Marvel Studios made a huge splash during its last appearance in San Diego Comic-Con back in 2019. It was during that event where the studio unveiled its massive Phase 4 slate which includes projects centered around the past and new heroes of the MCU.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige went in to Hall H to present a game-changing line-up while also introducing a bunch of actors that would define the next chapter of the ever-changing MCU. The hype surrounding the announcements was understandable, especially after the rousing success of the Infinity Saga.
Fans were eager to find out what was next, and it's safe to say that Marvel didn't disappoint. During the Hall H presentation, Feige laid all of his cards on the table, presenting new films like Black Widow and Eternals as well as the studio's small screen ventures on Disney+.
The additional small screen firepower from Marvel creates more story opportunities for the franchise, allowing side characters to shine in their own projects.
Now, two years after from the game-changing presentation, The Direct breaks down everything that's changed ever since that momentous occasion.
MCU PHASE 4: A REVIEW
When it was initially revealed, the MCU's Phase 4 slate looked entirely different.
For starters, Black Widow was supposed to kick off the post-Infinity Saga chapter of the franchise, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, WandaVision, Loki, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, What If...?, Hawkeye, and Thor: Love and Thunder.
Here's is the officially-released slate of upcoming Phase Four movies and series set to release in the next two years! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/8LRbgiYYtZ
Of course, this slate was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a major reshuffle of projects. WandaVision started Phase 4 on the small screen, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki. Black Widow, which was originally planned to kick things off, served as the fourth entry in the slate.
After Black Widow, What If..? will take center stage, followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals. It is unknown when Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye will premiere on Disney+, but it was previously revealed that they are still slated to be released in late 2021.
Spider-Man: No Way Home is a new entry in the Phase 4 line-up, which is understandable because 2019 was the year when the Sony-Disney fiasco happened. After the film's December release, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be placed in the spotlight followed by Thor: Love and Thunder.
SIMU LIU'S SHANG-CHI DEBUT
Simu Liu is set to make his MCU debut when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premieres in theaters on September 3, 2021, but many fans would agree that his inspirational story of how he was cast as the titular martial artist is a memorable one.
BREAKING: Actor @SimuLiu has been officially cast as the MCU's SHANG-CHI! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/DhOHOjajI8
Heading into his Marvel debut, it's safe to say that Liu is pretty much living the dream, as evidenced by his heartfelt Tweets on social media about the MCU and impactful comments during interviews.
WANDAVISION'S PLACE IN THE MCU TIMELINE
Given that Paul Bettany's Vision died during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, many were confused when it was confirmed that WandaVision will take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
The WANDAVISION Disney+ series has been confirmed to take place after the events of #AvengersEndgame! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/OjgRDL1Fky
Despite that, Marvel managed to explain why WandaVision is set during this time. In the series, it was revealed that Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff accidentally created a new sitcom-based reality in Westview, New Jersey that led to the surprise resurrection of Vision.
In the end, Westview's Vision disappeared alongside the fake reality, but another version of the android (White Vision) managed to escape and get off the grid.
SCARLET WITCH AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
The Hall H presentation confirmed that Wanda Maximoff will have a major role alongside Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. When it was announced, plot details were still being kept under wraps, but WandaVision provided a major clue as to how the Scarlet Witch would fit into the multiverse-heavy narrative.
It's been confirmed that Scarlet Witch will have a main role in DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS! pic.twitter.com/KOf30xdC6V
The series finale revealed the full-blown transformation of Wanda into the Scarlet Witch. Kathryn Hahn's Agatha Harkness mentioned that Wanda's power now "exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme, and this could hint that there is an imminent clash between the two magic users in the sequel.
The post-credits scene of WandaVision showed that Wanda heard the screams of her twin sons, Billy and Tommy, and this could serve as her motivation to seek out Doctor Strange in the multiverse-filled sequel. Whatever the case, signs point that a team-up between Wanda and Strange will likely happen in the near future.
VALKYRIE'S LGBTQIA+ STATUS REVEALED
The topic of representation and diversity has been the main point of discussion for MCU fans, and it's safe to say that Marvel Studios is taking a positive step when it confirmed that Valkyrie will be on the lookout for her new queen in Thor: Love and Thunder.
Valkyrie will be revealed as an LGBTQ hero in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/oWhQtU5Yyj
Ever since that reveal, Tessa Thompson further amplified the push for more representation in the MCU, with the actress expressing her excitement to portray the sexuality of Valkyrie while also assuring fans that there will be more efforts similar to this in Phase 4.
The presence of new characters like Phastos and Makkari from Eternals as well as Echo from Hawkeye will push the theme of representation even further, and it seems that this is only the beginning.
THE FANTASTIC 4 UPDATE
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige surprised fans with a last-minute announcement during Hall H when he unveiled that a Fantastic Four movie is being developed.
A @MarvelStudios FANTASTIC FOUR movie is now in development, teases producer Kevin Feige! pic.twitter.com/ekVaX78pm7
Fast-forward to two years later, the highly-anticipated Fantastic Four film now has a director in the form of Jon Watts. The up-and-coming director helmed Tom Holland's Spider-Man trilogy for the MCU, and it looks like he will carry over his vision toward crafting a new narrative about Marvel's First Family.
No casting details have been announced yet, and it seems that Marvel Studios is taking its time to develop this upcoming MCU film.
NATALIE PORTMAN AS MIGHTY THOR
Marvel surprised everyone when it was announced that Natalie Portman's Jane Foster would finally make her MCU return in Thor: Love and Thunder. The excitement was doubled when it was revealed that Jane would wield Mjolnir, thus leading to her transformation as the Mighty Thor in the film.
Actress Natalie Portman will be returning as Jane Foster and wield Mjolnir as a female Thor in THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/tWrLZodm48
Plot details of how exactly Jane will become the Mighty Thor are still unknown, but set photos suggest that she will wield the same Mjolnir that Hela destroyed during Thor: Ragnarok. It was also revealed that Portman will wear a comic-accurate costume for her Mighty Thor persona, and the actress appears to be pretty fit and muscular for her new role.
WHAT IF...? AND THE RETURN OF MCU ACTORS
What If...? is Marvel Studios' first foray into the realm of animation, and it will feature the voices of "at least 25 MCU actors."
The first animated MCU series, @MarvelStudios' WHAT IF...?, will feature the voices of at least 25 MCU actors and will release on Disney+ in Summer of 2021! #SDCC pic.twitter.com/8hVhr1LrSG
This animated venture presents numerous story possibilities, and a good chunk of the episodes have already been revealed due to the show's impressive marketing. From T'Challa's Star-Lord all the way to the presence of Marvel Zombies, What If...? creates an opportunity to explore the different sides of the franchise's beloved heroes and villains.
While many actors are returning to voice their animated counterparts, it was confirmed that not all of them will make a comeback. MCU veterans like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans have been confirmed to not be reprising their roles in the animated series.
Despite that, the hype surrounding What If...? is still high, especially after it was teased that a brand new version of the Avengers will be formed at the tail-end of the series.
THE MASSIVE PHASE 4 OF THE MCU
Phase 4 signifies a new beginning for the MCU, and it seems that the studio is pulling out all the stops to make it happen.
From a single universe, it looks like the franchise is now leaning toward a multiverse-infused approach that would likely expand the scope of storytelling. This is on top of the presence of grounded entries like Black Widow and Shang-Chi that would give a sense of balance to the other universe-bending entries.
From a schedule standpoint, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenge for the interconnected nature of the MCU as evidenced by the multiple delays of several films on the slate.
Still, Feige mentioned that "an Easter egg that originally was going to appear first in Black Widow" is the only thing that affected the studio's Phase.4 line up. This turned out to be the appearance of Julia Louis' Dreyfus' Val in the prequel, but the character first showed up during The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Despite all the hurdles and challenges, many would agree that the MCU is still moving in the right direction, and it will be interesting to see how this post-Infinity Saga chapter will continue to expand the franchise in exciting ways.