A Doctor Strange horror movie, Mahershala Ali as Blade and more – there’s so much to be excited about for the MCU’s Phase 4.
Posted by The Rotten Tomatoes Channel on Monday, July 22, 2019
After months of speculation – and Black Widow set photos – Marvel Studios finally confirmed its Phase 4 film slate at Comic-Con International: San Diego. If you’ve been following our regularly updated list of upcoming Marvel productions, some of the films announced may not have been a surprise, but some of the details were certainly shocking. Others were downright thrilling. So let’s take a look at the new list of upcoming Marvel films with confirmed release dates, titles, and more.
As always, we will continue to update this page frequently as new details emerge. And be careful, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: Far From Home, there are spoilers ahead. (Want to see what the other camp is up to? Check out our full breakdown of upcoming DC movies.)
These are the projects Marvel announced and dated at the Comic-Con presentation. They represent the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourth phase and feature a number of sequels – but at least one new concept will likely become your latest Marvel obsession.
Release Date: May 1, 2020
What We Know: Confirming our guesses, Marvel has announced that the Scarlett Johansson-led film will be the first project to emerge from the studio next year. First revealed in January of 2018 with Jac Schaeffer writing the script, the film became Marvel’s fastest-track project ever with Lore’s Cate Shortland signing on to direct in July of last year. The film is currently in production with David Harbour as Alexei – a.k.a. The Red Guardian – Florence Pugh as Yelena, O-T Fagbenle as Mason, and Rachel Weisz as Melina. The film is a prequel to the events of Avengers: Endgame, but is still unclear if it takes places years or decades earlier. Some reports indicate the film is set after Captain America: Civil War, but this has not been confirmed. If the rumor turns out to be true, it may still offer some reference to the Phase 4 conflict and Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) space fleet.
How It Fits in the MCU: Flashbacks to Nat’s training in Avengers: Age of Ultron tie back to ideas explored in the short-lived Marvel television series Marvel’s Agent Carter – a series we know the films acknowledge thanks to Edwin Jarvis’s (James D’Arcy) cameo in Endgame – in which a Soviet-trained deep cover agent is assigned to eliminate Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Investigating the operative, Peggy discovers the brutal facility charged with creating these sleeper agents using methods teased in the Ultron flashbacks. Since the film will be Nat’s first ever solo outing, we’re guessing the conflict will lead to new revelations about her past.
Release Date: November 6, 2020
What We Know: In April of 2018, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed a film based on the Eternals comic book and concept was in development. Soon after, The Rider’s Chloe Zhao became its director. Based on characters and situations imagined by Jack Kirby, the Eternals are a race of fantastically powerful proto-humans engineered by the Celestials (more on them in a moment) to harness vast amounts of “cosmic energy.” Generations of infighting and wars against another Celestial experiment, the Deviants, followed. According to reports, the film will center on an Eternal named Sersi with the powers of flight, strength, immortality, and molecular manipulation, but as of the Comic-con presentation, the part has not been cast. Confirmed cast members include Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, and Angelina Jolie as Thena.
How It Fits in the MCU: Because the Eternals and the Celestials are old and powerful — the Celestials are some of the oldest creatures in the universe — they run into just about everyone. When the Kree happened to learn about the Eternals, they tried duplicating the Celestial experiment and created Inhumans on Earth. In Marvel’s 616 universe, Thanos is himself related to the Eternals thanks to their colonization of Titan in the distant past. Meanwhile, the Celestials have already appeared in passing during both Guardians films. In the first film, one appears in a hologram during The Collector’s (Benicio Del Toro) explanation of the Power Stone. And in the second film, Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father Ego (Kurt Russell) self-identified as a Celestial. Whether or not this means Ziran the Tester will feature in Eternals or any other MCU film remains to be seen.
Release Date: February 12, 2021
What We Know: In March, Short Term 12’s Destin Daniel Cretton emerged as the director of a film based on Marvel’s 1970s comic book The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu. In the comics, Shang-Chi was the son of legendary literary villain Fu Manchu. Learning the truth about his dad’s business, he used his martial arts prowess against his father and any other Marvel baddie ready to go against his mighty hands. But considering Fu Manchu is one of the few IPs not owned by the Walt Disney Company, fans online are already speculating Shang-Chi’s father – whom Marvel later turned into a different immortal villain in the comics – may turn out to be the “real” Mandarin teased in the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray short film “All Hail the King.” At Comic-Con, Marvel announced the full title, the release date – replacing our guess of a Black Panther sequel – and the cast, which includes Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, Awkwafina in a to-be-announced role, and HardBoiled‘s Tony Leung as the real Mandarin.
How It Fits in the MCU: Seeded in Iron Man, but never carried out to fruition as the Infinity Saga took shape, the Ten Rings is a crime league embedded across the world, but owing allegiance to no country. The group gives Shang-Chi a nice international opponent with an established MCU footprint. Also, the 10 rings the Mandarin wears have cosmic origins which may play into the larger Phase 4 story. And, we’ll be honest, we hope he uses them to conjure up legendary Marvel Comics creature Fin Fang Foom.
Release Date: May 7, 2021
What We Know: Director Scott Derrickson finally signed on to return in December of 2018, suggesting the film will end up as one of the Marvel releases for 2022 (as we always assumed). But at Comic-Con, Marvel revealed the film will take the spot we originally reserved for Shang-Chi in May 2021. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the Sorcerer Supreme with Elizabeth Olsen joining him as the Scarlet Witch in what Derrickson calls “the first scary MCU movie.” Though not announced as a participant in The Multiverse of Madness, we still think Strange will face Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he tries to amass all the magic for himself, a notion teased in the first film’s post-credit stinger.
How It Fits in the MCU: The mystic realm of the MCU is still ripe for exploration, even as Endgame tied it closer with the underpinning of its universe. The film will also tie into Olsen’s upcoming Disney+ series WandaVision, illustrating Marvel Studios’ plans to connect the streaming service’s limited series to the ongoing film world.
What We Know: Shortly before Comic-Con, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi signed on to return for a fourth installment in the God of Thunder franchise. At the time, we assumed it would be the November 2021 release and were proved correct. Chris Hemsworth will return as the wandering Odinson, but not as Thor. In a surprise move, Marvel revealed Natalie Portman is returning to the series as the new Mighty Thor, a twist pulled from an excellent Thor comic book series by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and others. Meanwhile, Tessa Thompson will return as Valkyrie, the king of New Asgard who must find a Queen, and we assume Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – in either of his manifestations – will return to mercilessly tease his now nameless brother.
How It Fits in the MCU: Since Loki will be the star of his own Disney+ limited series before the film’s release, events in that series will probably determine the character’s more villainous tendencies should he appear in Love and Thunder. Also, as the film will predate Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, you can expect Rocket (Bradley Cooper) to offer a tearful goodbye as Odinson leaves the group to deal with his loss of name and status.
Feige also made a few strategic teases about Phase 5 during the Comic-Con presentation, which will begin after the release of Love and Thunder. Also, there are some films we definitely think will happen in Phase 5 or beyond.
What We Know: Feige stunned the Comic-Con crowd by announcing Mahershala Ali will be the MCU’s version of Blade. The daywalker will appear in his own film sometime during Phase 5, but specific details about the project will likely come to light at next year’s Comic-Con.
How It Fits in the MCU: While the MCU is a realm of science, mysticism, cosmic entities, and traditional crime, it lacks for genuine monsters. Emerging from Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, Blade will no doubt be our guide into a darker corner of the MCU where one find things that go bump in the night. Luckily, he’s pretty good with a sword and can vanquish them with relative ease. Of course, the literal demons of the Marvel Universe may present more of a challenge.
Release Date (Our Guess): May 6, 2022
What We Think Might Happen: Now that the saga of James Gunn’s expulsion from the film has ended with him back in the director’s chair and Endgame has revealed the Guardians’ fates through Phase 3, we can speculate wildly about Vol.3. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) will presumably search for Gamora (Zoe Saldana) while Rocket continues to get over the absent Odinson. There is also the often-delayed debut of Adam Warlock to consider. The character very nearly appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Infinity War, but fell away as both movies were stuffed to the air ducts with characters. It is possible he will finally do something in the MCU besides sit in an egg. Also, before Gunn’s temporary departure, he referred to the film as a conclusion to the story he began telling in the first installment, so it is possible the film will have an Endgame-like resolution. Is Star-Lord long for this universe?
How It Fits in the MCU: It all depends on Gunn’s plans for Vol. 3 and if it takes place during the Infinity Saga. Like the way Vol. 2 occurred shortly after the first Guardians film, it could take place not long after the death of Yondu (Michael Rooker) and detail how the Guardians found, stole, or were awarded with the Benatar. More likely, it will be set after Avengers: Endgame – as we suggest above – and see the Guardians finding a new normal after the losses of Gamora and Odinson.
Release Date (Our Guess): February 18, 2022
What We Think Might Happen: Thanks to Endgame’s five-year gap, we’re pretty confident the Black Panther sequel will address T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) reclaiming the throne. Since the moment we saw him turn to dust in Infinity War, we’ve assumed M’Baku (Winston Duke) took power. Then again, considering how quickly Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) mobilized Wakanda to fight Thanos in Endgame, it is possible the throne sat empty as the country hoped for T’Challa and Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) return. If he resumes his duties with a minimum of fuss, then the film’s plot will probably arise from T’Challa’s decision to reveal Wakanda to the world. Whatever stress that might’ve caused before the Blip will no doubt come to a head with the return of 3 billion-plus people. At Comic-Con, Marvel merely teased the film as an eventuality, but director Ryan Coogler has signed on for the sequel.
How It Fits in the MCU: Since Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa has been a popular figure in fan circles, but the stunning success of Black Panther suggests there will be more Wakanda throughout the MCU. Shuri and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) could be fast friends, while the embassies and outreach programs T’Challa proposed at the end of Black Panther open for business in other films.
Release Date: TBA
What We Think Might Happen: It all depends on when the film is set. It could continue with Carol’s (Brie Larson) adventures in space as she chases Ronin (Lee Pace) back to the Kree border. It could be set after Endgame with Carol finally building an Avengers-like coalition on other worlds. It could also be an unknown tale about her returning to Earth sometime in late 1990s or early 21st century to teach Monica Rambeau how to fly. Her complete lack of concern for Monica or Maria (Lashana Lynch) in Endgame suggests she knew exactly where they were the whole time. But fans of Carol’s family would certainly love more clarity on that issue. That said, Monica will debut as an adult in Disney+’s WandaVision in the form of actor Teyonah Parris.
How It Fits in the MCU: Considering the continued cosmic emphasis post-Endgame, it is entirely possible Captain Marvel 2 will follow-up on ideas from Guardians of the Galaxy and Eternals. But as the Captain Marvel story spans decades, the possibilities are endless. Also, we think Carol will be quite interested in Fury’s armada.
Release Date: TBA
What We Think Might Happen: At Comic-Con, Feige merely mentioned he “ran out of time” to discuss the Fantastic Four or mutants. While both concepts will eventually make their way into the MCU, we expect integrating Marvel’s first family will be the priority and maybe even the whole point of Phase 5. Like many on the internet have suggested, placing them in the 1960s during their first film – but making the world forget about them for decades – is an elegant way to introduce them and acknowledge their absence all this time. In that context, they also serve as a great replacement for the similarly time-lost Captain America.
How It Fits in the MCU: The Fantastic Four bring with them a surprisingly robust rouges gallery. To be honest, we’re a little more excited to see Doctor Doom, Annihilus, and Galactus make their MCU introductions than the Richards clan. It would also be a thrill to see the Baxter Building join the New York skyline.
Release Date (Our guess): July 29, 2022
What We Think Might Happen: Disney’s release calendar omits Spider-Man’s customary July release date until 2022, making this the most likely time Peter will have another solo outing – although the Spider-Man: Far From Home mid-credit stinger scene may require the third MCU Spider-Man film materialize sooner than that. Outed as Spider-Man by J. Jonah Jameson (a returning J.K. Simmons), Peter must avoid agencies interested in investigating Quentin Beck’s claim that he was the real cause of the destruction in Far From Home while continuing to see MJ (Zendaya) on the down low. Also, he has to figure out how to graduate from high school! But it is always possible Peter will find help with the fantastic new occupants of the former Avengers tower. Of course, that’s just wild speculation, as is our guess for the film’s title: Spider-Man: Homeless.
How It Fits in the MCU: Assuming this Spider-Man film takes the place of an Avengers 5, it could be the moment the MCU pivots from establishing new characters and status quos to focusing on a larger threat. Peter could discover this seemingly hometown opponent is bigger than he can tackle and, potentially, fail during the film’s climax. As a result, he would have to round-up people like Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, and Doctor Strange to investigate and stop this new Thanos-level menace. The films following it would see the heroes getting ready for the coming battle. And, maybe, the villain will get his own film. There was talk not too long ago that Feige was interested in the Doctor Doom script Noah Hawley wrote for Fox. Maybe Doom’s time is coming sooner than we think.
May 1, 2020 – Black Widow
November 6, 2020 – The Eternals
February 12, 2021 – Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings
May 7, 2021 – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
November 5, 2021 – Thor: Love and Thunder
February 18, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 1 (Our Guess: Black Panther 2)
May 6, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 2 (Our Guess: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3)
July 29, 2022 – Untitled Marvel Movie 3 (Our Guess: Spider-Man 3)
Thumbnail image by Alberto E. Rodriguez