Marvel Studios lines up and lays out Phase 4 at SDCC!

After taking the previous year off to recover from the snap before being blipped back into existence, the Marvel Studios SDCC panel finally took us to the world After The End(game) by showing us some of the cards to play for Phase 4.
The announcements give us what we need to put the various previous film announcements in context, and at least one makes us want to load up “Immigrant Song” and go to town.
Now that Spider-Man: Far From Home has given Phase 3 its post-Endgame coda, Phase 4 is set to start hitting theaters in 2020.

  • The next phase kicks off with the already-in-production Black Widow, helmed by Cate Shortland. The preview shown at SDCC, featuring Scarlett Johannson and Midsommar‘s Florence Pugh, is detailed by io9 here (we’ve kept it behind a link in case you’d rather wait to see it).
  • This is followed by The Eternals, a Chloe Zhao-directed film based on the comic’ Greek myth-based demigods, and featuring a striking cast with some big, big names. Angelina Jolie plays Thena, while Salma Hayek plays Ajax; Richard Madden plays Ikaris, Bryan Tyree Henry plays Phastos, Kumail Nanjiani is Kingo Sunen, Lia McHugh is Sprite, Lauren Ridloff is Makkari, and Don Lee is Gilgamesh/The Forgotten One.

Phase 4 also continues the trend of extended titles, as the next three films take the comic-booky feel even further and label their films with subtitles (in some cases, instead of sequel numbers). It is, after all, a subtle but effective move that also allows the studio to raise interest right off the bat, as Sony did by calling their first MCU-set Spidey film Spider-Man: Homecoming.

  • The very title of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings immediately raises expectations for the return of the Ten Rings and the Mandarin, story and character elements that weren’t pursued to the fullest in the Iron Man trilogy. The (real) Mandarin himself, in fact, will be played by Tony Leung, opposite recently-cast (as in last week) Simu Liu as Shang-Chi (Awkwafina has also been cast, but no word on the role she’s taking). Destin Daniel Cretton directs.
  • Next, while (Far From Home spoilers) used the Doctor Strange-introduced multiverse idea as a fakeout, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness looks to bring it back to prominence. Returning director Scott Derrickson calls this “the first scary MCU film”, but those apprehensive of fear may find themselves drawn to the movie anyway by the returning Elizabeth Olsen, who brings Wanda back in a role that ties into her WandaVision series.
  • Finally, and perhaps most unexpectedly, Taika Waititi returns to the Thor series he rejuvenated with Ragnarok and raises the stakes in Thor: Love and Thunder. Those pleasantly surprised by formerly-MCU-estranged Natalie Portman’s participation in Avengers: Endgame (so, most of us) will be happy to discover that she’s returning in Thor: Love and Thunder. But this isn’t any ordinary return — she will BE Thor! Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson will also be returning, with Thompson quipping that the newly-chosen King [Valkyrie] will need to find a queen.
  • The Disney+ shows were also discussed, with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan dropping in to banter about their The Falcon and The Winter Soldier series, which features the villain Baron Zemo. WandaVision was reprsented by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and it was revealed that Teyonah Parris would be playing Monica Rambeau in the series; Tom Hiddleston stopped by to talk Loki, which debuts Spring 2021. New shows like What If? with Jeffrey Wright as the Watcher, and a Hawkeye series with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye training Kate Bishop is set for Fall 2021.

This wasn’t the end of the announcements, as Mahershala Ali revealed that he had been cast as Blade — bringing arguably the first successful modern comic-book-movie character into the MCU!
Of course, the kicker has to be Kevin Feige himself making it clear how significant the phase number was: “Black Panther 2 is coming. Guardians 3 is coming. Captain Marvel 2 is coming. The Fantastic Four is coming.”
The Phase 4 film release slate is set as follows:

  • May 1, 2020 – Black Widow
  • November 5, 2020 – The Eternals
  • February 12, 2021 – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • May 7, 2021 – Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • November 5, 2021 – Thor: Love and Thunder

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