Predicting Marvel Studios Phase 4 Slate

[WARNING: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]

Avengers: Endgame marked the end of a 22 film saga that began in 2008 with Iron Man. Three phases of films that accumulated into one massive event film, Avengers: Endgame. Now that the dust has settled on what is now dubbed the Infinity Saga, with its epilogue Spider-Man: Far From Home opening later this summer, the one question on everyone’s mind is: what comes next?

Marvel has films slated for 2020 to 2022 (that were confirmed when Disney released its new schedule) but they all remain untitled and Marvel has been playing coy about what they could be. This was an obvious attempt to keep the focus on Avengers: Endgame and the films will be officially announced at this years Comic-Con. Yet based off some news tidbits and previous Marvel release patterns, we can look at those announced dates and guess what each film is.

May 1, 2020-Black Widow

Marvel has been starting off the summer movie season with the first week of May.

Since 2007 with the release of Spider-Man 3, a Marvel superhero movie has opened the first weekend of May to kick off the summer movie season. Since then ten of those summers have been Marvel Studios films (exceptions being 2009’s X-Men Origins Wolverine and 2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2), so all eyes are what the first film post Phase 3 will be, now that we know Spider-Man: Far From Home is acting more as an epilogue to the Infinity Saga.

The original belief was that this high profile release date was going to be saved for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. since Vol 2 opened the first week of May in 2017 and it would finish off the Guardians franchise as audiences have known it. It would have finished out one franchise from the Infinity Saga while also possibly setting up a whole new future of cosmic-based franchises. Yet when Guardians 3 got delayed because of the firing and then later rehiring of James Gunn, who is now busy with the new Suicide Squad film, it appears that a mystery has been left over for what the first film in this new phase for Marvel will be.

Now it appears Black Widow will be the movie to take that release date. It is fitting since the release date will mark the ten year anniversary of Black Widow’s first major motion picture appearance in Iron Man 2, and this film so far is the one that is the furthest along in development. Cate Shortland has been signed on to direct for months and they have already cast David Harbour (Stranger Things), Rachel Weisz (The Mummy), O-T Fagenle (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family) in major roles.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame, audiences now know the Black Widow movie is a prequel. This seems like an odd choice to be the new beginning at first, since we are going back to a character’s history instead of moving forward, but there may be more than meets the eye. Florence Pugh’s character has been described as the second lead role, meaning this may be a character who will appear in future Marvel movies. She could be playing the role of Yelena Belova, who in the comics is the second character to take on the mantle of the Black Widow. This would allow a version of Black Widow to still exist within the MCU. Other potential spy characters she could be playing include Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman (no relation to Spider-Man), Abigail Brand, or Valentina Allegra De Fontaine.

This means Black Widow could be both a send-off for the original Black Widow, but also as a film may lay down some hints from the history of the MCU as to future threats and a future potential Avenger.

November 4, 2020-The Eternals

Black Widow‘s status as a prequel will be looking into the MCU’s past, so the next film following might also. The Eternals is being pitched as a grand epic love story that spans centuries of human history.

The Eternals seems to be the replacement on the Marvel film docket for the Inhumans. Both are based on Jack Kirby creations that deal with ancient humans being experimented on in by ancient aliens. The Eternals film seems to be following the ancient race of superhumans and how they have shaped the course of human history. This allows Marvel to make a prequel to the entire MCU and dive into unexplored time periods, allowing them to meet ancient beings from Marvel’s past (including a run-in with Asgardians and a young Odin/Thor).

Next to Black Widow, The Eternals is the film we’ve heard the most about on the development side.  They have had Chloe Zhao attached to direct since September of 2018. Angelina Jolie has been rumored to play the role of Sersi with Richard Madden in the role of Ikarus, the two star crossed lovers. Kumil Nanjiani and Dong-seok Ma are both rumored to be attached to the project.

The first week of November release date has served Marvel well three times before, in the case of Thor: The Dark World, Doctor Strange, and Thor: Ragnarok. November ties into the holiday/winter movie season and after coming off October (which is traditionally a slow month) makes it the first event movie of the season with no major competition. That would be a great release date for a new untested franchise. Fantasy-inspired films (Eternals is cosmic fantasy) tend to match the fall/holiday season better than summer. Hence why Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Avatar, and the most recent Star Wars have been released during that time period.

February 12, 2021-Doctor Strange 2

If this 2021 release date is true, that will mean it will have been five years since Doctor Strange’s solo film hit. That is the longest wait between a film and its sequel in the MCU. It doesn’t feel like very long since Doctor Strange has been popping up in other peoples movies every year (2016 Doctor Strange, 2017 Thor: Ragnarok, 2018 Avengers: Infinity War, 2019 Avengers: Endgame). This means Marvel probably wants to get a Doctor Strange sequel out sooner rather than later and making his film the first of 2021 would fit.

Doctor Strange set up its sequel villain, Mordo, very clearly at the end and the threat seems obvious: Mordo wants to rid the world of sorcerers. Avengers: Endgame also delved into a concept that was alluded to in Doctor Strange: alternate dimensions. After Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home it seems the multiverse is going to play a major role in the future of the MCU. Doctor Strange and his fellow sorcerers are supposed to protect our dimension from other threats and it appears following Endgame the Avengers did enough messing with time to create a whole franchise of new threats. The first film’s director, Scott Derrickson, is back to work on the sequel and has had plenty of time to develop ideas. He is probably ready to go with a script that he has been working on since the first film came out.

May 7, 2021-Black Panther 2

Many would assume Marvel would want to keep the February release date for Black Panther 2 after how well the first film did in February (tying it into Black History Month), but because Black Panther now seems to be Marvel’s next big Iron Man level star franchise they want to move it to the prime May weekend that has served them so well for years. After proving themselves a box office force, the Guardians of the Galaxy got bumped up from August to May, so it stands to reason Black Panther would also, giving Doctor Strange the February release date.

Black Panther 2 was a given the minute the film started breaking records. Marvel got the key players back into the fold, one of the most important being director Ryan Coogler. Numerous possibilities are now open for what can be explored in Black Panther 2. How the snap affected Wakanda’s people and what it means for their king to return after being gone for so long. What does the world now look like after Wakanda has opened its borders to the rest of the world?

Ryan Coogler has expressed interest in wanting to include Spider-Man villain Kraven the Hunter into the film, while many fans have speculated the earthquake under the ocean line Okoye mentioned in Avengers: Endgame might be Marvel teasing the arrival of Namor the Submariner (whose existence may have been alluded to in Iron Man 2 on the map of locations S.H.I.E.L.D was monitoring). Namor’s status as the Prince of Atlantis could make for an interesting conflict with T’Challa, the concept of two fantastical nations going to war.

November 5, 2021-Shang Chi

Like The Eternals, Shang Chi seems to be a Marvel Studios replacement for a property that was moved to television. Here it is Iron Fist, with Shang Chi being Marvel’s kung fu martial arts franchise, which is a very different angle for a superhero film.

Black Panther and Captain Marvel showed that Marvel Studio’s future will be a more diverse one than in Phase 1. Heroes of different genders, races, and (hopefully) sexualities. Shang-Chi will be the first Asian-led superhero film by a major studio. Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) is already signed on as director and fans may get the first casting announcement at Comic-Con this year.

Similar to Doctor Strange and The Eternals, the first weekend of November would be a great start for this brand new franchise. This would allow Marvel to have two sequels and one original IP in the same year.

February 18, 2022-Captain Marvel 2

Since Captain Marvel made $1 billion worldwide and is now the second highest grossing origin film for the MCU (behind Black Panther), Captain Marvel seems primed to take the summer kick off weekend in May that Marvel loves. Yet the status of two other films (more on that later) could put Captain Marvel 2 as the first film in 2022.

Not much is known about Captain Marvel sequel. It technically hasn’t officially been announced, but it is safe to assume a sequel is a lock due to the success, and also the fact that Marvel Studios made it known that Captain Marvel will lead the MCU going into the future. Now the future comment does raise some questions. Carol Danvers’ origin story took place in the 90’s, and she was off Earth for a long period of time. People have wondered if her sequel would explore the time frame between her solo film and Endgame, or if her sequel will pick up after Avengers: Endgame. Will Marvel want to go back and explore more time during the Infinity Saga during this new phase or would they want to explore the new status quo?

The sequel also has the opportunity to introduce many new characters into the MCU. Audiences already met a child version of Monica Rambeau, who in the comics becomes a superhero in her own right named Photon (in the comics she was actually the first woman to take on the mantle of Captain Marvel). There is also the fan favorite breakout character Khamali Khan aka Ms. Marvel. Ever since she debuted in the comics it appeared she was being primed for the big screen treatment and would make for both a great supporting character and a major player in her own right (possible a future Young Avenger).

The sequel could explore more outer space politics, like what is the status of the Skrulls after the first Captain Marvel film. What about the Kree? It could introduce a concept like S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department). Or it could also serve as a launching point for a spin-off film like A-Force, with Captain Marvel leading her own team of female Avengers.

May 6, 2022-Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is in an odd place. What was originally believed to kick off Phase 4 of the MCU by wrapping up plot points left over from the Infinity Saga while also paving the way for the next era (focusing on the cosmic side of the MCU) now has been delayed due to the firing and later rehiring of James Gunn. Due to how long it took to resolve the issue, James Gunn’s schedule is now booked. The Suicide Squad is scheduled to be released on August 6, 2021, and production for Guardians is expected to begin in September. It is reported that filming for Guardians 3 could begin in February 2021, which is so short after The Suicide Squad is done filming. This means the films could be overlapping, if true, and Gunn would be editing The Suicide Squad while filming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. may not need as much prep time as some other films, since they were already so far into production before it got canceled the first time. Gunn has the script ready and all the design work is at least already planned out. So it isn’t unrealistic to think this film is ready, it’s just going to be putting a lot of pressure on Gunn.

As for what the film could be about? It will obviously wrap up the trilogy for the Guardians we have met in the previous two. While also maybe introducing a new incarnation of the team, possible the Ravengers team at the end of Vol 2 based off the original Guardians of the Galaxy comics in a larger role. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also set up Adam Warlock as a potential character. Now we have an added wrinkle to the potential plot. Gamora was killed during Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame brought a younger pre-Guardians Gamora to the present timeline. This is a Gamora who doesn’t have the same memories or shared experience with the Guardians so this creates an interesting new plot thread: if this is a different Gamora, how her fellow teammates (namely Quill and Nebula) adjust to this? Accepting her as a new person and not a replacement for the Gamora they lost.

July 29, 2022-Antman and the Wasp Sequel

The previous two Ant-Man movies came out in July, and Marvel seems to enjoy having them there. If this release date were to be true, this would be the first time an Ant-Man movie didn’t follow an Avengers movie as a pallet cleanser.

Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp have been the lowest grossing film franchise of the MCU, but one would imagine Marvel would want to wrap up the Ant-Man trilogy. It and Guardians both started in Phase 2, and it would be fitting to have them end in the same year together. Much like the Thor films before it, Ant-Man and the Wasp could benefit from a four-year break where they could use this time to possibly reinvent the characters.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Cassie Lang is now a teenager and could possibly take on the mantle of Stature as she did in the comics. Combine that with a Captain Marvel sequel possibly introducing Ms. Marvel, the Hawkeye series on Disney+ introducing Kate Bishop, and the continued presence of Spider-Man and with maybe Shuri from Black Panther, Marvel could be setting up a Young Avengers in the background of these films.

Wasp could also see a benefit from this film, as she maybe becomes a bigger player in the MCU and a member of the New Avengers team that forms in the MCU, possible as the new leader.

There are plenty of other properties that could take on any of these release dates. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 or Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel could be easily pushed back to 2023 and Marvel could put the focus on another new franchise. Possible Nova or She-Hulk. They could release the New Avengers or the much talked about A-Force team as a potential movie. The Young Avengers and even a Thor 4 could be possible.

It is also safe to say we probably won’t see the X-Men till about 2025 but one may guess the Fantastic Four make an appearance by 2024. The Silver Surfer, on the other hand, might make an appearance in another film (Guardians 3? Captain Marvel 2?) and get his own solo film.

What do you think? Do these films sound right? What films would you release? What films do you want to see in the next Phase of the MCU? Let us know in the comments below.

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