The Future of the MCU
Avengers: Endgame was a juggernaut of a movie, celebrating and closing out a huge arc of movies that began in 2008’s Iron Man. Now with the conclusion in the bag and a fairly open slate ahead, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has an opportunity to tell new stories and reinvent itself in the wake of the FOX acquisition as well as the founding of the new Disney+ channel, launching in November of this year. With so many characters and concepts still up in the air, WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY KNOW, regarding the future of Marvel? Warning, there will be spoilers ahead!
The first two phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Phase 1 2008-2012 and Phase 2 2013-2015) were built around the idea of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America all holding down their distinct corners of that universe, while other characters such as Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy had their own independent adventures. So long as the movies could always come back to the original trio, Marvel had a kind of status quo. As the MCU has closed out of Phase 3 with Endgame and will be moving into what has currently been dubbed as Phase 4, there has been a clear shift in the core hero base.
Last month, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that Marvel Studios has a plan for Phase Four to run for 5 years, between 2020 to 2024. On the expansive slate Disney just released, there are eight slots listed as "Untitled Marvel," two in 2020 and three each for 2021 and 2022. This will place a 10 month gap between Marvel movies in July of 2019 to the next slated release in May of 2020. Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the company's quarterly earnings call that Marvel Studios would most likely reveal its upcoming slate this summer. That would neatly align with any plans Disney may have for either San Diego Comic-Con or D23 2019. Kevin Feige also commented that there would be more discussion about the upcoming projects later this summer after Spider Man: Far From Home comes out in theaters.
One rumor that is currently floating around is that there will actually be no more "phases" going forward. Instead, the MCU will be split into two very distinct categories: street-level and cosmic. More recent news has contradicted this rumor pretty heavily, but it may still indicate part of the direction that Marvel will take over the next series of planned projects.
Black Widow - In February 2014, Kevin Feige stated that after exploring Black Widow's past in Age of Ultron, he would like to see it explored further in a solo film. After a couple of revisions and one massive rewrite, filming is expected to begin in June of this year. With what we know about Natalia Romanova’s story conclusion in Endgame, we have seen that there is much we do not know about her father Ivan, her inclusion into the Black Widow program, and how she became a spy. Plenty of space left to explore here.
Doctor Strange 2 - By December 2018, Scott Derrickson had completed a deal to return to direct a sequel to Doctor Strange. At the time, Marvel was beginning to search for a writer, with a plan to begin filming in early 2020. Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise his role. Very little is known about the plot of this movie, but we are sure to see more mind-warping concepts from The Mystic Master in this sequel.
Black Panther 2 - By October 2018, Ryan Coogler had completed a deal to write and direct a sequel to Black Panther. By leaving the central characters relatively unscathed by the events of "Infinity War" and "Endgame," there's no limit to where T'Challa could go. Some fans are asking if T’Challa’s sister Shuri will step into Tony Stark's role as the MCU's resident tech genius.
The Eternals - By April 2018, Marvel had met with multiple screenwriters to craft a film based on the Eternals, with a focus on the character Sersi. Kevin Feige stated that a film based on the group was "one of many many many things that we are actively beginning to have creative discussions about to see if we believe in them enough to put them on a slate. Filming was originally set to begin in August 2019 in Atlanta, but was later pushed to September 16, 2019 in London. The Eternals are a million years old and were created by an ancient cosmic race called the Celestials. The Celestials were first alluded to in the MCU in "Guardians of the Galaxy," and Peter Quill's father Ego was one of them. We've already technically met an Eternal in Thanos, so there's a chance we could end up learning more about his backstory, as well as the early days of the Infinity Stones. Angelina Jolie has allegedly joined the film in a currently unknown role.
Shang-Chi - By December 2018, Marvel was "fast-tracking" development on a Shang-Chi film, which would be their first Asian-led film. Chinese-American writer David Callaham was hired to work on the screenplay, with Destin Daniel Cretton hired to direct. In good old Black Widow fashion, Shang-Chi doesn't have any actual superpowers, but he is known as the Master of Kung Fu, with unparalleled mental and physical discipline.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - In July 2018, Disney and Marvel severed ties with Gunn following the resurfacing of controversial tweets from 2008 and 2009. Marvel planned to continue to use Gunn's script for the film, but production was put on hold in August 2018. In March 2019, Disney and Marvel reinstated Gunn as director and filming will begin once he has completed his work for the DC Extended Universe film The Suicide Squad. A couple of rumors regarding this film have surfaced including the pursuit of a family member, a new love interest, and even a broader explanation of a character’s backstory.
Marvel’s Agents of Shield Season 7 – Although Season 5 did not have the greatest viewership, Marvel doubled down on this show, greenlighting it through the 7th season. As season 6 is already underway, recent interviews with executive producers Jeff Bell, Jed Whedon and Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb have revealed that the show will not be following the MCU current timeline, telling stories that are still “pre snap”.
Marvel’s Runaways – It was confirmed in March that Runaways has been renewed for a 10-episode Season 3, with the news coming three months after the premiere of Season 2, which released 13 episodes on Dec. 21. This has been a recent trend for streaming series across the board as 10 has proven optimal for binging. It is also possible Runaways Season 3 will bind the show a little closer to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first season was almost entirely separate from the MCU, but the second featured a number of Easter eggs - from nods to the Dark Dimension to an explicit reference to Wakanda.
Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel - Ahead of the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp, director Peyton Reed noted that he and Marvel were "hopeful" about a third film, having discussed potential story points. Michael Douglas also expressed interest in playing a younger version of his character Hank Pym in a prequel. In February 2019, Douglas said of a possible sequel, "There's been talk [about another Ant-Man]... [but] there's been nothing formal right now that I know of." While the AMATW did tease Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dr. William Foster, as also having been able to grow to larger sizes, we might be seeing more size shifting character introduced.
Captain Marvel sequel - In February 2019, Brie Larson expressed interest for including the character Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel in a sequel to Captain Marvel; Feige previously said he had plans to introduce Khan to the MCU following the release of Captain Marvel. Feige added that a possible sequel could explore the time gap between the end of the first film and Danvers' next appearance in Avengers: Endgame. Lashana Lynch expressed interest in reprising her role as Maria Rambeau in such a sequel. With the MCU needing a new central core of heroes to follow, Captain Marvel is a safe bet for the central 3 and we will likely see much more of her going forward.
Thor: Ragnarok sequel - In January 2018, Hemsworth indicated his interest in continuing to play Thor, despite his contract with Marvel Studios was scheduled to end after Avengers: Endgame, saying the next month "if there's another great script that comes along" he would consider playing the character again, and later added, "I’d play this character for as long as anyone would let me," crediting Waititi for revitalizing his interest in Thor. He and Waititi had discussed what they would want in a potential fourth Thor film by then. By April 2019, a pitch had been made for a sequel to Ragnarok that involved Waititi returning. It is unclear how long Thor will be hitching a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but with his recent boost in popularity with Ragnarok, fans are hoping to see the franchise continue.
More from Disney+ - Marvel has promised that their Disney+ TV offerings are going to be more tied in to the main events of the MCU. Previous shows, such as the assorted Marvel Netflix efforts, have always operated a more of a distance from the core MCU. But the Disney+ shows will feature the stars from the big screen playing the characters they made famous in stories that will matter.
Hawkeye TV Show - Hawkeye, is slated to get his own series on Disney+. Hawkeye will focus on Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton passing on his title to a promising young archer by the name of Kate Bishop. Many fans are hoping this show will take come cues from the incredible Matt Fraction and David Aja comic book series, likely keeping Hawkeye taking on neighborhood level threats.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier - Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are both on board as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. But as this series isn't called Captain America and The Winter Soldier, it's likely going to be about Sam coming to terms with what it means to be Captain America before he can put on the red, white, and blue. Of all the announced Marvel shows on Disney+, this is the one that sounds like it has the potential to have the most impact on the shape of the MCU going forward.
WandaVision - This is potentially the most offbeat project Marvel has planned at the moment. WandaVision will tell the story of the domestic life of Scarlet Witch and the Vision. The problem, of course, is that Vision died in Infinity War and wasn't returned to life in Endgame. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany will both reprise their roles for this. Surprisingly, the series will take place in the 1950s. Lot’s of speculation here as to how that will be accomplished, and no release date has been set for WandaVision, but expect it between 2020 and 2021
Loki TV Series - Now that we have another Loki running around from a branched timeline thanks to the botched Tesseract heist in Endgame, we have another version of Loki running around. Regarding a TV series, all that is currently known is that it is rumored to bea kind of anthology series where Tom Hiddleston's roguishly charming bundle of fun will appear at various points in history to influence human events.
New Avengers - An "Avengers 5" movie has not yet been confirmed; whether we'll get one in Phase 4 is the biggest questions still currently hanging over the MCU. One possible leak has shown a New Avengers movie slated for a 2022 release. A New Avengers film was rumored back in January with the core team of Young Avengers that flag-shipped a short-lived comic run in 2005. The team rumored to be in this New Avengers film is Kate Bishop as Hawkeye, Hulkling, Iron Lad, Patriot, Wiccan, Stature, and new version of Vision. The rumor even indicated that Emma Fuhrmann would be playing Stature, the superhero alter ego of Cassie Lang. Fuhrmann played a teenage version of Cassie Lang in Avengers: Endgame. If this rumor pans out to be true for this alleged New Avengers film, it’s possible it could spin out of the Disney+ shows.