What to expect from MARVEL’s PHASE 4

The last film of the Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is in cinemas now, but Marvel clearly has no intention of slowing down their blockbuster movie output. Last night, in the prestigious Hall H at San Diego Comic Con, Kevin Feige took to the stage to reveal a slew of new products hitting screens, both big and small, over the next couple of years.

Many of the announcements had already been rumoured, but now that they’re all confirmed, it’s time to dive in and see what we’re dealing with.

Release Date: May 1st 2020

First up is the long-awaited Black Widow solo film. Due to the events of Avengers: Endgame, this film is a prequel. The film will, in part, take us to the oft-mentioned Budapest, where something crazy supposedly went down in both Black Widow and Hawkeye’s past. The film is directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) and joining her are Black Widow actress Scarlet Johansson, David Harbour (Stranger Things), Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family), O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite).

According to the trailer (which is, unfortunately, yet to be released to the public) the film will see Black Widow taking on the famed skull-masked mercenary known as the Taskmaster, who, in the comics, can mimic the fighting style of anyone he observes. This power has allowed him to stand up to a variety of heroes from Captain America to Spider-Man, and it’ll be interesting to see how his abilities are depicted on the big screen.

Being a Black Widow movie, it’s also highly likely we’ll see the Red Room where Natasha was trained, and from the sounds of things, we’ll be seeing other graduates, as played by Florence Pugh (who plays Yelena Belova, another Black Widow in the comics) and Rachel Weisz, who has described her character as having been through the Red Room program ‘five times’, which leads me to speculate she may be the real villain of the piece, as I feel like a lot of Black Widow’s rivals are just fellow Red Room graduates who she’s shown up. Plus ‘Melina’ – Weisz’ character’s name, is the name of an obscure supervillain who has that exact origin, so…

Release Date: Fall 2020

The first of the Disney+ series’ is the one I’m personally most excited about, and was even before the developments of Endgame. Starring Anthony Mackie as the Falcon and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will presumably explore the pairs relationship after the retirement of Steve Rogers as Captain America, and the growth of Samuel Wilson as he strives to take up the role himself after being gifted the shield.

Other returning castmembers include Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter and Daniel Brühl as Zemo, both of whom played a big part in the last Captain America movie, Civil War. With so many big Captain America characters crammed in, it’s clear that this is another Captain America story in all but name, and it will interesting to see this new Cap/Bucky pairing grow into bigger stars in the Marvel Universe before they’re called back to the movie side of things.

Even more interesting is the fact that footage not shown outside the con apparently involved Zemo donning a purple mask, teasing his transformation into the full on supervillain we see in the comics. If Marvel are hoping to turn the characters from a rogue soldier to a full-on villain, it gives me hope that the character may show up again further down the line as a member of Marvel’s Suicide Squad-esque team, the Thunderbolts.

Release Date: November 6th 2020

Another long rumoured film, Eternals will be the second and final Marvel film of 2020. Based on what are essentially a group of space-gods, Eternals, according to director Chloé Zhao, will explore what it means to be human through the lens of a group of immortal beings.

Bringing that race to life will be Salma Hayek (Frida), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Dong-seok Ma (Train to Busan), Lia McHugh (The Lodge) and Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead). In the comics, the Eternals are created by the Celestials (briefly seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) and boast an array of godlike powers including super-strength, flight and energy manipulation. A part of their group lived on the moon Titan, and gave way to Thanos himself.

While conventionally depicted as a group of predominantly white male deities (Thanos being an obvious exception), the characters in the film have been diversified to include more women and people-of-colour. For instance, Lauren Ridloff is playing the usually male speedster Makaris, who in this version will be a black, female, hearing-impaired character, while Dong-seok Ma’s Gilgamesh was often confused, in-universe, with the Greek demi-God Hercules.

So in a way, Marvel’s Hercules is finally hitting the big screen, and is being played by an Asian man. I imagine all those who found Idris Elba’s casting as an Asgardian God to be infuriating will probably be having a fit right about now. I love it.

Release Date: February 12th 2021

The idea of a Shang-Chi movie sounded cool to me, but I was curious how a man who’s powers are basically ‘I’m really good at Kung-Fu’ would slot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I theorised with a co-worker the other week that perhaps, due to the comic book characters links to the outdated racial sterotype villain Fu Manchu, that the movie version could instead adopt the Iron Man villain Mandarin as his new cinematic arch-nemesis, and apparently, that’s exactly what’s going down.

The film will be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) and stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) as Shang-Chi, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (In the Mood for Love) as the Mandarin, and rapper Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) in a supporting role.

The Legend of the Ten Rings will presumably follow the hero known as Shang-Chi (dubbed ‘the Master of the Kung-Fu’) and his interactions with the terrorist group known as the Ten Rings, who have previously appeared in Iron Man, Ant-Man as well as Marvel shorts. Unlike the Ben Kingsley/Guy Pearce variant of the villain seen in Iron Man Three, this new Mandarin will probably lean closer to the classic Iron Man villain from the comics, who boasted a set of ten magical rings (they were really alien tech, but whatever – they’re basically magic) and used them to become a warlord. As Shang-Chi’s comics often leaned into the fact that he was the son of the evil Fu Manchu, I imagine we’ll see the movie variant discover that his father is actually the Mandarin, and feel responsible for putting an end to his Dad’s terrorist plots.

Side-note: that title is awesome.

Release Date: Spring 2021

After Shang-Chi, we’re heading back to Disney+, this time to see the ongoing adventures of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her supposedly deceased beau, the Vision (Paul Bettany). This one is a bit harder to predict, due to the fact the Vision died in Infinity War, and I can’t imagine this series will see Wanda going on a globe-trotting adventure to Wakanda to rebuild him. However, an angle I could foresee is the series exploring Wanda’s ever-growing powers, which somehow bring the Vision back to life.

While Wanda is plenty powerful in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she pales in comparison to her comic-book counterpart, who can tap into magic energies to manipulate reality itself. Seeing as this series has been described as ‘very weird’ and Wanda will also be starring in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel that we’ll get into shortly, I imagine that we will be seeing a growth in Wanda’s powers, and be exploring her link to a chaotic magical force.

Release Date: May 7th 2021

Once again, Marvel has made me very excited for 2021 by dumping a super weird and lengthy title on us, this time with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Fans have been clamouring to see more of the multiverse ever since Endgame introduced alternate timelines and Far From Home teased that Mysterio had arrived from another dimension. But really Doctor Strange is the place that makes the most sense to explore the multiverse, due to it being established in his first solo outing.

Returning director Scott Derrickson promises that this movie will be the first ‘scary’ Marvel movie, and the film has been described online as having tinges of ‘Gothic Horror’. Such claims lead me to believe that we’ll be seeing the likes of Nightmare (a rather obviously named demon lord of nightmares) and hopefully, Shuma-Gorath, an extra-dimensional tentacled being who looks like he’s been pulled right out of a H.P. Lovecraft story. If Strange is set to be transversing the multiverse with Wanda at his side, then I find it highly likely that we’ll at least get glimpses of the two monsters who are big parts of his rogues gallery, as well as potentially a load of other nasties.

Personally I’m just excited for a trippy Doctor Strange movie where he gets to do actual magic rather than just glowy martial arts – he is one of my favourite comic book characters after all, and I need to see his true potential realised in a solo outing.

Release Date: Spring 2021

Some characters just wont die, and despite Thanos’ claim that there will be ‘no resurrections this time’, before snapping the trickster God’s neck, that seemingly includes Loki.

Returning Tom Hiddleston to the MCU after his third supposed on-screen death, this time we’ll see Hiddleston as the star of the show, following on from his escape from the Avengers during the time heist portion of Endgame. Presumably, that means this Loki and the series as a whole will be showing his adventures in an alternate timeline, but seeing as Marvel themselves seem kind of confused about how time travel works in their universe (what’s the deal with old man Steve Rogers? I have my headcannon, but both the writers and the directors have said contradictory things), so I wont speculate too much.

This series will be penned by Rick and Morty scribe Michael Waldron, so expect some wild and wacky hi-jinks as Loki messes with some unsuspecting Earthlings.

Release Date: Summer 2021

As we get closer to the end of the list of announcements, we move onto Marvel Studios first big-time animated venture, What If..?

What If..? was a long running comic book series that explored alternative timelines and ‘What if’ scenarios. It was narrated by an enigmatic being known as the Watcher – an alien with a massive head who sees all, and is tasked with overseeing all the major events that befall the Earth, before reporting back to his own race of similarly massive headed beings who are doing the same across the Galaxy. The species was briefly seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where it was revealed that Stan Lee’s cameos throughout the Infinity Saga were him playing their Earth-based informant.

With Stan now sadly departed, the new Watcher of Earth will be played by Jeffrey Wright (WestWorld), as he introduces alternate takes on Marvel movies in animated form. A wealth of actors from across the Infinity Saga will return to voice their characters, and a rumoured story-line involves Peggy Carter getting given the Super-Soldier Serum and becoming Captain America (or would that be Captain Britain?).

Release Date: Fall 2021

With Black Widow being the first movie of Phase Four, that leaves us with only one original Avenger who hasn’t had his chance to have his story told. Luckily, that will be remedied in 2021 as Jeremy Renner stars in the Hawkeye Disney+ series. The series will be based in part on Matt Fraction’s popular comic book run, and see Clint Barton tutoring a new hero called Kate Bishop to be the next Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner expressed enthusiasm for the projects focus on non-powered heroes, and the fact that it means anyone can be a superhero if they want to.

Feige added that Hawkeye will see more of Barton’s Ronin persona, so perhaps this means that we will see more of Clint coming to terms with what he did during ‘the Blip’, and deciding to finally retire for good – but not before making sure there’s still a Hawkeye about to keep the Avengers in line.

Speaking of the Avengers, while many knew this would be the focus of the Hawkeye TV series, its official announcement does add credence to the rumours that Marvel are hoping to do a Young Avengers adaptation. The Young Avengers was the comic book series that introduced Bishop as Hawkeye, before she went on to co-star in Fraction’s Hawkeye run, and featured her and a group of teens taking on aliases of their own to emulate the formation of the classic Avengers.

Release Date: November 5th 2021

There was a lot to be excited about in Feige’s Hall H presentation, with my personal highlights being The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but a film I’ve long been anticipating ever since it was just a mere rumour was Thor 4.

And this week, it was officially announced that Taika Watiti, one of my favourite directors, was returning to Marvel Studios to write and direct the film.

The Thor segment of the Hall H presentation gave us even more juicy details, such as Tessa Thompson suggesting the film may see her character, Valkyrie, trying to find herself a Queen as she becomes the new King of Asgard, as well as the surprising return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, who famously dipped out of the Marvel films due to her dislike of the way things happened behind-the-scenes. That appears to have been remedied however, as Portman is back, and seemingly in a much bigger role, as Waititi suggested that this new film, Love and Thunder, will take cues from the Jason Aaron run of the Mighty Thor comics, in which original Thor is deemed unworthy of lifting Mjolnir, so Foster steps up to become the new female Thor.

With Mjolnir destroyed, things obviously wont go down like that, but I could see a rom-com in which Thor tries to win back the love of Jane Foster by giving her her own hammer and a portion of his powers.

When it comes to Waititi, anything is possible, but with yet another colourful title card and jazzy title, we can only assume it’s going to be a hilarious treat for the eyes.

While those were the only dated announcements, that wasn’t all that was revealed, as Kevin Feige ended the presentation by confirming sequels to Black Panther and Captain Marvel are in the works, and that the Fantastic Four and X-Men will of course eventually join their fellow Marvel heroes in the MCU. Finally, he revealed that Mahershala Ali will be the new Blade, after Ali called Feige and asked to be cast in the roll.

I must confess that I’ve yet to actually watch the Wesley Snipes films, but I enjoy the character in the comics, and I dig Magershala Ali in everything I see him in, so I will definitely be down to watch this new take on the daywalking vampire slayer.

Maybe he can start by killing Sony’s Morbius spin-off?

(Just kidding)

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