Sunday, 24 July 2022

Marvel outlines the future of their cinematic universe

Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has taken to the stage at the San Diego Comic-Con to outline the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Feige confirmed an ambitious release schedule taking the franchise through its fourth and fifth phases and even into a sixth, and even confirmed that the second major arc of the MCU will go by over-arching title The Multiverse Saga, just as the first three phases became known as The Infinity Saga.

The next instalment of the franchise launches on 17 August 2022 with the 9-episode Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, which has a lighter tone. It features Jennifer Walters (Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany), a skilled attorney and the cousin of Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). When Walters is injured in a car crash, Banner has to use his scientific know-how to save her...which inadvertently grants her powers similar to his own. Whilst the media is excited over the emergence of the "She-Hulk", Walters has to balance her new abilities with her career and her own life. Walters' newfound fame sees her assigned to defend Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), the Abomination who tried to kill her cousin in The Incredible Hulk (2008). Benedict Wong also reprises his role as Wong, the new Sorcerer Supreme, and Charlie Cox makes his second appearance in the MCU as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Jameela Jamil, Ginger Gonzaga, Renee Elise Goldsberry also star.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will mark the end of Phase 4 on 11 November. The plot deals with Wakanda dealing with the passing of King T'Challa, the Black Panther (reflecting the untimely passing of star Chadwick Boseman in August 2020 from cancer) and the question of the succession. Ramonda (Angela Bassett), has taken over as the Queen Mother of Wakanda until the matter is settled. However, Wakanda is threatened by a new conflict with an underwater kingdom led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and a group of allies led by Shuri (Letitita Wright) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) must help lead Wakanda to safety. Dominique Thorne debuts as genius inventor Ririr Williams/Ironheart. Ryan Coogler directs.

Airing around Christmas this year is The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, a live-action special focusing on the titular Guardians. Inspired by the disastrous Star Wars Holiday Special, the episode features the main castmembers of the Guardians of the Galaxy film series: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). The special takes place between Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3, and was filmed alongside and on the same sets as the latter. According to rumour, the plot may involve Groot returning to his mysterious homeworld whilst Quill tries to imbue the Christmas spirit in his baffled ship-mates. James Gunn directs.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania kicks off Phase 5 on 17 February 2023. The third Ant-Man film sees the return of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hope Pym/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). The two team up to  defeat a new multiverse-spanning threat unleashed by Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Majors previously portrayed "He Who Remains" in the first season of Loki and notes that Kang is an alternate timeline version of the same character, but has a very different personality. Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer also return as Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne. Bill Murray will also star and the popular Marvel Comics villain MODOK will also appear (the conclusion that Murray will play MODOK does not appear unreasonable). Peyton Reed directs.

The 6-part Disney+ mini-series Secret Invasion arrives in Spring 2023 and sees Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) teaming up with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) to face down a serious threat to Earth emanating from outer space. SHIELD's successor/spaceborn partner organisation SWORD is expected to feature. Kingsley Ben-Adir plays the lead villain, with Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, Killian Scott, Christopher McDonald and Carmen Ejogo in undisclosed roles. Dermot Mulroney plays US President Ritson.

Launching on 5 May 2023, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 will mark the end of the space franchise, almost nine years after it began. The film's plot appears to revolve around Peter's ongoing attempts to win back Gamora, despite "this" version of Gamora being from another timeline who has no memory of him, whilst the Guardians are hunted down by Adam, a powerful being unleashed by the Sovereign at the end of Volume 2. The team also has to explore Rocket's origins, as he is being tracked by his creator for nefarious purposes. The main antagonists are expected to be Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) and the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). The main Guardians cast returns: Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Kraglin (Sean Bugg). Ayesa of the Sovereign (Elizabeth Debicki) and Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone) are also returning. Maria Bakalova will play Cosmo the Spacedog and Daniela Melchior, Nico Santos and Callie Brand will appear in undisclosed roles. James Gunn directs.

Launching in Summer 2023, Echo is a Disney+ series focusing on the character of Maya Lopez/Echo (Alaqua Cox), who debuted in Hawkeye. The plot sees Echo returning to her home town to confront her past and reconnect with her Native American roots. The series will see Zahn McClarnon reprise his role as Maya's father, William Lopez, in flashback scenes. Vincent D'Onofrio will also return as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, and Charlie Cox will return as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. According to rumours, Daredevil is searching for his former ally Jessica Jones, who has gone missing, and enlists Echo's help. However, there have been no reports of Jessica Jones actress Krysten Ritter joining the project.

Arriving on 28 July 2023, The Marvels sees Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) joining forces with Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau/Spectrum (Teyonah Parris) to tackle a new threat related to the mysterious Nega-Bands. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, whilst Saagar Shaikh, Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur reprise their roles as Kamala's family members Aamir, Muneeba and Yusuf respectively, from Ms. Marvel. Zawe Ashton plays a villain and Park Seo-joon has also been cast in an unrevealed role. Nia DaCosta directs.

Returning in summer 2023, Loki is the first Disney+ show to get a second season. The premise sees the Time Variance Authority having been transformed by a shift in the timeline, with the TVA now under the authority of Kang the Conqueror and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) having to navigate this transformed world. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Ravonna), Eugene Cordero (Casey), Owen Wilson (Mobius) and Sophia Di Martino (Sylvie) also return from Season 1. Rafael Casal also joins the cast. There is no word on if Jonathan Majors will return as Kang.

Staking his way to 3 November 2023, the OG Marvel Studios character makes his debut in the MCU continuity. Mahershala Ali takes over from Wesley Snipes as the daywalking half-vampire vampire-slayer (he has a lot of backstory). According to rumour, Kit Harington will reprise his role as Dane Whitman/Black Knight. Bassam Tariq directs.

Debuting in Autumn 2023, Ironheart is a six-part TV series focusing on the character of Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), a genius inventor who, inspired by Iron Man, creates her own suit of armour. Williams is due to appear first in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Anthony Ramos, Manny Montana and Alden Ehrenreich have been cast in undisclosed roles.

A spin-off from WandaVision, Coven of Chaos is a mini-series focusing on the character of Agatha Harknesss (Kathryn Hahn), a powerful witch who was defeated in battle by the Scarlet Witch. Hahn's breakout performance and musical number attracted significant acclaim for WandaVision. The series is scheduled for winter 2023.

Captain America: New World Order sees Anthony Mackie step up as Sam Wilson, the former Falcon who is the new Captain America. Julius Onah will direct. The film is set for release on 3 May 2024.

Having briefly appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home, She-Hulk and Echo, Matt Murdock will return prominently in Daredevil: Born Again. This is the most epic Disney+ series to date, with 18 episodes planned for Spring 2024. So far, no word on the plot or if any of the other castmembers from the Netflix Daredevil show will reprise their roles.

Hitting cinemas on 26 July 2024, Thunderbolts will be the last film in Phase 5. The film sees a group of former MCU villains being recruited to undertake a dangerous mission. Jake Schreier directs.

No casting has been announced but potential candidates include Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) from Avengers: Civil War and Falcon & Winter Soldier; Ava Starr/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) from Ant-Man and the Wasp; Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) from Black Widow and Hawkeye; Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth) from The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk; Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) from Doctor Strange; John Walker/US Agent (Wyatt Russell) from Falcon & Winter Soldier and Contessa Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

The Fantastic Four join the MCU on 8 November 2024, although at the moment they don't have a director, as Jon Watts had previously signed on but then jumped ship internally to handle the Star Wars: Skeleton Crew series. Rumours have been circulating around Ant-Man director Peyton Reed being considered for the gig. No casting has been announced so far, but John Krasinski played an alternate-reality version of Reed Richards in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (and his real-life wife Emily Blunt is a popular fancasting for Sue Storm). Nothing is known about the film except it will launch Phase 6 of the MCU.

The Avengers return with a new duology, emulating the Infinity War/Endgame two-punch of 2018-19. The Kang Dynasty presumably sees Kang setting up a multiverse showdown that will lead into Secret Wars. The various Secret Wars events in the comics have seen a large number of MCU heroes and villains abducted to another planet or dimension where they are forced to do battle for various purposes. What is interesting is that these films are either falling very early in Phase 6, or Phase 6 will be the shortest phase of the entire MCU to date, suggesting they may mark more the start of a major story than necessarily its end. No directors have been attached so far and it's unclear which Avengers will be present, although it could see a mix of the remaining Avengers from the first four films (Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, War Machine, Captain America, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, maybe Spider-Man) and a new generation of Avengers ready to take up the mantle (Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Kate Bishop, Yelena Belova, Ironheart, Blade, Echo, the Fantastic Four).

What is also interesting is what is not mentioned: no mention at all of second seasons for Hawkeye, Moon Knight or Ms. Marvel, and the previously-mooted sequels for Eternals, Shang-Chi and Thor: Love & Thunder are also not mentioned. The status of Spider-Man is also in flux, despite No Way Home suggesting further adventures for the character. The X-Men, who were widely expected to debut in the MCU in an upcoming phase, are also still MIA, although there is speculation that they will cross over into the MCU during the events of Secret Wars. Also left unmentioned is Deadpool 3, although it's already in pre-production.

The release schedule moving forwards now looks like this:

Phase 4
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law - Season 1 (17 August 2022, Disney+)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (11 November 2022, cinemas)

Phase 5
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (December 2022, Disney+)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (17 February 2023, cinemas)
  • Secret Invasion (Spring 2023, Disney+)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Volume 3 (5 May 2023, cinemas)
  • Echo - Season 1 (Summer 2023, Disney+)
  • The Marvels (28 July 2023, cinemas)
  • Loki - Season 2 (Summer 2023, Disney+)
  • Blade (3 November 2023, cinemas)
  • Ironheart - Season 1 (Autumn 2023, Disney+)
  • Agatha - Coven of Chaos (Winter 2023, Disney+)
  • Captain America - New World Order (3 May 2024, cinemas)
  • Daredevil - Born Again - Season 1 (Spring 2024, Disney+)
  • Thunderbolts (26 July 2024, cinemas)

Phase 6
  • Fantastic Four (8 November 2024, cinemas)
  • Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2 May 2025, cinemas)
  • Avengers: Secret Wars (7 November 2025, cinemas)
Feige did leave a lot of blank space on the Phase Six roster, with additional projects slated for autumn 2024 (two of them), winter 2024 (two), spring 2025 (two) and summer 2025 (two). That's eight untitled projects which have launch windows but no titles yet.

More information may also be revealed at the D23 Disney convention next month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would you do one of your long articles explaining the multiverse and how the events of Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home fit in? Having disagreements about it and thought “this seems like a Wert thing.”