Marvel Studios Phase 4 announced: Black Widow, Eternals, Doctor Strange, Thor and more!

On Saturday, July 20, Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige announced the Phase 4 slate in Hall H of San Diego Comic Con International. The slate includes Marvel Studios’ upcoming productions up to 2022. “Productions” as for the first time Marvel Studios will also produce TV series for upcoming streaming service Disney+ next to theatrical movies. Previous TV series are produced by Marvel Entertainment’s Marvel TV. But what has been announced? Let’s dig in!

Black Widow

Released on May 1, 2020 is Black Widow. The long awaited solo outing for Scarlett Johansson’s Avenger Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow is finally here! Currently shooting under the direction of Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) and with a screenplay by Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), this official announcement was not much of a surprise. What we do now know is that the movie will tell a story set after Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War. It is unclear if we can place the movie just after Captain America: Civil War on our Blu-ray shelf or that it makes more sense narratively to put it after Avengers: Endgame. What we do know is that flashbacks may be possibility, as footage shown in Hall H sees Black Widow (return?) in Budapest, a location with events hinted at since The Avengers in 2012. David Harbour (Stranger Things) will play Alexi Shostakov/Red Guardian, in the comics a Soviet counterpart to Captain America as well as for a time the husband of Natasha Romanoff, but we doubt that last bit will be the case in the movie. Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful) will portray Melina Vostokoff, in the comics known as a Russian government agent codenamed “Iron Maiden” who long had to work in the shadow of Natasha Romanoff and hated her for it. Florence Pugh (Midsommar) is Yelena Belova, in the comics she is a Red Room graduate just like Natasha Romanoff and a fellow Black Widow. Unlike Natasha she fell on the bad side of the Marvel universe and worked for evil organizations like A.I.M. and Hydra. Natasha looked a lot like her in Avengers: Infinity War because of her blonde hair, in the comics Natasha once used this resemblance to infiltrate Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts. Returning characters will be Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson and  Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. And finally, footage shown in Hall H confirmed that the mercenary Taskmaster will be introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this movie. Sporting a skull mask, shield and the ability to mimic the moves of anyone he fights, this character will be a very interesting addition to the MCU.

The Falcon & The Winter Soldier

Next up is the first Marvel Studios produced TV series for upcoming streaming service Disney+. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will launch Fall 2020. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan return as Sam Wilson/The Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, respectively. The series will continue from the events in Avengers: Endgame. The series is written by Malcolm Spellman (Empire), with story details basically unknown. What we do know is that Captain America: Civil War’s villain Helmut Zemo as played by Daniel Brühl and Sharon Carter as played by Emily Van Camp will return as well for the series.

The Eternals

First announced at the panel was Eternals, which will be directed by Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me) and with a screenplay by Matthew K. Firpo (The Last Maccabee) and Ryan Firpo (Ruin). The Eternals in the comics are an offshoot of humankind sparked by the Celestials. Another offshoot called Deviants are generally their antagonists. The characters could be mistaken for characters from Greek mythology, but in fact, they are not. In the comics, at least. In the MCU it could be possible the Eternals and the Greek pantheon characters will be merged. The cast of the movie is impressive. Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) plays Thena, in the comics the daughter of the Prime Eternal Zuras. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) is Ikaris, in the comics he created an ark in ancient times. Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber) is Kingo Sunen, in the comics a Samurai Eternal. Salma Hayek (The Hitman’s Bodyguard) is Ajak, in the comics, this is a male character, a warrior that fought in the Trojan War and could be mistaken for Ajax. Brian Tyree Henry (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) will play Phastos, a weapon smith that could be mistaken for the Greek god Hephaestus. Dong-Seok Ma (Train to Busan) portrays Gilgamesh, in the comics a Sumerian king and could be mistaken for Samson and Hercules. Lia McHugh (The Lodge) is Sprite, in the comics also a male character, a trickster that inspired Shakespeare’s character of the same name. And finally Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead), who plays Makkari, in the comics another male character as well, an engineer and speedster who, using the name Thoth, taught the ancient Egyptians to write and could be confused with messenger god Hermes. Eternals will be released on November 6, 2020.

Shang-Chi & The Legend of the Ten Rings

As the title Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings implies we will finally get a follow-up to Iron Man 3 sequel One-Shot: All Hail the King’s reveal that there is indeed a real Mandarin behind the terrorist group the Ten Rings! Destin Daniel Cretton (Tokyo Vice) will direct, while Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984) and comic writer and Star-Lord creator Steve Englehart write the screenplay. Simu Liu (The Expanse) will portray Shang-Chi, Tony Leung (Red Cliff) will play the real Mandarin, and there is a role for Nora “Awkwafina” Lum (Ocean’s Eight). Apart from Master of Kung Fu Shang-Chi taking on the Mandarin, we know nothing of the story of the movie. In the comics, Shang-Chi was raised to be an assassin by his father, immortal crime lord and sorcerer Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi did not follow through on this and fought to take his father and his organization down. It is possible that the Mandarin will replace Fu Manchu in the movie. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released on February 12, 2021.

WandaVision

The second TV series to be released on Disney+ in the Spring of 2021. WandaVision will see the return of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany as the Vision. Here is the kicker, though. The series is set after Avengers: Endgame! Also, a surprise is that Teyonah Parris (Empire) will play an adult version of Monica Rambeau, who we last saw as a child in Captain Marvel. WandaVision is written by Jac Shaeffer who also wrote Captain Marvel and Black Widow. What is also of much interest is that this series will lead directly into the following movie…

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

 

Scott Derrickson returns as director, he will also share writing duties again with C. Robert Cargill. Little is known about the story, but it will be the first MCU movie to lean into horror and it follows up on events that happen in Disney+’s WandaVision. Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcerer Doctor Stephen Strange returns and is joined by Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. The villain of the piece has been confirmed to be Nightmare, in the comics he is a Fear Lord, an entity feeding on the fear of others, a conceptual part of existence and a deity. He controls the Nightmare World, in the Dream Dimension. And by now you probably get the “Multiverse of Madness” part of the title. The movie is set to release May 7, 2021 and other characters, like Benedict Wong’s Wong, Rachel McAdams’s Christine Palmer and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Karl Mordo, may not yet be confirmed but can be expected to return as well.

Loki

Written by Michael Waldron (Rick and Morty) and with Tom Hiddleston returning as Loki Laufeyson (or Odinson, depending on his fancy), Loki will come to Disney+ in the Spring of 2021. Set after Avengers: Endgame and featuring “the Loki that got away”, the series will follow the character through history. And that is basically what we know for certain right now.

What If…?

What If…? is Marvel Studios first animated endeavour and will explore what could have been in the MCU if different decisions were made. The series is based on the Marvel comics of the same name that often pop up again to especially give alternative events to big crossover events. Basically, every actor in the MCU will return to provide their voice for their animated character. A cast addition of note is Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) as The Watcher, who will host the series. The Watcher is a member of a race of beings that record the history of the universe and can look into others. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 we saw the large bald-headed beings for the first time and it was confirmed that Stan Lee was their informant on events in the MCU. The series will be on Disney+ in the Summer of 2021.

Hawkeye

Long rumoured and now officially announced is TV series Hawkeye for Disney+, starring Jeremy Renner as Avenger Clint Barton/Hawkeye and introducing Kate Bishop to the MCU. Kate in the comics is a Young Avenger and took the mantle of Hawkeye when Clint was dead for a bit (you know how it goes in comics). Since Clint’s return, they have had a mentor/student relationship in which it is often unclear who is which. The styling of the title is exactly like the styling of the comic title since 2012. This leads to the assumption the series will take inspiration from Matt Fraction acclaimed Hawkeye comic. In it Clint takes up residence in a Brooklyn, New York City apartment building. Originally just looking for a place to live, he quickly turns out as the protector of the neighbourhood when a gang rolls in. The series will premiere on Disney+ in the Autumn of 2021.

Thor: Love & Thunder

The final addition to Phase 4 is Thor: Love and Thunder, marking the first solo MCU series to get a fourth movie. Taika Waititi returns as director and writer, as do Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and, to the surprise to everyone, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster! But here is the kicker, Portman will play not only Jane Foster, but also her Thor persona from the recent comics! To be clear, she will not replace Thor but will be an addition. In the comics, Jane Foster picks up Mjolnir when Thor becomes unworthy after the events of the Original Sin crossover event. The twist is that Jane is a cancer patient during this and every time she transforms into Thor her cancer treatment is put back to square one. What is also interesting is where this leaves the Guardians of the Galaxy, with which Thor has been seen last. Will they also be in this movie? Especially now that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has not been announced for Phase 4. Thor: Love and Thunder will premiere on November 5, 2021.

Phase 5

A final reveal was Blade. Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (Green Book) will play Eric Brooks, called the Daywalker in the comics the vampire/human hybrid hunts vampires. It will be interesting if Blade will this time be actually British like in the comics. Mahershala Ali also played Cottonmouth in the first season of Luke Cage, which makes this the biggest double role in the MCU to date. Blade is a very interesting addition to MCU. It might depend on the reception of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in how far the horror element is pushed in this movie. The movie was not announced as part of Phase 4, leading to the assumption that this is the first officially announced Phase 5 movie. What also is interesting is that other supernatural Marvel characters are relegated to TV, with Ghost Rider and Helstrom coming to Disney-owned streaming service Hulu and produced by Marvel TV.

Next to Blade we know of a number of other movies that may be part of Phase 5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is back on track after director and writer James Gunn was rehired by Marvel Studios recently. The movie was originally part of Phase 4, but with Gunn’s firing the movie hit a delay and Gunn is now first making DC comics movie The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. Other movies in development, according to Kevin Feige, are Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Fantastic Four and X-Men. We assume that after the success of Spider-Man: Far From Home a third Spider-Man movie is on the cards as well. Maybe we will hear more about these in the upcoming Disney convention D23 at the end of August.

And there you have it! Lots to look forward to from Marvel Studios in the coming years. We cannot wait!