Marvel Studios has been reluctant to release details about their post-The Avengers 4 slate of films lest they reveal any spoilers for the plot threads left dangling at the end of this past spring’s third Avengers installment, The Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige has been so cagey about what shape the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be in after Avengers 4 he has even stated that the next cycle of films might not even exist under the umbrella term “Phase Four.” But despite this elusiveness, there is enough information floating around for us to start to getting an idea of how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to look after the credits role on Avengers 4.
Needless to say, there are some potential spoilers for how things may play out in the untitled fourth Avengers film hitting theaters next May.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
I suppose that the existence of this film, currently in production in Europe, is a bit of a spoiler for how things will end in Avengers 4. But it is the only post-Avengers 4 film that Marvel has announced for their Phase Four cycle of movies and as such we know quite a bit about it. The film will see Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his friends taking a European vacation after the events of Avengers 4 where they will encounter the villain Mysterio, being played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Among the Spider-Man: Homecoming cast to return for the sequel are Zendaya (MJ), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May), Jacob Batalon (Ned), Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson), Hemky Madera (Mr. Delmar) and Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes/the Vulture). Spider-Man: Far From Home is set to swing into theaters July 5, 2019.
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol 3
What seemed like the surest of sure things at one point has become one of the more unsure projects of Phase 4 given writer/director James Gunn’s firing following the resurrection of old tweets as part of a political hack job against him. At the time of his firing, Gunn had completed the screenplay for the third installment and was getting into pre-production ahead of the film’s already scheduled shooting later this fall. Gunn had suggested a 2020 release for the film, but with the need to go back to the drawing board with hiring a new director and presumably having to start from scratch on the screenplay, it is nigh impossible for Marvel to meet that timeframe now. It is more than likely that Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol 3 is being moved from a position early on in this phase to one much later.
Black Panther 2
With last February’s Black Panther a runaway hit pulling in $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office, it is an even money bet that Marvel will be serving up a sequel featuring King T’Challa, ruler and protector of Wakanda. While Kevin Feige and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler have both indicated that there are more stories about T’Challa that they would like to do, nothing has been definitively announced yet.
This one seems to be a bit of a long shot. The previous two Ant-Man films have not set the box office on fire. While they have earned enough to turn a profit for Marvel, they sit at the bottom of the MCU’s box office chart. Marvel has a number of new characters becoming available to them to use starting next year once the Fox/Disney merger finishes clearing all of its legal hurdles and Disney sends the dump trucks full of cash to Rupert Murdoch. There is certainly anticipation to see how the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters will be integrated into the MCU and that anticipation can turn into hefty box office returns. If Marvel can officially begin working on those characters in time to appear in Phase Four, then look for them to possible slot an X-Men or Fantastic Four film onto the schedule over a third Ant-Man outing.
Created by the great Jack Kirby during the 1970s, the Eternals form a cornerstone of the cosmic side of the Marvel Comics’ universe. An offshoot of humanity with superpowers created through experimentation by the alien Celestials, the concept is pretty much Kirby merging the at-the-time in vogue notion of ancient alien astronaut visitors with superheroes. Reportedly, Feige is looking to expand the cosmic side of the MCU with this upcoming batch of films and the Eternals is a surefire way to do so, especially with Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol 3 being in an uncertain state at the moment. In fact, the MCU has already laid a bit of groundwork for an Eternals movie back in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy film with its mentions of the Celestials. (In the comics, Thanos is also an Eternal, but the films seem to have dropped that part of his background.) Currently, Marvel has cousins Matthew and Ryan Firpo, who landed on the 2017 Black List with their post-World War Two thriller spec script Ruin, working on a screenplay for an Eternals movie which will focus on Sersei, an Eternal who prefers to live among regular humans rather than stay hidden away in secret cities like a majority of Eternals.
Ever since her debut in Iron Man 2 (2010), fans have been clamoring to see Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow get her own solo film and it looks like it is finally happening. At the beginning of the year, Marvel hired Jac Schaeffer, writer of the upcoming female-centric Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remake The Hustle, to pen a screenplay. Last month, Marvel brought on Cate Shortland to direct, in part because Johansson was impressed with her feature Lore and pushed for her hire. While we have glimpsed some of Black Widow’s origin in an old Soviet spy program, we don’t know yet if that backstory will be the focus of the film or if it will center on some other adventure in her career.
Doctor Strange 2
As the keeper of the Time Stone, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Stephen Strange has become one of the key components of Marvel’s Phase Three films, specifically Avengers: Infinity War. And despite what we saw in Infinity War, we do know that Doctor Strange will be around for Avengers 4, and most likely beyond. Doctor Strange writer C Robert Cargill hinted that he has been working on the sequel screenplay and has outright stated that the classic comics villain Nightmare will be part of the film, echoing the desire of director Scott Derrickson. It has also been stated that Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Baron Mordo will return as well. But beyond that nothing official has been stated about a sequel.
Captain Marvel 2
While it is still seven months until Captain Marvel opens, it wouldn’t be premature for Marvel to be thinking about a sequel, given the amount of time it takes to get these films from idea to image projected in thousands of cinemas. Star Brie Larson is undoubtedly tied into a multifilm contract and after we see her MCU debut next March she’ll be be a major presence in May’s Avengers 4. After that, who knows? The possibility of a sequel will undoubtedly depend on the response the character receives in her initial solo out weighed against their estimation of the anticipation to see other Marvel Comics characters stepping into the cinematic limelight.
Although the film rights to these characters are still with Twentieth Century Fox, once Disney’s acquisition of the venerable studio goes through, the will be transferred over to Marvel Studios, where Feige and company will get to work at integrating them into the MCU. However, exactly how and when that will happen is entirely dependent on when the Fox merger is finalized, which could possibly take another 12 months. It can take at least two years to produce a Marvel movie and legally the studio can’t commence on any actual work on a Fantastic Four or X-Men film until the purchase of Fox is finished and the film rights are transferred. Since Phases Two and Three generally spanned three years each, Phase Four – if that’s what they call it – may only have appearances by these characters right at the tail end, if at all. Most likely we won’t see them in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie until late 2021 or early 2022 at the earliest. One thing is for sure, though. It will be an entirely new group of actors stepping into the roles.