The timing couldn’t be better. On the weekend that “Avengers: Endgame” finally passed “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing film of all-time, Marvel President Kevin Feige took the stage in Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con to layout Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After 23 films, billed as “The Infinity Saga” that began with “Iron Man” in 2008, the next two years look bright for fans who can expect prequels, sequels, reboots, and Marvel's first animated series incorporating many MCU regulars reprising their roles.
First up, the prequel “Black Widow” directed by Cate Shortland with Scarlett Johansson once again in the title role and Florence Pugh, star of this summer’s horror-thriller “Midsommar,” as her sister Yelena Belova. The film takes place between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” with a cast that includes David Harbour from the Netflix series “Stranger Things” as the Russian version of Captain America known as Red Guardian, Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz as an assassin, and “The Handmaid’s Tale‘s” O-T Fagbenle as Black Widow’s contact Mason. Release date: May 2020.
“The Eternals” is based on Jack Kirby’s 1976 comic about an immortal race of God-like beings known for their good looks and superpowers. Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao who directed last year’s critically acclaimed indie hit “The Rider” will take the reigns of the Marvel film that features a cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, and Don Lee. Release date: November 6, 2020.
Feige also announced a slew of new shows for the upcoming Disney+ streaming service which debuts this year on November 12th with thousands of movies and series from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. The Captain America spinoff series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will reunite Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in the title roles with Mackie’s Falcon sporting Captain America’s famous shield after it was given to him by the Cap aka Steve Rogers in “Avengers: Endgame.” Release date: Fall 2020.
Mackie and Stan aren’t the only two MCU stars reprising roles for a new Disney+ series, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return as Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch and Vision for “WandaVision” which takes place after “Avengers: Endgame” causing some confusion among Marvel fans after Bettany’s character was killed off in “Infinity War.” The series has a connection to “Captain Marvel” with the addition of Monica Rambeau who we last saw as a pre-teen (played by Akira Akbar) in the film earlier this year. The adult version of the character will be played by Teyonah Parris from “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Jac Schaeffer, a writer on “Marvel,” will serve as the series’ showrunner. Release date: Spring 2021.
Tom Hiddleston is back in the Disney+ series “Loki” as the mischievous adopted brother of Thor who died in “Infinity War” but appeared in “Endgame” thanks to the Avengers’ time heist. The actor referred to his character in the new series as psychologically unevolved. It was previously announced the show would take place in the 70s with “Rick and Morty's” Michael Waldron serving as the series’ writer and showrunner. Release date: Spring 2021
Other series headed for Disney+ include Jeremy Renner reprising his Avenger role in “Hawkeye” (Fall 2021) and the animated “What If…” with Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher, the shows narrator who will explore alternate MCU scenarios with many of the actors from “The Infinity Saga” lending their voices to the series which debuts in Summer 2021.
Don’t worry, apart from “Black Widow” and “The Eternals” there are more Marvel films headed to the theater including “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” starring Simu Liu in the title role, “The Farewell’s” Awkwafina, and Tony Leung as the villain Mandarin. The Ten Rings terrorist organization was referenced in the Iron Man films. Destin Cretton will direct the film that opens in theaters on Feb. 12, 2021.
Scott Derrickson is back to direct “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with Benedict Cumberbatch returning to play the powerful sorcerer in what is being called “the first scary MCU film” so it only makes sense to have a witch in a horror film as Elizabeth Olsen appears in her Scarlett Witch role that will tie in to the “WandaVision” series. Release date: May 7, 2021.
Finally, 2021 will end with “Thor Love and Thunder” with Chris Hemsworth taking a backseat to Natalie Portman who appeared as Jane Foster in the first two Thor films. Here the actress becomes female Thor confirmed by returning director Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) by handing Portmann Thor’s powerful hammer Mjolnir on stage at Comic-Con. The film, based on Jason Aaron's 2014 comic “The Mighty Thor,” will feature Tessa Thompson back as Valkyrie who is now the king of Asgard. Release date: Nov. 5, 2021.
For the last two years, Marvel fans have speculated over the future of the MCU as “Endgame” wrapped up the first 23 films in grand fashion. But as you can see the highest-grossing franchise in history is just getting started with even more films headed down the pike including “Captain Marvel 2,” “Black Panther 2,” “Guardians of the Galaxy 3,” and a new Fantastic Four.
I’m even more excited for Marvel’s fifth phase which was teased by announcing two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as Blade, the vampire hunting superhero played by Wesley Snipes in a trilogy of films from 1998-2002 and by rapper Sticky Fingaz on the television show that ran for one season on Spike. Talk about great casting, Ali’s performance in the reboot, however, is still years away but until then Marvel fans have plenty to look forward to in 2020 and 2021.