On Saturday in Hall H at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel Studios had their panel. Amazingly, up until now, we’ve had no idea what the next batch of Marvel movies were going to be. We knew some details—that Black Widow was finally happening, that there would probably be an Eternals movie, that Taika Waititi was directing another Thor film—but nothing concrete. When I saw Spider-Man: Far from Home in the theater there were no trailers for any superhero films at all, which is unusual, to say the least.
This rather impressive security on the future of the most popular film series in the history of the world is finally no longer necessary, as Kevin Feige announced not just the next batch of movies, but also what will be coming on the small screen on the forthcoming Disney+ service.
Here’s Tor.com’s full run-down of the full set of announcements Feige made at San Diego on Saturday, and here are some of my thoughts on these announcements…
(Warning: THERE BE SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME AND SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME BELOW HERE! DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!)
1. There are only two movies in 2020. This is the first time since Spider-Man was added to the MCU that there have been as few as two Marvel movies in a calendar year—it last happened in 2016 with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. Since then, there have been three per year. But in 2020, all we’ve got are Black Widow and Eternals. In 2021, that goes up to three again, with Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love & Thunder, so the three-movies-a-year pattern will be restored. But I guess it makes sense after three huge films in 2019, one of which was the frankly exhausting Avengers: Endgame, that they are slowing down a bit for next year…
2. The Black Widow film is too little too late. One of the most appalling things in Endgame was killing off Natasha Romanoff. From the moment the character was introduced as a bad-ass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Iron Man 2 in 2010, and particularly after her impressive turns in Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there has been a hue and cry and clamor for this great character to get her own starring vehicle instead of constantly supporting men in their films. Endgame set her up as the leader of the post-snap Avengers, showing the character fully coming into her own as a hero after all the red in her ledger.
And then, shortly after announcing that she’s finally, a goddamn decade later, getting her own starring vehicle, and they go and kill her off, thus cutting off all positive buzz about this overdue movie at the knees.
(Mind you, I can think of about fourteen ways to bring her back from the dead after Endgame, and if Black Widow gives us that, it will cover a multitude of sins. But those sins have, sadly, already been committed.)
3. Between Shang Chi and the fourth Thor film, we’re not forgetting the MCU’s roots. The Shang Chi movie will see the Master of Kung Fu go up against the Ten Rings, the shadowy organization that Obadiah Stane was working with waaaay back in 2008’s Iron Man, the movie that started this whole megillah. And while we no longer have Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, and we’re unlikely to get another Bruce Banner movie as long as Universal continues to control the Hulk’s film rights, a new Thor movie combined with a Black Widow movie to keep two of the founding Avengers in the spotlight.
Also I really hope that, unlike the last time Marvel did one of their martial arts heroes, they have people involved in the film who are actually familiar with martial arts…
4. THE JANE FOSTER THOR WILL COME TO THE MCU! One of the niftiest stories in Marvel’s recent comics, Jane Foster becoming Thor, is being brought to the cinematic version. This would be way more fun if Asgard was still intact, but Thor: Ragnarok already proved to us fans of Marvel’s Thor that we can’t have nice things. Still, we’d better get Kat Dennings back as her sidekick…
5. Why is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still being called that when Sam Wilson is Captain America now? Seriously, calling it that when you first announced it is necessary due to not wanting to spoil Endgame, but now we know that the Falcon is the new Cap. So why isn’t this being called Captain America and the Winter Soldier? Particularly now, it’s important to acknowledge that the symbol of the U.S. is currently an African American.
6. No Captain Marvel or Black Panther sequel in the next two years? The former is less of an issue, given that Carol Danvers’s first starring vehicle was just a few months ago, but Black Panther came out in 2018, was a massive hit on multiple levels, and now the earliest we’ll see his next film is 2022, four years later. That’s—a choice, I guess. (To be fair, this might be dictated by the availability of Ryan Coogler and the various necessary cast members, all of whom are in high demand right now…) And it’ll be at least three years before we get more Carol, but hey, at least we’ll see a grown-up Monica Rambeau in WandaVision!
7. Between the Doctor Strange sequel and What If…? they’re really pushing the many-universes theory. After getting two separate lectures on time-travel theory involving Bruce Banner in Endgame, and after that movie went and created at least a couple of alternate timelines, and after Spider-Man: Far from Home teased the whole notion with Mysterio pretending to be from another Earth, now we’re getting Doctor Strange dealing with the “multiverse of madness” and a series dedicated to alternate timelines.
If nothing else, this is a great way to introduce the X-Men. Bringing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four into the MCU was never going to be an issue, but the X-Men have a whole lot more baggage, as it deals with the next evolutionary step of humanity. The MCU’s history is too well-established at this point to suddenly have mutants be part of it—but with an alternate timeline, maybe? It could work…
8. Yay Fantastic Four in development! Marvel’s flagship heroes have been botched so badly onscreen on three separate occasions, and this is finally their chance to do it right. Here’s a hint: DON’T DO THE ORIGIN. One of the biggest problems with a lot of Marvel’s early origins is that they’re tied to the time they were written. The Hulk was the result of an above-ground bomb test, which stopped being legal a year after he was created. Iron Man was created in the midst of conflict in Southeast Asia. And the Fantastic Four were part of the 1960s space race. Every attempt to update their origin on screen has failed, especially since so many elements of it are kinda dumb.
So just skip it. We don’t need it, and it’s the least interesting part of the FF’s story. Just have them be a family of adventurers who happen to have super-powers.
(Also just cast Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm. Nobody has done it better, and I suspect nobody ever will. He was born to play the role. Just do it. We’ve already had J.K. Simmons brought over to set the precedent…..)
9. Yay fewer white guys! I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a cis het white guy and I’m, frankly, done with cis het white guys. Now Marvel’s superheroes were mostly created in the early 1960s, so the white maleness is to be expected from their flagship folks, but now that we’re a decade in to the films, and two of those white guys are gone, we can move forward with a bit more diversity. And, to be fair, Marvel has always at least tried for that. (I don’t think it’s remotely coincidental that the X-Men of the mid-1970s and 1980s were the first team to seriously embrace diversity in its membership and were also by far the most popular comic books on the planet, not to mention the trails blazed by Black Panther and Luke Cage.)
Just in this announcement alone, we’ve got a Black Widow movie, a Shang-Chi movie, a Thor movie that has promised prominent roles for both Jane Foster-as-Thor and also for Valkyrie (who is established as “looking for her queen,” so a woman of color who’s also not heteronormative), a magnificently varied Eternals cast (Salma Hayek! Lauren Ridloff! Brian Tyree Henry! Ma Dong-Seok!), shows starring the new black Cap (even though it still says “The Falcon” in the title) and a female Hawkeye, reassuring all and sundry that Captain Marvel and Black Panther will eventually have sequels, and the icing on the cake, bringing Blade into the MCU at last, played by the magnificent Mahershala Ali!
10. The titles are pulpy as heck, and I love it! Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love & Thunder have got to be three of the pulpiest titles in the history of creation, and I’m just giddy with glee. We’re ten years in, these movies are pretty well established, so there’s no need to play it safe with boring subtitles like The First Avenger or The Dark World. Why not have fun with goofy-ass titles that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1947 magazine rack?
11. That Loki logo is the ugliest thing in the history of things. Seriously, that looks like it was put together by a college student playing with Photoshop for the first time. Ugh.
What thoughts do you have regarding Phase 4? Feel free to share in the comments!
Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about adaptations of superheroes for this site for ages now, including the weekly “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch,” as well as reviews of many of Marvel’s Netflix series, the 1966 Batman, and lots more, as well as articles on Star Trek, Doctor Who, Stargate, etc. On the fiction side, he has three novels out this year: Alien: Isolation, Mermaid Precinct, and A Furnace Sealed.