If you haven’t been checking regularly, there has been a lot of movement in the comic book-superhero movie release calendar in the last few weeks. Most notably was the addition of three 20th Century Fox X-Men films to 2018 and a couple of minor shifts of dates for Warner Bros.'s Aquaman, Fox’s Kingsman sequel, and an untitled Marvel Studios movie in 2020.
The latter is one of three untitled 2020 films the juggernaut studio has on reserved dates for – their traditional first Friday of May (May 1, 2020), along with August 7 and November 1.
With both Disney’s own D23 Expo and Comic-Con International: San Diego (which Marvel has announced it will attend) both happening in July, it’ll likely just be a few months before we know the identity of those three films and perhaps some 2021 and beyond releases too, but we thought we’d spend a moment looking at the schedule and offering our best guesses as to what the three films will be.
May 1, 2020
That’s probably the easiest one. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opening this week and writer/director James Gunn’s recent reveal that he’ll return for a third Marvel and by all indications on ongoing relationship with Marvel Studios after that, we can confidently slip Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 into that year’s marque date.
That’ll make it three years between each installment. The stars seemed too aligned to give that one much more thought than that.
August 7, 2020
While Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange successfully launched in November 2016, we suspect the good doctor will return with a higher-upside summer release in 2020. That’ll be a few months removed from a full four years between solo films - an unusual length of time for Marvel but not unprecedented; Thor: The Dark World and Ragnarok will open exactly four years apart.
An August Doctor Strange 2 opening will help tighten that window just a little bit.
Cumberbatch will be no stranger to the MCU in those 45 months between films, however. He’s slated for that cameo in this year’s Thor: Ragnarok and it looks like he’ll be a player in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and almost certainly again in the untitled 2019 Avengers film.
But Marvel has also teased the villain-turn of Chiwetel Ejiofor's Mordo in a mid-credits scene in Doctor Strange, and it’d be very unlike the well-oiled machine that is Marvel not to follow-up on an on-screen promise.
So expect the war over magic on Marvel’s Earth to play out in 2020, and likely during a more a peak August release this time around.
November 1, 2020
Marvel has countless options for this date. That it isn’t May is just one of the many reasons to speculate it will not be any continuation of the current Iron Man, Captain America, or Avengers franchises.
November would line up perfectly for a fourth Thor installment, but it’s hard to imagine a fourth Thor happening before a fourth Cap or Iron Man, and that’s even entertaining the idea any of those franchises as they exist now will get a fourth go-around, and it doesn’t seem like that’ll be the case.
But that’s a longer topic for another day.
Both Black Panther (February 16, 2018) and Ant-Man (July 6, 2018) would be two years-plus removed from their first and second installments, respectively, and two years between sequels is doable for Marvel.
Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War were both separated by just two years, but the problem with new Black Panther or Ant-Man installments is that it would make 2020 exclusively a sequel year for Marvel.
Since 2014, Marvel has premiered or is scheduled to premiere a ‘new’ property through 2019.
2014 was Guardians of the Galaxy, 2015 Ant-Man, 2016 Doctor Strange, 2017 will be the rebooted and ‘new to the MCU’ Spider-Man; Homecoming, 2018 Black Panther and 2019 Captain Marvel.
And this is almost certainly not a coincidence. As the Marvel Studios brand evolves, the box office expectations continue to rise and the MCU mythology continues to get more dense, it will be vitally important for the studio to freshen itself regularly with new characters, concepts and new stars filling those shoes than ever before.
Marvel will need to be in a constant state of renewal while it figures out how to say goodbye or to turn over the roles of its established stars.
For those reasons we’re pegging the November 1 date for a brand new Marvel film property.
As to what property that will be, that too is longer topic for another day. Despite Marvel’s continued insistence its once-scheduled Inhumans movie isn’t dead, with the Royal family making their IMAX-then-ABC TV debut later this year, they won’t have the necessary newness factor.
Neither would any big-screen extension of any or all of Netflix’s Defenders franchise.
Despite Marvel’s vast catalog of thousands of characters, there is in fact not a lot of big screen low-hanging fruit on the tree. But then again, this is the studio that turned Ant-Man into an international hit, so nobody should be summarily dismissed.
Again, we’ll discuss that topic in more detail another day, but until then, what do you think should be Marvel next big-screen property? Tell us on Facebook (and yes, we’ll be expecting a lot of ‘Fantastic’ Four responses).