Inquirer Super

Super-analyzing Marvel’s Phase Four

By Ruel S. De Vera
07/23/19 3:08 PM

“Thor: Love and Thunder” director Taika Waititi hands Natalie Portman the hammer Mjolnir as Chris Hemsworth and Kevin Feige look on

Marvel Studios staggered the audience at San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 (SDCC) with announcements regarding the much-talked about Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Phase Four last July 20. This massive series of announcements stood out amid an extremely busy SDCC day of announcements.

During the run-up to “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said there would be no announcements of movies or release dates until after the release of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in July. “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the 23rd film in the MCU, closed out the MCU’s Phase Three, so all movies after it would be part of Phase Four, what Feige had previously referred to as the fourth book in the MCU story.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” has come and conquered, so Feige kept his promise by announcing the Phase Four slate at the Marvel Studios panel in Hall H, the sanctum sanctorum of SDCC.

The announced slate starts as soon as May 2020 and stretches all the way to the end of 2021. It includes feature films as well as series on the Disney streaming service Disney+, which will begin operation before year’s end.

This Phase Four announcement, lasting only two years, clearly leaves out as it leaves out quite a lot at only two years. In comparison, Phase One lasted five years (2008-2012, six movies, “Iron Man” to “The Avengers.” Phase Two lasted three years (2013-2015, six movies, “Iron Man 3” to “Ant-Man”). Phase Three lasted four years (2016-2019, a massive 11 movies, from “Captain America: Civil War” to “Spider-Man: Far From Home”). So yeah, expect more Phase Four additions.

The Disney+ connection is important, because Disney is moving its movies to the platform from services such as Netflix. Additionally, Disney has no more live-action TV shows left on air after the cancellation of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” FX’s “Legion” and the entire Netflix Marvel line-up (“Jessica Jones,” “The Punisher,” “Iron Fist,” “Daredevil,” “Luke Cage” and “The Defenders”). This means that Marvel intends to do all its TV on Disney+.

This announcement comes at a time when “Avengers: Endgame” became the biggest movie in history after finally overcoming the box office behemoth that was 2009’s “Avatar.” These new films come after the end of the Avengers Infinity Saga—leaving Marvel Zombies hungry for what comes next. Check out these images from SDCC as well as classic comics covers featuring these Marvel-ous characters!

MCU Sequels:

As expected, Feige confirmed three expected sequels—“Black Panther 2,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3” and “Captain Marvel 2”—that we had been expecting all along. Considering the powerful box office of both the first “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” films, it was only a matter of time before the sequels were announced. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is notable in that it originally lost its visionary director-writer James Gunn (who was fired by Disney over some old tweets and then signed on to shepherd DC’s “Suicide Squad” reboot) but then got him back, so Gunn will be back to wrangle the cosmic heroes. No release dates were given.

The most interesting omission in the announcement of sequels is what should be the biggest MCU film in the post-Avengers age: the third Spider-Man film. It was clear after “Spider-Man: Far From Home” obliterated the opposition that Marvel was positioning Tom Holland as the face of Phase 4 (vice the previous Phases’ Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr.). Expect this film to be announced within the year.

Fox finds

After Disney completed its acquisition of all of Twentieth Century Fox’s assets, it was also just a matter of time before Marvel announced what it was doing with the two major Marvel Comics properties Fox still had. At SDCC, Feige confirmed that a “Fantastic Four” movie is coming along with a film currently called “Mutants” that will introduce the X-Men to the MCU. Yes, this means Wolverine and Deadpool are officially joining the MCU, something fans have been clamoring for since the MCU came into being. No additional details or release dates were given.

“Black Widow,” May 1, 2020

This will be the next MCU film you’ll catch. Kicking off Phase Four is the much-anticipated prequel featuring Scarlett Johansson’s badass super spy, the 24th MCU film. A project long rumored, “Black Widow” is the logical route considering Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff gave her life to gain the Soul Stone in “Endgame.” David Harbour—yes, Hopper from Netflix’s “Stranger Things”—plays a character named Alexei (yes, ironic if you watched “Stranger Things”) who is the MCU version of the Russian super solder (and Captain America derivative) Red Guardian. Florence Pugh will play the new Black Widow, Yelena Belova, and Rachel Weisz is a character named Melina, most likely someone who trained Natasha. The villain Mason is played by O-T Fagbenie. This is the awesome Marvel baddie Taskmaster, who can copy skills and movements simply by seeing them. This would be the second MCU film with a solo female lead, after “Captain Marvel,” though the idea of a standalone “Black Widow” film has been around since 2012’s “The Avengers.” Directed by Cate Shortland (2012’s “Lore”), “Black Widow” is already being shot.

Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johansson of “Black Widow”

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Fall 2020

For anyone who missed the bromance between Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) that really rolling  in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” then Marvel has your back with the first original MCU series airing on Disney +. This should be a funny but tight spy show with interesting ramifications considering Falcon received Captain America’s (Chris Evans) shield at the end of “Endgame.” In the comics, the Falcon did indeed become Captain America (check out the iconic shield in the title card), as did the Winter Soldier, who was Cap’s sidekick before being turned in a Russian assassin with a robotic arm—he got better. The six-episode series will see the return of Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo and Emily Van Camp’s Sharon Carter. This is an important show as it will be our first taste of the new MCU TV universe.

Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”

“Eternals,” November 6, 2020

A most unusual choice that’s been gifted with a most impressive cast, “Eternals” is about an immortal race of aliens who came to the Earth and manipulated humanity and history. The Eternals were a fantastic creation by Jack Kirby in 1976 and received a reboot written by Neil Gaiman in 2006. The Eternals have mythological connections as they were mistaken by humans  for gods. Chinese director Chloe Zhao will be I charge of the single most impressive non-Avengers cast in the MCU. Richard Maddem (Robb Stark from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the King in the North!) will be Ikaris. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani is Kingo. Bryan Tyree Henry is Phastos. Lia McHugh is Sprite. Korean actor Dong-seok Ma (also known as Don Lee, the big guy from 2016’s “Train to Busan”) is Gilgamesh. This film also cast the MCU’s first deaf actor, Lauren Ridloff, as the speedster Makkari. The Salma Hayek is the Eternals’ leader Ajak. The biggest get is the one and only Angelina Jolie as Thena. We will see it soon—late next year—and can’t wait to see what Marvel Studios will do with such an outsize psychedelic property. This is the most gloriously nerdy project here.

Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, director Chloe Zhao, Lia McHugh, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Lauren Ridloff and Dong-seok Ma of “The Eternals”

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” February 12, 2021

Everyone will get the first Asian actor in the lead role when “Shang-Chi” arrives. Originally created during the martial arts craze of the 1970s by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi, literally the Master of Kung-Fu, was actually one of the first properties Marvel Studios was interested in, along with Captain America and Nick Fury. Chinese star Simu Liu, most famously Jung from the TV show “Kim’s Convenience,” is the landmark Asian lead. Comedian Awkafana (“Oceans 8”) is in it, with Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung playing the real (not the Ben Kingsley fake in “Iron Man 3”) Mandarin. This brings a classic Marvel villain (with the “ten rings” in the movie’s title) fully to the screen; it also presents a hero who has been considerably updated from his more stereotypical origins. It will be directed by “The Glass Castle” director Destin Daniel Cretton.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, director Destin Daniel Cretton and Simu Liu of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

“WandaVision,” Spring 2021

Perhaps the most unusual of all the Phase Four announced properties, “WandaVision” is a Disney+ series featuring the romantic pairing of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and the Vision (Paul Bettany). Not much is know about this show, though Scarlet Witch and the Vision have a very long and complicated history in the comic books. Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau, introduced in “Captain Marvel,” is also on the show.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany of “WandaVision”

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” May 7, 2021

The inevitable continuation of the Sorcerer Supreme’s adventures has finally been announced. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) appearances in the 2016 “Doctor Strange” movie and two “Avengers” films have turned the magic user into a fan favorite, and the first movie’s director Scott Derrickson returns to helm the sequel. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlett Witch has been confirmed to be appearing as well. Strange’s nature as a character means Marvel Studios can explore such a broad realm of realms and the “Multiverse” in the title means the exploration of different dimensions may be coming.

Benedict Cumberbatch of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

“Loki,” Spring 2021

It’s easy to forget that Loki began as a villain in 2011’s “Thor,” but Tom Hiddleston’s charisma has turned the Asgardian into a fan favorite regardless of which side he’s on. “Endgame” has given Marvel a justification for Loki to be kicking around even though he kicked the bucket at the beginning of “Avengers: Infinity War.” This means that Hiddleston, always a crowd pleaser at SDCC, will be skulking his way into television courtesy of Disney+.

Tom Hiddleston of “Loki”

“What If…?,” Summer 2021

Clearly the most ambitious of the Disney+ shows, “What If…?” is of course an adaptation of the iconic Marvel Comics series which shows alternate realities, hence the title. That book was a real trip, and this show should be as well. This is an animated show and will bring back basically everyone already in the MCU to voice their respective characters. Jeffrey Wright (HBO’s “Westworld”) will voice the series narrator, the Watcher. The first episode is rumored to be “What if Agent Carter was Captain America?,” which will have Agent Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell) picking up the shield instead. Check out the border of that title card: It features animated versions of familiar MCU characters. That’s just the start. Imagine the possibilities.

Jeffrey Wright of “What If…?”

“Hawkeye,” Fall 2021

Like his teammates Scarlet Witch and the Vision, the Avengers archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gets his own Disney+ show, following his post “Endgame” adventures. This show will most likely be of the same vein as the Netflix “street-level” shows and will mostly be adapted from Matt Fraction’s critically acclaimed 2012 take. It already has a big plus with the hugely popular Renner and promises the onscreen debut of that other famous Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Jeremy Renner of “Hawkeye”

“Thor: Love and Thunder,” November 5, 2021

Thor gets a surprise fourth movie! Last seen with the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of “Endgame,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets the hammer back on after the genre-bending smash that was “Thor: Ragnarok” in 2017. Marvel is now clearly going in that direction, which means Thor gets more films. Thor, after all, is the only one left standing of the original Big Three of the MCU (Iron Man and Captain America being the other two). “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi also returns together with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). The really big reveal was the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and with Waititi literally handing Mjolnir to Portman on the Hall H stage, it became clear that the Jane Foster Thor—Goddess of Thunder—will be appearing in the film. Foster was actually Thor in the comics staring in 2014 when Odinson lost his worthiness to wield the hammer. Ironically, Foster in the comics is actually currently the wielder of the Valkyrie mantle. The offbeat subtitle hints at the romantic elements of the film. Valkyrie was name King of Asgard (now on Earth) after “Endgame,” and Feige confirmed Valkyrie will be an LGBTQ+ character with her own romantic interests in this movie. This trio of Hemsworth, Thompson and Portman exemplify the mix of old and new, the expected and the unexpected, that came with the announcement of the Marvel Phase Four films.

Feige, director Taika Waititi, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson of “‘Thor: Love and Thunder.” Note that Portman is holding the hammer Mjolnir that Waititi gave her.

“Blade,” TBA

Feige had one last surprise for Hall H. When all the talent present came back on stage, Feige made one last announcement. Academy Award-winning actor Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) came on stage. Then the screen behind him changed: “Blade.” Ali will indeed be portraying the vampire hunter in an upcoming MCU film. Blade, created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan in 1973, is hugely important to the MCU as the 1998 Wesley Snipes film was the first real cinematic success for Marvel—it would spawn two sequels. It paved the way for the MCU as it was conceived.

Mahershala Ali of “Blade” stand before the gathered casts of Marvel Phase Four

ALL IMAGES FROM MARVEL/DISNEY.