The Marvel Cinematic Universe went to Infinity, and now it’s going beyond.
Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home brought the studio’s Phase 3 to a close, with several beloved characters taking a bow and departing the franchise. (R.I.P., Tony, Cap, and Nat.) But the MCU is showing no signs of slowing down, and during Marvel Studios’ panel at San Diego Comic-Con this year, president Kevin Feige unveiled a massive upcoming slate, stretching to 2021 (and perhaps further).
Marvel’s Phase 4 includes both brand-new theatrical films and spin-off TV series on the upcoming streaming service Disney+ — with a mix of familiar faces and new characters alike. There are a few straightforward sequels in the works for heroes like Thor and Doctor Strange, while other characters (such as Loki, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) are finally stepping into the spotlight with their own solo projects. There’s no big group team-up movie to anchor the franchise, the way the Avengers films did in the past, and instead Phase 4 looks to be a collection of individual stories, all interconnecting.
It also looks to be a deeply weird and ambitious phase. As the MCU has grown, Marvel has started to venture into stranger, trippier territory, and Phase 4 promises magic, multiverses, and general interstellar adventure. (Just look at the film title Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — that’s pure comic book craziness, and I, for one, am here for it.) This is a franchise that started with a story about a man building a high-tech suit of armor, and it’s since evolved into a galaxy-spanning macrocosm that includes time travel, Infinity Stones, and talking raccoons. Phase 4 looks to explore that universe even further, while also venturing into some previously unexplored corners.
Below, we round up everything we know about Marvel’s future plans.
Black Widow (May 1, 2020)
Black Widow may have met her end in Endgame, but Scarlett Johansson is reprising her role as the morally complicated spy in a solo movie. The character has appeared in multiple Marvel films over the last decade, beginning with Iron Man 2, but Black Widow (directed by Cate Shortland) puts her front and center.
“Where we find Natasha in her life at this point is very specific,” Johansson told EW at Comic-Con. “She really is in a dark place where she’s got no one to call and nowhere to go. She’s really grappling with her own self. When something huge explodes and all the pieces are landing, you have that moment of stillness where you don’t know what to do next — that’s the moment that she’s in. In that moment, you actually have to face yourself.”
Joining Johansson are Florence Pugh as a fellow assassin named Yelena Belova and Rachel Weisz as a woman named Malena, who has also been through the grueling Black Widow training program multiple times. The Handmaid’s Tale star O-T Fagbenle also appears as a fixer named Mason, who he says has a long history with Natasha. Also in the cast is Stranger Things’ David Harbour, who plays Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. the Red Guardian, a costumed hero created by the Russians as a communist counterpart to Captain America.
So who will Black Widow be facing off against? Footage shown at Comic-Con revealed that the film’s primary villain is Taskmaster, a notorious mercenary and villain who, in the comics, can perfectly replicate any fight move he sees. Is one of the known cast members hiding under Taskmaster’s mask, or is it an actor we haven’t met yet? We’ll have to wait to find out.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (fall 2020)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe will soon be coming to the small screen. The Mouse House is launching its Disney+ streaming service in November 2019, featuring both archival content and new shows and movies. Marvel is hard at work on several new miniseries, starting with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Scheduled to debut in fall 2020, the series will follow Mackie’s Sam Wilson (now carrying Captain America’s shield) and Stan’s Bucky Barnes, as they team up against Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo. We last saw Brühl’s baddie in Captain America: Civil War, and in a pretaped video message shown at Comic-Con, the actor revealed that Zemo is alive and well — and he wanted to “say hello to some old friends.” (The footage shown at Comic-Con also included a flash of Zemo in his familiar purple mask from the comics.)
The Eternals (Nov. 6, 2020)
There may be no new Avengers films on the schedule, but the MCU is introducing a new superhero squad. The Rider’s Chloe Zhao is directing The Eternals, about a group of ancient immortal beings watching over the Earth. Comics legend Jack Kirby created them in the ’70s, when he returned to Marvel after a brief time at DC Comics, and the 2020 film will follow the group’s clash against their longtime nemeses, the Deviants.
The cast includes Angelina Jolie as Thena, Richard Madden as Icarus, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lia McHugh as Sprite, and Don Lee as the big bad Gilgamesh.
“It’s about this group of incredible immortals,” Zhao teased at Comic-Con, “but through their journey, we really get to explore what it means to be human and humanity on our time on this planet.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Feb. 12, 2021)
In 2021, Marvel will release its first film about a superhero of Asian descent. Meet Shang-Chi, a martial arts master played by Simu Liu. Liu is best known for his role on the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience, and he’ll be starring in The Legend of the Ten Rings with Awkwafina and Tony Leung. Awkwafina’s role has yet to be announced, but Yeung will be playing the notorious Marvel supervillain the Mandarin. (Not the fake Mandarin we met in Iron Man 3 — the real one.)
WandaVision (spring 2021)
Paul Bettany’s Vision may have died in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’ll still be appearing with Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch in the new Disney+ series WandaVision. It remains to be seen what the series will actually be about, but Olsen has promised that “it’s going to get weird.“
The show will also find Wanda Maximoff and Vision teaming up with Monica Rambeau. The character made her debut as a child in Captain Marvel, but in WandaVision, she’ll be all grown up and played by Teyonah Parris.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 7, 2021)
Speaking of Scarlet Witch, Olsen will also be starring opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in 2021’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Original Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson is returning for that one, and he promises that it’ll be “the first scary MCU film,” pitting Cumberbatch’s egotistical physician against all sorts of cosmic horrors.
Cumberbatch has said that although Strange was largely an authoritative, confident figure in Infinity War and Endgame, Multiverse of Madness will disarm the character and present him with some unexpected challenges. And according to Feige, the events of WandaVision will directly tie into the film.
Loki (spring 2021)
Throughout the MCU, Tom Hiddleston’s mischievous Loki has served as both universe-threatening antagonist and reluctant ally, but now he’s getting a story of his own. The Loki we all know and love died at the hands of Thanos in Infinity War, but the new Disney+ series follows the Loki who nicked the Tesseract and disappeared after the Avengers went back in time in Endgame.
“The question I get asked more than any other question in Endgame was, where did Loki go, and what happened to Loki?” Feige said at Comic-Con. “This series will answer where he went.”
According to Hiddleston, this Loki hasn’t yet become the sympathetic figure in Thor: Ragnarok; he’s still the narcissist and bad guy we met in 2012’s The Avengers. “There’s a lot of psychological evolution that is still yet to happen,” Hiddleston said.
What If…? (summer 2021)
The MCU is getting animated. Marvel Comics has a long history of exploring alternate realities through its What If…? comics line, and now the MCU is doing the same through a new Disney+ series.
The show will explore ideas like “What if Peggy Carter picked up Steve’s shield to become Captain America?” and it’ll include the voices of returning Marvel stars like Michael B. Jordan, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Chadwick Boseman, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Neal McDonough, Dominic Cooper, Sean Gunn, and Natalie Portman.
Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright is also lending his voice as the Watcher, an alien being who observes different story lines throughout the multiverse.
Hawkeye (fall 2021)
Jeremy Renner is once again picking up Hawkeye’s quiver for a new Disney+ series. The show will follow Clint Barton as he trains a young Kate Bishop as his sharpshooting protegé, and based on the artwork Marvel teased at Comic-Con, it may be inspired by Matt Fraction and David Aja’s acclaimed solo comics run of the same name.
Now, fingers crossed that the show includes an appearance by Lucky the Pizza Dog.
Thor: Love and Thunder (Nov. 5, 2021)
Crank up the Led Zeppelin: Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi is returning to direct a new adventure with the Asgardian god of thunder. The aptly named Love and Thunder will hit theaters in 2021 and feature the return of both Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Plus, as Thompson revealed at Comic-Con, the film will confirm Valkyrie’s status as the first openly LGBTQ superhero in the MCU.
Also joining the cast is Natalie Portman, who will be returning as Jane Foster. This time, however, she’ll be wielding Thor’s hammer Mjölnir herself. Waititi has said the story will be inspired by Jason Aaron’s comic book series, which followed Jane as she took on the Asgardian god’s powers and transformed into the Mighty Thor.
Blade (release date TBD)
With all the news that Marvel dropped during its 2019 Comic-Con panel, perhaps the most unexpected and exciting was the announcement that Mahershala Ali will be playing a new version of Blade. According to Feige, Ali called Marvel after he won his second Oscar (for Green Book) and told them he’d be interested in tackling the iconic vampire hunter. Luckily for all of us, the studio immediately said yes.
The film does not yet have a director or release date.
Captain Marvel 2 (release date TBD)
Also in the works is a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel. A release date and director have yet to be announced, but Brie Larson will presumably be returning as the Air Force-pilot-turned-interstellar-superhero. Hopefully, a sequel means we’ll also see the return of Carol Danvers’ cat flerken, Goose.
Black Panther 2 (release date TBD)
Ryan Coogler is also returning to write and direct a sequel to 2018’s Black Panther, which is expected to start shooting in late 2019 or early 2020. There’s no release date yet, but the film will return to Wakanda and once again follow Chadwick Boseman’s righteous warrior-king T’Challa.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (release date TBD)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is also back on track. Original writer-director James Gunn was fired after old, offensive tweets resurfaced, but after he apologized and cast members rallied to his defense, Disney reinstated him in March.
The new Guardians isn’t on the Marvel release schedule yet, but Gunn is expected to go into production on the film after he wraps Warner Bros. and DC’s Suicide Squad sequel.