Updated Sept. 27, 2019: The addition of the third Sony-MCU Spider-Man film in 2021 requires a little updating of this story and in fact may foreshadow a seachange in Marvel Studios scheduling moving forward.
We've made some changes below...
Original story (with updates): Marvel Studios publicly announced its plans for ‘Phase 4’ – yes, that’s officially what the post-Avengers: Endgame slate is called – and what isn’t planned for release by 2021 is almost as surprising as what is on the horizon.
Along with a slate of eleven sequels, new properties, and even in-continuity MCU tie-in shows on the Disney+ streaming service, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige threw out a tease for several still unscheduled sequels – and two brand new MCU franchises - that also need dates.
Fortunately, the studio has two reserved 2022 dates with no movies attached as well – even after placing all the recent announcements on the 2020, 2021, and 2022 schedule. And at this stage let's face it, in 2023 and beyond, Marvel Studios can take any date it likes and anyone and everyone else will go running, even if previously reserved.
So how might things shake out in 2022 and beyond? Well, let’s look at the dates – and the movies – Marvel has in the offing.
Marvel’s announced slate - Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Magic, a third Spider-Man film, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther 2 and Blade take us through 2021 and into 2022, so that's the first year with question marks on the schedule - specifically, the unspecified flags planted on February 18 and July 29.
With two unspecified dates for 2022, Marvel will likely launch a fresh franchise alongside those aforementioned sequels – and in this case, we’re betting the Mahershala Ali-led Blade reboot announced during the Hall H panel will bow on February 17, 2022 inheriting a February release that worked so well for Black Panther.
We make this prediction with the assumption that the potential bloodbath is further along than the other teased new franchise (which rhymes with Shmantastic Shmour – more on that shortly). And you don't sign a rising star like Ali and make him sit around for too long.
Black Panther 2 (May)
The untitled Black Panther 2 has now been revealed to land on May 6, 2022.
That's pretty much that.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (July)
From there, it’s an easy assumption Marvel will land Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (now with 100% more James Gunn) on July 29, 2022.
Yes, that’s just a year out from Gunn’s currently in production DC film The Suicide Squad, but remember that GotG3 already has a script, a director, and most of a cast.
That means it’s got a leg up in pre-production that will likely allow Gunn – who confirmed on Twitter that GotG3 was pushed from Phase 4 by his work on The Suicide Squad – to slide right into the third leg of his cosmic movie franchise. And it'll be a little more than five years since May 2017's Vol. 2, so this one also feels like a lock.
2023 is a little further out for Marvel Studios – but given the now five-year gap precedent the 2021 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and a 2022 release for Guardians Vol. 3 would set, we’re looking to get a handle on how Marvel can squeeze in the movies we know are on their way – and where the future might lead in terms of unannounced projects.
Captain Marvel 2 (Feb.-Mar.)
A sequel to the over $1 billion-dollar worldwide hit was confirmed by Feige as being in development but without a release date announced.
Since that electrifying Nick Fury in space teaser from the post-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Far From Home will likely pay off in Captain Marvel 2, we're calculating Marvel isn't going to let more than four years go by before they pick on that game-changing plot thread.
Keeping that in mind, Captain Marvel 2 is likely a shoo-in for an eventual Spring 2023 bow, again keeping it in its original release quarter.
New Iteration of the Avengers (May)
Sony's and Marvel Studios' reconciliation has totally changed the calculus for 2023. Now that it's been revealed Tom Holland will appear as Spidey in another MCU film in addition to 2021's Spider-Man 3, 2023 seems like a potential timeframe for whatever that happens to be. And if it is some new iteration of the Avengers - perhaps the New or Young Avengers - then it owns the May 2023 date, of course.
Such a film would also seem to set up the potential debut of...
Fantastic Four (July)
Yep – we’re gonna call this now. We’re betting – based on what we know today in 2019 – that the Fantastic Four will make their MCU debut in July 2023.
For one thing, that window leaves plenty of time for development, casting, and yes, introducing the team before they get their own movie (as for where and how that could happen, well… there are clues, but we’ve got to mind carts and horses here).
That would make Fantastic Four 2023’s big new franchise – and put the arrival of the first of the ‘Fox characters’ in the MCU right in line with Feige’s publicly stated estimations.
Footnote: Ryan Reynolds isn't getting any younger, and if his Deadpool is going to be introduced into the MCU, November 2022 or 2023 seem like possibilities worth noting. A Deadpool-MCU holiday-themed film seems ripe with potential - especially considering Once Upon a Deadpool's success.
The question moving forward is how Marvel Studios will handle the bottleneck it has created for itself. By giving Thor a fourth installment, giving Black Widow her own film, and by surprising the world with Blade, they're by design crowding the field and lengthening what's been a mostly standard two-to-three-year gap between sequels.
One possible method to clear some traffic is to move to four annual films a year, which as of the moment it appears is happening. Marvel Studios has established beachheads in February-March, May, July and November and and unless the 2021 schedule is altered it will be the first year they try out all four in one year. The marketplace seems receptive to any and all things MCU these days and for now the studio has apparently decided the goodwill they currently bask in will not be at risk.
And you can't address MCU volume without addressing Disney+. Marvel is going to begin their streaming experiment with eight episodic series - The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, the animated What If...?, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk. But could they also use the upstart service to premiere original films, which seems to be a model working for Netflix?
One character/franchise conspicuously not invited to the 2018 Comic-Con or D23 parties was Ant-Man, notable considering Marvel hasn't stopped at one sequel for any film as of yet - which is even more of a thing now that Thor will break the fourth film barrier for solo movies.
2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp didn't really break out at the box office either domestically or internationally the way most MCU recent films have, relatively speaking, but Marvel certainly left some potential storylines dangling with Cassie Lang now a teen, Ghost still out there somewhere and Janet Van Dyne not really have made any mark at all. Could Marvel draw Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and co. to a streaming series or Disney+ film the way they've nailed down movie stars like Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston?
Either way, with Marvel signaling (for now) four MCU films a year is on the table and with Disney+ in the mix, the studio suddenly finds itself with lots of options and plenty of room to give fans sequels, new franchises and eventually find room for the FF and "mutant" properties. It's no longer a matter of how, just when.