Coming Soon: Phase Four of the MCU

(Originally written on August 5, 2019)

UPDATES:

  • Marvel Studios has added three new streaming shows for their Disney+ lineup → Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk.
  • A sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home is in the works.
  • Scott Derrickson is no longer directing the Doctor Strange sequel, but will stay on as an executive producer.
  • Wyatt Russell has joined the cast of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier playing a character known in the comics as U.S. Agent.
  • Kat Dennings and Randall Park have joined the cast of WandaVision.
  • The Loki series will tie-in with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
  • A second season for the What if…? series has been announced.

Have you heard? Marvel Studios recently announced their new projects for 2020–2021. ‘Phase Four’ will not only introduce new films, but also new shows made specifically for Disney’s new upcoming streaming service Disney+. (I could rant about the monopolistic Disney, or about how many streaming platforms are already out there, but let’s not get sidetracked.)

Overall there are ten new projects split into 5 films and 5 streaming series. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Or maybe just uninformed about everything? Don’t worry because I got you covered. This blog post will be a SparksNotes/CliffsNotes (do people still use those..?) for all us casual fans of Marvel and the MCU. I’ll be going through the list in order of release date and give whatever info is currently available for each.

Just a heads up: There will be SPOILERS throughout. You’ve been warned.

Let’s begin!

Expected Release Date: May 1, 2020

Director: Cate Shortland

Cast (so far): Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O.T. Fagbenle

This film takes place after Captain America: Civil War and will explore how Natasha is still attempting to ‘wipe the red out of her ledger.’ Elements like The Red Room (where she trained and grew up) will come into play, as well as other assassins and new characters. There’s currently no additional information available, aside from how the Marvel character Taskmaster will make an appearance.

Concept art of Black Widow facing off against Taskmaster

Finally! They’re creating a solo Black Widow film. It took only, what…..5+ years? This was a movie fans wanted early on, especially after 2012’s The Avengers. Tony, Thor and Steve all had solo films. Why not Natasha? She’s an integral member of the team after all! Many thought this would never be made, especially after Natasha’s sacrifice in Endgame. Fortunately, they were proven wrong.

‘Black Widow’ cast @ San Diego Comic Con 2019. From left: David Harbour, Florence Pugh, O.T. Fagbenle, Rachel Weisz and Scarlett Johansson.

What we can probably expect is a great spy-thriller filled with espionage and some duplicity to shake things up. I simply want an interesting story about a character who doesn’t let her past mistakes haunt her so that she can push forward (despite audiences knowing what ultimately happens to her later on).

Expected Release Date: Fall 2020 on Disney+

Cast (so far): Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp

In the final moments of Avengers: Endgame we see old Steve Rogers give his iconic shield to Sam Wilson, symbolizing a passing of the torch or changing of the guard (you know what I mean). The first streaming series in Phase Four will follow Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, respectively), though we still don’t know how much time will have passed after Endgame. No other information has been provided at this time.

Daniel Brühl and Emily VanCamp return as Helmut Zemo and Sharon Carter, respectively.

I think it’s clever how they’re bringing back characters originally introduced in the Captain America movies: Sharon Carter from Winter Soldier and Helmut Zemo from Civil War. I’m sure they’ll have compelling perspectives about everything that’s happened up to this point.

Unused design for Zemo for ‘Captain America: Civil War.’

I’ve personally put Zemo high up on my MCU villain list because: a) he accomplished his goal of splitting up the Avengers, and b) he relied more on calculated tactics rather than brute strength. It’ll be awesome if they incorporate his costume from the comics (purple mask and all) and update it to fit into this universe.

Expected Release Date: November 6, 2020

Director: Chloé Zhao

Cast (so far): Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Riddloff, Don Lee, Lia McHugh

Closing out 2020 for Marvel Studios is The Eternals, a film that follows a group of immortal beings who must protect humanity from their evil counterparts, known as the Deviants. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy before its release, this is also a relatively unknown property. All anyone really knows is how this group of immortals is created by larger-than-life cosmic beings known as the Celestials.

‘The Eternals’ cast at San Diego Comic Con 2019. From left to right: director Chloé Zhao, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Riddloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, and Angelina Jolie.

There is no additional information at this time, but the movie already looks fascinating because of its cast. I love how the group isn’t only talented, but also diverse in more ways than just nationality/ethnicity. For instance, Lauren Riddloff (pictured above in the red dress) is a deaf actress, which is both astounding and exciting to me.

Concept art depicting the scale of the Celestials

Audiences were initially unsure about Guardians of the Galaxy when it was first announced, but that all changed after exploring the universe in that inventive and entertaining film. I’m sure The Eternals will reach the same heights with a story about immortals learning what it truly means to be mortal or ‘human’.

Expected Release Date: February 12, 2021

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast (so far): Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina

And the diversity continues with some Asian representation in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The organization known as the ‘Ten Rings’ has supposedly been sprinkled throughout the entirety of the MCU, beginning in 2008’s Iron Man with the group that kidnapped Tony Stark in the beginning. How will this nefarious syndicate appear again, and how will Shang-Chi (known as one of the greatest fighters in Marvel comics) overcome whatever conflict lies ahead?

Tony Leung announced as The Mandarin at San Diego Comic Con 2019

As excited as I am about a movie with Asian leads, I’m more delighted at how they’ll be doing the character of ‘The Mandarin’ justice. 2013’s Iron Man 3 had a chance to do that with everyone assuming Ben Kingsley’s character being a new interpretation of the villain. Fans were on board, myself included. What actually happened was a travesty.

Not only was that character an actor to throw Tony Stark off, but the actual ‘Mandarin’ in the movie was a Caucasian male with dragon tattoos on his chest. Ridiculous. This film should rectify that disappointing moment in the MCU, and I’m curious as to how they’ll retcon it.

Awkwafina announced as part of the cast at San Diego Comic Con 2019

There are also rumours flying around about how the Mandarin could be Shang-Chi’s father, but that has yet to be confirmed or denied. Regardless, having Tony Leung play the Mandarin is excellent casting.

Fun Fact: The Mandarin was actually a major villain for Iron Man in the comics, but that interaction won’t happen anymore because…..you saw Endgame, right?

Expected Release Date: Spring 2021 on Disney+

Cast (so far): Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris

Currently, there’s no concrete information available about this show. All we know is it involves Wanda Maximoff with a somehow revived (or I guess rebuilt) Vision and a grown up Monica Rambeau. It’s also been stated that this show will be weird. Like really weird, but hopefully in a good way?

Monica Rambeau from the comics

Confused about who Monica Rambeau is? If you’ve seen Captain Marvel, then you’re already acquainted with her: she’s the young daughter of Carol’s pilot friend Maria Rambeau. Since that movie took place in the 90’s, it’s understandable how Monica is now an adult by this point. Though I wonder if she’ll have powers in this show like she does in the comics.

A strange, but great, couple

Since Vision was killed in Infinity War (twice I should say), I wonder how they’ll bring him back. Did scientists in the MCU build him a new body? And didn’t the mind stone give him consciousness? So many questions, but I hope some questions surrounding Wanda will also be answered. Her abilities in the films were never fully explored nor understood. I know a bit about Wanda’s powers from the comics (being able to manipulate reality), and this show has the potential to make her one of the most powerful characters in the MCU.

Good thing she’s also going to be in…..

Expected Release Date: May 7, 2021

Director: Scott Derrickson (returning)

Cast (so far): Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Elizabeth Olsen

If the title is any indication, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange will explore the possibilities (and perhaps the reality) of the multiverse within the MCU. With the idea of a multiverse teased in the first movie, and briefly mentioned in Spider-Man: Far From Home, it makes total sense how this concept will be further developed in the sequel. We’re dealing with sorcerers and magic, after all.

Scott Derrickson with Benedict Cumberbatch & Elizabeth Olsen at San Diego Comic Con 2019

Director Scott Derrickson, who directed the first Doctor Strange, returns to helm the sequel. He mentioned at this year’s San Diego Comic Con that this will be the MCU’s first horror movie. Did he mean there will be horror elements, or that the film will be a straight up horror movie (with magic)? Whatever the case, I trust Derrickson because he has experience working on horror films in the past.

Expected Release Date: Spring 2021 on Disney+

Cast (so far): Tom Hiddleston

During the time heist in Avengers: Endgame, one of the teams traveled to 2012 in order to obtain both the tesseract (blue cube) and the mind stone (inside the scepter at that time). We saw the conclusion of the battle of New York and Loki being taken away. Long story short, unexpected things happen and Loki gets his hands on the tesseract to escape to who knows where. This mini-series will follow the trickster god as he pops up throughout different points in human history.

Tom Hiddleston eating it up as attendees chant “Loki” at San Diego Comic Con 2019

There’s no denying Tom Hiddleston as Loki is one of the most popular characters from the MCU. He began as a tragic character in Thor, then returned as the primary villain for the first Avengers film, and was sprinkled throughout subsequent MCU films. We’ve seen him change from villainous, to morally ambiguous, and then finally into someone noble. And the truth is people can’t get enough of Loki.

Loki from 2012’s ‘The Avengers’

While I always enjoy Tom Hiddleston’s performance, another reason why I think this show will be exciting is because we’re returning to a Loki who’s more cynical and driven. Will he remain as the trickster you don’t know you can trust, or will he somehow become the more noble character we saw in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War?

Expected Release Date: Summer 2021 on Disney+

Cast (so far): Jeffrey Wright, all actors who’ve appeared in the MCU so far

This animated series, while feeling more like a side-project, is extremely intriguing to me. People tend to think about hypothetical situations, and Marvel Studios has noticed this too. The series will explore how things could’ve gone differently at different points in the MCU. There’s no additional info available at the moment, but they’ve said the first episode will ask ‘What if Peggy Carter took the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?’

Jeffrey Wright will play the Watcher, who will presumably narrate the series

Actor Jeffrey Wright has been attached to play the Watcher, a cosmic being with the ability to see into different timelines/universes but merely observes. Wright is no stranger to sci-fi having been in films like Source Code and The Hunger Games franchise, and in HBO’s Westworld. He’s also a good pick (in my opinion) because his voice is calm and inquisitive, which probably matches the Watcher’s personality.

Actors from the MCU will return to reprise their roles

Another thing that should excite fans is how majority (if not all) of the actors who’ve appeared in the MCU will return to voice their characters in this animated series. I think that’s awesome! Enough said.

Expected Release Date: Fall 2021 on Disney+

Cast (so far): Jeremy Renner

The idea of legacy is becoming more prominent in the MCU. We saw Steve Rogers retire and appoint Sam Wilson as the next ‘Captain America,’ and Tony Stark gave Peter Parker the resources needed to carry on as his protégé. Following the trend, this series will see Clint Barton train a girl named Kate Bishop to continue on as the next ‘Hawkeye.’

Kate Bishop from the comics

Kate Bishop takes up the title of ‘Hawkeye’ after Clint Barton in the comics, so no surprise there. But what’s interesting is how Kate isn’t part of the ‘main’ Avengers team in the comics, but as a member of the ‘Young Avengers.’ Will she, and to some extent Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd’s character) daughter who also becomes a heroine in the comics, be the start of the MCU’s version of the Young Avengers?

Clint Barton from ‘Avengers: Endgame’

There isn’t too much information available right now, but I wonder if they’ll address Clint’s activities post-snap (at the end of Infinity War). We caught a glimpse of it in Endgame where he took on a new persona and became more of an edgier vigilante. Regardless, this should be worthwhile since the title design is the same one used for one of the better runs of the Hawkeye comic series (from what I’ve heard) by Matt Fraction.

Expected Release Date: November 5, 2021

Director: Taika Waititi (returning)

Cast (so far): Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman

There isn’t much information available about the film, but we got a few tidbits from this year’s San Diego Comic Con. First, that Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), who is now ‘king’ of New Asgard, will be looking for her ‘queen.’ Second, how the movie will take place before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3.’ And last but certainly not least: Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU as Jane Foster….and as female ‘Thor.’

Jane Foster as ‘The Mighty Thor’ from the comics

Confused by the ‘female Thor’ statement? You’re not alone. I found out there was a storyline in the comics where Thor finds himself unworthy of wielding Mjölnir. Meanwhile, Jane Foster isn’t in the best of health. Somehow she stumbles upon the hammer and is able to become what people called ‘The Mighty Thor,’ being able to transform into this form and use similar (if not the same) abilities that Thor used previously. I won’t go into specifics, but circumstances force Jane to give up her power in the end.

Natalie Portman holds up Mjölnir at San Diego Comic Con 2019

Until Thor: Ragnarok, Thor was a bit of a mixed bag since it seemed like directors and writers didn’t know what to do with the character. Enter director Taika Waititi, who reinvigorated the character (albeit within a comedy-centric film) and laid the groundwork for the Russo brothers to give him more depth in both Infinity War and Endgame. Waititi returns to write and direct which should prove to be highly amusing, especially since we last saw Thor in Endgame as a vastly different person (officially known as ‘Bro Thor’).

Whew! So that about covers Phase Four. Everything will [very] likely connect in big and small ways. As for the shows, to me it’s both exciting (new stories) and upsetting (having to pay for a Disney+ subscription). It’s become sort of a given how being a fan of the MCU requires great commitment. It’s just unfortunate it’ll now come with an additional financial commitment in the form of Disney+ (at least for people willing to bite the bullet).

At least we can all agree the MCU will continue to be excellent at weaving together intricate stories to connect within a larger narrative, right?

OH! And before I forget: Marvel Studios also announced…

That’s right. They’re bringing Blade back.
Mahershala Ali will be playing the titular character

They’ve said Blade will be included with the next installment of films for Phase Five (at least for now I guess). There was also a brief mention about the Fantastic Four and ‘mutants’ (the X-Men), but there hasn’t been any additional information provided regarding those properties.

And that’s all the info I’ve gathered about Phase Four and beyond.

Hope it helped!

- A.S.

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Andrew Shin

Andrew Shin

Sharing my opinion on Film/TV/Anime