far From Home would explore the multiverse, I always felt it was better suited for Doctor Strange to do so. It feels like we will finally get that, with the word in the title now. Speaking of the title, this might be one of the best titled movies in the MCU. If this sequel steps up the visuals and boundaries of the first one, it might be the Phase 4 project that changes the MCU the most. I look forward to what Derrickson has in store, and am wondering if we might get another MCU veteran in the mix as well.

Loki

When: May 7, 2021

Format: Disney+ TV Series

Everyone's favorite Marvel villain is back in his own standalone TV series. There is a crucial scene with him in Endgame that creates an alternate timeline from 2012 on. The show will chronicle what he gets up to in that time. Other reports have said that it will be him influencing important events in Earth's history. As the God of Mischief, that makes sense that he would be pulling strings and manipulating things to happen.

The MCU did a great job redeeming Loki, making him go from villain, to anti-hero, to tragic victim. I am hoping this show doesn't undo any of that. I do not think it will, because they know how popular the character is. But the main thing I don't want them to do is erase Loki's death in Infinity War because that is what drives Thor's entire journey from that point forward. At this point Marvel knows what they're doing, but I'd be remiss not to mention some of my apprehensions. I am surprised that this isn't launching the Disney+ era of the MCU though, I thought for sure this would be their flagship show.

What If...? 

When: Summer 2021

Format: Disney+ TV Series

Marvel's What If? is by far the biggest departure from anything they've ever done before. First of all, it is animated. Secondly, it is all "Elseworld" stories, to steal a term from another comics company. The show will chronicle things like "What if Peggy Carter became Captain America". A lot of the MCU cast is returning to voice these adventures, that should serve as cool little asides that they wouldn't be able to do otherwise. The biggest announcement was that Jeffrey Wright would serve as the Watcher, who is the narrator. The character itself is the overseer of the multiverse, and I really hope he is seen in a live action role some time in the future.

I like that this exists, that way they can stay the course on the MCU, but explore other avenues of choices they didn't make. It will be fun to see some alt-history, with characters we know and love. This seems like the least essential piece of Phase 4, but also the one with the most potential.

Hawkeye

When: Fall 2021

Format: Disney+ TV Series

Counting the upcoming Black Widow movie, Hawkeye is the only original Avenger to not get his own big screen adventure. Clint Barton hasn't exactly gotten the best treatment in the MCU, but hopefully that is about to change with this TV show. The best part of this is that Kate Bishop will be introduced to the MCU. But it is also an opportunity to do some justice to Clint himself. He's had a fair bit of character development, but not nearly as much some of his other counterparts. While Hawkeye will explore some of his time as Ronin, it also has an opportunity to bring more elements from the comics into it.

Judging by the logo, that is exactly what they are going. The logo looks like it is straight out of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye run, which is beloved by fans. If that is what they are deriving for the series, we are in for a hell of a treat. No casting has been announced for Kate Bishop yet, but whoever it is will have a big contract full of movies for many years to come. I am excited for this one, I hope it lives up to fan expectations.

Thor: Love And Thunder

When: November 5, 2021

Format: Film

The last of the core 3 Avengers will be the one to close out Phase 4. Taika Waititi is returning with Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth. All of that, paired with the amazing title is great news in and of itself. But the big reveal is that Natalie Portman is returning to the franchise, and will become the new Thor. As much as I love that, I just don't want it to mean a Hemsworth exit. If both can exist in the MCU then I am all for it. I have faith in Feige and Waititi that this will be satisfying for all characters.

By the time this film roles around, we will have a very good idea about how the Multiverse works thanks to Doctor Strange and WandaVision. Maybe that is how they can handle 2 Thors. Of course, after the tease in Endgame, people are waiting with baited breath to see if Hemsworth will be in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3. That could be another way for them to exist. Let Portman do the "Thor duties" and Hemsworth's Thor can adapt a different name and find himself with Guardians. This will be the first "phase" without an Avengers team up movie. This feels like it is going to be the changing "event" film of Phase 4 in lieu of an Avengers movie. That is a high bar to hit, but I have faith in Waititi and co to pull it off.

Beyond Phase 4

Fantastic Four, Mutants, Blade

At the end of the panel, Feige said he had "no time" to discuss the Fantastic Four and Mutants which is interesting that he used that term and not "X-Men". If he starts to interweave Mutants into other stories as antagonists before a proper X-Men team up happens, that will be great. Of course, Marvel's first family could play into it as well, but I expect they'll either be mentioned in The Eternals or have the multiverse stuff come into play. Phase 4 is only the next two years, so while we won't see anything of the Fox acquired properties, we definitely might start hearing stuff be referenced in other things.

The final mic drop of the panel was bringing out Mahershala Ali after the rest of the cast was on stage. Questions began arising as to what franchise he would be a part of, until he put on a hat and a logo with 5 letters appeared. Ali will be the new Blade in the MCU, and will be part of Phase 5. As far as casting goes, this is one is as close to perfect as you can get. I am glad Blade is getting the big screen treatment and not a series, especially with Ali involved. With Doctor Strange 2 being touted as the MCU's first horror film, Blade will be able to follow that up quite nicely.

There are lots of exciting things to look forward to if you are as big of a fan of this universe as I am.

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