Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Back in 2014, head of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige laid down his vision for the next five years of Marvel movies. As of the release of Avengers: Endgame, that vision is now complete. Some projects fell by the wayside - an Inhumans movie was dropped and was changed into a TV series (which flopped, badly) - and others have stepped up, with the addition of the Spider-Man character resulting in several new solo movies for him added to the roster.

Spider-Man and Black Panther are expected to be key characters in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Feige is expected to unveil a master plan for the next generation of Marvel movies - "Phase 4" - at the San Diego Comic-Con in July. It sounds like the plan is for a series of new movies that will take us up to the end of 2023, and will lean heavily on the newer generations of Marvel heroes such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel. However, this Phase will also feature a twist, as it will also incorporate a number of TV mini-series for the new Disney streaming platform, Disney+. These short series (estimated at 6-10 episodes apiece) will expand on some characters and will also introduce new characters, possibly setting them up to appear in new movies further down the road. Unlike previous Marvel TV shows (such as the Netflix series, Agents of SHIELD and The Inhumans), whose canonical status with regards to the movies is debatable, these Disney+ series are being made by Marvel Studios under Feige's direct supervision, and will be definitively be canon with regards to the films.

The roster of upcoming TV shows and films is as follows.

Please note that this article will contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.


Spider-Man: Far from Home
Directed by Jon Watts
Filming Dates: July-October 2018
Release Date: 2 July 2019

Already in the can, this is a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and will pick up with the character of Spider-Man/Peter Parker shortly after the events of Endgame. The film will see Spider-Man being recruited by Nick Fury to look into a series of strange events during a school trip to Europe. Marvel originally hoped to release this film much later, so marketing would not interfere with promotions for Endgame, but Sony's contract with Marvel requited them to start marketing the movie earlier.

Black Widow
Directed by Cate Shortland
Filming Dates: "soon"
Release Date: late 2020?

A solo Black Widow movie has been under discussion since Scarlett Johansson debuted in the role in Iron Man 2 (2010). Shortland signed on to direct in July 2018 and reportedly the film is due to start shooting "soon." The events of Endgame leave the focus and story of the film a mystery, but reportedly the film is a prequel which will explain some of Natasha's backstory. As far as is known, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is not expected to appear, which is unusual as their shared backstory is an obvious place for a film to pick up.

The Eternals
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Filming Dates: August-Late 2018
Release Date: late 2020/early 2021?

Chloé Zhao signed on to direct a movie based on Jack Kirby's immortal heroes in September 2018, and production is due to start in August. Angelina Jolie is playing Sersi whilst Kumail Nanjiani is also in talks to star.

Black Panther 2
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Filming Dates: unknown
Release Date: 2021?

Ryan Coogler has agreed to return to direct and write a sequel to his 2018 mega-hit. The entire (surviving) main cast is expected to return.

Doctor Strange 2
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Release Date: 2021?

Scott Derrickson has agreed to return to direct and co-write a sequel to the 2017 original. The original main cast is expected to return. Apparently the film will be "weirder" than the first one.

Spider-Man 3
Release Date: 2021?

Sony's contract with Marvel is believed to require a sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home to be released two years after that movie, if Far From Home is financially successful. The cast's contracts are believed to include three-film options, but it's unclear if Jon Watts would return for a third movie.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Release Date: 2022?

Scriptwriter David Callaham and director Destin Daniel Cretton signed on in early 2019 to bring Marvel's crimefighting kung fu star (well, one of them, along with Iron Fist) to the big screen.

Captain Marvel 2
Release Date: 2022?

Not formally greenlit yet, although Captain Marvel's $1.1 billion take-home makes that a formality at this point. According to Kevin Feige, the sequel may actually be an "interquel", bridging Captain Marvel to Avengers: Endgame and exploring what Carol was up to in space during that time.

The Avengers 5
Release Date: 2022?

After Infinity War and Endgame blew up the box office between them, a further Avengers movie is of course a no-brainer. The film would likely see at least Falcon, Winter Soldier, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther and Captain Marvel reunite to face off against some kind of threat, potentially to be joined by Thor, the "new" Hawkeye and She-Hulk (see the TV section). Alternatively the film could also act as a last hurrah for the old Hawkeye and Hulk (and Thor, depending on the timeline, see below) before their retirement.

Ant-Man 3
Directed by Peyton Reed
Release Date: unknown

Proposed but not yet formally greenlit. Director Peyton Reed has been discussing the project with Marvel, and actor Michael Douglas is reportedly keen to return as Hank Pym. It's also believed that most of the cast from the first two movies would return.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Directed by James Gunn
Release Date: unknown

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was greenlit shortly after the success of Vol. 2 in 2017. However, director James Gunn was fired from the project in July 2018 after controversial tweets he'd made many years earlier resurfaced. Gunn signed on to direct The Suicide Squad for DC instead. After discussions with the cast, who were extremely unhappy with Gunn's firing, Disney reinstated him in March 2019. This now means that Gunn can't start production on Vol. 3 until work on The Suicide Squad is completed before its release in August 2021. This puts Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 potentially off until late 2022 at the earliest, and possibly later.

Thor 4
Release Date: unknown

Based on Chris Hemsworth's statements, it was expected that he would be retiring from the role following Endgame. However, both Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the Infinity War two-parter revitalised his interest in the character and he has since committed to returning. The timeline for Thor 4 is heavily dependent on the availability of Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, who has been in talks to shoot the live-action version of Akira but still hasn't fully committed, and also on the scheduling for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as Thor is believed to play a role in that movie. Some have suggested that if Waititi passes on Akira, Thor 4 could shoot much sooner and work as an interim Guardians side-movie until the Gunn-directed Guardians 3 hits production, but this is unconfirmed.

The Thunderbolts
Release Date: unknown

Not greenlit, but apparently discussed, is a movie teaming up the Marvel supervillains who have survived this far. Apparently the roster could consist of Zemo (Captain America: Civil War), Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Abomination (The Incredible Hulk) and Ghost (Ant-Man and the Wasp), along potentially with new characters. This is a very speculative project until a director and writer can be found with passion for the project.

Disney+ Shows

Falcon & Winter Soldier
Release Date: 2020

Greenlit and already in pre-production, with shooting due to start soon. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles from the movies. The actors and Marvel had apparently discussed a range of options for the series, including a "buddy cop" dynamic similar to 1980s movies like 48 Hours. However, reportedly the tone for the series is going to be a ground-level thriller similar to The Winter Soldier, with a focus on stealth and espionage.

Release Date: 2020-21

Greenlit and in the writing stage. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will reprise their roles as Scarlet Witch and Vision from the films. The series will apparently be an interquel, exploring how the characters' relationship evolved between Civil War to Infinity War. Some reports have suggested that there may be scenes set in the 1950s, hinting possibly at hallucinations or even outright time travel.

Release Date: 2020-21

Greenlit and in the writing stage. Tom Hiddleson will reprise his role from the films as Loki. The TV series will be anthology-like, with major events from Earth's history over the last thousand years being revealed to have been orchestrated by Loki for his own amusement.

Release Date: unknown

Not formally greenlit, but negotiations are at an advanced stage for a limited series starring Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye. The series would see Barton meeting and training up Kate Bishop, a skilled archer who (in the comics) becomes a later incarnation of Hawkeye.

Release Date: unknown

Not formally greenlit, but negotiations are at an early stage for a limited series that would see Mark Ruffalo return as Bruce Banner/Hulk. The series would see Banner meeting his cousin Jennifer Walters, who in the comics is destined to become She-Hulk. The film would act as a passing-the-baton story, allowing She-Hulk to potentially appear in later Avengers movies.

Power Pack
Release Date: unknown

Not formally greenlit and apparently talks are only in the very earliest stages, but there has been some discussion about adapting Power Pack as an ongoing, multi-season TV show. Power Pack is a more children's oriented Marvel Comic series about four children who gain superpowers from a dying alien trying to protect their father, who has perfected a limitless source of energy. Other aliens arrive trying to seize the device, resulting in a running, desperate battle. This is a better fit for television than for film. Intriguingly, Power Pack crosses over a lot with Fantastic Four (Reed Richards' son Franklin becomes a recurring member later on), which means that Marvel might get to use its new rights to that franchise sooner than expected.

Ms. Marvel
Release Date: unknown

Marvel and Disney+ are exploring using the streaming service to set up the character of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. However, this may depend on the direction of Captain Marvel 2, where it has been suggested that Ms. Marvel could be introduced instead.

The X-Verse

At the current time, there are no plans to incorporate characters from Fox's "X-Verse" (plus the Fantastic Four franchise) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Disney's acquisition of Fox. As of now, the Fox X-Verse is expected to come to an end with the release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix in June and New Mutants in August. Films under discussion or in the planning stages, including Deadpool 3, X-Force, Gambit and a sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse have been cancelled.

According to Kevin Feige, the planning for Phase 4 was already at an advanced stage when the deal was confirmed, putting off the introduction of those characters until the advent of Phase 5 in 2023 or 2024 at the earliest. However, some fans have speculated that whilst dumping the entire X-Verse roster of characters into the MCU in Phase 4 might be untenable, it might be possible to use individual characters and villains, with Galactus cited as a worthy opponent for the possible next Avengers film or films.

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1 comment:

insurrbution said...

Not to sound rude, or pretentious ("I'm never doing this again!") but with the release of Endgame, that effectively 'concluded' the MCU to that point.

As I go to the cinema less and less, there's a very good chance that Endgame may very well be my final superhero film in cinemas. Aside from Part 1 and 2 of Dune, and Fantastic Beasts Parts 3-5, nothing on the horizon is screaming: "see me now now now!!"

Previously, I went to the cinema about 5 times a year. Now it's looking like 1-2, at most.