In 2019, the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended its first 11-year run of storytelling with as much of a bang as any franchise ever. The first 23 entries from Marvel Studios that comprise the Infinity Saga made an unprecedented impact on cinema, earning a combined nearly $22.6 billion at the global box office and bringing Marvel Comics to life on the big screen more memorably than ever before. The two-part culmination of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame brought the saga to its highest peak as nearly every character set up in previous movies came together for the battle of a lifetime to take down the Mad Titan Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
After July 2019 concluded the Infinity Saga with Spider-Man: Far From Home, the only natural question was what the studio would bring next. Answers started coming that very summer, starting off with the San Diego Comic-Con Marvel Studios panel announcing the Phase 4 slate.
Phase 4 begins a new era of storytelling for the MCU through the year 2022. Along with at least eight confirmed movies set for theatrical release, Marvel Studios is also expanding its universe further by releasing eight new mini-series to stream on Disney+. Once life returns to normal, the MCU will begin its most dense and content-rich slate of projects to date.
Before the mega-franchise makes its triumphant return later in 2020, The Direct explores every project for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Marvel Studios's theatrical plan is business as usual with eight films currently lined up for Phase 4. After the Disney release date reschedule, this gives the studio one film in 2020, three films in 2021, and four more in 2022. The Direct analyzes the status of all eight movies ahead:
Director: Cate Shortland
Writer: Eric Pearson
Release date: November 6, 2020
Natasha Romanoff, one of the saviors of humanity in Avengers: Endgame, is finally getting her first solo movie in the MCU. After supporting roles in eight previous films since 2010, Scarlett Johansson is all set for in Black Widow, the debut film of Phase 4 where she is both the leading star and an executive producer. The cast is also set to feature Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff, William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross, Ray Winstone as Dreykov, and O.T. Fangbele as Rick Mason.
The first entry in Phase 4 will be a prequel that gives more depth to Natasha's life before she gave her life for the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame. Her first solo movie will take place primarily after she let Captain America and Bucky Barnes escape to capture Helmut Zemo, during which she is on the run from the United Nations in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Appropriately, rumors also point to the plot delving deep into her past as she grew up in the Red Room and adapted herself from assassin to Avenger. Along with running from the government, Widow will also be forced to face off with the formidable villain Taskmaster, who leads the Red Room and will certainly prove to be a tough challenge for the heroine to conquer.
Black Widow is currently in its final stages of post-production and nearly ready to release. Thanks to the schedule changes from Disney and Marvel, the film is now set to debut in theaters on November 6, 2020 (and in the UK one week earlier).
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writers: Kaz and Ryan Firpo
Release date: February 12, 2021
The first new franchise of Phase 4 will feature a famous immortal alien race that has inhabited Earth for over 7000 years: The Eternals. The new adventure will give the MCU an all new team of heroes with multiple power sets. These Eternal beings have been on the periphery of the MCU's entire history and have their own set of battles and tests to overcome. The film has an all-star cast including Richard Madden (Ikaris), Angelina Jolie (Thena), Salma Hayek (Ajak), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo), Lia McHugh (Sprite), Dong-seok Ma (Gilgamesh), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Lauren Ridloff (Makkari), Barry Keoghan (Druig), Kit Harrington (Dane Whitman), and Gemma Chan (Sersi).
The main plot point of this film centers around the Eternals' longtime war with their evil counterparts, the Deviants. Both were created by the Celestials, an immensely powerful race of beings that have been briefly explored in past MCU films such the Guardians of the Galaxy series. No other details about the film have been revealed, although rumors point to the main story occurring after the events of Avengers: Endgame and including looks at the Eternals' journeys throughout the course of human history on Earth. There are also rumors that the film will explore a younger version of the Mad Titan Thanos, looking into his origins before he kills half of all life in the universe.
The Eternals is currently in post-production, with the VFX teams working remotely from home after initial filming was completed between July 2019 and February 2020. The film is set for worldwide release on February 12, 2021.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: David Callaham
Release date: May 7, 2021
Marvel will bring it's first film featuring an Asian superhero and an almost completely Asian cast with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. A skilled martial artist with powers never before seen in the MCU films, Shang-Chi will deliver an all new fighting style to a franchise that already enlists the services of gods, soldiers, sorcerers, aliens and more. The summer blockbuster will star Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Leung as the Mandarin. Other cast members with undisclosed roles include Awkwafina, Rosalind Chao, Michelle Yeoh, and Florian Munteanu.
The story of Shang-Chi is looking to be incredibly unique amongst the MCU's many superheroes. His first solo movie is rumored to explore his early life growing up with superpowers (the ability to clone himself while fighting) before moving forward to the Mandarin enlisting him to fight in a Mortal Combat-style tournament for the right to possess the all powerful Ten Rings, which have been teased ever since the MCU's beginnings in Iron Man. The Mandarin will be a huge focus for the movie, revealing his true form after the misdirect from Iron Man 3, and fans are already on the edge of their seats waiting to see how powerful and menacing he will be. The main timeframe of this movie will possibly be in the year 2020, which would also give some insight into a post-snap world during the five-year gap in Avengers: Endgame.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is still on hold through the Coronavirus pandemic waiting for shooting to restart. It is set for worldwide release on May 7, 2021.
Untitled Spider-Man 3
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Release: November 5, 2021
2021 will see the MCU end the year with the third film in the MCU's Spider-Man franchise. The Sony/Marvel Studios partnership will continue on with the web-slinger coming back with a vengeance after his first year without a movie in the MCU since he joined the party. Tom Holland is set to return for his sixth appearance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man along with Zendaya (Michelle Jones/MJ) and Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds). No other cast members have been confirmed at this point.
There are no rumored plot details for Spidey's third solo movie, but the possibilities are endless after the cliffhangers from 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home. After JK Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson used the self-shot Mysterio video to reveal Spider-Man's identity to the world, Peter Parker is likely in a world of trouble as he scrambles to protect himself, his family, and his friends from new potential threats. Fans are hoping for some kind of Sinister Six battle in the next solo movie, and there are also rumors of a potential return for Michael Mando's Scorpion to help substantiate those rumors.
There is also no set title for the film yet, although producer Amy Pascal has been clear that the studios are working to include the word "home" in the title just like the first two movies. The Direct's Julia Delbel has come up with multiple ideas as to what the film's title will be as fans wait for the official announcement.
Thor: Love and Thunder
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Taika Waititi, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Release date: February 11, 2022
The God of Thunder is returning in epic fashion with Thor: Love and Thunder. Becoming the first hero in the MCU to receive a fourth solo film, Thor is set to go on possibly his biggest and most exciting adventure to date after helping the Avengers defeat Thanos and bring life back to the cosmos in Avengers: Endgame. The new cosmic blockbuster is set to star Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Taika Waititi (Korg), Christian Bale in an undisclosed villainous role, and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster/The Mighty Thor).
There are no plot details known for Thor's newest movie, which will likely see him in undisclosed adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy after leaving Earth in Avengers: Endgame. Rumors point to the King of Asgard and his trusted team of heroes helping to rebuild Asgard after Thanos killed half of his people twice in Avengers: Infinity War.
The film will reportedly feature a new young character named Zappa (detailed by The Direct's Richard Nebens) whose role is currently unknown and in the casting process. Christian Bale's role in the movie is still unknown as well, although all signs point to him serving as the main villain after Thor's epic battles with both Thanos and his half-sister Hela in his last few appearances. Natalie Portman's Jane Foster will also make a triumphant return to the MCU as she finds herself worthy to wield Mjolnir and likely takes on the role of the Mighty Thor just as Jane has recently in the comics.
Thor: Love and Thunder was originally set to begin production in Australia in August 2020, but there has been no news to any changes due to the pandemic. The film is set for worldwide release on February 11, 2022.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Michael Waldron
Release date: March 25, 2022
The Sorcerer Supreme will be levitating back into theaters in Phase 4's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Set to be the MCU's first dip into the horror genre after the visually revolutionary Doctor Strange in 2016, the mystical sequel already seems to be one of the most bizarre and mind-tripping films in Marvel Studios' history. Sam Raimi is set to serve as the film's director, making an exciting return to superhero movies after critical and financial success with the early-and-mid-2000's Spider-Man trilogy. The only cast members confirmed thus far are Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, with Chiwetel Ejiofor also likely to return as Baron Mordo.
There are no plot details confirmed for the film, but the film's title obviously teases a crazy adventure through the MCU multiverse, which has only been minimally discussed and teased thus far. During both Strange's transformation into a sorcerer in his first movie and the time heist of Avengers: Endgame, the sorcerers from Kamar Taj warned of the dangers coming from exploring the Multiverse and meddling with time. The Time Stone is rumored to play an important role just as it did in Doctor Strange, and it will be exciting to see just how Doctor Strange uses it along with his advancement as a master of magic.
The movie is also rumored to have a direct tie in to the Disney+ mini-series WandaVision, which will be one of the first examples of the MCU's new fully interconnected storytelling format. Elizabeth Olsen stars in both projects and fans are excited to see how her story advances as she evolves as a character and a superhero.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still in the early stages of pre-production with no set date for filming to resume. The film is scheduled for worldwide release on March 25, 2022.
Untitled Black Panther 2*
Director: Ryan Coogler
Release date: May 6, 2022
The D23 Convention in 2019 brought a huge reveal with the announcement of a Black Panther sequel. Fans went ballistic after hearing nothing at San Diego Comic-Con for a second story following the critical and financial mega-success of the original Black Panther in 2018, but all the questions were answered profoundly with this reveal. Thus far, the only names attached to the film are Ryan Coogler as the writer & director and Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa/ Black Panther, although it is expected that the majority of the cast will return.
There are no plot details for the sequel's story, which will follow T'Challa and the country of Wakanda after they opened their borders to the rest of the world. Okoye and M'Baku helped lead their people through the five-year gap in Avengers: Endgame when T'Challa and his sister Shuri were snapped away, and there are sure to be adjustments for the royal family and all of their subjects to handle after Thanos' defeat. There are also rumors that lead to Namor the Submariner potentially having a role in the movie, which would be an exciting new character with plenty of potential storylines from the comics to explore.
Black Panther 2 is in its earliest stages of development and is scheduled for release on May 7, 2022.
(*) The Black Panther sequel is not officially confirmed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4.
Untitled Captain Marvel 2*
Writer: Megan McDonell
Release date: July 8, 2022
2019's Captain Marvel followed in the footsteps of 2018's Black Panther by joining the MCU's billion-dollar box office club, leading to a sequel announcement during Disney's recent schedule reshuffle. Carol Danvers' adventure back in 1995 showed her origins as a Kree soldier before becoming her own woman, and she turned out to be instrumental to the Avengers' battles as one of the most powerful characters in the MCU. The studio is currently searching for the film's director and has tapped relatively unknown writer Megan McDonell to pen the script. No cast members have been announced, although Brie Larson is expected to return for her third Marvel film.
The only rumor revealed thus far points to the movie possibly setting up up a "New Avengers" movie, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War set up the story for Avengers: Infinity War. Captain Marvel has long been thought of as a potential candidate to lead the new Avengers team after the original six all either retired or died, and it will be fun to see how the new film further explores her character. There are also signs that the movie will take place in the 90's just as Captain Marvel did, which would help fill in more of the MCU timeline.
Captain Marvel 2 is in early stages of pre-production with no filming dates set as of now. The film is set for worldwide release on July 8, 2022.
(*) The Captain Marvel sequel is not officially confirmed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4.
While the MCU has eight movies releasing theatrically, the franchise is also making a concerted new effort to dive into the world of small-screen storytelling on Disney+. At both San Diego Comic-Con and D23 2020, Kevin Feige announced the arrival of eight new mini-series premiering on the new streaming service starting at the end of 2020, all of which will be produced with the same quality as the movies and will be intricately connected and canon in the MCU story. The Direct now explores all the details known for all eight new mini-series premiering on Disney+:
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Director: Kari Skogland
Writers: Derek Kolstad, Michael Kastelein, Malcom Spellman
Release date: August 2020 (tentative)
Marvel Studios will begin its run on Disney+ with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The six-episode mini series will continue the expansive legacy of Captain America as Sam Wilson takes over both the shield and title, joined by Bucky Barnes teaming up with him once again as the Winter Soldier. The series will showcase the return of MCU regulars such as Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Solider, Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo, and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13. New cast members include Wyatt Russell as John Walker/US Agent and undisclosed roles for Adepero Oduye, Desmond Chaim, Miki Ishikawa, Noah Mills and Carl Lumbly.
The new series doesn't have a specific plot line, although the likelihood is that it will involve a man-hunt for Helmut Zemo as he wreaks havoc throughout the world. Rumors have pointed to some kind of biological weapon being released and causing mass panic across the local populous. Other rumors point to another returning enemy in Batroc the Leaper from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and set photos have pointed to Madripoor being a primary location for the heroes to interact with, potentially setting up massive future stories within the MCU involving X-Men characters.
Sam and Bucky will also have to deal with the US government yet again as they have appointed a new Captain America in Wyatt Russell's John Walker. The newly minted US Agent seems to be the new face of the feds after Steve Rogers traveled back in time to live his life, but his two closest friends are obviously skeptical on his legitimacy as a potential superhero. The dynamic between Sam and Bucky will also be something to look forward to as they figure out how to work together for the greater good.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is hoping to resume its final stages of filming in the near future as quarantine mandates begin lifting worldwide. The series is set to premiere on Disney+ in August 2020.
Director: Matt Shakman
Writer: Jac Schaeffer
Release date: December 2020
Marvel Studios is set to get really crazy, really fast with the upcoming six-episode mini-series Wandavision. The wacky and weird new series will explore multiple different realities and go deeper than ever before into two of the MCU's most powerful and unique heroes. The series stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany as Vision, Teyonah Parris as the adult Monica Rambeau, Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, and Katheryn Hahn in an undisclosed role.
There are no specific plot details for the direction of WandaVision, but the first footage pointed to exploring a number of different eras in the history of network TV. Wanda and Vision are shown in the vein of different decades of television shows including I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, and Roseanne, which will make for a completely new method of storytelling in the MCU and an appropriately crazy venue for the two heroes to interact in.
There are also a couple of big questions pertaining to the outcome of the show. Vision's resurrection will be a huge plot point to pay attention to as the series premieres, and there will also be some kind of connection to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness through Wanda's next set of adventures to look out for. Fans are also wondering how exactly Kat Dennings and Randall Park will fit in as two characters that have never directly interacted with Wanda or Vision after their respective appearances in Thor: The Dark World and Ant-Man and the Wasp.
WandaVision has reportedly finished principal photography and likely VFX work as well. The series is set for its debut on Disney+ in December 2020, but there have been no reports to that timeline changing after the Doctor Strange sequel was pushed back.
Director: Kate Herron
Writer: Michael Waldron
Release date: Early 2021
One of the most celebrated characters in the history of the MCU is the God of Mischief, and he is finally getting his own six-episode mini-series when Loki comes to Disney+. The rightful king of Jotunheim has been in Marvel Studios' films since the very beginning, his role ranging from hero to anti-hero to certified lead villain, and he is set to have a starring role on Disney+ after appearances in six previous MCU films. The series will star Tom Hiddleston as Loki along with Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Richard E. Grant in undisclosed roles.
The new mini-series will catch up with Loki after the his 2012 alternate reality version escaped the battle of New York with the Tesseract into space. He will be on an exciting new adventure through space and time undoubtedly causing his usual high jinks and shenanigans, and the only major plot point revealed comes from the few seconds of the Super Bowl trailer showing him in a Time Variance Authority outfit. There are also rumors pointing to multiple versions of Loki appearing and even a potential set up for Kang the Conqueror.
Loki has currently halted filming due to the Coronavirus, with no signs pointing to a set return date. The series is set to premiere on Disney+ sometime in early 2021.
Director: Bryan Adams
Writer: A.C. Bradley
Head Animator: Stephan Franck
Release date: Summer 2021
Marvel Studios is set to take its first steps into the world of animation with the Disney+ 10-episode mini-series What If...? This show will go into a number of alternate storylines that the MCU could have taken over the Infinity Saga and explore how things would be different if other plot choices had been made along the way. The Marvel TV panel at San-Diego Comic-Con 2019 announced that Jeffrey Wright will star as the ever-seeing Watcher, Uatu, and that almost every single actor from the MCU's Infinity Saga will lend their talents to voice their roles.
There are no specific plot details for What If...? yet, but there are number of possibilities for the 10-episode first season. It seems that each episode will either focus on one specific character or one specific storyline in the MCU, examples of these including if Peggy Carter took the super serum, if the MCU had zombies (teased by The Direct's Pierre Chanliau), and if King T'Challa switched places with Star Lord. The Direct's Trey Tobias has also formulated his own list of potential ideas from the movies of the MCU's Phase 1.
The animation shown so far is something completely different from any show based off Marvel Comics characters in the past, a style that will take the animation team months or years to complete for even a single scene. From what has been released so far, it looks to be an exciting new form of storytelling that fans should be looking forward to seeing.
What If...? is currently still in production remotely and is scheduled to release on Disney+ in the summer of 2021.
Writer: Jonathan Igla
Release date: 2022
After supporting roles in six films throughout the Infinity Saga, Clint Barton will be the star of his own Disney+ mini-series. Since 2015, the master marksman has retired to be with his family, been imprisoned in the raft, lost his family to Thanos' snap, saved his family, and seemingly retired again after Avengers: Endgame, but it seems clear that he will be drawn to some kind of battle once again in his own feature series. Hawkeye will star MCU veteran Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton and have Jonathan Igla serve as the show's lead writer, executive producer, and de facto show runner.
The main plot point revealed for this mini-series at this point is that Clint will work to pass on the mantle of Hawkeye to one of the most anticipated characters coming to the MCU: Kate Bishop. A famed member of the Young Avengers from Marvel Comics, Bishop's skills as an archer and fighter are very comparable to the original Hawkeye, who will seemingly work to train her as an Avenger and mold her into the first in a new team of heroes. Multiple names have been rumored to be in the running to play Kate Bishop, most notably Hailee Steinfeld, and fans are hoping for a casting announcement in the near future.
Previous rumors have pointed to filming for Hawkeye starting in July 2020, although it seems likely that this will change with all the adjustments to the MCU's release schedule. The series is set to premiere on Disney+ sometime in 2022.
Writer: BIsha K. Ali
Release date: 2022
The D23 2019 Convention brought an announcement from Marvel TV for a new mini-series based around Kamala Kahn. The character's involvement in the MCU had been rumored and discussed since 2016, and there are also already rumored plans for the young hero to make her way onto the big screen after her debut on Disney+. Ms. Marvel has employed Bisha K. Ali as the head writer. No casting announcements have come yet.
Kamala Khan will arrive in her mini-series as one of the youngest superheros in the MCU to date, and although there are no specific plot details for her show yet, it will give a new look into how teenager make their way in a world full of extraordinary people. Casting calls have pointed to a new version of the Inhumans arriving in the series as well, which is an exciting prospect considering the Inhuman origin of Kamala's powers in the comics. The series also offers a chance to do the Inhumans in the MCU the right way after their much-maligned, short-lived series on ABC.
There are varying reports to when Ms. Marvel is set to begin filming, although there have been no updates to schedule changes through the filming stoppages. The series is set to debut on Disney+ in 2022.
Writer: Jeremy Slater
Release date: 2022
The announcement of a Moon Knight Disney+ series at D23 2019 brought one of the biggest rounds of applause of the entire night. Marc Spector is a character that fans have wanted in the MCU for years, and the brass at Marvel Studios seem to understand how important it is that they not only bring him into the MCU in the right way. The mini-series has enlisted Jeremy Slater as its head writer, and no casting announcements have been made yet.
No plot details have been revealed yet for Moon Knight's introduction into the MCU, but fans are beyond excited regardless of what happens. The character has long been regarded as Marvel Comic's answer to DC's Batman, but it seems that the series is looking to make him much more than that. The character's unique take on multiple personalities will be an intriguing new look into the human mind through his portrayal in the new mini-series, and his skill set should be incredibly exciting to see on screen.
A few high profile names have reportedly been eyed by Marvel Studios. Some of the biggest actors rumored to be in consideration have included Ross Marquand, Daniel Radcliffe, and most recently Keanu Reeves, and the casting call reveals the studio looking for a Jewish/Israeli "Zac Efron-type" since Marc Spector is the son of a rabbi in the comics. Other rumors for the plot point to Bushman being one of the main villains for the series, although no details have been confirmed by the studio yet with the series still so far out.
Writer: Jessica Gao
Release date: 2022
One of the biggest surprises of D23 2019 came with Marvel TV's announcement for a She-Hulk mini-series. The green-skinned lawyer/superhero has made quite a name for herself in the comics the last few years, and especially considering the rumors that Disney may gain the rights for the Incredible Hulk back soon, she will undoubtedly be an exciting new character for the series to take on. She-Hulk has hired Jessica Gao as its head writer, and no casting announcements have been made yet.
There are no specific plot details known for She-Hulk yet, but the story is rumored to include her transformation into a hero thanks to a member of her own family. In the comics, Jennifer Walters requires a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner after a serious injury; this turns her into a new version of the Hulk who is always green but retains her intelligence consistently. She won't be the first lawyer Marvel has presented on-screen, but she will clearly be the most powerful one to date.
The casting call for the show's lead is reportedly looking for an "Alison Brie-type" to take on the role of Jennifer Walters. The original Hulk is almost certain to make an appearance as well with Mark Ruffalo already in negotiations to reprise his role of Bruce Banner, implying that the series will take the story straight from the comics by having Bruce help his cousin survive. There are also rumors of William Hurt's Thaddeus Ross appearing in the series and finally making the transformation into the villainous Red Hulk, which would fully complete his bad guy journey if it comes to fruition.