Marvel Announces Lineup for Phase 4

Although many Avengers experienced their Endgame this past summer, Marvel isn’t done with many of its heroes just yet.

In fact, a whole other lineup was just announced at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend that will propel the Marvel Cinematic Universe well beyond 2021.

The first film slated for release is Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow, which is due for release in May 2020 despite her untimely death in Avengers: Endgame. Black Widow will take place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War, and will feature Natasha going up against several Russian mercenaries including the Red Guardian, Iron Maiden, and Taskmaster. It’s an exciting lineup for a highly-anticipated solo movie that fans have been looking forward to ever since Natasha’s appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hopefully Natasha will finally have her time to shine in her own solo feature when it comes out later next year.

Next up is Marvel’s The Eternals, which follows a race of aliens who travel to Earth to defend it from their evil doppelgangers, the Deviants. Not much is known about this under-the-radar superhero team who’s lack of prominence is second only to the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to its feature film debut. Nonetheless, this superhero team-up movie has some big names associated with it, including Rick Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. The Eternals are set to be released in November next year.

Following that is Marvel’s first Asian-led film, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, starring “Taken” actor Simu Liu in the titular role. There was much conversation around adapting the Marvel martial-artist Shang-Chi into the Cinematic Universe for the past several years, but many people were questioning whether he would be adapted for television similar to “Daredevil” and “The Defenders” or if he would star in his own live-action feature. But with the announcement for Legend of the Ten Rings, it seems we now have our answer. The movie will also star Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, most known for Infernal Affairs fame, as the MCU’s newest Mandarin, unassociated with Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce’s characters from Iron Man 3. It’s exciting to see an Asian-American superhero finally get the front row attention he deserves, plus fans will be looking forward to seeing how Marvel handles the malicious magician during his second go-around. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is due for release in February 2021.

After that is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will have Benedict Cumberbatch reprising the titular role and with Scott Derrickson returning to the director’s chair. Not much is known about this supernatural sequel as Marvel has kept the plot details heavily under wraps, but we know a few things for sure. For one thing, it will feature Elizabeth Olsen reprising her role as Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, after losing her beloved Vision in Avengers: Infinity War. It will also integrate horror elements into its production, with Derrickson stating that it will be “the first scary MCU movie.” It’s highly probable that Doctor Strange will go head-to-head against Nightmare, a multi-dimensional being who haunts individuals through their dreams. Nightmare has long been a rumored villain for the Doctor Strange sequel, with “Doctor Who” actor Matt Smith and Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman rumored for the part. Regardless of however it plays out, expect Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in theaters May 2021.

Lastly is the sequel to Taika Waititi’s wildly successful 2016 movie Thor: Ragnarok, Thor: Love and Thunder, which features the God of Thunder himself teaming up side-by-side with the newest bearer of the Thor identity Jane Foster, once again to be portrayed by Natalie Portman. No other details have been offered on the zany new Thor sequel, but I will say this much on the record: if neither Beta Ray Bill or Enchantress is in Love and Thunder, then I’m boycotting the movie. Thor: Love and Thunder is due for release in November 2021.

That’s all on the film front except for one last bombshell detail: two-time Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali will star as the vampire hunter Blade in his own movie, taking over from Wesley Snipes after his successful trilogy of films. No details have been announced as far as the cast and crew regarding this new Blade project, as its release date wasn’t even included in Phase Four’s lineup. Regardless, fans are sure to be excited at a new Blade coming to the big screen with a talent as big as Ali associated with it.

The rest of the Phase Four reveal involved television updates, with a lot of it including information that was mostly known up until this point. Anthony Mackie’s Captain America and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky, for instance, is set to team up in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” in August next year, despite the fact that it should actually be called “Captain America and the White Wolf.” It will also feature a return of Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo from Captain America: Civil War, who better have his iconic purple mask this time around. Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany’s Vision are set to co-star in their own series together “WandaVision” that is set to take place between Avengers: Endgame and Doctor Strange’s sequel (tell me how that makes sense since Vision already died in Infinity War). Tom Hiddleston will once again portray the God of Mischief in his own miniseries “Loki” and will feature the character after he escaped from the Avengers in the past in Endgame, and Hawkeye’s miniseries will feature Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton passing the Hawkeye mantle to a new sharpshooter named Kate Bishop.

Perhaps most notable from the TV lineup is the report of an animated series called “What If…?”, which will show what would happen to some MCU characters if different scenarios played out. The series is based on the comic-book series of the same name and will premiere in mid 2021.

The biggest franchise missing from this blockbuster lineup is, obviously, the Avengers movies. Every MCU phase up until now has had at least one Avengers movie. Heck, Phase three had two of them: Infinity War and Endgame. But not only does Phase Four not have an Avengers movie: it also has the least amount of movies out of any other phase so far. Phases One and Two both had six movies included in their lineup, while Phase Four only has five. It’s intriguing, yet refreshing, to watch Marvel take a step back and really try to pace themselves with this new, unpredictable future they’re dealing with, especially after the breathtaking ending Avengers: Endgame gave us just a few months ago.

Also of note: several sequels scheduled for release are also not included in this lineup. Not Black Panther, which was the highest-grossing MCU movie before Infinity War came out. Not the Fantastic Four or X-Men, both properties of which Disney owns now since they bought out Fox several months ago. Not Captain Marvel, Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, or even the Guardians of the Galaxy are included in the lineup, the last of which has had perhaps the most tumultuous behind-the-scenes drama with its writer and director James Gunn fired, and re-hired, after several months of back-and-forth. The lack of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s inclusion in this lineup is especially strange, given that Thor was literally high-tailing it with the Guardians at the end of Avengers: Endgame. What gives? Are they saving up for something much bigger and epic in-store, or are they just trying to tamper with fan’s appetites?

Regardless of whatever happens next for the Avengers, fans can at least sit tight knowing that the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s heroes will carry on the good fight. This franchise isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

– David Dunn

SOURCES: Marvel.com, Polygon
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