Whilst we are still in the aftermath of the madness that was San Diego Comic-Con, it’s time to bring a little order to all the announcements Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, made at the Saturday panel in Hall H at SDCC. Some fans may have been worried about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) after the conclusion of the Infinity Saga and Phase Three with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). After the retirement of two vital members of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans, the future was uncertain for the first time since the franchise began with Iron Man in 2008. Of course, there are still plenty of established characters who haven’t given their life in the fight against Thanos or retired, but there is also room for so many new characters who are part of the Marvel comics and ready to take their stories to the big screen. So stay with us while we break up the different announcements and give you some additional information about the new projects for Phase Four in the MCU.
- The Eternals
The first announcement was for the movie The Eternals, set to release on November 6, 2020. The Eternals are a group of immortal human beings, a species that is the product of the evolutionary process on earth. There are also the counterparts of the Eternals, the so-called Deviants, who were created by the same force that created the Eternals, the so-called Celestials. The Eternals are similar to humans in appearance, often very beautiful and with godlike powers, while the Deviants are described as “hideous to the human species” and are sometimes even called “mutates” because they are constantly changing. In the comics, The Eternal’s story spans over thousands of years and gives many possibilities for connection points to the MCU, namely with films like Captain Marvel and also the introduction of Thanos’ backstory in the last two Avengers films. The Eternals are connected to many events in history in the entire universe, so it will be interesting to see which path is chosen for their movie. Some of the character’s names already allude to a mythical connections, namely the character of Ikaris, who is based on Icarus from the Greek mythology legends.
The announcement at SDCC already introduced us to the director involved with the project, Chloé Zhao, who said she felt incredibly excited to be working on her first Marvel film and to tell a new story to the fans. The diverse cast consists of Richard Madden as Ikaris, Angelina Jolie as Thena, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Lia McHugh as Sprite, Don Lee as Gilgamesh and Salma Hayek as Ajak, who is the leader of the Eternals. These are some big names and this announcement proves that comic adaptation, and especially Marvel, are truly not a niche, but the place to be in Hollywood.
What we didn’t learn in this panel is who will play the villain in this movie and there are also still some vital names that are associated with The Eternals that are missing from the information fans have been given. Of course, Marvel always keeps a tight lid on the details of their future projects, but this is already one of the biggest movies to come to the MCU and one of the most diverse casts in the history of the franchise. Not only is the director a woman of color, but with Lauren Ridloff we also have the first deaf actress to be part of the MCU, giving vital representation where it was previously lacking. This film also shows that Marvel is looking into creating more established ensemble films like Guardians Of The Galaxy and the way the cast already interacted on stage promises a great chemistry between them. When Salma Hayek introduced her character Ajak, she said that she was looking forward to exploring the possibility of a strong, female leader who draws her inspiration from her familiar feelings to her teammates and also develops motherly instincts, something that is usually in conflict with The Eternals, at least with the fighters.
The film started shooting in July this year and it will be released next autumn.
- The Falcon And The Winter Soldier
One of the most anticipated Disney+ shows is that of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. Both characters were introduced in the Captain America franchise and will be explored further in a mini series airing on Disney+ in autumn next year. The series will pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which means Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie) will most likely don his shield as the new Captain America, while Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) will have a chance to properly adjust to life in the 21st century after being brainwashed by Hydra for over 70 years. While we already know things like the screenwriter, directors and art producers of the show, the plot is being kept a secret (probably also to avoid Sebastian Stan from spoiling it.)
Additionally, we have officially learned at SDCC that Daniel Brühl will reprise his role as Helmut Zemo, the villain in Captain America: Civil War. In the comics, this character is also an incarnation of a super villain called Baron Zemo, who wears a purple mask and fights with swords and in hand-to-hand combat. In several different comic universes, he appears throughout history (for the first time in the 15th century!) and passes on the Baron title to his successor. In the clip that was shown at SDCC, you could see Daniel Brühl with a mask, so there will definitely be some form of the Baron present in the series.
Apart from these minor teases, the panel predominantly showed the thing that will help this show immensely: the chemistry between the two actors playing the main characters. Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie have proven time and time again how much fun they have on and off camera, so this show will definitely be a treat.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Next comes a movie for which hints have been embedded all throughout the MCU – Kevin Feige showed clips from previous films where the audience could see the Ten Ring Logo, but the biggest connection is the character of The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. In that film, we didn’t meet the actual character, but an imposter (played by Ben Kingsley.) So, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, fans will meet the actual character, played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Also announced was actress and rapper Awkwafina in an unknown role and of course, Simu Liu who will play Shang-Chi. Simu Liu came on stage addressing the crowd in Cantonese. He had previously tweeted about wanting to talk to Marvel about the character and was just recently cast in a matter of days, instead of the typical month-long audition process.
Thanks for getting back to me https://t.co/FFRuM03p20
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) July 21, 2019
He is the first Asian lead of a Marvel movie and will play a character who was first introduced in the Marvel comics in the early 70’s. Shang-Chi is a superhero with Kung-Fu expertise, who also has the ability to procure several duplicates of himself in a fight. In the comics, he takes several roles which include fighting alongside The Avengers and also setting up an international spy agency. Nothing of the plot has been revealed except for the fact that the actual Mandarin will be facing Shang-Chi. Shooting is set to begin filming in Australia and will be released in February 2021.
Next to an Asian lead, the movie will also have an Asian-American writer and director (Destin Daniel Cretton), yet again diversifying the MCU.
Next in the Disney+ line-up is the series WandaVision, which will have Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles from the previous Avengers and Captain America: Civil War films. Although one of the characters is technically not alive because of a certain event in Avengers: Infinity War, Kevin Feige announced that this show will be unlike anything Marvel has done before and will deal with time travel and multiverses respectively in order to explain that plot point.
Joining the cast is Teyonah Parris, who will be playing the role of Monica Rambeau, who the MCU fans met this year as a child in Captain Marvel. Elizabeth Olsen mentioned that the series will give her a possibility to explore her character further and to show what makes Scarlet Witch out of Wanda Maximoff. In the comics, Scarlet Witch is a mutant and possible daughter of Magneto, so that is not a storyline that will be explored, but hopefully the show will give another backstory to her character and also the possibility for her to grow without a love interest or a sense of duty towards the Avengers.
The series will take place directly after Avengers: Endgame and will lead into Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse Madness, in which Olsen will also star. Shooting is set to begin late this year and the show will premiere in spring 2021.
Probably the biggest reveal this past year when Disney+ was first announced was the return of Thor’s brother, Loki, in his own TV show. Tom Hiddleston returned to social media just to tease the upcoming series and fans were not only ecstatic, but also confused as to how Loki would possibly return after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. But after having seen Avengers: Endgame, it becomes clear how Loki could have gotten away – and that’s exactly what Kevin Feige announced. The Loki series will take off from Loki escaping during the time travel heist for the Infinity Stones and the series will take off from there. This will be interesting for several reasons, because that means we are back to square one as far as Loki’s character development is concerned. The redemption arc he was given in Thor: Ragnarok will not be part of this character’s journey. While that is certainly a loss, it is a great opportunity for Tom Hiddleston to completely explore his character from a new perspective, and also a possibility for the creative team to explore some more storylines of Loki’s diverse character and journey in the comics. It had previously been hinted that the show will take place throughout several points in history and will hopefully feature one or more guest stars from the MCU. Nothing was announced plot-wise, but shooting is set to start next year and the show will premiere in autumn 2021 on Disney+.
- Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse Madness
The sequel to the origin story Doctor Strange will take off after WandaVision ends and explore the idea of a multiverse, as was first teased in Spider-Man: Far From Home. While the latter was a decoy by Mysterio (sorry, spoiler alert), the possibility of multiple universes has existed in the MCU for a while and it will be interesting to see how they introduce the idea to the screen in a live-action movie.
Furthermore, Feige announced that this movie will be the first MCU film that will qualify as a “horror movie”, which will definitely be interesting for fans. Benedict Cumberbatch, who was on stage in Hall H, said that while he is looking forward to bringing the humor and wit from the first film back, he is also excited to explore a different direction of the movie in general and the possibility of adding horror elements sounds promising to say the least.
- What If…?
One of the most intriguing announcements was that of the animated Disney+ series What If…?. It will be narrated by Jeffrey Wright, who will take on the role as The Watcher, and it will be exploring all the “What if”s of the MCU, taking us through alternative versions of the character’s choices and fates. A lot of the actors from the MCU will reprise their roles for this show, including, for example, Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger) and Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter). The Watcher himself is a character who functions as an overseer to the multiverse and will have the possibility to explore stories beyond the cinematic universe. These little “What If” stories were already part of the Marvel comics in the late 70’s and have the potential to give writers and actors unique possibilities.
It will premiere on Disney+ in spring 2021.
One of the original Avengers who hasn’t had a trilogy or even an origin movie is Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye. At SDCC it was announced that he will get a series on Disney+. In an animated teaser that was shown there is the hint of another beloved character from the comics making their introduction, Kate Bishop. In the comics, Kate is trained by Clint and eventually becomes Hawkeye and also a member of the Young Avengers. The show is set to pick up where Avengers: Endgame left off, and will most likely serve as a tool to explain Clint’s past as Hawkeye as well as Ronin (the character only briefly introduced in the last Avengers film.) Also, the series may be used as a means to introduce a new vital character and build a possible base for a Young Avengers movie or series in the future, which would definitely be exciting. The Young Avengers are a very diverse team, representing minorities of ethnicity and sexuality, which is something that would be very welcomed into the MCU.
The show is set to premiere in autumn 2021, with no further casting or creative team announcements yet.
- Thor: Love And Thunder
The only original Avenger who now has a fourth film in his character series to look forward to is Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. While rumors have been flying around for a while, it was now officially announced at SDCC that not only will Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) be returning, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi will come back to the director’s chair along with a script of his own.
Waititi mentioned reading one storyline written by Jason Aaron called The Mighty Thor, which is of course known as the story that first introduced female Thor into the comics. In the comics, Thor loses the ability to wield his hammer, which is then picked up by none other than Jane Foster, who then possesses the power of Thor. However, in the comics, these abilities give her cancer and her condition worsens every time she uses those powers. While we don’t know if Waititi will go with this storyline in particular, we know that Jane Foster will take the hammer and become the Mighty Thor in this fourth installment of the Thor movies. Natalie Portman will return to the MCU to play the role of Foster again. Additionally, Tessa Thompson has teased that Valkyrie will finally be portrayed as an LGBTQ+ character when she said “First of all, as king, she needs to find her queen”, which will hopefully happen after a scene underlining her bisexuality was cut from Thor: Ragnarok.
- Black Widow
Closing the original Avengers announcements was a first look at the Black Widow film. It was explained that the movie will take place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and it will deal with Natasha’s past and will also finally explain “what happened in Budapest”. The movie has been shooting for a few weeks now, the crew just having finished working on location in Budapest, Hungary. While shooting is still in process, fans were already treated to some footage, mainly showing a street chase and a fight scene. Alongside the footage, Feige also introduced the cast. Next to Scarlett Johansson, some new additions to the MCU family will be made. David Harbour will play the role of Alexei Shostakov, who in the comics becomes a character called Red Guardian (the equivalent to Captain America for the Soviets), a super-soldier with super strength. While it hasn’t officially been announced that Harbour’s role will be both of these characters, he stated that his character “undergoes some changes” in the movie and he was also wearing a Captain America shirt, which could be a further hint. Also starring in the movie is Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, who in the comics is also a product of Red Room and uses the alias Black Widow, she becomes a friend to Natasha after they were first set to kill each other. In the movie, Yelena will be in a sisterly relationship with Natasha, but nothing further has been revealed. Also starring are also O. T. Fagbenle as Rick Mason and Rachel Weisz as Melina, both of which are spies from Natasha’s past, one from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the other from Red Room.
The featured clip shown at Hall H also showed Taskmaster, a villain and sometimes spy from the comics who has the ability to mimic his opponent in fights, making him a villain and sometimes a trainer for superheroes. In the clip he was shown fighting Natasha, but nothing else has been revealed.
When the panel was believed to be over and the group picture had been taken, Kevin Feige called Mahershala Ali to the stage, who then put on a hat which just had the word “Blade” written on it. The film will be a reboot of one of the first Marvel movies, which starred Wesley Snipes as the human with vampiric powers who hunts vampires in the night. The story was also already adapted as TV show in 2006, but now, under the direction of the MCU, the potential to make the character interesting for a modern audience has grown. Feige stated that Ali himself called to ask about a possible reboot, and “who was he to say no?” Blade is definitely one of the most intriguing characters for the MCU now because of his abilities and associated lore that hasn’t been touched before in this franchise. Blade receives his powers when his mother is bitten and killed by a vampire whilst in labor and when he grows up, sets out to hunt the beasts that took his family from him. He’s a prolific fighter with swords and daggers, earning him his nickname. Ali is a great casting choice and it will be interesting to see where he takes the role. However, Kevin Feige confirmed in an interview with Collider that Blade will not be a part of Phase Four.
And here we are!
Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is shaping up to be the transition into the future, whilst still staying connected to the past. In addition to the movies and series above, Feige also announced Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2 and a reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise. He also hinted at “mutants”, meaning that the future of the MCU may build a new home for the X-Men and all additional characters. We certainly can’t wait to find out where Marvel takes us next!
Stay tuned for all updates on Marvel here at Nerds And Beyond.